It’s A Good Day to Bake Bread

Oh my! Living in the Midwest at this time of year is a one of a kind experience. One day, it’s hot, muggy, the humidity level is so high one can barely breathe, the next day is cool, crisp and fall-like, just inviting you to be outside savoring the fresh air and sunshine. Today, we’re blessed with rain. The storms moved in yesterday afternoon and drenched our parched earth, the crunchy grass with a blessed drink of liquid that it all so desperately needed. It’s still cloudy and cool outside, so being the farm wife that I am, it’s a good day to bake bread and finish canning the tomatoes and peaches.

I want to share with you a recipe that I’ve used for quite awhile.The original recipe came from http:www.restlesschpotle.com and I’ve used it for the last couple of years. About the only change I made from her recipe is that we leave the ginger out and added or tweaked a couple of the other ingredients to suit our personal taste. It’s wonderful, light, and has a delicious taste of honey and buttermilk. I’d advise using raw honey if you have it available. The stronger the honey flavor, the better the taste of the bread.

Honey Buttermilk Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast granules  (1 packet)
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 cups buttermilk heated gently to lukewarm
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup natural raw honey
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or margerine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • approximately 6 cups white bread flour. Plain (not self rising) flour may be used, but the end product is not as tasty and light, nor does it have quite the same texture.

Instructions

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water, then add sugar. Set aside until you see bubbles forming.
  2. After the first mixture bubbles, add buttermilk, honey, salt, and baking soda.
  3. To the liquid, add about three cups of flour and mix until smooth and elastic feeling. This can be done by hand or with the dough hook on an electric mixer.
  4. Add butter to this mixture, making sure that it is completely incorporated into the batter.
  5. If you are using an electric mixer, when dough pulls from the sides of the bowl remove the dough a floured surface and add enough flour to make a pliable mound of dough. Knead this dough until it is elastic and smooth.
  6. After kneading, place it into a greased bowl and allow it to rise until it is at least doubled in size. (About 60-90 minutes)
  7. Punch down, cut in half, and roll each half into a rectangle, about 1 inch thick. Then by hand, roll each rectangle, starting from the short end into a “log roll”. Pinch seal the long side. With your hands, gently mash the short sides down, tuck under the loaf and place in greased loaf pans. Allow loaves to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 400F. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and hollow sounding when tapped with the fingertips.
  9. Remove loaves from oven
  10. Allow to cool in pans for 5-10 minutes. Brush tops of loaves with melted butter or margarine.
  11. Turn out onto wire racks and allow to cool completely before cutting or tearing bread.
  12. Enjoy!!

And One Last Elderberry Recipe to Share with you

elderberry flowers

Refreshing Elderflower Drink

At the beginning of elderberry season, you have about 2 weeks to gather elderflowers before they drop off, forming the tiny green pellet sized balls that will eventually turn into the wonderfully, medicinally, rich in Vitamin C berries that are well known for their health benefits. Elderberries grow on canes, with a smooth tan-gray bark, usually in clusters along the wetlands as I explained earlier. Elder flower clusters are a creamy white, have a lemony smell and are in clusters about the size of a dinner plate. If you’ve ever taken walks in the woods, along the creeks or a river bank, there’s no mistaking an elder cluster from another tree. The canes can grow 8-10 feet high or higher, are very pliable, and actually, can be transplanted in their smaller stages to a place on your own farm.

For a wonderful, crisp, lemony flavored drink that’s high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, gather the flower clusters, rinse in a mild solution of vinegar and water to dislodge bugs or other debris, rinse and drain.

Use about 2-4 small clusters of the flowers from a flower head, put into boiling hot water and allow to steep for about 20-30 minutes. Strain the liquid, sweeten if desired.

It can be consumed as a hot tea, or chilled and ice added for a refreshing summertime drink.

NOTE: If you’re really crazy about elder flower tea as I am, you can dry elder flowers, store in an airtight container and use 1 teaspoon full in a tea strainer or a small muslin tea bag, in a cup of boiling water, steep and strain as above, to enjoy the summery fresh flavor of elder tea all winter long. It makes a nice gift too!!!

 

Contemplating Keeping Bees.

Langstroth-Hive-Partshttps://livingaselfsufficientlifestyle.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/top-bar-hive.png”>top bar hive

Image, We’re striving for self sufficiency in every sense of the word. That means getting off grid, producing our own food, getting completely out of debt and the list goes on and on. I’ve been studying beekeeping and have my own fears about bees, but I know that honey is probably one of the most natural antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, wound healing, allergy healing and downright good tasting foods available. Bees are livestock and should be treated as such. Am I afraid of bees? Absolutely. It’s a learning curve that I need to conquer before we put in hives. I keep an epi-pen with me at all times, just because I am sensitive to bee bites. It’s been awhile since I’ve actually been stung, but a bite will make whelps on my skin as big as silver dollars. Yet. I walked out to a couple of beehives with my adopted dad, and his bees were passive, landed on me, tasted the salt on my skin and flew away.  As I wrote to a friend who has raised bees for decades, this is what he shared with me.

“Top bar hives are common in third world countries and have some fiercely devoted advocates in the United States too. But, as one who has had both, it takes more skill to run top bar hives than the conventional equipment. the modern hive developed by Rev. Langstroth and since fine-tuned by generations of beekeepers, has greatly simplified beekeeping efforts.

If you are desperately poor-and have a fine mentor, you might do better with top bar hives. But, I recommend that new beekeepers start off with conventional equipment if at all possible. when you come experienced with it, and want to go back to primitive equipment, then by all means, go for it.

As sources for up-to-date beekeeping references, I suggest you check out “Bee Culture” magazine and editor Kim Flottum’s blog.  Also check out Keith Delaplane. Both are incredible experts and the best at presenting modern beekeeping worldwide. They can be found doing a Google search.

If you are deathly afraid of bees, this may not be for you. The first hurdle is to get over the fear of bees. You WILL get stung from time to time, even if you dress up in a spacesuit. It’s a fact. You will “cook” in a spacesuit, so why not accept that an occasional sting will not kill you and dress to enjoy the work.

A bee veil and some tan Dickies will do the job for most people as far as dress. if the bees are testy on a certain day, the hobbyist has the option to wait for another day to do hive work. If the bees are always testy, re-queen the bee to a better line of worker bees.

And, I believe there are some mild benefits to an occasional sting.  It tunes up your immune system and helps fight against autoimmune diseases like arthritis.

It’s far better to start with two hives rather than one.  Get your hives ready and get your bees early, like in the last week of March in the South and no later than early May in the north so the bees can get established.

Think of your starter hives as baby animals. You are going to have to feed them until they can feed themselves.

And, learn the ropes before you jump into it. Some people think they can get bees, park them in an out of the way place and forget about them until it’s time to do an occasional “robbing” of honey.

Now, if you rob the bees of their honey, they will starve to death, so learn how to harvest a surplus instead.  Learn the ways of good bee husbandry. You would not buy cattle and not expect to learn to care. The Scriptures say that a Godly man is kind to his beasts.

Bees have diseases and parasites that must be dealt with. A neighbor, or a community mosquito spraying can poison your bees (and all the wild pollinators as well). You need to know how to protect them from the use of pesticides in the area.

If your bees do well in spite of neglect, they will blow off swarms in the spring, which will likely irritate your neighbors (especially when the bees take up residence in their house walls), and it will be a devastating loss to you. You wouldn’t raise cattle and let your calves run off. Good swarm management is critical. 

I highly recommend getting into a good local bee club. Find who are the best beekeepers and get a local mentor.

Beekeeping is a wonderful hobby and you will get more benefits from pollination than you do from the honey.

Just be sure that it’s right for you. Just as some people should not have pets or livestock, some people should not have bees. If you are going to do it, do it right. Otherwise, try to attract a beekeeper to your neighborhood to get your garden pollinated.

Dave ” 

Here are several resources to check out:

http://www.beesource.com/build-it-yourself/10-frame-langstroth-barry-birkey/ 

http://www.beekeeping.com/articles/us/small_beekeeping/hive_plans.htm  Top bar hive plan

www.beesource.com/

www.beeculture.com  great beekeeping magazine