Lifeboat Farm

Crusty sourdough loaf
March 20, 2012, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Food, Recipes

This is one of my favourite home made breads. It’s a crusty sourdough made from our own sourdough starter.

Crusty Sourdough Loaf
2 cups of lukewarm water
1 cup of sourdough starter
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast or fresh yeast
5 cups of high grade flour
1 tablespoon of salt

There’s not much to it. Just mix the water, starter and yeast together and then add the flour and salt. Mix by hand for about five minutes or put everything in your bread machine and use the dough setting to mix it for you.

The dough should be quite wet and have a shaggy appearance. Put it in a bowl and cover with cling film, or inside a shopping bag to rise until it doubles in size. Leave the bowl somewhere warm for about two hours or somewhere cool overnight. The longer you take to rise the dough, the stronger the flavour will be.

When you are ready to bake the bread, split the dough in two and knead well to restart rising then put the two doughs into loaf tins. Alternatively, you can make the bread any shape you want and just put it on an oven tray. Loosely cover the dough with plastic again.

Let the dough rise again for about 45 minutes while you heat up the oven to 200-220 degrees C.

Bake for 15-25 minutes, depending on what shape your dough is (flat, wide bread will cook quicker than a taller loaf) and how crusty you want the top to be. It helps to mist the top of the dough with water just before you put it in the oven.

The crusty top and chewy, tangy sourdough flavour of this bread make it a great any-occasion snack. It toasts well too!


Our sourdough starter
December 18, 2011, 1:39 pm
Filed under: Food, Recipes

I’ve tried a few sourdough bread starters over the years but this one has been the easiest to start and produces a great sourdough bread. The only reason I’m starting it again is that I managed to kill my last one. As it turns out, sourdough starters that contain dairy don’t like to be left out of the fridge long term.

This recipe is from one of our favourite bread books – Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible. It’s definitely in the “if you only buy one…” category.

Sourdough Starter

2 cups of lukewarm water
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast or fresh yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar or honey
1/4 cup of nonfat dry milk powder
1/3 cup of plain yoghurt
2 cups of bread flour

Feed for the starter

1/4 cup of water
1/3 cup of bread flour

You’ll need a medium sized glass bowl with a loose-fitting glass lid (or gladwrap is fine). Pour the warm water into the bowl and sprinkle the yeast, sugar and milk powder over the surface. Stir with a whisk until dissolved then stir in the flour and mix until well blended.

Loosely cover with a glass lid, gladwrap or a double layer of cheesecloth and let stand at room temperature for at least 48 hours, whisking the mixture twice a day. You can leave it for up to four days, depending on how sour you want the starter to be. The mixture will start to ferment and bubble with a clear liquid forming on top – just stir that back in.

On day two to four (depending on when you want to stop) it’s time to feed the starter. Mix in 1/4 cup of water and 1/3 cup of bread flour, cover again and let it stand overnight. Store it in the fridge, loosely covered and feed it again every two weeks.

Using the starter

Bring it to room temperature before using.  Remove the amount of starter you need then add one cup of flour and 1/2 cup of non-fat milk to the remaining starter. Mix well and let stand at room temperature for a day to start fermenting again, then refrigerate. I’ve found that if you are using and replacing the starter regularly (once a week or more) you don’t need to feed it as well, unless you want to grow the starter to the point you can split it in half and give some away to another keen baker.

The starter will improve with age (my last one was nearly a year old when I killed it). It should smell of pleasant fermentation – yeast and alcohol. If it starts to smell foul or develops a pink colour it has probably succumbed to an airborne pathogen – discard it immediately and start again.

It helps to leave yourself a note for the first few days’ activities so you don’t have to keep diving back to the recipe.

A bucket of mushrooms
December 17, 2011, 12:46 pm
Filed under: Food, Garden

We recently bought a bucket of mushroom starter from local outfit, Parkvale mushrooms. It’s currently living in our firewood box outside the back door in the relative cool and dark. We’ve harvested over a kilo of mushrooms from it so far, and more keep coming up. At the current price of mushrooms it’s already paid for itself! Aside from the economy, the taste of just-picked mushrooms in our salads and on pizzas can’t be beaten. They’re easy to look after, don’t take up much space, and start producing immediately – ideal for the kitchen gardener.

Organic woodlice control
December 7, 2011, 3:39 pm
Filed under: Food, Garden

For the most part, our small greenhouse has done a great job of keeping bugs off the veges (at least, the flying ones). Of all the plants you’d think bugs wouldn’t eat, chili peppers must be top of the list. Given we’ve just planted some Bhut Jolokia chili peppers, otherwise known as Ghost Chilis (the world’s hottest), we thought they would be pretty safe from predation.

The woodlice (or slaters as we call them in NZ) living in the greenhouse had other ideas. They had nibbled the leaves of the seedlings on the first night after we planted them. Organic growing is often just as easy as conventional with planning and time to prepare for setbacks, but in this case we didn’t have much time before the chili seedlings would be too far gone to save. To the internet for inspiration!

Plan A: Physical barrier

You can physically stop the woodlice getting to your plants by using almost anything as a collar around them. A few plastic bottles and jars cut up worked nicely. I removed the top layer of mulch and compost from around the plants first to remove most or all of the woodlice first (no point in trapping them in there with their dinner).

This has worked pretty well; after a few days, no new woodlice have gotten to the plants, and by the time they outgrow the collars (they can be cut off later), the leaves and stems should be tough enough that the woodlice no longer try to eat them. But we still wanted to reduce the numbers of woodlice in the greenhouse, to protect other plants. So on to;

Plan B: Traps

The most effective of the traps we tried was the half-citrus trap. It’s really simple, just put a half orange (or grapefruit in this case) face down on the soil. You can juice it first if you don’t want to waste it.

The next day, turn it over and scoop up all the little buggers. I call the chickens over (yes they know to come for food) and throw the handful of woodlice on the ground for them. I’d been getting a couple of hundred woodlice a day from two citrus traps this week, but the numbers are starting to drop off now – a good sign.

The other trap we tried was a plant pot filled with damp newspaper. The woodlice will nest in it overnight, but this didn’t work quite as well as the citrus trap, possibly because the grapefruit skin was too hard to resist. If you’re squeamish about touching the woodlice, this trap is good as you can just take out the paper in the morning and throw it away.

Plan C: Diatomaceous Earth

We didn’t go this far, but I’d read that diatomaceous earth is a good mechanical insecticide. From the WikiPedia article:

Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. Diatomite is used as an insecticide, due to its physico-sorptive properties. The fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects’ exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate. Arthropods die as a result of the water pressure deficiency, based on Fick’s law of diffusion. This also works against gastropods and is commonly employed in gardening to defeat slugs.

Presumably you could spread it around your plants to be picked up by the woodlice.

No doubt there are lots of other treatments, schemes and devices to thwart woodlice, but we seem to have a handle on the problem now with a few simple interventions.



Snow Broccoli
August 16, 2011, 8:42 pm
Filed under: Food, Garden, Weather

Our poor wee broccoli in the kitchen garden braved the snow, but still tasted fine after it had thawed out.

Zucchini/Courgette Chocolate Cake
February 22, 2011, 10:27 am
Filed under: Food, Recipes

With a glut of zucchini we are always on the lookout for new recipes to use up the seemingly never-ending harvest. Karen found this great recipe on the Wickham family blog.

Zucchini/Courgette Chocolate Cake

125g butter
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 c yogurt
1/2 c cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 cups (350g) grated zucchini/or courgette
1/2-1 c chocolate pieces (optional)

Line 25 cm square tin.
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time with a spoonful of flour mixture. Add vanilla and yogurt and stir well. Sift in dry ingredients and stir in zucchini.
Pour into tin, and sprinkle with chocolate pieces if desired.
Bake at 170C for 45 minutes.

You can substitute gluten-free flour for the regular flour and it still comes out just fine (although we did end up cooking it for longer than the recipe). Hopefully next time we make it we’ll remember to take some photos before it gets eaten.

The greenhouse seems to be working
October 8, 2010, 8:37 am
Filed under: Food, Garden

The first test crops in the greenhouse are doing well, possibly too well – we’re eating lettuce every day to keep up with production (not that it’s a bad thing). The spinach and broccoli are doing great too, and we’ve just planted out a bunch of tomato, eggplant and chilli plants.


In the middle row are some blueberry plants and a tray of rosemary cuttings from the last pruning.