I dragged the old woolen armchair out onto the sun porch this morning. I needed a place away from the traffic and noise of the house, a place to write and to reflect before stepping into the action of the day. It's a lovely spot, and one we've hardly utilized since we moved into this house in the teeth of winter. In the summer, I imagine, it will be unthinkably hot, but right now, with the frost melting on the grass outside and the sun slanting in, it's just right.
There are many things to consider this morning. Much of it is practical and mundane: how to improve my record keeping to more easily track useful information like waste and cost of goods sold (this seems so basic but has proved surprisingly daunting), where to move my baking operation so that I can upgrade to a more practical oven (ideas?), and how to buy a car after years of avoiding such environmentally and financially costly entanglements (do you have an old wagon or SUV you'd like to sell me?).
But most of all I came out here to turn over the perennial existential question of what it means to live a good life. Or, put another way, who I want to be when I grow up. There is a lot of open ground between my aspirational public self—engaged citizen, thoughtful business owner, intellectual, generous friend—and the often selfish, overwhelmed, and escapist reality of my private self. Few of us, I think, are entirely who we want to be, but closing the distance between public and private, between aspiration and reality, feels like essential work.
So let me sit here awhile, quietly, to do that work. Let me sit here and do nothing but watch the street and listen to myself. Let me have this moment, now, before I get up to lose myself in productivity and projects.
I hope you, too, can find time to do nothing.
We are in the seventh week of the Winter Bread Subscription, which means Mountain Rye, Red & White, Rosemary Sea Salt, and Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies. Order a loaf, a half dozen sinfully rich cookies, or your Spring Bread Subscription in the online store. Orders for this coming week are, as always, due by Monday morning.
I sold out of North Sea Gingerbread early last Saturday, to the disappointment of many. Luckily for you, I can bake it again! But because it's a complex and time-intensive cake, I need a critical mass of orders to justify doing so. This strange and lovely Frisian treat is made with rye and packed with candied ginger, candied orange zest, spices, and poached quince. It must be aged for 2-4 weeks. If you would like a last taste of winter at the edge of spring, send me a note. If we've already spoken about gingerbread, I have your name on the wish list!
I have spent too many daylight hours these past weeks zombie-eyed in front of a screen, shuffling through the ugly underbelly of self-employment. I have been sorting the hundreds of unread emails, gathering scattered tax documents, trying to unearth bookkeeping mistakes now so far buried there's no hope of reconciliation, working through a clunky inventory system held together with duct tape and blind stubbornness that should have been rebuilt years ago.
Because my mind is undisciplined and childish, this means I spend at least as much time wandering the twisted side streets of the internet as I do sorting through my inbox and spreadsheets. Even these frequent breaks might be useful were I taking them to read deep, or to explore the resources of the myriad organizations devoted to supporting small business. But of course, I do nothing so practical. It's social media and skimmed op-eds, late night comedy clips and back to social media.
I emerge from these lost days bleary eyed and attention shot, craving prose that my mind is too scattered to take in and long walks long after the sun has set.
How do you stand steady under the magnetic pull of ever-accessible media? "It's such a lucky accident, having been born, that we're almost obliged to pay attention," the poet-essayist, Mark Strand, once wrote. I want to pay attention. I want to always live a three-dimensional life.
Owner | Baker
And now, to business. For those who aren't signed up for a Winter Bread Subscription, or who want additional loaves, I'm baking Red & White, Mountain Rye, Pain de Méteil, and Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies to order next week. The Méteil was a staple bread in the days before roller-milled wheat flour consumed French baking. It is half wheat, half rye (méteil means meslin, a rather esoteric term for a mix of rye and wheat), and is leavened with both wheat and rye sours for a deep, complex flavor. It is often paired with hearty foods like coq au vin or strong cheese.
We're half way through the Winter Bread Subscription, which means it's almost time to start signing up for the Spring Bread Subscription! If you have any feedback on this first round or are interested in pulling together neighbors or coworkers to create your own pickup location next time around, I'd love to hear from you.
And finally, looking past spring and into summer, I'm starting to put out feelers for a bread lover/salesperson to work the Wednesday farmers market for me next June-August. If you're interested, or know someone who might be, let's talk.
Dear Bread Eaters,
During the month of February (and perhaps beyond) a portion of my profits will go to community organizations working for justice and sustainability here in Bellingham. If you have thoughts about which organizations in our community are doing the best work, shoot me an email, or stop by to chat at the next Saturday Farmers Market on the 18th.
If you're already signed up for a winter bread share, thank you! I'm so glad you're a part of this bread subscription experiment. You can, of course, still buy cookies, add bread to your order, or just come visit me at the market. And if you're not part of the winter bread subscription, order bread! Order your Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies for Valentines day! And definitely come to market on the third Saturday of the month.
I am trying to make democracy a habit, like feeding my sourdough. You know, get up in the morning, put on the kettle for tea, brush my teeth, feed the sourdough, and call my representatives. Some days I do better than others.
I have always read voraciously, though never fast enough. Books wash up against the shore of my bed in ever-growing drifts, even as I request others from the library and am drawn as inevitably as the tide into used bookstores to gather more. I stack articles and essays along the top of my web browsers in neat rows like offerings, like a wall to hold back the rushing media on the days when keeping up with the news feels like drowning.
Because I read so much, and not enough, I have always understood the vast expanse of my ignorance. For most of my politically-aware life, from that Sunday in middle school when I cried while reading the double page spread in the Seattle PI on the invasion of Iraq to the uneasy year spent following our most recent presidential election, my ignorance has been my excuse to stay quiet. What could I say that hadn't already been said elsewhere and better?
It is hard to break a long habit of silence, but I'm holding on to the hope that it will get easier. Calling my reps is still uncomfortable--I have to practice what I want to say in my head beforehand or I lose the thread of my thoughts entirely--but the discomfort is there and gone so quickly that the anticipation is worse than the reality. Speaking out through the platform of my business demands greater commitment because it invites conversation, praise, and some very pointed condemnation. But as I told one former customer who wrote to express her disgust at my mixing of bread and politics, this business has always been political. My commitment to biking, to sourcing ethical ingredients, to minimizing packaging, to taking the long way even when shortcuts beckon, these are moral and political decisions. Stenciling vulvas, or anarcho-feminist fists, or Bread Without Borders on my loaves is just a more overt expression of those quieter values.
Thank you for supporting me as I continue to define the shape of this business. I hope you will continue to come for the bread and stay for conversation. Tell me what you like. Tell me when you disagree. I may not change my mind, but I will listen.
Owner | Baker