Sunday, December 9, 2012

Camera Phone:: Works for Me

Even though Comm. Central has dismissed for the year, we are still doing school.  I'm expecting a baby January 6 and imagine that life will get a bit crazy then, so we're working ahead.

Maybe you are not as scatterbrained as I am, or maybe you've taken the time to master your smart phone and don't need this tip.  

Something that is working for me lately, is taking pictures of lists with my phone.  

I make lots of lists.  Then loose them.  Somehow, I've been able to keep up with my phone.

Take a picture of your lists.  Below is my 3rd grader's "to do list" for last Thursday.  I took a picture because we aren't doing the same things everyday, nor in the same order.
This was his "spelling test" from this list.  That site also has lists for kindergarten through 8th grade.  Below I've circled the words he struggled with or spelled incorrectly.  The following day, I drill him first on the words he missed previously.
By taking a picture of my lists, I can reduce clutter (by throwing away paper!) yet feel like I'm keeping my head above water.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First semester history review crossword

Find it here! Unfortunately, one of the clues fell off the page, so "Stalin" will not have a corresponding clue.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Here at Loften Academy, I do my best to keep some semblance of a school routine during the long break. Mainly, because we are usually behind by this point but also because I find Baker does so much better with structure (and so do I). Here is a great resource for Thanksgiving "stuff" for all ages, including printables and clips on the history of the holiday. Enjoy! May we all be thankful this season.
Mama's Learning Corner

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Colorful Commentary & Background to Gettysburg Address

In 1932, Dale Carnegie wrote a short biography on our sixteenth President called Lincoln the Unknown.  It is unlike any other Presidential biography I have ever read.  Short yet chocked full of interesting detail that I did not learn in other biographies about him.  One of the stories in this book that remains with me months after reading it is background information to the Gettysburg Address (typed below).  Since our children have memorized it, I thought that they would enjoy hearing more information about it - to help it and our President come to life.  And, being that Thanksgiving is next week, you could also talk about the fact that Lincoln was the one who made the first Thanksgiving Proclamation.  - Julie

The following autumn, {after the battle of Gettysburg} the Cemetery Commission decided to dedicate the ground, and invited Edward Everett, the most famous orator in the US to deliver the address.

Formal invitations to attend the exercises were sent to the President, to the Cabinet, to General Meade, to all the members of both houses of Congress, to various distinguished citizens, and to the members of the diplomatic corps.  Very few of these people accepted; many didn't acknowledge the invitation.

The committee had not the least idea that the President would come.  In fact, they had not even troubled to write him a personal invitation.  He got merely a printed one.  They imagined that his secretaries might drop it in the waste-basket without even showing it to Lincoln.

So when he wrote saying he would be present, the committee was astonished.  And a bit embarrassed.  What should they do?  Ask him to speak?  Some argued that he was too busy for that, that he couldn't possibly find time to prepare.  Others frankly asked, "Well, even if he had the time, has he the ability?"  The doubted it.

{...couple of pages of details that I'm too lazy to type...}

Edward Everett, the selected orator of the occasion, made two mistakes at Gettysburg.  Both bad - and both uncalled for.  First he arrived an hour late; and, secondly, he spoke for two hours.

Lincoln had read Everett's oration and when he saw that the speaker was nearing his close, he knew his time was coming, grew nervous, twisted in his chair, drew his manuscript from the pocket of his Prince Albert coat, put on his old-fashioned glasses, and quickly refreshed his memory.

Presently he stepped forward, manuscript in hand, and delivered his little address in two minutes.

Did his audience realize, that soft November afternoon, that they were listening to the greatest speech that had ever fallen from human lips up to that time?  No, most of his hearers were merely curious;  they had never seen nor heard a President of the United States, they strained their necks to looks at Lincoln, and were surprised to discover that such a tall man had such a high, thin voice, and that he spoke with a Southern accent.  They had forgotten that he was born a Kentuckian and that he had retained the intonation of his native State; and about the time they felt he was getting through with his introduction and ready to launch into his speech - he sat down.

What!  Had he forgotten?  Or was it really all he had to say?  People were too surprised and disappointed to applaud.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Latin and Language Fun - free and fun

I stumbled on this site today (thank you, FaceBook ad). It's a free site that has so many resources and it's by Classical Academic Press so it's the perfect resource for Comm Central students. Best of all, it's free! I find it's always nice to have some activities in my "bag of tricks" for mama sick days that do not require my complete mental presence. Plus, Baker loves to do almost anything on the computer so I can hold this out as a bribe reward. Enjoy; I know we will!
Headventure Land by Classical Academic Press

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jefferson Davis Monument {& other sites in Kentucky}

Julie writes: I decided to post this oral report with hopes that in the event that someone travels to or near Kentucky for the holidays they would seek out one of these places.  The first 25 years of my life were in Kentucky and I didn't know there was Jefferson Davis Monument there until recently.  It's HUGE.  And I'm happy to post reports from other students.  :)

My name is John Isaac and my report is on the Jefferson Davis Monument.

I drove to the Jefferson Davis Monument last week with my dad while I was in Kentucky.  Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederacy during the American Civil War.  His monument is located in the small town of Fairview, Kentucky - really, in the middle of nowhere.

I recognized a line from Hamlet's soliloquy that we memorized last year,  in the last few words in this quote.
"...a consummation devoutly to be wished."  Jefferson was a Shakespeare fan!

The Jefferson Monument is similiar to the Washington Monument except it is 200 feet shorter and made of concrete instead of marble and granite.  They have the same white shape of an oblisk.  Inside of both are elevators and for emergencies there are steps.  There was a giant party in 1924 when the last piece, which was a pyramid, was lifted onto the top of the Jefferson Davis Monument.  An interesting fact about Davis: when the US Union was hunting him after the Civil War he gave all his treasury to his wife and only took a $50 bill with him.  And we inspected the $50 bill when we toured the museum.  I also purchased a coin at the museum.

{Julie interjects - if you'd like an interesting book that compares the lives of Jeff Davis and Lincoln, then read Bloody Crimes: the chase for Jefferson Davis and the death pageant for Lincoln's corpse.  The two men's lives had many odd similarities - starting with Kentucky births!  This book is written by the same author of Manhunt, about the chase for JW Booth.}

Two other places I scrutinized in Kentucky were Daniel Boone’s gravesite and the capitol building in the capital, which is Frankfort.  Daniel Boone’s grave reminded me of the Jefferson memorial except that it was only about seven feet tall.  The capitol building was a huge building like the capitol building in Little Rock except some of the marble in one of the rooms was fake.  We also glanced at but did not enter the governor’s mansion.
Daniel Boone's Gravesite

Capitol building in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rice Bin {for toddlers & preschoolers}

At the beginning of the school year I was stressing out about how I would teach a 3rd grader while keeping a toddler from tearing down the house.  Deciding to make a rice bin for my 2.5 year old I bought the bin and lid then ran out of steam (or was it courage?).  The bin sat in the garage for a few months.
This week I found rice and split peas on clearance and bought about $4 worth.  Amazing investment.
The first day we only used rice.  Both Brother and Sister have enjoyed playing.  Of course you could use a smaller bin, but I wanted one large enough so that she could get inside if she wanted.  And she did.
She asks everyday (and all day) if she can play "rice and beans."  We reserve it for school time only.  Except last night, we had some 4 year old friends over and they played in it, too.
She's pretty good about keeping it all in the box but after the first day, I decided to lay a table cloth underneath.  It helps to contain most of the mess.  The remaining mess is so worth the freedom from whining, distraction, and other messes while I work with big brother.
If you're afraid of the mess, take it outside!  Leave it on your deck or in the yard.

Anastasia: the Riddle of Anna Anderson

Gina Junkans writes:

I’ve recently finished reading a book: Anastasia: the Riddle of Anna Anderson by Peter Kurth.  The author makes a strong case that Anastasia did indeed survive.  It’s non-fiction and was an interesting read. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nicholas and Alexandra {Romanov Family: Living Book}

Before our first son was born, because of infertility we pursued a Russian adoption (then abandoned it weeks before our first flight because I found out I was pregnant!).  It was during that time I became interested in Russian culture.  {Actually in high school a 75-year old-missionary taught a 6 week class on the Russian language but sadly, it didn't interest me.}

While my husband and I chased the paper trail to bring home a Russian orphan a friend recommended that I read Robert Massie's Nicholas & Alexandra.  Interestingly enough, the author was compelled to research the royal family after his son was also diagnosed with hemophilia. {I'm probably partial to Massie because he was born in Kentucky.}

Nicholas and Alexandra shines light on the Russian noble culture while exposing some of the randomness of Rasputin and delves into the mystery of the murdered family.  Did you know it is rumored that one of the Romanov daughters survived the assassination plot?

After dedicating much of his life to the 300 year rule of the Romanov family, Massie won a Pulizter Prize in 1981 for his biography of Peter the Great.  In 2011 finished another book on the life of another significant Russian figure, Catherine the Great.

You can borrow this book from CALS and also the original 1967 edition.  Not interested in reading this work of non-fiction?  Check out the Academy Award-winning film of the same title (I've not seen the film).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Making Chewing Gum

Yesterday we had a mother/son date at the Green Corner Store...for ice cream from Loblolly (the soda fountain inside the Green Corner Store).  Loblolly makes EVERYTHING - ice cream, waffle cones, syrups.  Most ingredients are local and devoid of corn syrup or gluten.

After eating our sweet treats (I had a brownie sundae with raspberry sauce, he had a waffle cone and vanilla Italian soda = all very delicious!), he perused the store and found this Chewing Gum Making Kit.  I've linked to Amazon, but it is $3 cheaper if you get it locally.

He was just a little bit excited about making gum today.
Above, contents of the box - chicle (gum from the rainforest), powdered sugar, corn syrup, powdered flavoring and a plastic bowl for mixing.  Below is a close up of the gum before melting.
You are to either microwave or float said chicle in boiling water.  The instructions said the bowl could melt in the microwave so I opted for boiling water.
Next, add corn syrup.
Stir to mix then pat out on the powdered sugar.  I used wax paper on top of my cutting board because I didn't know how sticky this gum would be and if it would come off my cutting board.  It was rather sticky so be sure to use a disposable spoon.
 Roll it out flat like pie crust.  There were two flavors included in the box - peppermint and tangerine.
 He used a pizza cutter to cut the gum as well as tiny cookie cutters.
 He hummed and sang the entire time he was in the kitchen.  He was so excited.
The taste and texture?  Surprisingly good.  The flavor leaves quickly but the gum is still fun to chew.  John Isaac said, "I definitely think it was worth $12, don't you Mom?"  He knows I'm a tightwad.  I agreed and later, in between songs, he reiterated the same point.

If you find yourself with an extra $12 and are looking for a fun experiment, let me recommend gum making to you.  - Julie

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

A few years ago, I read this sweet story of friendship between two young girls in 19th century China.  Both girls endure foot binding yet they are from different economic backgrounds.  I have recommended it to several of my friends but I think it would also be an interesting read for young girls with vivid imaginations and interested in Chinese history.

Description from Amazon:
In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Also found in the Central Arkansas Library system.

Missionaries Who Perished at Hands of Boxers

The Christian and Missionary Alliance has a webpage of missionaries who were martyred as a result of the Boxer Rebellion.  The biographies are concise and interesting.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Little Rock Airshow

We went to the Little Rock Air Show today.  Good clean fun.  John Isaac in black below with his bud, Gramm in white, watching paratroopers.
Sister mostly enjoyed it - especially the stickers.  But not the loud jets.
I'm not sure Brother could choose a favorite part.  Below he's pretending to be a sniper.
One of the highlights for me was going inside this plane from WWII and the Berlin Airlift.  Recently I read Daring Young Men:  The Heroism and Triumph of the Berlin Airlift.
The Blue Angels are scheduled to fly the closer.  We don't have the endurance (yet!) to stay all day.  It was a fun day anyway!

If you missed it today, the show will still be flying Sunday.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Military Enthusiasts - Save the Date

September 8-9, the Little Rock Air Force Base will host its bi-annual air show and open house.  The famous Blue Angels will be there!!  And, it's all FREE.

I cannot speak for the Little Rock show, but our family went to an air show in Phoenix a few years ago - and it remains one of our all-time favorite family outings.  (And I was skeptical.)

Needless to say, it is on our calendar for next weekend.

Here's a Blue Angels video to whet your appetite:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Story of Thomas Edison

We downloaded this 94-page e-book from Simply Charlotte Mason.  They will also ship a paper copy.  From their site:

  • Interesting and inspiringThe Story of Thomas A. Edison paints a living picture of Edison that follows his life from “train boy” to newspaper publisher to telegraph operator to world-famous inventor.
  • Excellent for all ages—The narrative is engaging enough for adults and readable for younger children, so you can enjoy the story all together as a family.
  • Expanded edition—Enhance your study of Edison with the addition of original patent sketches, the patents themselves, and pages from his personal diary—all included in this expanded edition. Notes are scattered throughout the collection to highlight interesting points.
  • -Julie

    PS - There is a similar, cheaper, Kindle version on Amazon - though missing the appendix of Edison’s patents, patent sketches, and pages from his diary. 

    Children's Book: Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of Empire America

    Though written for ages 8 and up, there is much to be gained for the adult who reads this book.  My husband is an avid Theodore Roosevelt fan - scratch that, TR is a true hero in our home.  The two men even share a birthday!  Hubby is a bibliophile and probably bought this book (I'd never seen it before today on our bookshelf).  But enough about my man, let me tell you about the book.

    If you are a collector of books, this could be one for your shelf.  It is "painstakingly written and illustrated by Cheryl Harness" who has written and/or illustrated 35 other books for children, including 6 other picture-book biographies for National Geographic.  The images of this book were drawn with a steel pen dipped in a bottle of India ink, like many artists did in the days of TR.

    I like that the words are simple enough for a third grader (and explains in parenthesis potential unfamiliar words like abolitionists) yet paced quick enough that in short snippets, the book could be read aloud to a younger audience.  Along the bottom of most pages runs a timeline.  Running the gamut of his life, the book begins with TR's birth.  In the beginning pages we learn about the Lincoln/Douglas debates as well as the Pony Express.

    This book can be found in the Central Arkansas Library System.  For a list of books by Cheryl Harness (quickly becoming one of my favorite children's authors), you can start here.


    Monday, August 27, 2012

    Civil War links

    I realize I'm about a week late here, but in case you're wanting to extend your study of the civil war, PBS has a section dedicated to their series on The Civil War--with an entire section for the classroom. So does Scholastic--and one on the Underground Railroad and slavery.

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    Calif. Coast Sees Increase in Whale Sightings

    Kristan Hodges wrote with this tip:

    I just ran across this news story (with videos) about whales off the California coast. Thought some other moms might be interested in it, too. We haven't watched the videos yet...

    History Channel Civil War videos

    We're privileged to own the History Channel's America: The Story of Us DVD series, and my older kids find it fascinating. Their portion on the Civil War can be accessed online in segments beginning here.

    Typically, the History Channel's videos have what I would dub a PG-level of violence: a gun being shot and a person falling back, for example, but little to no blood. This particular Civil War portion was a little more graphic than most due to the discussion on the Minie Ball, subjects like amputation, etc. (It was, after all, a war.) Be aware. But my oldest found it intriguing, and it certainly helped to bring all the pieces together. Perhaps some of the lesser violent portions, like Lincoln's War Machine  would be more acceptable to younger or more sensitive viewers (it's expensive for me to stream video where I live, so please view it for your own discretionary purposes).

    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

    Children's Theatre

    Last year for my son's seventh birthday, we asked the grandparents to get tickets to the Children's Theatre. (Instead of another loud, obnoxious toy that I would have to repeatedly pick up and eventually throw away.)

    We thoroughly enjoyed every play.  After the second (or was it third?) production, my son said, "This is one of the best birthday presents, ever!"  And I think he meant it - because it was the gift that kept on giving.  It was something he could look forward to, about once a month, and an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with a parent.  (Hubby and I took turns going with him.)

    As an adult, I enjoyed every production.  My dad recently emailed to ask for birthday hints and I told him that we would really like another subscription to the theatre.

    You don't have to purchase a package.  You can buy individual tickets.  Or, you can get a package of two tickets and two different family members can go each time.


    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    Chasing Lincoln's Killer

    Here are two more Civil War era books.  These two we love so much we've added to our personal library.

    Chasing Lincoln's Killer is a kid-friendly version of the book Manhunt (also highly recommended.)  Both books read like murder mystery novels, even though I know what happened!  It's a true page turner!

    From Publishers Weekly

    Starred Review. The YA version of Swanson's bestselling Manhunt, this account of Lincoln's assassination and the 12-day search for his killer reads like a historical thriller, no matter that the narrative jumps among its locations and characters. As President Lincoln delivers victory speeches in April 1865, an enraged John Wilkes Booth vows death: "Now, by God, I'll put him through." Every bit of dialogue is said to come from original sources, adding a chill to the already disturbing conspiracy that Swanson unfolds in detail as Booth persuades friends and sympathizers to join his plot and later, to give him shelter. The author gives even the well-known murder scene at Ford's Theatre enough dramatic flourish to make the subject seem fresh. While Lincoln lays dying, Booth's accomplices clumsily attempt to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward, and Booth talks his way past a guard meant to bar him from crossing a bridge into Maryland. In focusing on Booth, the author reveals the depth of divisions in the nation just after the war, the disorder within the government and the challenges ahead. Abundant period photographs and documents enhance the book's immediacy. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Iron Thunder by Avi

    Last year my husband snagged this book at the library and read it aloud to our son.  Overhearing parts of it, I was hooked and read it once they were finished.

    It is written from the perspective of a 13 year old boy whose father was killed in the Civil War.  Destitute, the boy finds work in the Yankee ship yard - becoming a part of history - working on the Monitor, a ship made of iron.  One day, this ship will fight its Confederate counterpart, the Merrimac.  Will the boy be on board?

    Look for this book at the library or on Amazon.

    Memory Work Review Crossword, Week 3

    You can download it here. Constructed on

    Cool Ocean Videos

    Erin Lewis sent the link to these ocean videos and said:

    I thought the footage was excellent.  A couple of the videos I previewed would start over halfway through, but I could get them to finish by fiddling with the progress bar.

    Free Civil War Lapbook

    It's a big one, and it's here on If you're not familiar with lapbooks, a lapbook is generally mounted in a manila folder, as a sort of "learning scrapbook" about a subject--often with 3-D components like pockets, accordion-pleated booklets, etc. My kids love them. (Here in Uganda, where I can't easily access manila folders, we actually use dismantled cereal boxes with the picture side covered in paper!)

     Homeschool Share is the king, in my limited exposure, of free lapbooks on subjects from character to science to history to literature to social studies. They've got a lot that will work with our science curriculum this year: whales, coral reefs, mollusks... Worth checking out.

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    This week's science fact

    Although it's already been set to rhythm in our notebook, you can sing our science fact this week to the tune of "London Bridges":

    Scientists classify all living things
    into a multi-level
    classification system:
    kingdom, phylum, class, or-der,

    My kids and I decided to go ahead and play "London Bridges" while singing this song, and loved that we caught someone whenever we sang "species!"

    With my kids' energy me. You grasp every little chance to get 'em moving.

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    For the Littles

    My daughter is a bit older than 2 years*.  Usually she is good as gold but there's only so much I can expect of her when I'm sitting at the table for hours with big brother.  I'm always on the look out for ways to entertain the little people.

    A spray bottle filled with water bought us some time.  Actually, it is one of her favorite toys.  Any kind of Windex bottle will do (of course empty the cleaning solutions first!).

    We have several spray bottles but her favorite is this one because it has an adjustable nozzle for stream or spray.
    Don't tell her that I love that she is building her fine motor skills.

    *This toy has been approved and loved by children of all ages.  Brother, who is almost 8, also likes to fight over play with the spray bottles.

    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    More Movie Info

    Ashley, after yesterday's movie mention, wrote to say this:

    Might want to take that post down on Comm Central Creatively.  Started the movie with my son, and there is some questionable language...(fornicate, asses, etc.) Thought it was rated PG but turns out to be PG-13. 

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    The Charge of the Light Brigade

    Ashley Hooten gave us this tip:

    For netflix subscribers, there is a 1968 movie, "The Charge of the Light Brigade," that might be interesting.  Haven't watched it yet, but have it on our instant queue.

    Memory Work Review Crossword, week 2

    You can download it here. (Thanks to!)

    Tuesday, August 7, 2012

    Monday, July 2, 2012

    Free printable timeline, timeline figures

    True story! Check outsome free printable timeline options  here, and a template to print your own figures (along with another 70-page timeline option, already numbered, plus title page for boys and one for girls!) here. I think we'll laminate the timeline and string it across the school room wall, using dry erase markers.

    This extremely thorough post explores a lot of different timeline options, with links to free timeline figures! Alternatively, joining this group gives free access to Story of the World timeline figures. How cool is that? (Check the "files" tab once you've joined, then "History".)

    One other non-reusable option that might work is to create a timeline on your wall using masking tape (write dates on the tape), then use ticky-tack to hang the figures.

    Friday, June 29, 2012

    Free printables for next year: Literacy Centers; Montessori; Math

    With so many boys in our house, I'm always on the lookout for hands-on learning activities. So I was thrilled to find a ton of very thorough, progressive K-3rd grade literacy centers from the Florida Center for Reading Research.

    I also found so many free Montessori downloads for preschool, some of the best of which can be found here and here. There are even many for older kids here.

    Plus, I was excited by all these math tubs/math centers (I confess, I am a homeschool junkie). These ideas are also helpful.

    Friday, June 8, 2012

    Free, downloadable guides

    Yes, I know it's summer. But I'm one of "those people" that are constantly alert and on the prowl for school stuff. I stumbled on this page with HUGE downloadable education packets for the Oregon Trail and the Pacific Northwest Exploration. Some of the pages apply only if you get to visit the Oregon Trail Museum. These are well done with lots of sketches, activities and more that are suitable for all ages so you can pick and choose what you need for your crew. Have fun!

    Wednesday, May 9, 2012

    Summer Reading List

    Now that Comm. Central is officially over for summer, I've been trying to come up with a summer reading list.

    Here is a list of living books from kindergarten through 11th grade.

    From a Charlotte Mason blogger, here's a living book list of nature themed books.  Be sure to peek at that same blogger's "top picks" label and find her Top Picks for Boys.  At the top of that list is Johnny Tremain, a book I picked up for my 2nd grader to read but was sucked in myself!  It's a very good book.

    Here's a list of favorite read aloud chapter books.  And an adult's reflection on Chapter Books that Stayed With Me.

    I've posted this link before, but incase you missed it - here's the link to free classic children's audio books.

    Of course there's for kids.

    That's all I've got for now.  What are your recommendations?

    Friday, April 27, 2012

    Free Civil War Curriculum for All Grade

    Yes, I am one of "those" moms that is already thinking about next year's lessons. Another home school blogger on FaceBook posted this link today so I went to check it out. WOW! Free curriculum downloads for all grades plus all sorts of things on the site. I glanced at the material and it is geared to a room full of students but it can be easily adapted for home school and hey, it's free!
    Free Civil War Curriculum

    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    Looking Ahead...freebie, Marine Life easy reader ebooks

    If you have little people just learning to read, this looks to be a great download to have ready for next year's science. I've seen this for free more than once so if you missed it for free this time, keep checking.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2012

    Honeysuckle Lane Cheese

    Springtime in Arkansas is beautiful. My children and I took advantage of a beautiful day and drove about an hour from Little Rock to Rose Bud to visit a raw milk cheese maker.  For about two years I've been telling Ray (Sr.) at the Argenta Farmer's Market I wanted to visit and see how the cheese is made.  
    Raymond and Ray Daley - I asked them to say "cheese"
    The farm, Honeysuckle Lane, got its name from the honeysuckles that grow on the lane that leads to their farm.  Sadly the flowers are not yet in bloom.
    Ray Sr. lives about 20 minutes from the farm and drives to Rose Bud about one a week to help make cheese.  Raymond Jr. lives close by, is a police officer, and milks the cows twice a day - he's a busy man!  In peak cheese season they make cheese twice a week.  The milk not used to make cheese they sell to be pasteurized.
    Once inside, we saw a huge vat of curds and whey...just like Little Miss Muffet's.  The paddle needed to stir a bit longer so we took a tour.
    Inside a walk-in refrigerator we feasted our eyes on CHEESE!!  This below cheese has been cured and cut to half pound portions and is waiting to make it to your table.
    This is a picture of the full "horns" that are curing for 60 days.
    This is one of the Daley Dairy babies.  They raise Jersey cows, that provide the most milk fat - which makes yummy cheese.
    I also saw the milking parlor but didn't take pictures.

    Back inside it was time to drain the whey.
    I asked how they knew when it was time to pull the plug and separate the whey, Raymond Jr. showed me.  "It's when you can squeeze it and it sticks together like this."
    Once the whey was drained, they began sort of packing the curds.  I say sort of packing because like most foods worth eating, it takes time and is a bit of a process.  They weren't cramming the curds together but the process was methodical and obvious they had done it a few hundred times.
    My 7.5 year old son got a real kick out of saying, "They're cutting the cheese, Mom!"
    After 15 or 20 minutes they flipped over the big blocks of cheese to let more whey drain and gravity to do its thing and push the curds together.
    At this point we said goodbye because my toddler wasn't nearly as interested in the process as I was.  I could have stayed a LOT longer.  As I understand it, the Daley men will stack the cheese cubes, then cut them into one-inch cubes using a press.  Then the cheese goes into molds to make the horns (shown refrigerated, above).

    Before leaving we were sure to take home lots of cheese.
    Honeysuckle Lane cheese can be purchased from the Local Food Club, Little Rock Athletic Club, or at the Argenta Farmer's Market (opening Day April 14).

    See also GreerAR by the Day's blog post on her visit to the farm.