Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A little leaven...

O.K. Athens people, this Saturday, January 15th, at 12 noon, my friend Ruth is giving a bread making demonstration at Maddox Feed and Seed. Need gluten free? Allergic to wheat? Want to use different types of grains in your bread? Ruth will have your answer.

I bake bread for the family almost every week. This isn't just any bread, it's a meal! Each slice has somewhere around 7 gms. of fiber. What's more is that the wheat is milled immediately before baking, which leaves no time for losing nutrients during storage. There are no additives or bleaching in this bread; everything a wheat berry has to offer is right inside. My maternal grandmother, Ethel McKenzie, used to recite this little saying (tongue-in-cheek), "The whiter the bread, the quicker you're dead," while she was making my Sunday cheese and mayonnaise sandwich...on Publix white bread (to be followed by a scoop of Webb's City French vanilla ice cream). Apparently she was right...thanks Mawmaw.

Buying your wheat berries is the hardest part of the process. Fortunately, Janice at Maddox Feed and Seed is now carrying 45lb buckets of wheat. Otherwise you can usually locate a local food co-op to purchase from. Message Daniel Dover on Facebook and he can tell you about his co-op. Our family of 6 (those still at home eating regularly) uses about 4 buckets per year. I use the wheat in all of my baking, and you don't need to add any white flour to make it rise. This whole wheat is very light in color and can almost pass for white in most cookies etc. My chocolate cookies, pancakes, and pie crust have a nice body and at least a little more nutrition.

Here's a sneak peak at one process that Ruth will be sharing. This is how I bake bread for our family. Ruth made a few adjustments to my recipe recently and the results were amazing!

Ingredients for 8 loaves:

4 1/2 c. hot water
3 c. cold milk
7 eggs
1 c. oil (put this in the measuring glass first and your honey will slide right out with it)
1 c. honey
4 1/2 tbsp. yeast
2 1/2 tbsp. salt
18-22 c. flour. I use 1 c. of hard red wheat for every 3 c. of hard white. (you add flour until the dough just starts to pull away and clean the sides of the bowl).

Note - I'm a total wuss and I don't bake on rainy days. I've had too many fallen loaves on those types of days.

Step One - Mill the berries in the counter top mill. This sounds a little like a small band saw in your kitchen. If you overfill the hopper you will find yourself in a cloud of flour and have yourself an hour's dusting project in the kitchen, ehem...it's rough.

Step Two - Place your ingredients in the Bosch Universal Mixer (or a pathetic substitute...I'm jus' sayin"). The Bosch is a beast. My friend Sally is still using hers after 35 years and 10 kids! Mine is now getting close to 10 years old. Other than damaged mixing paddles I've never had a repair (touch wood). Mix for 12 minutes.

Step Three - Place the heaving blob of dough on the oiled counter top or in a very big bowl to rise for 20 minutes. While you are waiting you can wash the dough which is still clinging to the bowl and bread paddle. This is my least favorite job.

Step Four - Oil your hands and divide the dough in 1 1/2 - 2 lb. dough balls and place into oiled baking pans. I prefer glass or stoneware baking pans...but I only have two :(

Step Five - Allow to rise until just a bit taller than the pan. Do not go to the barn and begin talking with the animals, and then notice that the gate needs a small repair, and then decide to do some garden work, while the bread is rising - unless you have an alarm on your person. Yup, did this too and came home to find the bread crawling over the edge of the counter and heading toward the floor. I guess it was going to leave the house and come find me. Once you add the yeast its alive.

Step Six - Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Again, don't go to the barn. You will come home to find the house filled with smoke, fire alarm blasting, and the inside dogs wide-eyed and frantic. O.K., so I'm a bit distractible (and that is spelled correctly - I checked...-able is o.k. too).

Step Seven (so close to Heaven) - Remove from pans immediately and let cool before eating or storing. If you have tall indoor dogs do not leave the bread on the counter and go to the barn. You get the concept. It's best to stay with the bread until it is put away.

I'd say the whole process takes about an hour and a half. Much of that time can be spent doing other things (not at the barn). You can easily do this while getting a bit done around the house. For most families the eight loaves that this recipe yields might carry over for two weeks...it keeps well in the fridge and freezes right nice too.

Two toasted slices with some sliced turkey, green leaf lettuce, mayo/dijon mustard on one side, and jellied cranberry sauce on the other, and Whoa Nelly!

This bread in your favorite french toast recipe will make you just giddy.

When you can bake bread (and especially if you can preserves) you always have a gift to give. All you need are gift bags and you are never without.

I'll be working with the mammas and the babies this Saturday, so write and tell me what you think about Ruth's demo. You're gonna love the folks at Maddox too, it's not your average cooking demo venue - you can wear your cowboy boots and jeans.

Ya'll have fun!

Monday, January 10, 2011


It was hard to hear that my cousin Doris was about to depart this world. Saturday morning, depart she did. Cousin is a dear enough word, but aunt is an even dearer one I think. I was always confused about Doris being my cousin because she was more than three decades older than me. I thought of her as an aunt because she nurtured me at times. Cousins play with you; aunts nurture you.
In the late fifties and early sixties my father and a handful of his family members moved from the mountains of eastern Kentucky to the vacation paradise of Florida hoping to seek their fortunes and raise their families. Bud and Doris were in that group, and that is how they came to live within walking distance of our house in Kenneth City.
I have always known Doris. My best memories of time spent with her are from my childhood and pre-teen years. I spent countless hours listening to she and my mother talk, and talk, and talk, and talk for hours. Mom and Doris could talk. Doris and anyone could talk. Whenever we were at Doris’ house my mother was happy, and for her sake I never begrudged those hours. I learned so much from the things that they talked about, mostly what people are like and when they had acted correctly, or incorrectly. I am the age now that they were then. I only blinked twice or so and decades have flown by.
I have been told that I learned to talk lying between my mom and Doris. I loved the sectional sofa where they, and then I, often sat. There was a glass top coffee table (was the bottom made of driftwood?) in front of the couch. Doris taught me to light my first candle on that table. I felt very big. I remember her showing me how to close the match book cover over the match and then to pull it to strike it. Mom waited until we left to tell me not to do it that way or I would set the whole book of matches aflame in my hand. I still close the cover -sorry Mom.
Doris’ house was the first place that I was allowed to ride my bike to alone. That made me feel big too. I’m sure I I must have driven her crazy since it was the only other place that I could go. If I ever annoyed her she never let on. I thought she was the most hip mom when she let my teenage cousins ( who wore rollers big enough to fit my fist through) draw groovy flowers on their bedroom ceiling - with chalk! I was not allowed to draw on walls…or ceilings.
Notably these are the things Doris did not do: smoke (and almost everyone did), cuss, or drive a car (that I ever knew of). I was fascinated…especially by the last one. Her career was to be the wife of her beloved husband, the most wonderful mother to her three children, and the most faithful friend to everyone she met.
I can picture every corner of her house, her semi-circle pebble drive, the storm door, the grey cat named Duchess. My favorite was the kitchen and the back porch. She always had a glass of tea with Sweet’N Low, never sugar. I can even remember the Tiki tumblers that she often drank from.
The seventies could not diminish her style because Doris made polyester look good; She made everything look good. Who can resist a woman who laughs out loud and weaves yarns that make you smile and laugh until your cheeks hurt? She was never discouraged. She was never without hope. She never doubted God .
My twelfth summer I must have needed an eye kept on me. Despite the fact that I had stayed home alone the previous summer (and babysat a two year old) I apparently needed lookin’ after, so I was sent to Doris’ for the day while Mom worked. We watched soap operas on her king-size bed all summer long. I felt like a movie star.
She taught me to make whipped wax wedding candles that summer too. Once again, she trusted me to handle the hot stuff. We melted wax in a coffee can set in a pan of hot water, on a hotplate, in the garage. She poured the melted wax into a bowl and handed me the fork. “Beat it like you beat scrambled eggs”, she said. After a few minutes the wax began to cool and turned into a frothy, wax, icing substance. She patiently showed me how to spread it onto the candle with a butter knife until the candle looked like a cake. Beautiful.
Doris had my favorite furniture. Her T.V. was something like this.
I have two memories of that console television. We had quite a festive crowd gathered to watch as Hank Aaron hit his record breaking home run, and I had my prom picture taken in front of it. I loved the swag lamp that hung above it. It was very similar to this one.
Sometime during my teens Bud and Doris moved to Live Oak, Florida. Our visits were fewer, but so much fun. It was here that my love for homesteading was inspired. That Doris could go from her centerfold magazine house to living in a prefab (while Bud built the permanent one) sent her popularity rating, in my mind, to the top. That Bud could build a house with his own hands, that they could piece together a beautiful floor covering from carpet store samples, that she could grow peanuts, or save day-old bread to make bread pudding, or any number of frugal things, just made my head spin. You can take the girl out of the mountains…
I am surprised that God didn’t leave Doris here longer . With she and Mom together again He’ll never get a word in edgewise. The people who grew me and whom I loved most as a child are leaving for Heaven on a regular basis now. I love the thought of them together again – just like a Kouns family reunion and church, all at the same time.
For the family and friends who are missing her now, I send my love and I share this poem with you. Perhaps you have read it before. It was given to me when my mother made the same journey that Doris made just two mornings ago. It is the truest thing about those who leave this life. Time and absence are things of this earthly realm. Today time and pain are a thing of her past; that is the hope that she lived here for.
A ship sails and I stand watching ‘til she fades on the horizon;
Someone at my side says, “She is gone.”
Gone where?
Gone from my sight that is all; she is just as large as when I saw her.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her.
Just at the moment when someone at my side says, “She is gone,”
There are others in Heaven who are watching her come and their voices take up a glad shout,
“There she comes!”
And that is dying.
And here is a song to comfort us too. The Kouns family loves some gospel tunes about Heaven.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 In Review

I’ve been waiting for the weather to act a little more like spring so that I could get out and get some farm inspiration. I can't review farm goals from inside. Yesterday, and the first part of today, were just what I needed. The sun was bright yesterday and warmed me nicely as I did my work. No sun today, but moving manure will warm you on the coldest of days. It’s time to get the garden tidied up and the last of the “fresh”

compost into the beds
to give it time to mature until the first planting. Looking at the brown grass and trees it's hard to believe that this will be verdant and green in just 3 more months. This is the same patch in April of 2010. What a difference! While I worked the county tested the tornado sirens...that's springy.
The most pleasant thing of my day was feeling Mabelle’s baby kick for the first time. Don’t hold me to it, but I’m guessing that this little one will arrive sometime in the next 2-6 weeks. We are hoping for a girl so we can add a second milk cow to the line up (which we need like a hole in the head). She (if she is indeed a she) will be 5/8ths Jersey and should make some delicious milk. That dream will take two years to become reality due to the fact that she must be a year old for breeding, and the gestation is 9 months long. Farming is some pretty slow stuff.
It was hay delivery day today, and the pasture pets were very happy. Our hay is delivered by Mr. Warren Brooks of Nicholson. He is a sweetie and reminds me so much of my Dad. We nearly lost Mr. Brooks to back-to-back heart attacks last year. It is so good to see him back in the cab of his pickup. I don’t know who loves him more, me, or the critters.
With regard to farming lots of things that I had hung my hat upon did not produce as promised in 2010. Primarily these: the garden, the milk machine, seven goats in milk, and finding a market for our milk. The problem with milking machines is that they are exceedingly heavy and must be cleaned within an inch of their lives every time you use them – unless you want to make someone very sick. Seven goats in milk is nice for households where at least two people are available to milk. Oh it would be fine if the lone milker didn’t have a job, homeschool her children, run a small beef business, go to college, or want much of a life (what do I use for a brain?). The farmers’ markets are fine if you have more than, say, three customers who drink goat milk, otherwise it is an exercise in futility to care for the animals, milk the milk, bottle the milk, and then sell only three gallons per week (I’m tapping my foot impatiently here). Customers who are willing to come to the gate and purchase are grand if they are serious, regular milk drinkers. Usually they are neither. Our experience is that people want to shop while they are passing through Athens, or taking a Sunday drive with the grandchildren. That means you end up giving the speech about how the animals are cared for and how the milk is bottled over and over again. Very low return on investment.
This year helped us to determine that our milk is best for our family, friends, and animals. To go beyond that, for us, is to spin the wheels and waste good resources. Milk into beef and milk onto table is good money.
It is very easy to get caught up in the locally grown, farmers’ market, back-to-the-land, omnivore’s dilemma. Heritage breed associations promise that the old breeds of animals are better -not necessarily, but they are more expensive due to the claims. Hobby Farms magazine tells you that it is just that, a hobby -don’t get me started. Here’s my advice to those who would aspire. Raise animals and plants (whatever kind) that thrive where you live. Breed those and then pat yourself on the back when you develop your own heritage breeds and species. Your grandkids will talk about them one day and, *poof*, you will have yourself a heritage. Grow for yourself and share (or sell) the overabundance. Do. not. go. into. debt. Fortunately we have followed that last piece of advice and our home with 10 acres remains a very inexpensive, and very productive, place to live, BUT, we are just starting to break even on the animals’ expenses after 5 years. It takes time.
In review let’s evaluate last year’s New Year plans. This is what I said in the post on 1/1/10, let’s see how we did.
Things we look forward to in 2010: (Outcomes are in black)
We anticipate new birth in the spring. Our Great Pyrenees (Gus and Bo Peep) appeared to be whipping up a fresh batch of puppies today. That puts them here some time in March. We had two beautiful puppies, one girl, and one boy, who survived Bo Peep’s first birth. Bonnie went to live with the McPherson family and guard her own herd. Baby G (for gigantic) lives at home with his folks here on the GBF. He is even bigger than Gus (his father). We spayed Bo Peep after she nearly severed a toe climbing the gate during her heat cycle this summer. So no more Pyrenees puppies for us…for awhile.
  1. Our first goats are set to arrive then too. They did. We had three sets of triplets this year! I had plenty opportunity to assist with some very goofy birth presentations…those labor and delivery skills came in handy here at home. Altogether we had 10 bucks and 6 does born in the spring. We had one delivery that Dr. Mike came to help with. Unfortunately the kid was lost, but the mother has recuperated very nicely. I learned to trust my gut and call the vet earlier on that one.
  2. Our cow Mabelle, is expecting her firstborn some time in March or April. She gave us a lovely bull calf who is growing big and strong…very meaty looking ;)
  3. We are looking forward to the 2010 goat shows. We will be attending our first national show in Lousiville this summer. Yup, Enterprise won Grand Championship in June in the Georgia Dairy Goat Breeders spring show, and Buckets won 3rd place in her class at the Georgia National show, the nationals were very interesting to witness.
  4. We have been offered the use of an electric milking machine in exchange for weekly milk deliveries this year. My hands and arms rejoice. This offer didn’t work out, but we bought one. I haven’t been happy with it, but I’ll get back to you when I make some alterations to it…I’m still hopeful.
  5. Nic's cabin is to receive its siding as soon as we finish staining it. That will hasten him toward completion of the interior. Just interior work to be done still. It is adorable….almost there!
  6. We are looking forward to a garden again this year. With the wedding this past spring it just never got done. I received some heirloom corn from a friend in South Carolina almost two years ago. I have never seen ears so massive, just look at 'em! He has been selecting for firm stocks that do not blow over so easily, among other traits. In a time when ninety eight percent of our corn is genetically modified I cherish this small store of untouched vintage seed. Fortunately no one around us grows corn that could contaminate it. As for gardening, there is such a thing as too “intensive” a gardening design. Why must I always think that more ( in this case closer planting and more plants) is better?! I was nearly carried away by grape and plum size tomato plants this summer. They grew, and grew, and grew some more. The squash were, I think, too close together and fostered a moist covering which created the ultimate squash bug nursery. Mother and father squash bugs from everywhere heard that we had on-site daycare and brought their babies to my garden so that they could drop the kids off and go to work – ON EATING MY SQUASH PLANTS! My garden was, in a word, completely unmanageable this last season. I did do well with potatoes. Potatoes are my friends. Here’s to MORE potatoes in 2011. We grew no corn. You know what else? The heirloom seeds from Bakers’s were a dissapointment. I’m trying Johnny’s this year.
  7. Oh! We will be adding two beehives too. I can't believe that I almost forgot about the bees. Nope. No bees yet.
  8. More than anything we need a permanent solution to our driveway debacle. Please deliver us Dear Lord. *sigh* Praise be to God we added a road to this humble estate this year. Our neighbors, the Lanes, built it for us for a right handsome, but fair, price. It stretches one quarter mile from the house to the main road and is covered in gravel - sometimes. We were kind of sad about having to “deface” the pasture with a road, but have actually become a bit charmed by it thanks to Jen Carter’s logo design in which the road has a bit of a starring role. The illustration helped us see its value to the landscape.
  9. One thing that wasn't on the list last year but happened anyway was our farm logo and milk label. That's nice too.
  10. And we collected all the mess-makin', free-range chickens and put them in movable coops, which were built by our friend Marty. We now have two, with a third on the way in February. They still get to eat what's under their feet and we move them to a fresh patch daily. Each coop holds between 10 and 12 chickens. They are tall enough for me to stand in, which makes several jobs inside the coop much easier to do.
Now for the new goals...coming soon.