Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Come on, snuggle up next to Cinders here, one of our barn cats, and lets have us a nice chat. I'll explain why my blog posts have been so intermittent. I haven't been purposely neglecting you but Murphy, as in Murhpy's Law, has refused to leave. What's that saying, "Guest, like fish, begin to smell after three days." Well, it's been 6 weeks and Murphy smells to high heaven. He's cost us over fifty hours of lost time and a small fortune as we've had to replace almost everything, monitor, computers, printer, buy a routter, and parts to our phone line. Not to mention time with the technicians checking out equipment to see what works and what doesn't.

Cross your fingers that we've run out of things to checkout, fix, or buy because the only thing left is the speakers on the tower. Oh no, I shouldn't have said that. He might of heard me. LOL

During the computer problems of this past week I did try a new bread experiment but it was dense, really dense and the chickens got more out of it than us. I'm not discouraged. I've done more research into soaking flours and sprouting grains and I've three new experiments to try. I'll share with you tomorrow some of my research after I fix lunch for a group of ten ladies or so in our swimming exercise group. I'm fixing the Alfredo sauce and home-made noodles along with the garlic bread and the others are bringing the salad and dessert. That is what you get when it is known you teach cooking classes.
But first of all, I wanted to show you the cutie that greets me each morning. I'm doing chores for a friend this week and she has a two week old calf. Isn't he adorable. I wanted a better picture but he wouldn't stay at the other side of the pen, thinking surely I had something more for him to eat, as if a half gallon of milk isn't enough.
After he's drank his fill, it's out to feed the chickens, dogs, and the goats.
And I do mean goats for she has at least twenty. This doe, Capella, (don't think I spelled that right) scored I think 90 at the linear appraisal last year. She is a beauty. Wish I had a better picture but she wasn't in the mood for photos when her tummy was rumbling and hay was calling her name.
I wish I could have Chicory meet this gal. If Chicory thinks she's wide, she ain't seen nothing yet. This doe is supposedly going to kid in May. And though she is displaying herself as a bit wider and fuller than she is because her head is down, she is still huge. Wider than Chicory with two big balls on each side but she isn't at all full upward and not as deep down as Chicory. Even if she doesn't have as good a tummy muscles to hold it all in. She's huge by any standard. I'd think she was due much, much earlier but look at that nothing udder. There is no preparation for kids going in there.

Goats are like woman in that their bellies start to bulge lower down on the stomach during the beginning of the pregnancy and then as the baby or babies grow, they fill upward.
Goats get deeper down, filling out downward toward the ground also just as woman fill out more there too. Then when they near the end of their pregnancy, the babies drop. If you look carefully, look especially on the left side of this picture, the babies have dropped down. Chicory's flanks are hollowed out a bit. Today is the first day that they have done this. The kids will move back up and down numerous times in the next couple weeks but they will begin to spend more and more time in down in this position partially in the birth canal.

Then when Chicory goes into labor, her flanks will hollow out even further. First time fresheners,9 goats having their first kids0 do not hollow out as dramatically has older does. This makes it more difficult to tell if the doe is in early labor. I wanted to show you another picture, maybe one you could see this more clearly but my computer won't let me upload any more. See, Murphy won't leave me alone.

Does anyone want to become stronger? You know how trials make you stronger.  I'll be glad to give Murphy your address. Just so as he doesn't become like Sherman, the rooster that showed up from who knows where and has been here for two months. I don't think he's leaving.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Answering a Question

Herdog had a good question and so I'm going to answer it in this post. The question was.

" ha hope you don't mind a few questions. I never had goats and was wondering...with 3 (or 4) little ones feeding, how much milk do you have to "play" with? How much milk will a fresh dairy goat produce? She look's Big (don't tell her I said that- ok to tell her she 'glowing' hee hee)! Is she going to make it till the 19th?"
 Chicory hasn't started complaining yet, but she will, moaning and groaning so I expect her to make it to the 19th. The two pregnancies before this, she went 151 days from the time she bred until the day she had her kids. 145 to 150 is the average gestation for a goat. Chicory's first pregnancy she had one doe and since she has had triplets, two does (girls) and one buck (boy) with each set.

In dairy goats, two kids is common and three not unusual. Four on the other hand has happened to us once in 25 years of having dairy goats.  In small breeds of goat like Kinder and Pygmys, four is not unusual. In dairy goats, you don't want four. The kids are smaller and often weaker. The doe won't have enough milk and at least one kid will need supplemented with a bottle of milk from another doe or formula from the feed store - costly.

 Our goats after they turn two most always have triplets. It is partly genetics and a great deal health and diet. Three embryos may start to develop but if the doe doesn't have the nutritional level to sustain the development of three, one will be absorbed or even two.

As for the amount of milk we will get, nothing for a while. A high quality goat's body will gear up to feed as many kids as she produces, within reason. The demand due to more kids nursing also ups production. Keep in mind this all is dependent on adequate nutrition levels to do this. Three kids takes a lot of feed given to mama to produce adequate milk levels. Three kids and a high milk production is wearing on a does body and so I leave my goats with a three month break before kidding instead of the two months that is advised.
 Our goats are genetically chosen to produce large amounts of milk.  Chicory is a Nubian and her breed is the Jersey's so to speak. They produce lots of cream but not as much milk. The Saanens such as Leta here in the above picture, are the Holsteins of goats and produce lots of milk. Our Saanens gave 3/4 to 1 gallon of milk twice a day.
We no longer have Saanens and I miss them but due to my interest in making sour cream, cheese, buttermilk, ghea, butter etc. we've switched to Nubians. Chicory is a gem of a Nubian as she produces 3/4 a gallon of milk twice a day at the height of her cycle and near the end of her lactation last year, she gave us 1 1/2 quarts of heavy, heavy cream for every 1 1/2 gallon of milk we ran through the milk separator. That means we ran the milk through once and the cream from that separation through once more.

Her milk production dropped down to a half a gallon or a little bit less twice a day in early November but it was mostly cream. Chicory was the daughter of the heaviest milk producer in a show herd known for producing does with their stars in milking. Stars being a way of judging milk production in registered dairy goat herds.

The kids will be weaned at 2 months old give or take a little time depending on how big they are by then and how much hay and grain they are eating. But by 4 to six weeks, depending on how many kids the doe has, we are milking her and keeping part of the milk for ourselves. If we don't the doe's milk production will drop because the kids are eating more and more hay and grain and drinking less and less milk.

Demand for milk equates to the amount of milk produced by a dairy animal - up to a point. That is why some cow dairies milk three times a day. This high demand on a cows body wears her out much faster than the traditional twice a day. 

In the race to produce more and more, cows are bred to produce much much higher levels of milk production and are given growth hormones. Despite all this, a cow can't produce more nutrients no matter how much she spends her time eating. This means she is simply producing more white colored water instead of vitamin rich milk.

That is why I breed for high producing milk production but keep it within reason and definitely no growth hormones.

I have probably way over answered your question. LOL Hopefully it was informative though. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Me Thinks She's Getting Big

You think she'll have triplets again?

That would be my guess. She's awfully full. Look how deep down she goes.
Combine that with how wide she is as she waddles instead of walks and me thinks she's going to have her third set of triplets. She is due March 19 th and I can't wait. I'm craving goat milk so......bad. Lately I've been cooking with store milk but I don't drink it. It tastes like water and looks blue in comparison to fresh milk.

Combine that craving with the anticipation of seeing our first kids out of Touch of Classic, our new buck, and you've got a big, big event about to take place. You goat owners know just what I'm talking about. The  rest of you will just have to use your imaginations. 

So please pardon me if I keep staring at Chicory's udder willing it  to grow and grow. You see I've got plans for that milk. I did really well at keeping my buttermilk culture going last year and this year I want to do much better with yogurt and sour cream.

But the first step in the process is kids on the ground. So come on kids. Our oldest grand daughter asked the other day when she helped me do chores. "Grandma, are you going to have to stick your arm up Chicory again? That was gross."

I had to laugh and tell her, "Don't know. We'll see." Funny how this doe has waited three years in a row for an audience of viewers to arrive, place their buckets in a semi-circle in the shed to sit on, then form a cheerleading squad. Silly goat!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

School night with Grandma every Wednesday night. It's fun, it's a bit crazy, and there's cookies. Yup, squeals of delight accompany the announcement and Big smiles greet me at 6:00 p.m. when our two oldest grand daughters rush in ready to begin.

If only their mom could get them to school with such enthusiasm. But this grandma after homeschooling our own children for fifteen years has a few tricks up her sleeve and it helps she's a bit off the wall crazy. 

Our night tonight began with a funny story about Mr. Sleeby who is always doing funny things. In tonight's tale he put his shirt on over his coat and his socks on over his shoes. The story requires attention to detail and the kid's have to listen carefully to figure out whats not right in the story.

The oldest grand child had a story about piglets and had to figure out how to assist the children in the story with counting them as they scurried about the pen.

 Then it  was addition and subtraction for the oldest with a number line to help. Last week it was with dice and next week we'll add popcycle sticks too. I'm searching for the best way for her to understand simple math. With numerous ways shown how to do something, you equip a child with knowledge that there is more than one way to solve a problem. Also you'll learn how they understand best.
Then we worked on phonics, serious phonics. The kind that teaches all the ways the long sound of a is made and how it is spelled and where it is most likely to be within a word if it has that spelling.

Giggles and laughter accompanied our problem solving with a pretend sink full of water that needs drained. With objects on the table I ask, "Would we use a teaspoon? Why not? Would we use strainer? Why not?" And we continue on with the kids deciding just what kind of object would work and why.

While the oldest is doing her work, her younger sister is in the living room setting up flash cards in alphabetical order.

You may be wondering why I started Wednesdays with Grandama. Well, there is some serious gaps in these girl's education and they are having trouble moving on in school because of it.
With the belief that your kids are your responsibility and that includes your grandkids. I believe that what they learn or don't learn is therefore also your responsibility. It doesn't matter if you have chosen others to assist you in educating them, you are the one that is responsible for the results. You are their parent or grand parent. 

I've heard too many parents blame the schools for their children not learning to read well or do math. The lack of an education suited to the learning of our children is the reason why I took my kids out of school years ago. If I just helping them after school would have done it, that is what I'd of done.

But I had children who's IQ's ranked then in the gifted class but had a few undiagnosed learning disabilities and were struggling at the bottom of the class. The oldest was in the middle of the third grade and never did like school. She struggled emotionally and educationally. Knowing how I struggled in school and how I did not receive a good grounding in the basics, I took over and began tutoring our children. Soon I had the blessing of the teachers for I was getting lists of what the kids were going to learn volunteered by the teachers because they were soaring under my tutuliage and drowning in theirs.

I see things haven't changed. Our grandkids have the same large gaps in learning that our children had so out has come the old school books. The ones that were old when our kids were young and had been found to produce phenomenol results in children, even those whose first language was not English. The ones that had gone out of style in the push to get schools to buy the new, the supposedly improved. The ones who's literature lessons were filled with tales of Benjamin Franklin and Helen Keller. The ones that when covering stories from different countries had Noah's Ark as one of the stories.

I still say, if it isn't broke, don't fix it.

So with the tried and true and the weight of our grand children's lack of an addequate education weighing on my mind, I instigated Wednesdays with Grandma and I intend on continuing it throughout the summer. The girls love it. I'm having fun too. Mud pots using applesauce is definitely in our near future when I start introducing science.  

Yup, you've probably figured out by now that I love learning and I believe it is contagious. It isn't about teaching everything. It's about teaching children how to find their own answers to their questions. It's about instilling a thirst for knowledge and exploration. 

It's about love.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cinnamon/Sugar Swirl Bread

 What's yummy in the morning, okay, any time of the day? Cinnamon/Sugar Swirl bread of course. Our daughter, Toni, was here for the weekend to help work on the business we are starting. This bread is one of her favorites. Yup, I admit it. I bribe my kids to like me with food. I haven't got money to do it with so we laugh a lot and cook lots of good food.

And to keep my son thinking of me, a couple weeks ago when my hubby went over to do a forging demonstration for a group of decorative metal workers, he stayed with our son, I of course sent food, molasses cookies, along with dog treats for his beloved dog, Bard. Wouldn't want him out of my good graces -- he's big. I meant the dog, not our son. Though that could be said of our son also. At 6 feet 2 inches he isn't exactly tiny.

This is the same son, that has laughingly informed me years ago, when he was in his early twenties, that if he could, he would keep me barefoot and in the kitchen cooking at all times. LOL
 Yes, I admit it, my family associates me with food. It's one of the ways I say I love you, to indulge them with their favorites.

We had rich home-made Alfredo sauce and beet noodles this weekend, one of Toni's favorites, and I made this bread for her to take home and share with her office mates.
 Only, I added a new twist I'd learned in the latest Cook's magazine.  No, I did not use their bread recipe because then I'd have to slow down and follow it. The grand kids were running under foot and we were busy sewing, photographing, drawing, and doing computer work on the business. I didn't have time nor the mental focus. Instead, I whipped up a dump version of white bread and rolled it out, spreading a layer of butter on top. (Not as much as in cinnamon rolls.)

I then sprinkled a mixture of cinnamon and white sugar on top along with generous handfuls of raisin, (I love raisins) and jelly rolled it.
 This is when I depart from the cinnamon roll method of construction, besides adding brown sugar not white that is. For instead of slicing the dough cross ways, I slice it the long way.
I discovered that the insides want to spill open. I kind of pat shut each section and began to braid. Left over right and right is now left. You then braid the new left over right again which was once right then became left but has now become right again. Did I confuse you. Darn! I was trying so hard.

Anyway, when you are flopping the left side over the right side continuously, you keep the opened up (trying to flop open) side of the bread always facing up. When done braiding, poke in your raisins and cut the braid the length to fit inside a bread pan. Grease the bread pan and place the braid inside.
Let rise and cook like usual. The not as pretty and less cinnamon and sugar part of the braid, I put in a pan for us and sent the pretty and yummier sectioned bread home with our daughter. The loaf of plain bread I sent with our other daughter and we were all happy.

Next, I've got to tell you about the experiment I did with wheat flour but not today I've already posted twice.

Oh my, I almost forgot to tell you why you braid your Cinnamon/Sugar Swirl bread. I am getting so forgetful. Yes, it looks pretty but the main reason is you don't get the gapping openings in your bread between the cinnamon/sugar mixture and the bread dough.

Try it, it works great!

The Fun of Pigtails

 Remember when you wore pigtails. Those fun strands of hair that bob up and down and slap back and forth across your face when you swing your head from side to side. It's been a long time since I wore pigtails but I haven't forgotten the cool way they move.

Our youngest grand daughter had her first full set. You know, the ones where all your hair will fit into them. We've kept her hair short until now and Monday when I pulled her fine hair into two delightful swinging pendulums, our grand daughter couldn't leave them alone.
 She flipped them and....
 twirled them...
and looked ever so cute. Even when tears where rolling down her cheeks and her nose had flooded when a DVD of Scooby Doo was removed from the DVD player and Willy Wanka And The Chocolate Factory was inserted. The old one of course that I watched as a child. It is ever so much better than the newer version.
 But all was made better when she could curl up in one of Grandma's scrap quilts and cuddle with her Aunt Toni.
 Then the disappointment was forgotten when the Crayola window markers were taken out of the drawer and free rein was given to draw on the livingroom's great big picture window.

I love those markers. They wash off so easily but be sure and get the crayola like ones with the thick tips. They work so..... much better than the fine tips ones.

And because she is so... stinking funny, I've got to tell you about what our youngest grand daughter said. She's three and like so many before her, she got a hold of a pair of scissors and whacked off a chunk of her own hair. Thankfully only a chunk as her oldest sister removed the whole crown of her red head of hair down to a inch. It took forever to grow out and you couldn't hide it. 

 Hence, our daughter, her mom, has been trying to teach her that she should not be doing her own hair cuts.

When her Aunt Toni came over to her home, her mom  asked her," Now who cuts your hair?" and our grand daughter dutifully repeated the script she'd been taught,
"Mommy and Ammaw." (Ammaw is me.) Then as she turned and walked off, Toni heard her say cheerfully under her breath, " And me!"

LOL... yup, probably won't be the last time this character gives herself a haircut, no sirree.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dating Seeds With Years Viable

I can feels the time ticking and despite the rush to get a new business off and running, I've got to get seeds ordered for our garden. It won't be long and I'll need to start seeds under grow lights. I worried that I wouldn't have viable seeds to begin the process.
Today, in my first step in ordering seeds I decided to mark each package with how many years they are normally viable.
 This has been a great start to knowing just what I needed to order without over ordering seeds that still are good for a few more years. Some of you might wonder what the fuss is. Why do I have this pile of seed packets in my basement?

Why don't I just go out and buys some seeds every year from the local store. First and foremost, they aren't organically grown. Plus, many of the seeds now for sale have a low level of nutrition genetically engineered in them. Yes, high production, but high production sacrifices nutrition levels. It is a balancing scale that tips more and more away from our needs  for health and towards profit. A necessary thing to a degree or one doesn't stay in business.

Compound the high production low nutrition seeds with the fact that farmers add three to four nutrients to their fields each year but the soil needs fifty-two. That's forty-eight nutrients the soil is becoming more and more depleted in. Hence, the need for more pesticides because of insect infestation and disease because the plants have  malnutrition.

Then ship those depleted crops to the store and they sit there and in your refrigerator and there isn't much left but a hull. Organic, consciously grown seeds with a heirloom heritage, means higher nutrient levels inside each bite along with something that can go on giving each year, IF kept from crossing with other species. This knowledge is what keeps me going.

 Add to those seeds in most catalogues the fact that they were grown with chemicals and you add another negative to the rising pile. Worse yet is if they were raised with systemic pesticides that once are in the parent plant are now inside the seeds to be pasted on. The ones that played a major role in the disappearance of our bees. No bees, nothing but grain crops survive. We are headed on a scary spiral downward.
To keep from spending more than I need to on garden seeds, I labeled them this year with the years they are viable. Those that are a year past the date, I'm going to try a small number of seeds to see if the percentage of viability so I know if they are dead or just how thick I need to spread the seed in the row. Most I will probably mix with new seeds if they are fairly good. 

Some plants like onions surprised me how short a time they were good, only a very short time. That means I will need to grow seed every year to keep them going. Last summer was my first year in growing seed and this year, we'll see how well I did.

Coupling with this is that I plan on growing some crops every other year in larger amounts making some seeds sit for two years before being used. My garden just isn't large enough to grow everything and this rotation allows me to concentrate my efforts on fewer varieties. Should be easier during canning season too.

Next, I want to go through the list of which crops need differing amounts of water during their growing cycle. That way I can place these crops close together to insure less waste of water and higher production.  

Then which crops need what nutrients and what crops should be rotated behind others.

Here is the list of how long seeds are normally viable keeping them in a cool dry place.
Beets 4 years
Carrots 3 years
Broccoli 3 years
Beans 3 years
Corn 1 -2 years
Cucumber 5 years
Peas 3 years
Peppers 2 years
Lettuce 5 years
Tomato 4 years
Zucchini 4 years
Squash 4 years
Spinach 3 years
Onions 1 year
I hope this helps with your garden plans this year. It already has mine.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day!!

Happy Valentines Day!!!
For you romantics, this is a big holiday. For those of us who have a tendency to slide by this one and have a hubby who works late, you might be like me and making graham crackers in the shape of hearts. No? Maybe it's just me but in late winter I crave wholesome home-made graham crackers?  I rarely make them any other time of the year. Strange I know but since I was hungry for them and I figured the grand kids had had enough sweets today, I thought these might be a nice surprise in their lunch boxes.

Making something special for their lunch boxes now and then has become a tradition this year. Maybe it is because I kind of missed the looks of delight I use to get when I made their lunches for school. Not that I miss making them every day like I did  last year but it was fun tucking something special inside that said, "I love you a whole heaping bunch."
So out came the whole wheat and the heart shaped cookie cutter. Id advice you that if you haven't made home-made graham crackers before, you might just become addicted like me. 
the below link is to a blog post I did a while back giving the recipe I use and the changes I made to the original recipe. Yup, I didn't leave this recipe alone either.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Finding Balance

I'm once more debating balance. Balance of time divided amongst the have too's such as house cleaning, food preparation, and now two businesses, yes, two home businesses. You see I didn't have enough to do so I'm starting a new business? Not buying it? Okay, how about I need more money to accomplish my goals? The main one is making things easier. Sound like another oxymoron? Well, so is Easy Living The Hardway. I'm just a woman full of oxymorons. 

You see we've come to a point where my husband's knife business is more than he can keep up with along with his main job that provides insurance and stability. You would think this would bedtime to cut back.  BUT, this second job provides extras and a way to express his tremendous art talent. It does leave him with little time to work on home and livestock projects. Add in three little girls who's main father figure is Grandpa and you see understand his very tight, time constraints.

That leaves the huge need to make things easier around here for me. No, I'm not willing to get rid of my garden or my livestock. They are the source of my improving health and mental well being, so we need to come up with ways to make them easier and more profitable.

 We of course are making things more complicated to accomplish that, hence the oxymoron. Maybe I had better explain more fully. You see, we badly need good strong lasting hay feeders for each livestock pen which would save money on hay wasted and time cleaning up that wasted hay. Plus, hay kept off the ground means fewer worms are transported into the livestock tummies. We need a shade type shed for the yaks and it doesn't look like my husbands going to have time to make it any of them so I've found some really sturdy hay feeders on the Internet. Not just any feeder for we have goats which don't need a horse or beef feeder, and yaks that are naturally short but have horns and like to use them as tools to move things.

But alas, no time and no moolaw, (money) to pay for another mans product.

A used tractor has badly been needed for some time and I could run it. Something I can't do with our neighbors extremely finicky one that my husband uses only when desperate. Hence, things don't get done. We could hire more of the house improvement jobs out to contractors saving time that my husband doesn't have to do them. Plus, they would get done quicker.  

To do all this and more, we need a larger income. Just being frugal isn't getting us where we need to be quite fast enough. So our oldest daughter, who is in need of some cash too, got with me and we decided to start a craft business on etsy. I can do this work on my physically down days when Addison's disease is whipping my behind and where if I had a normal job, I'd have to take sick days. 
Besides, it provides a wonderful creative outlet.

I knew it would be challenging starting up this business but I had no idea there was so much to do. If you are thinking of doing an Etsy account, you would be wise to read down this list of things we've been working on, other wise skip to the conclusion below.

1. Come up with a name for a business that appears on the first page when googled on the Internet.
2. Scout out our market to see if there is a demand for our product. Plus, see if there is still room for us in that market or if it is saturated already. Figure out how to set our product apart from the pack without raising our costs above the base customers are willing to pay. 
3. Figure out the approximate time needed to produce the product and do the business end or in other words paperwork, social media time, shopping for materials, designing, advertising, packaging and mailing and see if we can afford the hours taken from our other responsibilities.
4. Guesstimate the cost of wear and tear on equipment, (because at some point they will have to be replaced), cost of electricity, materials, and figure how much we will make for our time. Is it enough?
5. How are we going to get the word out doing advertising.
6. How do we package our product? I'm still drawing and designing it. What calligraphy do we use for our name and what should our heading look like on etsy along with our policies.
7. Set up bookkeeping in cyberspace so that the two of us in two different states can do the bookwork. ( A big learning curve for me)
8.Set up a bank account for the business.
9. Goals of where we want to go. I would like to have a line of medium end and high end products. For example, the same product just one line is made of quality cotton fabric and the other of leather with my custom made buttons etc.
10. What products will have a higher profit margin that will make up for others that we won't make much on, but we will likely sell a higher volume of, drawing more customers to us. 

With the advertising moving way ahead of schedule with a free advertising opportunity in magazine moving in to play, it has pushed the pedal to the metal and we now have to be up and running in half the time we planned. Good news yes, panicked YES!!

The grand daughters helping Grandpa clear the driveway, Sunday.
I'm going to figure out a flexible schedule where I blog on certain days and do social media on others. I'll let you know what I come up with. Then do something I've never done before, set aside hours each weekday to work on the business. I'm going to become a working woman now. This will change my garden plans and ways I've in the past spent my time. I will gain a greater understanding of those of you that hold jobs outside the home and this blog will be better tailored to you.

Yes, those who know me, know I've always worked hard. I love it. My kids think I'm warped and that I have a hard time telling the difference between work and play, true. This time it will be different though, I will be bringing in an income and juggling a job and home. 

You are probably wondering what we are creating for Etsy? I'd tell you but I want one more week before I unveil it. The photos still aren't quite up to snuff, the Etsy site isn't fully designed yet, and I've more drawing to do this week for the packaging.

To top it all off, my cooking classes I've offered through the rec-creation center all fall and beginning again after Christmas, may of just finally taken off. The group last week asked for weekly classes. I think not, but we'll try every two weeks. That means I've some organizing to do on that front also. Who would of thunk that this Autistic, homebody would every grow up to be a business woman? I never would have dreamt. It just goes to show you that if you put your mind to it, it's amazing what you can accomplish. Life takes us on such a interesting journey.
Sweeping the driveway, with a man sized broom, proved harder than our three year old thought.
So stay tuned not only to see what we are creating for our Etsy shop but I've some garden planning and cooking in the works. I'm going to start another kind of wheat bread today and whip up some wheat based home-made grahmn crackers shaped into hearts. I've been thinking what to do for the grandchildren that isn't just more sugar for Valentines Day tomorrow and I've decided those yummy crackers are just the thing to make and have their mom tuck into their lunch boxes.

 Last night, the middle grand daughter, with a mouth full of home-made angel food cake from the freezer, fresh whipped cream, and thawed strawberries, spouted," I love coming to Grandma and Granpa's house! This is so much fun." Yes, balance will have to include plenty of time for them, the greastest gift of all --family.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sprouts, a Healthy Winter Addition

Nutrient levels in our bodies wane in the winter months when produce isn't fresh. How do you give your body a boost this time of year?
I make lots of fresh lemonade since lemons are in season this time of year down south and are available at lower prices in the stores. Plus, I grow sprouts. Both lemons and sprouts are high in Vitamin C helping my family to stay healthy when colds and flu's are running ramped in our community.

The sprouts are great on salads, which is where we eat them most, but they can also be blended up in a fruit smoothie. Beware that I'm giving this advice when I haven't even tried the fruit smoothie thing. It sounds good though and the next batch of sprouts are going into the blender along with some fruit. Smoothies are a great way to hide flax seed oil. Something we take pretty regularly that substantially ups our HDL's, the good cholesterol.

 Of course what I should do is get out the juicer my in-laws gave me for Christmas last year, that I've barely touched, and try making a vegetable drink adding the sprouts. I of course would need to go to the store, the one in the next town that has really nice produce because this Mother Hubbard's cupboards are about bare so that might not happen for a few days. 

I can see my sister's eyebrows raising in response as they know I shop in bulk. Let's just say the fresh food department of the Rexroat's kitchen is running pretty low.

Sprouts such as mung beans and alfalfa sprouts are sprouted in the same manner as the wheat I did. I buy my sprouts in a mixture of types of seeds from a health food store and store them in the refrigerator until I want them. They will keep for a year or more that way.

As a quick reminder, place some seeds in a glass jar, I use a canning jar.
Cover with a loosely woven cheese cloth.
Put the jar's ring on the top. A solid lid won't do as you need the cheese cloth to be free to act as a strainer.
Fill the jar with water and leave overnight.  Strain the water off the next morning and rinse the sprouts three to four times a day. It doesn't have to be by the clock, just fairly evenly throughout the day so that the sprouts stay nice and moist. In four or five days you will have nice sprouts. I let mine grow to about and inch or a little bit more and then refrigerate them. They will cease to grow in the cold atmosphere. Use them fairly quickly so as not to loose any of the nutritional value.

If sprouts aren't part of your diet, try them, they are quite good. We don't eat them all year long as I become quite busy with other project but you will always see a jar of them growing this time of year.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sprouted Wheat Experiment

Now for the conclusion of the first phase of the wheat sprouting experiment. Lucky you, it will be in picture book style. So if I drone on too much you can skip ahead and look at the pictures. Of course you won't know completely what's going on but you'll get the general gist.

Last week, I filled a quart jar half full of wheat and filled it the remainder with water and set it on the counter over night. The next morning I drained off the liquid and throughout the next couple days I filled the jar and drained off the liquid three to four times a day but definitely not en sync with any set schedule. I am not a clock watcher, just too much pressure involved. LOL
 The wheat began sprouting nicely but soon filled their confined digs. Don't remember the sixties, well, digs means dwelling, apartment, etc. Excuse me a moment, "Note to self--- two cups of wheat soon crowds four cups of space." Yes, the confinement allows moisture to be trapped inside and increases the rate of sprouting so the wheat needs this type of digs.
 Due to this oversight, the sprouts soon started acting like my kids when they were little, their brand new shoes fit wonderfully with just a thumbs width to one and a half thumbs width of growth room and a nights sleep later, their toes were crowding the ends. Yup, once these sprouts started whoa!!, they took off growing rapidly. One evening the sprouts were pushing a 1/4 inch and the next morning they were over 1/2 inch.
I had to rush to get the dehydrator out before they grew to overflowing the jar. A tug of war then ensued as I tried to get the gnarled wheat outside the jar. It was a mass buddy system, everyone either wanted to stay squooshed in so tight as they were.

Next time, I'm using two jars -- divide and conquer. See that shiny spot glinting off to the right of the whole in the center of the tray? It's a plastic insert to keep the wheat from falling through the tray's wholes. Yes, I tore the buddy system apart with my bare hands.
The next step was to turn my dehydrator down to around 105 -110 Fahrenheit.  I needed to remove the moisture for grinding but not kill the nutrients. Not yet anyway for baking does that.
 The drying breeze caused the tentacles to shrivel and one woman on a blog said she didn't want to kill the sprouts so she just ground them up in a food processor and added them as an addition to her wheat bread. What did she think the food processor did to the poor guys and beyond that the oven? I guess it made her feel falsely better so not all was lost. 

I'd debate the whole die part as the tentacles will die but not necessarily the wheat. Think of the powdered cheese cultures you get in the mail and another experiment I want to try sometimes is drying sour dough into patties. The pioneers did so in order to be able to carry their beloved culture across the ocean on a ship or the plains in a wagon. This requires low heat so as to remove moisture without killing.
When I ground the dry sprouted wheat into flour, the stuff had a nice deep richly flecked color. Dark colors in food usually mean lots of good nutrients. It seemed to be even darker than freshly ground wheat kernels but maybe I am like the woman who didn't want to kill her sprouts and just thought it looked richer because that's what I wanted. Who knows, the power of suggestion can be quite effective at times. LOL

But wait a minute, back the horse up, I forgot a step. The wheat grinder wouldn't grind it because the wheat still had enough locked tentacles to insist on the buddy system through the grinder and the whole from the hopper into the blades just wasn't big enough for a crowd. The blender did the trick, a few pulsing strokes and no more buddy system. It separated them nicely.
 Trying a artisan bread method, I mixed the 2 1/2  cups of wheat flour, (which by the way equated the same as if the wheat wasn't sprouted making 2 cups of wheat equal 2 1/2 cups of flour,) 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, a little more sugar than the 1 Tablespoon I usually use with white flour, 3/4 cup of white flour because I was short on wheat flour, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast. The dough was a bit sticky just like it should be.
 And voila, 24 hours later I had a moist brick. Wait a minute, that wasn't what I was after. The dough rose pretty good after letting it sit overnight on the counter but during subsequent rises it lost ground instead of like white flour which rises more and more quickly with each rise. I need to delve into the science of this. Take away the bran and you've got a new kid on the block. Note to self, " Either use more yeast or better yet cut the raises to only two and maybe add just a little bit more yeast. And find out just what's going on by researching on the Internet." Unless of course one of you can tell me what I should of done differently. That's always the easier method and muchly appreciated.

What I was trying to do was achieve a richer flavor like repeated raises do with white flour. Instead, maybe I should of tried a Biga method to achieve that which would combine a bit of freshly ground wheat flour and sprouted wheat to make bread. Hmm... brain is a whirling now.

 Some loaves of bread that don't work out or most of the time just slices I know we won't get eaten before they go bad, are shredded and dried for stuffing. Others, I give to the chickens, which is where this loaf is going. Into them, into the eggs they produce, and then into our tummies. They need a nice boost of vitamins this winter time of year, just like us.   

Am I upset that my experiment didn't have a different outcome. I'd hoped for better but have learned in the past not to expect success at first. I just keep reminding myself of the scripture in the Bible that says, "In  all labor there is profit." I just had to think of the profit. The chickens will greatly benefit and I now know that I need to try adding a tiny bit more yeast and let the bread raise only twice and for a shorter period of time. Didn't know that bit of knowledge when I began. One gains little if one is easily discouraged.

One of these days, after I've researched a bit more and tried a few new things, I'll have awesome, highly nutritious sprouted wheat bread. Then I'm off to using other grains in the same manner.