Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Counter Science & Sourdough

Many of you know that for several years I've been milling my own grain in my Nutrimill and baking my own bread.  While this has had great health benefits for our family and kept us from eating copious amounts of refined (read: nutrient-void) flour, a while back I began stressing about phytic acid.  You can read all about my little dilemma here

A friend of mine recently let me borrow Jessie Hawkins' Vintage Remedies Guide to Bread.  The book is choc full of information on how ancient cultures baked, the advent of baker's yeast during the industrial revolution, and yes, phytic acid.  Hawkins' well-researched claim is that ancient cultures baked using starters containing microbes caught from the air, or in layman's terms, sourdough.  No baker's yeast involved, and the loooong rising times break down the detrimental effects of my old friend, phytic acid. 

Oh, and it tastes amazing.  Even to Byron, who hates sourdough.

But wait!  Before you go away, don't get turned off by loooong rising times.  Because guess what?  There is very little kneading and almost no dough babysitting involved!  Most of her recipes consist of mixing the ingredients, shoving the bowl into a corner overnight, putting the dough in pans in the morning, shoving the pans back into the corner, and baking the bread around dinner time.  That's pretty much it, I promise.

It sounds too good to be true, but it is.  And it is my answer to baking while working outside the home full-time.

You didn't honestly think I was going to start patronizing Monsanto, did you??

Anyway, buy the book.  And then procure some starter.  Another friend graciously gave me some starter she had bought online.  Hawkins also gives EASY directions on catching your own microbes (i.e., making your own starter), so I thought I'd give that a go:

You want to leave it as open as possible, but since we have ladybugs zooming around the house and waking my terrified kids up at night, I covered my experiment with cheese cloth.

And it is...bubbling!!  After 48 hours!  This is a good sign.
Hawkins writes about how starters caught in different regions of the world will give you different results.  For instance, San Francisco has some rockin' microbes, because they're famous for their sourdough.  This starter I'm trying smells differently than the one my friend gave me, probably because it's catching southern microbes.

And the South is famous for cornbread, not sourdough.  But it costs me pennies to try...

So why not?

Update on my Nutrimill: I had to have the motor replaced over Christmas.  Convenient, I know.  But since all I had to pay was shipping, I was pleased with their customer service.  I did read more recently, however, that the Wondermill kicked the Nutrimill's butt in a test that ran the mills until the motors burned out.  Granted, the article wasn't scientific, peer-reviewed, etc., etc., but a bit of food for thought, nonetheless, if you are shopping for a grain mill.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

From Hens to Hay: Why I Love Multi-Purpose Structures

Remember the hen house we built last summer?  You know, the one I neglected to post final photos of?  Well, here it is, six months later, and filled with...

Hay. (Yes, we cleaned it out!)

The side pictured above is for human access.  In the fall we put plastic over the chicken wire to keep the hens cozy during the night.  But in the summer, the chicken wire at each end helps with ventilation.

Other side, with small door for chicken access.

Interior view.  I think we can fit eleven bales of hay in the center aisle.  Notice the roosts and egg boxes.  There are roost bars on the other side of the aisle, as well.

We've pulled it up right next to the garden, where the chickens are spending the winter.  They share a divided hoop house with the bovines, one of whom eats copious amounts of hay (I'm talking to you, Flower).
Storing the hay in the hen house for the winter accomplishes two things.  First, since it is mobile, we can hook it up to the tractor, drag it over to the barn, load it up, and drag it back to the garden, saving us time and work.  Secondly, it saves us from building a structure closer to the winter quarters in order to store hay.  And this is why I love multi-purpose structures.

Any other ideas out there for multi-purpose farm structures?  One of our next projects will be to build a larger cow shelter on skids.  Stay tuned!