Thursday, January 31, 2013

French Bread

Winter has returned and we are being snowed in. That makes it a great day for baking bread.

I thought I would try out my French Bread Pan. I am using a recipe I found in my Kitchen Aid Recipe Book that I have used in the past and really liked.

French Bread

2 packages active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter or margarine (melted)

7 cups all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons cornmeal
1 egg white

1 Tablespoon cold water

Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl. Add salt, butter, and flour. Attach doe hook. Turn to speed 2 and mix 1 minute or until well blended. Knead on speed 2 about two minutes longer. Dough will be sticky.

Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top.
Cover, let rise in warm place about 1 hour, or until double in bulk.

Punch dough down and divide in half,. Roll each half into 12 by 15 inch rectangle. Roll dough tightly from longest side, tapering if desired.  Place loaves on greased baking sheets that have been dusted with cornmeal. Cover, let rise in warm place, about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

With sharp knife make 4 diagonal cuts on top of each loaf. Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven. Beat egg white and water together with fork. Brush each loaf with egg mixture. Return to oven and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer. Remove from baking sheets immediately and cool on wire racks.

My changes to the original recipe:

* I used French Bread Pan instead of baking sheet.  I typically use a Pizza Stone but wanted to try out the new pan.
* Omitted using cornmeal.
*I didn't add the egg white mixture on top.
* I used 3 cups whole wheat flour in place of some of the white flour.
* I  put a stainless bowl  on the bottom of the oven before I preheated it.  After I put the     bread in the oven I put a cup of hot tap water in  the preheated bowl to get some steam.

I was worried that I left it in a little too long but it was chewy on the outside and very soft on the inside, just the way we like it. The darker color comes from the wheat flour.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Spring Day in the Middle of Winter

I woke up to the sound of  thunder last night. At first I couldn't figure out what was making all the racket. Wasn't expecting it to be Thunder.

Today 56 and thundershowers. I cannot believe the rain we are getting. Flood Warnings for some areas. Thankfully we don't have to worry too much about that, unless you count our old basement which tends to leak if we get a lot of rain.

It is a muddy mess everywhere. When I fed grain I had a hard time keeping my boots on.

I can't even feed the ewes and does in the pen today, they would be up to their knees in mud.
I will have to move them behind the barn where there is an overhang so the feed can stay dry.
It doesn't look like it is going to let up any time soon.

It is suppose to stay Spring Like conditions tomorrow and  then back to 16 degrees  by Friday.

Crazy Weather. 

Old Weather Lore:

“An evening gray and a morning red
Will send the shepherd wet to bed.”

“When sheep gather in a huddle,
tomorrow we will have a puddle.”

“When pigs carry sticks,
The clouds will play tricks;
When they lie in the mud,
No fears of a flood.”

“If the rooster crows on going to bed,
You may rise with a watery head.”

Taken from:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Old Picture of our Old Farmhouse



noun, plural farm·hous·es [-hou-ziz]  
a house on a farm, especially the one used by the farmer and farmer's family.

 Mike  found a picture of our old farmhouse when it was a newer farmhouse, back in the day.
Wrap around porch, windmill and the original proud owners.
Definately not what it looked like when we bought it.
We wanted a homestead and loved the property, the house...not so much. We love old houses but this house had its country charm taken away and replaced with a more updated 70's looks.
Plaster replaced with Paneling and dropped ceilings.
Wood Floors replaced with Shag carpeting.
Wood siding replaced with Wide Vinyl.
Wrap around porch torn off and replaced with enclosed porch.
Tin Roof, left alone. About the only thing that was.
Don't get me wrong, I am sure in the 70's it was a beauty. I know the owners and they put a lot of time and money putting in all of those "modern" updates.
We have spent the last 15 years tearing out all of those updates and trying to bring it back to its original country charm with some of the more modern conveniences.
We still have a ways to go. We have spent the last 15 years working on the inside. I would love to get the outside back to what it originally looked like, especially the wrap around porch!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Goats are Not the Most Patient Creatures

I was pouring grain in the feed tubs. The animals were maaaing and baaaing ,impatiently waiting for me to open the gate.
When I turned around to open it I found Delilah half way through the gate, stuck. I guess she decided she had waited long enough. Thankfully she wasnt' too stuck and was able to get out on her own.

While I was out I decided to walk the fence line at least where we have a tree row to make sure nothing toppled on the fence with all of that wind we have  had.
Glad I did. I found one tree that had come down and was laying on the fence.
We really need to clean up the fence row. If we knew then what we know now we would have put the fence on the other side of the tree row and let the goats take care of  keeping it trimmed up. But with being newbies that wasn't thought of.  Now we have to clean up the fence rows to keep the brush and trees from growing in the electric fence. Someday maybe we will have it moved. It would be a lot easier to have the goats maintain it. They do a great job with that sort of thing.
One of their attributes that make up for the less desirable things that they sometimes do.

Look at all that brush the goats could be feasting on!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bread Making

I am teaching a mini class on breadmaking in February.  I need to dust off the  bread pans and get busy.  I have had request for "traditonal" bread, flat bread, and I wanted to have French Bread.

So for the next 3 weeks I will be in bread making mode. Time to pull out the recipes and get busy, the old stand-by's and ones that I have found and stashed away to put to use someday.

I have two new bread pans that I want to try out. A pan from Wiltons that is an Angel Cake Pan (a Long Loaf  Pan) that gives your bread a traditonal store bought look and is great for making sandwiches.
The other is a French Bread Pan that I have wanted for a long time. . I found them both at the local Kitchen Store.
You don't need special pans to make bread but it is fun to add variety.

The one I am using today is the Wilton pan. It came with a Whole Wheat Honey Bread recipe that I decided to try. 
Pretty basic recipe. Here is the original recipe. I added the changes I made after the original recipe.

4 1/2 Cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 packages quick rise yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water

1/4 cups honey
1/4 cup oil

4 cups whole wheat flour

Combine 3 cups flour, salt and yeast in large bowl.
Heat water,milk,oil and honey until hot to touch.
Slowly add water to the flour mixture. Occasionally scrape sides. Mix two minutes. Gradually add additonal flour.
Add enough flour to make stiff dough. (I add flour until the sides of bowl are clean)
Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth or elastic  or if using mixer use  bread hook and Knead 10 minutes.

Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover let rest 10 minutes
Roll dough to 18 by 10 inch rectangle. Roll up from long end to make loaf. Pinch seam and ends to seal. Place seamside down, in greased Long Loaf Pan. Cover, let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes or until done. Remove from pan; Cool on wire rack.

Changes I made:
*I used 3 cups water and added dry milk to dry ingredients.
*I buy Yeast in Bulk. It is WAY cheaper to buy it that way. So I used 2 Tablespoons.
*I used only 2 cups white flour and the rest was whole wheat.
*I usually place water in bowl with yeast, honey and oil and once the yeast activates I add the dry ingredients slowly. Kneading for 10 minutes.
*I let the bread rise for about 30 minutes before I made into loaf.
* I also added Wheat Gluten (3 tablespoons)

It makes a very big loaf.
You can also use the pan with frozen bread dough. You would add two loaves.

It was hard to get a good picture....But the loaf turned out great. I have never seen such a tall loaf.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Man's Best Friend

You can't attempt to leave the house without this guy right on your heels.

He feels it is necessary to be involved in the daily chores.  Not quite sure what he is thinking but if  I had to guess it would be that we could no way do all of this without him.
I am sure he feels quite indispensable.

I got a shot of him while I was feeding grain. Just standing there making sure that no one tries to pull a fast one.

He is quite the character and definately one of our chore buddies.

He no doubt fits the description of "Mans Best Friend"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Soups On

Whew, it is COLD. 3 degrees this morning and less than that with wind chill.

The girls just back in from checking on everyone outside.
Feeding extra hay trying to help them stay warm.

Thankfully, everyone is up and eating and seem to be doing okay.

We have two wood burners going today. Just when you think you have the draft problems fixed in your house you have a cold windy day come along and let you know otherwise.
Part of living in an old farmhouse, I guess.

One remedy for the cold, at least around here is homemade soup.

Soup of the Day: Beef and Black Bean Soup
I have not made it in a long while. One of the girls favorites. I like it because it is simple and easy to make.

1 pound ground beef
Onion (to taste..I use dehydrated onion)
2 Tablespoons Taco or Mexican Seasoning (season to taste, we like more)
3 cans Black Beans (rinsed and drained)
2 cans corn (drained)  or 1 frozen bag corn
2 Quarts Beef Broth (Canned OR I use water and beef bouillon)
1 jar chunky salsa

Cook beef until browned. Stir to crumble.
Add onion.
Stir in seasonings.
Add beans (you can mash one can)
Stir in Broth; Bring to a boil.
Add corn and salsa and simmer 5 minutes.
We serve with Tortilla Chips
Toppers could be sour cream, cilantro, chopped green onions.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Knit On

I have mentioned before, I am new to knitting.  But I find myself getting less frustrated and enjoying it more.

I FINALLY finished a scarf. I won't admit to how many attempts I have made to make a simple scarf. I also won't admit to how many mistakes I made while making the scarf, but I decided mistakes or not it was getting finished and that I was going to wear it. Goal complete!

I decided to try something else. I browsed online and decided to try washcloths. I found one that I liked at (very nice knitting website)

It was listed as a beginner project but after reading the pattern it did NOT look like a beginner project to me. Yarn Over? K2?  What the heck did that mean?
 But thankfully along with the pattern there was a video tutorial. I watched and thought maybe this is possible.

I started one last night and finished it the same night. I used it today! I like projects like that.
By no means is it perfect. There are mistakes but I was satisfied with the end results. I really enjoyed the project, so much that I went to the store and bought some more cotton yarn to make more.

My first official yarn stash....

I have wanted to knit for years. I finally feel like I am making sense of it and there is hope for me yet.
With some luck  I may be able to move up to advance beginner, someday.

I decided to post a picture of the two projects I finished this week. I was a little skeptical due to the fact that any knitter will be able to see all of  my mistakes. But then I thought of all of the knitters I have met and came to the conclusion that they would probably be happy to celebrate my small success with me. I also decided if I keep the picture small enough my mistakes might not be as noticable.

Off to knit some more washcloths!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chores, the Everyday Work Around a Farm

Photo taken by Alisha (oldest daughter)


[chawr, chohr]    
a small or odd job; routine task.
chores, the everyday work around a house or farm.
a hard or unpleasant task: Solving the problem was quite a chore.

1375–1425; late Middle English char, Old English cyrr, variant of cierr, cerr  
(taken from
Living on a Farm, chores are just part of everyday life.
Unlike household chores, which can be ignored or put off , and  I will  openly admit I sometimes do, farm chores have to be done.
The sheep and goats have to be taken care of.  If they think we have forgotten that,  they let us know.
They can get pretty noisy if they feel they are being neglected.
Minimum; Water Barrels need filled and feed needs put out. During that time you usually do a quick look over to make sure everyone is doing okay and nothing looks amiss.
I will  admit  that is all that gets done if the weather is bad or there is sickness in the house.
Maintenance mode is what I call it.  If we really did everything that needs to be done OR could be done we would never sleep.
Winter is not the most inviting time to do that extra work. We spend most of our winter in maintenance mode.
Keep wood stacked for the fire.
Feed and water Animals
Exercise the Dogs
I am glad that we have had the opportunity to move into the country and live our "homesteading dream" with our six girls.  We  bought a few sheep shortly after we moved out here and the girls have always been a part of raising them. Next came the goats which was Mike's idea. The girls loved the goats so they were added to the permanant resident list. It took me longer to warm up to them but eventually I came to appreciate all they have to offer.
We have had at different times, chickens ,ducks, steers, and rabbits.
I am glad that they have had farm chores and were able to take responsibility for the animals. They all had their favorites. I have one daughter who loved the sheep but the goats drove her crazy so she chose the sheep chores. My oldest loved the goats so had no problems with being their caretaker.  I know they might not have always appreciated doing their chores, especially in the winter months, but I do think that it helps build their character. They are wonderful girls (Yes, I am bragging a bit but isn't that what moms do best) and definately have a work ethic. They also have a lot of respect for life and living things.
We have never had to make up chores for them to do. They just create themselves when you live on a farm. I might be bias, but I think farm chores can be the most rewarding kind.  As a parent, I also appreciate that we  seldom  hear the words "I'm Bored".

Monday, January 14, 2013

Farm Catalogs and Wish List

The 2013 Farm Catalogs have started coming in the mail.
You can spend hours browsing through them making list. There is always the practical list of the things you really need and then there is the other list, you know the one of all the things you would love to have but don't necessarily need.

The Hoegger's catalog was especially fun to look through.
Wish List of Soap Making Supplies, Cheese Making supplies, New Milk Buckets, Cream Seperator, and the list could go on and on. Now to narrow the list down and order what we really need with a few wants thrown in there.

It looks like tomorrow will be a day to take inventory of what we have and what we will need to order to make sure we have the lambing and kidding supplies we will need come April.

I think January and February can be the hardest times of the year in Michigan in regards to the weather. You have short days and it is cold.
I think the catalogs come at the perfect time so you can dream of warmer, longer days with the excitement of new lambs and kids and the other things that come with Spring.

I am also  determined to make soap this year so I will be looking through and seeing what I need to make that a reality.

Who thought that getting a catalog in the mail could spark so much enthusiasm.
It must be January!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sweet Cornbread Muffin Mix

Tried a new cornbread mix today.  Loved it!

Started with Fresh Ground Corn.
I use my Kitchen Aid Grain Mill to crack the corn before I put it in my K-Tec Mill.

It is easier on the Mill using the cracked corn.

I always  grind up enough to keep some extra on hand.

Cornbread Mix

5 cups Cornmeal
2 1/2 cups Wheat flour
2 1/2 cups White flour

3 cups white sugar ( you can add more or less)
1 1/3 cup dehydrated butter
1/4 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup dehdrated egg

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 1/2 tsp. salt
Combine all the ingredients.
I use my Stand Mixer to mix it thoroughly.
Mix 3 cups mix and 1 cup water.
Spray pan or muffin tins.

Bake at 350 degrees.
20 minutes for muffins
30 minutes for 8 by 8 

I did mini muffins and used a new Nordic muffin tin I have been wanting to use.

They are sweeter than the Cornbread I usually make. The girls liked them a lot better.

I really like using mixes. Convenience food, homemade.
Cheaper than store bought and healthier too.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Will Miss the Snow While it is Away

Even as I write this the snow is melting and the temperatures are rising.
I am not complaining. I really dislike chores in the 0-20 degree range. We have spent many winters bundled up in layers, breaking up ice in the water barrels, hauling bales of hay out to the animals on a sled.

I just really wanted to get some pictures of the Christmas snow we were hoping for and were blessed to receive.
Looks like I am going to miss the opportunity. Life is busy around the Holidays and then we were visited by the awful flu that is going around.

Well I am not going to get too worried about it. It is Michigan, and the snow can return as quickly as it dissapears.

I did manage to get a few pictures before the snow completely dissapeared.

Our small Pear Orchard
One of our 100 year old Maple Trees

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Farm Goals

Yes, I have made some farm goals for 2013. I know, when you make New Years Resolutions it usually turns into a to do list for one week. But I need a to do list!

I have a notebook that I try to keep some goals in for the year. I can look at it and see where we have improved and where we have fallen short.

I was planning on ending the year with more ewes but with having all ram lambs and just the one ewe lamb , that did not happen.
With a dry summer and high hay prices we decided not to purchase any ewes or rams.
But I am happy that the flock/herd is going into 2013 looking really good.
The biggest dissapointment of the year was the pastures. I did not get the burdock under control like I had planned. So that goes to the number one spot on my LIST.
Still not sure how to tackle that challenge but it is one I am determined to work on this year.
Wool and burrs do not make a good combination. We have been lucky that the ewes  usually steer clear and we have not had many problems with their fleeces BUT they need to go. The pastures look much better without them.

Another big goal for this year is to have the wool proccesing equipment up and running so I will be able to take my raw fleeces this spring and turn them into rovings right here on the farm.
This has been something Mike has worked very hard on for many years.  We are hoping that we have some success with this endeavor in 2013. It has been long anticipated.

2012 brought some challenges and dissapointments but it also had its blessings. I am very grateful for the many wonderful blessings that I have in my life.
Living on our homestead is just one of them.

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