One of the changes we made during the Local Food Challenge that we kept was the locally-grown-grain home-made bread. Four Star Farms in Northfield, MA, has been my go-to place (either through Volante Farm when they stock it, or straight from the farm) for hard red winter berries, which I grind in my mighty Vitamix. Amie and I did enjoy the 45 minute “spin” when we borrowed my friend’s hand mill, but that Vitamix does a good enough job in under 3 minutes.
I use the Farm Feast easy no-knead hold-over-in-the-fridge method for a dense, moist, dark bread. As a whole grain bread it’s a bit finicky, though. It worked better with the Farm Feast’s Red Lammas and Redeemer berries than with Four Star’s Zorro. The latter possibly has less gluten action and often I had breads that weren’t fully risen/cooked. This time around I got Four Star’s Warthog, 20 lbs of it – it takes 1 lb 6 oz for one smallish bread. Let’s see if that is a better fit.
As for even more local eating, a couple of weeks ago I failed to report on my mushroom haul – possibly because it did not result in eating at all. Right down there, in wood chip heaven (heaven for fungi), I found hundreds of King Stropheria mushrooms bursting from the carbon carpet of wood chips after a big downpour (our Fall, compared to our Summer, has been downright delugional). Some were as large as 10 inches in diameter. The King rules! I plucked quite a few, distributing many of them into parts of that garden without, keeping some for ourselves.
Unfortunately, the mushrooms were wet when I picked them, and there were quite a few more rainy days ahead of us. In the end, they didn’t dry but rotted to slime. We didn’t get a meal out of these, but we did get some neat spore prints, which became more seeds for the rest of the garden.
Lastly, a small reporting of a conversation between mother and daughter.
- What are you doing?
- I cleaned up my car (aka the Bee Mobile, which is my beek office and storage space, and truck for honey-dripping bee boxes and straw bales, chicken food, etc., and which tonight will be the taxi for Amie and her two friends).
- Well, mmm, not “cleaned up,” really, rather, mmm, made room in, for you guys to sit.
- I knew I shouldn’t get my hopes up!
I did put newspaper over the honey spill.
So, we made it to NYC, from our place to our friends’ place, in just 3 hours. Also the return trip, the day after, took exactly 3 hours. We have the route, the best times to travel, and the gung-ho attitude down pat. It was unfortunate that we had to take the car, but all three of us had to show up in person – otherwise I’d have jumped on a bus. It was also unfortunate that we didn’t return with the desired visas. They might still be forthcoming, and hopefully on time. We’ll see.
But the good thing is we got to stay with our dear New Yorker friends, A and D and their daughter E. They even fed us a wonderful vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner. Yum! There was an acorn squash involved, with honey… I’m growing that squash next season! Amie got to play with E, who is seven now, very bright and kind. They’ve known each other since Amie’s birth and are like sisters, giggling, playing and reading together. It is with this family that we want to start an intentional community (I’ve not written about that, have I? Later).
And we got to take home two things that they had been storing for us (in their tiny 500 sq.f. apartment, which is already crammed full with art works):
- a grain mill
- a spinning wheel
The spinning wheel was a surprise. A, the dad, had picked it up off the street, along with a big, heavy suitcase that was locked. He brought these unwieldy things home (on the bus). There he opened the suitcase and found diplomas, certificates, prizes and photographs, many of them pretty old. A stashed these away until late that evening. When D was asleep, he quietly exchanged all their own photographs with these old ones. D woke up to a house full of strangers! But she became upset when she heard the story, because this was obviously someone’s life – so meticulously collected – thrown in the street as trash. I’ve offered to help them track down family members to see if they want these things back.
The spinning wheel has some broken and possibly missing parts. We’ll figure out how to fix and work it once we get back from India.
The grain mill was A’s in college. Apparently, sometime during his adventurous college career, A and a friend baked tens of loaves of bread every day, from scratch. His parents had this mill sitting in their basement in Michigan for over a decade, and so it made its way to NYC, then to us. I don’t know how it works yet. I has a heavy duty engine but I want to find a wheel for it, to make it manual.
Do scroll down to see my new pots.
I love it!
Scarf wound ’round, hat down on over ears, zip up coat, grab the harvest basket and run out.
Loot: celery, leeks and pea shoots
Rinse, chop, sweep into the pot, add homegrown chopped onions and carrots, as well as split peas (bulk, dry) that have been soaking overnight, water, pepper and salt and simmer until the house smells divine and the peas are soft. Blend in blender, add more salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with lightly chopped pea shoots – they melt right in. Enjoy with home baked bread.
Daily Bread No. 14 has come and gone and No. 15 will have come and gone soon enough without their pictures being taken. It matters not, because the plan worked. We are now free of store-bought bread!
I joined the a team of parent and teacher volunteers who are working to make the school system in our town greener. We’re working on getting the recycling going. Especially lunch time is a problem, a big black hole that apparently eats only trash.
I’m still baking, only not as much – a bread every three days. Though in this picture it looks like it was forged in the fires of Mount Doom, Bread No.13 turned out very nicely, with the perfect moisture and crumb.
The rains let up and I got the chance to plant the hot box, in 54 F weather! I hadn’t until now because the temperature o the soil registered 82F until a week ago. What a long burn that was! Now it’s at 73F, perfect. In went a Winter Lettuce Mix and some Rainbow Chard. Let’s see how they do. I need to locate the sensor that attaches via a cable to my digital thermometer. This cable is just long enough to reach from the hot box to the bathroom window.
The Fall peas never had a chance to blossom – my fault, I planted them too late. But during a garden tour a friend pointed out I could still eat the shoots. Lovely just like that and in soup and salad.
Also baked Daily Bread No.12. It sang when I took it out of the oven.
And all the rain barrels are stored away now. Emptying them is challenge, since I don’t want all that water puddling around and eroding away the soil and stones the barrels are standing on. The solution is a short hose, of course, but I made the mistake of storing that on the hose reel underneath the 50 foot one… A loose gutter was the solution.
Lastly there are the pumpkin orphans still coming in daily. I’m not even cutting them up anymore, most are well on their way to collapse.
This bread is so good. We had it with homemade pesto (last harvest of homegrown basil) and the last Brandywine tomatoes.
Tomorrow if I am feeling better I’ll pull all the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants from the hoop house, chop them up, and mix them with the orphan punkins, of which we received three more today. The neighbors are really into this!
So I’m not going to be able to bake a bread every day, but it’s cool. Taking advantage of the hot oven, I also baked a punkin pie, using this wonderful recipe (but with canned pumpkin puree). I can’t show you pictures because it’s mostly gone already. I may become a (modest) baker after all. Still looking for that no-knead whole wheat, though…
The tomato vines in my hoop house have started dying, so I pulled the last tomatoes, 2 pounds of them, mostly green.
I also harvested 5 little eggplants, 3 more peppers, and the basil that was not blackened by the frost – which, judging by that frost-sensitive basil, made it into the hoop house on the last (fourth) night of the frost, after a gray day failed to warm it up enough.
Today, the day after Halloween, we found our first punkin orphan, dropped off at our mailbox. Amie ran to welcome it. We reminded people of the composting program when we were out trick-or-treating, and many were enthusiastic. And I met one elderly gentleman who was the first to live on this street, and he and I resolved to meet soon so I can take down the history of the neighborhood.
I am back on track with the baking. Because these are busy days I went back to the old recipe which is such a favorite in our house. Daily Bread No.7 was finished in a jiffy and Bread No.8 will be finished at breakfast. I love it too, but am hoping fr a good no-knead whole wheat recipe.
We had our first frost last night. It went down to 21. There’s more frost predicted tonight and tomorrow night, so I decided to bring in all my potted pepper plants. I’ll post a picture of my interesting living room tomorrow. The hoop house is performing well, though unfortunately I don’t have any precise data. But all the plants inside it survived the frost, so far. The eggplants are still going strong. The tomatoes aren’t looking so good, but the tomatoes on the vine are still ripening.
Today I went into Amie’s class (K) to talk about compost. While putting her snack together in the morning I had an idea. I walked in, sat down in front of the kids, and asked them if it was okay for me to eat my snack, I was so hungry. I rummaged around in my bag, complaining that my snack had been in there for a long time and muttering that I hoped it was still good. Then I pulled out a big clear plastic box with wet, gooey, wormy compost! Eek! What happened!
We talked about rot and decay, composing and decomposing, falling apart and being taken apart, it no longer being food for us but still perfectly edible for other organisms, etc. I must say, I used to teach college kids metaphysics, epistemology, logic and ethics, and that was tough. But teaching these five-year-olds is a different thing altogether! Afterwards the class went out to plant bulbs and make a scarecrow in their little school garden.
(Note to self: mustn’t forget to take that “snack” out of my bag. I’ll do it tomorrow…)