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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fresh woods, and pastures new

[posted by risa]

Wow, lots of rain. But it was time to hit the ground running, so we did, though trying not to slip in the mud too often.

The idea is to run deer fence around the whole northeast corner of the place, about a quarter of an acre, and poultry fence around the designated garden area, which is within that. The poultry get twice the pasture they have now, and the garden will quadruple over the one we had this summer.

Although we didn't get it all done, we let the birds explore the new ground and it seems we had their complete approval. It's interesting to see how the geese prefer the open air, and the chickens love to scratch underneath all the new trees. Forest critters were their ancestors. And the ducks are the most cautious; it took them an hour to work up the nerve to go see what everyone was talking about.

Hopefully by the end of next weekend, the fences will be all done, and the "raised" beds also will be well on their way to completion. But they say there is a very big storm coming in.

The almost glutinous rain was too much for me, even in rain gear, by the second day, so I took a noon break to start a couple of loaves of spelt bread. This time of year I like to gather thirty or so acorns from the English oaks on our campus quad, in front of the library where I work, shell them, and put them though the hand grinder for a "novelty" ingredient in our bread, just for a couple of loaves, just to be able to say we did. I understand about removing tannin and all that, but a few at a time don't seem to need this treatment. Anyway, we're not dead yet!

This bread is not as pretty as the whole wheat loaves I was making last year, as it rises kinda so-so, but it has a nutty, almost peanut-butter flavor that is especially great thinly sliced and toasted, and spread with butter and homemade jam. For two loaves, or you can double all ingredients for four (saves on baking energy):
30 acorns, shelled and ground
1/8 cup rye flour
1/8 cup buckwheat flour
1/8 to 1/4 cup oatmeal
1 good apple from your cold storage room, cored, chopped and/or ground (catch and add the juice)
32 oz. warm (not hot) water, veg stock, whey, or fruit juice (the more juice, the less sugar)
Two good dollops, from a wooden spoon, of honey, or 1/8 cup brown sugar
Tablespoon sea salt
1 pkg. or equiv. from loose pack, active dry bread yeast
Open your bag of (not stale) spelt or wheat flour and keep it handy, with a small bowl for scooping it out. Enough for the 2 or 4 loaves.
Dump in large mixing bowl all the above except the salt and the spelt, then add one bowl of spelt and mix liberally with a nice big wooden spatula, and set aside while you go do something else. Give the yeast time to think over how it's going to take over the world. Say twenty minutes.

Come back, throw in the salt, scoop a couple of bowlfuls of spelt into the middle of the mix, and start mixing in large circles, folding the dough from the outside in, and then keeping adding spelt till the dough "rises off the bowl" (forms a lump that can be kneaded by hand without sticking all over you). Cut in to 2 or 4 lumps as you intend to bake.

Grease your pans, baking sheets, what-have-you (I use large ironstone plates and make round loaves) and arrange your oven racks to your liking (I like to put both racks on the two lower slots, with a cookie sheet on the lower rack, to prevent the loaves' bottoms burning when the middles aren't done yet).

Shape your loaves (that's right, this is a quick bread, skipping the double rising. Modify the plan as you wish), give them the three cuts across the top if you like (I do), add some sesame seeds if you like (I sometimes do), and set them in the oven (cold for slow, or pre-warmed a bit for faster rising (especially in winter -- we don't have a thermostatically controlled environment).

Ya? So now get back into your raingear, build more fence, come back and see how it's going, and when the bread is close to the size you'll accept as a finished product, turn on the oven to 325-350 F, note the time, and go back to fence building for one hour. Get down in the mud and crank that come-along, dreaming of fresh bread.

Check your watch. Eeek, it's been fifty-five minutes arready. Come in, turn oven off, get out of the rain gear, change out of your wet socks, check your fire, make yourself some hot chocolate, open the oven door, turn out the bread onto a drying rack you've set on the counter, tear off a chunk, butter it, and go sit by the stove with your feet up on a stool.


When bread cools enough not to sweat when bagged, refrigerate or freeze, or put into a good clean bread box, as you wish.

Go back to the fire, bringing along your already-slightly tattered copy of Sharon's Depletion and Abundance, and pick up where you left off, as the wet and blustery darkness gathers outside.


Ooops. Suit up again! The birds have gathered themselves into the barn, and want their door shut upon the roving foxes. A mother's work is never done.

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