Labor and Love

It was a busy weekend.  Saturday morning I was struck with the idea to make another garage shelf.  My mother-in-law helped out with funds and off to the hardware store I went.  Their lumber yard keeps some stuff out in the open including the green lumber.  After our recent month of rains, their wood went from green to wet sponge, making each 2×4 weigh roughly four thousand pounds.  No matter!  I built the entire shelf out in the hot sun (did I mention it went up to 80 this weekend?) then attempted to tilt it upright.  Ooof.  Nothing ripped, inside my body or out, but it took some anger strength to get the 6’x8’ behemoth upright.  I wrestled it into the garage then realized it was facing the wrong direction.  Grunting and shoving ensued but not a single curse word.  Amazing!  Uncle F%$-Up completes a project with no catastrophes. 

Maybe I was buoyed by the shelf triumph, or was channeling Martha Stewart, but I decided to reorganize the garage.  Have you ever seen towns after a tornado comes through?  Debris is strewn everywhere, often in random piles.  Now shove all that in a garage and that’s what I had to start with.  I tossed out a five-foot tall pile of cardboard boxes we are saving for…what exactly?  If there is an economic meltdown and cardboard becomes the new currency, we would be rich.  Or if we need to build a favela out of boxes in the alley, we’re all set.  No more!  Out they went, along with the old gas oven and electric water heater.  That night I posted Craig’s List ads for them all and by Sunday night the appliances were already gone.  Nothing gets people motivated like the word “free”.

Sunday was more sedate.  In the morning my wife and I went out for Valentine’s Brunch at Urban Solace.  Wow, delicious.  We had a gift certificate to burn through, so it was an all-out meal.  Should I have felt girly ordering a mimosa?  No.  And I held my pinkie out while I drank to show how manly I was.  I had an incredible buttermilk cinnamon roll with butter pecan sauce, flatbread with butternut squash and goat cheese dip, and a Niman Ranch steak and eggs.  Though I didn’t think I’d eat the rest of the day, I did.  In the afternoon I attempted to watch the Olympics while in full recline on the couch, then waddled into the kitchen and made four loaves of bread.  The large order for this week turned out to be easier than I thought.  Scaling up bread amounts is mostly a factor of mixing and baking space.  Measuring and kneading is just the same.  By last night I’d finished all ten loaves, 18 rolls, and for ourselves one batch of scones, and two loaves of sourdough.

Let me tell you, I’m getting really close on the sourdough.  This time I vowed to take no prisoners when forming the loaves, making sure they were tight, well-sealed, and well-scored.  The first ten minutes I thought I had it nailed, as the ears were blossoming beautifully.  Then I took the steam pans out and everything went awry.  One of the loaves blew out an ear and turned misshapen, the other never opened its ears and instead split open the bottom.

So.  Lessons learned:  1) be sure all the residual oil is wiped off the dough before you attempt to seal it up; 2)leave the steam pan in for an extra five or ten minutes to keep the crust pliable so the ears can open up all the way.  I think in my quest for crunchy crust I am not letting the bread steam enough so the ears dry up when there is still oven spring taking place.

Finally, I am signed up for two CSAs.  One is for fruit and veggies, the other is meat.  I’ll post some pictures of what I get and how we are preparing it.

If you’d read this far you deserve a picture.  I didn’t get any pictures of the massive bake over the weekend, but through the magic of computers, I can show you the ten loaves of Scottish oat bread.  Behold!

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Writer, architect, father, husband.

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