Monday, May 18, 2020

Crunchy No Knead Round Loaf Bread

Over time I am becoming more able to bake breads and biscuits. But I still need easy bread recipes. This beautiful no-knead round loaf definitely qualifies as easy. 

I call this my Living Traditions bread because I saw the recipe made for the first time on their homesteading Youtube channel. Using only few ingredients, they start their loaf at one point in the day then go about their chores in the garden and barns. Later they return and use a dutch oven to bake this bread. Making bread doesn't get much easier than this.

This bread recipe calls for:

  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/4 t. yeast
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. warm water

The bread is baked in a dutch oven with a lid. Parchment paper should also be added to the shopping list for this recipe. Scoring the top of the loaf prior to baking allows the steam to release as well as makes a pretty, rustic loaf.

I cannot take credit for the recipe. I learned from the two youtube tutorials listed below.  If you have been wanting to learn to bake bread but are nervous about it - like I was - this is an easy recipe to begin with. Only on one occasion did this recipe not bake up easily and beautifully. And that was clearly because my kitchen was very cold that day. Otherwise, this bread makes up with a very short amount of actual work time. 

I should add that it was this exact delicious but crusty loaf that prompted my friend to give me the gift of a professional Dexter Russell bread knife. The knife is amazing! You can see my review of my new bread knife here

Dexter Russell 8 inch Bread Knife

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Related Links

I watch Kevin and Sarah at Living Traditions several times a week. There is so much about what they are doing on their homestead that I admire: gardening, garden-to-table recipes, baking, and canning. Every video is like a visit with friends while they work their homestead. In one episode, Kevin shows us how to bake this wonderful no-knead loaf of bread - starting the bread and letting it rise while they go about their business on the homestead.

Jenny Can Cook uses the same recipe and technique for this round loaf of no knead bread. Her baking tutorial video is much more condensed. If you want a much shorter, to-the-point recipe, this is the video you'll want to see. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Camping -- April 2020

It's a surreal time. In some ways nothing feels the same. We are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. So many things have changed and with social isolation, wearing masks on rare trips into stores, and working from home my days are blending together in a strange way. 

And yet, some things are soothing and familiar. The Shack is one of those things. My land is a constant for me. It is spring in the mountains of north eastern West Virginia. Social isolation on the ridge feels good. It feels right.

I was able to spend this past weekend there. Puttering around on my land and breathing in that fresh cool air was exactly what I needed. To avoid doing any shopping or extra stopping between the apartment and The Shack, I didn't plan any projects and I took my groceries with me. I really did nothing but relax.

The only thing I did that was productive was talk to the builder. I'm in the process of getting a quote for the home I'd like to build. This process is both exciting and terrifying. I will talk more about the status of that process soon.

Otherwise, I spent the three days soaking up the outdoors.

My woods. Trees that are bare of leaves but the Eastern Redbud
and dogwoods are blooming profusely.
Perfect morel mushroom weather.  I found three
and fried them up. Yum!
Paw Paw tree blossoms. I've worked hard to nurture these
trees and look forward to having my own fruit. I
hope that happens this year.
Smoker + Cast Iron + beans and ham = YUM !!
I missed the photo of the Cardinal perched in that Eastern Redbud. But I watched it watching me.

Someday I will live on my land. Hopefully soon. Please keep me in your thoughts as I go through the process of getting numbers and deciding if this will be the year I build.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Related Links:

It is interesting to me that I was camping and hiking at The Shack exactly a year ago. Ironic that a year ago I took a photo of the neighbor's small home being built and this year I am talking to the builder who built that home. If you want to see the photo of that house in process, the fantastic skyscapes that year, and the pretty red lizard click here.

I bought my Char Griller in 2017 and I have had no complaints. In fact, I really like using it to cook. To read more about my grill, smoker, and side burner combo, click here

Monday, March 30, 2020

Bird Journal: Turkey

Turkey at The Shack
Only someone with a trained eye, with much experience and with the ability to zoom in on my photo, will be able to see my visitor. I apologize. I had no way of getting a better shot. 

While camping at The Shack, early one extremely foggy morning, I woke to a distant and strange noise. 

At first I thought poor Willy, my dog, had stomach upset. His stomach often makes an odd assortment of gurgles and high-pitched sounds. I adjusted the sleeping bag and rolled over. And heard the noise again.

A wild turkey gobbling!  I was so excited!

I have always had trouble seeing wild turkeys in the woods. They are very sneaky and seem almost invisible to me. But I've heard them over the years and always love to hear their gobble.

The sound came closer and I realized the Tom was crossing my yard and entering my woods! 

Through the old glass slider, on an extremely foggy morning, and at a distance, I was not able to get a clear photo. With the naked eye, I could see the coloration of his head and I could clearly see his beard hanging. He took nearly 30 minutes to slowly pass through my woods and eventually out of hearing distance.

photo courtesy wikimedia commons: public domain

I tried desperately to get my phone to open a video or audio of turkey calls so I could try to call him closer. But like always... I had insufficient cell service. 

(note: Verizon service in much of West Virginia is TERRIBLE. My cell phone is rendered useless except for phone calls and basic text messages. Even text messages are often delayed. My hotspot/internet is worthless at The Shack. I really need to change providers. If anyone has a recommendation for cell and hotspot/internet providers in the eastern panhandle, please comment!  I hear AT&T is a good option. Anyone have an option about another provider?)

Related Link:  To hear a turkey gobble, visit the Cornell AllAboutBirds site and click "listen".  My visitor did not fan his tail or puff up but you can see an excellent video of a male turkey doing so on the Cornell site. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Shed Demo (part 2)

more progress on the shed demo
In February, I finally worked up the nerve to begin demo on the shed. That included working up enough nerve to stand close enough to the shed to begin pulling off some of the siding. I was proud of the little bit of progress I made during that weekend visit.

You can read about the beginning of the Shed Demo - The Shed Has Got to Go! here. 

Last weekend I was back at The Shack and I continued pulling some of the vinyl siding off the two sides that I could reach.  I removed the vinyl, cleaned off the dead bug carcasses and spiders, and stored it in The Shack to be used later. I worked very hard to keep track of the hundreds of rusty nails.

My plan was to remove all of the vinyl and plastic portions while dropping the wood and nails into the hole underneath. When finished, I planned on burning the wood then burying the remaining nails and metal trash. 

As I pulled the plastic barrier, dust and bugs flew everywhere and the shed shook and rocked. I removed some of the particle board wall. The wooden walls and studs were so rotten that they crumbled into dust if I squeezed too hard. 

rotten wood and rusty nails galore

I began to realize that there would be no safe way to lean a ladder on the remaining side in order to begin removing the vinyl siding. 

I decided to not leave the structure standing as it was so close to tipping over. I gave a couple of shoves and pulls and the building toppled over easily.

Looking out at my handiwork at the end of the day. I was pleased.

During my next visit I will find a way to continue to safely remove the vinyl and plastic from that final wall while dropping the rotten wood into the pit. 

It may not seem like much progress, but I am THRILLED. That was a giant step for me. Everyone who homesteads does so at their own pace. Or should. The important thing is to just keep moving forward toward your dream. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Bird Journal: Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker - photo courtesy of Pixabay
I knew it!  I just couldn't prove it! Until recently. There are Northern Flickers at The Shack. I'm thrilled to have finally positively identified one. And through the excitement of seeing an elusive Flicker I am learning a bit more about them.

When I lived in my previous apartment, a single Northern Flicker sat perched on a tall, dead tree very near to my 3rd floor balcony. That is how I became familiar with what the large woodpeckers looked like. I moved away from that apartment and hadn't seen a Flicker since.

At The Shack, a couple of years ago, I thought I saw a Flicker. But it was at a distance. I let self-doubt creep in.

Flicker at the birdbath with the support of a bluebird.
During the camping trip in February the Flicker came to visit my birdbath! Several times. The Flicker was bashful, clearly knowing that there was motion inside of The Shack. He flew away every time I moved even the slightest bit. While the bluebirds clearly know when I am present (they seem to look in the windows to see if I'm there) they allow me to move around in front of the window and take photos of them. So I moved my position (hiding behind the wall) and propped my camera up (I REALLY need a tripod) and I waited. Eventually, the Flicker joined the bluebirds. I could barely contain my excitement.

The next morning, if I held perfectly still, the Flicker came on his own.

My photos aren't very clear because the double-pane windows at The Shack have some condensation between the panes at the bottom. But between my photos and watching with the binoculars, I clearly see that I have a male Northern Flicker as a neighbor! And in the morning light, his colors are especially beautiful.

For a bit, I thought I may also have a female Flicker present. But I did not get photos of her. And it may have just been the male but at angles that made his mustache hard to see.  You can be sure I will continue to watch for the Flickers and hope that it is a pair living there. 

 a Flicker's colors are beautiful - even through a foggy window

Northern Flickers

Since seeing the male Flicker, I have looked up some additional information. I now know that:

  • Male Flickers (eastern) have a black "mustache" and the females do not (western birds have a red mustache)
  • Other identifying colors of the yellow-shafted birds in the east include a white rump (visible in flight), red crescent on the back of the head, and a black bib. They also have grey and tan shades of face.
  • Northern Flickers are woodpeckers but they also spend a good deal of time on the ground (which I observed in my yard)
  • They eat mainly ants and beetles (which may explain why they like my woods. I'm told many of my trees are dead from beetle-kill). 
  • Flickers aren't known to frequently visit bird feeders but do like birdbaths (yay!)
  • Northern Flickers are migratory - although in West Virginia, the map shows that they remain year 'round.
  • Northern Flickers nest in hollow trees. 

Related Links:

For more information about the Northern Flickers, including recordings of their sounds, visit theCornellLab's All About Birds site. I cannot access the internet at The Shack, but when I return to the land of internet connections it is my favorite site for identifying birds.

Because my woods is dying and the hollow trees are falling down, I want to put a nesting box (or two) up for the Flickers. NestWatch includes measurements and tips for making bird boxes specifically for the species of birds. 

I keep a bird identification book handy since the internet is not accessible while at The Shack.  I like the DK Smithsonian Handbooks: Birds of North America. While more expert birders would recommend other field guides, I like this one because it is easy for a novice to use and the photos are in color and very helpful.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Shed Demo - The Shed Has Got To Go!

As with many projects, the hardest part is knowing where to begin and taking that first step. I've been planning to tear down this little building ever since the first time it blocked the view from the window. I've just been too afraid to begin.

The existing shed. Falling down and scary. 

The shed scares me. I think the previous owner/builder of the shed had planned on putting in an outhouse. Local rumor is that the owner argued with the county about whether or not he was trying to build an outhouse. It sure looks like a good beginning for an outhouse to me (which the county does not allow). There is a huge hole dug under the shed. 

I imagine all sorts of wildlife living under there... from bears, to skunks, to spiders and snakes and the bogeyman. The shed gives me the heebie-jeebies. I won't walk near it unless it is broad daylight for fear of what might jump out at me.

No, it isn't a rational fear. I know it's not rational. But I'm still very scared of that shed. And for everyone who thinks I'm brave to go camping at The Shack, you can see that I'm not really so brave after all. 

From the time I bought the land, that building has been shedding pieces (see what I did there? haha). Little bits of roof or siding are blown off and during each camping trip I'm out in the yard picking up bits of shed litter from the yard.

During my trip over the long weekend in February, the shed had lost even more shingles and siding. And it has started to lean noticeably.  I decided to be brave and even if I just pulled one piece of something down, it would be a start.

Over time the roof shingles have all blown away.

Rusty nails and rotted wood everywhere.

The amount of siding that has blown off.
And look how much the building has begun to lean.

I salvaged a crate full of brackets and some aluminum pieces from inside the rickety building - the rotting floor barely able to hold my weight. Then I started pulling some siding down.

Under that siding and plastic were a large variety of bug carcasses and spider eggs. It was very disgusting. But I kept at it. I worked very slowly and carefully, trying not to drop any of the rusty nails. There is already an enormous amount of rusty nails jutting out from the boards, I did not want to add to that danger.

I swept off the removed pieces of siding and I took it inside The Shack to store for later projects. I might salvage enough siding for a small chicken coop or dog house!  

I did not get very far. Other people could have torn down the entire shed in one day. On one hand I feel frustrated that I accomplish so little during each trip. On the other hand, I tell myself that it's okay. I'm not other people. And that I got started is progress enough. Not only is it enough, it's pretty darn remarkable. 

The progress I made removing siding.

I'm a "mature", out-of-shape grandmotherly type who has never demo'd any building on my own. Let alone a terrifying shed. 

Overall, I am pretty proud of the progress I made.

PS. I forgot to mention that the additional motivation to tear down the shed came from having reached out to a builder. I've sent him information about how I want to build the new Shack and I'm waiting to hear back for an approximate cost. There is a slim chance I can begin building in 2020!  That motivated me to begin working on removing that ugly old shed. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

A Jar Full of Biscuits

Delicious biscuits from scratch.
I've recently had some really good luck at making flaky, tasty biscuits with a new-to-me recipe and technique. I am so proud of these pretty biscuits that I keep them on display in a jar on the kitchen counter. 

This recipe and tips came from Appalachia's Homestead with Patara. I have tried to make biscuits from scratch previously. Many times. But they came out flat and dry. Sometimes they were bitter. I finally gave up on making my own biscuits. I kept buying Bisquick or those biscuits in the cans that can be found in the refrigerated section of the store. 

Recently, after a weekend of binge-watching homestead videos on youtube and after watching several of Patara's videos on making taller biscuits, I was inspired to try again.  I chose her "splitting the fats" recipe and gave it a try. The results were taller and tasty Bisquick-like biscuits. I will no longer have to spend money on Bisquick mix!!

Since that success, I have made these biscuits every day or two. They are so quick and easy to make! With the exception of bagels, I have not purchased any bread from the store. 

These are the biscuits from my first batch:

Patara includes her tips for taller biscuits and preheating the oven and pan. I'm convinced those two tips have helped me be successful with this recipe. 

The recipe itself is so easy that I just have this list of ingredients hanging on my fridge for convenience:

In addition to Patara's helpful tips, I have adjusted for my own style. Initially, I thought I'd buy a biscuit cutter. However, I think I prefer the small square biscuits I get by cutting the dough with a knife. Also, I have found that if I roll the dough out on my baking stone (at a cold room temperature and lightly floured) I am successful rolling the dough. 

I am very excited about being able to quickly make these biscuits. I will no longer have to buy Bisquick or canned biscuits (which aren't cheap). Also, I am glad to be developing skills that will help reduce my trips to the grocery store once I move to The Shack. Living here at the apartment means there is a Wal-Mart within easy walking distance and several convenience stores in between. I can shop for meals every single day on the way home from work. At The Shack, the closest convenience stores are driving distance and large grocery store is almost 10 miles away and Wal-Mart is 25 miles away. I want to increase my skills (cooking, gardening, canning, etc) so that I can decrease my drives to the stores. 

Here is Patara's tutorial for tall, delicious, easy biscuits using two types of fat.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you