Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Ceremony of Making Bread

by: Chiot's Run

.. no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation ... will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.
--M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

I love making bread. It's one of the first things I started making from scratch and it's so worth it. I was pretty young when I started my baking career. I remember making bagels and other delicious bread with my mom when I was in jr high. I've been baking ever since. I mostly focus on breads since I don't have much of a sweet tooth. There's just something about homemade bread, it tastes so much better than store bought, it saves money, and it provides a connection with the past.

When I first started making bread I make traditional recipes made with fresh yeast. After mastering those recipes I decided to tackle artisan breads using the delayed fermentation method from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. When I'd learned to make delicious artisan bread, I started learning more about grains and starting grinding my own grain for baking. I then turned my attention to learning to make sourdough breads. The thought of using wild yeast was fascinating to me. Not only are sourdough breads tasty and delicious, but they're much healthier as well.

I find making bread enjoyable and deeply satisfying on a basic level. Perhaps it's being able to make something delicious for my family. Or the wonder of mixing flour with yeast and water and kneading it into a delicious loaf. Maybe our emotions are nourished as well as our bodies when we form a hands on connection with what we eat. I'm not quite sure what it is, but I know that it's something I'll be doing for the rest of my life.

Do you have an activity you do that is deeply satisfying to your soul?

Monday, 5 April 2010

The lazy preserver

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Maybe claustrophobic preserver would be a more apt description. I feel hemmed in by having too much preserved. Preserved doesn't mean food lasts forever, and it loses quality fast in the freezer compared to other methods that I have come to depend on. I can some, I freeze some, I dry some, I lacto-ferment some, I root cellar some, and some I just harvest all winter long.

Growing up, canning and freezing was it. You grew summer crops, and you preserved them in the fall, and then you ate canned or frozen summer vegetables all winter long... . Now I have nothing against eating summer fruits all winter long, in any shape or form. But vegetables - I want summer squash in the summer - and I want my winter squash in the winter, even though I grew it during the summer. I have definitely acquired a seasonal palate, and to sooth my seasonal palate I have changed my gardening habits too.

I no longer chase the 10 different varieties of any vegetable unless I am trialing it. And to trial in my garden, means you better produce lots, survive with minimal care, taste good, have a snappy name, and probably be purple ;) Ok, so the purple isn't that important - but it does catch my eye.

By changing what we eat, and when we eat it, things have fallen into place in the garden and in the preserving kitchen. I am always on the lookout for vegetables that store easily without any preserving or energy use, vegetables that can be left in situ and harvested as needed, or that overwinter in the garden without much protection before they begin to grow again. And like anything, not just one method fits: we have winter squash in an unheated bedroom, potatoes in the barn, root crops left in the row and hilled with soil, and greens growing in the garden. By eating winter type vegetables in the winter, and summer type vegetables in the summer, we are eating in season, and getting away from the store mentality of, everything is available every single day of the year. We find we enjoy different foods much more this way. After a winter of beets, I will not miss them in the summer. And the same goes for most of summer vegetables too - when the first brussels sprout is ready in October, I am glad to kiss lettuce good bye for awhile. Until we meet again in the spring, my deer tongue!

This week on our table, from the garden and our stores.

Succulent Kale raab or rapini from our overwintered kales. Much easier than trying to grow early broccoli and what we don't eat before the flowers open can be allowed to bloom to provide food for pollinators, when not much is blooming yet. Started in June and harvested throughout fall, winter and spring - this is one prolific plant to have in your garden. And I did not have to preserve any of it - just harvest, prepare, and eat.

To find out what will survive in your garden, you do need to do some trials. If a vegetable passes the eating test, then it progresses to the second year in the garden. This year I planted 6 kinds of kale. As you can see from this photo and the next, some are thriving and some are dead, knocked out by our frigid December weather. If we had been blessed with our normal snow cover, the varieties that succumbed may have made it. This year it was obvious who wins. I can't always count on snow to insulate our winter garden.

When I trial a variety, I subject all to the same conditions. I plant at the same time, in the same row or next to each other and treat all as equals. The plants will show you how to make your decision. As you can see they are not created equal.
Thrivers: Lacinato Rainbow, Wild Garden Kale, Redbor, and Winterbor.
Duds: Lacinato, White Russian.

Another winner is chicory. But fair warning, it is bitter even when cooked. An acquired taste for sure, but very good and very hardy.

Another winter staple in our house is winter squash. It keeps until May or June with proper curing, and storage. No need to freeze or can it - it keeps well. Winter squash is one of my favorite summer sunlight filled vegetables. We relish it for a vegetable side dish or in pie or custard.

And last but not least, plain ol' peasant food - the much maligned root vegetables. They grow well with in a medium fertility soil, and lend themselves to many methods of cooking or eating raw. Roots are also a winter staple for our family cow. By storing them in the row protected with soil, they are fresh and tender still, and I planted all of these last May or early June, almost a year ago now.

Winter gardening begins now with planning - I hope I gave you some ideas.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Managing Consumerism: encouraging my children's ability to self-regulate

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Hello everyone,

I hope you are having a wonderful Easter long weekend. I've been enjoying catching up with family and friends.

Last month a reader of my personal blog asked me how I handled my children's exposure the blatant highly sexual messages being shown in the media and advertising. I answered her question then, but I realised that my answer can also apply to how I try to teach my children how to manage consumerism.

Firstly, I should explain that I believe everyone innately knows what's good for them - that is, we all have the capacity to self-regulate. And the better we are at this, then the better we are at critically examining messages given to us (by the media or advertising) and also fortifying ourselves against the hype of buying more than we need.

I believe that we are all born knowing how to listen to our bodies and emotions. As babies, we knew when we needed something and we demanded it. I do not believe that babies ever demand something they do not need - and by that I mean need physically or emotionally.

My biggest challenge as a parent has been (and still is) to decipher my children's (sometimes incomprehensible) messages and respond in a way that does not diminish that expression of need.

When my children were babies, I tried my utmost to trust and respect my children's inate capacity to demand for things that are good for them. Eg. Trust them when they signal to me that they are hungry and allow them to feed as their little bodies required. (Despite me nervously thinking at times that they're eating too much/too little/too often/too far apart). I trusted my babies when they went through difficult times of sleep (or non-sleep) and trusted their signals on how to help them through it - in most cases, I chose to respond by simply being there to hold them (in different ways) as they tried to sort out their body changes and their sleep.

As they got older and grew into toddlerhood, another layer of complexity was added - how to respond in a way that sets boundaries but still respects their emotion. I guess in a way, my approach can be summed up as: "The emotion is always okay but there are appropriate ways on how to handle it." Eg. I tried to show my children that they always have the right to be angry and they also have the right to express that emotion...but they should express it in healthy, non-harmful ways - such as, through words or drawings or letters.

My then 4 year old daughter tasting Fairy Floss for the first time...and no she didn't finish it.

So where am I going with this? I believe that it is important to not lose or diminish the capacity to listen to our bodies and emotions. I believe that we can steadily lose that capacity when we are constantly told to ignore our needs so that we can behave in a way that is "easier". And when we lose that capacity, we also have a diminished capacity to self-regulate and block harmful messages or habits.

Looking back through my personal blog, I can see that I've documented a couple of my children's experiences with self-regulation:
- When my daughter refused to take on a boyfriend (yes, she was 6 years old when she first experienced being pressured to have a boyfriend at school.)
- When my daughter chose to delay instant gratification for a bigger goal.

Now I have to say that while I am going on about self-regulation, I do limit their exposure as much as possible to harmful material in the first place. We do not watch commercial TV at home. My children are not allowed on the internet except when I am surfing the web with them. (I posted about the other things I do in this post.)

I try not to freak out about the things they are exposed to outside of our home - what's at the shops, at friends' houses, at after-school care etc. The way I see it, their exposure to those things give us plenty of chances to discuss and deconstruct the messages. I am not a believer in total censorship, nor do I want to discount my children's inate need to understand and belong to their community.

I only hope that I am able to continue walking that (sometimes very fine) line between teaching my children how to listen to themselves, how to behave in a socially appropriate manner and how to critically examine their norms.

Anyway, this post has rambled on enough so I'll stop here.

Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Learning from the Past

I've been thinking a lot about why I feel compelled to grow my own food. Somehow, I think this video has a lot to do with it. I love watching this footage of our gardening forefathers working the land. While our growing techniques have changed through the ages, it seems the core principles still remain the same. Will our country ever take part in such a powerful movement again? Victory was their motivation....what should ours be?

Friday, 2 April 2010

Our House Cow Journey Part 3

From Spiral Garden

Honey, at six months, is now almost as tall as Lucy, her foster mother

Continued from Our House Cow Journey Part One and Our House Cow Journey Part Two.

Since I last wrote a cow update, Honey was gently weaned by mid-January and Lucy had nearly 10 weeks holiday from milking. So did we! The milk in the freezer lasted awhile, then we had to go back to buying local milk again from here.

Last week, Lucy's calf arrived. After spending many late night studying books and websites about calving, we woke around 6am to find a wet little bull calf at Lucy's feet in the paddock. We removed Honey to another paddock and stood back and watched. It was amazing seeing him take his first steps, and drink colostrum from Lucy.

Lucy with newborn Wags - having her mineral-fix to help prevent milk fever and mastitis

We watched them keenly for two days, and arranged to have a Jersey heifer calf, almost three weeks old, delivered from a nearby dairy on Day 3. The calf had already been named Sweetheart, though after a week I'm still finding it confusing as I use it as a term of endearment when speaking to the other cattle, and possibly even the hubby and kids! I hadn't noticed before she arrived, but I'm mentioning her name a lot more often than I'm actually speaking to or about her... So if another character enters this tale along the way, perhaps it'll just be that I will have changed Sweetheart's name.

Wags (top) 3 days old and 'Sweetheart' 3 weeks old

At first Lucy was not interested in her new charge at all. So a couple of hours later my daughter Abby and I led the calf to the milking shed and washed her off with warm water and rags. We dried her with an old towel, as it was a cool, rainy day. Then we led Lucy in to milk out some of the excess colostrum (just as we had the day before). When she was in place having her snack of grain, hay, minerals and molasses we encouraged Sweetheart forward to feed from Lucy's udder. She fed with gusto, having been kept away from the nurse cows at the dairy that morning to make the mothering-on process easier for us.

After awhile we took them both back to the pen in the paddock where Wags was having a nap on the hay. Sweetheart again fed from Lucy, and Lucy let her! We were so relieved.

I continued to watch Lucy and the calves carefully each day - checking the calves' health and bowel movements (Wags was scouring for awhile, but it seems to be almost-normal consistency now), checking Lucy's udder and generally observing their interactions with each other.

Lucy, waiting at the gate to graze in the house paddock, with Sweetheart and Wags having a feed. See the mud? Hasn't stopped raining for 2 weeks!

In just a week they've all settled nicely, and Honey sleeps in her own paddock at night, but grazes alongside Lucy by day, with or without the calves.

We're still not taking any milk for ourselves, as Lucy is still producing colostrum, but we're looking forward to share-milking with two calves, and continuing our learning alongside our little herd.