Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cold Weather, Warm Sliced Bread

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Almost 5 PM here on the mountain. Just home from work and I'm kind of cross eyed from two busy days and an almost sleepless night thanks to Karl the unwonderful dog. There seems to be a point every year towards the end of January when the wild critters from the Groton State Forest yearn for a menu different than they can find in the woods. Last night in the bright moon and cold weather, wildlife came to visit and Karl went nuts. This critter thing is reminiscent of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are except that my usual fear is that I'll never get back to sleep before it's time again for work.

Sitting here now and looking down the hill and into the field I can see the problem. Tracks from the woods converge in the vicinity of the compost pile so that location must have been on last night's animal party invitation. I can see three distinct sets of coyote tracks, two larger than the third, and one fisher track even from here on the hill. Fishers are amazing animals with an ability at maturity to leap over 20 feet without missing a beat. If you weren't familiar with them you might ask just how long the legs were on an animal that could leave so much space between tracks. I know they weren't looking for the leftovers in the pile but instead
for the visitors that came to them.

It's going to be cold again tonight and for the next couple nights. Below zero is predicted but I'm not sure how cold. Fortunately the predictions have been off lately and the oil burner hasn't run quite as much. When Gail is here during the day she keeps the woodstove burning but on days like today, we resort to oil. When I returned home there was a delivery receipt in the door and for six weeks we have used 91 gallons. That's not too bad considering all the company we had over the holidays and the times when we couldn't use the wood stove because of little feet pattering about.

A couple weeks back Gail caught on to the collection of Fleishman's Yeast in the door of the fridge. Sometimes I leave reminders and in this case I was hoping for some home made bread. Bread isn't difficult to make but few attempt it any more. Gail is a good cook and a good baker too and she tries to get Alex involved as much as possible. His Portuguese bread is excellent but the loaves here are few and far between.

In this case all I was looking for was some white or wheat. Gail uses the Joy of Cooking cookbook that was my mother's. It's the 1946 edition which had five previous printings and who knows how many since then. It's a real simple book, easy to understand and with dependable results.

Here's the recipe which makes 2 loaves.

Combine: 6 cups of flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt

Heat until lukewarm:
3 c. water

Dissolve in half cup of this:
1 package of yeast

Add dissolved yeast to remaining water. Stir in the dry ingredients until the dough is well blended. Put it in a bowl topped with a covered cloth and put in a warm place where it's about 85 degrees until it has doubled in bulk (takes about 1 1/4 hours)

Split the dough and place in two greased five by ten inch bread pans. Let it rise again until it has doubled in bulk. Bake in a 400 degree oven until it is light brown, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until done. Usually this is about 1 hour total.

These direction are pretty much copied from page 469 of the book. If you have dogs, do not put the bread even close to where they could get it as it rises. Dogs love yeast and will go out of their way to give you an opportunity to yell at them. If they got into a bowl of rising bread they would puff up like party balloons and might succumb to the event. If it didn't get that bad, you'd still wish it was a different day. I remember such a day with Rusty, my Irish Setter. I was about 6 and my memory is the only thing worse was the day she went after a porcupine.

As winter continues, if you determine bread making is not your sport, grab a stack of catalogs, do a few web searches for garden design or take graph paper and pencil and work on some new gardens. These are all good pursuits on a cold winter's eve.

Right now Karl is barking and that means Gail and Alex are home. I have to get the door.

Good garden wishes!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

1 comment:

Bob said...

George, thanks for stopping by my blog. In regards to your question, Yes some passion vines are hardy here. There is a great website that has a comprehensive selection and info on passifloras. It's Hope this helps. I live very close to Renton and Hike a lot. If you can remember the hike name I'll have to check the passifloras out.
All the best, Bob