Thursday, May 24, 2012

Experimentation = Success + Failure

Eco-novice reflects on the inevitability of failure.

Since I embarked on my green journey, I have made numerous gradual changes to our lifestyle as time and budget have allowed. Making these changes has usually required not only some time-consuming research but a fair amount of experimentation. But here's the thing about experimentation. You will fail. At least some of the time. And that's kind of a bummer. Even when you know it's just part of the deal. Here are some of my recent green successes and failures.


Most of the time when I make homemade yogurt, it turns out pretty well. But every now and then, the yogurt doesn't set. So after incubating the yogurt all night, in the morning I find....warm milk (with a little yogurt in it). I have no idea if I can use this milk for anything safely (anyone???), so I end up throwing it away. Which is very depressing. Not least of which for the poor cow who put a lot of energy into making that milk (as I, a milk-maker myself, am well aware). When this happens, it takes me weeks to summon up the ganas to make yogurt again.

Oat Flour
I'm not ready to abandon gluten, but I am trying to broaden our grain horizons. I almost always make my whole grain pancakes with all whole wheat, and wanted to try incorporating oats, as in the King Arthur recipe. The King Arthur recipe calls for rolled oats ground up to a powder in a food processor. I don't have a food processor, but I do have a mill, so I bought oat groats and ground them to a flour, and then used some in my pancakes. The result? Gummy, rubbery pancakes. Even though this was an experiment, I had foolishly made the quadruple recipe. Phooey. My next move will be taking some rolled oats to a friend's house and using her food processor to grind up a bunch of rolled oats, and then to try using that in the pancakes. And I'm going to try the oat flour I already milled instead of whole wheat in my healthy whole grain "cookies."

I really want a garden. For about 100 reasons. I get jealous whenever I read about others' gardens. I have yet to plant a single thing.


Early Potty Training
Parenting is riddled with failures. At least for me. So it's nice to have a little glimmer of success now and then. I don't really take credit for making these successes happen, I'm just pleased that I didn't screw up so much that I prevented them from happening. I started putting my second child on the potty around 9 months, and from that time onward, 90% of her poops were in the potty. This meant a more environmentally-friendly diaper washing routine (I often skipped the pre-rinse and just ran a regular wash/rinse cycle), and an earlier transition to exclusive use of the potty. I've been putting my third child (now 6 months old) on the potty first thing in the morning for about a month now, and every single morning, she has made a deposit. It's awesome.

I'm not ready to abandon sugar completely, but I'm quite sure I don't need to be eating bleached sugar. So I've been looking into alternatives. The situation was made more urgent by the fact that I'm having trouble obtaining more honey from my local raw honey supplier (I often substitute honey for white sugar). Fellow Boother Retro Housewife suggested sucanat as the least refined alternative that could be directly substituted for white sugar (with some changes in taste). When sucanat and its accompanying molasses flavor would not work, she suggested organic cane sugar, opining that turbinado sugar was not different enough to merit the mark-up. So I bought some sucanat and have been trying it in various applications. So far I've used it in my whole grain pancakes and whole grain cookies with great success.

I've been wanting to buy a bird feeder for my backyard for over a year now. Still haven't gotten around to it yet. Nonetheless, a hummingbird has built a nest in our backyard. It is totally amazing. I love watching the hummingbird hover next to its nest and then, seemingly instantaneously, appear sitting motionless in the nest. I had never before seen a hummingbird with wings that weren't furiously flapping. I bet there are eggs in there. I can take no credit for this, but I still count it a success. I want my kids to have regular opportunities to interact with the natural world. Sometimes, just by luck, nature finds you.

What are some of your recent green successes and failures?
How do you cope with the failures?


knutty knitter said...

I just put the failed yoghurt through a cloth and then made ricotta out of whatever drained out. Got about enough for a few pieces of toast that way and no waste to speak of. And used the yoghurt as normal.

viv in nz

Nicole said...

Why not bake with the milk? You can bake withed soured milk, so I would think it would be ok. That's what my grandmother always did.

Alissa said...

I have a pancake recipe that's half whole wheat and half quick oats, no grinding family loves these if you want to give them a try! Click on my name, I left the direct link as my URL :) Oh, and with yogurt, lately I've been experimenting too and get the occasional really thin result...not sure your process, but I think the reason mine doesn't work sometimes is that the milk is too cool when I stir in the yogurt...I don't use a thermometer, but have found that when the milk is still pretty hot I get a nice thick result!

Kristina (The Greening Of Westford) said...

Oh boy, I hear you on the failures. I have to admit though, you usually learn a lot more when you fail then when you succeed. When you succeed, sometimes it dumb luck! when you fail, you analyze every bit and figure out how not to fail (at least in the same way) next time. Yogurt gets me too. In fact, I just got up the courage to try yogurt again this weekend.
I have used cooked oatmeal in pancakes - yummy! and no grinding necessary.

Heather said...

I'm still nervous about making yogurt -- especially since I LOOOVE the Greek yogurt I buy at the store. And I hear you about the failures, too. I keep trying to make different homemade dishwasher powders and they've all pretty much bombed. I mean, they'll work for a while, but my hard water just mocks me. I also blame my hard water for my soap nut frustrations.

And I love sucanat! I use in bread (both the everyday wheat bread we eat and the occasional banana bread) and in our spelt pancakes. I love not using the refined stuff.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Thanks for the tips, knutty knitter and Nicole.

Alissa, yes I've used quick oats too. But I can buy rolled oats in bulk super cheap AND use them in my healthy cookies. Maybe I'll look into a source of bulk quick oats.

Glad I'm not the only one with yogurt blues, Alissa and others. I don't know, Kristina, I think I'll take the dumb luck (as long as it's replicable) over the learning experience.

Heather, mmmm banana bread.

Daisy said...

Successes: starting plants from seed this year. I have too many tomato and pepper plants for a change, and it cost next to nothing for the seeds! Failure: I'm wrapped up in a local campaign, and I just picked up two campaign signs that are not biodegradable or recyclable. That matters to me. And this is the conservation endorsed candidate - the other one is worse!

Anonymous said...

For yogurt, I have had a lot of success with Stephanie O'Dea's slow cooker yogurt I've only had it fail on me two or three times in all the years I've been using it, and then I just just the 'fail' for baking.

To get the yogurt nice and thick how we like it, I used the dried milk AND a couple sheets of gelatin stated in her recipe, but it is yummy without. If you don't want to add anything, just strain it and use the whey (strained liquid) in your baking. Makes great replacement for milk in pancakes, biscuits, etc.

All the best Holly


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