The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Got Wheat? Fern's Sourdough Bread

I had to look back at some of the previous articles on sourdough to see what we had written, and how this particular journey has evolved since that time. One of the last articles for bread is here if you want to do a comparison. Pull up a chair and a cup of coffee, this has turned out to be a rather lengthy article. Hope you enjoy it.

There were two small boxes of ground flax sitting in the cabinet, that I bought for some forgotten reason (You don't do that, do you?) and wasn't sure what to do with. The research on cholesterol and blood pressure we did lead me to flax. There are many, many articles about the benefits of flax, this one is an example. After reading the research, those two lonely boxes of flax got put to use after checking to make sure no weevils or other bugs had set up residence. 

By the way, when we moved here we had some weevil issues the first year. Then I found some traps (similar to this one) for the weevil moth, and other critters of that kind, that I hung around the area we had grains and food they prefer. After trapping them for two years, we have never had another problem. Our bulk grain is stored in five or six gallon buckets and transferred to a canister as needed.
Once we began using ground flax in our bread recipe, we stocked up on some from Wal-Mart, picking up a few bags each time we went. Then we researched online and found some bulk flax seed that we could store in some of our empty five gallon buckets that have gamma seal lids. The first time we tried the flax seed in our wheat grinder, we thought we had killed it. The flax is too moist and oily for our WonderMill. Frank was able to work and work and work on it. He ran through some wheat that removed the gummed up flax, and it still works like a charm. We have had this grinder for at least ten years and would highly recommend it.

You see that piece of blue tape on the bucket? That is a date, which will help us determine how long our stock will last at the current use rate. When we're trying to prepare for the long haul, estimating how long our supplies will last is critical. They may not last as long as we do, but if we have a rough idea, we can plan accordingly. 


Next, we found a grain grinding attachment for the KitchenAid mixer, which is designed to grind oilier seeds like flax. It works well. Which mixer? Well, the KitchenAid is okay, but we now have purchased three of them since moving here. The first red one died after a couple of years so we got the yellow one. After a year the gears started grinding and we thought it was dying as well, so we ordered a second red one. In the meantime, Frank removed the top cowling to see if there was anything he could do for the gears, there wasn't, but since looking in there and putting it back together a couple of years ago, it still works. The red one is just sitting in the wings waiting it's turn. I guess we could put it away, but as you can see, we haven't. Do any of you have stand mixers like the KitchenAid you would recommend? What are your experiences? We also have manual back-up grinders in case the grid goes down. You can read about it here

 And speaking of grinders, see that cord coming out of the bottom? Frank has given up trying to figure out how it wraps up and stores in the bottom of the grinder, he just leaves it for me. He just can't see how it works anymore than he understands how yarn (he calls it a piece of string) can turn into a sweater, or thread keeps fabric together after it goes through a sewing machine. Now, Frank is a very intelligent man and can fix just about anything I ever bring to him. He can wire, plumb and build a house, learn and install a solar system and a myriad of other things, but he just can't see how these things work. Our point is, different people have different talents and it's no sin or crime to not 'get' something. Me, physics and the realistic interaction between things - I just don't get it. Things that are simplicity in itself to Frank are like kryptonite to me. Sometimes this causes friction (another scientific term, right?) and sometimes it causes laughter. There is nothing wrong with not getting something, or understanding things at a different rate, it's the blessing of being individuals instead of robots.

Okay, so, making sourdough bread. Our starter lives over here in this corner away from the kefir and jars of oatmeal. We discovered years ago that most cultures don't play well together so they have their own 'areas' of the kitchen. Our starter now lives in a half gallon jar with a piece of cheese cloth over it to keep the little gnats out that show up here a few times a year. It also has a sprouting lid on it. Why? Well, we had a catastrophe with our starter a few years ago. I was keeping it in a ceramic pitcher in this corner. It had
cheese cloth over it held in place by a rubber band. One morning when we got up there was a hole in the cloth. Upon removing the cloth we could see a live mouse looking up at us trying to keep his head above the surface. The catastrophe of the situation is that I had not kept my backup starter in the refrigerator fed and it had died. I was left without any starter. I was upset. Then Frank remembered that I had shared some starter with a friend, Grace, down the road, who was happy to restock our supply. Lesson learned. Now the starter lives in a jar that is mouse and bug proof. One of those experiences I would never have thought would happen. You know that old saying, "You just never know." I think there is a reason it is an old saying. And remember, two is one and one is none.

The bread. Warning. I don't measure much, so everything will be estimated amounts. I will list everything here then show you the process.

3 cups starter
1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 - 1 cup filtered water
Approx. 2 tbsp. sea salt - no iodine
1/4 - 1/2 cup honey
2 cups ground flax
5 - 6 cups fresh ground wheat

We start with the 3 cups of starter, then to that add the oil and water. The amount of water I add depends on how much liquid is in the starter. Sometimes the starter is thicker and sometimes it's thinner, just depends on how much water I put in when it is fed. 
Here is how the salt and honey are measured. Very precisely........


We have gradually increased the amount of ground flax in the recipe. I started off with about half a cup, waited to see how it tasted, then gradually added more. Now it's about 20% of the recipe, not quite, but almost. 

Once these ingredients are in the mixer, we start it up and start adding the wheat flour. I usually start with five cups and add the remaining amount as needed until the dough clings together in a sticky ball. Sometimes I need more than others, it just depends on how fluid the starter has, and how much water and oil I put in, since I don't measure precisely.

After enough flour has been added, I set the timer to around seven minutes (it depends on how long it took to get it to the right consistency) and let the machine do the kneading for me. 


 We mix the dough in the morning while fixing breakfast, put it in a glass bowl and set it on top of the frig for the day.

One time when we made bread, Frank noticed this glass lid, that goes with the stock pot, fit perfectly on the bread bowl. Up until that point I had been using plastic wrap. Interesting.

 In the evening after doing the chores, it's time to bake bread. I start with pouring some (about this much) olive oil on a large cookie sheet and putting it in the oven to warm as it preheats to 450*. We use virgin olive oil, not extra virgin. We just don't care much for the extra virgin taste.

As the buns or rolls are made, I coat one side with the oil, then turn them over. I've tried a number of different ways to do this including using lard, which works fine, we just prefer the taste of olive oil - while it is still available.


We have tried loaves as well as buns, but we prefer these for the crusty nature of a bun. They also travel very well when we have to be out and about. We take four buns, a couple of boiled eggs, a piece of our cheddar and a quartered apple. Lunch on the go. Besides that, it has been over a year since we have eaten out anywhere. We just don't like any food but ours and if we eat anything 'off the home menu' we feel sick. Part of that may be age, but it's also an indicator of what we're used to, what our bodies are accustomed to dealing with. Another thing to consider if a collapse occurs. Store what you eat and eat what you store, otherwise your body may not cooperate when you start feeding it 'foreign' objects.


Most other rolls or buns I have baked with past recipes bake for about 20-25 minutes. These take 45-50 minutes. The bread comes out fairly heavy and dense, plus, we like the crust on the crunchy side. If you try this you will need to adjust the time to your personal preference. Upon removal from the oven, I coat the tops of the buns with olive oil.

On bread nights, we usually have a lighter supper because regardless of the meal, we always have bread for 'desert'. One for me, two for Frank. It's tradition. Buttered, of course.

We just finished pouring the last wheat from a six gallon, 45 pound bucket into the canister when we made bread a couple of days ago. This bucket of wheat will last us approximately 12 weeks, which means we consume about 3.5 pounds of wheat per week. More than we thought, but it gives us a baseline to use in estimating how much wheat we want to store. It's interesting collecting data on yourself.

How do you make bread? We always enjoy hearing other versions of our recipes, it makes good 'food for thought'.

Well, I'm sure your coffee cup is empty by now, mine is long gone. And I think Frank is wanting another piece of bread. We have one every afternoon for a snack with a cup of coffee. Another tradition we have started.

Until next time - Fern

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Name One Good Leader

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

A friend of mine recently sent me an article about how we as Americans will stand up to the left wanting to take our guns. This was my response to him. 

This may not set well with a lot of people, but here is what I think. Most Americans will not fight. They have become too fat, lazy and stupid. A small example. TSA gropes our wives and children everyday. What do we do? Nothing. Imagine, a government agent, while smiling at you, has his hands all over your teenage girl. When I was a teenager I would have died for that opportunity. Now, some sleaze ball government employee is paid to do it and look at you while he is fondling our daughters and wives. We as a nation are fat, lazy and stupid. We will never fight. Something has got to change, otherwise we are destined for failure.

In the following article, Fern and I were trying to find one good leader, anywhere, and this was three and a half years ago. Have things improved? No. Not even close. I hope you enjoy the article, it is from our past, but it is still extremely relevant today.

Originally posted November 28, 2015

Frank and I were having a discussion over lunch today involving the immigrant invasion in Europe. Frank asked me how the leaders of these countries could continue to make such poor decisions. Decisions that will ultimately lead to the demise of their countries and populations. My response? Name one good leader of one country in the world. We couldn't think of any.

Name one leader that is making sound financial decisions.

Name one leader that is protecting the rights and freedoms of the citizens.

Name one country that is making decisions that are boosting free enterprise and the independent businessman.

Name one country that is providing healthy food that is not laced with pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and GMO poison producing seeds.

Name one country that has enough jobs.

Name one country that has maintained it's infrastructure so that it can withstand the onslaught of population growth.

Name one country that can produce enough food to feed it's people.

Name one country that can withstand a major cyber attack of it's electrical grid, financial institutions or military infrastructure.

Name one country that gets along with all the other countries.

Name one leader that is not a power hungry, control freak.

Name one country where the freedom of the people has increased instead of decreased over the last decade.

Name one country where bigotry and hatred has not increased over the last few years.

Name one country where privacy has not been given away in the name of protection and security.

Name one country where the leaders have not done all in their power to disarm the populace.

Name one country where the government doesn't have an us against them (the people) attitude.

Name one...........

I wish we could.

Where does this leave us? We have yet to find out, but it won't be long. It really doesn't matter who the leaders are anymore. They all belong to the same club, drive the same cars, eat the same food and spout the same mantra. Some of them try to put their own special, personal twist on the message, but it's all the same. Everything else is a distraction. You have to dig down really deep to get beyond all of the everyday lies and deception to see what is happening to the world. What you uncover is unbelievable, gets worse every minute of every day, and unfortunately, there is nothing we can do but watch it unfold and try to prepare for a survival scenario of unknown origin. Don't be fooled by the stupidity and distractions placed before you. Keep your wits about you or this thing that is coming will devour you. Don't get on the truck.

Until next time - Fern

Thursday, February 21, 2019

A Fidget Blanket

I had never heard of a fidget blanket until a few days ago when I was visiting my Mom in the nursing home. She has been there for about a year and a half because of her dementia. I go to see her a couple of times a week. Mom is non-ambulatory now and spends her time in a wheelchair or in bed. She is still able to feed herself, although the food is pureed because of choking.

The last time I was there she kept touching my hair and the buttons on my shirt as we 'visited'. Mom doesn't talk much anymore. She does say some old familiar phrases during a conversation and some of them are in the appropriate places. There are times when she tries to express something that she gets a few intelligible words out, but usually they are all nonsense words, so there is not a lot of meaningful conversation.
This quilt was made by Mom's mother and sister.

My career was teaching special education, most of it in the elementary grades. Interesting enough, this has probably prepared me better than anything besides a medical career, to deal with Mom's decline. She gets an 'evaluation' on her performance every time I see her, comparing abilities on speech, movement, alertness, etc. When I leave each time I seek out a staff member and give them my 'report' of what I observed.

This is where the fidget blanket comes in. When I reported the concentration on fingering my hair, shirt and buttons to the nurse on duty, she said they had discussed how to help another resident that morning in their staff meeting, that had the need to fidget with things. They were thinking if they could provide this person with something to feel and 'do' that may help them be more comfortable and peaceful. The nurse pulled up these pictures on her phone.

I asked her to send them to me so I could make something for Mom. She was surprised when I said make, so I explained that I grew up sitting next to Mom at her sewing machine while she made my clothes.

Mom made this for me when I was a baby.

 When I got home and explained the blanket to Frank, we got to work picking out fabric and items of varying textures to put on the blanket for tactile and visual stimulation. Here are some of the things we came up with.

By the way, this light that Frank put in for me is great. There just wasn't enough light under the shelf for me, even with the light on the machine and the room overhead light. It's great having a husband that can provide the help I need.


I put four layers of quilt batting in between two pieces of fleece for the base layer. 

The edges of the batting were rolled up and tacked down to make a bump or edging kind of thing around the edge.

The edges of the fleece were fringed, then the blocks were cut out and hemmed to prevent fraying. I have these small totes of sewing 'stuff' I have collected over the years that yielded lace, ribbon and rickrack for the block trim and to attach other items.


This yarn came from Mom's house.

It looks kind of funny to me, but I hope Mom likes it. 



I went through a long time of mourning when Mom first went in the nursing home. You see, for over eight years, she lived about 200 yards away across the pasture. Her illness and the regular 60 mile round trips to the nursing home have impacted our lives in ways we never thought of or planned for really. 

When this disease started to unfold in earnest, there were serious disagreements with other family members about Mom's help and care. Unfortunately, by my choice, some of these differences have lead to permanent disconnect with some family members.

In the effort to understand and help Mom, Frank and I have read several books on dementia and dying. We have also made plans for our own mortality. Many things have come and continue to come from this ongoing experience.

We hope to hear from others how they have, or are dealing with dementia in their loved ones. There have been many people that have told us they are so sorry we are having to go through this, and we appreciate the sympathy, very, very much. What I am hoping, through writing about this, just like about preparing for anything, is to share experiences and glean some knowledge and insight from others, because I sure don't have many answers about this uncharted path. So, I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time - Fern