Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Accidental Gardener

The sun is now a couple hours past the colorful point of its first morning appearance.  With all these years of precious newborns, and plump nursing babies, I don’t often see that storybook incident of sunrise.  A little more sleep is just too important.                 
This morning, I have finally gotten everyone mostly dressed, and out to the garden for some overdue weeding.  The littlest one is playing in the water spray erupting from the hydrant and is now very much wet.  But how else was he to build the small lake that his toy horses will soon be swimming in?  Another is seeking some aide to pull the “pokey” out of his foot.  (Despite my best efforts, the garden is still plagued with sand-burrs, and they wreak havoc on tender little feet.) Still other little ones are more interested with the newly ripened strawberries than attentive garden cultivating.  I alternate between hoe and hand, and invite those who will along with me.  We have a goal:  the whole west side, including tomatoes and broccoli, before noon.  Two older boys diligently facilitate their mother’s wishes, and we discuss gardening, and book plots, and future career plans, and life.  Oldest daughter starts us on a round of “Saints bound for Heaven,” and we all laugh when we mix up the words of the third verse for the hundredth time. Young warrior has just “cut off the head of the biggest weed ever” with his trusty stick sword, and won’t we all come and see?
 We labor quietly for awhile, and listen to the sounds of the horses running in the pasture, the sprinklers on the orchard, and the neighbors driving by.  The phone rings, and I send oldest running in to answer, and “won’t you just stay in and get some lunch started?”   Most of them have now wandered off to their own games and delights.  I finish up the last row, and look down at my dirty hands and swelling belly.  I hear a few squabbling young ones behind the trees in the sandbox, I notice the capable workers and enjoyable companions my older sons have become, and I am grateful for capable and serving oldest treasured daughter. 
It’s not Wall Street, it’s not a corner office, it’s not fame, it’s not glamorous, and it’s definitely not flooding my bank account.  But my heart swells beyond its capacity to hold joy, and I am not sure its exact source.  The world has never taught me to find happiness here.   Its origin must be something Deep, something Divine.  I have a hunch that this thing I do, this daily round, really matters – forever, and for eternity.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Best Bread Ever....sorry, it's not whole wheat

For four loaves of bread...

6 cups very warm water
3 slight T of both yeast and salt
13 scooped and shaken cups of unbleached flour

Mix together in very large bowl that has a lid
Let sit out for a few hours, then  refrigerate

Now you can have fresh bread four times throughout the week.

TO make the bread:
Heat oven to 500
Place cake pan full of water in the oven on bottom rack

Take out dough,  It is sticky. 
(I don't have a peel, nor a stone, so this is how I have learned to do it)

Grease your baking sheet, and sprinkle corn meal where the bread is going to go
Put about 1/4 cup flour in a small circle on your counter
With a wet hand, scoop about 1/4 of the dough, about a small cantaloupe size
Using the flour, shape the dough.  You do not want to work the flour into the dough, you only want to make a "skin" on the dough with the flour.
Making a "boule" or ball, round shape is easiest, but you can pull it long and make a french shaped loaf.
Once shaped, place on baking sheet and let sit for 30 minutes.
After 30 mins, make slices across the top and place into steamy hot oven.
Turn temp down to 450 and set timer for 25-30 minutes.
Should be a nice golden brown, crispy on outside, chewy in the middle
Let cool a little before eating if you can wait.

THis is really simple, but you have to follow the directions perfectly.  Once you learn the routine, you can have great bread everyday for about 45 minutes worth of waiting.

Check out Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day for more great recipes.