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Sunday, January 22, 2012


Newest sourdough loaf.  This was from a different and much easier recipe that did not call for a sponge.  Hubby says he likes this one more...

And scones with faux clotted cream, cranberry orange on the left and lavender honey on the right...


Home Alone

Now I love my husband.  He is tall, dark, and handsome; intelligent, talented, artistic, completely without pretension, and kind.  None of this however, diminishes the pleasure of having him go away hunting with the boys for a couple days.  As my father used to always say, "Even the happiest of couples at some point are just glorified room mates".  And man!  It is great to have the room mate vacate the house for a minute!  Once again I do not in anyway dislike my husband, love him dearly and am lucky enough to enjoy him as a best friend as well but there is something so restful, for me at least, in solitude. 
 We of course live at the end of a dead end road surrounded by mainly timber tracts so the abscence of man made sounds is particularly strong here, sometimes I can hear a train in the distance but otherwise it's just the forest and farm.  For my mood the weather has been wonderfully apropo; thunderstorms rolled through all day yesterday and today the woods are muted, dripping, the kind of woods it would be easy to get lost in with the featureless gray sky above.  There is a stillness about everything, a resting of sorts, I always think I can almost feel the trees napping around me.  Most of the time they are so busy converting the gift of sunshine and building their bodies but today, today they can take a long drink and think of spring fast approaching.  Down here in the south it has been the warmest and wettest of winters.  Mother Nature has forced some bulbs right in my garden as a matter of fact and a few paper whites are already blooming.
Having the house to myself has meant rest for me as well.  My chores are through in an hour and then if I so chose I could sit all day listening to the wood symphony, or read a book, or play on my blog, or whatever I want!  And I'm not even a stay at home mom or anything, I don't have specific cooking duties and the like, but, when you live with another person, any person, there is more of a plan and of course a sharing of your time and energies.  Are we going to complete such and such task today?  What are we going to eat for dinner tonight?  I've barely eaten since he left, certainly not in whole meals.  A little snack here a little nibble there, no dishes no fuss, whatever was on hand when I felt hungry.  When I felt like it I made myself scones and have been grazing off those quite a bit; lavender honey and cranberry orange, and I found a recipe for faux clotted cream that wasn't half bad.  Last night I had a small salad and fish dinner, once again no fuss and easy clean up.  Not that dinner is always an affair for us nor was everything so simple everyday when I lived alone, but to have a moment of simplicity and privacy in the midst of cohabitation has been sheer bliss.
Our house in particular makes alone time that much sweeter as it is only 340 sq. ft. meaning at any given moment when we are both in the house, we are probably close enough to touch.  And that's not even including when the dog and two cats decide to come inside.  When I got home from Christmas with the family, there was a sick chicken in the bathroom that had to be moved in and out anytime you wanted to go in there, rough.  And I really enjoy my alone time.  I have lived alone several times and all other things being equal, enjoyed it very much.  Now I enjoy living with another human but have no expectation of every not enjoying my own company.  A good friend once told me that she thought one of the things to bear in mind when deciding to cohabitate with someone is that when we live seperately and are first falling in love and getting to know one another we spend all our time trying to figure out ways to be together but once we do live together it's just as important to remember to find times to be alone.  And I would add to not feel guilty about it, to not think that this somehow makes you and your partner incompatible or unsuited for one another.  I find that the time I have to be with my own mind and move with my own whims makes me a stronger, more balanced individual which means I can then be part of a stronger, more balanced partnership.
In short, I cherish and appreciate my partner and love the chance to welcome him home after some nice quiet alone time at the end of the road.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Beware the Attack Cat!


Alright I have a little bit of a rant today.  Now I am all for self sufficiency and doing things myself and from scratch, I just don't see why thinking of doing these things as often as possible as a good idea has to some how go hand in hand with not wanting any of the things modern technology offers.  For example, I hardly ever go to the doctor, even when I have a little sickness going on.  I make my own wound salve, believe in good exercise and preventative medicine.  This doesn't mean that I don't appreciate a good round of well applied antibiotics or the possibilities offered by modern medicine, as a baby I had to have a cranial synostosis (the creation of a soft spot on a babys cranium due to the lack thereof) without modern medicine I wouldn't be the functional human I am today.  I want to believe that modern technology, properly applied, can enhance and further a life that is generally applied toward more traditional endeavors.  Solar energy, modern cooking and sanitation equipment, the internet!  The old axiom 'all things in moderation' seems applicable here; the benefits of modern technology can be enjoyed without guilt if it is used in such a way that doesn't cause damage elsewhere.  Maybe it's overly optimistic but I think even technology and tradition can live side by side and even make each other more and better.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sourdough pictures

Finally I am taking the time to edit and upload pictures!  I'm just starting with pictures I took while preparing the sourdough starter.  The first picture is of all the ingredients and equipment I used. Here is a written list as well:
1 cup All purpose four
1 cup Light or skim milk
3 tablespoons Plain yogurt
Glass jar with lid
1 cup and 1 tablespoon
Flour sifter (optional)

Step one was to sterilize the jar

Once glass jar had bowled I removed it and set it to dry while I finished the milk and yogurt

1 cup of milk is heated to 90-100 degrees F, removed from heat, and 3 tablespoons of yogurt are added.  Once this is well mixed pour it into the still warm glass container, cover tightly, and set in a warm place for 8-24 hours.

Keep checking it over the next 24 hours and look for it to start to form a curd throughout and all become a yorgurty texture.  If it shows any pink coloration through it away and start again!
Once it does look nice and thick stir in one cup of flour until the mixture is smooth.  Recover the jar and set it back in that warm spot for anywhere from 2 to 5 days.  When ready it will have lots of bubbles coming through and a good sour smell, yummm.  Incidently, keep an eye on this as it develops and loosen the lid if necessary to keep it from exploding.
I forgot to take a picture of the yogurty looking part before I added the flour, oops!  At any rate this next picture is of what mine looked like after 3 days with flour when I then opted to put it in the refrigerator for storing.

I then tried a recipe that called for something refered to as a 'sponge'.  I also forgot to take pictures of that, sigh.  It was basically making a portion of the dough that included 1 cup from the starter, this portion was then allowed to fermit for another 24 hours before making the actual loaf, pictured here:)

I would say this was about an 84% success.  The bread tasted alright and had a nice texture but it didn't rise quite right and could have had a stronger sourdough flavor.  For the next loaf I plan to be sure and use bread flour in the bread mix as I usually don't bother but have read it can be more important with sourdough than other breads and will also be trying it on a warmer day.

A final note on the starter: if you want to keep it potentially in perpetuity then it needs to be fed at least once a week.  This can either mean baking a loaf of sourdough bread once a week and there by lowering the level of starter in the jar or it can simply mean pouring out a necessary portion of the mixture to free up space in the jar.  To feed the starter add new milk and flour in a ratio of 1:1 at whatever levels you wish to have.  Mix it up well and return to the refrigerator. 

Try and remove the starter from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you plan to start mixing and baking.

That's all for now then!  I'll put an effort toward being more diligent about picture taking and post pictures of new and wonderful experimental loaves!

Does anyone know how to make pictures rotate once they are posted on the blog?
Lookin' for all the help we can get down here at the end of the road...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cold cold

A cold day has settled over us today.  Tonight temps are dropping into the low 20s!  The greenhouse is prepped and a wood fire is lit so hopefully everyone and everything will come out into the sunlight tomorrow ready for a new day. 

On notes from the home the sourdough sponge seems to be developing well and I have decided to leave it until tomorrow to get a good strong flavor.  The hamburger buns from last night turned out to be really wonderful this morning, afternoon, and evening as sandwiches of various kinds.  I think they are even better today as they seem to have softened up a bit.  Next time I may plan to make them a day in advance. 

A difficult discussion that has arisen in our house the last few days is whether or not we would like to move to a community that is more conducive to what we want to do.  Our own home is charming and all we could ask for but the town we live in is conservative in a way that seems to make us at least feel very restricted.  My husband is a professional musician and he is struggling to find students and I am having trouble finding like minded people to connect with.  Right now we are seriously considering moving to the western North Carolina area.  Hubby has ties there and the music and community would be ideal.  We also have the option to farm on family land available to us near Lafayette, LA.  A community that is actively expanding both its music scene as well as its local food movement.  This second option offers by far the more extensive resources not to mention unrestricted access to family, or at least my family.  The decision looms before us with no clear and present solution or deciding factor.  Anyone with input on what it might be like to attempt small farming and self sufficient living in either of these areas PLEASE help!  Or in any others for that matter, and what might have helped make or break your endeavors.  I would love to hear some stories from the trenches and try to narrow our decision making paradigm to what might end up being the most important factors to being successful at a small farm venture.

I'll look forward to hearing any and all comments and until then I'm gonna go have another cup of tea here at the end of the road...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

And keep trying...

Off to a slow start blogging I suppose.  We lost internet here at our house for a few days due to wind and weather, guess that's just one of the things you get used to living at the end of the road in a tiny town. 

On notes from the home my sourdough starter seems to be coming along just fine and I plan to make my first sponge this afternoon in anticipation of making an actual sourdough loaf tomorrow or the next day, so excited!!  I will also be attempting hamburger buns for the first time this evening.  As far as I can tell it is a fairly simple process and basicly involves making several little bread loaves:)  Who knew?! 

Our chickens seem to be over the cold they had for the past few weeks.  We never did end up medicating them with anything, just quarantined the sick ones and kept them warm and well watered and fed.  Everyone, as I said, appears to have pulled through.  The Wyandottes haven't started laying again but we aren't worrying over that to much as it is still chilly with short days here and I imagine they will pick back up in the spring. 

The mushroom project has jumped into full swing as well.  A batch of portabella spawn has received its casing layer and will hopefully fruit in the next week or two.  At that point we are hoping to start both liquid spore and agar mix solutions to be able to inoculate the batch of chicken litter compost that is cooking outside right now.  Wish us luck!

Hubby has started a new banjo and is busy with his project as well so all and all it is a lovely rainy blustery day here at the end of the road.

Until next time...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

First blog!

Well I guess the best way to start something is to just do so here goes.  I hope this will be good practice for writing in general and really don't have much of a plan in terms of what I intend to write about other than our households efforts to be more self sufficient and learn to earn a living farming.  I'll try my best to keep my journaling tendencies to a minimum!
So my baby step for this year involves the resolution to home bake all my baked goods.  Thus far we have had a delicious quiche night with homemade crust and fresh eggs from our flock and breakfast muffins.  Today I made a white bread with rosemary and a sourdough starter!  I am particularly excited about delving into the world of sourdough, I read yesterday that some bakers have starts they've been maintaining for roughly a decade, amazing.  At any rate as soon as I figure out how to upload pictures I will add the ones I took during preperation.  I'm interested to try things like crackers and tortillas while hubby is particularly focused on trying english muffins.
Another related resolution I guess is to maintain a table at our local farmers market and offer at least fresh baked bread and mushrooms, maybe even empanadas and lemonade to draw the customers in a bit:)