My I-have-to-do-something realization (re-realization!) of Friday blotted out any thought of Bread No. 6, which was good because it was really no good. Even at the right oven temperature it failed to rise. It was worse than Bread No.5 because I baked it in a pan – which is what the recipe suggests – and so the bottom is entirely too wet and yeasty. Can I make a  bread pudding out of that thing?

Yesterday was my first no-daily-bread day. I just wanted to give my family a break – nah, I just couldn’t fit it into my super-busy day – or, rather, I thought about making the new dough too late (it does have to rise, just once). Silly, it takes five minutes to put that dough together! But today’s bread is rising, and I will bake one loaf  for us and one loaf for a friend.


Today I put the bushes and berries and perennials to bed with straw, made a humongous leaf pile (couldn’t get the shredder started) and I emptied out the rain barrels, as we’re going to have freezes over the next couple of  nights. I potted up and brought in the scented geraniums – I wonder if they’ll survive the winter in the Annex. I haven’t put in the garlic yet because I found half my garlic, which was curing in the attic, rotten! I have a measly 18 cloves to plant. The garden center has no more seed garlic. Tomorrow I might buy some organic garlic from the grocery store and plant that. First thing tomorrow, though, is planting bulbs and talking compost with the kids in Amie’s class.


Soon Amie will come home and we’ll dress her up for trick or treating.  This year’s costume will be something very special and appropriate! Can you guess?

You know, the weather turns and you’re cutting the perennials down to the ground and mulching the berries and storing away your gardening tools and then you finally have the time to pick up a book and BAM!

David Holmgren, in Permaculture:

The evidence of 4000 million years of evolutionary history is that, if we get to a point of seriously affecting the fundamental life-support systems of the planet, we will be “neutralized” by one or more co-evolutionary mechanisms.

He quotes Wendell Berry, “who has criticized the notion of planetary stewardship as our arrogant disconnection from nature and belief in our own power.” Here’s Berry:

The question which must be addressed… is not how to care for the planet, but how to care for each of the planet’s millions of human and natural neighborhoods, each of its millions of small pieces and parcels of land, each one of which is in some precious and exciting way different from all the others.

I need to do something beyond my own backyard. I need to do something.

The weather turned “normal” again: hovering above freezing at night, in the 50s during the day. This weekend is going to be sunny, too. Last chance to really make a difference in the garden!

  1. get more horse manure
  2. finish other side of hotbox
  3. transplant seedlings into finished part of hotbox
  4. plant garlic and Egyptian onion
  5. sow Fall flower and herb seeds (nettle, nasturtium, echinacea, etc.)
  6. sow carrots and peas
  7. plant two elderberries, mulch with straw
  8. move one Earth Machine + contents to Winter hoop house location
  9. turn compost
  10. weed and mulch strawberries, currants, gooseberries, elderberries, hazels, kiwis, blueberry, raspberries
  11. weed and mulch all beds not used in Winter
  12. take down a couple of small trees?
  13. rake leaves and shred them (first pile them of course, for Amie)
  14. clear gutters
  15. store hammock :(  (though I must say I never had much chance to lounge in it this Summer)
  16. store patio table and chairs
  17. store all but one rain barrel

The server this blog is hosted by was down for almost two days. Nothing was lost, thankfully. Imagine you earn a living by your site/blog… Will we see more of this?


In any case, we’re back and I need to update you on yesterdays’  Daily Bread No.4. This one’s  the 5 minutes a day, kneadless 100% Whole Wheat sandwich bread.

(not its most photogenic side)

When making Bread No.2 my portable thermometer showed that our oven’s thermostat is off by quite a bit: set at 450 F, it heats up to 420 F, according to that thermometer, which is old and has been through a lot. Which one to believe? Yesterday while making Bread No.4, which needs to go in at 350 F, I tested using our digital thermometer (which can’t go up to 400). And the off thermostat was confirmed: set at 350 F it only heated up to 300 F.

Of course I only remembered to test this at the end of the baking. This might be why Daily Bread No.4  failed to rise to the occasion.

Yet it was lovely to eat, dense and moist, just about cooked through. And with a crust to die for. I also used only 1/3 of the salt that is mentioned in the recipe. I think I’ll start cutting down on salt. The read tastes sweeter. I still have two batches of dough left, so today I’ll compensate for the oven temperature and see if the loaf comes out better.

We’re still eating all this bread! They’re small loaves, I’ll weigh the next one.

This bed in the back of the garden (to the West, underneath the trees)  is a new one. I added it this Spring. I wasn’t happy with what grew in it this season. The reason could be the lack of sunlight, or poor soil. About the sunlight there is not much I can do at the moment, though next Spring I might have some of those trees cut back or, if we can afford it, taken down altogether. But about the soil I can do something right now.

Enter fresh horse manure and straw.

First, weed shallowly and dump a wheelbarrow (6 cu.f.) of horse manure on top. Then, add cardboard. Soak. Then dump another wheelbarrow  of manure. Cover with straw. Soak.

It’s an experiment. The wood shavings that comes with the manure might not be fully composted by the time Spring comes along, in which case that bed will suffer from nitrogen fixation (the composting critters will be using all the available nitrogen to chomp through all that carbon, leaving no nitrogen for the plants). I can be patient with this bed, though.


Amie loves coming along to the stable to get the manure. She gets to pet the two horses and the pony. As you can see the little horse dolls are now her favorites. She played in the garden while I shoveled. It’s unseasonably warm, almost tropical: very humid, and 75 F. Behind her is one of the winter hoop house beds.


The manure layer of the hot box registers at 90 F right now. I expect it to go up a bit more before it comes down. When it reaches 75 F I can transplant the spinach and lettuce.


And last but not least, Daily Bread No. 3.

Behind it you can see the piece of yesterday’s left over. We’re eating almost one of these loaves (they’re small) a day, but I think DH will start a mutiny soon. I do have plans for when we start piling up the loaves. I used up all the refrigerated dough, so it’s time to whip up a new batch. I’m moving on to whole wheat!

Today’s extra challenge was to do something with all that oven heat. Usually I let it escape into the house, but today was hot. So I roasted pumpkin seeds. Yum!

I did a last inspection today – 69 F, no wind, no rain, just lovely. The bees were foraging, so it was safe to open up the hive without risk of chilling the bees. They were quite defensive, and did not take kindly to my stapling my home made mouse guard to their front entrance.

There were some huge drones, really fat, big ones. Many of them were on the ground in front of the hive, dead. At this time the worker bees evict the drones from the colony, and they pull the undeveloped drone larvae and pupae from their cells and throw them out. Drones are useless in this particular season. The ones alive now will only eat through their stores in no time (being bigger), and their lifespan won’t carry them into Spring, when they have to perform their one function: mate with a queen. The colony will start rearing new brood, and new drones, after the winter solstice. It’s not a good time to be a drone at this time!

There is not much to be done about the hive anymore.

  1. I counted 10 full deep frames of honey and pollen, that is approx. 4 lbs of stores per frame (an underestimation to be safe), so approx. 40 lbs. That should be plenty to get the colony through the winter.
  2. I left the screened bottom board in for ventilation. It’s not the cold but the condensation that will kill off a cluster of bees.
  3. As for mice, I put the metal queen excluder up on top of the inner cover, so they can’t get in through the telescoping outer cover,
  4. and I stapled my homemade mouse guard to the bottom entrance.
  5. I also put a large stone on top of the outer cover. We’ve had some strong winds and though I’ve seen hoop houses and the lids to my compost bins fly off, I’ve yet to see that heavy outer cover budge. Still, it’s a small effort for a big insurance.

All I will be able to do during the winter is make sure that snow doesn’t cover the entrance, and wait. And build extra hive boxes and frames, so I can make a split in Spring, or a nuc, or catch a swarm… I really want that second hive!

Amie asked me the other day what would happen if no more electricity came out of the walls. The context was simple: she was upset that it took so long to recharge the batteries of her toy hamster. The fact that the possibility occurred to her shows, I believe, some of her Mama’s influence. And that she asked the question so matter-of-factly, so undaunted, just shows that she is the intrepid  five-year-old.

And there you have the essence of this post in a nutshell. But let me elaborate.

So, well, I was stumped for a second. I was torn as usual between my we-‘ll-make-it-work attitude and the oh-uh-zombie-hordes panic.

Amie was again ahead of me, proclaiming, “That would be just a problem, right, Mama? Not a predicament.”

Yes, my 5-year-old knows that difference (a predicament is a problem that cannot be solved, we can only manage our response to it – a different thing altogether).

I said, “Well, we could learn to live without electricity, couldn’t we?”

That was acceptable to her, and the world inhaled and got going again.


What Amie already knows are a few principles we live by. We respect nature and others, we should not waste, we share what we can, pollution hurts the Earth and the beings on it, if we can do something ourselves, we should do it ourselves, and there is a difference between what we want and what we need. I keep it positive, can-do and will-do. I am working on the foundation, handing her principles and skills that will allow her to adapt to different times, encouraging her to be just, responsible and forward-thinking, and giving her the tools to think critically.

In other words, I have not discussed with her climate change and its eco-victims and refugees, the precariousness of our food system, the price of oil, my fear of food riots, cholera, farming in 120F, or zombie-hordes. She’s five, and she gets upset when the hairy Barbapapa gets shaved by accident!

But one day, probably sooner rather than late, the future will be on the table. She‘ll put it there. That’s my Amie, who already knows about the possibility of predicaments.


And she is the one whose future is at stake. The predicament is hers. Of course, as you know if you’ve read this blog a bit, I believe the future will get here in my own lifetime. But I’m her mother, and so what this will do to me won’t matter in the face of what it will do to her. Also, it will have been me who screwed it all up in the first fifteen years of my adult life, and even now, in these five or so years since my realization, with all these half-baked lifestyle changes. By the time she becomes responsible, the culpability for our predicament will be a moot point (an academic issue).

Let this, especially, be remembered.


I hope one thing, that when she requests to know all the hard facts, and what we’re doing about it, and why we aren’t doing enough, or even anything — I hope that I will speak truthfully about climate change, peak everything, economic collapse, and human greed, ignorance, laziness, much of it my own.

The child can sniff a lie, and I hope I will be able  to pass that test.  Of course her dad – who is a techno-fix optimist – will be there too, with his own opinions, and I hope we’ll have our usual passionate discussion, the three of us this time, and she can make up her own mind.


So what with all this on my mind I was happy to stumble upon Robyn’s post on the Adapting In Place Blog (via Sharon’s mention of it on Casaubon’s Book). Robyn writes about the challenges of teaching environmentalism to children and concludes that teaching it doesn’t work. She writes:

I have found, for myself, that when I’m considering lifestyle changes for environmental purposes, I like to put them through the 5-year-old test. I imagine explaining what I think of as the problem to a 5-year-old and trying to imagine what she would reply. […] I try explaining to the 5-year-old in my head what my solution is, to see how it fares. I suggest this method for everyone.

Children are the fastest path to learning to live within our limits, but only if we let them. If we listen, if we give them access to real information, and then take their responses to it seriously, we can see through the eyes of someone who hasn’t been fully indoctrinated into our culture. They don’t know how things “should” be, so they can tell us how things “could” be. If we stop trying to teach them, they can teach us a great deal.

So true. Even though I won’t be sitting down with Amie to discuss the practicalities of what to do when the electricity, the water, the money goes, she is there whenever I think of these issues. I look at my garden and see that I neglected it and imagine her asking why I did that, why we’re not growing more of our own food. I look at the beehive and see her smiling approvingly. I looked at the store-bought loaf the other day through her eyes and thought, why can’t I bake the bread myself? If we can do it ourselves, we should do it ourselves!

Thank you, Mieke, for keeping me honest.