Sunday, November 29, 2009

Go Ahead, Bake My Day

We've had a beautiful weekend here with temps in the 50s and sunny skies, but since I'm too darn stubborn to turn on my furnace any higher than the bottom reading of 58 yet (even when the overnight temps dip low), it's been staying rather chilly indoors.

Since I've been baking lots of breads and other good stuff for the market, it hasn't really bothered me. The kitchen is small enough that having the oven on for a while definitely helps with the heating (and the fragrances can't be beat!).

But since I decided to take a day off from market baking today, I needed another good reason to crank up the oven.

Luckily, I spent some time this morning cleaning up my recipe corner and stumbled across a recipe from my CSA pickup sheets for a beet greens gratin. Having just bought beets with beautiful greens yesterday, I thought this would be a good recipe to try before the greens wilted too badly.

I didn't stick with the written recipe, of course, and made it more of a casserole by adding in the leftover pesto scones from the market (crumbled), some Cheddar cauliflower, the shredded remains of the fantastic Flat Rock Abondance cheese from the market, and the last of my stale bread crumbs sprinkled on top.

At the same time, I baked a pie pumpkin and a rounded delicata-style squash (what are those called, anyway?) -- one for a future dessert and the other to accompany dinner. Looks pretty good, no?

Suffice it to say, it tasted as good as it looked, and with a cup of mulled cider, it hit the spot and warmed me up for the evening.

And that makes my day!

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Market Report: 11/28/09

My goodness, it's after Thanksgiving, and we still have a farmers' market going here in town! I love it!

The day started off with frost and a serious chill in the air as I loaded up my baked goods. I think I did better at arranging my table this week, with the breads (two new varieties plus herb rolls) anchoring one end of the display. I also set out more samples, which seemed to help a little.

Traffic was a little slow -- not surprising, since we didn't have our full complement of producers and many customers were likely out of town visiting families. I didn't sell nearly as much as last week, and the market total didn't reach last week's high, either -- but overall, sales are pretty good for the end of the first month.

Of course, I spent plenty myself:

--broccoli from the Amish Farmer
--beets from the Muddy Farmer
--lettuce mix (yes, lettuce!) and grape jam from the Cheerful Lady, who also gave me some other greens at the end of the day
--honey and pecans in honey from the Honey Lady
--rosemary and crackers from the Spelt Baker
--another gift item from the fabulous Jen
--skeins of beautiful soft alpaca yarn from the Dulcimer Dame (she made me an offer I couldn't refuse!)

As a pleasant surprise, I found I wasn't quite as tired at the end of the market day as I had been last week. Whether that's due to having the past two days off, or to not being at the market the past three nights in a row, or to getting used to the work, I'm not sure -- but I am definitely not complaining!

Next week is likely to be another busy market, so I'll be sure to get some rest before then!

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Independence Days #29

Boy, am I glad for a long holiday weekend! I wasn't able to do much beyond baking for the market this week, and I could stand some time to get caught up at home.

So here's the week's wrap-up.

1. Plant something: Nothing.

2. Harvest something: Nope.

3. Preserve something: Strained and bottled borage vinegar, basil vinegar.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Bad week -- pitched off-smelling red onion confit from last year, composted pears and greens gone bad.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Stocked up on boxed pasta, coconut milk, olive oil, nuts, other items for baking.

6. Build local food systems: Started selling home-baked goods at the market (did well for my first week!); visited with Gene Logsdon, our special guest at the holiday market; worked on marketing plan; worked on the December newsletter; shared Thanksgiving with My Wonderful Parents (I didn't cook, but the Renaissance Man and I picked up the turkey); met the parents of the turkey that graced our Thanksgiving table (from the Sheep Lady's farm).

7. Eat the food: Took cider and baklava to potluck; homemade pizza with chard (with friends); kohlrabi, carrots, crackers, and cheese for lunches; pasta with squash, kale, and thyme; hash browns; another local Thanksgiving, with turkey, mushroom dressing, baked squash, cranberry-orange relish (OK, not local), rolls, wine, and pumpkin custard.

Well, that wasn't as bad as I had thought, really. I'm sure there won't be a whole lot of planting any time soon, and preserving is definitely tapering off. But I still have areas to work on...

So, on to next week!

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I know the entries have been a little thin around Rolling In the Dough of late as I've gotten pulled deeply into Local Roots and the continuing market season. Most days I feel as if the year has flown by in plodding increments, and there's always way too much to do in too little time that passes both too slowly and too quickly.

If you're confused by that... welcome to my world!

Today, though, begins a four-day weekend when I hope I can catch up on some rest but also some work. And while I have no responsibilities for the Thanksgiving feast (thank you so much, My Wonderful Parents!), I'm still baking up a storm in order to get ready for Saturday's market.

While the crackers bake and the roll dough rises, though, I'll take a little time to give thanks:

1. I am so very thankful that after the health crises in my immediate circle earlier this year, everyone is staying healthy now or has recovered well from a bout of the flu.

2. I am thankful for a good harvest this year -- not everything performed spectacularly, but I ended up with a good bit to preserve for winter, and I am still enjoying fresh produce every week, both from the market and from the garden.

3. I am thankful for the joy of seeing all our hard work at Local Roots come to fruition. We are off to a hugely successful start, and the wave of enthusiasm coming from the community has truly kept us riding high. Of course, that means much more work ahead to sustain the excitement and involvement, but we are on our way!

4. I am thankful for the friends discovered through Local Roots, especially the Farmgirl Wannabe (who has welcomed my early attempts at farming on her land) and the fabulous Jen (a kindred artistic spirit!). How rich you've made my life this year!

5. I am deeply thankful for the support of friends and family as I have explored new ways of building local food systems this year. The work continues to be challenging and exhausting, but so rewarding. Thank you, over and over again, for all you do to keep me sane.

6. I am thankful for the gifts of words and work. The two often intertwine and propel me forward in all that I do.

7. Most of all, I am thankful for the gift of hope. Much of what I see in the news and in the world at large can depress me on a constant basis, but what I find among my friends, my Internet "community," and my community involvements here gives me hope for something better, something that uplifts us all and builds a more secure, self-reliant existence for everyone. That doesn't mean that the work is easy -- merely that what we do in practicing our "home economics" (as Wendell Berry puts it) or in building community has become a vital kind of work for all of us. So thanks to all of you who are leading the way, even in little ways, and bringing hope to so many.

I'm sure I could go on and on with the many things I'm thankful for today (like sunshine!), but I'll stop here.

What are you giving thanks for today?

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Market Report: 11/21/09

What a wonderful -- if crazy busy! -- day!

Today, Local Roots held the first annual holiday market, with 42 vendors showing up to sell not only the usual produce, meats, cheeses, and baked goods, but also craft items, beautiful works of art, and a host of other holiday gift possibilities.

We also had Gene Logsdon as a special guest, sitting up front with a table full of his books. He and his wife Carol saw a steady stream of admirers and well-wishers throughout the day, and they expressed great appreciation for the work we've been doing at the market. Very gratifying! I spent time with them when I could, as Gene is a delightful storyteller, and I even had him sign a couple of my books from home as well as a copy of his newer novel, The Last of the Husbandmen, for my library.

The rest of the time, I could mostly be found here, behind my own table. That's right, I've become a producer member myself in order to sell a variety of my home-baked specialties, and judging by the success of my first time out, I'd say they were well-received.

I had a small selection of both yeast and quick breads, cinnamon rolls, pesto scones, biscotti...

...crackers, rosemary walnuts, and -- of course -- little boxes of homemade baklava.

I did sell out of a number of things and found that having samples available helps a LOT with sales, but I also learned that too much variety or quantity can hurt rather than help. Good thing to know for future markets!

I did get a brief chance to wander around and do my own shopping for the day, but I didn't get much in the way of food:

--red onions from the Fiddlin' Farmer
--Cheddar cauliflower from the Ecoganic Farmer
--peanut butter cookies from the Mennonite Baker (because I wasn't going to eat my own profits!)
--a handful of gift items from various other vendors (no details here, as the gift recipients follow this blog and don't need to have the surprise spoiled!)

I also managed to score two little jars of honey jam (blackberry and raspberry) from the big honey seller -- she had used them as sample jars and could not legally then sell or reuse them, so they had to be given away. (Darn!)

It turned out to be a great deal overall, with the volume of sales doubling from our first market week, and the turnout and enthusiasm was so high that we decided to invite the craft vendors back until Christmas, to give them an opportunity to sell more and to continue the festive atmosphere. What fun!

Looks like we've all got our work cut out ahead of us!

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Independence Days #28

Another busy week, mostly spent in the kitchen baking. But I did find time for a little Independence...

1. Plant something: Lettuce and spinach seeds in pots for indoor growing.

2. Harvest something: Pac choi, radishes, peppermint, calendula blossoms and seeds, sage from the Renaissance Man's garden.

3. Preserve something: Froze chopped cauliflower; air-drying calendula and peppermint.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Saving bread crumbs; reused a zippered plastic cheese bag to store half an onion.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Stocked up on bags and boxes for market baking; stocked up on more butter, nuts, cider.

6. Build local food systems: Distributed flyers for the Local Roots holiday market; talked marketing with the fabulous Jen and looked for ways to step up our plan a little more; started baking to sell at Local Roots; attended the first OEFFA chapter meeting of the season and ordered seed potatoes (sharing order with the Cheerful Lady); talked to two sociology classes on campus about Local Roots and talked further with a couple of very interested students; attended a lunchtime presentation on the college's garden; had review of Sharon's Independence Days published at The Ethicurean.

7. Eat the food: Salad! and also roasted Brussels sprouts; spaghetti squash; apples for desserts; broccoli pasta; curried Asian greens over rice.

Not much else in the way of excitement this week, aside from learning how much I can cram onto the limited surface space in my kitchen as baked goods of various kinds cooled...

Next week, who knows?

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mill, Baby, Mill

And then there's the slight matter of the other things I purchased at the market this morning...

Two weeks ago, as you may recall me mentioning, the Grain Guy brought me my order of two fifty-pound bags of whole grains for this winter's baking. In talking with him, the Renaissance Man mentioned that I had been pondering the purchase of a new grain mill for myself, one that would handle larger loads and be somewhat easier to crank. The Grain Guy allowed as how he had bought a similar mill about ten years back but had since graduated to an even larger powered mill to handle the volume he requires.

Last week, the Grain Guy decided to bring that older mill to the market, along with a smaller motor-powered mill. There was some debate as to whether Local Roots would buy it to have in the future commercial kitchen or whether I would... but I sure knew what my vote would be.

So after sounding out my fellow board members over this past week, I decided to take the leap. When the Grain Guy showed up at the market this morning, I immediately collared him.

"So, Grain Guy, about that mill. Do I write the check out to you?"

(surprised look) "Uh, yeah..."

"For (x amount of dollars, the price quoted last week)?"

(dazed smile) "Yeah."

"OK. I'll go write you out a check and be right back."

And I was. And the grin on his face spread so far I thought his hat might fall off.

So by the end of the day, the Renaissance Man bundled at least the smaller mill (and the box of burrs for the bigger mill) into his truck and hauled it home, having offered to set it up on his enclosed back porch for my use. Shortly after he got home, he called me and said that since he had "his" mill (the smaller one) and the bag of old grain (to test the mills), did I want to come over and test the new "toy" with him?

Well, DUH.

I arrived to find the "spider" mill (his name for it; I think it looks like it just landed out of War of the Worlds) on his kitchen counter, awaiting a test drive.

As always, the Renaissance Man decided to learn how to take things apart, so he removed the front to show the plate where the grains would feed into the grinding apparatus...

...inside this stone-lined chamber.

He put it all back together after wiping it down, then poured some old spelt into the hopper, plugged it in, and let it do its work.

The result was a fine, soft flour -- almost like powder. Wow!

And left behind in the mill was the bran, though whether that was intentional or simply because it hadn't finished grinding everything, I don't know.

Now I'm really eager to test my new mill... so stay tuned for further adventures!

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Market Report: 11/14/09

First of all, can I just tell you how much I love being able to continue writing Market Reports into November? Thank you, Local Roots!

Second, could we have had a better day? The fabulous Jen and I broke away from the market mid-morning to run around town dropping off flyers for next week's holiday market, and I found myself roasting from the foolish apparel of a coat over a sweater and a turtleneck -- when the temperatures decided to rise into the 60s and even 70s! Sunshine, blue skies, the works! Wow!

Third, there is still so much delightfully appealing and great-tasting produce to be found. Just look!

--spicy radish pods and mixed Asian greens (plus a recipe for a curry stir-fry of said greens) from The Salesman Farmer
--broccoli and Hakurei turnips (tiny turnips with tender greens) from the Winter Harvesters (fans of Eliot Coleman)
--rosemary, Brussels sprouts, fresh dill (!), and crackers from the Spelt Baker
--popcorn and pumpkin pie fudge from the Corn Queen
--celery root from the Fiddlin' Farmer
--house bread from Broken Rocks Bakery (a new producer!)

And there was so much more to tempt me!

I am definitely getting used to this...

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Independence Days #27

Is this still the same week? I mean, last weekend, we had blissfully warm weather, and now we're waking to heavy frosts again. And was it really just a week ago when Local Roots opened for real?

Whew! It's been busy around here. And it's not going to stop for a couple more weeks, so I'm having to squeeze in time for kitchen adventures and practicing Independence Days wherever I can.

1. Plant something: Potted rosemary seedling to keep indoors.

2. Harvest something: Calendula blossoms from the Renaissance Man's garden.

3. Preserve something: Dried calendula blossoms.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Saved flour from kneading; into my reuse-the-jar-or-bottle phase; trying to get back to saving vegetable scraps (chard and kale stems, parsnip bits) for stock.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Cleaned out and returned the dehydrator to the Renaissance Man; stocked up on local butter for baking.

6. Build local food systems: Got through first market day at Local Roots! Also, participated in discussion after "Food, Inc."; visited the OEFFA Male at his farm to find out more about organic farming; took Local Roots brochures to an event on campus; filled out volunteer hour sheets for the folks who have worked with us on marketing thus far; plugged dates into next year's calendar and started listing other program ideas; finished reading a binder of Growing For Market issues from the Cheerful Lady (good tips on growing!); baked pumpernickel bread for the Madcap Farmer's "Sociology of Agriculture" class (using some of the rye he gave me).

7. Eat the food: Leftover veg curry; buckwheat pancakes; kale with pasta; beets and greens; Bangkok noodles (fast becoming a cold-weather staple); cheese grits; kale-parsnip galette.

I'm pretty well exhausted from all that's been going on, but I'm not going to get much of a break any time soon as I need to gear up for holiday baking.

Still, I think I'll have a couple of things I can use as little breathers in my schedule -- like harvesting some lingering produce from the garden and making some comfort food for the colder weather -- that will help me stay in touch with this challenge.

Maybe it's all in how I look it, right?

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Loaf It Or Leave It

Sometimes it's funny to see how building local food systems and building community go hand in hand. Not only can you make new friends, but you can also take older acquaintances to a new level by connecting over food.

Take the Madcap Farmer, for example. I knew him vaguely over a decade ago as a student and had no reason to stay in touch with him. When he returned to the local scene as a farmer selling good produce at the farmers' market a couple of years ago, we reintroduced ourselves and settled into a friendly farmer-customer banter.

This year, though, he has also started a two-year visiting professor position at the College, teaching agricultural and environmental matters, and he has called on me a couple of times now -- thanks to my connection to Local Roots -- to help out with his classes. The first time, the fabulous Jen and I talked to his class about the development and marketing of Local Roots, and we found several enthusiastic student volunteers willing to help us out.

As our conversations deepened and our friendship grew (in baby steps, but still...), the Madcap Farmer learned of my love of baking and of my efforts to grow my own grain. Having just harvested a cover crop of rye, he willingly brought me a quart bag full of whole rye grains to enjoy in my bread recipes. In return, I offered to bake him a loaf of bread so that he could appreciate the fruits of his own labor.

This week, he called in that favor. In one of his classes, he wanted to show the different between a highly processed food and its local, homemade equivalent. Would I be willing to make a loaf of bread using the rye he grew? he asked.

But of course!

After the success of my homemade pumpernickel bread at the Farmgirl Wannabe's wedding, I thought I would repeat the recipe and offer the Madcap Farmer a couple of round loaves to share -- or to devour at his leisure.

I milled the grain Monday night, sifting out the flour and setting aside a portion of the bran, and then refrigerated it until I was ready to make and bake the loaves Tuesday evening. The texture turned out to be an improvement over what I had made for the wedding, and a taste test (strictly for quality control, of course) over breakfast Wednesday morning revealed that the flavor had improved, too.

He had intended to pick up the loaves for yesterday's class but ended up calling in sick, so it wasn't until this afternoon that he finally showed up. I hope to hear the verdict sometime tomorrow!

And I hope that his students will discover that they love homemade bread -- and leave behind the other stuff!

Since I milled about 40 ounces of grain and gave the loaves about 40 minutes in the oven, I think this doubly qualifies for the Forty Seeds Project, don't you?

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Monday, November 09, 2009

We Got the Beets!

You might think, by that title, that this might be a little send-up in tribute to the mad cooking skillz of the lads at Beetses. And while I do respect their awesomeness in exploring recipes and their love of vibrant colored vegetables, this one actually goes out to the 'Rents -- My Wonderful Parents.

This was dinner tonight: roasted beets (golden and deep red) tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, dried thyme, and a smidgen of dried orange peel; and beet greens (or, rather, reds) sautéed with garlic, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.

Simple stuff made with jolly nice beets from two of my favorite farmers at Local Roots (the Spelt Baker and the German Farmer -- or, as the Renaissance Man has dubbed him, the OEFFA Male). Wholesome, nutritious, flavorful -- no surprise there, right?

Well, if you're one or the other of My Wonderful Parents and you're reading this -- and I know you are -- either your jaw has hit the floor or you're laughing. Because while the Chef Mother loves her some beet roots and My Dear Papa gets all excited about the fresh greens, they both know that I'm nowhere near that kind of beet-loving fan.

Not at all.

Either of them would be more than happy to tell you, if I were to turn the keyboard over to them (and while I might be crazy, I'm not so far gone as to do that), that I never liked beets, I always turned my nose up at them, and Lord Have Mercy Who Would Have EVER Thought! that I would eat them now.

Yeah, yeah, like I haven't heard that one before. (Eggplant. Peas. Brussels sprouts. Yadda yadda.)

And while I still wouldn't eat beets every night of the week, I'm learning to like them. A little here, a little several weeks later... I'm learning.

The catch is, these beets are local. They're fresh. They're real. They're grown by people I know and trust. Heck, I spent an hour Sunday wandering around the fields where some of these beets originated.

Yeah, I ate them. And I liked them.

And really, you can't beet that.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Market Report: 11/07/09

Yes, this Market Report is a day late because yesterday was a very, very long and full adventure, mostly spent at Local Roots on our first market day. Wow!

The Renaissance Man and I arrived around 8 AM to help set up for the indoor farmers' market, and it wasn't long before our first vendors arrived and started to get their tables in place, unpack coolers and crates, and turn the place into a colorful cornucopia of good local foods!

I focused my attention on the information table -- what with working on the marketing subcommittee, it's a natural fit -- finding a good location, putting up signs and flyers for other local organizations, and arranging the table with our membership information along with pamphlets from some of the groups that have expressed support for us.

By 9:30, most of the vendors were in place and customers started trickling in (despite our not officially being open until 10). And from then until around noon, the place was packed. I saw people who had never been to any of the Local Roots meetings or open houses coming through and buying things -- sure sign that the word is spreading around the community!

Of course, they had plenty of incentives to buy. Our refreshment table, facing the front door, welcomed people in to linger, and as they lingered, they discovered samples of honey jams (fruit and honey together), artisan cheeses, meat (cooked on-site... the aroma certainly encouraged more purchases!), and dried apples, as well as all of the good food available for sale.

Many of the vendors, including the couple at the table next to the information booth, proved to be as much of a draw as the food, because they spent plenty of time talking with customers, sharing information about the food (even offering recipes!), and promoting Local Roots even more effectively than we can. I even overheard one farmer explaining our business timeline -- starting with the indoor farmers' market until we have the license to open as a store and use the online order system -- as beneficial to everyone so that shoppers can find out more about the farmers, which will help them make their choices when they shop online.

We also had some superb volunteers helping out, both at the cash register and the information table, as well as filling in behind the scenes or covering tables for farmers who needed to step away for a time. One young man worked with me at the information table and knew the membership spiel so well that I was soon able to leave him on his own while I did my market shopping for the day (no photo, sorry!):

--a rosemary plant from The Salesman Farmer
--kohlrabi from the German Farmer (and, later, beets and lettuce, too)
--three cheeses from the Artisan Cheesemaker
--parsnips and sunchokes from the Sheep Lady
--an aloe plant from the Ecoganic Farmer
--Yukon Gold potatoes and lemon balm tea bread from the Cheerful Lady
--delicious spelt crackers and golden beets from the Spelt Baker

There was so much more I wanted to get, but considering that my refrigerator is still overflowing with good produce from last week, I thought restraint might be the order of the day (well, except for the cheese).

The kohlrabi, one cheese, and some crackers made for a good lunch once I made it back to the table, and the Renaissance Man picked up oatmeal-raisin cookies from the Mennonite Baker to round out the meal.

Things tapered off a bit in the afternoon, though business picked back up again for a while, and the farmers started packing up to head home around 2:30 (despite our being open until 3). We then stuck around to clean up and to move things around for a discussion following the film showing later in the evening.

All in all, I think we had a terrific turnout for week 1, and I hope that this will continue to draw more people in, now that they know we're here. Even I was impressed with how much was on offer!

And next week, we might see even more!

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Independence Days #26

Yes, it's been another busy week with not a whole lot of movement on the home front. November is going to be a hoppin' time down at Local Roots, so I'm likely not going to be able to do much on the Independence Days challenge.

But I'll keep trying!

1. Plant something: Nothing.

2. Harvest something: Nothing.

3. Preserve something: Nothing.

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): Wish I could say I had done better, but a couple of things from the refrigerator ended up in the compost.

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): Picked up my whole grain order and got the grains transferred to lidded plastic buckets; stocked up on more ingredients for holiday baking (esp. baklava).

6. Build local food systems: Worked during the entire Local Roots open house; continued getting the word out about Local Roots events.

7. Eat the food: Cauliflower gratin; apples; popcorn; mulled cider; cheese grits; Bangkok noodles; broccoli pizza.

Like I said, a quiet week... at least at home. I've got a lot of catching up to do, and as they say, "the hurrieder I go, the behinder I get."

Maybe next week? Oh, wait...


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Forecast is For Grain and More Grain

In my quest to stock up on baking items for winter, I not only called the Miller for my usual big order of locally milled flours, I also put in a call to a local farmer who raises certified organic wheat and spelt.

When I asked what he had available, he said, almost apologetically, "Well, everything is in 50-lb bags." Oh, no problem, I said, I'll take one 50-lb bag of wheat and another of spelt.

Lest you think me reckless, I knew I'd be using all that grain this winter -- and that by the end of the season I'm likely to have Michelle Obama-quality buff biceps from hand-cranking my now seemingly inadequate grain mill.

So at the Local Roots open house on Saturday, my new favorite grain guy brought in the two big bags for the Renaissance Man to load into his truck, and I dashed off a check for a very reasonable amount and handed it to him with profuse thanks.

I planned on using my stash of 5-gallon food-grade-plastic buckets for storing the grains, with the lids keeping the grains safe from pests. But boy, those bags sure looked daunting...

Each bag required two buckets, so I definitely need to restock my bucket stash (those things are so handy!). But now I have plenty of grain for winter breads and other baking -- and doesn't that spelt look inviting?

I think I'm just about set for a grainy day...

NOTE: Blogging is likely to be light this month with everything going on. Please be patient with me!

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