On Chickens, The Rhythms of Nature, and Baking Bread

“Sometimes, in a summer morning,
having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise
till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs,
in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around or
flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at
my west window, or the noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant
highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons
like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the
hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but
so much over and above my usual allowance.” 

Henry David Thoreau;  Walden

 Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
Ralph Waldo Emerson


            Autumn arrived this year before I was ready.  I didn’t want to say goodbye to summer and the garden just yet.  But Autumn comes on its own time schedule, just as all the seasons.  Mother Nature has her own pace, her own rhythms.  She is mindless of my busy pace; my days filled with too much worry, too much to do.  She moves gracefully on as she has done since the beginning of time.  It is my responsibility to attune myself to her rhythms, not her to mine.

            I am ready for winter.  Time to slow down, time to rest and regroup.  Time to look back and ruminate over the moments of the past year, as well as to look ahead and plan for the next.

            Lately I am exhausted with the pace of modern life.  I have a regular job in addition to the farm work, to pay the bills for now.  I am a line cook at a busy chain restaurant.  The pace there is relentless.  I am forced to move at the pace of a machine, day after day in a windowless kitchen.  I love to cook—really cook.  I don’t enjoy cranking out food of questionable nutritional value in 14 minutes or less.  I long to get back to natural rhythms, to bake bread that takes all day, slow cook a stew for hours on the stove, roast fresh vegetables in pure olive oil in the oven.

            So, this particular evening when I got home from work, I stood outside for half an hour, just watching the chickens.  They were pecking and scratching around in the garden.  Chickens are simple creatures; they eat when they’re hungry, they sleep when they’re tired.  They rest on the door frame of the greenhouse and soak up the last warmth of the season.  The simple act of watching them slowed me back down to the proper rhythm.

            Today is a day off from that job.  Today I will bake bread.  Today I will make soup from scratch.  I will allow it to cook slowly on the stove for most of the day.  I will feed the chickens and linger for a while to observe them; to pick up their natural rhythms again. 

            I will remember this as I lay down tonight and I will imagine that I can hear the rhythmic heartbeat of the earth herself; quiet, slow, steady, . . . thump, thump, . . . thump, thump, . . . as I drift off to sleep.

 

There are many recipes out there for sourdough starter.  This is one I’ve used for years.  The best part—it’s very simple.

 Sourdough Starter

1 pkg. dry yeast (2 ¼ tsp. if you’re using bulk yeast) dissolved in the ½ C water

2 C flour

2 T sugar

2 ½ C lukewarm water

Mix and store in a glass jar.  I use a half gallon, wide-mouth canning jar.  Cover with cloth (not a lid—this needs to breathe).  Leave out at room temperature for 2 days.  After that time, store in refrigerator.  Make bread and feed the starter every 4-7 days.

 

Feeding your Starter

Remove 2 C and use in a recipe or discard.

Then, add

1 ½ C water

½ C sugar

2 C flour

Allow to set out at room temperature overnight.

 

Sourdough Bread

Makes 3 loaves

2 C starter

1 ½ C water

1/3 C sugar

½ C oil

1 T salt

1 pkg. (or 2 ¼ t) yeast

5 + C flour  (amount will vary due to humidity)

Mix together and knead for 10 minutes.  Place in greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth.  Let rise until doubled or more in size.  Turn dough out onto floured board, divide into 3 and place in greased bread pans.  Cover with damp cloth and allow to rise until pans are full.

Place in COLD oven, set temp to 350 and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, brush with butter while still warm.

 

Does anything beat the smell of bread baking in the oven?

 

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6 thoughts on “On Chickens, The Rhythms of Nature, and Baking Bread

  1. Lovely! So important to strive to be in tune with Nature’s schedule. Just the awareness helps, even when we’re too busy!

  2. I love watching my critters and yes, it certainly does add a sense of calm and peace to our day, the bread sounds great, I so rarely use a recipe when I bake these days but this one I will give a try.. enjoy your all day simmered soup, they are the best!

    • Thanks so much! Yes, the creatures as well as all of nature around us. The Native Americans; well, all earth based spiritual practices, became masters of observation and picking up on being a part of nature.

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