re shelf life
@GrillingFool - what do you mean by shelf life? I hate to be difficult, but its hard to answer your question. Shelf life can simply mean how long the bread will last without developing mold (bad!) or it can mean how the bread tastes as it ages and loses some moisture. I'm going to assume you mean the later.
For the one-pound breads I pictured, stored at room temperature in a paper bag, 2-3 days. In contrast, if I purchase a similar bread from a high-end bakery, the shelf life is 1-2 days under the same storage conditions.
I showed photos of two breads - both were hearth breads, shaped freeform and baked on a flat surface. The one on the left was sourdough and the one on the right was made with a biga preferment. Otherwise the formulae were quite similar.
Once the loaf has cooled and after it has been cut, I store these one pound loaves in a brown paper bag, cut side down, on my kitchen counter. (I don't live in an area with high humidity and my kitchen is not air-conditioned.) I don't refrigerate bread as that hastens moisture loss (actually, what is happening is not really moisture loss but I'm not prepared to give the scientific explanation and maybe you don't care anyway).
In my (most humble) opinion, both loaves have a shelf life of about 3 days given the above storage conditions. If I go to day 4, the sourdough loaf tastes slightly better.
Note that both loaves contain a small amount of honey, which is hydroscopic (which simply means that honey helps maintain moisture).
Note that both loaves are hearth breads, not sandwich breads. Hearth breads are baked freeform on a flat surface at a high heat (about 450F). Sandwich breads are baked in a loaf tin at lower heat (about 350F). With a similar recipe, the hearth bread releases more of the water during baking and will therefore "stale" more quickly than the sandwich bread. Sandwich breads, depending on recipe, have a shelf life of 4-5 days (stored at room temperature in a paper bag).
If you're aiming to extend the shelf life of homemade bread, look for recipes that include a small amount of fat (oil or butter) or a small amount of full-fat soy flour. Both of these additions help keep the interior of the bread soft but do also result in a less crispy crust.
Pretty much all basic breads - hearth or sandwich - can be successfully frozen. Let them cool completely, double wrap in plastic wrap, label and freeze.
Besides freezing, there are lots of subtle ways one can vary a bread recipe to help it keep at room temperature a little longer. However, as I'm sure you know, supermarket-variety breads contain many additives specifically designed to keep the loaf soft for a week or more, even when stored in a refrigerator.
Hope this helped a little bit. - SF