February 23, 2010

Seedling Setup

One of my biggest failures last year revolved around seedling maintenance. Although I improved the situation over the prior year's South-facing window with a florescent shop light above the refrigerator, there simply wasn't enough room to grow everything out and maintain a close light-to-seed proximity. This year, I decided to buy a shelving unit and place a shop light on each shelf, allowing more lighting height flexibility and definitely more room. Following my husband's advice, I placed it in the laundry room. Not only does it fit beautifully, it always stays warmer than the rest of the house, and it is tucked away from the prying hands of a toddler. I have one more light to add for now, then more will be added as needed.

I started pepper and herb seeds a few weeks ago, February 13th to be exact. Dates next to variety are the date they germinated.

Odessa Market (Bell), 2/23
Dragon's Claw (Hot), 2/21
White Habanero (Hot), 2/21
Black Pearl (Hot), 2/21
Thyme, 2/18
Rosemary, 2/22
Cilantro, 2/22
Parsley, 2/23

The onions seem to be doing well. I was concerned for a bit because the tips were browning and curling up. I thought perhaps I kept them too close to the light or over fertilized them, although I only used a very dilute fish emulsion solution. They have all put forth another leaf (if that's what you call them) and appear vigorous. I have not fertilized them again. I've read to keep them snipped to 3-4 inches to promote better root growth. They'll be due for a haircut soon.

February 12, 2010

This is what I do on a cold snow day...

...make bread. For a long time, this Farmhouse White (as it's called by Susan of A Year in Bread), was my go-to, daily bread. It's a hefty dough, using almost eleven cups of flour. I'm always worried the Kitchen Aid won't be able to withstand the stress, as it whines and moans with each turn of the dough hook. The reward is great - three wonderful loaves of sliceable bread. Somewhere along the way I strayed, finding myself in search of greener pastures. And while those adventures were wonderful, here I am again, yearning for an old staple. Here is my interpration of a classic.


All-Purpose Flour, 566 grams, or about 4 cups
Yeast, 2 TBSP
Sugar, 2 TBSP
Olive Oil, 2 TBSP
Milk, 4 cups
Bread Flour, 825 grams, or about 6 cups
Salt, 1 1/2 TBSP

Oh, did I mention we're going old school today? By hand, folks!! Mix the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Add olive oil and warmed milk, creating a very wet mixture.

Slowly add in the bread flour, about one cup at a time. I used about 4 1/2 cups, since I tend to add a lot when kneading. The result should be slightly sticky. Turn out onto well-floured surface and begin to knead, adding extra flour to prevent sticking.

Once the dough becomes smooth, place bowl back over dough to rest and autolyse. After twenty minutes, remove the bowl. It should be springy and hold an indentation. Pat the dough out and begin incorporating the salt by sprinking it on throughout a second knead.

Once dough is once again soft and supple, place into your well-floured dough bowl and sprinkle with flour. Cover with a damp kitchen towel. Wait until doubled. I place mine on the stovetop and set the oven to "warm", which keeps my dough at about 75 degrees Farenheight.

Once doubled, cut into three even portions and shape into loaves. I only have two loaf pans, so I saved the extra for another time. Place in a preheated oven at 375F for about 35 minutes. Immediately remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Then wait. Wait for about an hour to slice, if you can stand it. It'll be worth every minute!

**Submitted to YeastSpotting.

February 10, 2010

My Happy Kitchen

Please check out my online store if you haven't done so already. I've made a few items available for purchase, such as these very soft, very organic dishcloths.

Aprons, potholders, and kitchen curtains to be added soon!

February 6, 2010

Onions in Winter

Snow fell again yesterday. Big, thick, wet flakes accumulated on the ground, about four inches or so. Not nearly as much as my good friends in the D.C. area, 27 inches of snow!! I'm completely satisfied with my four. There was plenty of wind, too. It drifted snow up against our cars and carved out snow in beautiful shapes around other areas. I finished knitting a pair of mittens for my little one so we could get our play on!

Unaware of freezing temperatures outside, the onion seeds I started February 2nd sprouted up from within their little cells. I don't have the shelving and light setup for my seedlings. I'm using the old setup on top of the fridge for now. Finally a start to the gardening season.

February 2, 2010

A Knit Fix

The scarf is finished!!

I've been working on a new lovely green scarf. It's very cozy and just the right length. Just in time for the usual (you think spring is here with the 40 degree temps but it's not, really...) February we're about to have.

But this is a gardening blog, you say? True, but it's one about sustainability. Knitting, sewing, cooking, gardening: creating a homesteading experience would be nearly impossible without these practical, everyday skills. I'm curious as to the point in time when these things slipped beneath us, seen as something less than an office full of pencil pushers.

Yarn: Lion Brand Nature's Choice Organic Cotton in Pistachio (3 skeins)
Needles: US 15
Pattern: Palindrome