Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back to the Grind

I'd like to introduce to you to the newest member of the Gulland household, with Karen taking it out for a spin. It's our grain grinder. A friend had it and wasn't using it enough to want to keep it, so she called me and asked if we'd be interested in being it's next owners. Of course we said yes.

In the past 5 years or so, we have concentrated on learning how to live our lives very differently. We live in a cold place where nothing can be grown in the winter, so we are learning how to preserve our food by traditional means as well as by freezing. We're finding out that the shelf life of certain things is many years in some cases, and we are beginning to look ahead that far with many of our pantry items.

Grinding fresh flour (from local organically grown wheat berries) for bread produces a quality of loaf that has, until now, been unattainable. We make bread once a week now most of the time. Today, Karen made 2 whole wheat loaves for the week and 2 hamburger buns, which we just enjoyed for dinner.

Karen has been making bread for years, and I have been lucky enough to sit back and enjoy it from time to time when she would whip up a loaf for a special occasion. About a year and a half ago, we quit buying bread all together and began making all our bread from scratch. She taught me how to do it, and I taught a few others along the way.

Now we produce our own pizza crusts, sandwich bread, sourdough loaves, cornbread, biscuits, and we even make flour tortillas and corn tortillas as well as specialty items like foccacia and calzones.

I think that the monster grinder will take it well. It's built to outlive us all. I cannot believe a better quality grinder exists than the Diamant. If you can't find a used one, it's worth saving for and buying it at full price. It's the Gulland Broadfork of grain mills.

It's nice to walk out in the yard and pick up a few things to throw on a pizza for dinner, and when we can't do that any longer and the ground turns to stone, we'll have a stack of jars in the basement with all our favorite ingredients in them. When we filled the freezer, we opted to not buy another one, but began to can more, dehydrate more, and designed a root cellar to share with neighbor Harald. We'll have about a thousand butternut squashes to store this winter.

The tomatoes are still producing well, as are the broccoli (Harald's favorite), celery, and bush beans. The late planted stuff is doing very well, particularly the carrots, beets and radishes.

I named this blog the 'Broadfork Blog, and Other Affairs of Daily Living'. People are beginning to do things differently everywhere these days, and I have been a student of the changes that are taking place. I like what I see a lot of the time, but I know that this is a hard time for a lot of people.

Part of my 'affairs of daily living' has been to accept that life is hard work and it takes a lot of time and energy to get things done using older techniques and machinery. Karen and I spent about 10 minutes grinding wheat by hand today, switching back and forth and turning the handle face to face, one hand each on the crank. When you're doing something like that, 10 minutes can seem like a really long time. It's always faster to open a bag and dip in a measuring cup and dump it in a bowl, but bags of flour only stay fresh for a period of months, not years in storage.

The extra effort we put into our food is time well spent, we believe. What's an extra 10 minutes a week to grind flour if you're already spending the time to make the bread in the first place?

These are the little things we do that take up the time that many people would spend in front of the television or commuting or grocery shopping. We've not been cursed with a TV in years now. We work at home for the most part, and our grocery shopping is getting less every year.

I hear from my customers from time to time and garden vicariously through them. Some of you folks have wonderful gardens! I wonder how many of you prepare and preserve a lot of what you eat during the year?

Good soil to you all,



  1. Heh, I've been making bread for a long time, too — I'm on the last of 40 pounds of flour we bought a couple summers ago; it took up a lot of freezer space but now it's about time to get some more.

    Nice grinder you got there! I'm not sure where in this sector of Planet Georgia that anyone grows wheat… I'm sure it's done, but I haven't found it yet. I've been getting some bigger tomatoes since it actually started raining… and a lot of split skins since the rain got really heavy. Looks like we might finally dry out a little, though, but there's a significant chance of rain for as long as the forecast shows.

    Enjoy that grinder. If you had a TV (wish I didn't have one, you want mine?) you could grind away while otherwise wasting time. ;-)

  2. Hey FAR,
    We just ordered 25# of soft wheat berries yesterday to add to our storage issues. The garden's been great up in Wisconsin this year and the food storage is near capacity. We're in the process of designing a root cellar and hope to get it going in the next week or two, just in time for the 10,000 butternut squashes we'll probably need to store.

    I've been keeping an eye on the weather down there, and it looks brutal! Watch out, the tomatoes WILL split!

    We're continuing to survive (hah!) without a TV. I'm honestly glad I missed the video of all the political crap in the past several months. Some things are easier to digest if they're in print.

    I hope Far Manor is on high ground!


  3. Is the grinding mechanism steel or stone?

  4. Hi Yarra,

    The discs are steel on this one. I have 2 sets, a medium and a fine grit. There is a more coarse set available for this mill and is perfect for grinding corn.

    We usually make bread with hard red wheat, and the medium set works fine with just one milling. Likewise, when we grind soft wheat, we just set it as fine as we want it to grind and work it with one pass. It makes the most incredible biscuits!

    Lesser mills may require two passes and a change of grinding discs. This machine is a beast, and is very suited to serious long term use.

    I can't comment on stone discs because I have never used one. I can say that the machining on this mill is superb, and the grinding discs are beautifully made. We were very lucky to come across this one used.