Wednesday, August 14, 2013

State Fair and Experiments

The grand daughters, my daughter, and I attended state fair Monday morning to specifically watch the rabbit show so the girls could get an idea of what it was like. My daughter is hoping they will want take their rabbits in 4-H next year. As sights and smells enveloped us, the memories flowed for my daughter and I. When the kids were in junior high and high school we spent a week each year walking those grounds until our feet hurt so bad we thought we'd never walk again. Invariably it was always the hottest week of the year.

There were funny memories of moments when we became just plain silly trying to de-stress after a long day of competitions. But I think it was the sense of great accomplishment after hours and hours of work when ribbons were bestowed reaffirming that the hard work was all worth it that kept us coming back. It was the friendships our children forged that remain today that kept us coming back. It was a sense of being apart of something big with roots that go way back in time that kept us coming back. For this reason our daughter was hoping her children would catch the fair bug and want to do it too.

With funds not flush it was a choice of a small family vacation or state fair and each year the our kids chose state fair with out hesitation.  So with lambs, goats, beef, and lots of other projects in tow, we hit the road south come mid August.  Our state fair is like most others I'd suppose where in 4-H and FFA you have to qualify to represent your county. Luckily we live in a small state and a kid without a lot of money can work very hard, very hard and compete with those more affluent. We couldn't go out and pick a lamb to buy, too expensive. Each of the kids had a ewe and what that ewe produced is what they had to work with and bring to fair. The lessons the kids learned from that experience of raising their own money can't buy.

 As for steers, we looked for a bargain. A calf that had good conformation but looked kind of rough because it had just been weaned for example was just our kind of deal. Many couldn't see what it could become.

And it must of been a pretty wonderful experience, county and state fair because our daughter is hoping her children will catch the fair bug and she can be a fair mom back in the saddle so to speak. Just like I loved fair and wanted my kids to do it also. 

We spent just a few hours there this time and then it was off to the next town to shop for school clothes. Ever shopped with four small children and two of them with ADHD? Even the clerks eyes were wide as they saw my daughter and I divide and conquer shopping lists; and fluidly switch back and forth which children were in our care. To say we needed our running shoes is putting it mildly. It was a marathon but we weren't about to put ourselves through it more than once so we pushed to the finish line.

Then grandma here foolishly thought that the kids would all take a nap on the long drive home leaving us with peace and quiet. Nope, in the middle of nowhere the four year old began crossing her legs and fussing about how badly she had to go. She was looking right at me because Grandma here is pretty good at the arm potty chair stance along side of the road move. We've used it many a time at the corrals. Accompanying her frantic calls to pull over was the one year old crying because she had yet to get a nap that day and she was done in. In general we were all feeling a bit cranky by the time town came into sight. But we had been to fair and the kids were outfitted for school so it had been a good day.
I promised to reveal the results of a number of experiments I did last week. Some were huge successes and one a failure. But I've not given up on that one since I think it was a matter of equipment failure. The soap which will have its own post was a HUGE success. The butter was the one with the equipment failure. I didn't have time to use the hand crank butter churn and so I used the blender. Though I left it on forever and then re-chilled the cream and tried once more, it never made butter. Then yesterday I was looking at the blender and discovered that one of the blades was bent. That could definitely be the problem. With all the commotion I just haven't had time to redo the experiment.

I want to add to culturing cream the freezing of it at this stage and then making butter at my convenience. It is hard in my life to set aside a large span of time to do one thing. If something can be broken up, it much more likely to get done. I want to freeze the cultured cream and see if delaying making butter makes a difference. I often freeze plain cream and make butter later, why not cultured?

I did make up a loose recipe for bread that has been a huge success. I wanted a cross between sourdough and artisan bread. You know the simple artisan bread that has been all over the Internet, magazines, books, and the news. It has a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast, flour, water, salt, and a small amount of sugar. Every sourdough bread concoction I'd previously made left the texture American.  But I wanted a more European artisan style so I crossed a artisan bread recipe but added sourdough. The texture was a cross between artisan and American. It didn't have the holes that artisan bread has but yet it was chewier, larger crumbed than American. I think it is the perfect sandwich bread as it folds without ripping and really holds together. It rather reminds me of store bought bread in texture but the flavor is definitely artisan.

I put in a cup of water and a cup of sourdough start along with 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 Tablespoons of sugar and 2 cups of flour. When this is mixed up I slowly added enough flour to create a ragged dough. A bit sticky still but holds form nicely. The first time I made the bread I let the dough sit all day and then kneaded it and put it in a bread pan to raise while I did livestock chores and supper. Then I cooked it in a 400F oven. Kirk was in love with this.

The second time the sourdough was a bit runnier and I needed more flour than the first time and the flour I used was spelt. I'm now out of all the spelt I ground. I let the dough raise all day and then around four I folded it a few times and let it rise once more. When risen, I divided it into large rolls to raise on parchment paper. When raised, I heated a pizza stone in the oven on 400 then placed the rolls on it. Wasn't as happy with how they turned out as the bottoms were a little crisp for me. Next time I'll just use a cookie sheet. They did make good sandwich rolls for the smoked turkey we'd smoked last winter and froze. I heated the turkey breast the day before in the crock pot on low.  It was a nice addition to the potato/ sausage soup I made last night.

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