Saturday, July 14, 2012


Well ... so much has been going on that I have not had much time to post about the gardens or the chickens. here is a very quick update ...

City garden is doing GREAT :) :) we are so thankful. Got lots of beet, spinach and kale seeds. Also lettuce seeds. LOTS. We might try to sale some at the farmers market. We'll see. We ripped up what needed to be ripped up and planted some green beans, more kale, and cabbage.

Country garden is doing TERRIBLE! :) :) One of the boys left a gate open and the cows came in and helped themselves to the corn :) They had a little fun rolling a bale of hay around in the green beans too. What they didn't ruin, the grasshoppers did. :) We dug the potatoes early but got a pretty good harvest anyway. The green beans ... nothing much at all ... so many rows ... no beans. Oh well. That's why we planted some more at the city garden. Maybe we'll have a few yet?! We did get some NoLo grasshopper biological bait. The instructions were for "about 8 grasshoppers per square yard." Uhhuh. We all got a great laugh out of that. David said this is the worst he's seen it in a while. Why? probably because we did not have a hard frost last winter. There are THOUSANDS of hoppers per square yard at the country garden!!! We learned a lot though. The tomatoes out there are hanging in there but the hoppers are now on them. Had to pick the squash early too. Live and learn.

Chickens: our girls laid their first egg over night :) They are all doing well and noone has died even though it's been terribly hot and miserable. They seem happy and they still like us. They are good at jumping/flying over the fences, so the boys are making a chicken tractor for them.

Farmers Market: something new we started last month. We've been selling mostly bread and jams but a few veggies too. Everyone else has a LOT of nice veggies and no bread or jams, so we thought to just stick with things noone else is offering. It seems to be going well so far.

Brianna got a new camera (well, my dad and a brother helped pay for her new camera) to replace the old one that had a mind of its own. She is so thankful! Here are a few shots from that:

jam for the market
cinnamon raisin bread for market
thought this was pretty
hens & chick at Christine's

One last thing to share. I asked a brother to please build me pantry shelves for my jars & buckets whenever he had time ... a few days later I had shelves!! I am SO THANKFUL!!!!! I really felt spoiled. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sourdough Bread

(click here for other SOURDOUGH posts ... the first part of this explains the Nourishing Traditions method of sourdough. Now that I have been doing it a while I see that this method is so very impractical. I cannot help but wonder if Sally actually used this method herself or just threw it in the book??? I explain a better way in an update below. Live and learn!!)

Over the last few months I've been trying my hand at sourdough bread. This is something I have wanted to do for YEARS. In fact, before I started making bread by hand (I was using a bread machine), I attempted to get a starter going. It was so foreign to me however ... I had no idea what to do or what it should look like, smell like, etc., that I threw it out before even really giving it an honest try. We've been learning so much these last few years; little by little we have been building up our skills and it has been a blessing. We cannot learn everything all at once! It takes TIME, effort, practice, consistency, and so on. Anyway, a few months ago I knew it was time to learn how to do the sourdough bread.

I'll let you do all the research if you are interested, however the only thing I want to say is that sourdough bread is so much better for you than "conventional" bread. (ok, here comes a rabbit trail) Have you ever noticed how that word gets twisted around?! "Conventional" today is not really how it always was; "conventional" today means the last few decades, whereas "conventional" in days gone by meant the last several hundred (or thousands) of years.

I think of "conventional" medicine. Today this means doctors that do all sorts of high tech tests on you (that probably do much more harm than good), fill you full of poison, and end up making things worse. They don't seem to care about the CAUSE of the problem ... they only seem to care about giving you a band-aid, keeping you sick, thus forcing you to depend on them more and more. And the true "conventional" medicine is now frowned on and called dangerous.The FDA has to make sure you know that they do not approve the herbs you are taking. Of course they don't. The more herbs you take and the more you try to take control of your health and live in moderation and simplicity, the less $$$ they make. Now it is "conventional" to saw a man's breast bone and rib cage in half, pull his heart out of his body, add a few things to it (or put in a new one taken from some other dead person), stick it back into his body, sew and patch things up, give him a whole bunch of meds, and hope it all goes well for him. But in the not-so-distant past and for hundreds and thousands of years prior, people knew that they way they LIVED had a lot to do with the quality of their health. Simple diets, hard work, no electronic buzzing in their ear, and so on, all helped to keep a person healthy and strong.

"Conventional" farming today means huge agri-business. Lots of chemicals. Lots of big, high-tech machines. But that was only in the last several decades. For most of our existence here on earth, humans have worked with their hands and used animals to help them. Now all they (most) have to do is sit in an air conditioned cab pushing buttons and watching the GPS. I know I have over-simplified it, but you get the point. People used to know how to save seeds because they HAD to. Now it's illegal for farmers to save seeds because Monsanto owns everything. Well, I wont go off on that rabbit trail. What ever happened to the small family farm where it was "conventional" for one man and one woman to be together for life? Men being men and women being women? Father and sons working all day together in the fields, mother and daughters working together in and around the house? Now it's "conventional" for mother to be at work or the beauty salon or the day spa or the gym or out with the girls or (fill in the blank), father might be working all day or might be at home watching tv or surfing the web, sons are out running the streets or sitting in their rooms with ipods or iphones or some sort of video game system, daughters are with their boyfriends or girlfriends, or at the mall or at the movies or sitting in their own room watching a movie or chatting on facebook. Why? This ought not to be. It seems the "conventional" thing to do now is get as far away from each other as possible and all be doing our own things. It is "conventional" now to have several wives or husbands ... or even have a same sex marriage. Adultery, fornication and sodomy are the "conventional norm." Families used to work together and live together and play together and pray together and do nearly everything together. Their houses were small. They knew no such thing as 'personal space'. They liked each others company. They all had a role to play. They all HAD to contribute to the upkeep of the family. Each member, even the littlest of children, had a job to do. I think of little 4 year old girls knitting socks for their brothers because if they didn't, no one would have socks!! Little 6 year old boys tending the animals in place of their father because their father was out in the fields with their bigger brothers. If that little 6 year old did not help with the animals, the animals might die!! And little 6, 7 or 8 year old children tending to the family garden every day. Milking the cow(s). Helping to preserve food. And now look at our little 4+ year old children. They are brats. They are spoiled. They think they have to be compensated for EVERYTHING they do. They don't even know how to pick up the toys in their room (of course it would help if they only had one or maybe two toys to play with and had to share space with others, but now it's "conventional" to have a private room complete with all the electronic gadgets and tens or hundreds of toys ... and most are so cheap and stupid). I see them at the grocery store throwing fits the WHOLE TIME they are shopping. And then in line ... "MOM, I WANT THIS!" Mom says, "If you stop whining, I'll get it for you." WHAT?!?! The child threw a fit the whole time they were in the store and now they are being rewarded in a positive way. See what you are training your child to do?! It's "conventional" today for families to be split up. "Conventional" to have their own space. "Conventional" to have chemical laden food from the grocery store in which God only knows how long it's been there, what all is on it and in it and so on. "Conventional" to not even know where milk comes from or that lettuce can be grown in the back yard. To all you evolutionists out there ... we are evolving and getting better?!?!?! HA! We are moving further and further away from God and destroying ourselves at a rapid pace.

What's that you say? This post was supposed to be about sourdough bread? Oh yes. Thanks. Anyway, back to sourdough. What really made me learn how to make sourdough bread is an article I read where the woman compared modern yeast to the FIRST FAST FOOD!!!!! Woah. Think about it. Today it's "conventional" to use dry active yeast in our homemade bread (well, it's even more conventional to just buy some junk bread at the store), but not too long ago, and for thousands of years prior, bread was made using a sourdough process. The souring of the dough breaks down the grains and makes them easy for you to digest. It also has good bacteria in it. I encourage you to do a little research on it.

Buyer beware though ... the sourdough breads you see in the stores and restaurants are probably NOT true sourdough bread. More likely than not, those are just regular breads with "conventional" yeast (ha) and vinegar added to give it that sour taste. READ THE INGREDIENTS. Real sourdough bread will not have yeast or vinegar in it. It will be dense, heavy and smell a bit sour.

[see the bottom of this post for another way of making and maintaining the starter]

To make REAL sourdough bread, you must first make your starter. Put two cups of fresh ground, organic rye flour into a glass bowl and mix in 2 cups of cold water. Pour into a clean glass bowl or glass gallon jug (I use the jug), cover with a coffee filter and rubber band (or cheese cloth or other such item to keep the bugs out) and set on the counter. The next day, dump into a clean bowl, add one cup of rye flour and one cup of cold water. Mix well and pour into a clean jug. Do this for 6 days total (not counting the first day). Depending on how warm it is in your house, after a day or so you should see the mixture start to bubble a little. After you put it back into the clean jug, it will begin to bubble and rise up over the space of a few hours and then slowly go back down. This is good.

Edit: the starter might need to be fed TWICE a day (every 12 hours or so) if it is especially warm in your home. This is what we will probably need to start doing as every 24 hours does not seem to be enough.

It helps to have a nice large bowl to dump the starter into, that way you can mix vigorously and not worry about spilling it everywhere.

Once you have 3qts of starter, measure out 2qts into a large bowl (I use a 12qt stainless steel bowl) and save the rest to make more starter (more on this later). In a measuring cup, combine 1c of cold water with 2 1/2T of realsalt or celtic gray salt (or other high quality salt). Add to the starter and mix well. Now add 10 cups of organic spelt flour. Mix well. Finally, add as much remaining flour as you need to make a nice, stiff dough. It helps if you know what bread dough should feel like. It should be smooth, somewhat firm, and not stick to your hand or fingers. I find it easiest to knead it with one hand while it is still in the bowl, and then when it gets a decent shape, I pour it out onto a floured surface and finish the kneading there.You may use more spelt flour, kamut or wheat.

Next, shape into five loaves, put in greased pans, and slash the tops of each bread. I prefer to weigh the whole ball of dough first, and then divide it into 5 equal parts. Cover with a damp bread towel and let it sit for several hours. Mine usually have to sit for about 12 hours before they are ready to bake ... and I have a pretty warm house right now.

Here is a picture of the first batch of bread I ever made ... as you can see, I only divided it into four loaves. We found that 5 was better for us; you may find that more or less works for you.

A picture of the same bread several hours later. As you can see, it has risen quite a bit. You want your bread to at least double in size before baking. When you think it is ready, bake it at 350 for about 45 minutes till done to your liking.

I forgot to take a picture of the first loaves, so here is a picture of my second batch. As you can see, I did one slice instead of three ... I think this looks nicer. Also, this was my best batch of sourdough bread. I am assuming these first two batches turned out so well because I unknowingly used refined spelt flour instead of whole spelt flour. The only spelt I had on hand when I made these batches was some a sister gave me. I was not familiar much with spelt, but I noticed the difference when I got the whole spelt I ordered ... it's darker and produces a heavier loaf, but taste excellent all the same.

Our best way of having this bread is toasted with butter and basil ... a brother here tried it that way once and we were all thankful for the idea. YUM!!!! I can eat this bread and not have stomach problems like I do with the "conventional" bread. It seems thousands of years had it right. It does not surprise me.

Ok, now what do you do with that remaining 1qt of starter that you set aside? Add 2c of rye flour and 2c of water. Mix well. Pour into a clean gallon glass jug. Cover. Each day after, do as before ... add 1c rye and 1c water, mix, pour into a clean gallon jug. Repeat till you have 3qts of starter. Make more bread, saving 1qt back. And so on.... on and on and on. Eventually you will also learn how to use your starter for other things like biscuits, pancakes, and other such things. but for now, we'll just stick with the bread.

EDIT: I just found out about a neat site that teaches you how to make traditional foods. They offer all sorts of different classes, videos, lessons to print out, forums, Q&A, and so on and it focuses on sourdough bread, lacto-fermenting, and other such traditional (CONVENTIONAL!) things. I think it will be worth it to join for even one month ($10) ... great for people like me who do not have a mentor or anyone around to show them how to do these different skills. I have done a lot on my own, but it all takes time. I think it is worth my $10 to give it a try for a month. I'll let you all know what I think in a few days [well, I can say already that they know A LOT MORE than I do! Their sourdough starter method is a bit different than mine, which I learned from "Nourishing Traditions"], but for now, here is the site: GNOWFGLINS which stands for "God's Natrural, Organic, Whole Foods, Grown Locally, In Season"

I have been learning a lot from gnowfglins and do think it was a good idea to sign up for a month or two (I'm on my second month and plan to cancel at the end of this cycle). Their way of doing sourdough starter is much better and easier to manage. I am not sure what Sally Falon was thinking in Nourishing Traditions, but her way (above) does not work nearly as well.

Put a cup of flour and a cup of water in a glass jar. Mix well. Scrape down sides. Sit 12 hours. Dump out half. Add a half cup each flour and water. Mix well. Scrape down sides. Sit 12 hours. Dump out half. Add a half cup each flour and water. Mix well. Scrape down sides. Sit 12 hours. Dump out half. Add a half cup .... and on and on. Do this for about 3 weeks and you'll have a nice starter. The glass jar is good for a few reasons, but I appreciate that I can SEE what the starter is doing. If you do not see it bubbling after a few days, you might need to start over. Or, if you see only a few little bubbles, you might let it rest and skip a feeding.

Now, each time you use your sourdough starter, make sure to save back a cup!!!

For example: when I make bread, I take the WHOLE starter, dump it into a glass bowl, add 3 cups each flour and water, cover with plastic wrap, and then let it sit till it's nice and bubbly. When it reaches its peak (for me, this has been about 3 hours - but it's been warm in my home. Now that it's cooling off, it might take longer), I take out a cup, put it in a glass jar, and that becomes my starter for next time [feed every 12-24 hours as usual till needed again, or store in the fridge. I like to feed mine and leave it out.]. To the rest I add a cup of water, some salt (about a tablespoon) and 5 more cups of flour. Make bread as usual, adding more flour as needed.

Another example: when I make pancakes - the night before I dump the WHOLE starter into a bowl and add 4 cups of flour and enough water to make a thicker pancake batter (I add more runny stuff the next day, so I take that into consideration). Cover with plastic wrap and go to bed. The next morning, take out a cup, put it in a glass jar, and that becomes my starter for next time [feed every 12-24 hours, etc.]. I add about 4 eggs, 1/4c oil, and 1/4c of some kind of sweetener. Mix. Get the griddle ready (turn on, grease). Add 2t of baking soda to the batter, mix and cook as usual.

There are SO MANY things you can do with sourdough. We've all enjoyed trying new things.

On a side note, I also purchase the book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Fermenting Foods By Wardeh Harmon (the woman that started the glowfglins site). I appreciate this book a lot ... lots of good information about all sorts of things fermented.