Sunday, January 31, 2010

No Knead Bread

Today was my first attempt at baking bread from scratch, I have been visiting the breadtopia website for a while now reading about the No Knead Bread method of baking a Boule ( round loaf),but never have gotten up the nerve to give it a try, yesterday I got brave and mixed the ingredients up and let them rise for the recommended 18 hours, actually longer.

Today I am on to the second part of the recipe the shaping, second rising and the baking. The house was pretty cold when I got up this morning (for Florida), it was around 63 inside, I suspect the dough might have risen even higher if it had been a bit warmer. I proofed as directed the bread in a pine needle Indian basket dusted with wheat bran, the basket was one that my daughter gave me a while back that looked a lot like the proofing baskets at the website. Alternatively, I could have let it have a second rise on a floured towel. The basket rinsed out absolutely clean , I was afraid that it might not, and I set it in warm the oven as it cooled to dry out after the bread baking was done

I baked the bread in my cast iron oval dutch oven, which gave it a nice loaf shape instead of the round shape as seen in the demonstration video. The finished product was amazingly good. The crust was a bit harder then I would have preferred, I am going to have to keep experimenting with how to end up with a bit lighter crust. It was so hard I had to slice it with an electric bread knife. However, the taste was really good. My grandsons kept asking for more, and when we added butter and fresh Tangerine Marmalade to the warm bread it went from good to heavenly
I forgot to take pictures of the finished loaf before we had it almost gone. These are the last couple of slices. I will definitely be trying this bread and variations of it again on my next days off.

Here is a link to the site, the first short video tells you all you need to know to bake successfully, the second one is more of a way of advertising several of the products they sell. I have to say they have some pretty cool stuff , now that I am officially a bread baker I might have to invest in some real tools.

I have yet to figure out how to move the pictures in my blog to appear chronologically, it seems they just end up wherever the choose to, and I can't figure out how to delete them once they are there without deleting the whole editorial.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Images from the Homestead

Thought I would share a few images from around the property. Two of my five dogs, Moose the Lab, and Lola the incredibly spoiled chicken killer, is a Boston Terrier.
Charlotte and Wilbur the lucky pigs, (not very original names but fitting). The two of them might think they are dogs instead of pigs they come running whenever I call them. Both absolutely love to be petted and will fall over wanting a belly rub. Wilbur is a bit smaller then Charlotte and has yet to figure out what his part in the equation is.

The tree is a typical Florida Live Oak , those and the Sand Pines constantly threaten to take my property back to it's original state, picking up fallen branches and thinning trees is a constant battle.

They Come Back!

My oldest son (26), his lovely wife, and my two grandsons are moving back in with me for the next two and half years while my son goes to nursing school. My son has been building a wall to separate off a section of my home into a small apartment for their family, including a sitting room two bedrooms and a bath with a common kitchen that we all will share between the two sections of the house. My younger son (18), and I will have the other half of the house. My middle child, my daughter (24) is living in Australia until August and she is now displaced from her childhood room. I sympathize with her protests from the other side of the world but when you spend your life jet setting around the world, you can't expect mom to keep a shrine to you at home should you decide to drop in once in a while. Love you Kimberly!!

The house has been full of dust and noise and toys strewn about. My quiet life has turned upside down, I am preparing myself for things to get hectic, I will have to learn to meditate, pray for patience and put a lock on my bedroom door. But having said that, really I am so grateful to have this opportunity to spend this time with them and that I have a home we can share. I know that during this time together we can make some great memories. I get to spend precious time with my beautiful grandsons and share my love of animals and growing things with them.

The picture is the partially built wall, my son had most of it completed in one day, I had no idea he was a such a good carpenter, he knew exactly what he was going to do and in a matter of hours he had a solid structure up. I will post the finished wall later.

Welcome home kids, the door is always open.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Job

I got the new job I was hoping for, I will be doing home health in a salaried position with a great deal of flexibility as far as my schedule goes. No more 12-14 hour days, no more not getting home until 9 at night and having to get up at 4 am and do it all again. I have to work my current job for three more weeks then on to a new adventure. On top of that great news the orientation is for a week in Clearwater Fl. near the beach and they put me up in a hotel for the week. Even though its an orientation it will be like a mini vacation. I am looking forward to it. Thanks for the good vibes sent my way.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sowing Seeds of Hope

Job interview on Friday went really well, hopefully in a few more weeks I will be starting a new job with a great deal less stress, a more flexible schedule and home by 5:00 every day.

Went for a really long horseback ride yesterday out in the woods it was a perfect day. Today was a day for catching up at home, I am happy to have planted a few seeds, tomatoes, spaghetti squash, bell peppers and sage.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Hate Change

Today on my day off I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and could not go back to sleep, I never automatically wake up when I have to work, why is that? Getting out of bed I felt the all too familiar stiffness in my legs and feet that I have become used to since I started this new job and I think I am getting too old for this lol! I have a job interview set up this afternoon. I have only been working at my current job for three months, I am not one to bounce from job to job, but I feel like it is not really the right fit for me. I love what I do but there are some real management problems and in the healthcare field management problems trickle down to inadequate patient care and I feel the need to protect my license. I hate change, I like to settle in establish a routine and build a life around it However, I know that change is a good thing too and if I just stretch myself a little I may find just the right combination of work and quality of life. So I am putting it out there, if it is meant to be it will happen if not I will stay where I am and be on the look out for the next opportunity that will offer what I need. Wish me luck!

The People We Meet Along the Way

I don't mention my work-life much, I guess when I am home I really don't want to think about it, I like to retreat to my world here at my little homestead and forget about all of the pain and suffering that happens when people are sick and dying but a post I read on another blog caused me to really stop and think about how all of these people (my patients) impact my life. I have met some amazing people over the years and each and every one of them has left some imprint on me, some larger then others. These assorted and different people, remind me that life is a precious gift, to stop and soak it all in, to let go of the petty things that I cannot change and focus on what is really important. In the end all that really is important is the imprint we leave behind on those we love and those we meet along the way.

Is it worth it?

While I was peeling and de-seeding (is that a word?)yet another batch of Tangerines to make my now famous spiced Tangerine Marmalade as requested by friends and family, I kept thinking boy this is a lot of work, is it worth it? I have to admit the stuff smells pretty darn good when its simmering but when I burned my fingers while filling my jelly jars and realized that I had spent two hours of my morning to yield 6 small jars I again had to again question my sanity.

The answer came to me later, after I had cleaned up the mess and the jars had cooled down. I fixed myself a couple of pieces of toast and spread them with the fresh warm marmalade, after the first bite felt that sense of satisfaction that only comes as the result of things made by your own two hands and decided that yes, it is definitely worth it.

The recipe is pretty simple:
12-14 tangerines peeled and seeds removed, pureed in a food processor, blender or in my case my Magic Bullet.
In a large dutch oven style pan add the pureed tangerines and 6 cups of sugar. I have made with 3 cups Splenda and 3 cups of sugar to reduce the sugar in the past but I did not think it made as thick of a jelly besides you really only use a small amount at a time as a spread.
To this mixture I add a dash of Cinnamon, a dash of Cloves and a dash of Nutmeg all to your preference.
Bring the entire mix to a boil, reduce heat slightly and continue at a slow boil for a bout 1/2 hour, till it forms a sheeting on a metal spoon. The recipe says 220 degrees but I could never get it to that temp. and it still turned out perfect.
Remove from heat and immediately spoon into jelly jars, screw lids in place and turn upside down to seal, it continues to thicken as it cools.
The first time I made a batch I got impatient and thought the stuff was more of a syrup then a marmalade but when it really cooled it was the perfect consistency for spreading.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Starting Seeds

I have to admit that I have been procrastinating. I have had my eye on the stack of seed catalogs that have come in the mail but have not figured out what to order yet. I think I am afraid I won't actually get the garden started in time to plant. I am starting from scratch here, other then my water trough herb bed that the chickens wiped out I am looking at un-tilled ground that needs to be worked and fortified and a fence built to keep them out. Or, I could go with the building of raised beds of some kind but they will still need to be fenced in. I think I would like to do a combination of both but have none of needed materials purchased yet. I keep thinking that really I could just do it the old fashioned way and get out there with a shovel and rake and turn the soil up myself, it would be really good exercise and I would have the satisfaction of having done it, yeah yeah I could do that if I could just get motivated. I have seen so many great posts written by those of you who are already starting your seeds on warming mats and in window sills across the country and here I am living in Florida where I can start so much earlier and I have done nothing, hanging my head in shame here. Maybe I am making this public admission as a way of motivating myself to practice what I preach. I can't really hope to produce more of my own food if I don't actually plant some. So that being said Moose (my chocolate lab) and I are going to find the shovel. Even if I do 1-2 square feet three times a week I will have a decent plot ready by March-April when I want to start planting.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day in and day out life.

Some days you just have to put one foot in front of the other and do what needs to be done. On the days that I work, I am up at 4 a.m. out to tend to the animals, have coffee, read a few blogs while I sip then getting ready and off to work for a 12 and many times 14 hour day. I usually am not home until 8-9 in the evening then its a quick feed and check up on all of the animals, wash some dishes or do some laundry then crashing into bed exhausted only to get up and do it all again the next day. My 18 year old son still lives at home and is a tremendous help making sure everything is fed and watered. Thank goodness for him.

I live for my days off. Even if my only plans are to rake out my little barn, freshen the hay in all of the bedding and drag fallen branches to the burn pile I get to be outside doing what I love. Not very glamorous, but a good life none the less. With all the tragedy going on in the world one has to be absolutely filled with gratitude for all of the blessing in our lives however ordinary they may seem. That's the plan for today, the sun is shining, promising warmer weather and I am out to scoop poop.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Florida Winter

This is what is cause for excitement here in Florida, this is a picture of the little snowman my daughter in law and her sister made yesterday morning. The grand kids loved it! I know its not real snow by comparison to the rest of the country but when you live in Central Florida its surprising to see this to say the least. So far all of my animals have been hearty and healthy through the freezing temps. I never thought I would be going out to break up iced over water so that the animals could drink but that has become a regular occurrence for several days now. I am sending warm thoughts out to all of you who endure the cold for months at a time and keep all who depend on you safe, warm and healthy in this insane weather.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A little bit here and there all adds up.

Homesteading is my first love and I am passionate about living a more self sufficient life but I still depend on modern conveniences for a great deal of my daily needs.Having said that, as part of my money makeover 2010, I decided to revisit the and commit to serious couponing as part of my overall efforts to save money on perishable items. Today I shopped CVS using the coupons as recommended and walked out of the store with $35.00 worth of toiletries and cleaning items for $9.00.
Not a bed start. I am very careful not to buy items that I don't need just because they are cheap. My goal is to cut back on the number of hours I need to work to make ends meet by becoming a great deal more conscientious of where the money I make actually goes. It's funny how I have come to realize the value in my grandmothers advice that all those pennies add up. I used to just think it was a waste of time to focus on a few cents here and there, too bad I waited until my forties to finally realize how right she was. I have gotten into the habit of routinely refilling water bottles with filtered water for 25 cents a gallon (our water is full of iron) saving at least 60 cents a gallon if not more.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Quiche for dinner.

A quick spinache and ham quiche for my 18 year old son and I tonight, thanks to the happy hens in the yard. Always looking for new ways to use the my eggs.

Its Cold in Florida

I know that by comparison to the rest of your who are up to your ears in snow it is warm here, but as a person who has only ever lived in the Sunshine states of California and now Florida these sustained cold temps are hard to handle. I don't even own any gloves but gardening gloves. It is currently 27 degrees outside with a wind chill feel in the teens. I have done the best I could to bed all of the animals in with extra hay and quilts over cages etc. How do you all manage it?

Monday, January 4, 2010

How not to cut trees....

I had to post this picture. Those chain saws are stuck hard in the tree. My good friend has been trying to help me clear some of the dead trees from my very wooded property, he does not cut trees very often so there is a learning curve. My 18 year old son and I laughed so hard at this predicament we had to take a picture. We ended up getting the chainsaws cut out with a hatchet without damaging them. Unfortunately, five minutes later he did it again. Some lessons take a little longer to learn. It's so good to have help with big jobs like this.

Spiced Tangerine Marmalade

I had forgotten to post my homemade gifting project that was a big hit. In my quest to find uses for the abundance of tangerines I have been getting from my friends tree, I decided to make Spiced Tangerine Marmalade. I used a traditional recipe and added Cinnamon, Nutmeg and ground Cloves to the mixture as it cooked. Now I understand why your don't see this type of jam made very often. Getting the seeds out of the Tangerines was a hugely time consuming job, taking a long time. However, the end results were delicious, and gave the whole house a wonderful smell as it simmered.
I am off today with another big bag of Tangerines at hand, I think I will make some more for my grandson PBJs this coming year.

To Blog or Not To Blog,,,

In January of last year I sat down and wrote a post from the RV I was living in at the time. I thought then that I really wanted to get bac...