gray fox

Fox in the Hen Yard, Grain in the Storeroom

Fox in the Hen Yard, Grain in the Storeroom

Chocolate Box Cottage Diary, Volume 3
Week 4: January 28, 2023

One of the mixed blessings of rural living is seeing wildlife up close, from a fox to a bear and everything in between – we’ve seen everything except wolves.

The henhouse has been fortified with extra straw for winter. The hardware cloth (this is wire mesh, not fabric) covered windows are boarded up. We have only lost 2 hens since Samuel reduced the size of the hen yard. Tree cover makes it more difficult for hawks and bald eagles to steal our chickens and the two that were taken had flown outside the fence.

However, a plump gray fox in a resplendent winter coat spends his nights camped outside the fence looking in. Sam locks the chickens and ducks up promptly at dusk to prevent predation. He was daily becoming more curious and bold, (the fox, not Sam) so Sam set the live trap inside the hen yard to see if the fox was visiting, crossing over the fence, at night.

By morning, we had a fox in the trap. He (or she, but I’ll refer to it as “he”) is an attractive animal.

gray fox

Sam and I took Mr. Fox for a short drive and released him. He came out of the trap like a shot as soon as Sam lifted the door panel.

Mornings are so beautiful here. Whether it’s frost, rain, snow, or sunshine the view is breathtaking.

Birthday tea for Mom

We celebrated Mom’s 78th birthday with a surprise luncheon and tea at Mom’s. Mom’s best friend Joy brought Cream of Broccoli soup and biscuits, I had made one of Mom’s childhood favorites: schlitz kuchen.

There were plenty of grandkids to add merriment and Joy brought a newly completed quilt to show. Amelia played some fiddle tunes and Mom was all smiles.

Storing wheat and other staples

Do you have a bucket of wheat in your pantry?

Installing Gamma Seal lids on 5 gallon food-grade buckets turns them into canisters. Gamma Seal lids spin on and off easily with one hand. SO much better than prying a lid off with a bucket tool – there’s no comparison!

I order pantry staples wheat, salt, rice, oats, popcorn, and more from Azure Standard. I keep quart and half gallon jars in my kitchen cupboards and when the jar is empty I refill it from the bucket. Quick and easy.

Adding a grain mill to your kitchen allows you to stock up on wheat berries, which retain their freshness for at least a few years, and grind your own fresh flour with nutrients intact.

Like The Little Red Hen, I grind wheat to bake our bread. A grain mill seems expensive at first glance, but with regular use it pays for itself. I really appreciate my KoMo Fidibus 21 grain mill. It is compact and attractive enough to leave on the kitchen counter full time, which means it is always handy. I don’t have to pull it out of the pantry to make flour, just drop the wheat in the hopper and out comes flour!

Today I am baking with hard red wheat berries, traditional whole wheat. Hard red wheat offers nutty flavor and earthy color and makes great bread.

Big batches (this is dough for 7 loaves) are easy with the Ankarsrum Assistent mixer. I love using my Grandma’s antique McCoy pottery bowl for the rising dough. The heavy bowl retains warmth and the shape promotes good structure.

I decided to divide the dough into 6 loaves instead of 7, so they would be extra plump.

Weighing the entire mass of dough and dividing it by the number of loaves you want to bake ensure loaves of even size.

The loaves rose high in their pans and turned out fluffy. The entire batch went to friends Don and Margaret Crow as part of a trade for seafood. We’re both happy!

If you are looking for a very fine bread flour that is also whole wheat, consider Azure Market bread flour. It is made by a special process that includes the entire wheat berry; bran, germ, and endosperm, and is very, very soft.

I have been using it in place of high protein white bread flour in loaves and pizza with good results. Let me know if you have tried it and what you have learned in using it.

Wishing you well this week, thank you for visiting!
Michele and Samuel


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