According to Steve Jones of the Washington State University Bread Lab in Mount Vernon, in the 1800s, the west coast of the US was a major wheat producing area of the country. There used to be 160 flour mills in Washington state, and more than 22,500 across the US. Now there are only about 200 flour mills for the entire country.
Fortunately, we have a local flour mill, Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill in Burlington. When I stopped in this week to buy some whole wheat flour, the miller, Kevin Christenson, gave me a sample of their Hi Extracted Stoneground Washington Grown Espresso Hard Red Wheat. He told me the wheat came from a nearby farm south of Mount Vernon.
Yesterday I baked a loaf using this Espresso Hard Red Wheat, and we were very pleased with the bread. There isn’t much of it left today.
The term Hi Extracted means that most of the wheat kernel ends up in the flour. A kernel of wheat is made up of the bran, the germ, and the food for the growing plant. When milling wheat, millers usually remove the bran and the germ, and so they extract only a portion of the wheat kernel. The portion of the kernel which ends up in the flour, is called the extraction rate.
When you mill the entire kernel, you extract 100% of it, and end up with whole wheat flour. Kevin told me that the flour he gave me had an extraction rate of 85%, which means that some of the bran and germ are still in the flour. A typical bread flour has an extraction rate of 70% to 75%. You’ll find a more thorough explanation of flour extraction rates here: Tech. Note: High Extraction Flour
To be honest, there is rarely a time when planting ceases. There are just heavy planting times and light planting times. Upcoming October and November are heavy planting times so I might as well get a start on it. Which is why having blossoms in the garden is indispensable. If I’m on my knees planting, I want to be able to look up and see something beautiful, like these lovely artichoke blossoms.
Today, it’s a basket of elephant garlic that is going into the ground. This spring I saved plenty of elephant garlic so that I wouldn’t need to buy any to plant this fall. Self-replication is a feat of nature that is woefully under appreciated. What if you could buy shoes that were self-replicating? You’d only have to buy one or two pair, ever. When one got old, you’d set it aside and wait for it to grow two or three new pairs of shoes. Such shoes would be called magical. Why don’t we call our crops magical? They self-replicate year after year after year.
Deep in the garden, a Costata romanesco zucchini has grown to the size of a beached whale. Come next spring, the seeds of this fruit will self-replicate and take over the world if I let it. The gigantic leaves of the zucchini are on their way to becoming soil. Tired from soaking in sunlight all summer long, they are turning white with powdery mildew. Milk is effective at treating powdery mildew. Diluted ten to one with water, milk is as good as conventional fungicides and better than benomyl and fenarimol at treating powdery mildew. But, as it is time for these leaves to return to the earth, there is no point in prolonging their lifespan.
The rewards of planting are finding things to eat. Today there is corn, shoots of napa cabbage, tomato and basil to take into the kitchen for an early autumn feast. I’m sitting in the garden, soaking in the autumn sun, and listening to the buzzing of bees as I write. The tragedy of industrial food is how it has divorced us from nature. When you wander the vast aisles in the box stores picking out your food products, you hear no buzzing of bees, the whisper of the wind in the trees doesn’t tickle your years, the autumn sun doesn’t warm your cheeks, nor can you feel the verdant earth between your toes.
The fava beans are up, and this morning in the heavy dew their leaves are flopping over like droopy dog ears. Instead of waiting to eat their beans, you can cut the tops off the plants and use them as vegetables in stir fry dishes.
Some varieties of fava beans can overwinter in our cool winter. One winter they provided us with a steady supply of fresh greens into January, even when it was snowing, until a bitter freeze did them in. I’ll be taking some to this Saturday’s Harvest Market and Food Swap at Belfast Feed Store, an annual event put on by Bow Little Market.
Heading out to deliver this week’s eggs to Tweets, I ran into the first casualty of this fall. Today’s wind had knocked over an alder, and it was blocking the lane. Fortunately, it was light and easy to move. It was so rotten inside, that it was just waiting for a gust of wind to push it over.
Spiders must hate foggy mornings. It makes their webs visible. There’s little chance of a bee or fly getting tangled up in a web when they sparkle like strings of diamonds.
Niji-hime 虹姫 is a mother whose path you dare not cross. She will pluck your eyes out to protect her chicks. She leads her chicks with her head held high. While I was taking these pictures, a belted kingfisher flew around high in the sky, making its loud, rattling cries. Niji-hime cocked her head, saw the noisy kingfisher, and told her chicks to be still. They froze and waited until she gave them the all clear call.
The bees have discovered an artichoke blossom. In droves they come to drink its nectar and gather its pollen. The next time you eat an artichoke, imagine how many bees would have come to feast on it if it had been left to bloom. I can imagine a worldwide movement arising, boycotting artichokes. “Don’t buy artichokes. Let them bloom and save the bees!” It could get ugly very fast. These movements have a way of spinning out of control. Restaurants would hide their artichoke dishes with lids so that their customers could savor artichokes without being yelled at. Farmers would have to truck their artichokes to market in the middle of the night. Pity the poor politician caught nibbling an artichoke. There would be no chance of them winning an election. Farmers would rush to have their artichoke farms certified bee friendly by leaving thirty percent of the artichokes on their plants to bloom. Want to make bees happy? Plant an artichoke and let it bloom.
I’ve seen enough bees waking up on sunflowers, that it must be a bee thing. “You haven’t lived until you’ve spent a night on a sunflower,” I imagine one bee saying to another. Or, “Don’t forget to add it to your bucket list,” they might advise. For a bee, their bucket list starts early. Humans dawdle over their bucket lists for years. Most bees have one season to pack it all in.
If I was a bee, spending a day on a flowering artichoke would be high on my bucket list. So would visiting all the tomatoes that resulted from my pollination work. With my stinger, I’d carve my initials on the really big ones.
What’s at the end of the rainbow? A big tomato, that’s what.
The tops of the trees are in flames this evening. Fall sunsets make for spectacular evenings. Each season has its palette. Fall’s palette is that of the burning bush. Drop by drop, the autumn rains are washing away summer’s brilliant hues.
Picking beans this afternoon I stumbled on a harvestmen waiting for prey. Look at it closely, and you can see that it’s not a spider. It is in the order of arachnids known as opiliones. They are not venomous and they don’t spin webs. They have been around for 400 million years. They tend to be nocturnal and catch prey by ambushing them.
Seeing creatures like this harvestmen make me glad I’m not a small bug. Life would be one constant nightmare keeping an eye out for monsters like this to ruin a perfectly good day. After one of these has made a meal out of you, they clean their legs by pulling them through their jaws.
The first of the sunflowers are ready for harvest. Last year I waited too late. By the time I went out to harvest sunflowers, the birds, chipmunks, and squirrels had helped themselves and eaten all the sunflower seeds.
The center of sunflowers is a mass of a thousand to two thousand little flowers. The remaining petals of these little flowers brush off with ease, leaving circular rows of tightly packed sunflower seeds. The largest sunflower of these has around 1,625 seeds. It’s an amazing amount considering that it only took one sunflower seed to grow into a massive plant that produced all those seeds. Which proves that nature’s economic returns are out of this world. You can’t deposit a dollar in a bank and expect to find $1,625 in your account six months later. These days, the most a dollar will become in six months in your bank is $1.01. Get 5% return in six months, and an economist will congratulate you on your fine return. Nature scoffs at such measly returns. Nature doesn’t raise an eyebrow until you see returns of 100,000% in six months or more.
It’s no wonder that of all the creatures on earth, only humans have settled to using money. It’s not worth it. Plant a bean and in four to six months you’ll have hundreds of beans. Put a bit of potato in the ground and four months later you’ll have two to four pounds of potatoes. People are amazed if you can double your money in a year. Nature’s figured out how to do much more than that with ease.
Bzzz, bzzzz, it’s like a busy airport around the sunflowers. Bees of all kinds fly in all day. At times there are multiple incoming flights.
The bee below is a leafcutter bee. You can tell because it is carrying the pollen it collects on its abdomen, not its legs. Leafcutter bees are solitary bees. They build nests in old trees and logs, lining the nests with leaves. A European bee, people have distributed leafcutter bees all over the world because they are excellent pollinators.