The sticky starter
I have made a discovery. This discovery has changed the way that I maintain my sourdough mother, and since that change in maintenance has occured it has been quite a bit less of a hassle to maintain her every day.
Bear in mind I keep a 50% hydration starter, I've kept her at that hydration for the past year or so. Prior to the change, she always started her fermentation extremely dry, then the next day, she would be completely and absolutely goopy, sticky, and nearly impossible to work with.
I just couldn't understand why, I knew it was a sign of ill health, but even after merely 24 hours of fermentation this unfortunate corruption would happen. One day I started following recipes that called for the conversion of mother to a 100% hydration sponge, to ferment overnight, before being incorporated into the dough it was to ferment.
This procedure I hated. It required me to take extra effort and incorporate great amounts of water into a very firm dough. In addition, I found that the result was a very mild sour flavor (all the acetobacillus was no doubt outcompeted by the lactobacillus in this very wet and watery environment).
While I hated the procedure, the idea of breaking up the mother seemed like a good one. It would be easier to incorporate into the dough, and as long as I didn't let the bacteria reproduce before I got them back into a very firm dough, there would be no turnover of bacterial strains. So I tried it: I broke up my mother into water, and mixed that with flour, in the ratio for a 50% hydration dough. The next day, my starter was risen, fluffy, and best of all, there was absolutely no stickiness. It was not unlike a dough that had been made with commercial yeast rather then wild yeast and their companion bacterial cultures. A sticky, stringy starter will never plague me due to this new discovery (although it is still quite a bit of work dissolving the mother in water).