Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Need No Knead Bread.

Ok, I am a few years late to the party. I realize that this no knead bread thing has been around since 2007. I realize that I bought 2 new dutch ovens to try this in the last 3 years. I realize that most of you have probably already tried this and gotten over the AAAAAHHHHHHH factor. That being said, this is fun so I am writing about it. For those of you who are gluten free, avert your eyes, read no further, I have no interest in torturing you.

Crispy crusty deliciousness with 4 ingredients and 5 min of work.

There is something awesome about your kids waking up in the morning to fresh baked artisan bread. Even better when you have invested a total of 5 min of work to make it... This delicious loaf came out about 5 min ago and will be a large contributor to my breakfast!

Here's the recipe:
  • Measure out 2 parts flour to 1 part water but do not combine them at this point (3 cups to 1.5 cups seems to be the norm). You can use up to 1/2 whole wheat flour with great success but, more whole wheat makes a reaaaaalllly dense loaf.
  • Add about 1t salt per cup of water
  • Add 1/4t yeast per cup of water
  • Stir up the dry ingredients, then add the water (this is critical because you are not going to knead this dough to make sure that all things are well dispersed within the dough)
  • Stir to combine (result is a wet hairy dough ball).
  • Cover with plastic wrap
  • Wait 12-18 hours
  • Flop it onto a lightly floured counter (gently)
  • Lightly stretch into a dough ball
  • Let it rest and raise 30 - 90 min.
  • Put your "cloche" (Dutch oven) in the oven at 450* and let it heat for at least 30 min
  • Drop the dough in the "cloche", close it up, bake 30 min
  • Pull the lid, and let it continue to toast for 10 min until dark and crunchy.
  • Remove loaf, listen to the song it sings to you as the crust crunches and crackles
  • cool 30 min (or as long as your patience allows)
  • cut 
  • enjoy with real butter and honey from the back yard, or home grown jelly!
My red enamel Tramontina has a new primary use.
I've only made 4 loaves, but the first three disappeared as soon as there were kids, and loaf 4 is cooling right now, soon to meet it's demise.

 The key to this method is steam. In commercial bakeries they pipe steam into the oven while the bread bakes to make a really thin crisp crust without sacrificing the integrity of the crumb. The cloche (pronounced \ˈklōsh\) allows sufficient build up of steam and very even heat from all sides much like a commercial oven would.  You could use a cast iron dutch oven, or an enamel Tramontina like I do, even the glased terra cotta cloche would work great (Alton Brown likes big terra cotta pots upside down on a pizza stone or the pot plate).  In the end the temperature outside the cloche is 450 but inside it is a steamy delicious 250 degrees, allowing a nice crust, and plenty of oven spring. 

Observations so far: 
  • I really want to rush this process and that is not good for the bread... so perhaps when kids come home from school is a better time than when they wake up. It takes 2 hrs from the time you pull the dough onto your counter, until it is ready to eat, granted you only work 2 min during that time, but you do have to be awake.
  • This bread would be fabulous with add-ins like calamata olives, basil, whole roasted garlic cloves, rasins and a sprinkle of cinnamon, etc.
  • The crust is super crunchy for an hour or so, but if you let it rest for a couple of hours it gets chewy and delicious in a totally different way.
This is what happens right after it is sliced

I have now made 8 loaves, and all of them have turned out pretty good. 
I did get heavy handed with the salt 1 time, it was ok.
I did not stir it well one time and got all the salt on one side of the bread which made for some good and some REAAAAAALLLLLLY bad bread in the same loaf.  
I tiny splash of water in the Dutch oven, just before you close it, makes the crust even thinner and tastier.

The nice part is that this is just so darn simple, I am not sure why I wasn't doing it before! I love to get the kids involved making the dough because they get so excited about the bread. I love that I can hear a loaf crackling as it cools right now!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Honey Time!

We are collecting some honey from the bees, and I just wanted to give a bit of an update.

We cut the comb off that we want to harvest and break it up into this bucket.
The bucket has holes in it and it sits on top of a grease splatter gard so that it falls into the bottom bucket and all the wax remains in the top bucket. Emily particularly enjoyed smashing up the comb so that the honey is released.

This is what the comb looks like right out of the hives:
Note the top bars that we have been using ar cut off on the left of the bucket.
 In a traditional Langstroth hive, these would be left in the frame and spun out using a honey centrifuge, you can do that with top bar hives also although it is much harder to get all of the honey without damaging the comb significantly. One other thing to mention at this point is that traditional commercial bee keepers try to save as much comb as possible. Generally this is because the bees use a lot of honey drawing out comb (it takes a lot of energy to make that much wax). The problem with that approach is that most bee diseases come from comb that is used over and over and over again. That kind of re-use does increase honey production but it also increases the pesticides brought into the hive from the flowers that the bees are visiting, it allows diseases like nosemea and foulbrood to get a foothold against the hives natural defenses, it allows parasites like varoa destructor to infest beyond recovery. A close analogy would be what if you used the same set of sheets for several years before changing them, oh and you ate all your meals in your bed, and did most of your work in bed. By allowing the bees to make new comb we sacrifice some honey, but we also clean the bees sheets. I think it is a welcome trade off in order to have healthier bees.

 After about a week, we end up with this:
The honey has strained through into the bottom bucket, and the wax is left in the top bucket. You can see a little honey still in the wax but it is almost out.  We will melt down this wax along with some of the brood combs that we culled from the hive and make some yummy smelling bees wax for something.

Here is the paper bag full of brood comb ready for melting: 
The darker comb is where the baby bees were raised, our queen sure had a bunch of babies!!!
It sure is fun to see the end of the process that started so many months ago.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Channeling Tessa

As I picked the succulent concord grapes this morning I could hear my grandma in my mind. She was instructing me how to pick the big clusters but to be sure not to miss the little bunches even just one or two grapes . I remember her showing me how to break off the stems because I was too small to use the paring knife she was using. Today I used the knife like her. I brought the grapes in and filled the sink like she used to, cleaning them off and getting ready to juice them. In my mind she let me know that I was taking the easy way out by using my steam juicer instead of cracking out the Victoria strainer. 

Fortunately for me there was a bit of extra juice that did not fit in my last quart jar, just about a cup. As I sipped the sweet nectar from those tiny orbs, I again remembered Grandma, and I wanted to be better. I wanted to make more food at home, to leverage the chest freezer, and maybe even can some venison or at least chicken. Who knows, maybe when my first grandchild is born I can put up some venison or cherries that will still be around when they are married, just so they remember that they should try to do as much as they can with what they have. 

I think this spring I will plant a raspberry bramble at the Roberts' cabin. Something that can run wild and provide just a little of Grandma's love for the Great-Grand-Kids to feel. Maybe it will draw the animals in like the old corn cob feeder used to. Maybe with a little prodding from some of these things, we can remember to be just a little better than we are, just like she would have wanted! 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Phat Bees

I debated just putting this on the sustainable blog and then decided against it.
If you are not into bees or top bar hives this post may be a little boring, but I have to capture my thoughts somewhere before they are lost.

Love the Top bar hive, I built mine basically to the specs provided by Phil Chandler of
I love how it is so natural for the bees. I love that it is very managable. I love how it looks, and that I can see in to the bottom to stare at the little girls doing their thing.
All that being said, I have a couple of issues:
1 - This year has been a rough year for bees, lots of hot to get the flowers out, followed by cold and rain so the bees can't fly. Wind too has been an issue, and my top bar hive has actually been blown over at least once this year (I have fixed that little problem for the foreseeable future).
2 - There is no real way to extend the hive in any way if the bees get really going well. Sure you can make splits into another hive, but it feels like this would be really swarm promoting if you have a large colony which I now have. (update, we did cast off a swarm late this summer).
3 - It is going to be super cold this winter for these bees. I just don't see how this hive design will last through the cold winter.
4 - We got a lot of crooked comb  this year. much of it due to the fact that I was trying to be smart and created different widths of top bars (some for brood and some for honey). It would have been better to have a deep ridge to force the bees on a specific location, and just have wider bars.

So, how to deal with these issues especially learning from the brilliant leaders of the past.
1 - 2x12 lumber instead of 1x12. It just feels like there needs to be more insulation. I can probably make this hive work with some pink styro-insulation which is what I will do, but there has to be a better way and I think that way is more wood!
2 - Bottom quilt box - I love being able to look through the bottom screen to see the bees but they need better insulation than that so I am going to add a bottom quilt box (2 inches of saw dust in a breathable box) this will prevent wind from coming in but still maintain breath-ability as well as allowing other symbiotic insects a better place to share with the bees.
3 - Warre style top bars - 1 inch wide with spacers on the ends to keep them 1/4-3/8 inch apart, and deep v ridges, I was trying to stay away from the deep v ridges because of the difficulty in repairing curved comb but the benefits far out weigh the disadvantages.
4 - A top quilt box - If you have narrow superable top bars like the Warre top bar hive, you have to have a top quilt box to insulate, provide darkness, encourage the bees to stay in the desired brood chamber
5 - Medium Tanzanean top bar supers, Because of the way I have laid out my TBH, these could even be medium langs used as supers (foundation-less of course) The quilt box would need to be such that it could ride next to a super under the roof.

So, for my next hive:
18 inch interior width so that a Langstroth super could be used or a Tanzanian TBH could be used
48 inch interior length so that 3 lang supers will cover the top
9.25 inches deep with a 7.5 inch intirior width bottom of the trapazoid (edges cut at 30* to make flat top and bottom)
3 5/16 tall quilt box on top in 3 sections each the dimensions of a langstroth box
35 @ 19 inch long top bars, 1 3/8 wide for 1 inch on each end and 1 inch wide for 17 inches in the middle. Each bar should have a 3/4 inch deep beveled spine to promote straight comb.

Hopefully this combination will promote better temperature control, straighter comb, and the ability to expand the hive as easily as a lang, but with the natural benefits of a top bar hive.

Friday, May 25, 2012

One more phone update

Wow it has been a while and I wasn't sure I was really done, but...
I went through 3 Motarola Atrix phones and 2 HTC phones before I finally got one that worked :-(
The good news is that I have an HTC Inspire 4g just like Squeej!
I have rooted it
I have installed ICS (The specific inspire build is Ice Cold Sandwich by LorD ClockaN)
Everything but hd video recording seems to work.
I have tried a couple of other roms,
MIUI was pretty good once I fixed the sound issues, but I kept getting FCs all over the place
Cyanogenmod 7 is my next favorite but then I miss my ICS too much so Ice Cold Sandwich it is.
Thanks for listening...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Phone update

Got My new phone :-) once I put the battery in, (sent it back without one, and ordered the replacement a different way), it started to hard reset :-( The wifi chip doesn't work at all, it just says "error" under wifi settings. Every time I plug it into a power source it hard cores. I updated the Rom to the latest version, no difference.

I got my data off of it and my microsd card and sent it back to the Geek Squad, Got an iphone 4 loaner. It's a pretty phone, but call quality is not as good as my motarola, and ios 5 is no Ice Cream Sandwich ... although this white iphone kind of looks like an ice cream sandwich, wonder what it tastes like ...

New, New phone should be here on Friday according to the guys at BB. No longer holding my breath. The good news is that if this one doesn't work then I get a $600 in store credit to buy the phone of my choice. Now to decide between the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, and the HTC Vivid; decisions decisions.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Why I might just buy all phones from Best Buy from now on

Tuesday I lost my beloved Ice Cream Sandwich.  We were out in the yard burning the Ivy that we tore off the house last week, I had my phone in the pocket of my sweat shirt. While moving some out lying ivy into the fire I dropped my phone.  Let me just say, raking through coals and seeing "Motorola" is a sickening experience.  I completely freaked out because I have a full month (today actually) before I have a phone refresh coming. My dreams of being able to wait for an I phone 5 or a real ICS build or...or...were crushed. Now I have to get what I can afford, and that will limit money for the next "precious".

And then I remembered, "I have Black Tie Accident Protection on my phone!" My joy was full. I could get another Atrix 4G and continue enjoying my ICS pleasantly awaiting something better. I jumped in the car and flew over to Best Buy (happy not to see any police because I drove a little too fast). Stopped by the phone counter where they said, "OK, let me go pull up your black tie receipt...". A few minutes later though My hopes were again dashed. A stern looking young woman came over and declared "You have a warranty but it does not cover catastrophic failures. You can call them and stop paying for it though." Tears began to well up in my eyes. I started looking at go phones, and was struggling with the notion of dropping $130 on  a phone plus $50 on a plan for 1 month just so I could drop $200 on a new that doesn't sound right. It can't be like that, I didn't just waste $100 on insurance, please tell me I didn't.

one of the helpful Best Buy associates recommended that I go over to the AT&T store and plead my case, after all I was a good customer, I only had 30 days before I was eligible for a phone, they might cut me some slack and get something for me.  So, I did, and THEY DID! suddenly I was faced with an impossible decision, pick a phone right now without doing any research. I couldn't even look them up on my phone because I HAD NO PHONE AAARD!!!! I decided I needed to come home and do a little research, and they agreed to let me buy a phone later in the week. I was seriously considering getting an I phone 4S for Heidi, she has not jumped quite as far on the android boat as I have , and she still has an I pad so she has lots of games, and things that will work on an I phone...yeah that's what I'll do. I'll take her phone, she can have the new phone, we are up for another phone in December...all is good.

Then Heidi says to me in the car, "if they cover dropping your phone in the toilet, why won't they cover dropping it in a fire?"  Methinks she has a point, after all it still turns on. and it still receives calls (yes after seeing the boot animation I couldn't resist trying to call the phone.)  I got online, and read the BTAP policy and it does state, that it covers "accidental damage under normal use conditions" OK, that sounds like having your phone in your pocket while doing yard work. So, I called them, and the girl says to me, well if it turns on then that is not a catastrophic failure, so take it into the store.

I walk into the store this afternoon almost unable to hope because I am so scared to be shot down again. I walk up to the Black Tie desk and explain that "my phone mostly works, still turns on and everything, but I need to exercise my extended warranty" The "geek" mouth agape nods his head and completely awe struck at the carnage which is my phone, along with the lovely unlock slider. He walks me over to the mobile phone desk and says "hook this guy up with a new phone."  They even provide me with a loaner phone  (I phone 3g) while the current one is being replaced.

Long story short. Black Tie Service gets 5 stars.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwich!!!!

Let me start this by saying "I am an Apple fanboy!" I just want to make that clear. I gave water to the dead the day that Steve Jobs died. I felt personal pain watching Woz on dancing with the stars. I suffered for months with a failing wireless card, and bad memory in my macbook pro because I don't want to go back to a Dell (no offence Micheal). I can't wait for the next Iphone because I am eligible for an upgrade on May 5. That being said, I really like this ice cream sandwich.

After Google released the source for ICS late last year, Cyanogen and his development team went straight to work building Cyanogenmod 9 (Cyanogenmod 7 was based on Gingerbread, they skipped Honeycomb because of it's tablet specific pedigree). Unfortunately my phone, the Motorola Atrix 4G did not have official Cyanogenmod support due to some difficult hardware and Motorola's highly customized OS. I had no hope for ICS any time soon.

Then last week we got an over the air update to the Atrix from Motorola, not to ICS as I had hoped but I figured I would go ahead and install it. The update bricked my phone! Oh yes I was running a stock rom and everything like a good boy, and the update sent me into a boot loop. I spent the better part of a day digging up old procedures for re-flashing my phone using fastboot and getting back to a good state. I immediately downloaded the latest Cyanogenmod 7 and installed some clean gingerbready goodness. I felt instant relief from the latck of MotoBlurr, but then I looked at the bugtracker to see if there was anything I could check with my new pristine rom. It was dormant, no bugs updated since the middle of January, no check ins to source control, nothing...What could cause this progressing, if not buggy, rom to lose all momentum? I could think of only one thing. I gingerly typed "cyanogenmod 9 atrix" into my trusty chrome address bar and was welcomed with more than 10 pages of results. The one that caught my eye was a January 14th post to XDA developers...There was indeed an Atrix Cyanogenmod 9 rom available. I immediately downloaded the latest rom to my phone and installed it. I think I may have even forgotten to back up my working version first.

Oh the eye candy ... The spinning glass boot screen was beautiful, until it was still spinning 18 minutes later. Back to CWM to clear my dalvik cache and reset to factory settings again, and then it actually booted into ICS. Methinks I hear angels singing ... oh wait that is just the android start up chime. So what is so awesome about ICS? Well first, it's a hack! While not the most beautiful part of the new android release, it does bring a wonderful sense of accomplishment (even though I didn't really do anything but stumble on a thread, download a zip and remember to clear my cache). Ok, what else? The new boot loader is pretty, it is super clean and having a widget drawer like the app drawer is nicer than I expected. Drop into settings and suddenly the convoluted painful android settings menu is clean and organized, it's like someone thought about it instead of just adding more options. The notifications bar is even better than it was before with an updated toggle menu immediately available, swipe to acknowledge, etc.(Apple is trying to copy the android goodness, and they just ended up with more to copy). The calendar, facebook, and email widgets just work, no special tweaking, no downloading other apps and widgets just to get them on the screen. All of my existing apps work (at least the 85 or so that I have tried). Gmail's swipe to older and newer mails is so intuitive I can't believe that it took this long to appear.  It is truly amazing to me what suddenly makes so much sense and polish. My android phone now feels like it is as user friendly as IOS! I thought for a long time I would have to give up polish in order to have an open system that was hackable (I have felt that way to some degree since 1997 when I installed mandrake 3.1 for the first time, and realized how much could be customized, but I digress). My favorite though is the honeycomb running apps menu when you long press the home button. You can see the app in the place it left off, choose it and continue, unlike IOS or previous versions of android that often restarted the app when you switched back to it (I know sometimes it worked, but not in many of my most used apps like Gospel Library, or Netflix, now it even works with those). This was by far my favorite new feature in honeycomb, and I am glad to see it roll forward into ICS.

And then the unicorn poop started to dry up and get a little crumbly. Angry birds got choppy. Apparently this is due to the 2d video hardware integration which is incomplete. JokerSax (the CM9 maintainer) is working on this one according to the boards. It is still playable so there will be no Taylor riots, crisis averted.  The Camera; well the camera was one of the last things to work in CM7 so it was the first thing I tested in CM9. It WORKS, but then it crashed when I tried to open it again until I rebooted :-( The thought that actually popped into my head, was "oh well I can just reboot the phone whenever I need to take a photo" wow this batch of kool aid is strong). I also couldn't change the number of columns and rows in the launcher (well I guess it is like going back to IOS). So, I traipsed back to the forum to see what I could do. A "repair permissions" from rom manager, fixed my camera problem (whew, crisis avoided I won't have to reboot my phone 3 times a day). Then downloading ADW launcher ... well that fixes my real estate problems but it seems so February compared to my new shiney ICS everything else. Enter "Nova" a new ICS launcher that is considerably more mature than the cyanogen "Trebuchet". It allows all of the real estate resizing options I wanted to make my phonetop pretty and functional in both landscape and portrait. Nova is available from the market in free and paid versions with a slew of additional features like hiding apps you don't want but can't uninstall, programmable gestures in the launcher, alternative actions for launcher icons etc. I will stick with the free version right now. I think I will try ICS launcher and Apex which both also seem more mature than trebuchet. All is good in the world again.

After 3 days with CM9 I have noticed a few other downsides:  I frequently find family members asking me 3 times to do things because my attention seems to be somewhere else. The cyanogenmod ring town attracts more attention than expected (especially in church meetings). There was also that one episode where Bella picked up the phone and I attacked her screaming "My precious! DON'T TAKE THE PRECIOUS!!!!"

The final verdict: ME LIKEY! I'm using it as my daily driver. There are no defects right now that force me to change back. That being said, I will probably wait until the 2d graphics issue is solved before I update Heidi's Atrix.

Check out the full thread (yes all 5k posts) here:
Screenshots and updates to come.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

First chlorophyl of the season.

5 days ago, I planted the Lettuce and the Mesclun and today they are coming up.  They are loving the vermicompost (my office smells like Oregon). Hopefully we will have some tasty greens to eat soon. The plan is to plant more greens outside in about 2 weeks under the hoop house. They will take a bit longer to really go because of the colder environment but they should do fine along with the snow peas. That way just as these indoors are about to bolt, the greens outside will be ready to go. then it will be time to plant summer lettuce between the tomatoes to extend the salads another month or two. 
We also spent the afternoon planting the nightshades and melons. 

Cherokee Purple - By far my favorite, these just scream BLT, but they are a bit late coming so they are not our only tasty one.
Brandywine - potato leaf that made heirloom tomatoes come back in style. These should mature a little before my CPs.
Yellow Pear - Mom's favorite, I have at least one plant for you...
San Marzano - Roma like, these are the ones that the Italians seem to prefer. Got a bunch of these, planning lots of sauce.
Violet Jasper or Tsi Bi U - These are the big experiment. It is my first Chinese tomato, small, early and prolific, they are beautiful striped tomatoes...just not sure how they will taste?

For the peppers:
Hungarian Wax - These are large yellow anaheim shade peppers, not too hot, but they do bring a little heat.
Chinese Giant Bell - Green bells that turn red late in the season if we leave them on the vine long enough.
California Wonder Bell - these are your supermarket style green bell peppers but with out of the garden taste.
Sweet Chocolate Bell Pepper - Sweet peppers (pizza bound for sure) and very prolific. I am really looking forward to these.

Finally the Melons:
Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelon - Potential lunker melons known for their flavor. New to us.
Thanks Reimer seeds for the image
Moon and Stars Watermelon - The kids picked this one out because it looked like my kind of "odd plant" it is a pretty yellow fleshed watermelon. Great experiment!

If that sounds like a lot, check out the pic:
 Here is the setup with the lights down

 Anyway, I guess we are really on our way in the garden again this year. Cold weather crops next, like peas and lettuce, root veggies shortly there after. Squash in about a month...Anyone got an extra half an acre for heirloom corn? I want to try "bloody butcher" for some red cornbread and tortillas, but Heidi is set on the Aztec blue...I wonder why?