"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Thursday 26 August 2010

My bread recipe

In line with my "don't wait until we're on the farm to try out new idea's" decision, I made up a batch of my bread recipe at the beginning of the week, and it occurred to me, and I was asked by African Bliss, who contacted me, to put the recipe on my blog.

Unfortunately, though, at the moment I am having to cook it in my electric oven in Cape Town - but I also cooked a couple of chickens at the same time - I hate to use an electric oven for only one item.  I can't wait to see how this recipe works in the Dover stove.

It is dead easy - no kneading required - which with my old "tennis elbow" (even though I don't play / have never played tennis) injury it suits me just fine.  The recipe comes from the following site: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/Artisan-Bread-In-Five-Minutes-A-Day.aspx?page=2

What you need to do is the following:

Take a large container (with loose fitting lid) and add to it :-

3 cups / 750ml warm water (I find that using water at 107oF / 41oC works brilliantly for me)
3 level teaspoons / 15 gm (1 1/2 sachets) granulated yeast
3 teaspoons / 45gm brown sugar

Mix all the above together and allow to sit until frothy - about 20 - 30 minutes.

Mix together:

1 - 1 1/4 tbs / 20 gm salt (I use either Himalayan Rock salt or Maddon sea salt)
6 1/2 cups / 750gm 50/50 mix of white and brown bread flour (that way I get the men in my life to eat some brown bread without too much fuss - why are most men fixated on white bread??)

When the water/yeast/sugar is frothy slowly add the flour and salt to the mixture - approximately a level cup at a time, stirring to combine.  You can use an electric mixer or food processor with a dough attachment, but it not necessary - a wooden spoon / silicone spoon works great - so rather save the electricity.  All it takes is 5 minutes to mix the flour into the yeast water.  It results in a loose dough which will conform to the container.

Cover loosely (do not use a screw top jar - it could explode from the trapped gases) and set aside to rise for 2 hours at room temperature.  (Longer rising time will not hurt the dough - I have left it for 4 hours)  You can use any amount of the dough after this time, but if you refrigerate it, it is less stricky to work with than dough which is at room temperature.  Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (the authors of this recipe) recommend that the dough be refrigerated for at least 3 hours before shaping a loaf.

I don't have a pizza wheel, so I use a pliable vegetable cutting board which I liberally dust with cornflour.  This is so that the dough can easily be transferred to the baking stone in your oven.

When you are ready to bake bread, remove the dough container from the fridge and sprinkle some extra flour on the top surface.  Then cut off a large grapefruit sized piece with a serrated knife. Rub a little flour on your hands and holding the dough, stretch and fold over two of the corners to the bottom on all four sides - rotating the ball as you go.  You should end up with dough which has a bunched base of the four corners - this will flatten out during the resting and baking.

Now place your dough on the pizza wheel / cutting board and let it rest uncovered for 40 minutes.

20 - 30 minutes before baking, place your baking stone inside and turn your oven on to 400oF / 200oC.  I don't have a genuine baking stone, so I use one of the extra floor tiles which were left over from our floor - I reckon that a good scrub and then baking at 200oC eliminates 99.9% of the germs.  Also, place an ovenproof container on a lower shelf in the oven - this is to hold the water which is added when you place your dough in the oven.

Dust the top of the bread liberally with flour and slash the top with a serrated knife - a couple of slashes, or a deep cross - whatever.  This helps the dough expand during cooking.

When the oven is at the correct temperature open the door, and with a forward jerking movement slide the dough off the pizza wheel / cutting board and onto the baking stone.  Then quickly pour a cup of hot water into the ovenproof container below and close the door to trap the resulting steam in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes until it is nicely browned and firm to the touch.

Allow to cool on a wire rack.

It produces the crispiest crust and the most moist centre I have ever eaten.  And it is also good the next day - or even the day after - if the loaf lasts that long!

Return the remaining dough in the container to the fridge and use within 2 weeks. You can apparently even freeze portion sizes in an airtight container and defrost in the refrigerator overnight.

Monday 16 August 2010

Eco-friendly gifts

I have been trying to figure out why the gifts that Petro and Neels brought to me on my birthday meant so much.

They were very simple gifts - a few freshly cut flowers from their garden, a jar of home made preserves, a large bag of dry wood and a bottle of bubbly - and nothing fancy at that - just a palatable wine with bubbles.

Neels had met RMan in the local shop earlier that day as RMan was reaching for a bundle of firewood.  Upon enquiring what the wood was for, and being told it was for the promised fire in my new Dover Stove for my birthday, Neels said, "Rubbish - that wood is still wet - I have plenty of dry wood - I'll bring some round later".

And true to his word they arrived as the sun was going down - perfect timing.

The bubbly was shared amongst us all, and very appreciated.  The flowers joined my husband's roses in the empty coffee jar, in pride of place on my kitchen counter, and we all sat round the welcome heat of the new Dover stove, enjoying each other's company without any need to stand on ceremony.

I think I have figured it out ...

They brought gifts from the heart - without the necessity of having to rush out to the local shop and find  "suitable" gift.  They gave of themselves, of their handiwork and of their time - so simple and so very appreciated.  The most eco-friendly gift in the world :-)

I think we spend far too much time focussing on the "perfect gift", the right label, the amount we can / can't spend - we've forgotten how to give of ourselves.

Thank you, Petro and Neels - you gave me a great treasure that night - and one I will remember for a long time to come.

Sunday 15 August 2010

My stove, painting and the verandah

We left Cape Town at 10.45 am on Friday 6th August.  We were only going to leave on Saturday morning, but Negosiegat, in Barrydale, wasn't going to be open on Saturday, as it was the first day of the long weekend (Woman's Day was on Monday 9th).  And we had to get to Negosiegat in order to purchase the Dover stove.  RMan had promised me that the Dover would be in situ by my birthday on Tuesday, and working!

As we were driving we heard the weather report - rain was expected over the weekend, and they were predicting snow on Sunday!  Perfect :-)  If you're not living in, and confined to a caravan, anything is bearable.

After a leisurely drive we arrived in Barrydale at 2.15pm and made straight for Negosiegat.  After choosing our stove, and waiting whilst the storekeeper had it loaded onto the back of his bakkie (double cab) we led the way to our farm.  I was so excited - I had saved for this stove 3 times over the past two years - twice before I had had to use the money for other more essentials, but now, finally, I had it.  (I make salad dressing for a few restaurants locally, and had saved up the 'profit' from that.)

This first photo was taken with my phone camera just after it had been placed in it's position in the kitchen - the quality of the photo isn't so good, but I was too excited to care.

Things were looking positive - now all we had to do was install the chimney!  A piece of cake, I thought.  Easier said than done.  The height of the outlet had been placed as high as possible on the internal wall in order to utilize the heat from the chimney as well - only trouble was the hole was made using scaffolding and now all we had was a 3.2mtr aluminium ladder or a homemade 4.5mtr ladder - the latter being very dubious.  It was made out of builders planks which had been left on site - it definitely works, but the steps are +/- .75mtr apart - not easy to scale and work from.  And the chimney outlet was 4mtrs high.  So homemade ladder it had to be.  It is so heavy that it takes 4 grown men to move into place...

But the chimney got installed!  RMan discovered that the bend which had been plastered into the wall a couple of months ago wasn't at exactly the correct angle, but he persevered and managed to get it to fit the straight sections.
Just a bit of advice regarding new Dover Stoves - because of the black paint that its' coated with, when you first light it the paint visibly smokes and gives off a very unpleasant smell - if possible I would recommend lighting it outside before it is installed.  We managed to get rid of the fumes through opening all the windows - it took about an hour to an hour-an-a-half to sort out.  Do so wish we'd been forwarned though.

Hey! Hey! Hey! We have a working Dover stove - on my birthday and just in time!  It was freezing!  That morning we had woken to ice cold thick mist - I took a wander down our driveway and snapped this shot:

Yes, that is the caravan and house in the background.  When the mist lifted and the clouds cleared off the mountain we saw that they were full of snow - it literally covered the top 1/4 of them!  Brilliant!  I l-o-v-e snow - must be my British roots.  And now we had the wherewithall to keep warm!

Admittedly, the outside chimney was a little more difficult to adjust, but a plan was made so that we could use it during this visit.

I was absolutely no help - and felt helpless.  It was very dangerous as the wind was howling and I wasn't happy about RMan being up the wonky ladder at the best of times.  But he persevered and when the first puff of smoke came out of the chimney you would've thought that a new pope had just been elected!

It was a really nice feeling when our kettle started boiling(whistling) on the Dover stove for the first time.  I managed to get the oven temperature (together with the baking stone) up to 180oC - only need 20oC more and I can bake my no knead Artisan bread...

Friends of ours in Rietkuil, Neels and Petro, came round in the evening with a bottle of bubbly, some home grown arum lillies (to go with the beautiful yellow roses which RMan bought me) some dry wood (for the Dover stove) and a bottle of homemade preserves. What a lovely evening. Couldn't have asked for a nicer birthday.

Whilst our time had been taken up with installing the Dover stove and the chimney, we had also arranged for our builder and his team to be there - RMan Saturday and on Monday (at double time wages, being a public holiday) they proceeded to start building the wall.  3 days, 1200 bricks and 10 bags of cement later we have the skeleton - it still has to be filled, compacted and the slab thrown - but the vision of sitting on it on a hot summers' evening, with the protection of the house behind us, and out of the wind, is becoming a reality.

We also got the builder to finish building and plastering the walls of the kitchen porch - one more item to cross off the list.

And finally, we also managed to give the internal walls a coat of Harlequin low VOC plaster primer.  Low VOC is definitely the way forward - we couldn't smell a thing - and we slept in the room - and if we can't smell anything then there are minimal fumes leeching into the atmosphere!

It took a day a wall to paint - therefore to give the walls two coats of low VOC paint will take us roughly 10 days - allowing two days for the bathroom and small passage as well.

All in all a very constructive "long" weekend's work.  We extended the weekend by three days, only arriving back in Cape Town on Thursday afternoon - now why does that always make me feel guilty... we are allowed to take time off.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Our "footprint" comparison

Our friend, Roy, sent me a text yesterday to tell us that Google Earth has updated the map of our area, so naturally I had to go and have a look.

I'm thrilled, and horrified at the same moment.

Thrilled to see that we're finally on the map, and it's not just a piece of land anymore, but horrified at the chaos we're created.

Admittedly, it will all settle down and the "scar" won't be visible (in a year or so), but if anyone ever wanted to see what their "footprint" can do to the earth's surface, I think this is a perfect example.

For comparison I am showing the image from 2008 that is on my web page together with the latest image from September 2009.  Google Earth literally took the 2009 satellite image the day my husband and son competed the Resin Roof Tile installation.

The new "Voltruis Dam" (Ostrich dam) was entered on our plans as "existing", at the time of drawing them up - apparently it is now illegal to create a dam on your land without planning permission.

To give you an idea of where what is on our plot:

We still don't have any water in our dam - we reckon that we need to possibly dig it deeper.  However, we are going to wait until the rains are finished this season - normally in October / November there is a major downpour - let's see if it will finally remain in the dam...

It is also a pity that none of our trees are visible - guess they're still too small.  Will be interesting to see how they change the image in years to come.

And our grape vines - we need to change the angle at which they're lying - to drain the water away from them and towards the dam.  Grapes don't like permanently wet (clay) feet!

One lives and learns - with many thanks to those more knowledgeable souls who take the time to advise and guide.

And to give you an idea of the distance to our neighbours:

Our neighbour, Roy, is exactly 1.2kms from our gate to his gate along the sand road.  And Tom is approximately 160mtrs.

The "Ghost House", so named by the locals, is +/- 100 years old.  Because it has stood empty, and unloved, for too many years, it is falling to pieces.  The walls are made of cob / earth bricks, and the most recent roof is IBR sheeting, which is rusty and full of holes.  A lovely project - but I reckon one that could empty the purse pretty quickly!  Last year a young couple bought it, and renovated a smaller outbuilding, with a view to staying there whilst they worked on the main house.  However, they have just fallen pregnant with their first baby, and need the money, so they have placed it on the market again.

We are planning on going to the plot for a few days this coming weekend - the hubby wants to get the front porch area in, complete with designated braai (barbecue) area - he's tired of roughing it when he has a braai.  And it's my birthday next week, so I'm going to spoil myself and finally buy myself the Dover Stove from Negosiegat in Barrydale.