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Archive for August, 2013

No, not Flower Power from the 60’s and 70’s, we’ll save that for another post. I’m talking about Flour Power!

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Flour takes on a whole new meaning for me (Sincerely, Emily) in the past 5 years.

mixing up granola bars

mixing up granola bars

foodsaver play 3

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Flour just taught my high school best friend how to create her own pizzas, Stromboli’s and calzones (narf7 from theroadtoserendipity.wordpress.com )

Simple flour is what memories and prospective feasts are made of…

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Flour, yeast, salt, oil and water

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Kym learning how to manipulate the dough to make a Stromboli

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“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”

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I never thought much about flour before trying to go all-local several years ago. It is really hard to find flour milled within a 4-hour drive, even when you live in a farm state. I finally found a Wisconsin farm called Great River which ironically mills flour just a couple of hours away, but sells it through a jobber in Arkansas, so it travels there, then back to me. So I buy $2.20 a pound flour, grown and milled in Southern Wisconsin, as opposed to 70c a pound flour, grown and milled god knows where– you can’t tell from the packaging. India for all I know. I worked out the cost– if I make all my own bread, the expensive flour makes each loaf about the same price as the store brand. If you count my time as having no monetary value.

Flour- counter Flour- hand***

Here at Tanglewood, flour has also taken on new meaning. After discovering that I am gluten intolerant (No, it’s not a fad I’m going through. Yes, it really does make me sick…) I had to switch from two main flours to… well… a gajillion.

I now keep more than twenty different flours in my kitchen, from teff to tapioca to millet – whatever it takes to add variety of texture and taste to the things I make. Early this spring I devised this shelving and storage system and I have to say – I’m intensely happy with it! Now I just have to get some snazzy labels to replace the dry erase marker on the jars.

(P.s. Can you tell I’m a huge Doctor Who geek from my shelves? My geekiness has gotten out of hand…)

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What are you doing with flour these days??

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Family

Family can mean many things. I have my mother and step-dad, and I have a brother and 2 nieces. I also have husband…. that leads to a father-in-law and many brother-in-laws and a sister-in-law. That also leads to many nieces and nephews. I know some of them very well and others not as much. Family is literally spread to each corner of the US and states in between.156

I have another family. The family that I lived with in Australia when I was an exchange student. They are family to me. In 1989/90 I traveled back to visit them and I am long overdue for another trip to visit.170

Then I have very close friends, and I consider them family. I know they will always be a part of my life no matter how many miles are between us.

On my recent trip up North, I took some photos of more old photos as mom and I were going through boxes of photos. What fun. We are are trying to work through them and sort and label.

fishing in Canada

fishing in Canada

I love the old photos. They are so much fun to look at and talk about. Lots of great memories.

Sincerely, Emily

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When I was growing up, in the 50s and 60s, middle class families always had a camera.

Just one.

In my later childhood, as the consumer revolution started kicking into gear, simple cheap cameras started being available to the kids as well. But most families had just one camera, and a designated photographer, in our case, my supremely unartistic father.

Why take pictures? To preserve a moment. To document an event. To record something important or amusing. To remember. To admire. To create beauty or art. Do you take them for yourself, or for the ones who come after so that they remember, admire and see the art or the moment that the photographer valued.

We put these pictures in massive albums; several years ago I created a private blog of our family album, using it to help me remember the childhood memories that were lost with my mother’s death when I was 22. People don’t make albums anymore, and there’s little need to edit. We had to choose, though; out of a film roll of 36 shots no more than 10 would ever be worth saving. There was no infinite Flickr with unlimited uploads. Just albums with 50 pages, 6 to 8 shots per page.

My father supposed that he was great photographer. I can’t remember my mother ever so much as holding a camera (this can’t be– there are pictures of me, my brother and my father in circumstances where the only possible photographer would have been my mother). He had a nice, but not a great camera– for one thing it was a viewfinder not an SLR, and he had only one lens. No zoom, no wide. And the worst indictment: that his photographs, even the ones that are interesting for other reasons, are just not very good. They have no focal point, or understanding of scale or composition.

There is a photo of my father as young man, perhaps 22, confronting the photographer– see me! I am important, and I know what I know, better than you ever will! And we all bought it. My father was the family photographer, ipso facto he was good at it. Yet it patently wasn’t true– he wasn’t very good at it. But the force of his belief in this was so strong that we all took it as gospel.

It is a terrible thing to grow up and learn how fallible your parents are.

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Dabbling Down Under

I would like to introduce a new contributor to Not Dabbling in Normal. Please welcome Fran from The Road to Serendipity.

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My name is Fran. I go under the moniker of narf7 and I live on a 4 acre property on a river that I inherited from my father when he died 3 years ago. Prior to living on the property I lived in Launceston city and was studying horticulture with my husband Steve. I am decidedly not normal. I occasionally try to pretend that I am but the life that we choose to lead isn’t conducive to normality in any sense of the word. We have chosen to live out in the bush and do the most that we can with the incredible chance that we were given to change our lives. We have visions of being part of 4 acres of natural cycles that all integrate together and work as one small ecosystem in harmony with nature and her cycles. In saying that, there are many stumbling blocks in our way, not the least being our lack of ready cash to facilitate the change that we are after. What’s a middle aged penniless student hippy to do? Do it yourself…that’s what!

Fran and FamilyI blog about how we try to arrive at where we want to be via decidedly not normal channels. We need to use the resources at hand and a whole lot of researching to do what we need to do without having to find ready cash which isn’t usually all that “ready” in our neck of the woods. In the process we have discovered that our local library is a wealth of precious information, the internet is an incredibly valuable resource so long as you learn where to look and that doing things yourself might be a bit harder than paying someone else but you learn new skills, you become a valuable member of your local community and you get the complete satisfaction of doing things yourself and saving a tonne of money. Life is good on Serendipity Farm and as rank urbanites we have certainly learned that living in the country isn’t all roses. We live on the coalface between human society and nature and that’s a pretty precarious place to roost.

DSCF3494We share our property with a lot of chooks. Aussies call hen’s chooks. I was led to believe that chooks are lovely fluffy things that lay eggs and that are beneficial to the garden but have since learned that each individual chook is a mercenary individual cell of a crack team commando raid patrol. They can move into a garden and defoliate it and bare the soil of all mulch in no time. They are also programmed to find the most inaccessible place to lay their eggs, their favourite place being anywhere covered in thorns. When we decided naïvely to release our chooks to free range we never factored in that some of them would go clucky out in the wilderness we call our garden and would raise feral batches of semi wild hens that roam free outside our sphere of influence. Fool us once hens! We have a strained truce with our chooks and their antics are the stuff that blogging epics are made of.20626_4406679479230_281891643_n

Steve and I try to grow everything that we need for our food forest ourselves. We walk our two dogs every day and aside from pounding a lot of backwoods roads in our local area, as horticulturalists we can see what kinds of plants do best in our local area. We collect fallen walnuts that lie on the road verge and have grown small trees from last year’s haul. We have been given hazelnuts from one of our neighbours and have small hazelnut trees ready to plant out this year. We also have chestnut trees grown from chestnuts sourced from the local green grocer. You would be amazed at just what you can grow from regular produce and dried beans/peas from a health food shop. Frugality requires that you keep your eyes and your mind open to possibilities and we are both always ready to attempt to learn some new skill or project in order to find a cheap way to do something.

I am incredibly honoured to be invited to write posts for Not Dabbling in Normal. I have been reading this blog for a while now and enjoy each and every “Not Normal” post. I hope that I can bring a decidedly Southern Flavour to the blog because Tasmania is just about as far south as you can get before you hit Antarctica and at the moment, it certainly feels like Antarctica is pretty close as our winter has been particularly cold this year. Feel free to drop by and check out what we get up to on our blog if my posts here pique your interest and I am looking forwards to sharing our antics with you all here.

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Family.  Kin.  Stock.  Race.  Clan.  Tribe.   It might be your mother and father, sisters and brother. You might all live in the same home; you may live in many different homes. Your family might be who you live with even though you are not related. Your family might be made of your closest friends and neighbors.

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I (Sincerely, Emily) have a rather small immediate family, but yet I have quite a large family when you get right down to it. In July I talked about going to Erie, PA for a family reunion on my husband’s side of the family. There were 60+ people there. Most of which I have never met. It was a lot of fun. Over the past few years I have been able to spend a bit more time with my mom’s side of the family.  That was a blast. It seemed we all just fit right in and caught up on life and had a lot of fun. Last week I re-connected with a childhood friend that I haven’t seen in 10 years and it was so much fun.

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I have a group of female friends– Nancy, Sheila, Lynn, Susan, MP, Kaikay, Holly, Maggie, Chris. I call them the “sisters,” they are people with whom I connected immediately and permanently. In one corner of my heart I believe that they are sisters from my past lives. Here are Kaikay (with a very young Alexandra, oh my), Lynn, and MP.

Kaikay & Xan ca 1980 Lynn ca 1985 ***

What does Family mean to you?

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Lammas, hmmm. I didn’t know much about it until Alexandra suggested it for one of our Sunday Photos themes.

As I think about Lammas, I think about growing up in a small town in Wisconsin with all the farms nearby. I think about how important the harvests were and how, not that long ago, neighbors and families would get together to help each other with the harvests.

Look! ZucchiniI think back to how things were done just one hundred years ago, here in the U.S. and even centuries ago in Europe and other areas. Things where very different. People just didn’t drive into town to buy everything they needed; they were growing it. Whether it was wheat or corn, or something else, it was very important for survival. With these harvests came traditions, like Lammas

While many things are really getting crispy in the garden (ahhh dead!) I can still honor the things that I am harvesting right now, and give thanks to the grain in my cupboards that I use to make bread and other things. I can think about the harvest and Lammas, as I mix up a loaf of bread.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am also be thankful for the things I am harvesting and putting into our meals every day. Peppers, Kale, Okra. Cucumber. I can also preserve some things to grace our table another time. I will save seeds for another planting and look forward to another harvest. Traditions continue. Plans are made.

Are there any organized Lammas celebrations happening in your area?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

 

 

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Lammas, the first harvest of the year, is the “loaf mass” because it marks the wheat harvest. The festival’s counterpart, Beltane at the beginning of summer, the planting of the crops and the marriage of the god and goddess, is full of promise and joy. Lammas is bounty and joy, but melancholy too, as the god begins to prepare for his yearly sacrifice and death, and the goddess begins to remember her anger over the loss of her daughters.

In modern patriarchal theology we think of lightning as a phallic manifestation, but I like to think of August storms as the fury and despair of the goddess who cannot save the earth her daughters from their imminent death, year after year after year. She brings us daily bounty, more than we can use, as both fruited gift and fruitless bribe. It means the downward slope towards the frozen midwinter is beginning.

Lammas Salad
10 Golden beets, blanched and sliced thin
3 small beets, blanched and sliced thin
1 cucumber, seeded and sliced
1 green pepper, sliced very thin
1-2 ears of corn, nibletted and blanched
3 apricots, diced
1 mildly hot pepper, seeded and diced (this year I used Beaver Dams, but I’ve also used Shishito)

Macerate (i.e. soak) the cucumber in a couple tablespoons of honey and salt for 1-2 hours. Macerate the apricots and shishito peppers in cider vinegar for 1-2 hours. Drain and rinse just before mixing up the salad. To blanch the beets, trim the roots and stems (peeling optional), and drop them into actively boiling water for no more than 5 minutes. Allow to cool, then slice. To blanch the corn, slice the niblets from the cob, and drop them into actively boiling water; leave until the color deepens (a couple/few minutes at most).

Mix everything together with a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise. (Make it yourself.)

I like this as a side with crab cakes.

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