Desert Homesteading

Mesquite Flour Pancakes – A Southwest Treat!

For hundreds of years, Native Americans in the Southwest Desert have been eating the beans of the mesquite tree. Last summer, we decided to give them a try with some of our own mesquite beans milled into flour. We harvested fifteen gallons of beans from mesquite trees that abound on our land, dried them, and milled them into flour. We spent about two hours picking ripe beans from the trees around the shop and the orchard perimeter. Then we dried them about six weeks on a screen spread on sawhorses in the shop.

     cochise valley growers sign 

Friends of ours, Dan and Roxanna, have recently purchased a hammer mill for processing mesquite beans. They offer a brief but excellent training on picking and drying mesquite beans.

It takes a hammer mill to efficiently mill mesquite beans because they are seriously hard. Dan and Roxanna offer custom milling for people like us who pay them a comparatively small fee for turning our mesquite beans into tasty and healthy flour.  They also process beans harvested and sold to them by neighbors. The flour is available for sale at local farmers markets.  

        Cleaning Mesquite Beans  

After we picked and dried our beans, we brought them to the local community harvest festival where Dan and Roxanna had set up their hammer mill. We gathered around the sorting screen and culled stems and other foreign matter that would spoil the flour.

          Hammermill grinding mesquite beans  

Their son, Justin, operated the mill and bagged up the resulting flour. We came home with over ten pounds of sweet, slightly nutty, golden mesquite flour. The taste and nutrition available in the flour makes the work well worthwhile, however.

This remarkable native flour has no gluten, a low glycemic index, high protein content, and all kinds of essential vitamins and minerals.Because there is no gluten, you will want to limit the percentage of mesquite flour to about 25% of the required flour. For muffins, cookies, and great yeast-raised pancakes, we use 75% organic whole wheat flour and 25% mesquite flour. There are recipes available for cookies using 100% mesquite flour. While they are delicious, they are also expensive and have only local accessibility though our local health food store.  But used in any good recipe they offer great flavor and a super nutritious result.  

          Barbara bagging mesquite flour 

This morning, I tried out Barbara’s recipe for Mesquite Pancakes. I’ll soon be on deck for B-n-B guest cooking for a few days while Barbara is out of state and I wanted a practice run. The results were incredible. I credit the quality of the mesquite flour and the recipe. I just put the stuff together.

Barbara’s Mesquite Pancakes 

     Stack of mesquite pancakes

Ingredients: 

Honey (or sugar) – I used a bit less than 3 tablespoons of honey

Dry Yeast – 2 level teaspoons

1 1/2 cups milk (we use soymilk and it’s great)

2 eggs

1/3 cup canola or other neutral oil

1/2 cup Mesquite flour - (harvested from our trees and milled by a neighbor)

1/2 Wheat Germ (we use raw, but roasted is fine – make sure it’s fresh)

1 teaspoon salt

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – you’ll use 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups

1/2 cup warm water

Assembly: 

Wake the yeast by measuring 1/2 cup warm water (NOT too hot) into a large bowl (at least three quarts) and adding 1/2 tsp honey and 2 tsp yeast. Stir to dissolve the honey and set aside until mixture is bubbly.

While the yeast is waking up, measure out the remaining ingredients in separate containers – one for wet and one for dry.

In a large measuring cup or bowl, combine 1 1/2 cup milk or soymilk (warmed slightly), 2 eggs, 1/3 c oil, 2 T honey.  Mix ingredients to break up the eggs and begin the blending process.

In a separate bowl, combine 1 c whole wheat pastry flour, 1/2 c wheat germ, 1/2 cup mesquite flour, and 1 teaspoon salt. Blend with a whisk.

When the yeast is awake, blend liquid and dry ingredients in the bowl containing the yeast until thoroughly mixed. Add flour (up to 1/2 cup) a bit at a time until the batter is thickened to your preference.

          Mesquite batter 

Place the bowl of batter in a sink filled about 2 inches deep with hot water to encourage rising. Cover with a plate and allow batter to rise until bubbly and increased in volume. Be patient, this could take a half hour or so. Don’t stir down!  

Cook in your favorite greased pancake griddle or frying pan. Turn once when bubbles are breaking and brown on the bottom.

Serve with honey, syrup, fruit compote, applesauce, or your favorite preserves. Soooo good!

Desert Homestead B n B Guest House

Dave L HeadshotA couple months ago, a good friend who operates a very successful bed and breakfast here in the Arizona desert asked if we would be willing to accommodate guests when she wound up with double bookings. As a favor to her, we agreed. Then the wheels started turning and our mindset about our homestead changed a bit.

While our fairly frugal budget and our current income permit us to live simply and well, it is pretty much a no-frills operation here. We decided we could use some more consistent extra income here at the homestead to make visiting our kids and grandkids easier.

 

 Guest House with Ristra  
We really didn’t have much to do to make the Bear Cave attractive, in a rustic sort of way. We hoped to attract those who enjoy the outdoors, built-by-hand living, and good farm cooking. I trenched in some Ethernet cable from our straw bale house to provide internet access for those guests who wanted to maintain contact with the outside world. Stuff stored in the Bear Cave was moved and we relocated our computers to the main house.  

 Guest House Bedroom 

Our little 320-square-foot Bear Cave, now referred to as the Dragoon Mountains Guest House, sleeps four with a double bed and by pulling out the trundle bed. We lived in the Bear Cave while we built our straw bale home and loved it. We believed our guests would feel the same.

 Recliner and Day Bed
A comfortable recliner, a wicker-seated rocking chair, and the trundle bed doubling as a couch with pillows and bolsters provide relaxed reading for those who just want some time to wind down.

Winding-down, serenity, and plenty of quiet are really some of the big attractions.  Recently, I read and listened to two separate accounts on the importance of quiet.  One was an article in the Dec 9, 2011, New York Times by Pico Iyer titled “The Joy of Quiet.”  The other was an interview on NPR’s Diane Rehm program with Dr. P.M. Forni discussing his new book, The Thinking Life.

Pico Iyer, educated at Eton and Oxford, now lives in Japan. He refers to himself as a “global village on two legs.”  Dr. Forni is a professor at Johns Hopkins and writes and teaches on Civility and Ethics and their role in our social world. Both articles are worth reading and listening to in their entirety.

In his article, Iyer suggests that we people are moving away from what has become a barrage of input. He says that the average American spends 8½ hours per day in front of a screen and that the average American teen sends or receives 75 messages per day. Think of the people you see in markets, cars, parks, or wherever with eyes or ears glued to a communication device.

Iyer contends that Americans are getting tired of the constant deluge of input. He cites an advertising CEO as saying that the upcoming market among young people will be for stillness. In the article, he mentions a California resort that offers lodging for over $2,000 per night and features no TV, WiFi, or telephone. There must be an easier and cheaper way to locate the ‘off’ button.

Dr Forni’s book title speaks for itself. The subtitle is “How to Survive in the Age of Distraction.” Forni warns of the perils of not taking time to just think. He writes, “If we agree that life is important, then thinking as we go through it is the basic tribute we owe it.”

 Sunrise from Guest House
We asked family and friends that had visited us as unpaying guests what they valued most about their stay at our homestead. Most said the combination of silence, serenity and scenery made them want to come back. The ability to sit quietly with a cup of coffee or tea and look across the valley at our many mini-mountain ranges, our Sky Islands, was very meaningful to them.

 Guest House Kitchen
While many of our guests enjoy at least one meal prepared by us, most like to find their own rhythms for meals and choose their own diets. We stocked the guest house with basic kitchen utensils – plates, cups, glasses etc – and installed a propane range (a drop-in designed for RVs that I enclosed in a plywood box), an under-the-counter fridge, and a microwave. They’re good to go.

 Cochise Stronghold
On the other hand, hiking, biking, and rock climbing around our homestead appeal to many. We have had competitive racing cyclists stay here for winter cycling and lots of birders and hikers.

Apart from the extra income, which we appreciate, there are other benefits. We have the opportunity to share the land we have come to love – its history, its scenery, its wildlife – with people unfamiliar with the beauty of the desert. We have made lots of new friends. People from England, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California have been our guests during our first three months of operation.  

 Guest House in Spring
If you would like to quit a “day job” and spend your time on your land, you might want to consider sharing the beauty of your place and making some money and some new friends. We even found a network of guest houses that manages the financial end of things for us. If you’re curious, take a look at this website for yourself (http://www.airbnb.com/rooms/281607)  Or, if you feel you just have to come visit us to see what we’re doing, you can make arrangements there as well.