Return to Simpler Times

I have blogged in the past about being a bit hippy in the sense that I have always had a garden, been a recycler before it was popular or required, used up/reused before throwing away. Long before I met my husband, I cooked from scratch, baked my own bread, and was vegetarian by choice, though that aspect is more limited as he is a definite omnivore and cooking two different meals is too onerous. We do have meatless meals occasionally, I do make sides such as macaroni and cheese or au gratin potatoes that I can eat as my meal and he as a side. During my earlier days of omitting meat from my diet, I read several books, bought a couple. Only one of them has stayed in my library, a nutrition guideline and recipe book full of vital information and anecdotes of the lifestyle changes of the authors. The book is “Laurel’s Kitchen.”

My copy is 2 years older than our marriage, 4 years older than my eldest child, well worn, well loved, and cherished. Though I rarely refer to a recipe anymore in my cooking, it is still pulled off the shelf to check my intuition when returning to cooking something I have let lapse over time.

One of those processes that lapsed after the kids were grown and less bread consumed, was bread baking. By that time, artisan loaves and whole grain breads could be purchased in the grocer or at the Farmers’ Markets. With us at home and away from others, bread baking has returned to my routine. The internet has a wealth of recipes and instructions on “how to” but I love my old book. Yesterday, I blogged that with our Natural Foods Store doing email orders and no touch curbside delivery, I bought the fixings for a meatless Mediterranean dinner, but needed to make Pita. When I first moved into this home with hubby still working across the state, Son 1 and his family were living here with me and still doing interior work on the house. They were very amenable to meatless meals and both very good cooks, so we would buy Dolmas and olives, they would make hummus and tabbouleh, and I would make Pita bread and we would feast. I haven’t made Pita in at least a dozen years, but knew that when I made them then, the recipe did not come from the internet, but from my beloved book. This morning, I pulled it back off the shelf to refresh my memory. The recipe in the book makes 24 Pitas, or if half of the dough is formed into a loaf, a dozen Pitas and a loaf of bread. I may go for half a dozen Pitas, a loaf of bread and half a dozen sandwich rolls.

When I was making bread for our growing family, hubby bought me a giant pottery bowl.

I would mix up 3 or 4 loaves of bread, beating the dough with a large wooden spoon and breaking a few of them over the years as the dough got stiff. Kneading in more flour in the bowl by hand until the dough was not sticky and turning it on a floured board or counter to finish kneading it. At a craft fair at some point, hubby bought me a wooden dough bowl.

The final kneading and rising could be done in the bowl. It was all done by hand, but alas, a wrist break, wrist surgery, and arthritis make if nearly impossible to do the entire process by hand anymore. I can do the artisan type breads, but that dough doesn’t make good rolls or Pita so we bought me a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

It is not a commercial grade one and it struggles toward the end of kneading dough, so it gets the bread started and then I turn it into the wooden dough bowl to do the final kneading and proofing. The dough is proofing covered in that precious wooden dough bowl as I write. Later it will be divided and prepared for baking the bread for dinner and meals later in the week. A slow down in time, a return to a simpler life. There is some good come from this staying at home.

Rain and chill

The porch thermometer showed 47 f (8.33 c) when I got up this morning. In the damp, it felt colder. It is down to 40 f (4.44 c) by late afternoon. It was 85 f (29.44) on Sunday, quite a difference. And it rained all day long. As I was putting the finishing touches on dinner, there were snowflakes mixed in with the rain. It isn’t supposed to freeze tonight so I am not bringing in any plants.

When I was a kid, on cold, usually snowy days, Mom would make vegetable beef soup. I remember lots of cans being opened, but it was comfort food on a cold day. This morning called for hot soup tonight. As I have become the master of extending a small amount of meat to multiple meals, I pulled about a half pound of stew beef from the freezer, thawed and seared it in hot oil, threw in a handful of chopped onion, celery that I had chopped and frozen, some fresh parsley that I had frozen, a pint of homemade broth, water, and a boullion cube and set it to simmer around noon. At the same time, I mixed up the dough for another artisan loaf, this one full of rosemary and left it to rise. As the afternoon when on, checks on the simmering stock and beef and how the bread was rising were made. Mid afternoon, a couple handfuls of Pequino beans (a small red heritage bean) were tossed in to cook and finally chopped potatoes, carrots, some frozen corn, peas, and green beans added and allowed to simmer for another hour. During that hour, the pizza stone was preheated as the oven heated to 550 f and the bread folded a few times and allowed a second rise and bake. The aromas in the house were delightful.

A hearty, belly warming meal with half a loaf of bread and 2 quarts of soup left for lunches in the coming days. It looks like we are going to go through slightly more than two loaves a week plus some buns while we stay at home. I hope the flour holds out.

The day between food prep was spent spinning on three of the Turkish spindles. A different fiber on each.

When I went to the fiber retreat in late February, I got two skeins of lovely yarn from the hostess. It is a blend of her goats’ mohair and wool. Last night I started a curved asymmetrical shawl and though I went up a needle size from the recommended, it still feels like too dense a fabric for my taste. I am debating continuing or ripping it out and finding a different pattern for the yarn.

It is very soft, so I may just keep going. Tomorrow is a repeat of today as far as weather, then it starts another warm up and a few dry days so maybe more of the garden will get prepped for planting in a month of so.

Daughter brought over the belt for the broken riding mower and some chicken and household supplies she had picked up for us. We stood across the garage and talked for a little while and it was so hard not to go give her a huge hug. She is working from home and her kids are at home due to closed schools, but their Dad is still going on site to work and comes to see the kids, so being around them is not possible for now. Tomorrow, I will put on gloves, sanitize what needs to come inside, put the chicken feed in lidded buckets and go through the strip and wash routine again so that neither of us get sick. Nothing she brought is perishable.

Another beautiful spring day on the farm.

The first thing I do each morning, is look out the windows of our bedroom and see if we have clouds, fog, or rain. Next I check the weather app to see how warm it will be to determine how many layers need to be donned. This morning is was bright and sunny and the weather app said mid 70’s before the day is done. The porch thermometer read 51 so the short sleeved wool tee was topped with my wool hoodie until it warmed some. Once coffee was made and dogs fed, I stepped out to let the chickens out and give them some scratch. It was almost too warm for the hoodie already and the walk over to the coop reminded me that the grape vine needed to be trellised before it leafed out.

Before attacking the grape vine, I carried a dozen eggs up to my neighbor’s porch for him to enjoy. That half mile walk revealed that with the sun and no wind, the hoodie was too much clothing. It was exchanged for a cotton sun shirt to protect my arms from the vines and the sun and donned a large brimmed straw sun hat, grabbed my car keys and the post pounder. Because of all the rain lately, the T posts that weren’t being used but were still pounded in where an old fence had been were wiggled free and repositioned in line with the grape vine about 7 or 8 feet out from the trunk. I knew that there was a good amount of high tensile wire at the very back of the hay field, it was found by the brush hog the first time we mowed that field and it got tangled in the blade, so I drove the car down, yanked it from the brush and loaded it back to the house. This was my first experience with high tensile wire except to get it out of the brush hog. I had no idea how tough it is to work with, but with two pair of large pliers and a wire cutter, I managed to run two strands between the poles. That was a tough job and they aren’t as tight as I wanted, but the best I could do with the equipment I had.

The grape vine was seriously pruned. There may be no grapes this year, but next year when it does produce again, the grapes will be strung out along the wire for good air flow and ease of harvest, not in the tall grass and tangle of vines like last year. The best canes were stretched out along the two strands and anchored with tomato plant clips until they wind themselves on the wire.

The vine trimmings will be soaked for an hour and made into a grape vine wreath, you can never have too many of them.

The smiling panseys and the coral bells are loving the warm sunshine on the back deck steps.

With the ground still soft, I think the afternoon will be spend moving fence posts for the garden and chicken run. It will get me out of the noise of the exhaust vents and smell of the self cleaning oven. Windows are open and fans are blowing. It needed to be done before I made bread again and it is a nice day.