2018 Review & 2019 Plans

Its New Years eve. The animals are fed, the croft chores are done. And I’m sat inside contemplating life over a coffee. I find the approach of a new year an excellent time to think back on the year that is behind and forward to the days, weeks and months which lie ahead. So here’s a little review of  2018 and what we’ve got planned 2019:-

Writing this Blog

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Did you know we have been writing on doughies.wordpress.com for eight years? In 2018 we had 4,150 unique visitors, representing out busiest year to date with regard to blog traffic , although truthfully we did not post much content – just nine new blog posts published, averaging 1.3 months between brain splurges, verses 147 posts over the total eight years.

I love writing on the blog, as putting pen to paper [or more commonly putting finger to key] is a rewarding way of cementing self-learning through articulation, and sharing that learning with others. I regularly read (and watch) other peoples blogs/vlogs like this and this and generally prefer to both read and write deep dive, long form blogposts. On the doughies.wordpress blog the most popular post by far remains this old post, but I was glad to see this new plastic free post struck a digital chord. I guess unsurprisingly given my raw nature [engineer, observer, analytical] the posts most read and shared are those observing, analysing and sharing learning. We want to do more of this. Here’s three writing do’s we have planned for next year:-

  1. Write more – more observing, more analysing and more sharing; revolving around how a 21st century croft operates, how to produce local food and general brain musings. We invested in a secondhand laptop for Christmas, so now have the ideal writing tool to go hide and tap out thoughts. [Side note – the content of this blog will always remain free to all but we do aspire to some paid writing gigs, so if you know of a publication wanting some writing contributions from a young crofter / local food producer reach our to us via email]
  2. Time to ditch wordpress.com – I think its time to drop the free .wordpress domain and port the blog over to new domain, current favourites are either .blog [the home of bloggers] or .scot [culturally the home of scotland]. We have paid each year to keep the blog add-free, and its only a bit more to get a real domain for going forwards.
  3. More OFN – Doughies was an early adopter of the Open Food Network system, and has an under-utilised but developed shop here. We are a strong supporter of this platform as a flexible tool for local food businesses and collaborative food projects. The blog is going to leverage OFN a bit more in the new year by:-
    • Going onto their starter plan to use more tools.
    • Porting our subscribers onto recurring OFN subscriptions [we pre-cursored that this year by adopting stripe as a payment platform, as we knew OFN had subscriptions in the development pipeline]
    • Embedding our shop on the blog – so “buy our bread” will truly mean buy our bread [and other produce….]

Growing Food

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The horticulture in-bye

Last year we conducted some growing experiments on a semi-commercial basis – growing in ten newly created 50 x 4 foot permaculture market garden type beds. Early in the year (though not really early enough!) we got a small 12ft x 15ft poly-tunnel raised, and went on to seed, transplant and grow a lot of green tomatoes, an abundance of red Russian kale, some rocket, turnip, peas, beetroot, chard & spinach. We ate a lot of local veg, and did some weekly chef crates to town over a 2 month period. We also collected vegetable food waste throughout the year. This was freshly turned just yesterday and will input into the 2019 growing system.

It wasn’t all joyful green fingers mind – we lost the battle (and a fair amount of apple tree growth) with deer predation, and later on in the season we abandoned veg row covers and instead put effort into erecting a deer fence around the field. Slug pressure was low during 2018, but weed pressure was high. And the long dry period meant a lot of watering, and a large amount of crop bolting to seed or swamped with weed.

We also spent some time with other growers. Behind the scenes we’ve been collaborating with the aforementioned to setup a local group of commercial growers, and we went on an epic journey to Uist as documented here as part of our stubborn persistence to kick start a local grain renaissance.

Here’s three growing do’s for 2019:-

  1. Rye nursery project – on the back of the Uist journey, we have applied for funding as part of a collaborative project to take part in a soil to crust rye nursery project. More on this to follow.
  2. Investing in Irrigation & Weed Control– Santa aka the postman has just arrived with some drip & spray irrigation components, and we’re going to trial a few different variants of weed control mulch fabric and paper on the market garden beds during 2019.
  3. A Full season – this year we feel more prepared – we’re starting earlier in the season with some experience under our belt, infrastructure in place and have more time to commit to veg production. The aim for 2019 will be all ten beds pumping out produce for the whole highland growing season. We just did our 2019 seed order, and once veg is getting close we will circulate a cutting list for both chefs and sourdough subscribers [plus some farm gate sales].

Baking Sourdough

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And finally let’s talk Doughies, I hope you didn’t think I had forgotten the small business of baking #realbread sourdough? 2018 was a milestone year for doughies, as we pretty much baked right through the year and there can now be no doubt we are a commercial micro bakery. In terms of statistics, throughout the year we hefted 1936kg of flour (that is about 77 large 25kg sacks), mixed and shaped 3.7tonnes of dough, and over 215 oven loads baked that into the equivalent of 3872 large loaves of bread. Every loaf was sourdough, real bread made with slowly with good flour & good salt, and every loaf was pre-ordered by a business or subscriber (we didn’t manage any markets during 2018). The result – a lot of local food nutrition and very little local food waste.

Here’s three baking do’s for 2019:-

  1. Bakehouse Improvements – we did some substantial improvements to the bakehouse during 2018 (moving an internal wall, shuffling and investing in equipment), but there’s still some quality of life improvements we’d like to keep on the to do list for 2019:-
    • Paperwork – we don’t have a lot of paper at doughies, but what we do have could benefit from an organisational overhaul. A small but major quality of life improvement in the bakehouse will be to start an organised system for our paperwork, and have a single place within the bakehouse to store it all.
    • Tiling – a medium scale improvement would be to get some tiles on the wall around the dough table, for ease of cleaning.
    • New oven – this is the big one. Our little ROFCO B30 has been creaking of late (probably something to do with the 3872 loaves it has baked during 2018). The ROFCO ovens are superb entry level semi-commercial ovens for microbakeries being at an attainable price point and with decent capacity. We are now at a cross roads whether to a) invest in a second ROFCO (doubling capacity and providing some redundancy in case of failure) or b) invest further into a multi deck oven, more commonly used in larger bakeries. A “hot” topic this one, we’ll be sure to keep you informed when the investment is made.
  2. Bread Development
    • Our range of loaves is pretty tight – comprising a wheat, a rye and a spelt dough (plus some sub-variants). For domestic consumption we’ve been trailing a super sour overnight wheat tinned loaf which we would like to start offering during 2019.
    • The mystical local rye loaf – if the rye nursery project comes to fruition this year we should finally (!) get a local rye loaf from soil to crust, which is a crucial step in the rye-volution here in Lochaber. We’ll be documenting this closely as it happens.
  3. Training
    • During 2019 we plan to run a few Sourdough Appreciation training courses for local businesses serving our bread, and either via the blog or another medium we want to share what we have learnt over the last year of full commercial operation and pen some guidance on how to operate a 100 loaf sourdough micro bakery. Theres a lot of micro bakeries springing up and we feel we have something to share with others who are just getting going.

Happy Hogmanay all – look forward to sharing 2019 with you.

 

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