Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer!


Whoa summatime!  A quick post with some pictures to give a 'lil update on our lives.  The dog days of summer are here, which means we are at the peak of production on the farm and oh so busy.  Enjoy and I hope everyone is doing wonderfully and staying cool!

  
The magical farm at dusk
Our market stand at the Farmers' Market.  Foreground to background: summer squash, rainbow chard, salt-n-pepper cucumbers, amaranth, oyster mushrooms, kale, fava beans, mixed berry trio, mixed beet bunches, garlic scapes, grape leaves, broccoli, scarlet ono turnips, red onions, scallions, fennel bulbs, napa cabbage heads, sage, parsley and cut flowers.
Ada and I with one of our Jersey Black Giant chickens.  We've never had chickens that are as friendly and curious as these babies.  We love them (along with our other 30 laying hens and roosters!).

Amazing clouds at the farm.  Summer days are really here, and boy was it hot today!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On my mind

I've got our hoop house on my mind today!  Rhonda Jean of Down to Earth blog does a Friday photo feature every week where her readers can participate.  I'm happy to take part in this sharing between blogs...the blogging community of strong women is such a wonderful thing to be a part of!  I love reading Rhonda's blog, she's got non-stop great tips and insights for simple living.

About the picture...many of these greens and raab will be harvested next week for our first Farmers' Market of the year (and all time!).  It's somewhat sad to think about all these beauties leaving, but such is the great cycle, and to have them go to lovely families to help nourish them is probably one of the best things in the world. So here she be, in all her spring glory...next up...summer crops!
Love in a hoop house.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lilac wind

Busy Busy Busy.  The weather is warming, storms are on and off, and everything is becoming so very lush!  Ahhh...this is why I love Wisconsin.  There is nothing like summer here, the humming of cicadas, the lush greenery everywhere, the humidity that makes everything so sticky you just have to go for a swim.  I'm excited for summer!  We're getting there, too. The lilacs are in full bloom at our house.  Their scent fills our yard and home.  Lovely.
 This evening, we sat in the living room while bean and barley soup simmered on the stove, the cornbread finished baking and a thunderstorm rolled in.  It was a  busy day of cleaning the house, putting new brake shoes on Sean's truck, dividing perennials at our neighbors', watering the new trees and shrubs, tilling a new garden area and sowing native perennial wildflowers in it.  It felt so good to sit and watch Ada sing little songs, while Sean played guitar, and the thunder rolled in the background.  With birds chirping and the humid lilac scented breeze rolling through the living room, I noticed I was truly, deep down, content in that moment.  Truly.  This is a feeling I haven't had in some time, and I savored it silently...and am still savoring it.  I will go back this moment when I'm frazzled and feeling stressed.  These are the moments that make life great.

To update you since the last time I wrote, we've been busy busy on the farm and at our house.  Our new chicks, ducks and turkeys are doing wonderfully in the new barn on the farm.  We've got 25 cornish cross broilers, 25 freedom ranger broilers, 5 cayuga ducks, 2 rouen ducks, 2 naragansett turkeys and 30 laying hens (at our house).  We've planted a bunch of fruit trees and shrubs at our house and we are so very excited about them.  They add such a wonderful aspect to the yard, and I can't help but imagine what the yard will look like in 5 years, and then 10 years!  We planted 3 semi-dwarf apples, 2 standard peach trees, 2 dwarf pears, 2 nanking cherries, 2 hardy kiwi vines, 4 grape vines, 11 raspberry plants, 4 gooseberries, 3 highbush cranberries, 3 pussy willows and a mock orange.  Phew! That was a day to remember (because of my sore back!...kidding...kind of).  Everything is leafing out well now, and seems to be doing wonderfully!

A couple weeks ago we drove to a fellow permaculture guild member's house to harvest some willow, red osier dogwood and highbush cranberry rods in exchange for some mushroom plug spawn.  We will be making a living willow fence to fence in the food forest we've started planting, and mark the property boundary with a privacy "fedge".
Ada playing while we harvest willow rods.
 Willows are wonderful plants!  I'm excited to have them around to use as biomass for the compost pile and use their bark to make rope, their leaves to make rooting hormone, and maybe even their new shoots for baskets (though the kind we have aren't specifically for baskets...we'll see if they work, I've never tried it).  After cutting the rods and transporting them home in the pick-up we put them buckets of water.  They've been in the water for about 3 weeks now, and have sprouted long pink roots!  We'll dig a trench here soon (hopefully next weekend), and place them in the ground at particular angles to make our living fence.  I'll do a post on this to show you how it goes.  The highbush cranberry has rooted well, after dusting the cuttings with rooting hormone, sticking them in the ground and keeping the watered.  We'll see how the dogwood does!
Buckets of willow and red osier dogwood rods, rooting.
We've been preparing the back part of our property for our bioremediation project.  Roughly 25 years ago a previous owner had a small salvage yard on the back part of the property, and what is left behind is some old car parts, oil cans, random junk and other stuff stuck in the soil.  We're cleaning it out bit by bit, raking the soil smooth and then will be planting a phytoremediation seed mix next weekend onto the half we've gotten cleaned and prepped for planting.  The other half will have to be planted next year, I think, as there's still a ton of work to do and the season for planting is now.  The seed mix is pretty awesome, we got it from a company called Sunmark Seeds, and are using their E/C Phytoremediation mix to pick up any metals, solvents, or hydrocarbons that could be in the soil.  We don't want to take any chances.

Late next week we're having an environmental consultant come out to see what she thinks about our project and take some samples for testing. Fingers crossed they come back low or with nothing! Either way we'll still be planting the seed mix (it will make a good pasture for the chickens if the soil isn't contaminated).  If the tests come back with levels of nastiness, we'll be growing the seed mix out this year (and for the following 3 years), harvesting the plant material with our scythe, having it tested for contaminants, drying it out on a tarp and then inoculating it with oyster mushrooms.  After the mushrooms have eaten the dried plant material we will get both the mushroom fruit bodies and the left over organic material tested for contaminants.  Who knows, we may find a great method for "disposing" of phytoremediation plants (as they carry the contaminants within their plant bodies)!

Things on the farm have been bustling.  We've been adding compost to our raised beds, getting plants into the ground quickly, finishing up our Early Greens and Sprouts season (this is the last week!), and getting ready for our main season to start, along with our first ever booth at the Farmers' Market.  We've had a great early season, and it feels good to get positive feedback from the members and our friends who hold worker shares.
Last week's full share CSA box: Clockwise spiral from bottom left: green garlic, rhubarb, kale and red cabbage leaves, asparagus, herbie salad mix (lettuces, mustard greens, arugula, beet greens, borage, chard, pea shoots, cilantro, cress, parsley), bronze and green fennel stalks, cherry bell and pink beauty radishes, edible flowers (redbud, purple violets, johnny-jump-ups), and Love Me Legumes sprout mix in the center (mung bean, peanut, garbanzo bean, adzuki bean, 5 kinds of lentils, 3 kinds of peas).
With all the planting we're doing we are really loving our Hatfield Transplanter from Johnny's! It makes such quick work of transplanting.  With one of us using the Hatfield, and another following behind putting water in the holes and covering the roots thoroughly, we can whip through our planting in almost 1/3 the amount of time it would take us on hands and knees transplanting the old way.  What a great tool!
Liz and I using the Hatfiled Transplanter. 
Gabe took this lovely picture of our cabbage transplants! So beautiful!

Everything is getting big in the hoop house!  Liz watering.
Soon we'll be harvesting much of what's in the hoop house now for market, main season shares and restaurants to make way from some of our tomatoes and peppers that will be going in after them.  Ah the succession of things on the farm.  I can foresee tomatoes in the hoophouse, birds on pasture soon, and oyster mushrooms in the low tunnels!  Yes!  We will be doing our first straw inoculations this week.  I'll be sure to take some pictures for you all, so you can see what we're up to on the mushroom front.

Other than being totally busy and farm-crazy during the week, I'm grateful that we've been able to take some time for ourselves lately and really enjoy our little amazing family.  The lilac wind helps to stop me in my tracks and be thankful for these times we get when we're able to sit and admire each other, where we've been and where we are now.  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and here's to a wonderful summer that's on the way!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wild Greens and Colored Eggs

The sun finally came out today!  It's been windy, rainy, cold and a bit snowy here lately.  Sigh.  Winter is really hanging on.  I know many local farmers are feeling it, just as we are...radishes should be ready to harvest by now, but ours aren't even close.  Most folks at the Madison Farmers' Market only have greens (if that), and value-added goods.  It's so nice to be able to harvest wild greens and see flowers blooming in the woods around the farm and near our house, to help make up for the lack of harvest-ready veggies in the field.
Beginning our first harvest for the CSA, nettles and garlic mustard.  
Even with the weather we were able to arrange a nice variety of seasonal items in our first Early Greens and Sprouts box for the CSA.  We headed out in the morning, to the back of the property, to begin harvest day with nettles and garlic mustard. Laughing, and singing we filled our baskets while the ice rain pelted, the sky rumbled with thunder, and water dripped off our hoods in front of our faces while we worked.  I have to say it was a lot of fun.  We came back totally soaked, but very satisfied.
What you would find in the first Early Greens and Sprouts half share.  Clockwise spiral from left to right: daylily shoots, garlic mustard, sorrel, nettles, pea shoots, pansies (edible flowers for garnish), chives and mixed sprouts.
Last week was my first grain cook of the season, and I was excited to get my oyster mushroom and lion's mane grain masters running and ready for the subsequent inoculations to follow. One of these quart-jar grain masters will inoculate 10-12 half-gallon jars and each of those will further inoculate different outdoor growing substrates from there.  The cook went well, and I've got grain masters growing out nicely.  Though, I still have more species to make grain masters for. Here's a little sneak peek into the sterile culture lab my brother and I built.  It's a temporary set-up, until we build a permanent lab at the farm, but for now, it works wonderfully!

It's been a somewhat stressful week, so going out into the woods to look for ramps (wild leeks) and nettles, seemed like the perfect thing to do on Friday, after I was finished with work.  My sister and I headed out to the woods.  To the woods, I say!  It was soooo soooo good to be out in the woods and release my mind.  The air was sweet.  The light drizzle and slight fog reminded me of Washington.  Oh Washington, I miss you and all your lovely people and places.  My sister and I walked lightly, talking quietly about the plants we saw.  And then we started to find them...Ramps!
Allium tricoccum, the delicious wild leek.  Harvest with care.
We headed home with one bag of ramps leaves and nettles, and another of garlic mustard that we had pulled.  Garlic mustard, though very tasty, is one invasive weed.  We pulled as much as we could find, to keep it from spreading into this wild area.  And we'll eat some, too! ;)

We dyed easter eggs today, as well.  We made dyes out of beets (pink), yellow onion skins (orange), turmeric (yellow), wine (purple) and spinach (green).  The spinach didn't work. But, everything else came out nicely. I love the way the beet dye left white spots on the eggs as they dried, and the wine made the shells look kind of "crackled" and strange. Awesome.

The spinach didn't work one bit.  Maybe next year we'll try something else for green.  Anyone have any suggestions for a good green dye?

For yellow, I simmered 2 pints of water, 3 tablespoons turmeric, and 2 tablespoon vinegar for 15 minutes, let cool and soaked eggs in the dye for about 20 min. For the pink we used the liquid from some pickled beets we made last year, it worked wonderfully, and already had the vinegar in it, these didn't need to soak as long to pick up a good amount of pink color.  If you don't have pickled beets on hand, you can boil a couple large beets in 2 pints of water and a few tablespoons of vinegar. This is double whammy, because you get yummy beets for salad or what have you, after your dye is made. For purple, we added 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 1/2 pints red wine, though I'm not sure the vinegar is necessary. The eggs soaked in the wine for about 15 minutes.  For orange I boiled the skin of 4 yellow onions in 2 pints of water for 30 minutes, turned the heat off and let it steep and cool.  I strained the skins and poured into a mason jar.  The eggs needed to sit in the orange dye for about 15 minutes.

We'll be hiding these eggs for the egg hunt tomorrow at the farm along with yogurt raisin treats inside some eggs that my mom has saved since we were kids. I hope you all have a wonderful easter, if you celebrate it., and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Away We Went

We just returned on Sunday from a 5-day stint in Texas.  Waco, Texas, that is.  Sean and his family are from Texas, and it was time to see them again.  We hastily decided to make tickets, with the urging of Sean's parents, while we still had a very short window of time before our first early season shares began for the CSA.  With many of our early plants in the ground, the hoop house completed, and raised beds created in the field, we thought we could take a few days to visit family before our next chance to leave would come in October.  Until then, we'll be glued to farm...which is alright by me, I'm loving how this season has started (challenges and all).

It was especially important to us to visit Sean's Grandad, Thomas.  He is an amazing 97 years old, and is a wonderful man.  I love hearing Sean's stories about growing up in Texas, out at his Grandad and Granny's house, and spending time out at "The Place".  The Place is a 20 acre parcel where Sean's Grandad was born (the house has since been torn down), and where they raised cattle, a huge garden and a wonderful family.  Sean and his brother Daniel, along with the rest of their family, have many fond memories of The Place and their grandparents.  It's so wonderful to hear them reminisce and imagine being there as a child and teen.

Texas is a strange land to me.  Though, it was enchanting this last visit.  Patti, Sean's mom, talked about how we were lucky to be there for their 3 weeks of spring.  That's as long as it lasts.  After it's over it's hot, hot, hot.  This blows my mind, because it was already hot to me (low 80's) when we were there. Nonetheless, there were blue bonnets and paintbrushes blooming all around, and the corn was already up to my knees!  In April!!  


The saying goes, around here at least, corn should be "knee high by the fourth of July".  But, wooooo doagie!, that corn sure does have a good head start down in those parts.  I guess by the summer, it's dried out completely, so it makes sense that it's already so tall.  Still...I was amazed, being the Yankee that I am. I mean, our radishes are just leafing out under floating row covers back at our farm (it's been cold here in WI!), and this corn is going to be tasseling in no time!

Sean's brother, Daniel, Ada and I on a country road in the lone star state
It was refreshing to be around Sean's family.  Ada had a wonderful time with all of her cousins.  She became one of the gang and really got to horse around with the kids, which was so much fun to watch.  I'm so glad we have such a wonderful extended family down there!  Ada is really in love with her Uncle Daniel, and her Nana and Grandad.

After such a wonderful trip, it was still nice to return home.  I heard reports that it had been very cold while we were gone, and we got a taste of that upon arriving.  In fact, this morning when I went out the farm, it was a bitter 35 degrees, and the hoop house thermometer read 49 degrees F.  Brrrr!  The plants, are looking good, though, despite the cold weather.  And today is supposed to be the warmest day of the week! Eeeek.  I'm trying to coax the weather to warm up so the morels will start coming up! Ohhh morel season in the Midwest. I am so excited.

Once we arrived back at home, Sean and Ada promptly took naps.  I laid in bed for a while, but couldn't keep myself from doing yard work...it was so sunny outside!  I mulched some of our front gardens using chips we created from some of the overgrown arborvitae trees we took down around the house, along with other dead limbs and such.  The gardens that border the front part of our property was calling to be mulched.  In that long, curving bed between our front yard and the road we have 7 very large lilac bushes (calling them trees is probably more appropriate) with huge masses of day lilies coming up under them.  I spied what I thought was the pink nubs of peony protruding from the earth, and our neighbor Jenny came over and confirmed that it was.  She said she would divide and bring over a bunch of  perennials from her garden for me!  I love having sweet neighbors. I'm excited to fill in this huge garden bed area in the front with more perennials, now that my brother has thinned all the lilacs so there's actually room in the understory!  It looks so lovely.  Now, to finish mulching the other half of that area when I find some time. (I'll post some pictures soon!)

The nettles are coming up in our yard (I'm so happy we have a nettle patch!), and I keep checking the asparagus patch.  Still too cold.  But the daffodils and forsythias are blooming at the farm, and the lilacs and tulips have buds at our house. Tomorrow I'd like to get our family out in the woods and look for ramps, aka wild leeks, and harvest some nettles!  At the farm this week we'll be preparing more beds for planting, getting some low tunnels ready for mushrooms (though, with this weather, outdoor inoculations are still a ways off), transplanting lots of tomatoes and peppers in our new shed, getting our first boxes together for the CSA, and starting to get prepared for the birdie babies to arrive in a few weeks. 

My first grain inoculations will be happening this week, as well!  I'll be inoculating oyster mushrooms, shiitake, maitake, and lion's mane. Some of this grain spawn is destined for plug spawn (to inoculate hardwood logs), and some is destined for pasteurized straw for outdoor oyster mushroom production. I think I'll probably post a couple pictures soon from inside the sterile culture lab, to give you all a sneak peek. ;)

I'll be sure to also post some pictures from the farm and our forays when Sean and I get a chance to take a few this week! Much love to everyone, and I hope you all enjoy your week!
Cows across the street from our house, picture taken by Sean a couple months ago.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hours in the Day

There are just not enough hours in the day.  Though, sitting here this morning, I feel as though I've gotten my first real break in 7 days.  I stepped outside at 7:30 am this morning and was instantly hit with blast of humidity, warmth and the joyful chorus of birds.  Lush grass that seemed to grow before my eyes yesterday provided a luxurious carpet for my feet as I investigated our house's foundation outside, to find where the leak in our basement was coming from. Ah! I had left the hose on all night long and and the perpetual dripping from the spigot made it's way into our basement to form a small puddle.  Great news that it was caused by me, and not by the amazing warm weather that has officially thawed the ground around our house (finally!).
Sweet little twining peas
With this lovely weather lately (it's supposed to be a highly unusual 80 degrees today), life is springing forth outside.  We've been in a planting frenzy on the farm. We've set up our hoop house, and promptly proceeded to fill every square foot with greenery of all kinds; purple mizuna, mustards, salad mix blends, lettuces, peas, carrots, radishes, hon tsai tai, broccoli raab, nasturtiums, calendula, and much much more.  It was soooo nice to get our transplants into the warm hoop house.  After filling the nooks and crannies of the ground space, we decided we needed to take advantage of the vertical space.  Liz and I brainstormed, and remembered the growing tubes they used in the Solviva greenhouse.  This is one of my favorite books!
Hoop house! Planting and hanging the grow tubes
 We fashioned some tubes and hung them above the beds in the hoop house!  It was a great project, and I cannot wait until these tubes are overflowing with life.  In the summer we are going to grow vining plants (cucurbits, most likely), and trellis them up to the top rail with twine. They will act as a green "shade cloth" for the salad greens below.  Those salad greens just don't taste very good when they get hot feet, so hopefully this will help us to extend our salad mixes into the hot summer months while also gleaning a crop from our shade-providing plants above them. Stack those functions!
Gabe planting in the grow  tubes.

The hoop house received two passes of parachute cord to keep the plastic on in high winds, and a third pass of cord that attaches to emergency anchors in the ground (separate of the structure), to hold the hoop house during storms through windy tornado season. Fingers crossed we don't have a flying hoop house this season!

Love in a hoop house!
We've been creating rows upon rows of raised beds with our rotary plow.  Plow?! you say.  Yes, it's true.  We're using the rotary plow this spring to form all of our permanent raised beds on the additional acre that we're creating.  It is a bit more work to use the BCS rotary plow (pardon the cheesy music in this video), but we opted to use this tool because 1) Dad already had the machine for the attachment, and 2) making 3 passes over the land with the tractor made us all cringe, and we knew we'd be dealing with compaction issues later on.  Better to put the extra work in now, and never have to till again (we truly hope)! After each bed is created, we've been pulling out grass roots and clumps, creating more defined paths and raking smooth.  Then seedlings get popped into the ground, and mulched!  As the mulch layers are added, it will suppress weeds, which also reduces our need for cultivation, and makes happy plants and happy soil dwelling buddies.


 We also had a new shed and implement building constructed (pictures of the latter coming soon).  The smaller shed will be used a washing and packing area, seed starting area, and tool storage. The whole south side is windows, and we're setting up tables for flats.  Eventually there will be a permanent greenhouse built off the south (left) side for seedlings.
We're getting ready for our flock to arrive as well! We'll be receiving 25 Freedom Ranger broiler chicks, 25 Cornish Rock cross chicks, 5 Naragansett turkey chicks, 5 Cayuga duck chicks, and 25 rare breed layers (which will range at our house, rather than the farm).  We purchased 2 large pasture pens from nearby Dreamfarm.  They make the most amazing goat cheese you've ever had (and this is coming from someone who doesn't typically like goat cheese).  It doesn't taste goaty! Diana at Dreamfarm also does a pastured layer operation, and had two of her pasture pens rotating out.  They are 15 years old, and need only need some minor repairs (new wheels and few boards replaced) and some pressure washing.  The amount of labor cost we'll save with purchasing these is very exciting, and adds less stress for everyone (always a bonus!).
Ada and I walking out the poultry coops.
 We'll be doing a day-range system with our birds.  These coops will act as safe shelter during the night for the birds, rather than a full-time pen.  I've purchased electric netting and a solar charger that will surround their grazing area.  The netting will be electrified day and night to keep out predators and keep the birds in their area.  We'll be rotating the grazing area every 3 weeks so the birds always have access to fresh greens.  I've made a commitment to myself and the farm that I will never again graze animals on one spot for so long that the ground is turned to bare dirt and it becomes a muddy smelly mess when it rains. We experienced this in Washington with our turkeys, and never again will it happen on my watch. 

Well, I must be going...it is indeed Sunday! And before we head out to do farm work, I've got an itch to bake some classic sourdough bread (Betty is getting antsy), and we must get outside to enjoy our yard.  Many more updates to come! I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. 

All photos credits go to the Amazing Sean Fisher of Birch House Farm. Check us out at www.birchhousefarm.com.


Playing in the field

Ada Camille, Birch House Farm Chief of Morale and Collections

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Betty

This past couple of weeks I have been extremely interested in sourdough.  I went on bread baking kick at the beginning of the month, and then I thought about pumpernickel....one of my favorites...and starting a sourdough culture.  I've had Sandor Ellix-Kats' book Wild Fermentation for some time now and have used multiple recipes from it in the past (mainly cheeses).  I hadn't ventured into the realm of sourdough as of a couple weeks ago. Oh what a realm!

I started my first sourdough culture the weekend after last.  I made the starter using wild yeasts,  instead of packaged, store-bought yeast.  To start your own sourdough culture with wild yeasts you can: mix 2 cups flour (I used organic rye) and 2 cups water in a jar. In Wild Fermentation Sandor informs the reader that there doesn't need to be intentional introduction of yeast into the mixture at all.  The mixture will naturally acquire yeasts from the air and surrounding environment.  Neat!  I decided I wanted to speed the process up a bit, so took his recommendation to add some organic blueberries or other fruits (plums, grapes) that naturally have that whitish coating on their skin.  This whitish coating is yeasts that naturally occur on these fruits.  I put three organic blueberries in with the flour and water, stirred...and waited.

After 3 days fermenting on our 67 degree counter (Sandor recommends 70-80 degrees as an ideal temperature range), I named her Betty (after she grew out of her jar one evening while we slept).  She was alive (!) and well-deserving of a name. We found her on the counter in the morning, and Sean wasn't sure if we should put her wasted parts in the compost, for fear she might take over the compost bin.  I'm happy to report she has not taken over the compost as of yet.

Betty, covered and enjoying warmth with the plants.
 After feeding Betty 1 tblspn of flour every 2 days, and putting her in our 82 degree greenhouse window during the day, she was extremely bubbly and happy, and smelling...well...like fermented yeast. It was time.

Betty!
I had been dreaming of pumpernickel.  I set out one morning, before work, to begin the 2 day process of creating 2 loaves of pumpernickel.  The pumpernickel recipe found in Wild Fermentation is more of a classic German pumpernickel recipe, yielding a dense, pungently sour bread, with multiple flavors of chocolate and coffee.  Cooled coffee grounds, cacao powder and molasses give pumpernickel it's classic dark brown/almost black color.  Never did I know! After doing some research, I found that here in North America, we've adapted the pumpernickel recipe to use half white flour as well as commercially available yeasts, giving the bread a more fluffy consistency that we find in the stores.


After mixing the batter, it sat in a warm spot for 12 hours to ferment, while I worked and went about our daily business. The mixture doubled and became happy and bubbly.  Last night, more rye flour was added, as well as salt.  Then the mixture sat for another 12 hours overnight.  This morning I pulled the sticky, doubled mixture out of the bowl, formed it into two loaves with wet hands, and baked it for 2 hours.  The house smelled weird.


I wasn't expecting the aroma to be what it was, it definitely was not anything like the fresh home-baked bread smell that everyone loves.  Fermented rye flour, chocolate and coffee made for a truly unusual smell, and I thought perhaps I had done something wrong.  Sean actually questioned if he would try it when it was done.  After rising slightly while baking, I believed the loaves to be done.  They sounded hollow when thumped, but still smelled...weird.  I was skeptical.


The loaves were beautiful, nonetheless.  A rich chocolate brown.  I sliced one of the cooled loaves, and gingerly made an herbed turkey sandwich for lunch.  Amazing!  The cascade of flavors that this pumpernickel bread presented was like nothing I've ever tasted in my life.  The combination of sourdough, chocolate, coffee, turkey and pickles was wonderful! Did I just write that? It's true!


I think I'll try experimenting now.  I read that sourdough rye  breads actually get better as they age for weeks. I know...Weeks!?...really.  Supposedly the crust gets incredibly hard, while the inside becomes even more moist and delectable.  I will be leaving one of these loaves for a week and a half to test this.  I will report back on my findings.;)

In the meantime, I think I'll try another batch of pumpernickel.  Instead of using coarsely ground coffee I'm going to use very finely ground beans, as well as use straight cacao powder instead of drinking chocolate (which had a very high percent of plain cacao in it,  but also sugar).  I think I may add some organic unbleached white flour to the mix as well, and see what kind of consistency I can achieve.  What can I say?...I'm a North American, I like the fluffy pumpernickel.

For those of you who know me and are wondering about my gluten sensitivity...I'm happy to say after 2 years it's pretty much gone!  Perhaps this is what has initiated my sudden onset of baking (combined with a new convection oven).  I realized about a month ago that I haven't had itchy eczema fingers for nearly 2 months now (it gradually disappeared right around the time that Ada stopped nursing).  My Naturopath in Olympia had said that eventually the sensitivity to gluten might fade away, as my body got used to not being pregnant any more.  Maybe it was the hormones, I don't know, there's lots of speculation about gluten and eczema after pregnancy and birth.  But, hallelujah! 

Here's to a wonderful future of fermented bread products!