Walk The Agrarian Path With Us

Saturday, May 25, 2013


We're not moving in yet, but we're getting closer. Moving is never easy and some places are harder to leave than others. The hardest part about leaving the last one is the way that our grandchildren felt about it. Our four year old grandson talked to me on the phone one day and asked why we were moving and said that we should stay there. That's the stuff that really tugs at your heart! All of our grandchildren felt that way! Knowing that we will make many more memories comforts us.
The circumstances surrounding the sale of the last place were difficult, but the new place has many pluses. It is much better suited to living without air conditioning, there is more pasture, it has a great place for the wood cook stove, more room, better out buildings, and it is in a beautiful spot. Very much to be thankful for!
We will probably be using the Internet at the library for a while. Lots of new adventures!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Making Progress

The sellers finally made it out but....they left a big mess for us. Well, good things never come easy, right? We will keep plugging along and hope to be in soon.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Weather Lore and An Update

When you are outside much of the time on the farm you begin to notice things in the natural world. One day it catches you by surprise when you look up at the sky and realize that the clouds tell you that it is going to rain in the next day or two. You find it so surprising that you haven't actually studied the clouds to learn this, but you have learned it.
 I have been reading and enjoying the book "Folklore of American Weather" by Eric Sloane. I enjoy his books very much and this one is no exception. I have been interested for quite some time in learning more about forecasting the weather and was so pleased to find this book at the library close to where we are staying. For all of you agrarian-minded folks, here are a couple of quotes from the book that you might enjoy: "Farming has become a big business with little place for folklore, but a century ago farming was a way of life, a philosophy of living, rich with lore of the land." And, "You might argue that almanacs were for farmers, that the lawyer or shoemaker or storekeeper need not use them. Yet the lawyer, the shoemaker, the storekeeper had to be a farmer also, for he grew his own food and fed his own horses from his own hayfield. Thus, everyone in early America was close to the ways of nature, by necessity."
  We are still in between farms. After several delays, the sellers showed up at closing asking for five more days to get out. It has been a test of patience but we are trusting in God's perfect timing in all things. The phone caught us offguard last night when it rang at ten o'clock. A new neighbor had called a mutual friend to get a number to reach us to let us know that our cows and horses were gone. What?!! And, that our Jerseys were seen at a farm on the highway close to us and that the sheriff was there. Oh no! Lots of worst case scenarios came to mind but the Lord said it would be o.k. The neighbor said that he was going to rope the cows in where they were at and pen up the cow and calf that were out on our farm. No word about the whereabouts of the bull and steer, though. He felt that the horses were probably somewhere on the farm and that all of the animals would bed down for the night so it wouldn't do any good to come before morning. (We aren't staying close to the farm.) An hour-and-a-half later, Boots was heading to bed so that he could get up at four a.m. to take care of things, when the phone rang again. The neighbor said that the cows had come home and he had them all penned up. Wow. God is very very good! Boots reset the alarm to five a.m. and awoke to a heavy blanket of fog. After waiting for it to lift he took off and found the neighbor and a friend that had come to help. The animals were all there, they are all fine, and they are secure. One could never place a value on good friends and neighbors. That's for sure.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life Is Interestng

We are living in between farms right now with our animals and belongings spread out over several places. Originally, there were only a couple of weeks between leaving the farm we were on and moving onto the new one but, the date was moved back to the middle of May so here we are!  Seems like maybe the Lord scheduled a vacation for us. We certainly don't have enough sense to do that on our own. Hope things aren't quite so interesting for all of you! There will be lots to tell when we get moved in!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Why Farm?

  "That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:
   That our garners may be full, affording all manner of store; that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets:
   That our oxen may be strong to labor; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.
   Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord." Psalm 144:12-15

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tanning Deer Hides

Over the years I've heard of tanning hides with different things but was never interested in using harsh chemicals that we would have to order and that might be toxic. We met a man several years back that mentioned that he did brain tanning. That really piqued our interest. Brain tanned deer hide makes a nice soft leather that is good for clothing. I'll give you the basic instructions that we used and then you will learn to tweak the process as you gain experience.
Peel the deer hide off the carcass being careful not to cut the hide. There will be a little meat on it. Work as fast as you safely can so the hide doesn't dry out. It also helps to work in the shade, if possible.
Starting at the neck, begin scraping the flesh off of the hide using a dull draw knife. You will see "vein tracks" and you want to scrape them off, also. You will see pinholes in the hide when you are done.
Turn the hide over and, starting at the neck, use the drawknife to scrape off the hair. Keep scraping until you have the skin off the hide.You will see vein tracks again. (You can soak the hide in water at any time to keep it until you can get to it. Change the water ever so often. Adding lime to the water will help loosen the hair.)
Tie the hide on a frame using slip knots so you can easily adjust it.

You will make small slits along the edges to tie it to the frame.
Scrape from top to bottom with the edge of an axe blade to remove moisture and stretch.When it starts to dry it will fluff up. You will need to tighten it as it dries but don't overtighten. Let the hide dry a few hours or overnight.
Start a fire that will smoke. You want smoke not flame. Tent the hide over the fire leaving a chimney at the top for the smoke to escape. Let it smoke this way for 15 minutes and then do the other side. Be checking for flareups in your fire and make sure it isn't too hot inside the tent. You don't want to cook it.
Put the brain that you have removed from the skull of the deer in warm water and squish it up. Push the hide down in the solution and work it.  Check after about 15 minutes to see if it has taken up enough moisture and it will stretch. Wring the moisture out over the container so that you don't lose it because you can use the same solution for up to 8 hides. Scrape again with the drawknife being careful not to make holes. Put back in the solution, swish it around, and leave it for a while. Take it out and wring it out thoroughly. Pull it apart to stretch the fibers and keep stretching until it seems right. (You can set it aside for a little while and keep coming back to stretch it.)
Now that you know that it isn't too difficult, I hope this will help you get started. Sorry there aren't more pictures but the weather was lousy at the time.
Genesis 3:21 "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them."

Monday, February 4, 2013

God Made a Farmer

Someone told me about a commercial that was shown during the Super Bowl last night. They were very impressed by it and suggested I find it online. I did and I have to say that, first of all, I was  pleasantly surprised (o.k., shocked would be a better description), and secondly, it made me cry. Paul Harvey narrates the commercial for Dodge Ram trucks. Check it out.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Homemade Yeast

Most of the time when I make bread I use purchased yeast. But, because bread is an essential part of our diet, I wondered years ago what I would do if I couldn't buy yeast. (Yes, I was even thinking of things like that back then. :-}) A long time ago I was looking through someone's old German cookbook and came across a recipe for homemade yeast. I was very interested and copied the recipe down even though I was disappointed to find at the end you added the mixture to yeast you already had going. I wanted to know how to start from the beginning and felt it must be very difficult and mysterious. Several years later I read an article that mentioned capturing yeast from the air. Once again, I thought it must be very complicated but definitely wanted to learn more. After taking the time to learn more, I found that it wasn't difficult or mysterious at all! It can be as simple as putting equal parts of flour and water in a bowl, loosely covering it, and feeding it each day for a week.
If you already bake bread you will have plenty of wild yeast in your kitchen to capture. If not, you can crush unsprayed and unwashed grapes in cheesecloth and add that to your flour and water mixture. Grapes have a lot of yeast on them. Or, you can use whole rye flour for your mixture because it too has a lot of the naturally occuring yeast. (If you do one of those two things go ahead and cover your mixture well because you won't have to capture any from the air and won't have the skin form on top that you do when it is covered loosely.)
You will also have friendly bacteria called lactobaccili in your starter. They break down the simple sugars in the flour and that is what the yeast feed on. (That's why you have to feed your starter at least once a day, so there is new food for them. If there is little or no food it affects them just like it would us!) When the yeast feed on the sugar they produce carbon dioxide bubbles that stretch the gluten and that raises the dough. Pretty great, huh? The lactobaccili produce acids which give it flavor. There are many strains of wild yeast and bacteria that grow around the world so flavors vary. San Francisco is known for a very sour flavor. In other areas the taste is milder.
Some sourdough starter recipes call for adding a little commercial yeast. This isn't a good idea because the commercial yeast will compete with the wild. Another factor is that almost all of the lactic acid is gone in the commercial variety so you won't get the flavor. Some things just can't be rushed. Also, some say to add a little sweetener to the mix but this also isn't a good idea. You will have an imbalance of the yeast and bacteria and it isn't necessary.
(I read that goldminers used to sleep with their starters next to their bodies to keep the starter warm. Sounds like mighty important stuff!)
You can preserve the starter by pouring a thin layer out on parchment paper and letting it dry for a few days. Then peel it off and store it in a tightly sealed container. When you want to get it going again, dissolve the pieces in water and feed it for a week.
In case you're interested, here is the recipe that I copied so long ago for homemade yeast:
Add 4 potatoes to 2 quarts water in kettle. Add a handful of hops that have been tied up in a bag. Cook until potatoes are done. Remove bag, squeeze dry, and throw away what is left in bag. Put the squeezed juice in with the potatoes. Remove potatoes, mash, and return to kettle. Cool. Add 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup salt, and 1 cup old yeast (leftover from previous time). Let stand several hours and use.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Yeast

From my own beginning breadmaking experiences years ago to those of the people that I've helped make bread over the years, one thing stood out more than any other when it came to problems. That was the yeast. The temperature of the liquids had to be just right. Too hot and you killed the yeast. Too cool and the yeast didn't activate. Or sometimes the yeast just wasn't good to begin with. All that work and all of those wasted ingredients made for some disappointment and frustration! (And lack of bread! :-[ ) After working with that type of yeast for years I was very happy to learn of a better yeast that didn't have such a temperament. SAF yeast (and another one that the name of escapes me right now) is a professional baking yeast that is so easy to use. This yeast will rise even of you use cool liquids. Of course, it will rise faster if the liquid is warm, but you don't have to worry about it. The dough rises a lot faster, too, because there are a lot more of the yeast cells. This is an instant yeast so it doesn't need proofing. You just stir it into your flour and then add the liquid.
Years ago this yeast was only sold in a few places but now it is easily found. ( I was going to put a picture of it here but for some reason it isn't working.) It is reasonably priced and will last a while.
When a recipe calls for a package of yeast I use one tablespoon of SAF yeast.

Psalm 104:15 "........and bread which strengtheneth man's heart."