All Change

The armies of changes seldom lay siege to the bulwarks of Peace without first preparing a sizable force to form battalions.

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Such is my life.

Sadly I am both the Offence and Defense in this war and my Offence is stronger over all.  So I prepare an army and attack the only things I really really wish to preserve: daily peace and quiet.

This is just to explain my months of absence… I have had a lovely summer but I was so busy throughout that it feels as if it never properly got going.  Things are still crazy and will certainly not stop being crazy for the foreseeable future but at least for now I can see my way to blogging a bit again.  So hello lovelies!  How nice to be back.

xx

Jo

The Empty Week- Yarn Along

IMG_7542Welcome to my wonderful, glorious, shiny, happy, no obligations, totally, completely and unexpectedly free week. This is the thing I wait and long for… always.  A week with nothing in it.  This is a close as I get to vacation.  I am a stay at home mom, and I home-school.  Any holidays we have as a family include being a stay-at-home Mom so vacations are just every day life but with the added stress of keeping everyone entertained including a husband.

This NEVER happens!

Never.  Ever. Ever.

Of course my kids are here working on their education and I naturally have a list of things to catch up on… all of which I am studiously ignoring as I relax in the sanctuary of my home office in my Grammie’s old chair knitting Meritance and reading a load of total trash.  As befitss a do-nothing week I am joining up with Ginny  rather late in the day for a Yarn Along.

Happy.

xx Joanna

Olive and Pit

Olive and Pit

Olive and Pit

Living in the sticks is challenging.  We have no cell reception. If the power goes out it can stay off for days and days while PG&E search the hills for the fault.  Our cars need new tires… a lot.

BUT we also have found ourselves in an amazing community.  We know every one of our neighbors and if we need some support (or they do) then there is always someone who has the knowledge or time that can help.  One of our neighbors used his tractor to plow our field the first year we were here; in turn when they were away and a tree fell on their drive M. went up and cut it up and moved it off the drive so when they got home late they would come home to a clear road.  We Llama-sit occasionally for another neighbor and in turn they chicken-sit for us. Equally one of our neighbors give E. a lift to her volunteer program in Boonville and we have yet to find something that can repay that generosity.

The Chicks: Stupid, Dash, Newsa, and Nutmeg

The Chicks: Stupid, Dash, Newsa, and Nutmeg

So last week when we got the call from  one neighbor about another who had been bereaved in January and just desperately needed to be rid of a Bantam hen and her chick to ease her worries: of course we said yes.  We really aren’t Bantam people (useless pet chicken anyone?) but the need was there and we had the space and time to help.

Olive and Pit

Olive and Pit

So it is that Olive and little Pit joined our farm.  She is a masterful escape artist and a little firecracker with other chickens but she is sweet and placid with us.  We are having to keep her in a separate enclosure as one of the white Delaware took an instant dislike to Olive and while she has that little chick Olive has no intention of making peace.  The younger chickens are still in the broody-hen hutch so Olive and Pit are in a rabbit cage adapted slightly for her needs.

The Chicks: Pigwidgen, Baby, Stupid, Dash, Newsa, and Nutmeg

The Chicks: Pigwidgen, Baby, Stupid, Dash, and Nutmeg

I know she adds to our daily chore list but really that’s what living in the country is about: we look after each-other and in the end our lives are all the richer for it.

xx Jo

Les Trois Soeurs on Etsy

Les Trois Soeurs by Sweet Little WoodLes Trois Soeurs by Sweet Little Wood are in my Etsy shop.

Les Trois Soeurs by Sweet Little WoodLes Trois Soeurs are beautiful and elegant earrings designed to look like glass but with a light and easy feel in your ears.

Les Trois Soeurs by Sweet Little Wood
They are designed and handmade in Northern California by my whole family using quality materials and an eye for precision using a unique process and finished with crystal beads. High quality silver-filled hooks ensure a beautiful but affordable finish without the risk of allergic reactions to metal.  The resin finish allows light opaquely through the jewelry like stained glass.  They are always more beautiful in person!

Les Trois Soeurs by Sweet Little Wood

I also want to say congratulations to Donna of Knit1Spin2 (the recipient of a free pair of Les Trois Soeurs earrings) and thank you for the plug for my Etsy shop on your blog!

xx Joanna

A Worrier Justified

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

 M. and I had a fantastic time away while our children learned the value of having an unpaid slave about the house who does 90% of the house work without being asked… yeah it feels great to have your 16 year old admit she is so glad your back because being Mom is not as easy as it looks!

I would like to say that my worrying was totally justified!  I am not kidding that I got 2 out of 5… almost:  First of all a man DID break down and knock at our door while we were away… fortunately he wasn’t a psychopath… he just wanted to call AAA… unfortunately K. E. and J. didn’t do the things we had prearranged in case a random stranger showed up at the door.  SIGH.

And second: one of our chickens was taken.  We don’t know when but we suspect it was at night as one of the Delaware hens was particularly stupid (for a chicken): she would sit on the roosting bar all day and then get stuck outside the hutch when the automatic door closed at night.  The girls forgot to check and didn’t do a count in the evening… anyhow we found a mess of feather’s outside the hutch door and a path to where the varmint dug under the enclosure leaving some of it’s fur behind on the barbed wire.  So one stupid hen down and one coyote/fox/raccoon/bobcat well fed.

On the bright side we came home to find the baby rabbits had opened their eyes  and are so adorable!

New Zealand Rabbit kit, 14 days old @ Sweet Little Wood

They are starting to get out of their nest which makes Champagne a very grumpy Mamma Rabbit!

New Zealand Rabbit kits, 14 days old @ Sweet Little Wood

Sleepy Bunnies. So sweet!

M. and I went to Chico.  Its a beautiful town (in the middle) and a bog standard San Joaquin town on the outskirts.  M. and I were pretty happy to enjoy the time we had and explore some of the green (and sometimes not green) spaces.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Lower Bidwell Park. Bidwell is the largest municipal park in CA.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

The only proof I have that I was even there!

 

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

A potentially grungy Highway 99 underpass painted to look like a forest was unexpectedly charming.

Bidwell Park, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Little Owl. x

Sadly Bidwell Mansion was not open when I was there but I enjoyed looking around the grounds none the less.

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Bidwell Mansion, Chico, California- Sweet Little Wood

Afterwards we drove out to Oroville and visited the lake and dam.  The situation in Lake Oroville is pretty horrifying: so little water! So take note LA county… your water supply is low… stop watering those darn lawns!

Lake Oroville, California

Look at the huge swathe of dry bank… at the end of winter with a 6% snow pack in the Sierras!!

IMG_6108

En-route home we stopped of at an awesome little flea-market where I picked up a collection of  Spode Fairy Dell china:  $20.  I am so thrilled!

Spode, Copeland, Fairy Dell chin

Spode, Copeland, Fairy Dell chin

I was happy to be home and in my own bed but I do miss being away  just a little:  the hotel room had the most enormous bath in the main bedroom suite without any children knocking to use the restroom, and I didn’t have to think about feeding anyone for awhile.  Oh well, back to being the unpaid house slave.

xx Joanna

The Monday Project: 2 Hour Homemade Bread

It has been awhile since I’ve shared a Monday Project so I thought I’d make this a good one!Easy 2 Hour Bread

I make our own bread.

We eat bread almost daily: sometimes two loaves a day.  In total I usually make about 30 loaves a month using about 70 lbs of flour and I can guarantee you if this were a difficult thing to do I would not be doing it!!  I only buy two loaves of bread from the super market each month and I put them in the freezer for those days when we need bread to eat but I need the extra time more.

Home made bread is much cheaper: even buying the local organic flour from our Co-op I save a lot of money on bread.  Home made bread is so delicious even the artisan stuff doesn’t compare to a hot loaf fresh out of the oven.  You can make an organic real food loaf for less than half the price of the shop bought stuff with none of the hidden ingredients. If you find a recipe that works for you its easy to tweak it till it suits your tastes perfectly!  For example: M. likes his bread with a little sweetness but when my mother in law is over I bake loaves with no sugar added because she doesn’t like the sweetness.Easy 2 Hour Bread

Until I hurt my back and couldn’t knead the loaves I was doing it all by hand.  My back forced me into making the decision to get a stand mixer, I’m super happy to have the mixer but trust me that your bread will come out just as nice (maybe even better) and takes only 5 minutes more kneaded by hand.  There is a lot of scary snobbery about bread making:  You don’t need to be a baker or wonder chef to do it!  You don’t need a special oven that gets to extra ordinary temperatures!  And you don’t need to devote half a day to the task!  This recipe  makes two 2lb loaves and is super versatile and takes 2 hours start to finish (1 hour of which you aren’t even doing anything to it).  Later in the week I will share with you some variations on the recipe that we use all the time to make pizza bases, cinnamon/pumpkin rolls, and naan bread.

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Ingredients:

IMG_1705

550 ml (1/2 qt) warm (to touch) water

2 Tbs dry yeast

2 Tbs sugar or Honey

1 kg (2 lbs 3 oz) bread flour (Do weigh it out- it is far more accurate than measuring in cups) I use different flour mixes depending on what I want the loaf to be like but if you use less than 2/3 white bread you need to up the water content of the loaf and increase it rising time.  I like to substitute 300 grams of white flour for 200 g home-ground whole wheat, 50 g chia seed, and 50 g oat bran and add another 30 mls water.

1 tsp salt

2 Tbs olive oil

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Method:

Stir the sugar and yeast into the warm water in a large mixing bowl.  Make sure your water is not hot, it should be only a little warm.  Let it sit about 5- 10 minutes till it looks foamy. Stir/mix in the other ingredients- the sugar oil and salt are all optional but I find it gives a nicer loaf.  This dough is a little sticky but not difficult to handle.  If at this point your dough feels hard to push into you haven’t got enough liquid if it is difficult to get unstuck from your hands you have too much liquid.

Hand knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes- but don’t sweat it- a relatively easy bit of kneading will do.  In a stand mixer I let it mix for about 4-5 min. Set it aside in the same large bowl in a warmish spot and let it rise for an hour. When our house is cold I put on a pot of coffee and put the bread bowl on top.

Before you start the next step preheat your oven to 430 F and very thinly smear butter (I use the wax papers that come around the butter sticks) inside your two 2 lb loaf pans and lightly sprinkle flour over the buttered surface. You can make any loaf shape you like and if you don’t have loaf pans just make two rounded loaves on a baking sheet (like the photo at the top).

Knock back your dough (which should be twice the size it was- if it isn’t find a warmer spot for it and leave it till it is. If it doesn’t smell yeasty you may have killed your yeast with too hot water).  You don’t really need to knead it again but if you want a finer crumb bread knead it for just a minute or two- I don’t bother I just squish it around in my hands a little.  Divide the lump into two halves and smooth them into fat tube shapes.  Fold the ends under a little for a nice shape but its really not important how you shape it… its just aesthetics! Plonk one in each loaf pan.Easy 2 Hour Bread

Get your hands wet and just smooth them over the top of the loaf, sprinkle the moist surface with a little salt and then a fine coating of flour. Use a knife to cut a line down the center of your loaf about 1/2 in deep.Easy 2 Hour BreadAllow the loaves to rise about 10 minutes before you put them in the center of the hot oven.

Cook them for 8 minutes then open your oven door and reduce the temperature to 330 F.   My oven takes less than 2 minutes to get down to 330 F before it kicks in heating again.  Cook for 30 minutes more.  This will give you a light crust which is a little crispy on top and more soft around the sides.  If you like a much darker crust you can up the temperatures.  I have read (in a recipe that makes a simple white loaf totally hard work) that you can start your bread at 500 F and reduce to 430 F.

Easy 2 Hour Bread

Enjoy!

Easy 2 Hour Bread

White loaf.

xx Jo

Bunny Watch: Champagne’s Kittens

4 day old kits, Champagne , New Zealand doe, litter #1Sunday night/ Monday morning Champagne had her litter.  The clever girl had 8 largish kittens all in her box and all alive and well. We thought she was done but 24 hours later I went out to check the kits and found a dead one about twice the size of the others on top of her nesting materials.  This is a pretty common thing when a doe has bigger kits. They can get stuck and then they die in the birth canal.  Sometimes a dead kit can kill a doe if she never manages to birth it. I think Champagne is in the clear now as she is feeding the kittens and eating and drinking happily.

1 day old bunny, Champagne , New Zealand doe, litter #1

I have managed to misplace my camera-computer port link (it does sometimes get hijacked by K. so I am not entirely certain I misplaced it but it does seem likely I’m the culprit) so there are no photos with this post… but I will add them in when I find the port!  My port finally showed up… I was totally the culprit who didn’t put it away properly.  🙂

Newborn kittens are hairless, soft as suede and their eyes are closed.  They look kind of like little tiny Bull Terriers!  Champagne’s litter is a mix of black and broken (black and white spotted).  When you pick them up they squeak and nudge your fingers looking for milk and if they just want to be somewhere warmer and quieter they dig with their tiny little soft claws against your fingers trying to get covered again… so adorable!

4 day old bunny, Champagne , New Zealand doe, litter #1

There is an old wives tale that you should never handle kittens when they are young because the doe will reject them.  Any rabbit breeder will tell you differently.  You MUST handle your kits even if just to check they are all alive and not rotting in the nest passing on infections etc.  If  you have handled your doe enough she should be rather disinterested in you handling the kits.  Champagne is interested enough to sniff around where the nest should be when we take it out every day to check on the bunnies but she is totally laid back about our handling the kits.

4 day old kit, Champagne , New Zealand doe, litter #1

I sincerely don’t know where this week has gone but I wish it would come back so I could get more jobs done!  For now… I’ve gotta get myself back to doing all the millions of things that need done around an old farmhouse.

Take care my lovelies. xx

Joanna