Resistance Was Futile So I Skipped It

Blog Flour 1

I’ve had great River Whole Wheat Bread Flour and a Great River mixed grains flour on my wish list at Amazon for the better part of a year. Just think, whole wheat bread flour! Only making one loaf a week, my brain said another 50 pounds of flour for the bugs to get into was not justified. More barrels like I use now would take up way too much space. Sensible, but no fun.

 Two things tipped the balance. I hit the bottom of the barrel when scooping my current whole wheat flour AND a good-sized, compact, stackable and sealable food grade storage container went on sale half price. All my qualms were taken care of! (Hush about my compulsion to buy 50 lbs flour to make one loaf a week.)

blog june 066So, here I am at the cabin with my two grand sacks of flour and I will not open them. Duh? I left the nifty storage containers in town, a nearly three hour round trip to go fetch. That will teach me not to be in such a blasted rush to pack up and head to the cabin on Friday evenings. As if a lesson like that would diminish the siren call of home come Friday. Next week to get started on it will be soon enough.

Front Porch Light

Please do not flip the front porch light switch. The light will not come on. What happens is the breaker trips, and the freezer is on that circuit.

I could tape over the light switch. That would be the epitome of lazyness, as the cause of the short needs to be addressed. The cause screeches.

blog june 079I’m pretty sure the creature that lives over the front door is the cause. It is not a mouse or a bird. It drops black pellets and screeches, and sometime chitters away merrily. I have not seen it

Bat? There are many of them around and I love the little guys. We have almost no mosquitoes in the damp place and I thank them.

Rat? Don’t know. I’d rather it be a bat any day.

Meanwhile, I put a bunch of solar path lights around the porch. And I sweep away the droppings…unsightly right in front of the door.

Wheat Bread Plus

blog june 048My current kick is to toss a handful of dried blueberries or dried cranberries or even dried cherries into my mostly whole wheat bread,

along with some walnuts, pecans or some other tree nut. True or not, this bread with sorghum for sweetening seems much healthier that what you buy most places. Besides, I’m crazy about the flavor with smoked ham and aged Swiss or sharp cheddar on it.

My progression of bread was first getting a 25 pound sack of Great River organic whole wheat flour via Amazon. From making whole wheat loaves before, I knew they did not rise as much and seemed blog june 062drier. I searched for and found a large economy sized can of gluten from Honeyville, just what the whole wheat needs to rise better. That same company sells a dough conditioner. Taking a chance, I got that delivered to my town doorstep in that same box. I packed them straight to the cabin, eager to try them out.

What an amazing difference! My whole wheat (1/3 white flour) rises stupendously well and is so soft and moist. I experimented with a whole wheat Sally Lunn and some others, but my favorite is Challah – Jewish egg bread – in a loaf. They were coming out wonderfully, however I felt something was still missing.

I added oats and chopped black walnuts for a while. Okay. I added honey and sesame seeds a while. Pretty good. Then I bought a couple packets of Ocean Spray Craisins that were marked for clearance. Wow! I repeated that, adding some whole English walnuts. Oh boy! Now I get dried fruit by the pound, also via Amazon.

Handful ‘o nuts and handful ‘o berries! Whole wheat nirvana!

A Lament for Hopped Malt

I started a flirtation with fermentation as soon as my kitchen in the cabin became operational. I was, however, confined to yogurt (success), cheese (not worth the effort) and bread. When my alcoholic husband left, I felt free to try ale and mead.

I’ll save mead for another time (it’s better with age) and count off the merits of hopped malt.

Number One Merit: Quick and Easy

Clean equipment and sanitize it.

blog june 053Add one can of hopped malt to a 6 gallon sealable bucket.

Add about as much plain malt, liquid or dry.

Get a couple gallons of water very hot and add, stirring to disolve it all.

Top up to about 5 gallons with fresh, clear well water.

Stir in yeast.

Put the lid on the bucket. The lid needs a hole to plug in a bubbler vent to let the fermentation gases out in a sanitary manner.

Leave it to next week.

Pour it into a bucket with a spigot at the bottom, adding a little corn sugar for carbonation.

Bottle and cap.

Merit Two: It comes out consistently darned good!

Don’t drink too much at one time.

Notice no boiling, no array of esoteric ingredients, faster, fewer steps to mess up, no need for specialized tools.

Anybody says this is not brewing, I refute the notion with emotion. I say I don’t grind the flour but I still claim to make my own bread. I don’t milk the cow but I still make my own yogurt.

So now that I’ve gone on about how easy and generally great it is, why don’t we all go get some! Too bad, my usual supplier says the main manufacturers aren’t making this stuff anymore. It’s hard to find now, woe upon me. I did get an unsolicited email from a supplier I’d never heard of and they show they have most of what I had been getting for years. I’ll give them and try and hope I don’t receive cans close to expiring.

In Defense of the Bread Machine

A few years ago, central Kentucky experienced an extended drought. Before it ended, my 160 foot well got really low. I scrimped on water, packing water from work for bathing and flushing to get me past the crisis. I must live in town during the week. My dear brother ran the water freely while I was away and killed the well.

Note, he denies this. I had the well drilled to the silver sand, the best according to the driller. I found sand in the shower, in the sinks and a 3/4 inch layer of sand in the tank of the commode when I arrived that Friday night to no water at all. When I drained the water heaters, silver sand poured out. I found the breaker for the well on although I had left it off the previous Monday morning. Need I continue?

I give this preamble to explain why for many months I packed water and scrubbed clothes in the cabin kitchen sink. Hand washing, wringing, rinsing and wringing jeans has a Zen all its own. I finally got the well put back in order and am using the automatic washer once more, june 080

Kneading dough on a floury table is a time consuming chore if you depend on doing it blog june 068every week, regardless of how you feel. I equate the activity with wash, wring, rinse, wring blue jeans every week. Neither turns out as good as the mechanically-assisted version would have. I much preferring having mechanical help with both needed functions.

Have I not heard of Laundromats? I prefer to spend my free time at the cabin, not sitting for hours in a $10 a week weirdo hangout. I don’t buy bread either.

What Would You Do?

blog june 040I’m putting the electrodes to this old blog to attempt revivification – there’s a word for you. Here’s the premise: Creative folks like to do things their own way. Here, I’ll tell you how I tried to do something, how I attempted to solve a problem. Comment if you like or help if you can; I get stymied.

I only get to be home on the weekends, something about needing to work and my job is an hour and a half away. It made more sense, with calculations and references, to buy a cheap place up there to live in during the week. Fine, but that means I only get home late Fridays and need to leave early on Monday morning. Hence the need to maximize my chore time.

I write science fiction. To give me enough time for that, I need to be efficient. I also don’t make the big bucks, so whatever I do I need to be frugal about it. For example, I repurpose the plastic jugs fruit juice comes in to bottle my wine – it’s worked okay for years now. You might say I’d save more if I didn’t have any wine at all. My quality of life view includes both ales and wine. I’d have more time if I didn’t write, too. Don’t go there.

blog june 082There was a Hostess outlet on my way home from work in town for several years, so I bought the best 50 cent loaves they had. When Hostess went belly-up, I dug out my ancient bread machine and made some substandard items. Quality of life: What would I rather have? Buy pricey bread at the store every week or invest in my own means? I chose the latter and now make bread I love.Hovel 002

On the other hand, I lived in that house in town with no heat or cooling, no running water and no gas. The electricity in the 100+ years old place was scary and would not support even a small microwave. I cooked dinner for the week at the cabin and ate it at work, using the office microwave. Yes, the water in the toilet (I packed water from the cabin or work) would freeze every winter. I lived in austerity for eight years. When Ma needed to move in, I had the money saved to fix the place up. I had meant to do that anyway, eventually.

I have solved a ton of problems…whether in the best way or not may be disputed. Still, I’m not too proud to tell you folks about it anyway. Writing all of this out is therapeutic. And who knows, maybe I’ll get some good ideas back from my readers. That would nifty, by golly!

BB Blueberries

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I have bought more blueberry plants than I care to admit. I got six low bush beauties for this zone from Stark Brothers a few years ago and put then in perfect pH, good soil. They lived one season, all dying before bearing the next year. As these were planted around a flowerbed, I shelled out for six more from Stark but put them in large containers. No good, death followed. I purchased several four-foot tall high bush plants from a Tennessee greenhouse outfit, thinking a bigger size would be heartier. I put them in a completely different place, in the prepared ground. They died before the first frost and did not come back out in the spring. I contacted the Kentucky Blueberry Growers Association this year and bought ten supposedly perfectly suited bushes. I put them in containers so I could acclimatize then better. In three weeks they were shriveled sticks although I followed conditioning instructions to the letter.

A sane person would give up on them. I hate giving up. This lay on my stubborn mind as I went out to pick strawberries last Sunday. Sure, the strawberries are taking over creation. Weeding around them, I was astounded to see two of the original Stark bushes in pots I had abandoned as doomed had ripe berries.
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I had left those pots in the strawberry enclosure just in case, but held out no hope for them after so long. That area is a purgatory for failed roses, raspberries, grapes, a fig, altheas and blueberries, the last step before oblivion. There they are anyhow, spindly and sparse but alive. The fruit is not much larger than blue BBs. Gee whiz, I love the little guys, how could I not?

Does It Hold Water?

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Today I really ought to start a batch of porter. Hot near-summer days with no air conditioning are great for fermentation. I have my fermentation buckets clean and sanitized. All of the ingredients are at hand, rarin’ to go. I can almost taste the deep brown brew.

My well water is muddy green. It flowed crystal clear, better than anything from a plastic bottle, only a month ago. Then we had two bam-bam deluge rainstorms that flooded fields around for miles. My well head is situated high above that, however some of that fast flowing water washed into the well anyway.
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The well is only cased (PVC pipe) 40 feet down, the other 120 feet is just drilled. My theory is that that the saturated groundwater may have caused the drilled walls to erode inward at some level. I know the whole well did not collapse because I can still pull plenty of water from the submersible pump that remains at about 150 feet down.

After the first flood I ran copious amounts of the muddy water out to flush the well. It began clearing. The second storm flooded quickly with the ground so saturated. I tried flushing again, getting much more mud out. Now the water is a little muddy with a green tint.

I know how to use bleach to shock the well, killing the green, I simply hate resorting to that. Any other ideas? Does my cause theory hold water?

Little Ita Whams Solomon Islands, then Australia

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As cyclones (southern hemisphere hurricanes) go Ita packed strong winds into a tiny package.  Cyclone Ita drowned the Solomon Islanders, then zeroed in on Cooktown in Queensland and blew trees and roofs around before heading south for the city of Cairns. Haiyan (super-powerful) recently smashed the Philippines, Sandy (super-sized) inundated New Jersey and New York last year and the Gulf Coast including New Orleans hasn’t recovered from Katrina yet. Some data says we’re getting stronger storms because of climate change while other data implies that there is too much natural variation to confirm one way or another. Weather Underground has a great discussion on the question.

In Neighbors, the fourth of my Elise t’Hoot science fiction books, I had the north Atlantic coast of South America hit by two Ita-sized hurricanes in a row, destroying all the families there possessed. They became refugees and were exiled along with lots of other ‘excess’ people. It may be hard for scientists to state for sure that any given hurricane or cyclone or typhoon is more vicious because of climate change, but when the sea level rises a few feet, these storms and their flooding storm surges will certainly get closer to more people. With the jet stream going loopy, these storms may romp outside their typical tracks. For example, three strong wintertime storms just pummeled England only a day or two apart, revealing World War 2 ordinance and 10,000 year old forest remains.

Folly Beach in November

Just Us
Just Us
Why would anybody vacation on Folly Beach, a barrier island off of Charleston, South Carolina, in mid-November? I just got back from two weeks there; three days were wet and rainy, no higher temperature than the 50s, with a chilling wind. The festive juice and snack stands were closed. The beach was empty but for bundled up dog walkers.

I went with my 82 year old mother who was born and raised on the barrier islands of John, James and Wadmalaw. She married a sailor who carried her far away to the bluegrass of Kentucky. I remember as a child frequently hearing her yearn for the smell of the marsh and the crash of the surf; she kept that Low Country accent and I learned of her childhood back in the alligator infested waterways.

Dad died at 46 and Mama immediately moved back to South Carolina with my two younger sisters – I came home for a short Navy leave and found the old house deserted and ransacked because she just abandoned it but left all of my things and no message.

She lived on Folly Beach as she was able on Dad’s Veterans benefits and low-paying jobs. As soon as I could, my new husband and I bought her a house on Folly. She had a job at Pete’s Grocery and raised hot peppers in the back yard. After Hurricane Hugo, I flew out from California and help her recover from three feet of water in the house and the ruined furniture and appliances. She had two Boogie Boards and used them often, and gathered oysters in season, too.

Years passed. When my sisters moved out, she moved to an elder-friendly apartment and got involved with the local Salvation Army church. She got a uniform and went bell ringing, the whole thing. She missed the surf, but James Island still felt like home.

One day my youngest sister, who now lived with her family in Pennsylvania, called me in to say they were moving Mama up with them, that her health was too poor for her to live alone any more. I began taking Mama on vacations, starting with the auld country of Scotland. We went to Hawaii, Australia, Holland and Florida in alternating years. This year I strongly felt Folly was the right destination.

We went when there were no crowds, when it was not too hot and muggy. Most days were beautifully sunny and in the 60s or 70s. Every day she would stop and get teary, saying, “I can’t believe I’m back on Folly.” We went to Magnolia Gardens where she’d fieldtripped as a schoolgirl. We went to the Charleston Tea Plantation, a place she’d always wanted to see. We visited family, we drove around for the scenery. We communed with the majestic Angel Oak. She ate fried oysters for supper four times and we remarked on the height of the tide in the marsh each time we drove to a restaurant. When we went to church she wore her uniform and many friends remembered her with hugs and cheer.

The place we rented supplied no beach chairs. The first day to the beach, we stood on the sand and eyed a large log of driftwood dubiously. Then a young woman got up from a beached Hobie Cat where she and another young man and woman were lounging. She smiled and invited Mama and me to have a seat on the boat. Mama was thrilled at their friendliness and generosity; we went back to that perch nearly every day for an hour or a few and she basked in the wonder of the waves and the pelicans and the intrepid surfers in their wetsuits.

Ma Kickin' Back
Ma Kickin’ Back

Seeing Mama happy every day was well worth the vagarities of the weather. She felt like a local again, not a tourist. There were no crowds and the restaurateurs and shopkeepers were glad to see us. Borrowed wheelchairs made her inability to walk far moot. Her friends let her know she would never be forgotten. We won’t forget our marvelous November trip to Folly Beach, the Edge of America.