Thursday, December 27, 2012

12.27.2012 Post-Christmas Bliss

I suppose we were due for a good snow here in Carroll County, last winter being quite mild.   As of yesterday morning and well into the wee hours of this morning, we were hit with a serious snow storm.   We had nearly 20 hours of off and on snow and freezing rain with a touch of high winds for good measure.   Mom and Papi headed into town early yesterday morning before the worst of it started – Mom to her job at the Park and Papi to see about purchasing a generator (lest we should be without power due to ice and high winds).   I called the Park at about 10:30AM to see if I could convince Mom to come home early and avoid getting stuck off-farm, but no convincing was necessary.   Papi was already there to get her, and she was just finishing up an email.   The two headed south at around quarter to eleven only to get stuck on Town Hill and then stuck at the Western Grill.   Being wise on all things road related, Papi decided not to try Route 9 in their little car.   Our loveable neighbor Mr. Bill came to the rescue in their four-wheel drive vehicle despite being VERY under the weather with flu.    I ran out to say thanks when he got them home at around noon-thirty, and I sent home our little Christmas gift for him and for Ms. Tracy, la Reina Madre of Tracylandia.  

Rural Ohio being what it is, we are all still huddled up here at the Shepherd’s Flock for the foreseeable future.   Jhan has already been out (in pajamas and boots, no less) to shovel the kitchen steps and walkway, and Papi has been out to check the wood burner and is now happily tootling around the farm on the tractor shoveling the drive.   In a while here I’ll have to head out to clear off the car and see if it starts.   If the roads are clear, we’ll head up to the Grill to retrieve the folks’ car.   That may have to wait until late morning, as we’re expecting Mr. Richardson to stop by and see about hooking up the generator.   Gotta love being on farm-time.  

On the To Do list for today: washing up some dishes and maybe some laundry, splitting the log of Apple wood that Tracy and Bill brought me, and getting started on some wooden spoons with my new Christmas gift set of gouges.   We’ve got plenty of bread, so I probably shouldn’t make any more just now.   This snow storm has made me glad that we regularly stock up on the basics, though, and with the generator to run the wood burner’s pump and the furnace blowers, there’s hardly any reason to leave when the roads are too slick.   And with that being said, it’s time to run – the electrician is here about the generator.   Bye for now!

11.25.2012 Bread day

Today has been sunny with a touch of wind here at Shepherd’s Flock Farm.   It’s one of those days that looks warm and inviting until you step outside and realize winter is just around the corner.   It’s a good thing we’re almost ready for the snow to start up in earnest.   Let’s see…what have we been up to around here…

On Black Friday I let my husband Jhan talk me into going to outlets down in Washington county PA for a shopping trip.   We didn’t find amazingly stupendifferous discounts at the outlets, but we did manage to buy some much needed apparel items including snow boots for Khalil.   Unfortunately I didn’t find any must-have Christmas gifts for any of the kids (our niece, nephews, and cousins).   Jhan is a champion shopper while I am more the type of person who gets hives at even the thought of heading to a mall.   Somehow I survived – ah, the things we do for love.  

Yesterday was spent in lazy recovery from the day o’shopping, so I’ve made up for it today with cleaning, baking bread, and some much-needed grading of papers.   Interim grades are due at the high school on Tuesday by 11PM, so I’ve gotta get cooking on that front.   Baking bread is not one of my fortes, but here is the basic bread in 5 minutes a day recipe I followed:

1.5 Tablespoons yeast

1.5 Tablespoons kosher salt

3 Cups warm water (100°F)

6.5 Cups of flour (3C all-purpose white flour and 3.5C whole-wheat flour in my case)

I took the yeast out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature.   I then mixed the yeast and salt into the 3 Cups of 100°F water in a large glass bowl.   To that I added the 6.5 cups of flour cup by cup.   I had to use a combination of flours on account of not having enough of either kind.   I’ve read that a combination of white and whole wheat yields somewhat yummier bread on account of pure whole wheat causing the bread to become too dense.  If you (the supposed reader) have tried it some other way, please let me know what advice you have to offer.   I mixed the flour and water mixture with a fork initially and then with my hands.   It’s a sticky mess by the time you’re done, but I think it’s worth getting your hands into the dough.   I then covered the bowl with a damp cotton towel and let it rise for 2.5 hours.   I dusted a wooden cutting board with cornmeal and then pulled the dough out of the bowl and smoothed it into a round on the cutting board.   I let it rest and rise a bit for 40 minutes.  

During the 40 minute rest/rise time, I preheated the oven to 450°F and placed a pizza stone in the oven to warm.   I also put hot water in a cast iron skillet into the oven underneath the pizza stone.   This provides steam in the oven while the bread is baking.   Apparently this helps develop a chewier crust on the bread.   When the dough was well-rested, as it were, I sprinkled more cornmeal onto the pizza stone and slid the loaf onto the stone for baking.   The recipe I have calls for about 30 minutes of baking.   Apparently in this oven I should have maybe let it go a few more minutes.   And the fruit of my labor – delicious, homebaked bread!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks be to God

It’s Thanksgiving Day again here at Shepherd’s Flock Farm, and I have to admit, I’ve got so very much to be thankful for this year.   I’ve been reading a lot of great online material from the Polyface Henhouse gals to some of the urban homesteading greats over at Root Simple, and I’m drinking in every word.   To be sure Shepherd’s Flock is squarely somewhere in the middle of these two self-reliance worlds, so I also enjoy Mother Earth News, a publication that has a bit of something for everyone.   As I sit here smelling succulently roasting turkey and freshly baked double chocolate layer cake, I can no longer resist the urge to sit down and dabble at writing something of my very own to share this wonderful place with the folks out in the blogosphere.   

When my folks purchased this piece of land some fifteen or so years ago, I have to admit I think we all thought that it would be a vibrant business just a few years into the experience.   For a time they had things really cooking, with pastured poultry and a large hand-tended vegetable garden.   Between the local farmers’ market and a co-op up in Canton, it seemed like the business was well on its way to being a complete success.   I was off on my own adventures in Delaware and then Massachusetts (with some time in Perú for spice), and the folks seemed to be happily living out their dream.   Despite appearances, smooth sailing was not to be had, with my Grams suffering through a battle with cancer and moving in to assisted living, weekly trips to the farmers’ market were quickly replaced with many, many trips (and tanks of gas) to visit with her or to talk with doctors at the hospital.   Grams is a fighter, and my Aunt Jobie was in many ways the hero of that tale, keeping finances and documentation in order and visiting Grams daily.   All the same being away from the farm still took its toll on my folks’ ability to keep things rolling here.

Grams is doing pretty darn well now and living in a facility closer to Aunt Jobie’s home, so on that front things have quieted down a bit.   My husband Jhan and I have decided to move to this area and raise our son Khalil in this rural, simple home, so together with my folks we’re embarking on a wondrous, strange, and new adventure in homesteading.   In many ways, this is why I think it so important now to reach out and connect with other folks who have a similar love and appreciation for living off the land while not entirely rejecting modern amenities.  

I find myself thankful that my folks, now in their sixties, are no longer alone on this land, that they can share in the simple joy of my son’s discovery of the world or laugh when he throws tantrums, that we can work as a family to open new spaces for growing veggies and tending flocks of broilers and laying hens and maybe even some goats, pigs, or cows, eventually.   I am thankful that we can sit down to an awesome, delicious meal together on an unseasonably warm November day and that we can drive just an hour away later this evening to share dessert with my brother, his wife and kids, and our extended family.   I am thankful that the greenhouse-hothouse is nearly finished save the plastic skin that will zip it up tight for the first flurries of winter and that the garlic is planted and the main garden is put to bed.   I am thankful that the Lord has blessed us all and brought us together, and right now I am thankful for this opportunity to share it with you, whoever you are out in the world reading this.   Hope you’ll stop back soon to check in on our progress, and I hope you’ll share your thoughts, triumphs, failures, and joys with us.   As we launch into yet another holiday season, may the Lord’s peace be with you and His grace bless and guide each of your footsteps.