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,


Friday, September 4, 2009

A Milestone Has Been Reached!

To some, it's just a number, but to me it's a moment of triumph! This is Gulland Broadfork frame #100, awaiting it's tines. It's not sold yet, but it will be soon. I make these in small batches at home in my shop, doing every step by hand with absolute quality control my number one priority. If they aren't perfect, they don't get sold.

I started this little business about a year ago and I had no idea if anyone would ever buy one of these tools. I wanted to see if a tiny manufacturing shop could support itself by offering very high quality tools at honest, fair prices. I won't get rich this way; quick math will tell you that 100 broadforks at $185 each is not enough to live on these days, but it's a great start. Pretty soon I'll have 100 happy customers that will tell their friends about this tool and it'll go from there. I didn't do this to get rich quick.

I took out an ad in Countryside Magazine that hit the stands on October 15th 2008. That day, my phone rang with the first customer that had not bought one from me face to face. He was in New Mexico, and thus began this very rewarding little business.

There is a Chinese saying, "The ox is slow, but the Earth is patient."
I'll continue to patiently make each and every broadfork with painstaking care using my own hands to do all the work. Even the apparent drudgery of handle fitting is joyous on a beautiful Wisconsin afternoon in the dappled sunlight beneath the birch tree by my back porch.
Each handle is fitted this way to insure a good tight fit when you get it. Nothing is worse than a handle that rattles around in the socket, and the only way to achieve the proper fit at this scale is the way I am doing it. Depending on the humidity when you get your fork, it may be a little tight or a little loose, but the 3/8" stainless steel lag screw that comes with the broadfork WILL hold it together tightly. Sometimes the handles might need a little help slipping into the sockets. You can tap the handle into place with the aid of a wooden or rubber mallet or just a piece of 2x4.

Make sure you don't leave this nice tool out in the weather, and a couple of times a year, rub the wood down with a 50/50 mixture of linseed oil and turpentine and some steel wool. It's a way of preserving wood that has been used for centuries, and it still works fine.

A note to the person that gets Gulland Broadfork #100:

You have made me believe that there is a great deal of hope for our future. You are the kind of person that takes care of your own responsibility to feed yourself and take care of your soil, because you know how important it is to have some control over your most elemental needs. The purchase of this human powered tool shows your commitment to the environment, to your physical health, and consequently, your mental well being. Producing your own food IS good for your head.

By purchasing your Broadfork from me, you are saying that you believe in the small business man, and you have 'put your money where your mouth is.'

A note to the 99 before you and to #101 and beyond:

We're all in this together. We're a small tribe of self reliant persons doing what we can in these crazy times to take care of business for ourselves and our loved ones. We're teaching ourselves how to raise food, preserve it for the months ahead when we can no longer pluck it from the Earth, and share our excess with our friends and neighbors. We're teaching what we know along the way and we are all doing a very good thing.

Thank you to all my previous customers. Your gardens are in the farthest reaches of this country and beyond. Gulland Broadforks are in Hawaii, Canada, and Mexico. They are in the good soil of Nebraska and New Mexico, of Florida, Maryland, Washington, Maine, Texas, the Carolinas, Idaho, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, and my home state of Alabama. California has many, Idaho, a few. I won't list them all, but most states now have a Gulland Broadfork serving in a resident's garden.

It's getting close to the end of the season, and it's time to start to consider what to do with the garden over winter. I'll be reporting back as we start to close down sections that are out of production and I'll show you how I prep my garden beds for their winter rest.

Good soil to you all,