Failure is success, if we learn from it.
-Malcolm S. Forbes
Since I began this blog nearly a year ago, I have certainly learned a lot, and some of that learning has come from my failures. Plenty of failures. It’s not easy to pick up long-forgotten skills and learn new ones.
My single foray into the world of artisan bread is the highlight on my list of failures. I read an article in Mother Earth News that promised a fresh loaf of bread daily without the long process of kneading, rising, and then kneading some more. As my husband left for work, I proudly told him, “Today I’m making artisan bread!”
Well, whenever I make bread, I always get a little uptight. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because my expectations for each finished loaf are so high, unlike the times when I mix up a batch of brownies. I followed the directions for the artisan bread exactly, or so I thought. The butterflies in my stomach wouldn’t settle down, though, and in hindsight, they were probably trying to give me a warning that I’d overlooked something important. When the dough was finally finished, I set it on the counter next to the stove, covered it with a clean kitchen towel, and waited. I watched the timer, continued to wait, and then it dawned on me. That dough would never rise because I had forgotten to add yeast!
In a panic, I called a friend of mine, Rhonda, and explained my mistake. She makes dozens of loaves of bread every month and has been a rock to me as I’ve relearned this skill. Rhonda didn’t laugh, at least not so I could hear her, and just suggested I try adding the yeast anyway to the finished dough. I did and proceeded to make three loaves of bread, each rising to the height of less than two inches. I learned how to make artisan bread without yeast. I learned what happens when I forget the yeast, and I learned to expect pretty poor results when I don’t follow this recipe to the letter!
Another highlight on my long list of prepper failures is with my beloved Sun Oven. I have ruined many loaves of bread because I start baking it in the oven too late in the day. My morning routine is usually filled with homeschooling and some housework, and I usually don’t give dinner a thought until some time after lunch. Well, one would think that a single failed loaf of bread would be enough for me to step back, consider everything I know about solar cooking, and then figure out that I need to start my bread dough first thing in the morning. One would think that, but in my case, one would be mistaken because I continued until I ruined five loaves of bread! Not one, not two, but FIVE!!
Continuing on with the topic of bread making, there was another failed loaf that was left in the bread machine for two extra hours as I ran errands. Had to get those library books back before my fines topped ten bucks. Did you know that bread dough actually ferments and that you can taste the fermentation? I baked that bread dough anyway, just in case the fermented smell and flavor would bake away. It didn’t. I might not be batting a thousand, but you can’t say I’m not an optimist!
I’ve also learned that gnats love bread in any form after a group of renegade gnats from my composting bucket invaded our house. Placing that bucket too near our back door was not my most brilliant idea.
My lettuce plants are nearly dead after I thought I would help make them stronger by not watering them for a day, which happened to be the hottest day so far this year. They are now on life support, and I was so looking forward to prancing out there one day soon, with a Little Red Riding Hood basket over my arm to collect large, green leaves for our salad, which would be accompanied by a perfectly baked loaf of bread! Some of my vegetables are thriving, but others look up at me each morning and seem to say, “Please, just let me go and be at peace with my brothers and sisters in that big farm in the sky.” I think I know just how they feel.
Did I mention the four bags of browned, frozen peaches in my freezer? I was so excited to get all thirty pounds of them peeled and sliced that I completely forgot to consult any type of reference book or website to find out how to properly freeze them. As it turns out, peaches will turn brown if they aren’t mixed in with a sugar solution. It didn’t help when one of my kids left the freezer door open for half of a day. The peaches just turned darker. I’ve been wracking my brain for six months now, trying to figure out how I can slip them into a milkshake or smoothie for my kids without them noticing the “off” color.
The cat discovered the bag of dried milk I purchased and hadn’t poured into PETE containers yet. I knew something funny was going on when I saw little white, powdery footprints leading away from the pantry. I won’t even tell you the sad story of my first try at making beef jerky except to say that it resembled, almost identically, the jerky treats we buy for our dogs!
I do write TheSurvivalMom blog, and I actually teach classes on preparedness and food storage, but my journey has been filled with missteps and downright stupidity. I admit it. I also admit that I’ve learned far more over the past two years than I would have ever thought possible. I love the feeling of getting back to my roots, back to the skills and knowledge my great-grandmas took for granted. I’ve failed a lot, but I’ve learned far more. I figure that having a sense of humor is more important than pulling the perfect loaf of bread out of a solar oven!