Sunday, February 28, 2016

Late winter miscellany

Can February 28 be called late winter?  Sounds good to me.  Better than mid-winter, right?  We've had some really warm weather alternating with cold here, so some areas are very icy, like right in front of the garage.  Sometimes it's pretty treacherous getting around to do chores.
On Saturday Rollie and Kevin headed to the woods to finish cutting down a bunch of standing dead tamarack trees that have been bugging them for a couple years.  They would sit in the birch stand during deer season and look out at all these trees just standing there.  This year, since the snow is not deep, they were able to get into the swamp and get them cut down.  The only problem they had was they had to stop and look both ways when they crossed the logging roads to make sure there were no deer coming.  Kevin almost got ran over while he was out cutting!  Here is a picture of what they were able to pull out in a day. 

This should keep the folks busy for a day or two.  Since this was standing dead, we will burn this right now and what is here should last us the rest of the winter.  Now the guys are cutting and splitting for stacking in the wood shed to dry for next year.  It’s a good feeling to have the wood shed stocked for next winter now.

I'm still making soap that we will have for sale at the Farmers' Market in Aitkin this summer.  The weekend's batch is a shampoo bar.  It was news to me that you can wash your hair with a bar of soap instead of  a product in a bottle.  As soon as I saw that on a soap-making website, I started washing my own hair with a bar of soap I made last spring.  Not even a special shampoo bar.  It works great!  I haven't used conditioner either since cutting my hair short.  Take that Proctor and Gamble!  Anyway, the shampoo bar I made this weekend has really nice ingredients like Shea butter, sweet almond oil, and more.  As soon as it is cured in six weeks I will give it a try and report back.  Next week I'll be making shaving soap.

Speaking of reporting back, remember the wheat from the last blog post?  Today I made some bread with the heritage wheat flour Turkey Red.  We enjoyed it as bread bowls with venison stew for supper.

A loaf of stone ground whole wheat bread and 3 big bread bowls
I'll end this post with a couple of pictures of Vinca's pregnant belly (kids are not due until April) and some mystery tracks.  We know what made the tracks because we saw the critter as they were made, but invite you to guess - leave a comment with what you think.  It seemed to be trying to get in the garage. I'll let you know what it was next post, ok?

The mystery tracks with a boot print included for scale

And this one is a little closer up

Until next time, please be careful on the ice, and be well.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Talking Wheat

Happy Valentine’s Day from Ole Lake Farm!  We don’t make much of this “special” day for sweethearts around here.  As with birthdays, my opinion is that a date on the calendar doesn’t make this day anymore special than yesterday or tomorrow.  Every day is special and precious and it’s good to be alive and together.

So, about wheat.  We’ve been growing wheat for a few years now.  What we have been growing is a spring wheat, meaning it is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall.  While the end product is good and grinds into great flour, we are not satisfied with the yield at all.  This wheat just doesn’t seem to thrive in our environment. 

A while back Kevin was reading a Mother Earth News article and a winter wheat variety by the name of Turkey Red piqued his interest.  Much valued by bread bakers, this heirloom grain is a winter wheat.  That means that it is planted in the fall, comes up and then goes dormant for the winter.  It comes back in the spring and completes its life cycle in early summer.  This is how our rye is grown and rye grows very well for us.  So, the search was on for Turkey Red seed. 

Turns out, Turkey Red seed was not easy to find.  A couple of years have gone by, but we are pleased to report that we have obtained it from an organic grower in Kansas.  We haven’t ground any for flour yet, but I did cook some up yesterday as whole wheat berries.  I also cooked some of our homegrown wheat berries from last year for comparison.  I found it interesting that the Turkey Red cooked more quickly and made a larger volume of the finished product.  The taste is pretty much the same.  So for now, some of the Turkey Red is going to get ground for our use and for a local baker to use in bread, and the rest will stay in the granary until this August when it will be planted.  According to the folks we have talked to while looking for this grain, nobody knows of it being grown this far north.  This is going to be our 2016 experiment.  Last year sunflowers, this year Turkey Red.  

Here is what cooked wheat berries look like.  On the left is our spring wheat, and on the right the Turkey Red.  I will be enjoying them both for breakfast this week.  They also are good in soup and in salad recipes. 
If you are interested in reading up on wheat, here is a link to the Mother Earth News article:
I will conclude today’s post with a couple of critter photos.  Remember the 80’s hairstyle of “feathered” hair, like Farah Fawcet?  Check out Diego’s hackle feathers!  

So stay warm, and be well.