Monday, January 25, 2016

Rosemary Bread

In the winter, and in fact most of the year, we always have some kind of soup every other week. It is not only highly nutritious for you, but also it is relatively inexpensive in consideration that most Americans buy their lunches either on the job, or at some (yucky) fast food establishment. Being an Eggetarian, who only eats humanely pasture raised eggs and vegees, it is most difficult to find places that serve "my" type of food. So, cooking my meals to take with me is extremely important. 
Now for me, along with soup, there is nothing more important than having a nice crusty slice of bread with you to dip into your soup! For me, Rosemary Bread is one of my "must haves" when it comes to soup days. 
Organic King Arthur Bread flour is my usual go to for bread baking. An employee owned company which offers extensive baking supplies.

My "mother" is a dough sponge that sits on the counter for several days to create the  " sour dough" flavor that I so love in my breads.  Very easy to make, and is a key ingredient in quality bread. 

Bubbling and smelling a little like hops or beer, means she is working. 

Next adding the flour, mother, oil, honey, salt, and splash of yeast, and then the Rosemary.
Hopefully, you are able to get it fresh, or like me, right out in the front yard.
She is a beauty that I bought as a very small pot. However, here in Texas, they seem to grow crazy when planted into the ground. They love the clay soil here I suppose, or maybe it is all that composted manure that I had put in! 

Either way, she is a beauty, and hopefully I will have several more coming from her....but more on that later.

Here are all the ingredients getting ready to be stirred and then ......

Kneaded! This is my favorite part. There is something so basic and satisfying about kneading bread, don't you think?

Now that it has been kneaded and has reach that elastic point, it is ready for a rise. I figured out a way to make a proofing box, like the bagel and bread stores have, but on the cheap. Take one of your clean dish clothes and get it wet. Then put it into the microwave and turn it on until the towel gets hot and starts to steam up the inside of the microwave; usually about 40 seconds.  Then just put the bowl of dough into your warm moist (off) microwave and let it do the hard work. Leaving it in the (off) microwave with the door shut, keeps the moisture and heat close to the dough.Leave it alone for about 50 minutes and your dough should be doubled. This works especially well up north, during the winter months when it is difficult to find a warm spot to for your dough to rise.

It should double in bulk like this guy. Next, punch him down and roll out and shape whatever type of bread you want. We prefer baguette style here. So , shape him and let him rise again as whatever loaf you have decided on until he is doubled again. 
Then just pop it into your oven at whatever temp. is recommended for your style of loaf ( 400 degrees for my baguette), and viola....  

Here is my finished baguette, ( well 3/4 of him)!  He is a nice dark brown and super crusty on the outside and super moist and soft crumb on the inside. 
As you can see, I do not have any recipe written down as it has been done so often that it is more a matter of just making it. However, there are some great recipes online , and a great book is Crust and Crumb, if you want to get into the chemistry of it. Either way, try making your own bread, I guarantee that once you do, you will not want to go back to the "Mass- produced-baby- blanket- dough" loaves that are out there. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Squirrel vs. the Hawk

Here is my little buddy who comes to my feeding station everyday. 
 He is just a cutie! But who would suspect him to be a undercover superman?

Here is the hawk that comes every week to eat the other things that come to my feeding station. He is allowed to come as that is what nature is all about. The food chain is simplistic perfection.
Here is my little squirrel facing off with this hawk. He does this every time the hawk shows up; and while I worry about him. He seems to be taking care of himself and others quite well.

Although, you'd think that this hawk would be a little more aggressive, the squirrel seems to be the champion of this match off. 
A friend of mine asked me once why I allow such a creatures to come to my yard. I responded by telling her that all of natures creatures are beautiful. It is not for us to decide what species gets to live or die. We humans are an arrogant lot, don't you think?

P.S. Sorry the pictures are not the best quality, as I was taking them through our screened window.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Knitting and Reading....

My usual early morning routine. I get up, heat up some soy milk, start the fire, (which you wouldn't think you would really need here in Texas, but you do surprisingly), and take 15 minutes and do some knitting before I have to get things ready for work.  These are the Kanoko pants on Ravelry. They are for a boss who is having a baby this coming month. I love this pattern...super easy and way too cute. The yarn is something from my stash, something from Pattons I think.

I am currently reading Jo Nesbo's , " The Snowman", a Harry Hole novel. It is pretty good murder mystery so far.

Excited to see what everyone else has going on.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Air layering

A dear friend taught me how to air layer plants many moons ago. We were both kids and had little to no money to be able to go out and buy the latest gadget for such things. So, we created our own version of air layering: cheaply.

Here is my Tiller rose. He is an earthkind rose and blooms like crazy, even in January as you can see.
Usually, I do not air layer in winter, but this has not been a true winter, and I think it is just about over, and before we know it the temps will be back up to 100 degrees!
So, I figured what the hey!

 Here are two branches with somewhat straight stalks.

  Notched about a one inch area .....

Pour some moist sterile potting soil straight onto the branch, where the notch is.

 Wrapped it up in saran wrap, as snugly as possible, and twist tie the ends to make sure the potting soil stays nice and moist. You will want to check it weekly for moisture.
 Both branches done. One for me and one for my mom!

I then tied the branch up to a stake.
That way when it rains the branch will not be endanger of breaking. 
Hopefully, come mid summer I will have something nifty to show you. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

A different January

 Knock-out double Red.

 Four o'clocks, closed for the day, but will open up at dusk.

Root stock growth from a hybridized tea rose that I pruned too severely.
 Pink when it first opens, and then turns to a soft yellow.

 Mealy cup sage: Salvia Farinacea with New Dawn stalks in the back.
New Dawn with just a few flowers 

Dark Knight Canna Lilly 

 Madame de Brabant

Across the blogosphere, gardening friends have all been commenting about one major topic: climate change. These pictures of my flowers still blooming are gorgeous to me, but it makes me question why. Why are they still here in December, blooming and adding new growth? Is it a freak of natural events that occur every other decade, has it happened before, or is this something new?

Something we need to know about?
Something we need to change?

Just questions that roll through my mind while out there amongst the grandeur.

You can tell by the amount of black-spot, that the roses are definitely suffering from the rainy weather we have been experiencing. Hoping that we will get a significant freeze, and then I can prune it off and let them start again come spring.
Most of my roses are "own root" roses, and they will come back true if you cut them down low in winter. I prefer that type of rose as I have had to prune back a hybridized tea rose and,( see above) unfortunately, pruned it too low to the bud union and ended up with the stock rose growing. However, it wasn't a total loss, as the stock rose was just as beautiful!

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Don't you just love Amaryllis?
It is one of those little unexpected gifts for winter.

( P.S. ....I collect signs, old metallic ones. However, we do not eat meat or dairy, despite the sign...)