Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Snow Day's Journey Into Night

K, so the whole earth oven workshop thing has probably run amok? But today, after reading part of a book called The Magic of Fire by William Rubel, lent to me by my far-ranging friend, Marilyn Anthony, of Lundale Farm, and being faced with our first Snow Day of the season, I decided to cook some beans in a casserole in the fireplace, a lรก Salem Witch Trials, and while I was at it, what the hay! Why not bake some bread as well? Now Rubel only includes flatbread and steamed Boston brown bread recipes in his book—teaching people to make sourdough and teaching them to cook on fire no doubt comprising too great an object for one hard-cover book—but since, like I said, I can already make dough, what the hay! And damned if it wasn’t just. so. good.

So I assume that, Salem Witch Trial-like, I have been possessed by some kind of Supernatural Item with an agenda about teaching me to cook with fire. Its purpose is not known to me, but I am enjoying the fruits of possession.

The beans, btw, are still in there. Maybe by breakfast, they’ll be cooked.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

First Fruits of the Ovenbuild, Or, The Coronet Rides Again

Here is my first wood-fired breadbeast. It was going to be a pizza but then the oven thermometer said HOT and the dough was ready, so even though it is not dinner time yet I said What The Heck, and here is my magnificent little friend.

It smells like this:

Yes. That good.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oven Building

This past weekend, I attended an earth-oven building workshop at Green Mountain Flour in Windsor, Vermont. It was fun and very educational, in addition to being a superior workout. Cooking food with fire appeals to me so much, and it was wonderful to spend time with like-minded people who know a lot about using the arc of the heat to turn a bunch of ingredients into a bunch of noms. Also? I LOVE MAKING MORTAR. If the whole copywriting thing ever goes south, I am becoming a mason.

Above you see a picture of the oven when the clay layer that forms the shape of the oven has been applied, and the cob layer (with the straw sticking out) is starting to rise. The cob is for insulation, and it is made of clay, sand, water and oat straw. It helps the oven retain its heat so it can be used for hours without having to build a new fire. This is a commercial oven that Zach the baker will use to make the breads and pizzas that Green Mountain Flour sells to those fortunate enough to live in east-central Vermont, which explains why the oven is so huge. Because there are a lot of hungry people in east-central Vermont.

When we build our oven at home, it will be much smaller. After I had unpacked, my husband and I sat on the sofa, pointed our feet at the fire and started plotting. We evaluated our assets, browsed From The Wood-Fired Oven (the informative and inspirational book that the workshop teacher, Richard Miscovich, had just published) and worked out a plan in which we net an earth-oven AND a wood-fired hot tub; the Coronet cookstove gets to return to the kitchen it has not graced in about a century; the Hen Cottage chickens can join the greater poultry society of the barnyard (because we need their real estate to build on); and we get a new bardyard gate to replace the laughable one I made out of a pallet and have been patching with hay twine ever since. So. Super easy! No problem! Stay tuned!

Here’s a picture of how many people it takes to have a good time and still get a lot done on a giant oven. The take-away: make YOUR earth oven a party from Day 1. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Snowbirds of the Greenhouse

 The windows of the house are now packed with plants, and I was going to overwinter the Chicago hardy fig, the Brazilian begonia and the little copper leaf begonias in the south-facing cellar windows, which are about a foot tall with a good deep ledge where the stone foundation meets them. But after I carried the copper leaf begonias through the coal bin to their window and shoe-horned the Brazilian into the space above the workbench, between the furnace pipes and the window glass, I felt like one of those sadistic men who keeps abducted girls locked in their cellar for decades. So I moved all the cellar plants to the greenhouse, where I now have a strong inducement to caulk and plastic the old windows and make the place more habitable. Like soon, because we are expecting overnight lows in the 20s already later this week.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Giant Shallots!

This past spring I cut way back on my habitual excessive planting, but I did plant a bunch of little top-bulbs made by some shallots that were suffered to grow in the same piece of ground for…oh, I don’t know how many years…without being harvested. I had the raised bed space and they were around, so what the heck.

Well. This is what happens when you plant top-bulbs in a raised bed: giant shallots. Thus has my vice and ignominy revealed itself to be The One True Path of Shallots.

The best part is that I forgot about the previously forgotten shallots (do you see a pattern emerging?), so when I went to pull that bed of huge onion leaves that was mysteriously thriving out there in the garden, great was my surprise and delight to find these fat fellows there by the dozen.

Monday, September 16, 2013

They Have The Numbers, We The Heights

Actually, they have both.

But they have kept out of trouble lately, and have eaten scores of slugs and ticks, so I am in a forgiving mood, appreciative of their beauty and hunger.

Giant Cheese

Yesterday I got four gallons of milk from the Fountain of Eternal Milk, and I made a big cheddar. Here it is getting pressed under 50 pounds of bricks for 12 hours, inside an old cider press that lost its twirly thing, and is therefore useless for pressing cider, but is excellent for being a cheese mold.

And here it is when it came out, with a tea cup for scale. The net is to keep the flies from laying eggs on it before it goes into storage in the cheese cage in the cellar for two months. So. I'll let you know at Thanksgiving how it turned out!

Giant Spider

I love these huge big spiders. They are a feature of late summer or early fall here, and I had just commented to the family a day before that I hadn't seen any yet, and I hoped there would be some. Then there was this one, hanging virtually over the gate to the summer kitchen. I'm afraid she's having a tough go of it, however: the torrential rain washed her web down, and since then it has been so chilly that she spends her time flattened to the underside of the beam above her web. It's no way to make a living.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Giant Frog

This enormous frog appeared in the little pond behind my office last week. She is rather larger than my fist, about four times the size of the previous record holder. Maybe the adolescent bullfrogs are sallying forth to occupy new puddles? I have heard no croaking, so I suppose she may be a girl frog? Or maybe migration is conducted quietly. Run silent, froggy. Run deep.