Friday, February 20, 2009


I hauled myself down to the mall today. Well actually I coasted most of the way down and the hauling came later on the trip back up the hills home. *GASP*

I don't think I've been down there since August. The trips about the town core aren't as hilly so I was quite breathless on the way up.


Of course I've got NOTHING on Erich and Katherine but any day on the bike is a good day! (Have you seen Erich's helmet cozy??? I made it after seeing these in Momentum Magazine. Also made on for dd with little yellow flowers attached. For some reason Erich declined flowers.)

Pushing the Envelope ... Gardening in February

I popped into our little greenhouse Wednesday for some odd reason and was pleasantly surprised to discover it was quite warm in there. About 17 degrees! Thursday it was overcast and I was working so I couldn't go play. Today I did!

I've raked back the gravel and pulled back the landscape fabric in preparation for the new raised beds. Last year's buckets relied too much on regular watering which I was poor at so I'm thinking that having beds that the plants can send roots down into the ground would be good. I'm planning to build beds edged with cement block along the front and back leaving a path down the middle. Unfortunately the ground is still too frozen to dig a little trench for the blocks to set in.

So this frustrated gardener hauled some potting soil into the house and filled a plug tray.

12 cells of Red Swiss Chard

18 cells of Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach

42 cells of Romaine Lettuce

Last year I planted out the raised bed in front of the house on March 12th with spinach, lettuce, and radish seeds as well as lettuce transplants. Of those the radishes and the transplants did the best. The plan is to do it again. Can't wait for homegrown lettuce!

Once those beds are built in the greenhouse the first plantings will be of the same with tomato transplants being the second planting planned.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Frozen Bread Dough Update

Today I popped the frozen dough out of the freezer and tried it two ways. #1 loaf sat on the counter defrosting and #2 loaf in the oven with the light on. I had visions of them defrosting and rising to 'loaf size' before baking.

After two hours I was bored and set them both in the oven and turned it on for the usual 46 minutes at 350 degrees F. I was expecting them to need extra time to bake as they were both still pretty frozen when they went in.

When the beeper went off and I checked them they seemed done, quite a surprise!

I did notice that they exhibited more surface cracking than usual loaves, likely as they rose briskly in a hot oven.

Checking with The-Grandma-who-knows-everything about frozen dough.... she said back in the day when you could buy frozen bread dough you just sat it out about 15 minutes before baking.

So there you go ... regular bread dough can be frozen and baked up as needed/wanted.

(I'm still trying to figure out why I'd want to heat the oven 3 times to bake 2 loaves at a time when I could bake 6 loaves in one go... guess who got her power bill yesterday .... KIDS!! we have to have a few words!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Grain Mill

Yesterday I brought home a grain mill. I'm quite apprehensive as it plugs in and I'm, how shall I say it, a bit of a Luddite, and things that plug in, well, they just don't like me. For example, I make meringue with a rotary beater, whipped cream too.

Anyhow.... I brought it home and looked at it, yup, there it is...

Won't touch it till I've read the literature that came with it...

That was eye-opening.

Nowadays you buy like an iron and you have to read pages of warnings, simple things 'don't toss it in the tub with you while plugged in' for example. This mill is from the 70's, early 70's. The literature explains how easy it is, no warnings, they give you credit for having a brain. I can figure out that it doesn't belong in the tub with me and my fingers might come to harm if I try grinding them.

They give me the pertinent information, you pour in grain, you plug it in, it grinds, you unplug it. And they reassure you that it will shut itself off if it overheats before bursting into flames; good to know. Thus reassured I send children for grain....

First batch:
5 cups of Kamut/Khorasan/Polish wheat set on fine.... takes 20 minutes ... is very loud. Flour looks lovely. I'm told this is THE type of wheat for sweet baking so this will be used for cookies tomorrow.

Second batch:
5 cups Red Fife wheat set on coarse for cracked wheat ... took 3 minutes ... very loud. It had a fair bit of flour textured bits so I sifted the grains. It gave me some flour to add to the bin and a good bowl of cracked wheat for hot cereal.

You cannot crack the wheat and then run it through again set on fine. NOPE. Not at all, bad idea. That is one thing I could have used a warning about ... as in DON'T.

The interesting thing about this mill is its construction, mainly cast iron, barely any plastic, just the hopper. No wonder they last so long!

Monday, February 16, 2009



It's official. Local farmer Randy Meyer is going to grow chickens for sale locally. He will be building a 'docking station' for the mobile poultry processor. Anyone can bring their own birds for processing there as well.

Way to go!

I've signed up for 6 beak per harvest to start. *big grin*

In other news.....

I've been offered a used grain mill through friends-of-friends, very exciting. I'll know for sure on Tuesday....

Monday, February 9, 2009

Straight Forward Bread

I've been noticing in blogland lately many many new bakers of fresh homemade bread.

There is one thing I don't understand though ... Why are they making artisan, takes forever bread right from the start?

I can understand artsy types who've been making bread for ages branching out to occasionally making these workhorses ... but newbies???!!! Talk about burnout potential! There is no need to take 3 days to make one loaf of bread! (REALLY saw it with my own eyes on a blog.) How long will the urge to bake your own last with that kind of time and effort requirement?

I'm hear to tell you, "You can make 6 loaves of homemade bread in about 3 and 1/2 hours with plenty of time while it rises to do other things." Do you really think Grandma-on-the-farm did the one loaf at a time thingy??

I make bread about twice a week, usually after the supper dishes are done, so it comes out of the oven AFTER the children go to bed. They can eat/inhale 3 loaves if it comes out while they are still up. I've learned my lesson there. Yes Sir Indeedie.

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6 loaves - regular yeast - store bought flour (dry active yeast)

In a medium bowl pour 6 cups lukewarm water and stir in 1/2 cup sugar. Sprinkle 3 Tbsp. active dry yeast and let sit 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile into a large bowl scoop out 6 coffee mugs of whole wheat flour(or white flour for white bread) Add 2 Tbsp. table salt. Stir into flour.

Once the yeast is ready stir it with a fork and add 1 cup vegetable oil. Pour all this into the big bowl and beat the dough. Add flour as you knead it to a soft dough stage. Turn out onto a well floured counter and continue kneading and adding flour till it is done. (Feels a bit like an earlobe, no longer sticky either.) I use unbleached flour for the kneading part as the whole wheat doesn't get picked up as well.

Form dough into a ball and let rise for 45 minutes, set a timer, really. No need for that vague 'rise til double in bulk'.

Punch down and form into loaves, placing each into a well greased loaf pan. Arrange the loaves in your oven 4 vertically across the back, 2 horizontally across the front. Leave equal gaps for air circulation. TURN ON THE OVEN LIGHT. (gives enough heat for the dough to rise in a cold house) and set the timer for another 45 minutes.

When the timer goes turn the oven on to 350 degrees and set the timer for 46 minutes. No need to preheat, adjust to suit your oven. Bread needs to cool out of the pan on racks or doubled towels.

If you are going to freeze the loaves slice them first. Frozen slices can be chipped off and toasted in an emergency.

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For instant yeast, mix the yeast directly into the flour and let sit 30 seconds or so. The water can be a bit hotter, dissolve the sugar as above.

For freshly ground whole wheat flour, use 7 cups of water instead of the 6. Mix just enough dough to make a sponge and let it sit 15-20 minutes to give the flour time to soak up some moisture. Then continue on, I use about 3 lbs. of whole wheat and the rest unbleached. Knead more than you would for store bought flour to work up some gluten action. (One ice cream pail of wheat berries = 6 lbs. of flour = two batches of bread for the week.) Freshly ground flour bread can be dry and crumbly hence the extra liquid and the extra kneading.

Shaping: You can use this dough to make baguette, subs, rounds and 'French bread' shaped loaves. Not as fancy as the artisan recipes but it passes the lunch test around here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

CSA grains - oatmeal (served 6)

Faster than a speeding bullet . . . CSA oatmeal! Well definitely faster than store bought rolled-oats oatmeal. It was quite the surprise.

4 cups water
1 and 1/2 cups oats, not yet rolled
your choice of brown sugar, dried fruit, nuts, etc.

Put the water on to boil and go get the oats and oat roller. Hook the roller to the table, roll them oats. Put them in the just boiling water,reduce heat, maybe to off. Stir a couple times and SHAZAM! you have oatmeal way-way-way faster than the store bought pre-rolled oats ever took.

My usual oatmeal makers, aged 11, said it was a lot faster, tastes better, and they don't have any weird chemicals and preservatives in them. (their words not mine) We added diced dried apricots, I added a dash of walnuts, note to self, add nut trees/bushes to garden plan.