This bread is amazing!

I have been doing a lot of reading about bread baking. The bread I have been making, although it is good, by the third day, it is only good for toasting, and so I thought I would explore other options. I saw a piece on TV with Mark Bittman, and the bread recipe they made was adapted from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery. The bread looked so amazing when it was done I simply had to try it! The recipe has 14-20 hours of rising time. Basically you stir flour, yeast, salt and water and come back 12-18 hours later and fold it over and then wait 15 minutes, make it into a ball and let it rise for 2 more hours, then bake for 45-60 minutes in a preheated dutch oven. It turned out absolutely amazing! Here is the photo to prove it!


The bread made…

grilled cheese

…an amazing grilled cheese, with some 5 year cheddar from an excellent local cheese maker.

I will be sticking with this bread for a while. I also finally found a better bun recipe, as well, the others were so heavy they just weren’t what I was looking for in a bun and now these wheat buns are  just right!


It’s been a transformation since last November when I began my incremental steps. My relationship with the kitchen has changed. One might think that making crackers, tortilla chips, buns and other things might not be worth the time. So to the contrary! I realize that making all these things takes a lot of time, and generally that phrase is looked at as a negative. I do not see it this way. Each loaf, bun, pot of soup stock, and freshly made batch of coleslaw are things made with enjoyment and accomplishment. Cooking is a wonderful process, I think of it as art really. It is startling to think of how much less Hubby and my food travels and how many less hands our food passes through since we started this last November. I always have something going on in the kitchen, even if it’s just a bowl of rising bread dough. The kitchen is in many ways, to me, to be the heart of the home. Living a lifestyle such as this is time well spent, and the “work” that goes into it? Bliss, really. I couldn’t feel luckier.

Looking back and stepping forward…

If April showers bring May flowers …what does April snow bring? So far snow chives and daffodils that quite literally look like they are ducking their tiny heads back into the ground.


But each is a sign of our kind of Spring and Midwest Spring is amazing. It just is. As I left for my 5 minute “commute” (through the rural countryside) to work this morning, to bake granola, I stopped and caught this early spring scene. Springtime is the best time of year for our small branch of the river that runs through our property, other times of year it looks much more like a little creek.


New Steps and exploration…


So, I bought this book at the University bookstore in 1982 in college. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and read and underlined in it like a well trained senior in college. I never really had a place to put it into practice but I do now. We’ve enjoyed Morel mushrooms found on the farm for many years, and the black cap berries in the woods, even the occasional goose berries and watercress from the Spring but there is so much more, and I am ready to explore! As a very little girl I was fascinated with the wild onions I would find in the ravine behind our house. It was a favorite thing to do in Spring, in fact a ritual and Mom even reminded me of it the other day. I would bring them to her and she would chop them up into scrambled eggs and I was absolutely sure I was a pioneer. I spent many, many hours playing in the ravine, it was always the same game, I “lived off the land” and had a “ma” and a “pa”. Maybe it was too much “Little House on the Prairie” with a dose of “The Waltons” thrown in, or maybe it just really was a dream/fascination. Then came along the book that I never, ever forgot…


This book about a boy who ran off to the wilderness to live off the land, was played out in my head over and over. I wanted to live in a burned out Hemlock tree like he did and I wanted to make a fish hook and catch a fish and cook it over a fire I made. I wanted it all. Could I have done it? Not in a million years but could I dream? All the time! So as I take my steps I am finding out that things are coming full circle. While I will never run away and live off the land I am loving my little version of the story as it continues to evolve here.

A package arrived yesterday…


…and it was packed full with colorful seed packets. I ordered from a company that does only organics. I figured it may have cost a bit more, but when I thought about, all of the fresh, frozen, canned, dried and stored abundance of food it will provide… my decision was easily made! I am really excited for gardening this year, and I am equally excited for the end of the season when I find out all the the things I learned over the summer, really can’t wait to find that part out:) This Spring and Summer will also provide great photo opportunities. The piglets, baby chicks, little herd and a large variety of produce growing will offer great camera learning, which I need!

I’m wanting to spend more time on manual and less time on auto and not just with my camera.

Rain, and more rain!

So we continue to burn wood. It  sure doesn’t yet look like Spring, and it actually looks a lot more like November outside, but we are definitely making some progress towards Spring planning. I already had ordered all of my starter plants from our neighbor, who has a small greenhouse business, but now I have all my seeds ordered as well. I found a site with an amazing garden planning program. Not only can you physically lay out the garden but then at the end it gives you a planting and harvesting guide to your garden based on your planting zone. This was a great tool. We have always had one little tiny garden by the kitchen, aptly named “the kitchen garden”. It included a sampling of tomatoes, chives, dill, sage, pepper plants and cilantro. Now this garden will become an all herb garden by the kitchen. We also had what we called the “upper garden” which was a lot like an overflow garden. Now in addition to these two gardens we will add what I call a “creepy crawly” garden, for squash and other vegetables, and melons that crawl and spread out, and the fourth garden will be the main garden, located not far from what will be the new chicken yard. Having all this planning done is very exciting. With my last bit of travel coming up in a few weeks, once home the planting will begin in full. I am hoping to get some things in the ground sooner, but with 5 inches of rain predicted to fall between the last few days and through tomorrow, there seems to be little hope of this happening anytime soon!

Another important decision has been made, and that is the ordering of the little chicks. The decision is to get a mix of Australorp, Buff Orpingtons and Silver Wyandottes, and a number of 12, it will be interesting to grow and learn with this little chick family! I am going to get started on setting up the brooder and hubby is working on the coop, as much as one can work when all it does is rain!

I have been doing a lot of baking to catch up after all my time out of town last week.


My daughters have been making dog treats for their dogs and so this was a new thing to add to my list of “what not to get at the store anymore”.


My friend approved:)

So now I am adding dog treats to the list of what not to buy! I am looking forward to adding more to the list. Grocery shopping has become a fairly brief experience these days!

Here so far are 13 things I don’t buy anymore…




crackers – this one was a revelation, it never occurred to me that there was any other way to get crackers than at the store;)



corn chips

salad dressing

dog treats

paper towels

paper napkins

anything in a can

prepared foods

NEXT to explore… Mayonnaise, bagels, pasta, and of course this summer… lots of PICKLES!!! I read recently that making Mozzarella cheese is super easy, might have to try that!

And now the tiny herd update: We had another episode of  “the newbies do some ranching” the other day. We had put in a “plastic weaner” in our young bulls nose a while back to get him weaned and it was time for this to come out. (Seems this is a debatable practice, next time we will see if Mama can take care of this naturally with her little one.) This did give us an opportunity though to see the new revised chute and head gate in action. Hubby has spent a lot of time working on this being a safe and well functioning piece of equipment. We focused carefully on calm, smooth, quiet behavior on our part during this procedure and on the scoring scale that determines the stress of an animal in the head gate we did darn well. We felt successful and even the little bull’s Mama wasn’t too bothered by it all. Seems this is getting a little easier each time, as we learn together.


Today I am listening to myself. What I hear is that I need some restoration time, so although I’ve been gone for 5 days caring for family issues, and I should be doing much needed granola work, it’s clear to me that I have little to give right now, and so filling back up is what I need to do. Having put all my granola notes, files and piles aside I have gathered my garden notes instead and will take the time to plan out the garden and think Spring.

I noticed we are out of crackers so I will make some today as well. Turns out I finally found a cracker recipe that works really well. Today I will make them, in three varieties… oregano, dill and parmesan. Baking is enjoyable, and the process of creating something in the kitchen is soothing to me.


This was how they turned out last time I made them. They were perfect soup crackers!! Oh and just to set the record straight, it is also a perfect soup day at 37 degrees, with hail! I will take out some soup stock from the freezer and see what we have to put in it.  There is only one thing you can count on during Spring weather in the Midwest… surprises!

Learning together…

Joe MeatballHubby and I are learning on the job and this little guy is learning too. We had some work to do with our friend and he wasn’t too keen on the idea. Fortunately though once we got hold of him he quickly stopped fighting and let us do our job. He trusted us and we are beginning to trust our skills. The little fellow’s Mama was very anxious when we separated them to do our job! When we opened the gate and let them back together though, it was a very sweet reunion:)

So far Spring has brought muddy fields and delicious syrup!

Well, with Hubby out of town, I managed to hold the fort down. I heated only with wood, fed the tiny herd, worked on the books, and got in two big baking days, and a couple of delivery days. All this and only one cry for help:(  I was out looking for wood and with the driveway nice and firm at this point I made a silly assumption that the grass drive in the field would be firmed up too. I thought I’d get out to the field where we took down a tree a while back. I knew that a lot of the branches were left in deep snow when we left and that now they would be uncovered. Well the minute I drove in I knew I was in trouble. I tried to get the car out but it wouldn’t budge. I noticed the temperatures were going to be in the twenties overnight so I thought, I’d go out there very, very early and it would drive right out. That did not work at all, so I had to call for rescue darn it. Nice to have a country neighbor that will hop on his tractor and come pull you out no questions asked! So, one more lesson learned. Never trust a field in early Spring to be road worthy!!!


On the more successful side…

the boil

I did get the syrup oven ready outside and here is a picture of it as things were just beginning to heat up. I have a whole new idea for next year thought, which will be much larger!


This is the final outcome of the syrup. It will last us till next year and we may even be able to gift some, as we don’t use a lot of syrup. We tried it out on French Toast the other night and it was amazing! I can’t believe how much more I like it then true Maple syrup!! I already can not wait till next Spring to do this again, next year many more buckets though!!

Getting ready for the boil!

As mentioned earlier my neighbor and I tapped Box Elder trees, after we learned they are in the Maple family. We had a brief collection period, then it got cold again and the sap stopped. Now the temps are just right and we have collected 13 plus gallons in a day and a half! The first collection was so small I boiled it inside especially since it was so cold out too!

They have a walk in cooler for their business so they are keeping the sap cold. I will cook it down later this week, when I have a window of time and the weather is good. In the meantime I am working on getting the evaporator outside set up. Hubby gathered the cinder blocks before he left town, but first I wanted to clean out the fire pit that still contained some half burned items in it, that got wet and much of which was still frozen. It was either start a fire in the pit to thaw it out or save the wood for warming the house and waiting for it to thaw. I decided to wait it out.

5fire pit before


4afire pit after

after… much better!

Tomorrow I am out on granola deliveries but the next day I will be building the evaporator. At the end of the week I will be enjoying a day long boil!