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Over the last few weeks I have started numerous projects involving just learning how the processes work. Mostly fermentation as it’s useful in many ways. It’s also very well suited to my life. You just mix together certain (and usually very few) ingredients and let them sit until they are ready. While the fermentation is happening there is usually very little maintenance involved.

Sauerkraut FermentationSo what are these projects I’ve been working on? First I started sauerkraut. I purchased a very nice two gallon crock through Ace Hardware online, which they delivered to the store for free  then I just had to pick it up. Then I chopped the three heads of green and white cabbage I had acquired locally, added them to the crock in layers. In each layer I sprinkled canning salt and pushed the cabbage down with my fists to draw the water out of it. There was supposed to be enough water when I finished to cover the cabbage so here I mixed a little canning salt in water and poured it over the cabbage to cover. Then you put a plate that fits inside the crock on top and place a heavy weight on it. At first I used a pumpkin as a weight, but should have known that putting it in salty water slowing gaining acidity was a a bad idea. So now it has half gallon jar filled with water on top. Every couple of days you have to check on its “bloom.” Which is a really nice word for the mold that gathers on top. It kind of freaks me out, but the sauerkraut is protected by the salty brine and the rising acidity.

When the kraut is all fermented and ready to go, I will post about it again!

Sourdough Starter and My ScaleAlso I am creating a sourdough starter for bread. This process uses no added yeast. The flour and water are mixed together in a non-reactive container and agitated every day by pouring out half of the mixture and adding new flour and water. I pour into the compost, but you could also make new starters out of it for yourself or to pass on to friends. What happens by the agitation is the waking up of the naturally occurring yeasts in the flour and the air.

To make your own sourdough starter first acquire a couple of supplies. A kitchen scale is very useful. The recipe I use is measured in  grams. Also a non-reactive container. I use a Pyrex bowl with a lid. When you actually get your starter activated, you will need a colander or basket, some canvas, and a large bowl, but the actual baking will be another post. So all you have to do is mix 200 grams of unbleached white flour and 200 grams on water in your non-reactive container. Put a lid on it and set it on your counter. Every day you pour off about half of the mixture and mix in 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water until it is active. Bam! In about a week, it will be bubbly, like you added yeast to it, and it will have a lovely sourdough smell.

Active Starter

 Soon I will post about experiences keeping it active and baking with it! I think it’s so exciting when you can make things happen, just with what nature has available. It may take a little longer, but isn’t what we need as a society is a sense of patience and a feeling of creation?

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About a month ago, I planted a ginger root. Just a ginger root I bought from the grocery store. I soaked it in water over night first to get rid of the chemicals they put on them to prevent sprouting as that what I wanted it to do. Then made a mix of organic potting soil and biochar in a large pot, put the ginger root in a put a thin covering of the soil over top, this should be very thing it needs some light to be able to get to it. Then you wait.

Freshly planted ginger root

And wait. And keep it evenly moist. And wait And then . ..

Sprouted ginger

The ginger will sprout! If you are going to try this at home, remember that ginger is a tropical plant. It like hot weather, humidity, filtered sunlight, and moist soil. However, it does not like direct sunlight, frost, or very wet soil. If you live in a cool weather climate like I do here in Illinois, ginger will grow just fine in a pot. It does take about 8 to 10 months for the root to be ready for harvesting. I’ve read that you know when it’s ready when it’s leaves die down. I also read that ginger is a beautiful and fragrant plant. I’m excited to watch it grow!

It’s a hot one in Galena today! We have basil, stevia, eggplant, and corn to plant, but man is it going to be a sweaty, dirty job today . . . Soon we will post pics of our herb garden, it’s getting to be quite nice. We can’t wait until it’s flourishing and we can harvest for tea making, especially the peppermint and ginseng.

In other news, the greenhouse base is almost complete. Today we will put screw it together and attach the floorplates and weight it down. Pics will be posted! So excited to grow our camelia sinensis! Also we are looking into dwarf citrus trees. Lemon and orange peal are wonderful additions to teas. Slowly we will build up a supply of spice trees and bushes, vanilla orchids, and hibiscus to have the best selection of teas.

The book business is also going well. We are always acquiring used and vintage books. Of course we are always looking for self-published authors as well. Remember to check out our online store at ellipsis.alibrisstore.com periodically for new additions.

Aside from lovely vegetables and herbs we also have some  beautiful flowers around the property. Here is a yellow gerbera daisy on the front step.

Gerber Daisy

At Ellipsis Books and More we love vintage books. Well mostly we love books. But we also love green living. Right now we sell used, vintage, and antiquarian books via http://ellipsis.alibrisstore.com/ (shameless plug).

This blog will chronicle Ellipsis as it grows. We plan to become a completely sustainable, zero waste business. All of our practices and decisions will lead to this goal.

Broccoli

Our little broccolis are doing wonderful!

Currently we are still in stage one: Online Store and Learning to Garden. Once our greenhouse goes up, we will start growing tea plants or Camelia Sinensis. This plant is where green, black, yellow, white, and oolong are derived from. We will also do herbal tea blends. Books and tea just go together.

The physical Ellipsis store will house used and vintage books and a tea bar that will also feature local, in-season fruit juices, smoothies, and snacks.

Our gardens are doing great. They are dug, tilled, and supplemented with biochar (an amazing natural supplement) The calendula, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuces, and spinach as well as our sunflowers and nasturtiums have all spouted and are looking good!

We just wish the weather would decide on a direction. We went from 90 degree days to 36 degree nights within a week. So we’re afraid to plant anything else! Here’s to the future!

Baby Lettuces

Baby lettuces in the Mesclun Mix

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