Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Saving Seed

I already have enough information to create a number of blogs on saving seeds so expect the subject to pop up frequently. It is going to be one of my big pushes in gardening this summer as self-sufficiency takes a leap to a whole nother height. Food production is a huge part of providing for ourselves. I'm learning that this seed saving thing is complicated. I can't tell you how many people I've run into recently that think if they have heirloom seeds there worries are over. That is only a tiny fraction of the project.

I wish I would have started years ago but I was busy following the traditional way of gardening buying plants from the local nurseries and buying seeds from the local feeds store and such and then I discovered that those seeds and plants weren't necessarily the best for our area. They were instead targeted for a five state area. Growing a garden is challenging enough in this horrible soil and harsh weather and I figured I needed all the help I could get so I began to read becoming aware of non hybrid seeds and heirloom seeds. I of course chose heirloom and began the hunt for varieties that grew best in our severe clay soil, unpredictable weather and wind, and short growing season. I found that if you were at all particular you have to do it yourself.

The first lesson being that nothing grows well in this soil so I have to grow on top of it more than in it.

I've been at this awhile since other pursuits and family take up a good deal of my time. For example today I'm pecking at the keys one handed as I hold a sick baby and stop to play cards with the four year old grand daughter. Where there is a will there is a way . It just may need to be done differently or on another scale so keep that in mind.

This testing stage of varieties takes a while as it is at least three years before you know if a variety of tomato for example is what you really want. You have to learn the tricks of that particular plant. For instance I found out that Siberia tomatoes do well in cold weather as the catalogue stated but that doesn't mean they are cold hardy as transplants early in the spring, just when older and established. And though Glacier and Siberia have many of the same touted traits in the cataloge, Siberia's production far out weighed Glacier's in our area at least.

Washington Cherry tomatoes are huge for a cherry tomato and have been a trooper for the last five years a real keeper. On the other hand Long Keeper is still on trial and I didn't really get a chance to test its keeping ability last year so in they go again.Yet with the ones I love, I still have a new variety I ordered this year to test. Luckily tomatoes are self-pollinating and ten feet is all you need between varieties to be sure they don't have the slim chance of crossing with each other.

Figuring out which kinds to grow is just the beginning for along the way you need to learn how each type of vegetable is pollinated, what they can cross with and how to control this. Despite a books advice that if you plant different kinds of corn a few weeks apart that they will tassel at different times, I found in our area at least that is a falsehood. I planted sweet corn first and then Painted Mountain, they pollinated at the same time. I planted the earlier growing Painted Mountain first and then sweet corn and still they pollinated at the same time so it wasn't because the plants had a different time table. I suspect weather is the trigger in our area for pollination. I was tempted to save kernels that were the right color but how is one to really know if some of those yellow kernels are taking after sweet corn and really have a Painted Mountain dad in the mix?

So though I really like Painted Mountain and am still not completely settled on a sweet corn, I now have to figure out a planting rotation program for them. One or two years of raising sweet corn and a year of Painted Mountain. That is going to be hard because what is summer without sweet corn? I definitely don't have two miles in which to separate them to insure seed purity. I do have the benefit that there are extremely few gardens in town and almost none with corn so neighboring gardens aren't threat.

There is a third choice beyond rotation, and distance separation. It is where you cover the silks, which is the female part, with paper bags and tie at the bottom to keep the tassels, which are the guys, from doing any hanky panky with the ladies. They recommend you do at least 15 to 20 plants for not every ear will be of the size and quality you want to save seed from. This means hand pollinating.

And just in case you didn't know each silk is attached to where a kernel will develop and must be pollinated for the kernel to form so I'm going to need to learn how to insure each silk has her one night stand through hand pollinating. Which means my arranging the brief marriage or affair, which ever way you look at it.

The other seed rotation factor is how long each individual kind of seed will keep. The larger seeds in general keeping far longer than the small. I have to keep in mind just how many years seed will store and still germinate at what rates. Sweet corn is good for three years but flint, dent, and popcorn are five to ten years. So that means I can grow sweet corn a couple years and then Painted Mountain. But what about popcorn. I love popcorn so how do I put it into the roatation? Then since I've never grown it before what kinds should I try?

Plus, how can I figure in crop failure possibilities into this formula? I'm thinking I'd better learn hand pollinating of corn so I can do more than one variety each year such as popcorn and sweet corn one year and Painted Mountain and sweet corn the next. I know squirrel moment but how about looser woven muslin bags instead of paper for coverings? Hmm.... that would be more realistic in a self-sustaining sense. Maybe I should make some. I know plastic is a bad idea because too much heat builds up inside.

Getting the idea? Self-sufficiency doesn't happen over night. You just can't learn all you need at a fast enough rate. It would help if I had a mentor but there isn't one to be seen that I've found. Most do a couple raised beds or give up on gardening all together in our part of the county. Then again I don't know of anyone in the county with my level of interest.

Corn is easy because each year it produces seed but what about onions. Yes, I found a kind I really liked last year after raising onions for ten years or so. They grew well in drought conditions and have a great storing ability but this is only year one. Now I have to put some back in the ground to grow seeds. Yes, onions form seeds the second year and if those bulbs you put in the ground went to seed the first year don't keep them. They aren't what you want said one web site. Sounds wise to me. I've lamented before about my problems growing onions from seed so I won't go into it but just know it has been a several year project with many more experiments to try this year. See this seed saving is not for the faint of heart if you live in a short cool season gardening area.

Squash and pumpkins also have to be closed up and hand pollinated if you grow those in the same family and I'm not talking about all pumpkins or all squash. I'm talking about specific species so you need to learn their scientific names to know if they are in the same family to build your roatation plan. I'm still working on this one to know what I want to hand pollinate and what to rotate. After all I can't hand pollinate and cover the whole garden from each other.

As I said I will go into this rotation and seed saving plan futher but first I want to give you a tip from a web site for those of you doing your emergency prepareness plans to wet your appetite. 
    If you see a package for sale of so called Survival seeds, and it includes onions and radishes, you can be sure who ever selected the seeds to include, doesn't know what they are doing. If the crops are mostly light salad vegetables, what good will that do you when you are really hungry? String beans won't fill you up either. You need carbohydrates from starchy vegetables and protein from beans and grain. No other grain yields as well, and is as easy to harvest and grow with out machinery as corn.For really long term storage, a freezer has worked very well for usOur seed collections come sealed in aluminum coated vapor barrier bags, with a packet to absorb excess moisture. It will keep years longer because of that. . The 'Grampa Neff' beans we planted in 2007 had been in the freezer for over 20 years, and they grew fine.Many people don't realize it, but water vapor will move slowly through plastic containers. For long term food storage, thick plastic buckets won't even keep grain completely dry. Glass, metal, or plastic WITH an aluminum vapor barrier will block all the moisture.

I'm still formulating a freezer seed storage plan. In part because there is never enough freezer room so what will I put in?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Squirrel Moments

Squirrel, that is what you are going to experience today. A little bit of this and a little bit of that as Kirk and I are still recovering from a dash to Colorado where we moved our daughter back to Wyoming. During the trip my adrenals crashed as this moving marathon followed right after a trip to the dentist's where he removed the last of the metal fillings. When you remove metal fillings some of the mercury is released into your system. Being the overly sensitive soul that I am, I was feeling a bit rough before the move started. My body is so pathetic that after the deadener shots my hands start to shake and I'm a bit shocky so they have to wait fifteen minutes before beginning. Yes, they have tried different deadeners to pick the best one for me.

They schedule two hours but it always takes three and laughter abounds as small complications always arise. This time we had a flood. My mouth is barely above infant size and the extreme angle required to work in caused the drill to spray the water picks flow into the next room. They had to pile paper towels all over my chest to soak up part of the spray. And that was only part of the fun.

Then after rushing to move our daughter and putting as much away as we could in her new place, we decided at 7:30 Saturday night to make a dash for home. Snow was in the forecast that night. Luckily 2 1/2 hours of our travels we only encountered heavy snowing in a few areas but the roads were good. Then forty miles from home all that changed in a hurry. Kirk had to shift into four wheel drive. It was blizzard conditions. We were straining to see the deliniator poles with there reflective tape in order to guess where the highways was.

Thankfully we were on a major road so there was a wide shoulder and a rumble strip that is rough causing a slight bounce and your tires make a noise when running acrossed it. That is if the snow isn't too deep and covering it up. Yes, it was drifting and so it was here and there that we found the strips but between them and the deliniator poles, we managed to stay on the highway. Thirty-five to forty miles an hour was top speed.

We felt blessed  that we had listened to that still small voice that said, "Go home."  because the next day was no unnecessary travel warnings and the roads were solid ice. No unnecessary travel in our area means bad, bad roads because there are times the roads stay open even though the snow plows won't run because it is too dangerous. It can be a real pain because Kirk is required to go to work if the roads are open. Other times it just means you have to use common sense. Something few people develop now days because they depend on others to make judgement calls for them. It is one of the major faults of US citizens today. It is why we have so many laws and government agencies. We spend too much time trying to protect people against stupidity instead of letting them learn from it. I do every day but people don't want responsibility. Responsibility doesn't leave anyone else but you to blame.

The independent cuss that I am, I'd better get off that sore subject or I'm liable to go on and on and on. Let's talk instead about my experiment in refining of my potato flour. Some of you will recall that I am making potato flour from the small potatoes from last summer's garden that from a lack of a cellar are beginning to sprout. They are still firm and therefore it is in the nick of time to use them. The first step is to boil them and so I washed the dirt off the outside and plopped them into water covering there tops. Then I boiled them to the potato salad stage, not the mashed potato stage that I did the last time. The Internet says boil anywhere from 3 to 8 minutes depending on the site you are reading. Disliking watching the clock, I used a fork to test doneness. Keep in mind hot potatoes continue to cook when the heat is turned off.  

Then when cool, I sliced the potatoes and slipped off the skins and put them into the dehydrator to dry along with two huge sweet potatoes that had baked in the oven. They were mashed as we had had a half of one for supper. I could of boiled them too I guess.

The previous experiment with mashed potatoes I found took what seemed like forever for them to dry and it was very uneven making it hard to tell if they were done or not. The same does not hold true for sweet potatoes for some reason. I'm guessing there is a starch difference.  

Storing the potatoes in the sliced form means I can use them in stews, potatoes augratin, or break them into smaller pieces with the blender and then grind in the wheat grinder for flour. I like the versatility of this method.

The downside is that dried potatoes only store for a year in a cool dry place. I bet if I have freezer room that I can put them into glass jars and they would last a great deal longer. Glass, because moisture passes through plastic. That is why our beef in the freezer from a couple years ago isn't as moist as it was last year. Yup, this little realization, what took me so long I don't know, led me to  study seed storage in greater depths and we'll talk about that later along with rotating crops in the garden for seed storage purposes.

Today, I'm going to begin some wheat sprouts. Think the tannin in my regular wheat will come through if the wheat is first sprouted? Hmm.... we'll find out. But I'm going to grind a few other grains while that wheat does it's growth and try a no knead bread recipe for whole grains. I've got two to try and compare but with just two of us one recipe of one loaf at a time is enough bread to eat.  

Oh, I almost forgot. Daisy, the goat, is doing very nicely. She appears to be back to normal. Waltzing Matilda is well too and had a very long conversation with our daughter as she did chores while we were gone. Unfortuneately she didn't understand a word of it though she tried. Finally she just told her that Mom hadn't given any other instructions so she could take up her complaints with me when I came back.  Knowing a little piglatin I'm sure it was about the fact that our daughter didn't put any food in her shed where I always stash a little goodies to munch on while she snuggles down into her heap of straw.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Whole Wheat and Graham Crackers

I promise to talk about whole wheat and those graham crackers I put the dried strawberries in but first of all we are going to talk about taste buds. Reason being that my disappointment in the graham crackers is partly because of the strain of whole wheat I chose, partly my taste buds fault, and also my lack of age. Confused, well lets see if I can clear a few things up.

First of all pay no attention to the lovely charts you see on the Internet about where your taste buds are on your tongue because that chart is shunned by serious researchers. Bitter, sweet, salty, and sour taste buds are all over the upper surface of the tongue, soft palate, upper esophagus and epiglottis, which are called papillae. As for the number of taste buds one has? The range is from 2,000 and up to 10,000 in others.

I do have a dramatically different number of taste buds in comparison to my husband and daughter. Case in point, last summer Kirk, Toni, and I were at a barbecue eatery. We all tried out difference sauces to put on the sandwiches we had ordered. One of the sauces had a bit of heat involved. For me, all I could taste were the hot peppers, nothing else. Kirk and Toni on the other hand tasted a blend of spices and a hint of mustard. Needless to say they really liked it and I didn't and was drinking lots of water wishing I had a glass of cold goat milk.

Am I one of those super tasters with lots and lots of taste buds. Not likely since super tasters don't like vegetables very much because they taste bitterness so intensely. They also find very sweet desserts over the top sugary. Oh.... I do like my sugar.

" Bartoshuk recommends an easy at-home test: Apply a couple of drops of blue food color to your tongue and swallow a few times. Then examine your tongue's surface; papillae won’t pick up the dye, so they’ll look like pink polka dots on a blue background. If your tongue appears to be almost solid pink, then you have tons of fungiform papillae and may be a supertaster."

Medication, smoking, burning your tongue on hot foods or drinks, or hormones can all change your sense of taste. Luckily Ttaste buds have a cycle of seven to fourteen days. So even though you may damage them, they will return.

Taste buds pick up sour, salty, bitter, sweet, and umani (MSG). Fat may also be added as some research is favorable in this area.   Flavor is the combination of taste plus smell.  Taste sending a message to one part of the brain and smell to another. Then there is temperature and texture which also play a factor in whether you like something or not. I'm one of those kids who was super sensitive to texture and taste. Autism can be a huge factor in the texture area. None of my foods could touch as a child and I ate one thing completely before eating another. I want you to know it took me forty years to move beyond that.

I would say there is a third thing involved. I'm not scientist so this is just my opinion, but I'd say association is also involved. How do you otherwise explain why food tastes so much better in the mountains? Or why when you have a severe case of the flu after eating a specific food, you no longer like it anymore. And yes, you can learn to like foods. Like being the key word sometimes. I like broccoli. Disliked it as a child but through eating a little bit time after time after time,  it is okay, not a thriller, just okay. When I eat it I think of my kids when they were little and called it trees and I smile. Cauliflower on the other hand, despite repeated efforts, just hasn't moved up even into the tolerant category. Cottage cheese is a different story. I didn't like it so much as a kid but I think texture was a big factor. Thanks to its association with Kirk, I now very much like it. Not as much as he does but still, it's pretty good.

 So what does this have to do with whole wheat? Well winter and spring wheat has phenolic acid and tannin, chemicals with a bitter taste. That is the overwhelming response I get with the use of these grains.  I once more did a taste test with the whole wheat grahmn crackers I had made only I had  Kirk taste them at the same time. He didn't pick up the slightest hint of bitterness, lucky him! As I thought, what's a girl to do? I have buckets of that kind of wheat. Maybe my hope lies with menopause. Think I'm kidding, I'm not, for menopause causes a decrease in the ability to taste bitterness because of the change in hormones. Think about pregnant women who crave pickles and ice cream -- together. Yup, those crazy hormones can do crazy things.

It might be a while though because I'm ten years behind on my eyes changing to the bifocal stage so who knows about menopause.

What can I do until then? Well, the three batches of crackers before this one I loved. I used white wheat, not red wheat. White wheat doesn't have phenolic acid and tannin -- neither does, spelt, or Kamut. I can see my supply of these grains won't be enough to get me by until then and hope indeed my taste buds do change.  .
What about other grains, do they have phenolic acid and tannins too? I am hitting a blank on the Internet. So the answer is yet to be discovered by me. I do know that quick oats get a bitter taste when old. Is it these acids coming to the surface or have they just gone rancid? The answer I don't know.

We'll talk more about grains later but I almost forgot. I couldn't taste the strawberry bits because of the overwhelming bitterness masking everything else. Poo....h! Wish I knew if they enhanced the cracker's flavor.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Daisy Oh Daisy You Worry Me

The more animals you have, the more confusion you will encounter. It is simply math. A greater number equates to a greater chance of things going wrong. Chicory was our stress goat but we asked for her and knew she would have issues of a non genetic nature. But we weren't ready for what happened to us Sunday with her daughter, Daisy.

You might recall the conversation we had about her being VERY large for her age and about how she looked very pregnant for no further along than she was. She is the one on the far side of Mercedes who is just six weeks younger than her cousin.

Well being large wasn't her problem on Sunday. We did not get to chores until after church and when Kirk and I arrived at the corrals there sat Daisy sitting upright like a dog looking slightly upward, breathing fast, her teeth grinding with pain. Her eyes were large and a bit alarmed. Something was definitely wrong but what? I pulled her to an upright position and she stood normal and deposited dingle berries (hm... slightly dry but over all normal).  She then urinated, (a good sign as the stomach seems to be working correctly). Her flanks were well filled out so she wasn't dehydrated and she did not have a lopsided distinct bubble in the flanks typical of bloat.

Figuring to keep a closer eye on her and make her more comfortable, I drug and Kirk pushed her to the goat shed. Yes, she obviously had not lost any strength as she resisted the whole way. She is usually more cooperative than that. I continued to stare and called a friend as a sounding board, the same one that received my call when our sow, Waltzing Matilda, went a bit loony on her estrus cycle a short time ago. Neither her nor her husband could think of a thing.

So we left her for a couple hours and returned to see if her symptoms had disappeared or changed. What met me was a goat standing, her head jerking rhythmically to the right but first she'd let out a loud sucking sound. It went suck, jerk; suck, jerk as if she was a metrodrone keeping time. The husband of the said sounding board was also doing his chores and so we stood staring at her clueless.

We checked her hay for a weed that might cause a reaction such as this. I knew it was fine for I had checked it when I fed it, admiring how pretty it was. It was gorgeous, leafy, small stems, and soft to the touch.

Finally I decided we should try stretching her spine as you would someone with a disc slightly out of place, though running our hands down her spine multiple times had failed to decipher a knot telling us a disc was out of place. What was there to loose I said. She was either going to get better or die. Neither the vets an hour in one direction away or the ones an hour and a half away in the other direction know much of anything about goats. Besides this was Sunday when a great big bill would likely be my reward for a puzzled look on their faces. I had just finished paying off a nearly six hundred dollar charge from a vet the breeder had run up on Jasmine, our yak that died of EHD. It too was on a weekend.  

So I decided in case it was a pinched nerve to try pulling her spine to stretch out the vertebra's. It would either kill her, help her, or do nothing. We did it three times, my holding her just in front of her hips and he pulling straight. It would relieve her symptoms mildly for just a few seconds and back she'd go again to the suck jerk pattern.

Next op I figured to try was a muscle relaxer of my daughters. Poor Daisy had to have some relief, the pain alone could kill her. Yes, the drug was for humans and as little as we knew about it, it might kill the babies she was carrying but then they might die anyway for we knew not what ailed her. The kids were guaranteed to die if we she did. An hour after the pill, her wrinkled lip had relaxed, she was no longer sucking, and her jerk was noticeably milder. She was standing strong so no muscle weakness had developed.

I then put in a call to a goat breeder friend of mine and she was convinced Daisy had  Goat Polio (read about it, it is interesting)which has a treatment of vitamin B shots and probiotic. I could do that easily enough though I was sure this wasn't the cause, it definitely wouldn't hurt.

The next morning Daisy had just a slight rhythmic twitch in her right eye and right side of her muzzle. I gave her a vitamin B shot, more probiotic, and oats with a granulated animal vitamin in it. We were both in consensus now. No, this was not goat polio and after an exhausting research on the Internet under goats, animals, and even people, I was convinced she did not have an epileptic seizure in part because her pupils did not dilate large but remained small in the darker goat shed. Further it was not like any type of seizure described or shown on the web. It was not a stroke but she did fit the bill for an injury causing damage to the brain stem or an injury causing some spinal damage.

When I tried to pet her head down the neck last night she would shake her head violently from side to side in protest. I believe she has indeed suffered from a neck injury.

Now we are praying it is just temporary because last night her eye quit twitching and her muzzle twitch was milder. She rose to stand unbidden and she had definitely drank though her interest in food was no more than to sniff at it. This morning I've yet to do chores as I wait for it to warm a little so the water pans stay open and don't freeze immediately after filling. I pray she is better yet. I want to know but am nervous about peeking inside the shed for fear of what will await me.

I have another problem though. Just to the left of my lips I have this spasmodic twitch. You think I'm kidding. I'm not. Seriously, I do. Is it sympathy pains?  What I am sure of is it is stress.

I'll keep you posted on Daisy and to let you know how she is doing. And by the way, Waltzing Matilda after her overly dramatic estrus cycle has began to gain weight like gang busters and follows me around like a dog, talking up a storm. She has now decided she would like back rubs with her spaw treatement. What would I do without my animals?

Thank you for all your well wishes for Daisy. She is doing even better today. No twitching but her appetite could use some work. I've put the does back in with her for encouragment.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cattail Cordage

every part of the plant is useful. It is found in ponds and slow moving water. Water being the key ingredient and something we have very little of. Most of our standing water is man made reservoirs and ponds of a very small size. To give you an idea of just how little water we have, our wells on average are 300 feet or deeper. Irrigation, well, that is something other parts of the Wyoming have but we only dream of.

 Most of these watering holes are without cattails but we happen to have a man made pond on the edge of town with a few. Right now the roots are not accessible being frozen solid underneath a thick foot or more of ice. But come summer, we are definitely going to try eating the roots and repeat the experiment of making cordage. Oh wait a minute, I forgot to tell you, yes, the subject today is cordage from cattail leaves. 

Teaching Cub Scouts, my new don't have time to do but was talked in to pursuit, has led me to further explore knot tying. Of course my brain didn't stop there and I had to wonder what could we make cordage from in our area in a survival situation? Because face it, you can't do much of anything without rope. That is why survivalist replace shoelaces with parachute cord and tie parachute cord on to about everything in their survival gear.

I know squirrel moment here but have you seen those cool bracelets made of paracord with fishing line, weights, and hooks attached? Our son took it one step further and included a ferro rod as a latch. I've got to try that. And don't believe that drilling a hole through a ferro rod creates lots of sparks. My husband did so yesterday with no such excitement. This fishing gear, fire starter bracelet, would make a great addition to our Bug Out Bags. Toni has named hers Bob and she and I  are thinking about making a paracord belt for to add to ours. Not that we'd go around with them but we'd attach them to our bags and put them on when we bugged out.
But going even more basic than buying cordage is making your own. I've had a taste of this since I was a kid. My brother, use to buy basic hemp material and con me into helping him make pigin strings, since it was less expensive than buying the already made ones. A pigin string is a short thinner rope that you tie three legs of a calf down with to keep him under control and on the ground.
 My brother and I spent a fair amount of time doing just that as we were assigned to treat pink eye and other diseases that occasionally roamed through the large herd of cattle my dad managed. In a herd of five hundred calves they aren't all called Bobby and come when called, standing dossily while you give shots and probe in their eyes. Nope, if they have pink eye, they are half blinded and kick out at the slightest movement making dodge a survival sport. When medicating a calf without someone to hold them still, the pigin string became a handy tool. Since we did this from grade school on up, we also had to be held down in a fashion and treated for pink eye too, as hygiene is not a huge priority when you are young. Yes, I know pink eye intimately on several levels.
But cordage has more uses than this, just look around you, especially if you are on a farm, ranch, or homestead. If we didn't have a handy dandy hardware store available then what? We'd have to gather cordage material from the wild and prepare it and for most of us, that is something new. So far I've found cattail (the narrow leaf variety), yucca plant, milk weed, and I'm looking at different types of tree bark for cordage material in our area. Everything else I've found mentioned so far doesn't grow here and truthfully, yucca and milk weed are up north a couple hours so they don't either. I told you, we are on the BARREN plains.

As far as nettles, I'm still researching. Do we have them or not? Not here where Kirk and I live of course but up north again. I'm kind of hoping so because I'm hearing what a wonderful plant, weed, and  pest it is depending on your take on it. But to the herbalist it has cordage, medicinal, and food value.  
 Though some say dried out and grey is the color you look for in cordage material, I'm going with Ray Mears and other sites that state summer to be the best foraging time to pick and dry the material especially after making cordage from dried out winter starved cattail leaves. Then again maybe that doesn't hold true for all materials for another site said Milk Weed is best picked after the leaves fall. How is one to know? What works great in one area of the country may not hold true in another. Winter here means not a speck of green but in Kentucky there is lots of green in comparison, so I figure doing is the only true way of knowing.

Expecially since survialist avoid the open plains to do their shows. Seriously, Ray Mears came to Wyoming and showed walking across the grasslands followed by a horse and then did his show in the forrest. I'm not the only frustrated plains dweller for my husband follows Camping Survival on Facebook and they mentioned the same thing, calling for information on survival tactics on the plains. Frustration was the only response I saw.

I'm learning that preparing means not only reading and gathering but doing for especially on the plains there isn't much to guide us along the way. Hence, this summer we are going to try cattail roots and make cordage once more when the leaves are green and dried, to see what difference that makes. Then once more in the fall since we've already done winter. We will expand to Milk Weed and Yucca plants too when we can make the trip up north to gather them. We do hope to move to another area of Wyoming sometime to up our survival possibilities.
I'll admit I have a decided advantage to making cordage being a spinner because isn't spinning fibers into yarn simply making cordage? Softer yes, but none the less cord. I've use a broad spectrum of materials from a beef steers fluffy spring wooly cast offs to our Norwegian Forest cat's fur. Of course I've spun cotton, raimee, flax, mohair, quivet, a variety of wools ( Merino being my favorite) and even camel down and alpaca which send me into a state of bliss. Each requires minor adjustments in the way you handle them such as angora rabbit fur which I found wants to fly everywhere including up your nose but basically the method is the same no matter what material you use.
 So a cattail leaf is no different. It has a long fiber making that part easy but in its winter stage, it is very brittle despite a brief soaking in warm water. I did find ripping the leaf in half lengthwise to make the task simplier. Also pinching the leaf in half lenthwise gives it more supple. The narrower strands of braid I figure can then be further braided with other such strands to form a stronger rope. 

I'm not going into details on just how to braid cattails since there are scads of U-Tube videos on the subject. There just weren't many on how to splice in a new leaf to keep going but that too wasn't much different than what I do making yarn on the spinning wheel. Could I make this cattail cordage on the spinning wheel, not sure, I doubt it. I don't think it will at any stage have the suppleness required.
My biggest issue with this experiment was the breakage.
This is the whole cattail leaf made into cordage on the top and the bottom is the split cattail leaf. I see I should have twisted it a bit tighter. Remember that when you twist sharply away from you, the material unwinds a little to twist back on itself. There simply isn't a substitute for practice. The Cub Scouts and I did learn that this task is much easier to do with two people versus one.

There is another method of making cordage. I'd guess it would make the cordage last longer as you remove the cellulose from the plant which leaves strings. This I'm sure would lend itself to the spinning wheel. From what I can see and read, the method is basically the same as the process of turning flax into linen. This soaking, beating, and stripping is also on many U-tubes and will be what I'm wanting to try with Milk Weed and Yucca plants.

Tree bark cordage is also made in this fashion and we have a nice willow tree out back so this summer that is also on the list. Ray Mears on one of his shows makes a weak lye solution of hardwood ashes for soaking tree bark that was first lightly beaten. This would speed up the separation of the cellulose from the stringy inner material for he does this whole process in a few hours. Other instructors simply soak the materials until it smells rotten, which is a few days. If time constraits are part of the survival bargain, I can see one method being more helpful than the other. Which produces a better product, don't know.

Also does the renting process make a cordage that lasts much longer than simply using the whole leaf? I can't help but think yes, or why wouldn't they use the whole flax stem instead of renting it to make linen. This refining process I think would make a smoother and more flexible product also.

One critical need for cordage in a survival situation is for a bowdrill to start a fire. Our son has been using paracord for learning this technique. Would natural cordage make a difference? I know cattail cordage is not suitable for this but milk weed cordage is said to do well. And if we are thinking survivalist, then we have to think bow strings too. Hm.... my brain is a whirling now.

One of my problems in researching this subject is that most of the cordage information is from survivalist, not long term self-sufficiency-ists.  Okay, there isn't such a word but you get the gist. I'm looking into long term solutions. I can't help it, my brain goes there. I don't have a I've survived for 72-hours so someone has to bale me out now or I'll die attitude. I know this is the bag the government recomends and I agree people should have one because that is about as far as most people are willing to go without a hand out. But I'm not too confident in the government baling me out right now. It can't bale itself out. So I'm thinking more on the line of a survival bug out bag. or sticking tight and making do.

Now of course you can't talk about cordage and not mention rawhide and leather which lasts even longer than cordage made from plant fibers.  Besides, I love the look and smell of leather. And rawhide, well it is just classy. I admit, these two materials are calling to me, "Try me, try me!" but first I'm going to work with paracord to learn some basic braids. Then I can use that knowledge to do natural materials whether they be plant, leather or rawhide.

A little research info -- a plant fiber string, in most cases, would have to be twice the diameter of the sinew string to be of the same strength.

Now for that Internet site I mentioned in the beginning and an excerpt from it. Did this last draft have a website mentioned? Oh well, here is one.
"The stem sections of many different plants hold useful cordage fibers. Plants such as nettle, dogbane, velvet leaf, milkweed, prairie flax, thistle, and fireweed are valued for their quality fibers. I have processed many hundreds of feet of stinging nettle, dogbane, and milkweed cordage. These stems are hollow or have a pith core. They are collected in the fall after the last leaves have fallen off, usually after the first frost. The stems are left to dry in a warm place and then they are checked for brittleness. I then split them lengthwise, usually into four sections. These sections are easier to work with. Each section is carefully snapped every few inches, beginning at the bottom. As I snap each small section, I carefully peel the fiber bearing bark loose. Hopefully, I'll end up with a section of bark the full length of the stem. Short sections of bark are still useful as the fibers can be spliced onto longer sections of cordage. As I twist the sections into cordage, the dry brittle bark falls off leaving nice silky fiber. Sometimes the cord has to be twisted back and forth several times to loosen stubborn bark fragments. Some folks use a knife to scrape the bark off the stem before sectioning it but I prefer to just let it fall off while twisting. If you're not careful, you can scrape too deep and ruin the fiber."

I hope this spurs you to make a little cordage of your own. Remember, reading about a subject is great but if you really want an understanding of  it -- you have to do it. So stay tuned, this subject isn't finished. I'm not only seeing cordage in a survival sense but wouldn't a bracelet of milkweed be interesting. Of course a braided rawhide or leather one with mammoth ivory pendent would be divine. My daughters would love it for a Christmas present. Oh my, a thought just struck me.  What about our yaks long hair? I love horsehair braiding. A yak hair bracelet, now that would be cool!!

 Hm... the possibilities are limited only by the mind's imagination and mine is overly busy.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pretty is as Pretty Tastes

 A light and fluffy post today as I'm still doing research, photographing, and writing several more serious posts that you aren't going to want to miss. This is a German pancake that I made up for the grand kids last weekend. They are quite impressive looking. I did mine in individual ramekin containers and that works better than one big round cake tin. These are a puff pancake that is really more of a souffle because there is very little flour and lots of egg.

They rise up  big and this warrants lots of trips by the kids to peek through the glass on the oven door to watch. Then they fall when taken out of the oven. This forms a nice little well to put fresh or cooked fruit inside.  I made a pie like filling out of apples and blackberries. A dollop of ice cream on top since I didn't have any whipped cream and the kids had a big smile on their faces.

At first anyway and then some picked through eating their favorite parts. One bite and  I remembered the last time I served these was when our children were young and why I don't continue. It isn't that they taste bad, they just don't somehow come together right with all the flavors. They look impressive but think omelet with sweet fruit on top. A lemon crepe with fruit and whip cream is so... much better.  I've been doing a lot of that lately. Remembering after I try something. The wheat thing  I will be discussing lately being one of them. The fact is if you don't keep doing something you forget.  Well I do anyway.

But though these weren't a huge success, the Dogs In A Bog were. Sorry, like a dummy I forgot to photograph them. They looked pretty cool too. I made an easy, healthier home rendition of corn dogs. I've heard something like this is all over Pinterest but I haven't seen it.

For those of you not familiar, a corn dog is a hot dog or frankfurter on a stick covered in cornmeal dough and deep fat fried. Instead, I took my favorite healthy corn bread recipe with butter, eggs, milk and fresh ground Painted Mountain corn and put it into large muffin tins. Then I cut hot dogs in half and poked two halves in the muffin tin with a little of their tips sticking out. Keep in mind how much your cornbread will rise so the dogs will just peek out about a quarter of an inch when baked. You don't want your dogs  dried up and crusty from cooking in the oven too long.  Then I baked those while I made a nice green salad.

The grand kids went nuts over what I called Dogs In A Bog. The corn bread was delicious. The hot dogs went well with the cornbread. I was thrilled because though the kids love hot dogs, I'm not a fan of them. Yes, the nutrition police in me raises its ugly head.  But one hot dog now and then is permissable. It is like eating candy or cake. In moderation the body will survive. The kids loved the cornbread and ate lots of salad and didn't want more than one so only one hot dog was eaten a peice. Too top it all of  this creation was fast and pleasing to eyes. That left more time for games and puzzles and simply enjoying the grand kids.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Sourdough Killer

Because it is Valentine's Day, I want to take a moment to thank you for your friendship and support of this blog. I value each of you and especially appreciate your comments. They buoy me up and spur me on to new discoveries. I even love being corrected, most recently, thanks Linda. I need kept in line for I love truth and knowlege. The journey to discovery is always nicer when accompanied by friends. Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!!
See this? Well I pretty much tortured it to death. Think I'm kidding, well I'm not. I used this sourdough start that began as a cabbage leaf to see just how much abuse sourdough could take and keep on ticking. Believe me, it isn't like the Timex watches of my youth that went through the washing machine and were banged up until you could barely discern the time through the battered face but still worked.

Nope, sourdough starts have finite rules and deter too far off the beaten path and they die. Mine wasn't quite dead but it was croaking when I threw it out. Could I have resuscitated it? Sure, but it had a major problem that I rediscovered about red wheat. And I have an old old start in the fridge that I need to test and see if it is still alive. No big loss since I've discovered I have the power to create a start and loosing one isn't the end of the world. Besides, I can't handle multiple starts at once. I have far too many irons in the fire as they say. That is why I'm presently working on six blog posts of different subjects in the same week.  Talk about ADHD and Autism. Stopping this run away brain is like stopping a freight train.

A cranky freight train because I'm feeling a bit out of sorts having dealt with sick grand kids for the past week and without one of my thyroid medications since I ordered late and the pharmacy is a bit slower than usual getting all the other hormone mixtures made up for me. I mean made up become I have custom compounds for a complex malfunctioning body. Add to that I'm still fighting the asthma and sinuses despite enough medicine to have killed a horse. Since my rule is, pretend to be nice even if you don't feel it because others don't deserve to be miserable just because you are, so I've decided to torture my sourdough start instead. I wanted to see just what it does when I don't treat it nice. See, I have a mean streak in me.

I've just never truly grown up. I'm still that "How come? What for? Why?" child. When I was little and cranky, I bet I probably kicked someone just to see how they'd react. Not because they had done anything wrong. My mother never knew what to do with me, she still doesn't.

 So I used water out of the tap, I used cold water out of the tap. I used cold flour out of the refrigerator. All these things I discovered make a sourdough start unhappy. Water should at least be filtered to remove chlorine and cold sets it to shivering, not bubbling happily. Did I feel bad about my misbehavior, NO! And most torturous of all, I started the dehydrator with more potatoes and sweet potatoes for flour and the start was sitting up against it in glass of course because you use glass or crock for a container and the thing pretty much died from heat exhaustion. It definitely grew hairy things anyway which totally fascinated me further and I wondered just what these beautiful and delicate creatures were.

So you kinder and more gentle folk, temperature is a biggy. Had my nursing instincts not already been used all up on the grand kids,  I could have taken some start from the middle, since it wasn't growing any pink or orange mold, and nursed it back to health. But I didn't want to. See I am cranky. Because in part there was that wheat problem I eluded to in the beginning.
But before I overheated the sourdough start, but after part of the torture campaign, I made a batch of buckwheat pancakes with it figuring I had to do at least something besides grow the stuff.
I ground the buckwheat seeds into flour, (buckwheat is not wheat, it is not even related but it is gluten free.) and mixed in the sourdough start along with brown sugar, oil, an egg, and a half a teaspoon of baking powder. Remember my start wasn't too lively at this point. The recipe I glanced at and got a basic drift from before throwing mine together called for 1 1/2 teaspoons of soda and a 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder so all in all I was still using little leavening because of the start. Something to keep in mind since even if you need some baking powder or baking soda to give your sourdough a lift, you are still minimized the amount of leavening you have to use making your survival storage supplies of the items stretch.
I let the mixture set a bit and bubbles formed so I figured all was good. No more leavening needed.
Bubbles formed on the cooking pancakes so all appeared to be working well. But there was a problem I had forgotten. Buckwheat is a dry grain. That is the reason you keep doing things so you don't forget. So all in all we had such a lovely breakfast, yum, yum. of pine needle tea, bacon, and buckwheat pancakes. Can you tell, I'm being sarcastic.

The texture  of the pancakes was a bit grainy and I really needed to have used home-made Meagan's buttermilk only Meagan is dry and not milking so no high fat buttermilk. Despite this, I needed something with high fat content so maybe sour cream would have done to soften the crumb of the pancakes and moisten them. Too late. Though next time when we have buckwheat, buckwheat will be an addition to another grain and I'll use a high fat pancake mixture. If anyone is a big buckwheat fan, this is when you pipe in with advice. 

On a survival note, I've grown buckwheat and the little patch I did taught me I need a big patch and learn how to dehull it. As for the wheat issue, I'm going to torture you and say stay tuned. Not for long though. But right now I've got a new bread making book I'm wanting to study closely. It is phenomenal so far answering many of the questions I've had for years. There are even Stud Muffins in it. Stud Muffins, and I thought that was just some kind of endearment someone made up. No, there is actually such a thing as Stud Muffins. 

But forget the Stud Muffin, this book is full of just my thing, science, science, science plus how toos on converting your recipes to create different flavors and textures are all in this dictionary size book. I'm already in love and I've had it one day. Must be love at first sight. The author even goes into sourdoughs so I've got so much more to try on the subject and share of course. But enough, I've got five more posts to work on. Have a wonderful Valentines Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pine Needle Tea

Dear Friend,
You sent me off on another adventure. I just had to look up pine needles as a start for sourdough. What I found was a far different story. Yes, I saw a tiny elusive something about pine needles for a start but since pine needles are antiseptic, antibacterial, and some say antibiotic is that and wild yeast a good combination and will it really flourish? I concluded that with wild yeast so abundant on so many other things in nature, why choose pine needles?  

I did find out some pretty impressive things about pine needles though. They are extremely high in Vitamin C. Five times the amount of a lemon.  Plus it is high in Vitamin A. We know what C does but let me remind you about A. "The cells in our eyes that perceive light and color require vitamin A to function properly. In fact, one of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency is poor night vision, and if left untreated, vitamin A deficiency can lead to blindness. Vitamin A supports skin cells and the development of healthy bone tissue. Vitamin A is also a required nutrient for healthy immune system functioning. It protects and supports cell membranes to help fight infection and increases white blood cell activity." (eHow)

I strongly encourage you to read about pine needles and their medical properties. The site belong was well documented and informative.
Knowledge about pine needles and the whole plant is a good natural medicine to know about for basic survival. I'm going to do further study on the whole plant.

The best thing yet is pine trees are readily available and though we have natural grasslands with extremely few trees, lots of people cultivate pine trees in their yard. There are a few breaks and areas in the county where strains of them grow naturally. Can't remember which kinds. That is important because there are three kinds that you can't make tea from. They are toxic. Norfolk Island Pine which is in Australia so I figure we're safe so far up north. BUT, we do have Yew Pine which at first I thought we didn't because I don't remember any bush like pine trees with red berries on them but I have lived away from the mountains for quite some time. I found several articles on Pronghorn Antelope that had ingested the brush and died in our state. So much for wild animals eating what is good for them.

As for the Ponderosa Pine, I know we have lots of them and I'm familiar with the fact that cattle abort their calves when they eat the pine needles from this tree. I think there are two such trees growing up by our little grocery store. My husband piped up at this point of my research and commented. Why was the Ponderosa Ranch with Ben Cartright and his sons, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe a success? Okay, yes this is a television show from our childhood but a large cattle ranch and Ponderso Pines seems to be a contradiction.
With a Blue Spruce growing in our front yard, I figured it was time to try out this pine needle tea. I mean what was my excuse not to?  The big question in my mind was would the tea taste like pine needles? Not an appealing thought but hey, if I just took a sip, I could say I at least tried it. There was no rule I had to drink the whole cup.

We first popped up Ray Mears on U-Tube, our survival go to guy, and saw that in one of his winter scenes he did indeed do pine needle tea. So Kirk went out and cut a small tip off the tree and brought it in for me to be poked. There is a trick to this pine needle extraction deal. Smooth the needles in the direction they grow so as to get poked less. Hold one hand near the base of the needle and pluck with the other or a bit of the branch stem will come off with the needles. On this type of pine tree at least. This will leave a tiny bit of the needle left on the branch.

Then because Ray Mears chopped them up so did I. I've seen where they weren't also but I wondered if chopping released more of the goodies in the needles, like bruising does with herbs.

 I then put them in boiling water and steeped them for a period of time. Until the water was cooler and the color nice and pine needle green.
Then we took a brave sip. Yup, tastes like pine needles.  Should have used fewer needles, our was a bit strong but had I taken a lighter touch and mixed in a bit of lemon and honey we could acquire a taste for it. Of course lemons aren't something that grows around here so on a survival sense, they are out. I do really like the lemon and lime powder I made from the inside of lemons and limes that I dehydrated. Much better than the home-made lemon extract I did. I should have put a pinch in here.

We could mix this pine needle tea in combination with other herbs to mask it a bit also but I'm just going to put this tidbit of information in my survival notebook I'm putting together because not only would this tea make a good internal vitamin boost  and medicine but the antibacterial properties would make it a great wound wash.

Monday, February 11, 2013

King Aurther Cheese Hamburger Buns

I'm in a try something new mood can't you tell. Maybe it is because we haven't had the kids this week until Friday night and Saturday, and Sunday (LOL) but my mind has been a racing with ideas.  And though my energy level is low and getter lower by the minute, I'm still getting a fair amount done because I did not have to get drinks, fix snacks, and cleaning up after cute little munchkins most of the week. I adore them but the break has been refreshing. I'm not young like I once was. And to be truthful, most of the energy boost this week was from steroids to shrink the inflamation in my lungs. My how I can see where the athletes could get hooked on such things. I felt like super woman but now that they are lowering the dose each day my bed seems more and more alluring.

Friday the dosage was still pretty high and I decided to hurry and make King Arthur cheese hamburger buns. Cheese and onion sounded yummy with hamburgers. This recipe is a part of the stack of bread recipes to try. One of my big goals this year is becoming more profficient at bread making.

Here is the recipe. King Aurther Cheese Hamburger BunsFor you long time follower don't be shocked, I almost followed the recipe. I didn't measure the cheese, I just eyed it but most of the rest I followed. I used the larger amount of water since it is winter and Wyoming so is very dry.
As for onions, I finally got around to using the dried onion tops. (In my defense I had some other dried onions I wanted to use up first.) These were the onion seeds that I planted directly in my garden and they never made anything but small bulbs so I blanched part of the tops and dried them and just dried some without blanching. The blanched ones were not so nice looking after dried them so I chopped them in the blender and now I'm ready to experiment with them. It seems it always takes me forever to finish an experiment if it has more than one part to it. Most do.

Want to read about my onion or scallion as I called them read here.

I liked the dried onion tops and it is definitely a good way to use up more of the onion. As for this recipe, it is a keeper so give it a try and tell me what you think.
Our youngest grand daughter, now crawling and ten months old. She has been suffering with RSV virus.
That brings me to the strawberries dried that will go into grahmn crackers, stay tuned, the dough is made and in the fridge but it needs baked. Tomorrow will be filled with experiments. We took the four year old home Sunday night, the last of the four grand daughters who spent part of the weekend. The four year old insisting that she was sick, and she was coming down with the flu, and needed some Grandpa and Grandma nursing care. We wouldn't of gotten her home Sunday night without a lengthy protest but we pointed out that she would be home one day and back for two. 

Yup, when all four of the girls busted through the door Friday night and yelled, "We're home!!" that pretty much sums things up. Our house is their home.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Watlzing Matilda

Waltzing Matilda what a stir you created. I was struggling with my asthma after having that flu that settles in the chest. I was taking some medication but sleep was something I was not getting. In fact, last night was the first night in a week and a half that I didn't have to sleep straight up. Believe me if you haven't gotten to lay down in all that time, it is sure luxury. Anyway I had a steroid shot, a penicillin shot, a breathing treatment and more steroid pills, penicillin pills, and another type of inhaler. I went to the clinic first thing before chores Tuesday needing relief desperately. 

And since it is February, I'm going to the corrals a bit later in the morning when the temperatures are higher, the critters are stirring, and the water in the small 20 gallon containers will stay open for a while before freezing again. That meant in my weakened state I stared at a pig who looked like death warmed over. Just like I felt. Her flanks were sunk in to almost touching, She wouldn't drink despite having fresh water, she wouldn't eat, she had cramps big time that heaved in her sides and caused her to scrunch in pain.

I panicked, I was afraid I was going to loose her and called a friend to come and help me try and figure out what was going on. By the time she arrived Matilda had started to squeal, adding drama to the already tense situation. Was she impacted? My mind was racing. If so, how was I going to pour oil down her throat. A pig this size can do pretty much anything she wants especially in an open pen situation. That making an enema definitely out of the question.

This was not my Matilda that had for a week lived in her shed. I had to kneel and crawl inside to force her to stand to make sure she looked okay. Her shed has the front closed three-fourths for winter warmth. Inside this snug abode is a nice big pile of straw that she tunneled in to make a ravine just her body width. Going from a open shed with a dirt floor, she thinks she's come to the Taj Mahal. I even feed her a mixture each day of different grains and occasional scraps from the kitchen besides her feeder filled with corn. Plus, she gets all the alfalfa hay she can eat.  Indeed she is getting the first rate spa treatment. 
But despite this, here she was squealing, restlessly pacing the fence, sucked in and cramping. Then it dawned on my friend. "I wonder if she is in heat." Yup, sure enough, I stepped up to her, scratched her loins and she nearly purred with contentment. I slipped behind her and pushed against her back end. She locked up her hind quarters just like a sow does when she's in heat or estrus. We figure she had an extra strong cycle having had piglets not too many weeks before.

 We're hoping she was having an extra strong cycle because I've had several neighbors asking me what was wrong with our pig. I guess she squealed and squealed and squealed for hours. That's going to make us popular if that continues each month until she is sausage. NOT!

 Talking about cycling, well, these girls aren't any more but I'm a bit concerned, the doe in the center here isn't due until later in May and she is a coming yearling. That's February, March, April, and then most of May. How big will this belly get. She is even lopsided already some days with the uneven distribution of babies.

Daisy here is a very big girl for her age, as she is a few weeks older than this small doe next to her who I believe is also pregnant. She had better be. 

Look at Daisy on the far side next to Mercedes  who is six weeks younger and a good sized girl herself. Yes, Daisy is going to be a very big doe. One of her two triplet sisters is just across the way and much smaller.  But despite the fact she is so  large in stature, I'm still  concerned how big her tummy is already with months to go.

Kirk had a good point though, it is better if she has triplets than large twins. Ripp.... might be the result. I hate that. But breeding yearlings is what you do if you have a good feed program. The experts say that the increased hormones at this age really develops their dairy character. Besides you have a year less feed in them before they are producing milk and babies. I guarantee your does won't be smaller in size if fed right. People frequently comment about how big my girls are. No, I don't feed very much grain. Here they are getting a little whole oats so I can photograph.

For now, our buck, Touch, is rooming with the girls for warmth.  He's not hard to spot. He's the huge guy in the middle. The oldest doe being Meagan who is coming two. The otheres are all coming yearlings. It makes watering and feeding easier too. His shed is being taken up by Matilda. She will leave and he will move back. I don't want him in with the girls when they get large with pregnancy. But for now, he thinks he's pretty big stuff with so many girls even though part of the babies won't be his.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is anticipating spring and watching tummies trying to guess how many babies lurk inside. Some of you are probably already lambing and kidding. Without electricity, I prefer to wait until May. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sourdough Start Continues

First and foremost, I wish to tell Linda and Herdog that I am replying to you both in posts. Your comments spurred research that is just wa....y to fascinating and will cause further experiments to transpire.

For today I'm going to continue on the path of sourdough.
This site    is awesome and answered all the science questions I've had about sourdough until I thought of some more. 

First of all I think we need this as a basis for our discussion.
"Bread starter is a base for breads that include sourdough. It uses naturally occurring yeast as a leavening agent. Wild yeast are to be found everywhere. They float freely in the air, they live on the surface of grains, fruits and vegetables, in soil, even in living organisms. The yeast used for leavening bread are certain strains of Saccharomyces exigus, including some varieties of Candida. In sourdough, they coexist with Lactobacillus and Acetic acid bacteria. The bacteria, by producing lactic and acidic acids, sour the dough. Depending on which strand is more active, your sourdough may or may not have sour taste."

Did you catch that last line. Your sourdough may or may not be sour. Personally, I prefer the less tangy ones.

But I was further excited because this site answered some questions I've had for years and though I read sourdough cookbooks, they never covered the subject. I like history and particularly pioneer history that gives accounts of daily lives. The ones like Farmer Boy which is factitious but based on fact. It has always been more about the things they did in the story and not the personal relationships that spurred my interest to read that book over and over and over again. I'm Autistic, what do you expect? So I once read a historical account of a family that brought sourdough dried patties to America. It is hard to travel the ocean and carry a liquidy start. I could never find out exactly how these patties were made until this site. ..........Going to try this for sure.

 Another thing I learned from history is that Juniper berries were used by pioneers to make sourdough. I've found a small amount on this on the Internet but the one site I glance at didn't have a vigorous start. I'll try this one time because my neighbor has a tree and I pluck roses off their bush for jelly so I'm sure they'll let me pluck Juniper berries. Best of all they don't spray them.

I didn't know just how many things you could use to start a culture until my brain started thinking what has a white blush on it. Plums, grapes, cabbages, to name a few.  This site tells that grains, fruits, and vegetables all have some wild yeast. I'd suspect that some naturally have more. That explains why using freshly ground whole wheat was so successful. It has the wild yeast as part of the mixture.

This article also tells about things like milk, yogurt, beer, sugar, honey, and potatoes that can be added to boost the start and impart flavor. Another site said it was best to add these to the add on because it can eventually mess of your Mother, the beginning starter which you take parts of to make your bread product. You then take a part of this Mother and culture it with a choice of grains like rye, triticale, or spelt. To these additions you can mix in the dairy products, honey, potatoes etc.  I add my potato flour in earlier but so did a great many Sour Doughs, which is what they called miners in some areas because of their sourdough cooking.

Many of the Internet sites I saw fed their starts twice a day. I know from feeding my sourdough start that was given me that that is a bad idea. You need to let the stuff brew, do it's thing. I fed my start once a day with great success but if you aren't getting a good bubbly reaction, two to even four  days may be needed. You may add less flour and water mixture if things are a bit slow but I've never done less than every other day feedings. The temperature in which your start sits is very important. Warmer, things will brew faster, colder, things will slow down.

I've also seen on the Internet where you can create a start from pineapple juice and flour. Linda comment on my first post that hers is quite weak. From what I remember you are hoping a wild yeast in the air will light and bless you. Am I right? Correct me if not. I'd rather hedge my bets and use something with wild yeast on it. Who knows what all is floating around in my air. I do make frequent trips to the barnyard. Though I can see where different plants would have a difference in potency of wild yeast. One site said Juniper berries were weak but then again I don't know how many were used and if the person fed often enough or too often. If they used freshly ground grains or what.

Thinking that the original site I mentioned had answered all my long lost question another one popped to mind. What if the sourdough turns pink or orangish? I thought I saw a slight cast of orange on my sourdough start last night and panicked. Then again I didn't get around to feeding the start until late and the lowered light might have made difference along with using wheat instead of white flour. The cast was very light. It still sent me off on an Internet search. I found the answer, throw it out.

 If it has a grayish cast then this is called hooch and just stir it back in. This is the brownish/grey cast of my old sourdough start in the fridge. I'm assuming that hooch means alcohol since this liquid does have that smell. Sometimes I pour it off it my sourdough gets a bit more sour than I want.

 But seriously, look at the activity in this start. This is a picture from day four after adding potato flour. Be sure and read Mondays post on this projects to help explain the process. I then took the leaf out and skimmed half the dough into the garbage so I had room to add more wheat flour and water. Also, I had dipped this portion out of the start and added more flour before I found throw out  answer and it was a light cast so it might not of been there in the daylight. Also, the Internet said most of the time the good guys win and fight off the bad guys so we'll see what happens. This is just an experiment anyway. I plan on doing it all over again with organic vegetables next time. Though I have a fair amount of wheat that isn't organic.  So  the deal is I will see the color appears again. If so, that's okay, I learned a whole heaping bunch already and will start again with different water, non tap water, and with sterilized equipment too. Which is what I was suppose to do but you know how well I follow directions.
Just twelve hours later after I took the cabbage out and fed it again last night and this baby is raised big time. I think I've got one vigorous start despite my not following directions to the letter. As a note though, your water can have a large determining factor upon the start. Chlorine being a no, no with yeast. I began the thickening process last night as the originally I started out real runny to help the yeast get a foot hold. Now I will thicken once more tonight before embarking on making bread I decided because I can make a Biga and if it isn't vigorous enough on its own, I can add another bit of dough with store yeast to help raise the breads leavening power.

Heads up, I also found elsewhere that the quicky sourdough starts started from cultured yeast soon go sour  as in BAD sour. So I'd recommend not heading in that direction. Not sure what they do to make their yeast but I'll look it up one of these days. Today I'm going to learn to use a skid steer to clean my yak shed so my plate is rather full of adventures already. I also have got to tell you about my Waltzing Matilda and her episode that had all the neighbors talking but that's going to be Friday's post.

Back to sourdough. Metal is a no, no since sourdoughs react to it. I prefer glass or crock. Not plastic for me as I'm concerned that the acids in the sourdough will eat some of the plastic and that will be passed on to me. Plastic has fake hormones and I already moan from a problem with those. Worse yet, I'm afraid it will eventually mess up my start. Some demand organic all the way but I don't always have the option. We are in the toolies and ordering can hurt the pocket book. Like I said in the beginning, I know this cabbage wasn't organic but I just wanted to experiment. So far it has been most interesting. And maybe I don't necessarily expect my first attempt to be a huge success. I had definite questions about this one since I didn't follow the rules very well. Okay, barely at all. I often fail in my first attempt but then I'm in with the best of them like Edison, Einstein and the like. They had many learning experiences too before success was reached. In my defense, my knowledge which is base on experience is far greater when I adventure off the beaten path and sometimes fail.

So come on, play along with me. Start a culture and see what cultivates. We can learn from each other.

As for the pine needles, Herdog. I found some awesome information that I've go to try but no, it didn't relate to sourdough. I'm thinking that is not the way to go. I do have an experiment to try first so next week a post on pine needles is on its way, maybe two as I have a bit more research I want to do. Also, I have cattails on the freezer waiting to be braided. Never done it but making natural cordage is on my list of to do's. Then I hope to spur my son onto working further in this area.