Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fresh Baked Bread with Local Spelt Flour




Mmmm......who doesn't love fresh from-the-oven homemade bread?


In our quest to eat foods that are grown locally and that are healthier for us, I recently picked up some bags of Lindley Mills "Super Sprout" flour, which is their version of an organic spelt or whole wheat "sprouted" flour. Lindley Mills is a historic working mill in Alamance County, NC and is only about 15 minutes from our house! They sell all types of flours, grains, and other mixes and everything is 100% organic. Sprouted flour is supposed to be much healthier for you and easier to digest.



Their "Super Sprout" flour is the only thing they sell in a quantity less than a 25 pound bag and is supposed to have an amazing flavor- it can be used for any type of baking. Picked up straight from the mill, these 2 pound bags were only $3 each, and I bet had they been sold at a place like Whole Foods they would have been around $8 each or more because they are a specialty product.

I haven't been baking fresh bread nearly as much as I had hoped to in the past several months but I am hoping to start a new routine of weekly bread baking of some kind.  Perhaps one week it will be a sandwich bread, another week more of a crusty artisan bread, and another week maybe some dinner rolls. I like to keep things simple in my kitchen though and don't want to deal with too complicated of a recipe.



For this bread I followed a very simple recipe from the Bob's Red Mill website.  You can find it by clicking here.

Ingredients include:

5 1/2 cups of organic spelt flour (plus more for dusting)
2 cups hot water
1 tablespoon of active dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey




In a large mixing bowl place water and yeast, stirring to dissolve. Add butter, honey, sea salt and 1/2 package of the spelt flour. Mix until smooth and then gradually add additional spelt flour until thick enough to knead. Knead with remaining spelt flour (reserving about 2 TBSP flour to shape into loaves later) for 5-7 minutes. I did this part in my Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook. 

Let rise for about 1 hour, or until double in size. 
Shape into 2 loaves using reserved flour and place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let loaves rise another 45-60 minutes, until center reaches the top of the loaf pans. My loaf pans were pretty big and therefore my dough didn't quite rise tall enough, but it still turned out fine.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until bread is brown and crusty on top. Let cool completely before cutting or storing. 



I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with this bread- it wasn't at all dense like I thought it might be and had a great texture. It's flavor was wonderful- a perfect taste of whole wheat, yeast and not bitter at all like some wheat breads. I had a piece toasted with jam and butter this morning for breakfast :)

I think this spelt flour bread recipe is definitely a keeper- and I'm looking forward to doing more baking with my "Super Sprout" local flour!



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Blueberry Jam




I made some fresh blueberry jam over the weekend- it tastes like heaven on fresh biscuits, pancakes and toast. Our wonderful neighbors (who regularly watch our chickens for us while we are away) brought us back an entire flat of blueberries from Burgaw, North Carolina in Pender County, the home of the annual Blueberry Festival.



I was so excited to have a sea of fresh, plump, local blueberries to make jam with and enjoy in the weeks ahead!



This was my first time making blueberry jam- I followed a simple recipe below for a small batch:

4 pints ripe blueberries
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (bottled)

Wash and sterilize jars in a hot water bath. Heat and boil canning lids in a separate pot. 






Prepare jam by combining ingredients and bring to a boil, cooking for about 25 minutes or until mixture thickens and sets well. (when a spoonful is set into the freezer for a minute or two and when removed the jam doesn't slide off the spoon easily, it is ready). 



Fill hot jars with jam and wipe rims with a damp cloth, leaving about a 1/4 inch of headspace. Place hot lids and rims on jars. Lift jars into hot water bath and process for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water and check seals, drying off jars. Let cool and label jars. Makes 3 1/2 pint jars of jam. 






Jams are so much easier to make than canning other vegetables and a great way to use up extra fruit on hand.



We are enjoying the fresh jam on morning treats and look forward to enjoying it all year round.






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Monday, June 17, 2013

Smokehouses, Privies, and Corn Cribs: Historic Outbuildings on the Farmstead




I'm kind of obsessed with old outbuildings. I LOVE them and find so many uses for outbuildings on today's modern homestead or small farm.

likely and old dairy barn, Alamance County, NC

gabled barn, Pamlico County, NC 


either a privy or smokehouse, Franklin County, NC

A couple hundred years ago and earlier outbuildings were essential to the farmer-- a profession in which the majority of Americans participated. A farm was not complete without a handful of dependencies including structures such as:

- detached kitchen
- privy (or outhouse, sometimes called a "necessary")
- smokehouse
-spring house or dairy
- corn crib
- livestock barn
- chicken house
- tobacco barn
- storage sheds for hay or grain storage
- pack houses
- dairy barn
- horse barn or carriage house
- greenhouse
- well house
- canning shed

small cottage possibly used for overseerer of farm or servants cottage, Pamlico County, NC

former smokehouse, Yancey County, NC

spring house, Yancey County, NC

most likely a former dairy barn, Iredell County, NC

Most farms didn't necessarily contain all these outbuildings, but at least a handful of them were needed. Even older urban homes sometimes contained a privy, detached kitchen (if in the South), and a carriage house.

farmstead with collection of surviving outbuildings, Duplin County, NC

The placement of outbuildings either behind or to the side of the main residence or farmhouse often followed a pattern depending on geographical region or type and purpose of the farm. Several architectural historians have looked at this in their research and one of my favorite books on the subject is John Michael Vlach's Back of the Big House.

Livestock barn, log construction double crib, Hoke County, NC 

Most outbuildings were constructed with wood as the primary material but there are many also constructed of stone, brick, stucco or other hardy materials. More recently farm outbuildings have been commonly built with concrete or metal. I still think outbuildings are incredibly versatile today for the modern homesteader. First of all, we can never have enough storage, and many older outbuildings can even function in their original purposes. Minor updates and careful repairs may be all that are needed to stabilize and preserve historic outbuildings.

I know wherever our family ends up buying a permanent home I hope the property comes with a variety of old outbuildings- I can find uses for all of them!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Planning for the Nursery




WHAT?!?! you might say? Planning the Nursery?  Yes, if you missed my last post, it's true: we are overjoyed and so incredible blessed to be PREGNANT! Pregnant with twins!!! After over two years of TTC, with the miracle of modern fertility treatments we were able to achieve our dream of pregnancy and look forward to welcoming new life into the world. God IS faithful!

16 weeks- not even halfway there and I feel big already!

If you are interested in the details of how we were able to get pregnant with male factor infertility, please feel free to email me and I will be happy to share our journey with you :)

Now, on to planning for the nursery. Lately I have been in a planning zone: planning and preparing for raising twins (!!), planning for safety and health of the babies, planning for good nutrition during my pregnancy, planning for how we are going to handle certain situations with two babies, whew! Of course, I have left some room in my racing brain for nursery planning. As you can imagine I've been dreaming about this room for quite some time, and I've always envisioned it as a light, bright space with soft neutral colors and a lot of white. Since we will not be finding out the sex of the babies until birth, I think my color scheme will work quite well for either gender. Below are some inspiration photos that I've pinned:









The room we intend to use is our front bedroom off the entryway, currently used as our home office (and sometimes as a catch-all storage room). This room has a second door that connects directly to our bedroom, so I think that will be perfect for being close to the babies.  The main issue is that we have a HUGE desk in this room that literally will not fit anywhere else (our guest room is already doubling as a music room). I'm thinking the desk with office materials and filing cabinet may just have to stay in the nursery for now, as the nursery is actually a rather large room.





Currently we already have a bookshelf, a few baskets, lamp, and an antique rocking chair in the nursery. We also recently purchased a jute rug from World Market. It measures a little bit bigger than a 6 x 9 and was priced at about $150. We chose jute because it's a natural fiber and made without synthetic chemicals and it has great durability. It's also surprisingly soft underfoot even for a jute rug and should hide dirt rather well from two active little ones. Here what the rug looks like:


I have the cribs picked out already (I've always wanted a classic Jenny Lind crib), but I'm still on the hunt for:

-an antique chest of drawers that can double as a changing table
- comfy armchair with ottoman (could be a glider too)
- roman shades or curtains in a soft white or sweet neutral print
- floor lamp
- vintage children's or baby books
- frames for black and white family photos


Another piece I'm going to try and fit into this room is a vintage baby/children's armoire that was mine when I was a baby and also used for my mom when she was a baby. It used to be in its natural wood state with lamb stenciling on it but was then painted for my room and painted again a few more times when my cousin used it for her kids. It's a great piece for hanging baby clothes and nice storage in the drawers along one side. Not sure how I will transform it yet, but I have a few ideas.....

I'm curious to know what suggestions you have for nursery planning? Anything you loved or didn't like about your nursery? Our babies will not be sleeping with us nor sleeping in a playpen or bassinet so they will definitely be spending quite a bit of time in their nursery!





Saturday, June 1, 2013

Blessings



Sometimes it's hard to notice the incredible blessings in our lives. I know I'm one to often focus on the negative, when I should be focusing on all the wonderful things I have to be grateful for. It's difficult for me sometimes to forget and look past my present pain towards the blessings that bring joy, and to know that in the pain God is working to grow our faith. For the past year I have suffered with chronic muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, jaw and intraoral muscles--specifically, TMJ. It is such a hard condition to treat and although I see a specialist for it and have tried many many treatments (and continue to undergo new ones), but the pain continues to eat away at me just about every day. TMJ is very much stress-related and started out that way for me, which is why it is SO important to be able to control the anxiety and stresses in our lives.

Today I am making the decision to focus on the many blessings I've been given, and on the beauty that is all around me that at times I fail to appreciate.

The blessing of another generation of baby chicks that will supply our family with fresh eggs/meat:



The blessing of freshly-grown food from our garden for nourishment:

recently harvested kale and collards (TONS more in the garden!)


onions from the garden

The blessing of an amazing husband who takes care of me when I'm not feeling my best and works on *most* of the big projects around our little homestead:



And finally, perhaps the biggest blessing of all:

After two very long years of TTC and over six years of marriage, we are finally pregnant......

ultrasound photo at 10 weeks
with twins. 



I am 15 weeks along now and already have a good sized baby bump! The babies will no longer fit on just one ultrasound photo- they have grown a lot! We are absolutely overjoyed and so incredibly thankful to have received the Lord's mercies.  He has heard our prayers and petitions and He IS faithful! We can't wait to welcome these precious babies into our hearts :)