I admit that even though it is still bitterly cold where I
live, I have been dreaming of gardening again.Maybe it’s the longer days with more sunlight.Maybe it’s the garden supplies and the seeds that I am starting to see in stores, or my seed catalogs
calling my name on my desk.Maybe
it’s the microgreens that I started growing about a week ago in front of my
living room window.Or perhaps
it’s merely due to the fact that I am just getting tired of the cold and dreary weather
Whatever the reason, I am quite ready for Spring to
arrive.It will still be awhile
before I can actually get things growing in my garden, probably about 2½-3
months from now (I envy you, Warm-Climate-Dwellers!), but I can start planning
and preparing for the coming garden season now.
As I was
thinking about springtime and gardening, I thought that I would share with you
some great resources to help you start planning for your garden too.I advocate organic and ecological
gardening methods here at Day by Day
Homesteading, so the following resources have that focus.
2. Healthy Soil- I cannot
stress enough that healthy soil is so much more than just a place to hold your
plants. Healthy soil is an entire complex
ecosystem! If you don’t have
healthy living soil, you won’t have very healthy plants. Healthy soil is good for the plants
themselves and for you when you eat those healthy plants. Restoring Your Soil:
Tips to Make Your Garden Greener from Gaiam Life gives many good tips on
how to improve your soil for a healthy and more productive garden.
Mulching (also known as “Lasagna Gardening”)- Sheet mulching is a great way
to build healthy soil quickly using layers of different organic
materials. To see great
examples of how easy it is to use this method, watchthesevideos. A tip: If you have a choice to use hay or
straw as one of your layers, I recommend using straw instead of hay. The difference between these is that hay contains seeds,
which you don’t want in whatever mulch you will be growing in.
4.No Dig Gardening-
A good gardening method to dramatically reduce weeding, and increase soil
fertility and productivity.
5.Straw Bale Gardening- This gardening
method can be used to grow plants just about anywhere- even on rooftops!I personally used this innovative gardening
technique to grow
my very first garden, and it worked beautifully!I highly recommend that if you would like to explore this
gardening technique that you buy the book Straw
Bale Gardens by author Joel Karsten to use as a reference.
6.Herb Spiral- permaculture
(video)- I really love my
herb spiral!With an herb
spiral, you can grow many plants in a small space, and it allows you to take
advantage of microclimates that exist within the spiral to grow a variety of
plants that have different growing requirements.
I especially enjoy growing herbs in mine, but you can
certainly grow a variety of plants in an herb spiral, including lettuce and
strawberries!One of the many
great things about an herb spiral is that it can be constructed in less
than a day.
7. Making a keyhole
garden bed- Keyhole beds are nice because the design allows you to reach everything
from either the center of your garden or from the outside, as well as reducing
the amount of space that you would otherwise devote to paths. Many folks are even creating raised versions of these garden beds so that they don't need to bend over when they work in their garden or harvest.
8.Hugelkultur-An interesting name, but a very cool
concept for building a raised garden bed!The concept involves burying a pile of wood logs and then growing your
plants on the sides and the top of that “mound.”The result is a raised garden bed that holds moisture extremely
well, and creates a very productive growing space.
This is something that I haven’t tried yet, but I have a
tree in my backyard that was trimmed last fall (with all of the logs just
sitting back by my garage right now), so I am thinking that this would be a
perfect way to use at least some of that wood!
Gardening-I am a firm
believer that everyone can grow something,
no matter how much space you have.Even growing microgreens, sprouts indoors or herbs in pots on your windowsill is still something that
you don’t have to buy from the store and that you will know how it was grown.And, it will actually be fresh when you eat it, unlike most of
the produce in grocery stores that was harvested days ago (if it’s even that fresh).I have a lot of interest in growing things in smaller
spaces, since I don’t have the largest yard, but I am also interested in how we
all can make our lives more sustainable wherever we live, including in urban
10.Permaculture- Ah permaculture, how
do I love thee?Permaculture is
what helped bring me from a doom and gloom outlook to one where there is hope
and empowerment to help change the world (although I still do have my moments
of frustration with the status quo from time to time).Yes, it involves gardening techniques,
such as many of those that I have described above, but it is also an entire
design approach for living more in harmony with nature.
Our world today is wrapped up in a lot of fear mongering,
and many times, we are tempted to feel powerless to stop the horrible things
that are happening.Permaculture
offers many practical solutions to help us meet many of our challenges that we
face in today’s world.To
learn more, I highly encourage you to check out the permaculture link above, as
well as the post that I wrote about Why
Permaculture is Truly Awesome.
Are you inspired yet?I can’t wait to start planting, can you?
Ah, bread!It was my favorite food group before I
had to go gluten-free.However,
for a long time, I found that in order to simplify my diet, I needed to avoid
eating bread when I was in the beginning stages of my gluten-free diet and early
on in my journey to regain my health.I’m happy to say that I am now far enough along in my health journey
that I can enjoy bread again, the gluten-free way.
The topic of eating grains in our world today is filled with
controversy.Many are now asking if we should all be eating a
Paleo diet and avoiding all grains as well as many other starches.Are grains inherently indigestible and
harmful to our health?
It is true that everyone has unique health and dietary
needs, and I would urge you to listen to your own body (and, in many cases,
health practitioners) concerning what is best for you to eat.It may be that for some, avoiding all
grains at least for a time may be extremely beneficial to help you to
heal.I do believe, however, that
the story about grains may not be as simple as we are generally being
told, and there may still be a way for us to enjoy grains in a healthier
way.Let your body be your
guide.If you feel horrible after
eating something, by all means, you probably should avoid it (or at least for
The issue of gluten vs. gluten-free grains is an important
issue for many people today, and many have resolved that a great deal of our
dietary ills today have to do with the consumption of gluten-based grains.Having been on a gluten-free diet for
the last nine years or so, I have learned quite a lot about many of the
negative effects of gluten, but it turns out that the issue of the inability to
digest gluten is likely more complicated than the simple question of “Do you
want gluten with that?”
Those Grains Today…
I am by no means an expert on the topic of grains and
nutrition, but I have learned a few things about modern wheat and other grains
over the last few years:
Efforts were also made to make wheat more “nutritious” by
increasing the protein content of wheat, and this has inherently changed the wheat
that most people are consuming so dramatically that it
barely resembles the original varieties of wheat, such as Einkorn.In fact, the ancient varieties of
wheat such as Einkorn contain many fewer chromosomes in their DNA than the modern
varieties of wheat that are present in most grain-based foods today.
These changes in the wheat that humans are currently cultivating
have made it pretty difficult for many people to digest, and in fact, it has
been said that the modern wheat varieties may even have a
drug-like effect on the human brain and may cause problems with our thinking and
digestion (there’s that gut-brain connection that many of us keep hearing
about).For many folks like
myself, these effects can even lead to autoimmune problems and other immune-related
issues.Some experts even say that
modern wheat isn’t really fit for any
human consumption, period.All I
know is that there sure have been a lot of changes made to the staple grain
that has historically been referred to as “the staff of life.”
2.)There is also
a major issue with how we typically prepare (or rather, don’t prepare) our grains today.Traditionally, most grains (as well as nuts and seeds) went
through a process of soaking, sprouting, or fermenting (such as what occurs
during the process of preparing traditional sourdough bread).The advantage of these traditional
preparation processes of grain preparation is that the indigestible,
enzyme-inhibiting components of grains, known as protease inhibitors, get
broken down, as well as the anti-nutrient component called phytic acid that reduces the absorption of minerals like calcium,
iron, magnesium and zinc.Our bodies have to work much harder to digest these foods when the
proper preparation of grains does not occur, and for many folks, this can even
trigger bad digestive issues and or immune problems (it is now known that half
of our immune system is located in our digestive tract.).
The “pre-digestion” processes of soaking, sprouting, and
fermenting make grains, nuts, and seeds much more digestible and easier to
assimilate the nutrition that these foods contain.Since very few of us have ever eaten properly soaked, sprouted,
or fermented grains (beer excluded), this lack of proper grain preparation
likely presents a big problem for many people.
So, the issue of consuming grains is likely not simply a
matter of gluten vs. gluten-free, or even whether the grains are organic or
non-GMO, but we must also consider whether the grain, bread, etc., has been
properly prepared so that your body can digest it and utilize the food in the
first place.The latter issue is
much more difficult to address through commercially available bread and other grain-based
products, although I am starting to notice a few sprouted grain products here
or there when I visit grocery stores.
Very few of us have eaten true sourdough bread before.I’m not talking about most of the so called breads that are labeled as
“sourdough” that can be purchased in a typical grocery store.The majority of these “sourdough” breads
will actually have some bakers yeast added to them in addition to the sourdough
culture.Adding the bakers yeast
speeds up the baking process, but you end up missing out on many of the critical health
benefits that true sourdough bread offers.
bread takes time.From start to
finish, the process can take a number of days to get a viable starter culture
going and to allow it to become active enough to bake with.Then, it takes a good portion of a day
(or longer) for the bread dough to rise prior to baking.To me, one of the best parts of
sourdough bread, besides the delicious flavor that is imparted to the bread, is
that it is created through a culture that contains both wild yeasts and
bacteria in a symbiotic relationship, similar to that which is present in other
lacto-fermented foods and beverages like kombucha.
While there is debate concerning whether any of the living
cultures remain in the bread after it is baked, you will still end up with a
bread that is much more easily digested and nutritious, since the cultures have
“pre-digested” the flour during the fermentation and rising processes.Since the bread dough is fermented, much
of the phytic acid and the protease inhibitors are dramatically reduced or
eliminated. Some folks even claim that this process can
break down difficult to digest proteins like gluten if the dough is given
enough time to ferment.I
cannot personally verify that claim, so I choose to stick to using all
gluten-free flour when I make my sourdough bread, but long-fermented sourdough
bread might be an option if you are willing to explore that process.If you are very sensitive to wheat
and/or gluten, I would strongly recommend doing a lot of research on the
subject before experimenting with that technique in an attempt to break down the
gluten and other proteins in wheat flour.
All bread used to be made using
the sourdough technique until the advent of bakers yeast in the 1800s. Due to all of the nuances involved with
the process of sourdough bread baking, bakers yeast quickly became the favored
method of baking by bread makers.
It made the industrial process of baking bread speedier and more
“efficient” for the bread baking business. However, in the process of making this industrialized bread,
you no longer get the pre-digestion of the grains and the anti-nutrient
components never get reduced or neutralized. This is a recipe for digestive problems of all sorts. Not only that, but the bread produced
in this industrial fashion simply does not contain the depth of flavor that you
get in real sourdough bread. That can only come through fermentation
of the dough, and the longer that you can ferment it, the better. Just don’t let your bread dough
become an episode of I Love Lucy and let it take over
your oven and your kitchen!
My Gluten-Free Sourdough
Bread Baking Adventure
I was determined to find a way to make my own gluten-free
sourdough bread for several reasons.Most of all, I wanted to start baking my own gluten-free bread at
home.If any of you reading this
eats a gluten-free diet and routinely buys commercial gluten-free breads, then
you know that not only are such breads fairly expensive, but it can be difficult
to find gluten-free bread that actually tastes good.Bread that is not just okay and utilitarian, but something
that you really enjoy eating.In my viewpoint, that is how food should
be, especially if we happen to have
food sensitivities.I say, “Away
with you, bland foods!”The foods that we can have should rock
our taste buds and leave even non-food-sensitive folks loving it!
The truth is that although there are now more gluten-free
bread options on the market than ever before, and they are certainly getting
better and more flavorful, it can still be difficult to find a brand that you
like.Many are very bland tasting,
and some even easily crumble apart.Even when you finally find a flavorful and soft gluten-free commercial
bread, it can be difficult to find gluten-free bread that doesn’t contain some
sort of ingredient that you would prefer to avoid.Some even contain GMO ingredients, which makes having food
limitations even more of a challenge!
At first, I was intimidated by the idea of baking my own
gluten-free yeast bread.It
sounded too difficult to do.For a
long time, the only type of bread that I made myself were quick breads that
required no yeast.Then, I tried
baking some gluten-free yeast bread but I didn’t really like the results.That bread was flat- literally
flat.It didn’t really rise much
at all.This might possibly have been
due to the fact that I was using older yeast that could have been past its
prime and may not have been too viable anymore.The finished product was also kind of bland tasting.After that mediocre attempt, I put my
bread baking aspirations aside for awhile.
Then one day, I decided to investigate the possibility of
baking gluten-free sourdough bread to see if I could do it successfully.I had tried my hand a number of years
ago at making sourdough bread using whole wheat flour before starting on a
gluten-free diet, and I somehow ended up with something that resembled
bread.Therefore, I concluded that
it might be possible to bake a gluten-free version.
As many of you who regularly read this blog know, I like to
experiment with wild
fermentation.I really enjoy
making and consuming these foods for their health benefits, such as the probiotic
cultures and digestive support, and I really like the flavor of these foods and
beverages.Sourdough bread has been
one of my favorite cultured food projects thus far.
sourdough bread that I make using this recipe is healthy, hearty, and
tastes absolutely awesome when it is warm and toasted with melted grassfed
butter on it.It is now one of my
favorite breakfast foods, and I actually prefer it to all of the commercial
gluten-free breads that I have tried so far.The flavor is just superior to all of the commercial breads
that I have tried (my gluten-eating husband even likes it).And, because it is produced through the process of wild
fermentation, containing a veritable ecosystem of beneficial yeasts and
bacteria, the storage life is much longer than breads made with bakers yeast,
by many days.
An active gluten-free sourdough starter. You can see the bubbles
around the edges of the jar, indicating the viable action of the
yeasts and bacteria in the culture.
The concept of creating a sourdough starter really isn’t that
much different from other types of wild fermentation: you mix together the ingredients
to create an optimal environment for your selected culture to thrive in, give
it the right environment for it to ferment in (such as a warm, but not hot, place), add some time and patience, and
you should end up with a viable culture.To make sourdough starters, you basically need some good quality water
(non-chlorinated/filtered is best for cultures- chemicals can kill your
culture, and they aren’t really good for you either), and some flour.
For my gluten-free comrades reading this, you will, of
course, be using gluten-free varieties of flour to make your starter, with one
caveat: when making your sourdough starter,
avoid using the flour mixes that contain xanthan gum or guar gum already added.It doesn’t give reliable results.I have personally had a lot of success
using straight sorghum flour for this purpose, but you could also try another
gluten-free single type of flour. The recipe that I have
been using gives some good tips for this.
Then, when your starter is ready and you mix it in with the
rest of your flour to make your bread dough, you can then add your pre-mixed
flour blends with the typical gluten-free thickeners like xanthan gum or guar
gum. I personally have had
good success using the Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend from Namaste Foods (no
product affiliations here- I just have had success using it), but feel free to
experiment and see which flour blends you like.
The sorghum flour that I used to make the gluten-free sourdough starter
with, and the gluten-free flour blends that I add when I make the bread dough.
A few more tips that should make your gluten-free
sourdough bread baking easier:
starter will be likely be thinner and more fluid in consistency than the
typical wheat-based flour that you may be used to if you have made a wheat
flour based sourdough starter in the past.This is likely due to the fact that gluten-free flours on
their own without the additional thickeners simply do not contain the
elasticity that gluten lends to wheat flour.Accept it, roll with it, and carry on.
Gluten-free baking is in a class all of its own.Don’t let it intimidate you.Just accept that it is a different
process than gluten/wheat flour baking and move forward with your gluten-free
If you are on a
gluten-free diet,I want to encourage
you to not feel sorry for yourself that you must eat differently than
“everybody else.”Enjoy the
healthy alternative of using flours that won’t make you ill, and that you can
actually make some really tasty food with.You can do this, and it is very possible to have delicious
food that contains no gluten in it.Repeat that last sentence to yourself over and over if you must.
Yes, eating a gluten-free diet is an adjustment, but it can
still be very tasty if you are willing to learn and try new things.Learn
to love and embrace all of the tasty foods that you can eat instead of focusing
on all of the foods that you can no longer eat.There is literally an entire planet of food out there that contains no gluten.You never know what tasty foods you
might discover if you decide to step outside of the Standard American Diet food
2.)The recipe that I have
been using to successfully make gluten-free sourdough bread can be found here.I will not repeat that recipe here at Day by Day Homesteading, since the
author of that article does an excellent job of walking readers through this
process.However, one thing that I
noticed is that I have needed to bake the bread for an hour to an hour and 20
or 30 minutes or so. Check and monitor the internal temperature of the bread
with a food thermometer to determine when it is at least 200 degrees F and the
crust is browned to your liking.
I’m not sure if the need for extra baking time is just due
to the quirks of my own oven, but I recommend baking it for the amount of time given
in the recipe, and then check it every 5-10 minutes or so to see if it is done
to your liking.It takes much
longer than regular yeast added breads to burn this bread, so you have a lot of
room to play around with.
I eat this bread as toast with butter on it for breakfast.I have not tried it yet as sandwich
bread, but you certainly could if you can get it to rise and bake to the
texture of your liking.Try it and
see what you think.You may find
that you just like to eat it as toast as I do, but everyone is different.Either way, it makes a very delicious
4.If you have
extra starter after baking your bread, you can continue to feed it with flour
and water and keep it going continually if you like, similar to the process of
brew style kombucha.This is useful
if you would like to have a continuous starter to always make bread with.However, since a sourdough starter
needs continual care and needs to be fed everyday (I feed mine with equal
portions of sorghum flour and filtered water, with ¼ to 1/3 cup of each), you
may wish to take a break from this process from time to time.In that case, just feed it with the
flour and water, stir, and keep it in an enclosed container such as a mason jar
with a lid in your refrigerator.
It is ideal to feed your starter every few days when it is
in the refrigerator, but I have left mine “alone” to fend for itself in the
fridge when I have gone on vacation for a week or so, and I have been able to
revive it after several days once I have taken it out of the fridge and started
feeding it again daily. Reviving your starter after a period in the
refrigerator can be tricky, and you’ll have to experiment to see under which
conditions your starter does best in.A sourdough starter can potentially be a little finicky, just like a
I hope that you will
give sourdough bread baking a try, especially if you need to stick to eating a
gluten-free diet.It may just
change your relationship with bread, forever!