“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” » John Muir
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” » Theodore Roosevelt
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together … all things connect.” —Chief Seattle
Belly Biology. I invented the phrase for workshops and daily programs that I taught at Port Townsend Marine Science Center. Basically it means to lay on your belly and see what you can see, most often laying on the dock and looking at what lives under it. Now a good DSLR’s flexible LCD screen can save me the stretch but I still came home with pitch on my jeans, really, from laying on my planet. Try it! Next best thing to laying on my back and looking at clouds!
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Butter Cup (Ranunculaceae)and Avalanche Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) Note this Avalanche Lily supports 7 blossoms with one stem. Commonly the plant produces 1 blossom per stem. They are edible but don’t store well. Use them to top salad or cake and serve as soon as possible or eat them in the wild but only a few per patch to preserve the patch. This is the first edible wild flower to spring forth in spring, Rocky Mountains, USA.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise Shot with Olympus OM-D 5 set on close up scene, camera on ground. You don’t have to actually lay on your belly but it’s awe-fully fun if you do.
Not long ago on a cool November day I stopped in a small town for coffee on my way home from a trip to The City. Well, really, I missed the coffee house, an old house alongside the highway, upscaled into a relaxing place to sit with coffee or tea. When I turned around at an intersection down the road a ways I noticed this almost secret garden between buildings. Just enough space to invite anyone to sit and relax, slightly removed from the street scene. Mind you, this is a small town with a highway running through it. The noisiest thing you might encounter here is a logging truck passing through.
I asked 4 people in the hardware store and 2 in the coffee shop about who created it and is it a memorial for the lady painted on the sign. No one knew. And they all live here. It’s a real place but you can easily remember or create in your mind such images of relaxing spaces. Relaxing is all in your head. Right? I’m inspired to put some of these garden elements into my home landscape.
Relax is a state of mind.
Our minds think in images. Whatever images help you relax, that’s what you need to see in your mind’s eye until nothing else is there. Nothing. Think of it. No. Don’t think of it. If you can really think of NOTHING you are really relaxed. No THINGS are in your awareness.
Try this. Slowly push all the air you can out of your lungs, visualizing negative thoughts or images leaving your muscles and blood vessels as you exhale. Then slowly pull new oxygen into your lungs, visualizing light and new energy entering into every cell in your body. Make an image in your mind’s eye of a place where you feel relaxed, keep your focus on it and let it move you deeper within the relaxing space. Repeat. Repeat. Stay there as long as you feel comfortable and slowly come back when you are ready. You don’t have to be any place special or private to do this relaxation exercise. Just let yourself relax often during your day. If even for a moment and inside your own mind.
They always said DeLila daydreamed too much; she needed to pay attention to her work.
They always said DeLila was rather spacey . . . drifty . . . flighty . . .
Some said DeLila’s imagination was too fantastic; she wasn’t grounded in reality.
One said DeLila would never amount to much.
Another said she was likely to one day just flit away and never come back.
You know what, that’s just what she did.
Weekly Photo Challenge: State of Mind and reposted today for Magic. I wish more people would, if just for a portion of their day, use a state of mind more like DeLila, who I invented here. We could just pop ourselves into a bubble and let the breeze carry us somewhere else. I have no doubt many bloggers practice this way nonetheless. I used this photo recently in another post but it felt appropriate for this week’s challenge. I love the weekly challenges, I ponder them all week and look at my world through a different lens because of the themes.
By the way, after I composed this flash fiction I made a quick internet search for the name Delila which I chose for no good reason. I found this story and songs of Delila, a Kurdish song writer, drummer, protester, warrior woman who was killed by a Turkish soldier. She was not at all like the character I invented here. Her music is delightful and mesmerizing, though I don’t understand the lanuage of her lyrics.
Last morning shift checking out keys to the gates. It’s slow business in the office so I can pack and clean and photograph skulls or their attachments. I didn’t get all the skulls like the beaver on the window sill or the mountain goat on a corner shelf. Staff bring them in when they find them. They fit in with a place that’s all about wildlife. If you like to write or draw monsters, these aught to suggest some creatures to design.
I cleaned this California Big Horn Sheep skull with a soft paint brush. The pile of tiny sawdust on the dresser told me it had insects gnawing within. It was covered with a dusty towel that I put in the laundry and covered it again with a clean sheet. A cotton ball with a dab of cedar oil set nearby will protect it from bugs. I can imagine this form as the foundation for “the monster behind the closed door upstairs”. Don’t open the door. I know it’s a trope, but still . . .
It’s really heavy! The last 3 Big Horn Sheep in the Andrus Wildlife Management Area died of pneumonia. This one was found in the fence above Brownlee Dam with it’s neck broken. The biologist thinks it might have been fleeing for its life from something and ran off the cliff above the rock fence. Running from a predator might be a rather common cause of death in nature. Remember those 2 suicidal quails yesterday?
This small horn was on a side table next to several deformed antlers in the living room. It’s not very big, maybe as long as a new pencil.
Goodbyes with staff and I’m headed up the highway to visit my 94 year old aunt in Cambridge. Whoa! I left my coffee press in the dish rack! Back at the ranch the staff were talking about me and thrilled to see me in the drive way. They wanted to learn how to make the sourdough rye bread I baked for them. I showed them where to find it on my blog and offered to give them the starter I had with me (more at home) but they want to do it all from scratch including creating their own starters. One of them had hollowed out the end of the loaf I gave him and stuffed it with baked quail, cheese, and vegetables. The other had sliced his and stacked slices with mozzarella bites and vegetables open faced like tapas. He ate his slices with baked quail and wine. We talked about writing and art and ghost stories, lots of ghost stories from Hells Canyon. They urged me to use suicidal birds in a story and to create a character based on the technician. He would carry a hatchet everywhere he goes and we could call him the Kindler (he chops kindling and other things). The biologist told us about his epic character. He has written more than 25 adventures for it. He also used to create radio shows with a friend. It was an enthusiastic conversation and I’ve no doubt I’ll be back to visit these new friends.
My new best coffee! I get up at 6 AM to get ready to open the office at 7. It takes me a while to wake up. I brought a bag of instant powdered coconut milk for creamer. Mixed with honey in pressed coffee the flavors astound me! This one cup coffee press it’s great for a single mug.
Checking out gate keys to visitors was easy and I’m surprised most of them want to chat a while instead of rushing to their hunt. It’s a pleasant way to start the morning. I nearly filled the wood bin and then made pumpkin soup for lunch, stirring in coconut powder instead of canned coconut milk. Scrumptious with a mug of mushroom coffee! My husband rolled in with a friend and our 2 German Shepherds. The dogs stay in the van at the ranch so they can’t harass the resident wild turkeys. I made a pot of espresso flavored with coconut milk and coconut sugar and we sat on the porch in the sun watching wild turkeys in the yard.
I took a map and keys to 3 gates, locked the house (office inside) and we went off in search of the roads. We entered Lake Road access gate and found this small ancient dog house nearby. Our dogs are too large to get in. There is a loading chute and corral at the entrance. We encountered a stream crossing right away (no bridge) and looking at the road ahead decided it truly was best for an ATV, not our big wide Chevy Express. Let’s hit the highway for the next access gate.
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It was hard to find the Woodhead gate right across from the Woodhead campground. Duh! But the gate is behind a pond and no signs point to it. This road, too is not suitable for a van for very many miles. At least it’s not a steep drop off like Lake Road. Eventually we would have come to a peak and pine forest but I had to open the office at 4 so we turned around. I notice my office hours are the same time as the best light for photos, sunrise and sunset. I’ll be back in my 4X4 truck some other time to capture betters photos.
Brownlee Dam, the first of 3 dams on the Snake River in Hells Canyon, is just out of view to the right of the reservoir. For this photo I turned around and now we’re looking down hill. I’m in Idaho. The land across the river is Oregon.
See the road on the Oregon side, pretty high above the water? It’s not Lake Road but just like it. NOT taking the van on it! Looks like fun for a mountain bike. Yikes. When I was a child, not even in school yet, my family would take Grandpa’s Jeep on roads like that pulling a silver camper. What a hoot! Mom was wrong. Dad didn’t kill us all.
We’re pretty high above the canyon but still can’t get cell phone service here. I thought the Carpathian Mountains were steep when I visited Transylvania but I’m not sure they are steeper than these. Back just in time to open the office, goodbye to my guests, and I swapped keys for hunters who are staying the week in Hells Canyon, took some phone reservations, and checked in returned keys. I gave one chukar hunter a tour of the bear trails around the house and under the wild orchard and black walnut trees. So much scat! I don’t find any fresh walnuts on the ground. Do you suppose bears or turkeys eat them? They’re a hard nut to crack. Um . . . not for a bear. He stayed and we chatted a while about wild plums and elderberries and recipes for foraged harvests while we watched the turkeys eating grass seeds and apples. They fly up and knock the fruit to the ground and then fight over it.
I closed the office at 5 and boiled brown farm eggs for dinner from the little Alpine store in Indian Valley. That place deserves it’s own blog post, it’s so eclectic. The sun disappears behind the mountain early so I brought in another load of firewood and put the wheel barrow back in the garage next to the tractors all the while gathering leaves with interesting shapes for water color painting tomorrow. That sound? Turkeys began flying up from the creek to roost in trees above it. I wondered if it was too dark to get photos but digital cameras are amazing at letting in light at twilight. Oh, the sound of these huge wings fluttering! It’s the sort of ruckus that stirs my imagination to write horror stories and paint scenes inspired by great beasts perching above me in the night. That was last night’s entertainment. Look what I can do when there is no distracting TV noise, none here.
“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.” » Carl Sagan
These are first photos using my new Olympus OM-D: E-M5 Mark II. It’s a mirrorless digital camera, very light weight and will do more than a DSLR. I’m taking it to Spain Tuesday and I have no doubt it will perform superbly as a travel camera.
Drunk on the Umbrian hills at dusk and drunk
On one pink cloud that stood beside the moon,
Drunk on the moon, a marble smile, and drunk,
Two young Americans, on one another,
Far from home and wanting this forever—
Who needed God? We had our bodies, bread,
And glasses of a raw, green, local wine,
And watched our Godless perfect darkness breed
Enormous softly burning ancient stars.
Who needed God? And why do I ask now?
Because I’m older and I think God stirs
In details that keep bringing back that time,
Details that are just as vivid now—
Our bodies, bread, a sharp Umbrian wine.
Quilt from Council Quilt Show 2016 in Council, Idaho.
Celebrate National Pollinator Week, June 20 – 26, 2016!
I registered my gardens in the Million Pollinator Gardens Challenge. I’m on the map now as “Syringa Hill Farm” at Glendale, Idaho. Registering my garden means simply that I am one in a million gardeners who grows one or more plants that attract pollinators like butterflies, honey bees, bumble bees, bats, humming birds, lizards or any of a number of animals that pollinate flowers. I have several gardens, each a little different from the others. What blooms at my place has to withstand serious summer heat, winter cold and snow, and attacks from rodents that live underground and above ground, and occasionally range cattle and deer when they can get over or through the fence. Wildflowers do well! Having 8 acres, I used to garden on the deck before we fenced out range cattle and deer. Deer tracks in wet soil beneath our new Autumn Blaze maple a few mornings ago warn me that I still need to put up deer net to extend my fence higher than they want to jump.
Just some of the stable plants that I can grow easily here, and on which I’ve seen pollinators include:
any garden food that blooms when I let it go to seed
“Pinks” and Jacob’s Coat roses
How wonderful! As I’m writing this two black chinned humming birds are exploring potted flowers on my deck. I didn’t bring out my camera and the cat is on her harness nearby so I have to keep my eye on the situation. One way I assure more birds in my gardens is to keep the cat tethered. She has a long enough lead but I have to find strategic places to let her enjoy the outdoors considering our predators, including her, and the food chain when we live with wildlife! Just perfect!
You can register your garden here or here to join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, too. Do it! You get to display their enchanting logo on your blog and help spread the word about making pollinator friendly gardens and farms. Even one sole flower counts.
You can find out more about growing pollinator gardens and get lovely posters and wall paper and education materials at the websites below.
*U. S. Forest Service: posters, wall paper, and many resources about wildflowers, native plants, ethnobotany and much more. Gorgeous posters of wildflowers, ferns, bees, grasslands, forests, and other pollinator partners. You can get some free and others you can download the pdf. and print them yourself. http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/features/posters.shtml
There are many more websites if you just google “pollinator partners”. Please send me a photo of a flower or garden you grow or find that attracts pollinators. Use the comments below to post them. And please register your garden in the challenge! I’d love to see it! You don’t have to garden in the US to register. My badge is way down at the bottom of my right sidebar. Scroll down to see it.
This was when the whole world measured time
This is when the light would turn around
This is where the past would come undone
and the spinning earth will mark a new beginning
Let’s go back in time, to when it all began
To the breaking of new dawns
Where moments bright with fire, would light the chanting song
Where pagans worshipped sun, and danced among the trees Wore strange masks of covered straw, and blessed cold ash with awe Wreaths hung upon the door against all spirit’s, dire
and when the winter’s grasp let go, the sun reversed the pyre
This was when the whole world measured time
This is when the light would turn around So that spring arrives, and seeds will sprout and grow
Oh, radiant sun, stretch the day, shorten night
Return earth’s darkness into light
This is where the light will turn around
And this was where the past has comes undone
Lauren McCarter is a watercolor artist living in Boise, Idaho. She generously gifted this art piece to me at a time when I needed a boost. Thank you, Lauren!
Thanks for turning me upside down these couple of weeks. All in all, it’s good to go topsy-turvy now and then and look at the nature of life from the flip side. It gives me an angle to see that I am only a small part of nature. I’m not alone in going upside down to find my provisions. Misery and providence, isn’t that the point Mr. Hugo wanted to make?
So my kid’s in jail and I won’t go her bail and she gets herself out soon enough – yet again. And it’s the blame game – yet again.
So 4 friends die or have memorials in as many days and I can’t get to all of them. I feel like a refugee trying to keep my balance as they all fall down.
So my van gets clobbered by a hit and run driver after one of the memorials.
So my old rescue dog gets attacked by a pack of 3 pit bulls and when I give her permission she clobbers them well enough to give a slight window of time so their owner can pull the lead dog away with many bites to his arms. And the gang follows the leader. We make our get away escaping the unrealized massacre.
So he apologizes lavishly yet denies that more than one dog was attacking and we will let the judge hear us and decide. And that’s a big disruption in my schedule. And it’s what a multitude of residents and dog owners ask me to go through. And I will.
And I discover I belong with a local, national, and international community that supports me in more abundance than I would have felt had I not tumbled over in this short avalanche of unfortunate events.
Now, tell me, Spinning Planet, that you will relax for a while and steady the current just for me so I can regain my harmony and shift my attention to the butterflies who have arrived in my gardens and the mule deer in my back yard who gave birth to twins just here and now. I still have strength to peer through disorder and flow with nature. And I remember that I am only a small thing, all in all.
This poem hangs on my bathroom wall honoring our resident snakes who defend our land from voles and mice. This morning our cat hunted insects along side our house where grass grows taller in a shallow gulley shaped by snow melt and rain dripping off our roof. I chanced to catch her studying a sleek Yellow Bellied Brown Racer, the first snake we’ve seen on our property this year. True to it’s name, all I saw at first was a whip lash as it sped to a safe corner and tried to hide behind tall catnip. Such a beautiful light brown skin and soft yellow belly. We looked each other over, then I walked away. We also have Blue Racers, generally bigger, and I bet I’ll see one soon.
I tell the truth, I did not make these images. I found them in an image search. I was more interested in mowing down long grass this morning, for good reason.
Hey, WordPress bloggers, have you had this problem where the draft looks spaced nicely with extra lines between stanzas of paragraphs but it posts with no spaces between each? I think it’s a WordPress thing just for now. I hope I can edit it later to put in white space where I intended. Any ideas, I’d appreciate them.
Forest foraging today provided spicy watercress (Nasturtium officianale) and sweet yellow avalanche lily (Erythronium grandiflorum – Pursh) to lively up my salad. Though I was seeking illusive morel mushrooms, I found other delicious and nutritious plants to harvest on my spring trek. I grazed as I hiked and brought home a small harvest to embellish tonight’s salad.
5 things to know about Nasturtium officianale
It’s related to mustard greens, cabbage, and arugula and tastes spicy like them.
It keeps well a few days submerged in water and stored in the fridge.
Modern science has identified more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals contained in this one herb – more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, and more vitamin C than oranges.
It is known for preventing or treating cancer.
Vitamin K is by far the most prominent nutrient in watercress, with 312% of the daily recommended value. It forms and strengthens the bones and limits neuronal damage in the brain, which is helpful in treating Alzheimer’s disease.
5 things to know about Erythronium grandiflorum – Pursh
Since it often appears at the edge of receding snow banks it is often called snow lily, glacier lily, yellow avalanche-lily, and it’s known as dogtooth violet, trout lily, and fawn lily. People who live in my community call it deer tongue but that is more often used for a different wild flower.
It’s related to the Lily family and it’s stamens can be white, yellow, or red. Usually all the flowers in a patch have the same color stamens.
You can eat the flower, seeds, and bulbs. Leaves are edible, too, but only eaten in emergencies as bulbs need the leaves to provide nutrients to sustain the plant.
This edible wildflower grows in western Canada and U. S., especially in the Rocky Mountains.
Elk and deer relish the foliage. Grizzly bears and black bears use their claws to comb through the soil unearthing the nutritious bulbs.
More posts about edible wild foods are here and here.
Today’s post features photographer Shane Felton who created all these photos. Shane keeps his eyes on the sunrises and skylines in the Rocky Mountains, especially Idaho and Montana where we say we have Big Sky.
“What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?” E. M. Forster
“Yesterday and tomorrow cross and mix on the skyline. The two are lost in a purple haze. One forgets, one waits.” Carl Sandburg
“People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.” Hilary T. Smith
“It agitates me that the skylinethere is forever our limit, I long for the power of unlimited vision…If I could behold all I imagine.” Charlotte Brontë
“On the morrow the horizon was covered with clouds- a thick and impenetrable curtain between earth and sky, which unhappily extended as far as the Rocky Mountains. It was a fatality!” Jules Verne
“You cannot, in human experience, rush into the light. You have to go through the twilight into the broadening day before the noon comes and the full sun is upon the landscape.” Woodrow Wilson
“For most people, we often marvel at the beauty of a sunrise or the magnificence of a full moon, but it is impossible to fathom the magnitude of the universe that surrounds us.” Richard H. Baker
“Get outside. Watch the sunrise. Watch the sunset. How does that make you feel? Does it make you feel big or tiny? Because there’s something good about feeling both.” Amy Grant
A message from the artist, Shane Felton. “I first started taking photos on a self retreat north of Garden Valley. Just me and a store bought instant camera (remember those anyone?). I had realized after a couple hunting trips I loved the hunt of big game, however I was not capable of shooting any creature with my rifle. I decided to try with the lens. I had about the same luck either way. Now photography is almost easy. My “phone” takes as good a picture as the nice digital camera my kids gave me for Christmas 5 years ago! I tend now to picture things many would consider beautiful, (a sunrise), but also those that most take for granted, the rise of a $250 million building, or quail tracks in fresh snow. In one of these sunrise pictures I actually intended the reflection. I think I’m just beginning.”
Blogger’s Note. As I study Shane’s photos I am struck by his awareness of sky and skyline and emerging light at that time of day when the sky and natural or built landscapes transform from darkness to light of day; that twilight time in the cool early morning. He presents us with a palette of hues that sometimes look as if they have been glazed in pastels, warmth with sunlight rising and cools from night lingering. Thanks for sharing your photographs Shane!
Please leave comments for Shane! He will appreciate your feedback.
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
A photo of my focaccia bread on my FaceBook page got many “likes” and several requests for the starter and recipe. So I made starters from mine and promptly gave them away. Here’s the way to make your starter from scratch, care for it, and then make whole wheat sourdough bread that almost never fails me. Yes, I fail sometimes. Only the gods are perfect. My dad taught me to fail, to admit I fail, and to learn from the failure so I don’t repeat the same mistake. Some fails take a few repeats to really get it right.
To start with, you need a sourdough starter. I’ll give you my grandpa’s recipe passed down from his youth in about 1912 as the summer cook in our family’s sheep grazing camps in Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains. As a young man in 1927 he rescued the diamond drill bit for his mining company by mixing up a tacky dough and sticking it to the end of the drill, then lowering it down the shaft. The drill bit stuck to the dough and was easily pulled up. The mining operation was only briefly down that day. Here’s the story about the mine.
This is how Grandpa taught me to make a new starter. <!–more–> Boil a potato (we live in Idaho, right?) and save 1 cup of the boiling water. Eat the potato. Cool the water to room temperature. In a glass jar stir 1 cup flour with the 1 cup potato water. Cover it with a loosely woven towel to keep dust out but let microscopic yeast in. Leave it on the counter several days. It will ferment, get a lovely sourdough aroma and it may develop a grayish liquid hooch floating on top. Stir the hooch back in or poor it off, no matter. Here is a delightful version of the story.
The potato water has natural sugar and starch in it. Yeast lives in air, just about everywhere on Earth. It is a living organism that feeds on the protein in flour and multiplies. That’s how it expands or rises. It’s a process of fermentation. Yeast will find its food in the jar and dive in. After you’ve trapped the yeast all you have to do is keep it alive and you’ll be able to make bread that rises, no need to purchase dry or cake yeast. In 3-4 days up to a week, you’ll need to add 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water to offer more food, stir it in, put a lid on the jar and store it in the refrigerator until you want to use it.
Another way to make your starter is to get some from a friend or buy a mix from a store. You can even put a cup of flour and a cup of water in a jar, cover it with a light cloth and leave it on the counter several days until it ferments. I did that in my classroom whenever we read a Jack Londong story.
Keep the starter thriving: You have to occasionally feed the starter to keep the yeast alive and active. For making bread and buscuits I use a much thicker starter. It rounds up on a table spoon. The theory and practice is that you start your sponge with less living yeast and more flour to feed them. They multiply better, don’t run out of food and stop reproducing, and therefore the bread and biscuits rise higher from the gas produced by the abundant lively yeast. Your bread will have nice high air bubbles in it and it won’t be a dense brick. For bread, reduce the amount of water you use when feeding your starter until you have it thick enough. Then, every 1 – 2 weeks stir in ¼ cup flour and 1/8th cup water to the starter to keep it fed. Feed more often if you are depleting the starter to less than ¼ cup. I keep only ¼-1/2 cup on hand. It only takes 1 tablespoon to make a sponge for bread so I don’t keep a large amount of starter ready.
Keep it capped in the refrigerator. Some cooks keep another jar of runny starter to use in pancakes and other recipes. If hooch (stinky liquid) forms on top, you can pour it off or stir it back in. This happens if the starter has not been fed for too long, no matter, it’s still good starter and you’ll know it wants to be fed.
Sponge for bread or biscuits: When you want to make bread you start by making a sponge, or getting the yeast excited and active. Mix a sponge the night before you plan to use it or early morning if you want to use it for dinner biscuits. I use the same 1/4 cup tool for all the measurements so instead of saying 1/2 cup, you will see 2/4 cups.
In a glass container or small crock mix gently
¾ cups flour (bread flour is best but all purpose if fine)
2/4 cups lukewarm water
1 heaping tablespoon starter (the thick starter)
Cover with light cloth or a loose fitting dish that lets a little air in. Let it stand (or sit) on the counter over night or at least 6 hours.
The sponge will increase its volume, rise higher in the crock, and then settle back down so you could see a line to where it expanded. That’s fine. It should look bubbly.
Note: If you leave the sponge too long the yeast critters will have eaten all the flour protein and start to die and lose strength for making bread rise. They will need more food so, only in this case, add 2/4 cups more flour and ¼ cup water and let it eat a couple hours longer to form enough gas needed for rising. If I added more flour in this case, I subtract it from the amount needed for my bread recipe.
The recipe for 1 big loaf of bread, no knead method. OK, so you know about the starter, how to keep it thriving, and how to make a sponge hours before making your recipe. Now, let’s make the dough.
1st evening: make the sponge (above). I use bread flour for this. 3/4 cup flour, 2/4 cup warm water (not hot), 1 table spoon starter.
Next morning: add 2/4 cups bread flour and ¼ cup lukewarm water, gently stir it in. Cover crock with a dish again and let it set out all day. Doing this really boosts the energy for making bread rise!
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2nd evening: With the flour you added this morning, the sponge has expanded and gas has formed bubbles like the photos above. Use the sponge now and mix dough. You want a total of about 2 cups flour. You have already added ½ cup to the sponge this morning so that counts as part of the total flour you will need. Now you need to add 1 and 1/2 cups to make the 2 cups needed. You can use all white bread flour or mix with whole wheat, oat flour, or other grains. The more whole wheat and other grains you mix in, the more chance it won’t raise well. The more white flour, the better it will raise. I am able to get half the flour as whole wheat, after learning from many fails. Try changing your ratio of white and wheat flours if you have trouble. Try your first loaf with all white flour for success.
In a large glass bowl, mix dry ingredients.
¾ cups whole wheat flour
¾ cups bread flour
½ heaping tsp. baking soda (makes it form nice big gas bubbles)
½ tsp salt
optional Add up to 1/4 cup wheat or oat bran or other grain and 1 T. flax seed. The more I add, the less rise I get. Experiment to see what works for you.
Mix wet ingredients into the sponge in its crock, gently. First, I start with the water in a glass measuring cup with a pour spout, and add the oil next into the water. Oil coats the spoon so molasses slides off easily. Add the molasses then stir with measuring spoon. Then pour it all into the sponge in the crock and mix gently. It doesn’t all mix in and that’s fine. The sponge will deflate a little when you stir it.
½ cup lukewarm water
1T. olive oil
1T. molasses (optional but I like its color and flavor and I feel it helps feed yeast)
Add wet mixture to dry ingredients in the bowl, stir to mix it, no kneading unless only slightly if the color is not mixing into the dough. The color doesn’t all have to mix in; it will eventually mix and come out fine. Dough will be quite wet and sticky, that’s a good thing. Cover the bowl with a dish or lid. I use a dish as the lid to my big Pyrex mixing bowl. Leave it on the counter overnight. You can put it in the fridge a couple days for a slower rise and more sourdough flavor. If you do that, just take it out and let it warm to room temp slowly before the next step.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Stir just enough to mix. It will look uneven but it all mixes and rises overnight.
Next morning: Stretch, don’t knead the dough. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured counter or board. Yes, it’s wet and may be kind of runny. Sort of scoop it up in a pile and invert the bow over it. Set your timer for 15-20 min., I use 20. Go drink your coffee or do yoga and let it rest. In 20 min. lift off the bowl and stretch the dough gently on one side, then the opposite side, then one end, then its opposite end. Flour it and flour your hands as needed so you can handle it. It will resemble pizza dough. Fold one side onto the middle part of the dough. Fold its opposite side onto it forming a long pile. Then fold each end up the same way into a heap, turn it over onto the floured board, cover with the bowl and let it rest 15-20 min. again. You can look at some video examples below. Try not to let it tear, you are stretching the dough to let it form gas, those nice big bubbles we like in sourdough bread. If it tears a little it’s firming up. Do this for a total of 3 rests and stretches after the initial rest. After the last stretch, let it rest up to 20 min. before forming the loaf.
Scrape out of bowl, cover with bowl, rest 20 min.
Stretch, cover with bowl, rest 20 min.
Stretch, cover with bowl, rest 20 min.
Stretch, cover with bowl, rest 20 min.
You might like this video demonstration. This baker puts the dough back in the bowl between stretches and waits longer. I like my method better but I stretch the dough the same way. Each time I stretch it, the dough gets thicker and higher until it’s ready to form the loaf. Here is another video demonstration for stretching dough. His dough is as wet as mine often is, he uses a scraper, but he only stretches dough once for a different effect. Again, he starts with very small amount of starter. You really don’t need much.
Form the loaf: Shape the loaf and then put in into an oiled loaf pan or on an oiled baking sheet, and let it rise at least an hour or until double which may take a half day or longer. Whole wheat takes longer to rise. I use my 3 qt. cast iron sauce pan, oiled on bottom and sides all the way up. It usually rises higher than the sides of this pan. Or I use my clay bread loaf pan. Or I form a long baguette or Italian loaf or ciabatta rolls and put them on a baking sheet. Usually it’s the cast iron sauce pan, no lid. Cover with light cloth to rise. To avoid drafts I let it rise in the oven. No heat in summer oven but in cool seasons I heat my oven to 110 degrees, or as cool as I can, turn it off and let bread raise in the slightly warm oven. If the oven is too warm it kills the yeast so be careful. 110 is just right.
Baking: Remove bread from oven while preheating to 400. You can leave it in during preheating if you like but I don’t. Bread will have an “oven spring” usually, rising even more. Bake 20 – 25 min.. It should be nicely browned and sound solid when you thump it with your fingers. Cool on rack. Mine usually pops out of the pan without too much work. I run a butter knife around the edge to be sure it’s loose. “Completely cool it before cutting as it will keep cooking while it cools.” That rule never works at my house! We eat it warm, turned on its side to cut, with butter and honey. A round loaf gives you lots of chances for crusty heals.
I’ll post my recipe for focassia bread in a future post. Remember, if your bread turns out flat you can always call it flat bread, slice it horizontally for sandwiches or use it for dipping bread or thin crusts with spreads. When bread gets dry I make croutons or grind it for panko.
My favorite sourdough recipes are here. I’ve reworked and modified his recipe for 5 loaves to make the 1 loaf recipe you just read. The biscuits on his site are the best! Scroll down to find them in the link. Have fun and let me know how it works out for you!
It’s February, a season for dragons. We dug up this rock last summer when we planted the maple tree. I think it looks like a dragon’s face. I’ve watched it in summer, fall, and then lost it in winter. It gradually reveals itself as snow melts. Is it a coincidence the props manager for this season’s children’s theater asked me to make 5 kites, and one must be a Chinese dragon? I don’t think so! I must need dragons this season. They’re here.
Chinese dragons are useful and powerful. Most live in water. Our creek has been running nearly all winter, so unusual. I can hear it from the house though it flows through the culvert beneath our drive with room to spare. Did a dragon bring this on? (I don’t think so.) Dragons bring rain, and probably snow, that’s needed for irrigation and they can prevent floods or stop them. “It is said that the dragon is a large-scaled reptile, which can become dark or bright, large or small, long or short, and fly into the sky in the spring and live underwater in the fall.” Perhaps my rock, which was buried all these years, has lived under snow all winter, a frozen form of water. Maybe it wants us to move it to the creek. We can do that. Fabulous Husband is just waiting for another tractor landscaping project, no doubt.
I welcome the strength of Chinese dragons this season as snow melts and spring appears. “The Chinese dragon symbolizes power and excellence, valiancy and boldness, heroism and perseverance, nobility and divinity. A dragon overcomes obstacles to achieve success. He is energetic, decisive, optimistic, intelligent and ambitious.
Unlike the evil energies associated with Western dragons, most Eastern dragons are beautiful, friendly and wise. They are the angels of the Orient. Instead of being hated, they are loved and worshipped.” Here is a fascinating site about Chinese dragons. For now, I’ll consider the dragons emerging in my life as donors of some powers I need now, or soon will.
I learned how to draw a dragon here and here. I cut a worn sheet and painted the kites with acrylics. I used wood dowels and string for the frame and then attached the kites to the frame with duct tape, the wonder tool. I found simple instructions for making a kite here. I hope they really will fly when I get them back after the play.
This is my response to the weekly photo challenge: seasons. Share an image evocative of the weather or represent the current “season of your life” in metaphor.