29 June 2012

My Heart’s Desire And Homemade Bread

If you look deep into my heart, you’ll find a longing for simplicity. A desire to be part of the rhythm of the seasons. To grow my own food. Have chickens. Make my own clothes. Spend more time in nature. Teach my daughter about the birds and the bees in the literal sense of the word.

Some day I want to be free of worry. Worry about money, worry about bills, worry about a job, worry about the future, worry about my daughter watching too much Scooby Doo. My heart knows I should “Let go, and let God” but my brain puts up a powerful fight every time.

But until we have our own piece of land with our self built dream home that doubles as a Bed & Breakfast, I shall satisfy myself with little snippets of what’s to come. And so I grow corn, tomatoes, strawberries, and assorted peppers, make homemade toys, and occasionally bake my own bread.

I own a bread maker and love it. It’s so simple to throw in the ingredients and wait for the wonderful scent of fresh baked bread to fill the kitchen. The only thing I miss is a nice crust. And I don’t like the bulky machine on my kitchen counter so I put it away in the basement and then it’ll be months before I use it again.

But then I found the perfect recipe for crusty bread. It’s even simpler than using a bread maker. It does, however, require patience. This bread must rise for 12 to 18 hours. Plan ahead! Aside from patience, all you need is flour, salt, yeast, and water, and a Dutch oven or cast iron cooking pot with a lid that you can put in the oven.



Ingredients:
  • 3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups of water

Recipe:
Pour flour, salt, and yeast into a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Add the water and mix it in until you have a nice sticky mess. Cover the bowl and let it sit on the counter for 12 to 18 hours. Do not refrigerate. The amount of dough should double in size.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Once it’s hot enough, put your cooking pot in to preheat as well. Leave it in for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, take you sticky dough out of the bowl and shape into a ball on a heavily floured surface. Cover and let it set until your pot has reached the right temperature.

Take your cooking pot out of the oven, it is now HOT!!!, and dump your loaf into it. No need to grease the pot. Put the lid back on and set it in the oven. After 30 minutes, take off the lid and let it brown for 15 minutes more. Take the pot out and let your loaf cool on a wire rack before slicing it up.



It is very tasty bread, and the crust is just right. If it weren’t such a pain to slice fresh baked bread, I would be in heaven. (I’ll just add a food slicer to my wish list.) I have yet to try making rye bread (replace 1 cup of all purpose flour with rye flour) or mixing in chopped rosemary, olives, cheese, cranberries, and other tasty additives. But I will, rest assured.



I am linking my loaf up with:
All Spunk No Junk at Twig and Toadstool
Creative Friday at Natural Suburbia
Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onions

Joys Of Summer: Fishing

Summertime,  
And the living is easy,  
Fish are jumping,  
And the cotton is high...

I don't know about the cotton, but the fish were jumping. Not onto our hooks, though. But that doesn't matter. It's more about the act of fishing anyway. And spending time with family.













Easy living indeed.

28 June 2012

Murder In The Backyard

Lola and I were sitting on the front porch. It was shortly after 8 o'clock and it was already hot outside. She had just gotten up while I was sipping my third, and final, coffee of the day. We were quietly enjoying the morning when all of a sudden an explosion of sound came out of the yard. Something was clearly amiss.

Upon closer inspection the ruckus was taking place in the large pine tree in the middle of the yard. A dozen or so robins, mostly females, were frantically fluttering and screeching. The focus of their attention was a large black bird up high in the tree. A crow I assume, trying to rob one of their nests.

He, or she, succeeded despite the mama robins' attacks and made off with a baby bird in its beak while Lola and I helplessly looked on. Now I know why they call it a murder of crows. Bloody beasts. As if it's not enough that they empty my garbage bags every Monday morning, forcing me to collect my trash twice. Now they empty the robins' nests as well.

21 June 2012

Joys Of Summer: Limeade


Recipe for fresh limeade (found at The Idea Room):
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (three to six limes, depending on their size)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 quarts of cold water
Pour sugar into lime juice and stir until dissolved. Add cold water. Cute paper straw optional.

Enjoy!

14 June 2012

Step Into My Garden


For the first time in our gardening lives, Ryan and I have full sun available to us. We attempted a vegetable garden in Olympia but had to make do with partial sun. In spite of the lack of rays we were moderately successful. Had we been more diligent at thinning, I am sure we would have had better results.

We have high hopes for our garden this season and so far, things are going well. We built four raised beds, which filled up much faster than I anticipated. We will not be cultivating a full on kitchen garden just yet. There is just not enough room. We may have gone a little overboard on the tomatoes. There are eleven plants in our tomato bed, four different varieties, three of the plants started from seed. Salsa anyone?

Aside from the tomatoes, we have beans in three colors, peas, strawberries, and assorted peppers. Wherever I found a free spot, I planted onions, kohlrabi, chamomile, and celery. Today Lola and I shall plant several varieties of lettuce around the edges of the beds. We were going to plant the greens in gutters attached to the greenhouse, but that is a project for next year. And then we wait.

Alongside the beds, we have planted corn and sunflowers. The sunflowers are doing well, but I am not too impressed with the germination rate of the corn. We started a few plants indoors, but the majority was direct sowed. I put the second batch in the ground yesterday, and filled in the empty spots. I used a different variety of corn, perhaps we will be more successful this time.


On the west side of the garage you'll find the blueberry patch and zucchini. The zucchini is growing well. Only one measly watermelon has sprouted. The ones we started indoors did not make it either. I am having a really hard time with pumpkins as well this year. I don't know what the deal is. Perhaps the June Bugs are a bigger problem than I thought.

What is left on my wishlist is an herb garden. Right now the herbs are in pots in the green house where they are very happy. The sage is out of control, and the thyme, oregano, and chives are also thriving. My only concern is that I cannot find the tiny but very hungry caterpillar that is eating great big holes in my basil.

To protect our tiny plants from critters and other wildlife, we have erected a fence around the garden, with a sturdy garden gate built of old wood we found in the garage. I love the look of the different sized and colored planks. The jury is still out on whether or not we will cut off or round the top of the gate. We will probably leave it as is. We like it. But I might persuade Ryan to cut out an opening. Perhaps even a heart.

13 June 2012

Green

Obviously the color orange isn't working out very well for me this week, so I am switching to green. Here are a few snapshots from my garden. Far more satisfying.

Banana Pepper
Bell Pepper
Strawberry
Tomato
Green is my favorite color. Perhaps I'll spray paint my lion green, too.

12 June 2012

Orange Metamorphosis

The Miller High Life cans have changed color, presumably in honor of the upcoming Summer Olympics. The red and gold has morphed into red, white, and blue. I like this about Miller, they do it for hunting season too. The cans change to camouflage colors during the fall. My favorite year was when the cans were blaze orange for the season but that appears to have been a one time thing.

I don't know if you're aware but preceding the Olympics is another major sports event: the European Cup Soccer. The US not being part of the European Union, this gets very little press here. Fortunately it's relatively easy for me to follow the Dutch, albeit in print, not on TV. So far it's not been great, we lost to Denmark. Tomorrow the Dutch play Germany, the mother of all soccer games. If you're Dutch, that is.

Not to brag, but the orange metamorphosis taking place in Holland right now puts Miller's efforts to shame. This is how it's done, people:

Source
They go a little crazy, those Dutch, but I like that about them. Hup Holland!

25 May 2012

Build It And They Will Come

The beds are done! Ryan and his friend C. tilled the earth, built four lovely boxes, and put everything together last weekend in the blistering heat. Lola and I filled them up with tomatoes, strawberries, green and yellow onions, and beans in every color imaginable. All that is left to do is put up a fence to keep deer and rabbits out.

The fence is a necessity, believe me. No sooner had we finished planting our seeds and seedlings, or we spotted a rabbit hopping through the yard. Coincidence? I think not! She was building a bed of her own in a little mound on the north side of the yard. And while baby bunnies are undoubtedly cute, I do not want them in my garden. Don't worry though, we're on it.


Funny thing is, it worked!

19 May 2012

Bed Building

Exciting times in the N. household. We are building raised beds for our fruits and vegetables today. Ryan has enlisted the help of a friend, who thought he was coming up to go fishing, and I have every confidence the project might actually be completed in one weekend. That is a good thing, because Ryan has to go back in for more elbow surgery next week and I do not feel like taking on this project myself.

But first we must break and level the ground. My husband is a stickler for level surfaces. Right now he is picking up a rototiller while I wait for the wood to be delivered. And first thing this morning a dump truck pulled up to drop off ten yards of dirt. It's been awhile since we purchased dirt by the truckload.



18 May 2012

Lights, Sirens, Action!

What do you do when you need to get to school in a hurry? You take the firetruck, of course! That is exactly what Lola did today.



The ride to school in a firetruck was the most coveted prize in the raffle held at Lola's school during the Community Day in March. And what do you know? My daughter was the lucky girl who won it! This morning she claimed her prize. At 8 o'clock she reported to the fire department here in town, along with a parent. Ryan was the one to accompany her on this awesome trip. A boy's dream come true! (I don't think it really was his dream but we're going with it anyway.)


When they arrived at school, the entire Elementary School was gathered outside waiting for them. Lola was greeted like a rock star by her classmates.  Applause, cheers, and hugs all around. It was so cool!


A school bus is so last year...


All the little boys and girls admired the firetruck. The Chief was happy to tell everyone all about it.


A big Thank You to the Fire Department for this unforgettable ride!


And to top if off, mom got to hitch a ride in the firetruck back to town. No sirens for me, though.

11 May 2012

Mother's Day Surprise

When I was in grade school, we memorized poems for Mother's and Father's Day. And I also remember doing special crafts like making a hyacinth by taking a toilet paper tube, painting it, and gluing scrunched up pieces of tissue paper onto it. Come Sunday morning my sister and I would run into my parents' bedroom and recite our poetry and give our gifts.

When Lola returned from school this afternoon, she gave me my Mother's Day gift right away. It was a baby zinnia which she planted herself a few weeks ago at school. Naturally, we could not let the little plant sit in a brown paper bag for three days. While she was at it, she also gave me this:


Happy Mother's Day! I'll be relaxing with my blanket and some tea.

01 May 2012

Second Opinion

It's Tuesday and Lola does not have school today. As we are sitting in the kitchen, leisurely enjoying our breakfast, she excitedly points out the window.

"Look, look, look!"

I look. All I see is Sandman, the cat, at the edge of our yard. So does she. She thought it was a bunny.

She asks me if bunnies can walk, getting on all fours to demonstrate her meaning. I tell her no, bunnies can only hop.

"Really?"

"Yes, really."

"I'll ask Mrs. L. tomorrow, see what she says." Clearly she is not convinced I am right about this one.

Slowly but surely I am falling off my 'Mom Knows Everything' pedestal...


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