In the Winter it’s all about planning and dreaming. We plan for chickens (and a new chicken coop), we plan expanding the gardens to include more rows of dry beans, we plan on shaping the blackberry aisles and adding medicinal and dye plants to the sundial garden. We plan for seedlings and a smokehouse. We dream of a greenhouse and a barn and french drains. We dream of new siding for the house and a wood cookstove.
Winter is cozy and fun (and not so cozy but oh so fun on the sledding trails!) and dreamy and yet deliberate. We roll out a long brown paper drawing of our land we made the first year with pencil scratchings, erasures, redrawn lines and added trees. It’s our working ‘map’. Then we budget out some ideas, make new monthly goals and try to stick with them as best as life will let us.
Right now, inside – we’re negotiating how we eat and what we are willing to pay for, either in time or money. The former we have more of than the latter. So we turned our attention to our wheat products. I love the wheat culture here in Maine – it’s historical and regrowing – heirloom wheats from Aroostook, Maine Grains leading the charge, collected and ground in Skowhegan. We’ve been going to the Bread Fair for a couple of years and enjoy supporting the movement. In general, we try and stick to local – when we can’t do Maine Grains (which also do amazing oats, polenta, and mixed berries – I always get a bag of each at the bread fair and can get the oats at WF), we use King Arthur. I love the co-operative businesses, the B corp’s, the collectives…especially any system that keeps New England farmers farming.
We bake – for the celebrations we baked a zillion cookies. Sometimes we bake cakes (last week was a chocolate sour cream cake with beet cream cheese frosting, and an apple cake for friends). We make pancakes and muffins occasionally. Josh is particularly adept at scones – yum.
We tried out a bread maker from a yard sale and fell in love – perhaps, maybe cheating, maybe I’m okay with ‘modern’ homesteading, maybe I’m still in charge of the ingredients and the understanding of how they work and we only ever use it for regular slicing bread (and yes, it is still miles better than anything we’ve ever bought presliced, on the shelf, we can never go back) so that’s already been a regular staple. I make some of our dinner breads (ciabatta with tomato and olives, rustic boules, baguettes) but not as often as I should. Josh and D make pizza dough and biscuits almost every weekend and have now turned their attention to tortillas (flatbreads used for everything from scooping stew, to wrapping around roast chicken, to naan substitute, to quesadillas) and pasta (so far we’ve made tagliatelle – beet, turmeric, and spirulina for my mother for Solstice, farfalle, spaghetti, and rough cut egg soup noodles) – and we are never going back to shelf pasta. So fun, so good, so easy – and takes no longer than any other regular dinner we make. We make double batches so we eat some fresh and we dry some (we dried the tagliatelle on the pasta racks overnight, and the farfalle in the dehydrator – worked great) for nights we don’t have a lot of time. We finally began our own sourdough starter (in my defense, we’ve started a few times in the last 20 years but never consistently – we’re hoping this is the time!).
There are times when we (mostly me) go gluten free (it’s good for me, with the Lyme and what not to take a break from inflammatory foods) and I am adept at buckwheat flatbreads, almond flour (and parmesan) pizza dough, GF fruit crisp and pie crusts, even chickpea flour gravy but I resist the idea that there are ‘substitutes’ for good bread. I just ‘buck up’ and do without.
All I know is – it’s been fun and reinvigorating in the kitchen for the whole family to dig in and make more of our foods together. I’m dreaming we start making crackers and oatcakes, and more and more kinds of dreamy pasta.