Two weeks of travel around the state to small bergs: something I used to do routinely, now it’s out of the norm. It was exhilarating and also more tiring than it used to be. I got to renew many old acquaintances, and meet some of the next wave of community activists. It is really inspiring to observe and participate in little “D” democracy in small towns. If you are feeling a little cynical just now (Won't we all be glad when the election circus folds it's tent?), buck up, there is hope afoot in our country.
In the aftermath I took a couple days off work last week, not to rest up but to make a 'town line sprint' working around the ranch. We have a special guest coming in a couple weeks and I am using this occasion as an excuse to fix up, clean up, organize, and otherwise “whip this place into shape!”
That metaphorical whip has gone a little limp after four days of working out in the shop. When we bought this place in the spring of 2007 there were several features that put it head and shoulders above the other’s we considered. One was the little woodlot out in the back (my own private forest) and the other was the shop.
The shop was huge, cavernous, and being only a couple years old, it was clean, as in ‘new car smell’ clean. There were no big oil stains on the floor, no spray paint outlines, cracked window panes, leaky roof stains, or collection of bent and rusty nails conveniently located to hang stuff on, (and inconveniently located to snag a sweat shirt on). I could stand in the middle of the two bays with a 10 foot 2X4 cradled in my arms and pirouette knowing there was another 4 feet of clearance in all directions. A painter’s blank palette, a place to make my mark, a place where I could build a cat house (you know, like a dog house).
When we moved back in four months later I began the process of sorting, saving, restoring, and discarding all the stuff we had packed in there. But as with so many onerous tasks, it never got finished: The days got warmer and longer, and bike riding took precedent over sorting through mildewed boxes of treasure. We got back to it serveral times and whittled things down some, but now, literally years later there are still boxes of stuff out there. Some from two moves back, some flood damaged, some stacked, and some piled in a jumble, cluttering up my beautiful space. Add to that the problem that flimsy shelving I had pile boxes on started to topple, well, you can imagine.
There are old pieces of furniture that we have planned to yard sale or haul to ‘William Good – purveyor of fine preconditioned merchandise’, as well as all the things I routinely use: the mower, the yard tools, the bike repair stand. Don’t get me wrong I still use the space, I have a ‘spinning studio’ and bike repair space, (you know, the important stuff) the mower goes in and out, the garden tools are accessible and they all get used.
Empty space is the ironic asset, much like the ability to ride long bike distances swiftly. Like speed on a bike, space gives you options. If your space is filled with treasure from yard sales, or boxes from past moves (the dingleberries of life) you have no options. You cannot use it as a staging area for a big ole regional brevet, you can’t build a cat house, or do your pirouettes and pleaits with a 2X4.
Much of this precious space is squandered, dedicated to inconvenience; it is even more ironic than just being filled with orderly stacks of crap. It irritates the living S%#!t out of me to have to follow little paths among the piles, to have to twist and contort and reach across piles of junk I don’t need to try to get something I do need. (BP rising ust thinking of it!)
Well no more baby! I feel like the ant trying to drag a water buffalo carcass to the ant hill, but I’m making progress. Soon I will have room to swing that 2X4, to turn a sheet of plywood any way I choose. It won’t be the virgin it was when we moved in, there are now a few nails to hang things from, and of course, even though there are no motor oil stains there are and will likely always be traces of that beige skim coat of field mud in the corners and crevices.
Boys Night Out:
Do you recall from your past a time and place where you might have awakened in the morning to find a pal laid out on the couch (or under the couch) and maybe a little bit of puke on the floor that didn’t quite make the toilet or sink or whatever? Well we have our own private animal house here: Mrs. C is away on a biz trip for a couple weeks so it is just me and Chairman Meow. He’s not too thrilled; I think the level of personal service drops off considerably when she’s not around. He’s coping, …barely. While I have been working out in the shop we have experienced the first wave of NW monsoon. It’s a metal building so heavy rain in the shop sounds like a chorus line of ten thousand trained picas in tap shoes on the roof. Really, at times it‘s so loud that it drowns out the Eagles (or the BEE GEES) on the soft rock oldies station. It’s one of about three or four I can get out there with my funky radio. That or loud Tejano, twangy country, or salvation and damnation.
Chairman comes out but he’s not into it, especially when I fire up the skill saw or drill (I’m building shelves) so he’s back and forth between the house and shop in the rain. When I came in for the evening last Wednesday I found cat puke on the quilt and the carpet (of course, never on the linoleum or tile!) I thought about the bachelors over indulging, but then I recalled how sick he had been after the flood. He had been locked up in the house for over 24 hours during the flood. The power had gone out so it was pitch black (this happened during the night). The flood water rose and then receded while he was locked alone in the dark smelly house. It was a mess and you know how cats wash ther little paws when they are muddy or messy, right? Entering the house for the first time after the flood and finding him still alive but pretty sick (he had hurled repeatedly) huddled on Mrs. C’s rolling desk chair was a poignant moment. I wonder if stirring up all the flood dust and detritus out of the nooks and crannies in the shop made him sick? Then again, maybe it was just the polish sausage leftovers (yes we do indulge a bit when the Mrs. isn’t around).
It has not been total 40 days and 40 nights; there have actually been brief interludes of sunlight. Not show the place off, but please note: light and shadow!
I did wedge in a little baking over the weekend. I made a batch of whole wheat dinner rolls
and some regular SD white rolls
and some bread
WW flour is hard for me to bake with: whenever I made something with WW in the past I thought: “Well this must be good for me, why else would I be eating it?” Heavy, leathery crust, and dominated by that WW flavor most things tasted about the same. These dinner rolls were different. They were pretty light and fluffy. I made them with a WW SD starter, no commercial yeast, boy were they sour! But they had great light texture almost like regular soft white dinner rolls. The secret is the long rise. The dough proofed Friday night, then I put the rolls in the refrigerator over night and then allowed the final proofing Saturday morning. I got up very early, let the rolls rise and mixed up dough for bread. One thing about sourdough, you just cannot hurry it along.
The bread was another experiment, a slightly different take on a recipe I made earlier. This was 'one day' bread but it was a long day. I used both white and whole wheat starter, and mixed in fresh rosemary, kalamata olives and little chunks of asiago cheese. find the recipe here . This is part three of an excellent e-book on sourdough baking; from the very beginning to breads like this one. The author does a great job of pulling the curtain back to reveal the plain fact that anyone (living proof here) can make bread as good or better than the stuff you pay for. I don't have a mixer but this batch of dough, enough for four loaves was enough to get me thinking that perhaps a technology upgrade from wooden spoon one-point-oh might be looming on the horizon.
The loaves came out well, but if I make this again I’ll have to adjust my technique; the loaves are not supposed to split while baking and as you can see all four of mine did.
Makes them look a little more rustic but really did not affect the final product. The cheese really made the bread quite tasty, and the neighbors were very happy to see me coming with loaves and rolls in hand!