Introducing The Farm Wife Mystery School

The  Farm Wife Mystery School

Back for a third season and filling up quickly!

Put yourself on the path to independent, conscious living by reclaiming the lost skills and healing arts of the traditional farm wife. In the old days, the farm wife knew how to grow, preserve, cook, nourish and heal her family. She could take a small leaf from the garden and turn it into a healing salve, or preserve it for a winter’s meal. Wouldn’t it be great if there was one fun series of classes that could teach you all this and more?

It’s the perfect sunny day just begging for a family outing with friends.  You grab your picnic basket and load it up with odds and ends from your personal pantry: bits of cheeses, some membrillo, subtly spiced sausage, canned fish, pickled asparagus, crusty bread, dried fruits and kombucha.  Your friends pull out their standard grocery store fare and marvel at your lovely spread, every bit of which you made yourself in season from your local foodshed.  “How did you find the time or even know how to do all this, and how can you afford it?” they ask, enviously.  You smile humbly.  “Oh, I have some farm wife friends who made it easy,” you answer, keeping the mystery alive.  

If this sounds like a scenario you can imagine yourself in then Nelly, are you in luck.  Patti and Annette, farm wife extraordinaires, are offering for the first time ever a year-long course designed to put you on the path to farm wife independence and style.

The Farm Wife Mystery School is the premier 21st century guide to practical home arts that will help you reclaim that old time wisdom of traditional homemaking.  

How many times have you wished for the knowledge and courage to plant, grow and use forgotten herbs like horehound, feverfew, valerian, and chamomile?  How to clean your home with pantry items instead of caustic agents, estrogen disruptors and carcinogens?  How to eat like a king while spending like a peasant?

Gain the know-how to fearlessly:

  • can, cellar, and dehydrate

  • ferment vegetables, dairy and kombucha

  • cure meat

  • make cheese, yogurt, kefir, and other cultured dairy delights

  • grind, soak and bake grains

  • turn those mystery parts the butcher offered you into free yet deeply nourishing meals

  • make tinctures, salves and compresses to create your own home apothecary

  • forage for food and medicinals

  • plan and plant a kitchen garden along with basic seed saving skills

  • master simple home nursing skills

  • develop your own line of homemade body care products

  • employ natural, effective cleaning techniques and products

  • bring back frugal like it’s 1938

This class will fill in gaps and provide the hands-on knowledge you just can’t find online.  Farm wives Patti and Annette will invite you into their kitchens and guide you through the material like only old friends and farm wives can do.

It’s January and your wee ones have coughs, ear aches and sore throats  Do you know how to turn plants from your medicinal and tea garden (along with a few simple pantry staples) into herbal healing solutions?  Patti and Annette will share that old fashioned know-how.

It’s March and the days are getting longer.  Do you know which seeds to start when, and how to ready your garden?  Patti and Annette do.

It’s June and the flowers and herbs in your garden are blooming and lush.  Do you know what time of day is best to pick them so they will be at peak healing powers?  The first fruits of summer are coming in – do you know when to look for things so that you don’t miss out?  Annette’s calendar of when things ripen will come in handy.

It’s September and summer’s sweet produce is fleeting.  How do you know if you have enough of everything to last all year?  How can you possibly juggle all those pots, boxes, baskets and canning jars?  Can you even find your kitchen counter?

Learn to plan, prioritize, and tackle the most important things your family needs, Patti’s secret to slowly reducing fruits into delectable butters without a stove burner, and non-canning methods of preserving produce.  Gain the courage and organization you need to plow through September without melting into a puddle of tomato sauce.  Patti and Annette know how, and you can too.

One Course to Gain the Skills You Need!

The Farm Wife Mystery  School is a comprehensive  course packed chock-full of skills sure to amaze your friends and family and improve the quality of your diet and life. Patti and Annette will help you build that all-important farm wife support network of friends who also crave a life out of the norm. As part of each class, there will be time to share collective experiences (both frustrations and joys) as you integrate these skills into your family life, along with a good dose of practice so it soon feels old-hat.

Patti and Annette will pack each monthly lesson chock-full of skill building while helping you explore how to bring the natural expression of the Earth’s seasons into your home in simple, yet beautiful ways. They will show you how to add healthy self-care to the hectic pace of your modern family, and how all this knowledge works together to reduce your financial burden and footprint on the planet.

You will leave each class with serious skills and goodies to share with your family or friends. It might be a jar of berry jam to top homemade ice cream, sauerkraut for your home corned beef Reubens, kefir to boost your energy, herbal tea mix for sore throats, soothing bath salts that detox, or some other new favorite thing.

The mystery will be how you ever managed to live without this class.

The Details

When: The Farm Wife Mystery School is a hands-on, participatory class that meets one Sunday a month from October 2015  to June 2016, from 10 am to 4 pm

Where:  Class location will rotate between Patti and Annette’s two farms in  Snoqualmie and Carnation

Cost: $1500  plus a $300 supply fee that will cover all ingredients for the year

Questions???  Contact Patti Pitcher at (425) 765-2375 or email

Who?  Adult and mature teen aspiring farm wives of all genders

To Register: Send a non-refundable $300 deposit to made out to Patti Pitcher 39819 SE 60th St Snoqualmie, WA 98065  

Who are Patti and Annette?  Instructors Patti and Annette are friends who have spent years unraveling the mysteries of traditional homemaking in a modern world. They both live on small farms of their own with larders full of things they have grown and preserved.

Patti Pitcher is the mother of four now grown children (ages 34-20). Since she was a teenager, she’s been actively studying and practicing traditional home arts and herbalism. She lives on a small farm in Snoqualmie where she grows, preserves and cooks as much of her family’s food as she can. On her farm there are orchards, berries, herbs, vegetable gardens, bees, cows, goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks and sometimes lambs. Her house is filled with various pots brewing and projects needing finishing. Always interested in trying something new, she loves learning, experimenting and concocting with plants and food and she loves sharing what she knows. She teaches practical home arts classes with Sound Circle Center in Seattle. In addition, she co-authored Under The Chinaberry Tree: Books and Inspirations for Mindful Parenting, Random House 2003.

Annette Cottrell is the mother of two active and curious boys (ages 9 and 12) who pine for sugared cereal and candy.  She lives on a small and heavily wooded permaculture farm in progress just outside of Carnation with hugel orchards, silvo-pastures, a large and increasingly perennial vegetable garden, medicinal and tea garden, bees, turkeys, dairy goats, chickens, and rabbits.  She breeds Black Copper and Cuckoo Marans (fine French table and dark egg laying chickens,) and Mini Nubian dairy goats that provide high yielding, flavorful cheeses and tasty fluid milk.  Annette teaches various farm life classes through the WSU Winter School program, around the Seattle area, and out of her own farm kitchen.  She masterminded and co-authored The Urban Farm Handbook: City-Slicker Resources for Growing, Raising, Sourcing, Trading and Preparing What You Eat, Skipstone 2011.

New Site!

I finally got my domain to resolve so the new site, the shorter amount of typing and personal IP: is up! Please switch any RSS feeds or email updates, blog links or other to that one since I’ll be making all future posts there.

I have lots to add about putting my tomatoes in the ground, building my hoop house and getting this spring garden party started finally!

The irrigation is here and I’m starting to put it in, read why chickens make lousy housepets and see the chicken coop come together.

Urban farming at it’s best, right from the comforts of your own desktop. Hope to see you over there!

How Can You Save Money Buying Locally?

Have you ever heard of a wholesale buying club? It’s kind of like Costco for savvy shoppers who are able to pool orders together with other savvy shoppers and get amazing deals on REAL FOOD. Shhh, dont’ tell everyone about it though.

A whole new world has opened up for me this year. I can’t even remember the chain of events that led to this amazing discovery but I know it started with reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and then The Omnivore’s Dilemma and then seeking out meat buying clubs which lead to my discovery of the Kenmore Milkshed (how can I be 42 years old and never even knew you could get real milk?) and then all those deals they get gave me the idea to approach other farmers and ask if they had buying clubs.

Read the rest of this entry…

Chicken Love


I did it – I didn’t chicken out. We got the chickens today!

Read the rest of this entry…

Could you go no GMO?


It’s a great question and one as recently as last summer I would have answered no to.  I remember hearing a news report about 4 or 5 years ago that some foods in the grocery store were modified genetically.  I felt cheated.  I felt deceived.  And then I promptly forgot about it.

I’ve come a long way since then.

It’s easy to fall back on old eating habits, forget what you’ve read or just assume that the FDA would not allow harmful things in the food chain.  That is a naive and dangerous approach.  I’ve compiled some tidbits I’ve cut out of recent newletters (mainly the PCC Sound Consumer) or online discussing just how poorly your food chain is regulated. 

As you read through these, ask yourself if the FDA and USDA are really protecting you.  Make your own decision.  And when you get done go and join the No GMO Challenge over at Real Food Media.  If enough people sit up and pay attention, take the pledge for 30 days, and word gets out to food manufacturers, it will change things.  This is your vote.  Make it count.

Children’s allergies are up to 1 in 26 kids. In 1997 it was 1 in 30 kids. Peanut allergies have doubled. Genetic modification, anyone? (US Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

A federal appeals court ruled against a meatpacker (Creekstone) which wants to test their cattle for mad cow’s disease. The USDA tests only 1 percent of all US cattle. Larger meat companies feared they would be forced to test for cow’s or lose market share if Creekstone was allowed to claim their meat was BSE free. (LA Times)

NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) voted in Nov 2008 in favor of developing farmed salmon as USDA certified organic. If approved, certified organic fish would be fed 25% non-organic fishmeal from wild or mercury contaminated fish. Think confined feed lot operation only with fish, their pollution, waste and parasites going directly into public waters. Please don’t buy farmed fish.

A University of Vienna study found negative effects on reproduction in mice eating GM corn from Monsanto. This same corn is approved for human consumption and currently in foods in your cupboard.

Milk and meat from the offspring of cloned livestock are currently in the US food supply and have been now for several years. (Wall Street Journal)

The USDA, FDA and EPA have announced that an experimental GM cottonseed developed by Montsanto has entered the US food supply illegally. (Union of Concerned Scientists)

26 university scientists have issued a complaint to the EPA saying biotech companies are preventing them from fully researching the impacts of GM crops. (NY Times)

If you are concerned at all by anything you’ve just read here please go sign up for the No GMO Challenge. Your children will thank you by hopefully being able to have children of their own someday.

Homemade Food Scrap Digester

img_1775One of my projects for this week, along with re-potting the tomatoes, was to make a scrap composter.  We have a great compost program for yard waste in the city but I wanted those nutrients for my yard.

I followed the directions I found on a handout I got from a Tilth volunteer at last week’s UW Farmer’s market that don’t seem to be on their website. 

Read the rest of this entry…

Taking Stock

I wanted to share the list of items that we are growing on our small city lot because it still astounds me that there is room for all this bounty.  Once you start looking at your yard as growing space and remove the lawn all kinds of possibilities open up.  Maybe this list will inspire you as well.

Side orchard:

  • Liberty apple
  • Cox Pippin apple
  • Montmorency cherry
  • White Gold cherry
  • Italian Prune plum
  • Blues Jam plum
  • Bay
  • Quince
  • Columnar Golden Sentinel apple
  • Yuzu
  • Desert King fig
  • Violetta fig (potted)
  • Dalgo crabapple
  • Improved Meyer lemon (potted)
  • 15 Jersey Knight asparagus
  • 2 Hardy Annanasnaja arguta fuzzy kiwi
  • Table grapes (future plan for arbor over garage door)
  • 32 Tulameen raspberry canes

Front yard planted in ground:

  • Rubel blueberry highbush
  • Legacy blueberry highbush
  • Darrow blueberry highbush
  • 3 rhubarb plants
  • 3 Globe artichokes
  • Bronze fennel
  • garlic, chives, scallions, leeks and storing onions
  • 3 bags or barrels of potatoes
  • chammomile

In raised beds:

  • 30 tomatoes
  • 2 eggplant
  • 15 basil
  • Nantes carrots
  • beets
  • radiccio
  • Swiss chard
  • kale
  • brussel sprouts
  • broccoli
  • corn
  • mache
  • claytonia
  • French sorrel
  • purslane
  • green beans

Lower front terrace outside fence:

  • 8 lowbush blueberries, Tophat
  • 6 cranberry
  • 2 lingonberry

Just in front of the front fence so they can grow up it:

  • 3 zuchini
  • 1 Magic Lantern pumpkin for jack-o-laterns
  • 1 Sugar Pie pumpkin for pies
  • 1 muskmelon
  • 2 cucumber
  • 1 butternut squash
  • sunflower sentries – these are re-seeding from last year and I’ll re-plant as needed.

In my semi-shady backyard I have or will plant:

  • 2 evergreen huckleberry bushes
  • countless strawberry plants in the rockery
  • peas
  • celery if the seedlings make it.  They aren’t very happy right now
  • mustard
  • cardoons
  • lemon verbena
  • lemon balm
  • chocolate mint
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • oregano
  • marjoram
  • lavendar
  • tarragon
  • cilantro
  • parsely
  • thyme
  • red currant
  • black current
  • aronia
  • sweet woodruff (for flavoring soda)
  • 1 service berry tree for jam or dried fruit for baking
  • lovage – to be used as drinking straws for bloody marys when we have time to sit around…

It’s pretty astounding, isn’t it?  All in the same space that was previously un-usable or was rarely used front lawn.

We are trying to design the garden so that it fits well with the neighborhood and adds to resell value should we choose to sell the house.  With some planning and creativity you can do amazing things with your landscaping.  Growing groceries isn’t just for farmers anymore and can fit well into just about any landscape design.

A future post for next year when the fruit trees and berry bushes are bearing fruit will be on bees.  I wanted to get them this year since I was told the reason some of my zuchini fruits last year rotted and fell off was lack of pollination.  For now I’m happy to have gotten the garden beds in and focused on irrigation and chickens.   More to come on those topics hopefully next weekend.

One last note – all the berry bushes and trees I purchased in March as bareroot stock.  It’s a much less expensive way to purchase plants.  They are shipped to you during the dormant season for significant savings.  I ordered mine online from and   Both are located in the Pacific NW and have disease resistant varieties that are acclimated to our conditions.  One Green World especially has amazing customer service – phoning before shipping each order to be sure everything is correct and let you know when things are coming.  They were great to work with and let me change my order just before shipping.  Raintree as well even went so far as to apply a discount code to my order that I had forgotten to use during the checkout process.  I recommend them both.

Planting the Seeds of Change

It’s a radical idea to grow your own food and more empowering then you can imagine.  Everyone who has seen our front yard converting from green lawn to growing beds and orchard has asked the same question – “Do you really think you can grow enough food to feed your family?”  My answer is unequivocably “YES!”

By the end of WWII 40% of all American produce was grown in yards.  A lot has changed in 60 some years.  We’ve forgotten that we have the ability to grow food, and even more empowering then growing it is completing the cycle – letting a few of everything go to seed and storing those to use next year.  Knowledge is power, and dangerous to food corporations. 

If everyone was doing 15% of what I am doing – just saying no to food that contains dangerous chemicals, or is harvested using forced and/or child labor which happens even in this country (think of your year-round tomatoes) – food giants would sit up and take notice.

In the same way the toy industry suddenly realized this year that consumers would indeed hold them responsible for using lead, pthathlates and other dangerous chemicals in children’s toys and baby items, they would realize the future needs to change.  Knowledge is power. 

My challenge to you is to take the time to understand exactly what is in one grocery item per week and how it is made and harvested.  Email or phone the company.  Read the ingredients on the box.  Use your google skills.   Empower yourself.

Planting Potatoes

I finally got around to planting my potatoes (late of course).  Potatoes are a fun thing to grow with kids and a great thing for someone with minimal yard space to grow.  You can even grow them on a patio or balcony.

You can buy seed potatoes at most garden shops or through seed catalogs.  Or you can buy eating potatoes from a trustworthy organic farmer and hope they don’t have any diseases that might contaminate your soil for future plants in the same family as potatoes (like tomatoes for instance).  Once you buy your potatoes you put them in a brown paper bag in a dark place for a few weeks until they sprout.  A garage is perfect.  Non-organic potatoes won’t sprout, by the way, because they’ve been gassed to keep them from sprouting on you.  That’s in addition to the pesticides they have.  Nice, eh?

Read the rest of this entry…

Confessions of a Hyper Locavore

Allright, it’s time for me to come clean.  Friday while shopping for sweetener, soap and bulk Glory Bee honey at PCC I felt a tinge of guilt.  My toddler was pointing to the Annie’s bunny crackers pleading in that sweet little Oliver Twist voice that is so hard to refuse. 

Since taking our pledge for 2009 of not buying any processed food unless we know where every ingredient comes from and how it is made the only thing I’ve bought that sort of breaks these rules are [read the rest of this entry at the new blog…

Homemade Soda

I’ve never been a soda fan – too bubbly and sickly sweet for me – so it’s been with vindication that I’ve learned as an adult how evil it is for your body.  Of course my kids idolize it now that it’s been demonized so I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make healthy soda.

I ran across this article while googling for I can’t remember what and was intrigued.

A few weeks back I made the ginger bug as my culture by placing a cup of filtered water in a mason jar, then adding a teaspoon of diced ginger root and teaspoon of organic sugar to it.  I placed a paper towel over the jar and used a rubber band to keep it on so it could breathe.  I did that every day for about a week.

By the end of the week the “ginger bug” was bubbly and smelled just like strong ginger ale.  It tasted like strong ginger ale too – not sweet at all. 

I made a batch of simple syrup and when that was cool I added the ginger bug and 2 cubes of frozen lemon juice.  I put the lid on the jar and let that sit on the kitchen counter for about 4 days.  I tasted it one night and gave a little woot.  It was lightly bubbly, not too sweet, delicious.  My kids love it!  My husband even thought it was tasty! 

For me the best part is that it’s something healthy, and I don’t just mean that it’s not as bad as store bought soda is because it’s organic sugar and has no additives.  It really IS healthy.  The active yeast I harnessed has eaten a large amount of the sugar and left us with some wonderful probiotics in it’s place.

You’ve probably read a lot about synthetic probiotics and how good those are for your immune system and gut flora.  Those are nothing compared to the probiotics in kefir, kombucha, homemade yogurt and this soda.  If you really want to improve your digestion, make it easier for your body to absorb the vitamins and minerals that you are consuming, stave off those creepy flu bugs or give your body a better chance to do it’s job and protect your from rising rates of autoimmune diseases then eat real probiotics. 

Homemade soda is a great place to start!

Here is how to make your own soda:

Note – You will need a glass jar that holds a gallon or two of liquid, depending on how much soda you plan to make.

Make your culture or “bug” in a pint mason canning jar.

  • Place one and a half cups of filtered water in the jar. Chlorinated water may kill your happy organisms which would mean no bug or bubbles.
  • Add one tablespoon of diced fresh ginger root and 2 teaspoons of white sugar
  • Cover the jar with a paper towel and use a rubber band or the canning ring to keep that on so you don’t get fruit flies
  • Leave it on the kitchen counter away from other fermentation or culturing projects
  • Every day add 2 teaspoons of diced fresh ginger and 2 teaspoons of sugar, swirling the jar to aerate it.
  • You can aerate the jar more frequently during the day to keep it oxidized and make it work faster.
  • If your bug gets moldy or starts to smell funky discard it and start again.
  • Depending on room temperature and other factors your bug may be ready in 3-4 days, or may take as long as a week. You will know it’s ready because it will be very bubbly like soda.

    Add Flavoring.

  • Steep your flavoring in half of your filtered water (i.e. to make one gallon total of soda you will have 1/2 gallon of flavoring water, the other half will come from your simple syrup.)
  • To make ginger ale gently boil one sliced thumb’s length of ginger root per gallon of water for 20 minutes.
  • To make lemon, lime or orange soda boil citrus peel for 20 minutes.
  • To make sarsparilla or root beer let about 2 Tablespoons of dried sarsparilla root and 1 – 2 Tablespoons of dried wintergreen leaves steep overnight in your water. You can find both at Bob’s Homebrew in Ravenna/U District in Seattle.  You can also easily grow edible wintergreen in the Pacific NW.  I found my plants at Raintree Nursery.

    Make Simple Syrup.

  • Warm the rest of your filtered water and dissolve 1 1/2 cups of sugar per gallon of finished soda you plan to make. I made one gallon of soda total so I made 1/2 gallon of simple syrup, using 1 1/2 cups organic evaporated cane juice.

    Finishing Steps

  • Let your simple syrup cool to body temperature
  • Pour the simple syrup in your gallon jar and then add at least one cup of your bug and your flavored water.
  • If you like you can add additional flavoring like blackberry syrup or citrus juice.
  • Cover your jar tightly and let it ferment. According to the article I linked above, you let it ferment from 4 – 10 days depending on how sweet you like your soda. The shorter fermentation times will yield a sweeter soda. This is all dependent on room temperature and bug strength so taste it every day.
  • When your soda is ready you can divide it into smaller bottles and let it sit at room temperature for another 2-5 days to build up some fizz inside each bottle.
  • Once it is fizzy enough for you, put the bottles in the refrigerator to stop the fizzing process.
  • I don’t like very fizzy soda so I omitted this step and just put it into smaller mason jars in the fridge. The bigger the jar and the more frequently you open it, the less fizzy your soda will be.

    I’d love to hear how yours turned out, or flavorings that you used. The sarsparilla is my favorite!  Here is my flavoring water that I’ve let steep with sarsparilla root and wintergreen overnight, before adding the bug and simple syrup.

    Lemon Lavender Cupcakes


    I promised my 5 year old cupcakes today to make up for missing yet another birthday party and we decided on lemon. Last winter when meyer lemons were in season I juiced bags of them and froze them in ice cube trays. I also grated the zest and froze it in a ziplock. We’ve been using it in ice cream and recipes and are going through it way faster then I had expected. Hopefully we’ll have enough left by midsummer for at least one lemon tart!

    While working in the backyard today I spied the mundstead lavender flowers from last summer, dried on the bush. I picked a handful and they still smelled lovely so I brought them in to add to the cupcakes. There is something so romantic about the notion of cooking with flowers and they impart such a great, delicate flavor and aroma and interesting speckle to baked goods.

    My toddler insisted on frosting and then the five year old decided he wanted raspberry jam in some and raspberry icing so we customized them but the lavender ones were by far my favorite.

    Lemon Lavender Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup evaporated cane juice or rapadura
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons lavender flowers
  • Mix together the flour through the salt. In a new bowl cream together the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time and fully incorporate each one before adding another. Add the buttermilk, extracts, lemon juice and lavender flowers. Mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until no lumps remain.

    Pour into individual cupcake liners and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Let them cool on a wire rack.

    Make an icing from 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk. Add more lavender flowers to the icing. Spread it over the cupcakes and let it set up before eating.

    City Chickens

    Chickens are on the list and now that the garden is started I’m starting to research them. Spinach and Honey had a great chicken post from a workshop she attended. It summarizes a lot of what I should be reading but I’m having a hard time nestling into bed with my Backyard Chicken book before I fall asleep.

    We have a very large old doghouse that we plan to convert into a chicken coop but I’m starting to feel like maybe it’s not large enough from some of the coop pictures I saw on

    I planned to keep the chickens in the back yard in an area that I never finished landscaping. It gets morning sun but not summer afternoon sun. It’s about 5 x 15 feet with some nice shrubbery on the west and north sides which I would think would make it cozier but then I’m not a chicken. Maybe it makes them nervous that racoons can sneak up on them.

    And my yard is constantly full of energetic young super heroes running and screaming, slip and sliding through summer. Maybe that will make them nervous. This needs to be good for the chickens and not just our breakfast. Maybe I’m chickening out…

    Any chickens on here that want to comment?

    Finally – Mozzarella that made my husband say mmmmmm

    Last Saturday I set about making mozzarella again. It makes me really mad when I can’t get something to work (or I misplace something and can’t locate it.) I will spend all my energy figuring it out. I knew the last time I made mozzarella that I let the milk get too hot which makes the cheese tough and chewy. This time I figured out how to better control the temperature. And you can too by following my simple instructions.

    You will need a few things to make cheese [read the rest of this this entry at the new blog…]

    The Front Yard Conversion is Almost Done!

    My wonderful husband spent the weekend building the fence & garden boxes for the front yard conversion and we’re close to done!


    The grass is out, the front is terraced, the nasty “legacy” plantings are gone (after five years of work!), the garden boxes are framed and we have security from stray dogs.

    We still need to gravel around the boxes, string wire along the fence to make the gaps smaller (I wanted lots of light coming through) and put up the raspberry T trellises but we are getting close! I’m so dad gum excited I can’t stand it.

    It’s been a long dream of mine to use our front lawn for growing groceries since we rarely play out there and it is full sun exposure.

    Next up, irrigation system and chickens…

    Bread Shaping

    I’ve been meaning to add this post forever! Here is how I shape my bread.


    On a well floured surface divide the dough into two equal balls.

    Read the rest of this entry on the new blog…

    Homemade 100% Whole Wheat Bread – Swoon-worthy

    Since cutting out the grocery store we’ve been making our bread from grain I grind myself. The grinder was the best purchase I’ve ever made. Not only are we saving money by buying our grain in bulk, freshly ground grain has a higher nutritional value since it hasn’t sat around oxidizing for months and I know it’s not rancid because I ground it myself.

    Each week I’ve changed one or two things to my bread recipe which I’ve tweaked from the whole wheat sandwich bread recipe in Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor.  This book will explain everything you ever wanted to know about the science behind bread.

    Each week we say the bread is amazing, the best yet but it somehow continues to get better each week.  I’ve been holding off posting my recipe until it stopped getting better but I’m just going to post it now and make changes to it as I change the recipe more.

    The one thing neither of these books tells you to do is to soak your grains first which I always do. It’s disturbing to me that whole wheat consumption is rising and so is Celiac’s disease so I take the conservative road – one that also makes your bread more flavorful with an amazing crumb structure.

    This recipe will make either 2- 9″ loaves or 3- 8″ loaves. You can also reserve one of the loaves for making rolls, hamburger buns, cinnamon rolls or breadsticks. This recipe calls for both a soaker and a sponge. It is a little more work to make two doughs the night before and then incorporate them on bread day but I’ve tried it every which way and the combination of the two takes your bread to a whole new level. It’s well worth the extra few minutes.

    One final note before the recipe – I grind my own flour so you may find you need less than these quantities. Store bought flour has settled. By stirring your flour with a fork or whisk before measuring you will come closer to the quantities I am using here.


    3 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour (I use hard red wheat)

    1 teaspoon sea salt

    1 1/2 cups milk plus 2 Tablespoons of whey (or you can substitute buttermilk, yogurt or kefir for the milk and whey but your bread will be tangier)

    Mix all ingredients until it forms a ball and cover the bowl until you are done with the sponge. 

    Sponge or Biga

    3 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour (I use hard red wheat)

    1/4 teaspoon yeast

    1 1/2 cup filtered water plus 2 Tablespoons whey

    Add all the Sponge ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and knead using the dough hook for several minutes until it forms a dough.  Let it rest for 5 minutes then knead it for one more minute.  

    Place this dough ball on top of the soaker dough ball in the bowl, cover it and let it sit on the counter overnight.  If you won’t be making bread the next day you can put this in the fridge for several days but bring it to room temperature before making bread, which takes several hours to do.

    When you are ready to make the bread add:

    1 teaspoon sea salt

    2 Tablespoons butter (optional)

    6 Tablespoons honey, agave syrup, or organic cane sugar (is using sugar add an extra 2 Tablespoons water)

    2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

    Knead this all in the bowl of stand mixer using the bread hook for about 6 – 8 minutes.  Wait until your dough has been kneading about 4-5 minutes before adding more water or flour to get the right texture.  Your dough should be “tacky but not sticky” according to Peter.

    Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. 

    Knead it again for 1 minute. 

    Check the final dough by taking a small piece of dough and stretching it out to perform a “windowpane test”.  Your dough should be elastic enough to stretch, creating a window you can see light through without tearing.

    Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl.  Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it to rise in a draft-free place until you can poke your finger into the dough and the indentation from your finger does not fill in.  I let me dough rise in the oven with the light on for some warmth.   You can also let it rise on the counter but it may take longer.  Mine takes about 1 1/2 hours for the first rise but my house is about 66 degrees. If this takes too long for you try doubling the amount of yeast – but remember that virtually all yeast is GMO so I try to minimize my use of it.

    After the first rise you can shape your loaves (which I will have a later post on) then cover them with the tea towel and let them rise again, about 45 minutes to 75 minutes this time.  Keep in mind they will rise slightly during the baking. 

    With experience you’ll figure out how high they should look in your pans before baking.  If you get bread with large holes in the top you know you let them rise too long.  If the crumb is dense you did not let them rise long enough.  You may end up with several loaves that you save to make breadcrumbs, bread pudding or croutons out of but the experience you are gaining is immeasurable. 

    If you do happen to let the bread rise too long you can take a serrated knife and slash the tops before baking to keep them from rising up more.

    Bake your bread in a 350 F degree oven for about 40 minutes, until they are deep brown and sound hollow on the bottom when thumped.  An instant read thermometer inserted into the bottom of the loaf should read 185 – 190 farenheit.

    Remove the loaves from the pans and place them on a wire rack to cool completely before you slice them.

    Homemade bread will last for several days before it might start to mold so be sure to pre-slice and freeze any bread you don’t plan on eating in that time frame.  You can pop it in the toaster to thaw and/or toast it when you want it.

    Now you know how to make amazing whole wheat bread that everyone will LOVE.

    Homemade whole wheat bread

    Homemade whole wheat bread



    Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream

    Since buying this Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker
    we’ve been on an ice cream bender lately.  After all those years of trying to get toddler’s weight up (with both of my kids) I’m kicking myself for not thinking of this one sooner.  Organic milk and cream, maple syrup, egg yolks – it’s the stuff I was fortifying their sippy cups with anyway. 

    Read the rest of the entry at the new blog…

    Cheesemaking Flops

    So I had a class on growing groceries Sat when I normally am shopping the UW farmer’s market for food and I was unable to buy my mozzarella from River Valley Ranch like I usually do.  I decided to make my own.  I had just taken the class a few weeks before and it seemed easy enough.  Although in hindsight I realize that may be because they did all the actual work and we mostly drank wine. 

    It went well until I checked my curds during one of the rest phases and they were 110 degrees!  Somehow they had gone up from the 102 I had taken them out of the whey at.  I still can’t figure out how that happened but the resulting mozzarella was very tough.  It tasted fine though and in the end it melted just fine on pizza which is what counts.

    Trying to salvage my losses I made ricotta with the spent whey.  An hour and a half later I had the tiniest fistful of ricotta to show for my gallon of whey I started out with.  It tastes good but I was a little disheartened.  And the dishes took forever to clean up. 

    Totally worth the $5 per blob to buy the mozzarella at the market.  But don’t do it if you ever plan to buy mozzarella from the grocery store again.  You won’t be able to eat it after you taste this mozzarella!

    I do plan to make more posts about cheesemaking in the near future so check back if you were looking for photos or recipes.

    Cajeta – Goat’s Milk Caramel


    If you are a caramel fan have I got a treat for you!  A few week’s back I made cajeta from my goat’s milk from St. John’s Creamery.  It took longer then I expected but the resulting sauce was amazing. 

    Read the rest of the entry at the new blog…