Saturday, February 23, 2013

Homemade Yogurt

Yesterday I made homemade yogurt for the first time. Before I share with you the how, let's talk about the why. For many reasons I think it is important to buy food that is grown/raised locally. I will have to go into those reasons in a separate blog post or else we could be here for hours. There are many books that could help explain why I feel this way, one example would be The Essential Agrarian Reader. That being said, I am generally not following through with my beliefs on this issue. I buy pretty much all of my food from the grocery store. So, I am working slowly to introduce more local food into my regular diet. So, I thought what better place to start than dairy products. I mean I eat tons of them everyday. From cream in my coffee in the morning, yogurt at lunch everyday, and cheese is somewhere on the menu each day. That means I'm eating a lot of dairy on an everyday basis.

Thanks to +Keely I was able to find a source for local milk. Just 30 minutes from my home over at Briar Patch Farm, they raise happy, healthy Jersey Heifers on pasture without using chemicals, antibiotics or hormones. I was able to get in on their cow-share program to be able to receive a gallon of milk per week. This is whole cream milk. So we poured off almost a quart of cream to keep separate in the fridge for our coffee and cooking needs. With the remaining milk I used 1/2 gallon to make yogurt this week. I am hoping once I master yogurt to venture out into making other dairy products. I am seeing cream-cheese and mozzarella as some of my future kitchen adventures hopefully.

When I decided to make yogurt I sought advice from friends and family who have done this before and also searched the internet for recipes. I ultimately used a combination of methods/recipes to make my own.

Here's how it went...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Nafzger Forge Handmade Kitchen Knives

My husband +ben noffsinger is a talented artist blacksmith. He hand forges knives, specifically he focuses on making kitchen knives. He started his journey about 4 years ago when he got his first anvil and made his first forge. Since then he has made astonishing progress to produce the beautifully crafted knives he makes today.

Ben makes beautiful, unique and functional tools. He likes making kitchen knives because they are a tool that many people use on a daily basis to prepare their food. Ben has a culinary background in that he has worked in restaurant kitchens. He also has an amateur love for cooking at home. He has direct experience with using a chef knife for hours on end to prepare food. This insight has helped him to create knives that are comfortable in the hand and function well.

Ben and I are both supporters of the local and sustainable food movement. We believe using locally made tools to prepare your food could also be a part of this movement. We believe buying locally in general is the best way to support this country and our local economy. Buying products made in the USA will help keep this country viable. When you buy handmade products the money you spend goes directly to the producer and will be used to support their growing business and family.

Ben makes all types of kitchen knives, hunting knives and has dabbled in other types of blades as well. Check out his work  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Preparing to get some chickens

Ben and I want to get some chickens this spring. We are thinking we'd like to get 6-10 laying hens, and possibly a couple of guineas. So, now we have a few decisions to make.

1. design and location of chicken coop
2. whether to let them roam free or what sized fenced-in run
3. should we get chicks or already laying hens
4. what breed
5. when should we get the birds

1. chicken coop
We will be building the coop with material we can find around here, which won't be a problem since there is a ton of scrap wood laying around. So we are thinking it should be roughly 5' x 8' with 4 or 5 good size nesting boxes and a roosting perch. We are concerned about predators, since we know there are a lot of coyotes in this area, so we are thinking of elevating it a bit. I love this one

Stacey Noffsinger

Ben and I got married! On September 29th, 2012 we had a beautiful ceremony on Noffsinger Hill surrounded by our friends and family! We sat around the bonfire and danced under the Harvest moon all night! Planning a wedding was an interesting adventure, especially one held on family property as opposed to an actual venue. That meant it required a little more planning. Thanks to my awesome friends and family it turned out wonderful. Here are a few pictures.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Blog name change

Welp, we don't live in a tent anymore, so I have changed the name of my blog from "living within tent" back to the original name "ideas and adventures". We live in an actual house now, still in the Mountains of VA. Having my own kitchen, running water, a shower, and an insulated house are definitely upgrades. The 9 months we spent in the tent brought me to a greater appreciation of these things, and I am grateful for that. It was an enlightening experience, but I am happy to be living in a house once again.

We still have a lot of space. We are on 40 acres, and on the river, so the dogs have plenty of room to run around outside.

I'm going to leave this post short in hopes that I will return soon to post a more in-depth update of what's going on in my life.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


We bought a 20' x 30' tarp to use as our rain-fly and awning. The tarp will help protect our tent from UV rays and sparks coming out of the stove pipe. Also it has created a dry front porch for us. It is nice on rainy or snowy days to be able to come out of the tent without getting immediately wet.
We have had all kinds of weather up here. We have had heavy rain (no leaks), snow covering the ground, very cold nights and EXTREME wind. The tarp is really noisy and annoying in the wind, but everything about wind is annoying to me.

We are starting to cook more in our tent. The sink is working well for washing dishes. The wood stove is great for cooking eggs.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

getting it together

A lot has happened since my last post. Our tent is really turning into a home. We have gained a lot of necessary amenities and spent our first holiday up here. We’re not completely unpacked or settled in yet, but we are making progress.

Ben’s job seems to be going well and I am still on the search. All the pets seem very happy with there new home. I have been enjoying spending time with the kids as they are getting used to us being around. I had a little set back on my mandolin learning, I broke a string. I need to go to Lexington to get a new string, and also plan on buying a beginner mandolin book, since I’m not making much progress without one.

Ok…. now for my day-by-day…

DAY 7 – Tuesday (11/23/2010)

We made it through our first week up here! Our little ball of canvas made some major transformations in our first week.

Tuesday Ben had to work in the morning. While he was at work I finished painting the door. While I was cleaning out the roller and paint brush I noticed that one of the chickens had gotten out of the fence. Let me mention this was the third time I had seen this particular chicken out of the fence, and note I have only been here one week. I tried to chase him back through the door into the chicken coop, but couldn’t do it alone. I went inside to get Keely to help, and the kids took a break from their bookwork to help too. Then we noticed that almost all the chickens were in the small guinea area. We chased the first chicken back into the coop, then had to deal with all the chickens in the guinea area. Basically it was a chicken extravaganza, Keely and the kids and I were all chasing chickens from different directions as we let them out of the guinea area. A few decided to go the wrong way and into the yard instead of into the coop, then we had to direct them back towards the coop while simultaneously keeping the dogs at a safe distance (Odin was lickin’ his lips hard). I wish I had pictures from this moment.

After the chicken round-up I went on a run in the woods. Odin, Freya and I went back in the woods and ran along the trail. It was really nice and peaceful. Odin and Freya were super happy. Running is my favorite way to bond with Odin; I think he loves me more each time I take him running. Walking or running is the easiest way for me to clear my mind. It was really nice being able to have my dogs off-leash, and having my own personal running trail right in my backyard, not to mention it’s incredibly beautiful.

After lunch I went into town with Keely and the kids. We ran some errands and got some coffee and hot chocolates while we were in town. Also we stopped by the Red Caboose so I could pick up an application. The Red Caboose is a little burger joint in Clifton Forge; it’s new and busy so hopefully that means they need more employees. We went by the tavern too, but it was closed, I will be applying there as well (and maybe going in for a drink too!). We stopped by Kroger on the way home for groceries, I applied there too since it is so close to home.

We talked about want we want to do in our kitchen and drew out some plans Tuesday night. We found an old cast iron sink in the barn and considered using it in the tent.

DAY 8 – Wednesday (11/24/2010)

It was COLD Wednesday morning, it had been cold every morning, but Wednesday felt much worse. We got out of bed at 8am and it was 31* outside. We drank our coffee and warmed up and then got to work.

We hung our door (hooray!!) and it looks really great. We had to do a little work to get it to fit in there just right, but we got it swinging very nicely. I cleaned up the glass, pulled open the canvas and was immediately in love with my new view of outside.

Later on that night we did something even more exciting. (I know your asking, what can be more exciting than hanging a door? Right?) We got our wood stove!!!!!!! Getting a wood stove has made more of a difference than anything else possibly could. We were totally amazed Wednesday night when we were hanging out in the tent and couldn’t see our breath. It’s actually pleasant to hang out in here at night now, and we’re sleeping a lot better. I’m glad we slept in here a few nights with no stove, because it has made me appreciate the stove even more.

Ben’s brother Dan was in town for Thanksgiving. He came over and brought an old wireless internet router. They hooked up the router in Keely and Curt’s house; the signal wasn’t reaching out here at first, but now we have the internet pretty regularly in the tent. It doesn’t feel much like roughing it when you’re on the internet in the tent.

DAY 9 – Thursday (11/25/2010)

THANKSGIVING – that’s all I have in my notes for this day. Didn’t spend much time on the hill on Thursday. We spent the whole day with our families and enjoyed lots of good food and good company.

We had two Thanksgiving dinners, my dad was in Palmyra (which is two hours from here) at his brother’s house. We went there for lunch and saw my dad and a few of my aunts, uncles and cousins. My dad had planned on coming to see our tent on Friday and help us put in a sink. He had told my aunt Donna (who owns a thrift store) about our situation, and she happened to have a utility sink that she wasn’t using. Since the utility sink would be much easier to install than the cast iron one here we decided to use that one instead! Thanks aunt Donna for the sink! My dad brought it with him on Friday when he came to visit.

Our second Thanksgiving dinner was in Lexington at Ben’s uncle and aunt’s house. We had a great time and got stuffed again. We came home to our wood stove, warmed up the tent, and went to sleep warm, fat and happy.

DAY 10 – Friday (11/26/2010)

My dad got here around 11 on Friday. We showed him around a little and then got to work on installing the sink he brought from my Aunt Donna’s. We went to the hardware store in town to get the plumbing supplies and we also bought a rain cap for our stove pipe. Ben dug a big hole outside of the tent. Inside the hole we put a five-gallon bucket upside down with holes drilled in the sides. We ran a pvc pipe down from the sink, out through the plywood on the bottom of the wall, down into the ground and finally ending into the five-gallon bucket. We filled the hole in with rocks all around the bucket and then covered it with dirt. That is how we created our mini drain field.We secured the sink inside. We hung another five-gallon bucket above the sink with a hole in the bottom and a hose attached. That is our form of running water for now. So, we still have to haul in the clean water to use, but at least we don’t have to haul out our dirty water and dump it. We didn’t finish working on the sink until after dark. It will be great for washing hands and face and dish-washing. Now that we have a sink we can start getting our kitchen together and start cooking in here. Thanks to my dad for coming and working all day to get the sink in.

DAY 11 – Saturday (11/27/2010)

Ben and Curt got up on Saturday to collect wood to cut for fire wood. They got some hard wood and started to cut it up. While they were gone I cleaned up the dirt and mess we had made from digging the drain field for the sink. I hooked up my laptop to the computer speakers, and appreciated having canvas walls so I could listen to my music while I was working outside. I have been doing that a lot since then. Eli called the tent a “canvas music-box”. When Ben got back he put the rain cap on the stove pipe.

Dan (Ben’s brother) was still in town for Thanksgiving. So we went over and visited with Ben’s grandmother for lunch. Ben had to go to work when we got back from lunch. Shortly after he left for work I noticed some small burn marks on the canvas ceiling around where the stove pipe is. The rain cap was really the culprit here. We had been burning fires without the rain cap, and had no problem with burns because the sparks just went straight up in the air and burned out before they hit the tent. I took the rain cap off and got Curt to help me wrap screen around the openings hoping that it would prevent the large sparks from coming out and burning the tent, like a spark arrestor would do. We found out later that this helped a little but we were still getting new burn marks. I later ended up making a spark arrestor out of rabbit wire and doing away with the rain cap. We also added a little more height to our stove pipe to put it up above the ridge pole. With the taller stove pipe and the rabbit wire on top we seem to have eliminated the burn problem.

home-made spark arrestor

DAY 12 – Sunday (11/28/2010)

I woke up very cold and grumpy on Sunday. We worked on our kitchen on Sunday and I did some laundry. We got one counter top built with shelves underneath it. I was able to unpack some of our kitchen boxes and put the stuff on the shelves. I love getting rid of the boxes it really makes it feel better in here. We are getting close to having a home for everything in the tent. Only a couple more boxes left to unpack.

Ben had gotten some “old” filet mignons from his work. So we cooked those for dinner. They were still really good, didn’t taste or smell old at all. We luckily had seven steaks and seven people to feed. It was a good Sunday dinner with everyone up here on the hill.

Sunday night we burned some hard wood in hopes that I would not wake up so cold and grumpy on Monday. We filled up the wood stove, closed the vent down and still had coals in the morning burning when we got up.

DAY 13 – Monday (11/29/2010)

Monday it was nice to wake up with a fire still in the stove. It was very cold outside (20*) when we woke up, but it was almost 50* in the tent when we woke up. We put some more wood on the fire and in about an hour we had the tent up to 70*. The tent stayed nice and warm all day, and has been warm ever since.

Ben worked on cutting wood some more with Curt. We bought some rope and tied down the bottom grommets on our tent. We had secured the sod cloth to the plywood and thought that would make the walls tight, but found it when the wind was blowing it just wasn’t enough. We used the ropes and stakes to pull the canvas walls tight straight down towards the ground. I think this will help a lot to reduce draft in here, and the canvas is more insulative than the vinyl sod cloth, so having it pulled down further will help us to keep more heat in.

We started the second kitchen counter and shelves unit and worked until dark. We got the frame finished and started working on the shelf supports and will finish the rest once we have time. My Aunt also gave us some linoleum flooring she had, so we will cut this and use it on top of the plywood counter tops, so we will have a surface that we can wipe down.

DAY 14 – Tuesday (11/30/2010)

I cannot believe that tomorrow will be the first of December. Time is flying since he have been so busy working on our new home. It was nice and warm when we woke up this morning, we only slept with one blanket last night (we had been sleeping with three). It was about 40 outside and much warmer in the tent. It rained all night, it started raining around 1am and now at 11am it is still raining. I was nervous when it started raining, afraid we might have a leak. But it is totally dry in here, even where the burn marks are it didn’t leak (I was especially worried about those burn marks).

So, it’s just a rainy day today. It’s a good day to finish my blog, doubt I will get much else accomplished. Ben is at work this morning. I plan to surf the internet for jobs and try to get my Christmas lists together. I am very pleased that it is warm and cozy in the tent, and I have a dry place to be away from this rain.