Sunshine and heat. We sprawled in a tree shadow at the edge of the point. I love the rocky edges of our landscape with their the moss and lichen, their dry, wispy grass, their wind-twisted fir growing impossibly from cracks in the bedrock, rose thickets in the protected hollows. I love the green to gold transition, walking out of the cool forest, the path cut through salal as high as my head, onto the sun-bleached rock. I love the smell of dry grass and dry earth, the sweetness of yarrow crushed underfoot, the salt brine and fir sap. E was asleep. I read Ada Limón and watched the sky. We stayed, moving with the tree’s shadow, until it slid off the edge and out of reach.
Back home again this week the familiar work of baking bread and the dauntingly unfamiliar work of building a bakery swallow my days. No time for naps or poetry. No time to follow a shadow across the afternoon. The work, both works, are going well. They stretch out in all directions. I think about the edges between land, water, and sky.
Owner | Baker
But it’s hard to think about work when the trees are casting dappled shadows and the forest is full of birdsong. Ezra is currently loading up the market bike while I, for the first time in four months, have escaped the tight triangle of bakery, house, and farm and gone away. We left well before sunrise and arrived with a whole day ahead of us. A whole weekend, in fact. Two entire days! If you, too, are self-employed, or partnered to a farmer, or a farmer yourself, you know how delicious a summer weekend away is. There are ravens talking back and forth across the clearing, dragonflies above the tall grass, and just now a ruby throated hummingbird dipped down to drink from the phacelia. The world is green and green and green and blue above.
I promised last week to tell you about the new bakery, though, so before I settle fully into the weekend there is this: Raven Bakery has a new home. Or will have a new home. We’ll start building out a storefront downtown in August. I have plans and permits filed and a deposit made on a large and beautiful bread oven. The space has south and east facing windows and high ceilings. Most of it will be taken up by production with a small retail area in front. It’s going to be more functional than stylish, but with good light and good bread functional is more than enough. Building a kitchen from scratch—even one without any fancy trims—is staggeringly expensive and I’m going to be asking for private loans from the community once I have a better sense of what terms are fair and reasonable. If you have experience on either side of the lending equation I’d welcome your insights. Right now, though, I’m going to put away my computer and all thoughts of work, take a nap, and then ride into the village for a breakfast pastry and coffee at someone else’s bakery.
I hope your weekend is just as sweet.
Owner | Baker
You don’t have to go far to get away. Turn off the road. There are no paths to follow but the braided creek. It’s slow going, bushwacking through the willow and poplar, backtracking around impenetrable bramble thickets, working your way downstream. Everything is young here: the clean-scoured gravel bars, the thin trees, the sword ferns growing tender green from the debris of winter floods, the creep of trailing blackberry vines, and have you ever seen so many wild strawberries? You cross the creek barefoot, holding your sneakers and grimacing at the cold. On the next bar you find an opening in the willows wide and flat enough for a tent. You’re a quarter mile from the road, from the speeding cars, the people, the big houses, the flat, manicured lawns of this horse farm suburb, but all you can see are willows and sky. All you can hear is the water running towards the Middle Fork, towards the Nooksack, and on towards the sea.
The creek rushes by. You’re a city dweller, used to traffic, to trains, to sirens, and dogs barking. Here, the noise of the water is so loud it quiets the night. In the morning you wake to birdsong. You make coffee on the campstove, retrieve a cinnamon roll, only slightly smashed, from the bear bag you strung up between two skinny alders. The sun rises over the trees. You pack up the tent and stove, wade, barefoot and grimacing, across the creek, scramble through willow and poplar, around the bramble thickets, and back to the road.
Owner | Baker
I bought her from a blind sculptor in Oaxaca. I’d taken a colectivo out to one of the valley towns to visit a weekday market and ended up in the local museum. Two ladies, nearly lifesize, smooth and intricate and beautiful, stood guard on the stairs. A docent told me they were made my a local sculptor before he lost his sight and gave me directions to his house.
I remember blinding sun and dusty streets but nothing else of the town. The sculptors house was dark; in the bright yard beyond stood an astonishing crowd of terra cotta figures. They were more roughly made than the ladies at the museum but beautiful still. Every woman had a lunar at the center of her forehead. Para mi esposa, he told me. I spent a long time walking around the yard, and bought a sculpture of a woman dressed in calla lilies without haggling. She was small enough to carry home to the city in my arms.
I had rented a shared room in the house of a Mexican-Columbian couple. It was just big enough for two twin beds with a narrow aisle in between and our clothes stacked on the floor. The rent was outrageous, or at least seemed so to me, coming from Bellingham where I’d paid half as much for a large room of my own, but our landlords were kind and generous and we lived within an easy walk of the city center. There was a little daily market just up the hill where I bought masa, dry beans, cheese, and bright fruits trucked down from the industrial farms in the north. Every morning I ate papaya with popped amaranth for breakfast. Every night I fell asleep to the chorus of dogs barking on the rooftops.
I had come to Oaxaca with three free months and no plans. Whenever I could I went traveling with a couple who taught biointensive gardening up in the Sierra Norte in villages where little was grown but maize and the soil eroded in deep furrows down the slopes of the steep, unterraced milpas. Or I traveled with a couple who ran an arts collective that sent pottery from Oaxaca to customers and galleries in Mexico City, visiting the women who carried on the crafts of their villages while their husbands, brothers, sons, went north for work. The rest of the time I walked the city, took grammar lessons from a tutor who was horrified by my farm Spanglish, and visited the surrounding towns for their markets and art.
I bought too much art. Too much pottery, especially. But I managed to pack it all, wrapped in clothes and newspaper, into a large suitcase that I bought on a street corner. All but my calla lily lady. Her I planned to carry on my flights back to the U.S. Only, when I got to the airport I discovered she was considered a potential weapon and had to be checked. No room in the suitcase. No time to find another before my flight. I had to leave her, wrapped only in bubble wrap and tape. Ten cuidado, porfa, I begged the baggage handlers. And maybe they were, but not careful enough. She arrived neck broken, braids broken, lilies broken. I glued what parts I could back together. I tried standing her inside, but the sight of cracks and missing pieces made me sad, so I took her to the garden. When I moved, she came too, waiting patiently while we turned sod, set the fence, and planted seeds. When the garden was ready, I found her a place, back in the perennials and flowers. She stands there still, my lady of the garden, broken and beautiful, with calendula and nasturtiums at her feet, the fennel at her back, and the sunflowers and amaranth standing tall above her.
TODAY AT MARKET and NEXT WEEK FOR MARKET PREORDER
10am – 2pm, 1100 Railroad Ave
Red Wheat ($7.50 / 750g)
Elwha River Spelt ($8 / 800g) - Elwha River spelt is a new variety released by WSU breeders in 2014 (the year the dam came down) under the Open Source Seed Initiative. It was bred for organic, dryland (no irrigation), low input (no soil amendment) conditions. I'm excited to be using a grain so in line with my food system values, and hope that with practice I'll be able to bake you a truly spectacular dinkelbrot.
Mountain Rye ($7.50 / 800)
Vollkornbrot ($8 / 800)
Seedy Buckwheat ($8 / 420g)
Gingersnap Cookies ($5 / 2)
Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies ($5 / 2)
Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies ($5 / 2)
Cornmeal Snack Cake with Apricots ($5)
Cornmeal Snack Cake with Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam ($5)
Brown Butter Shortbread ($9 / half dz)
NEXT WEDNESDAY PREORDER & PICKUP
Self-serve pickups in Birchwood, Columbia, Lettered Streets, South Hill, and Fairhaven.
Address and directions with your pickup reminder email Wednesday morning.
Order by Sunday night.
Toast: ROSEMARY & CORNMEAL
Sweets: BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE COOKIES & CHOCOLATE CHIP HAZELNUT COOKIES
How could I resist? They taste like baked apples.Check the social media tomorrow for pictures of the winter apple rye bread that's currently rising on the counter beside me in a dish towel lined bowl. And in the meantime, here's the recipe, made fresh this morning, so you, too, can warm your home with a good, hearty bread.
Owner | Baker
WINTER APPLE RYE
makes 1 large or 2 small loaves
150 g warm water
150 g ryemeal
10 g sourdough
Mix together and leave overnight (10-16 hours) in a warm place, until the mix has a strong, pleasantly sour taste.
275 g water, hot from the tap
350 g ryemeal
10 g salt
500 g apples, chopped or grated
all the preferment
(optional: a handful of toasted, chopped walnuts)
(optional: a handful of raisins or other dried fruit)
Mix all the ingredients together. Scoop into an oiled tin or a well floured basket. Proof until the dough is expanded and cracking and feels fragile when pressed (3 to 6 hours, depending on the temperature of your dough and home). Before the loaf has fully risen, preheat your oven all the way up. Bake hot for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 325F and bake for another 75 minutes, or until a thermometer in the bottom of the loaf reads 200F. Let cool completely before slicing.
The WINTER BREAD SUBSCRIPTION starts January 22 and runs for 10 weeks through March 25.
Pickup in Birchwood (the front step), Downtown (Cafe Velo), or in Fairhaven (Shirlee Bird Cafe).
Sign up ONLINE.
RED & WHITE subscription ($70)
MOUNTAIN RYE subscription ($70)
BAKER's CHOICE subscription ($80)
BAKER's CHOICE menu: all rye all winter long!
Jan 22: Rugbrod
Jan 29: Ring Rye
Feb 5: Apple Rye
Feb 12: Harvest Miche 1
Feb 19: Harvest Miche 2
Feb 26: Black Bread
March 4: Alpine Spice Rye
March 11: Rye & Oat
March 18: Korn Rye or Corn Rye??
March 25: Westphalian Pumpernickel!
I spent the week in a borrowed cabin on the western slope of Chuckanut Mountain. From the narrow deck I watched the sky change. I watched the water, and the boats, the islands slipping in and out of clouds. I watched a dozen kinds of birds and one busy chipmunk. When the night wind blew hard I opened the door and listened to the trees moving. When it rained, I ran up into Larabee’s tangle of trails and listened to the rain against leaves, breathing in the wet duff smell of the forest. Warm evenings I scrambled down to swim in the cold, green ocean.
Every morning I rode reluctantly north to Bellingham, and every evening, riding south through downtown and Fairhaven and onto Chuckanut Drive, I was relieved again to leave behind the concrete and cars and right angles of the city.
One morning, in the soft light just before sunrise, I stopped to watch a barred owl on the power line above the road. She watched me back, her deep set eyes shadowed. Cars blew by too fast, ruffling my feathers if not the owl’s. I felt an annoyed pity for the drivers, to be so seduced by convenience that they traded living inside world for passing through it, insulated by metal and speed.
I was drunk on clouds and trees, on the sound of rain and on orange-pink sunsets over the Olympics. I could stay here, I thought, packing my panniers for another ride north. I could stay here, just for a day or two, just for a few weeks, just for forever. A line of poetry caught my mind and held fast. “A little way away from everywhere,” I said silently to myself riding the Interurban, running past Fragrance Lake, sunning on the warm Chuckanut sandstone after a swim. “A little way away from everywhere,” I thought, drinking weak coffee and looking out over the gray blue islands as the sky lightened. Eventually, I looked the words up. Even in the woods I had a cell phone. It was a line from Mary Oliver’s “A Dream of Trees,” a poem warning against retreat from the hard and sorrowful human world. Had my subconscious purposefully pulled a piece of this poem up out of thousands of lines, the hundreds of poems I’ve read and forgotten? Or was it coincidence that on my little blue screen Mary Oliver echoed my own longing: “I would have time, I thought, and time to spare, / With only streams and birds for company, / To build of my life a few wild stanzas.”
But, of course, she goes on, “And then it came to me, that so was death, / A little way away from everywhere.” Ah, I thought, reading the poem through once, and again. Ah, well. The words felt true. I copied them out in my notebook and then sat, thinking about the peace of wild places, about what makes a good and meaningful life, about living fully inside the world. Reluctantly, I let go my soft, romantic daydream of a hermitage in the hills. There would be no hiding away in the forest from the hard-edges and injustices of the city. I would not stay forever here among the trees, but I would return.
“as the times implore our true involvement, / The blades of every crisis point the way. / I would it were not so, but so it is. / Who ever made music of a mild day?”
Owner | Baker
TODAY AT MARKET
Red & White
Herb & Olive Oil
Malted Chocolate Chip Cookie
Bittersweet Chocolate Cookie
Oat Scone with Blackberries & Plums
Savory Tomato Tart
This week in the Bread Subscription
Red & White
Baker's Choice: Herb & Olive Oil
We spent winter break in Chile. I was nineteen, shy, too self-conscious to use what little high school Spanish I had, and eager to explore. It was my first trip abroad without parents or school. After three weeks of backpacking and buses we returned to Santiago, a little grungy and tired but no worse for wear. In the hours before our flight home, we stashed our packs in the lockers at the train station and went wandering. Somewhere on that city ramble I bought a bag of pan de miel from a street vendor. They were like honey hardtack, I think: round, hard, and the size of my palm. They were probably just white flour, baking soda, water, honey, and a pinch of salt. If I ate them now, I doubt I'd recognize the taste. But the idea of them has stuck in my memory. When I remember that trip, I remember the murals of Valparaíso, the lonely beauty of Torres del Paine, the windy beaches and hand-cut shingles of Chiloe, the volcanoes and deep gorges and the massive araucaria. And I remember that last day: the sunshine, my hunger, and the pleasure of eating flat, hard, honey biscuits.
See you soon.
Owner | Baker
TODAY AT MARKET
Red & White
Mountain Rye + Vollkornbrot
Ring Rye (from the winter bread subscription)
Seedy Buckwheat (a recipe from my winter bakery tour, incidentally cereal-free)
Chocolate Malt Chocolate Chip Cookie
Bittersweet Chocolate Cookie
Hazelnut + Sour Cherry Cake
Brown Butter + Nibby Buckwheat Shortbread
Sign up through the end of May or order a single loaf.
Red & White
Rosemary Sea Salt (wheat)
I meant to keep writing during my winter bakery tour. I did write, some—notes, recipes, lists—I just didn't write with the focus or direction to send out the weekly newsletter. Time moves differently without the routines of work and home to mark its passage. A day of travel can hold a week’s worth of noticing, the way a moment of surprise or danger can jerk you out of the half-sleep of habit and into full, startling wakefulness. And yet, even as time stretched to accommodate the density of sensations—new landscapes, new smells, new foods, new conversations and ideas—I found myelf unmoored from the calendar. Saturdays came and went, unnoticed. My laptop, a clunky old Toshiba that no longer holds a charge, sat unopened at the bottom of my bag.
I set out on this trip in search of inspiration and ideas and found them. I visited bakers happy with the freedom and efficiency of their cottage businesses, and others grateful for the impact their bustling, 24-hour operations allowed them as employers, producers, and buyers. I met bakers who worked through the night to deliver product hot from the oven, and others who never woke before five, choosing to sell bread the next day for the sake of their sanity and sleep. I visited wholesale bakeries, market bakeries, retail bakeries, and bakeries that combined all three. I met bakers who milled their own flour and others who purchased from nearby farmer-millers or from a regional mill, bakers with wood-fired ovens and others working with huge, gas deck ovens, radical, whole-grain evangelizers and practical businesswomen who appreciated the approachability and ease of white flour. Sometimes I stayed out of the way, watching and sidestepping workers, sometimes I was right in the thick of production, revising recipes, mixing, shaping, and loading the oven. I ate so much bread and butter I had to let out my belt.
Home again after visiting so many diverse baking businesses, I find that though I’m still thoroughly daunted by the prospect of building a retail bakery, I'm feeling more resigned to my ignorance than paralyzed by it. What I don’t yet know—and my unknowing is vast and deep—I can learn. Hopefully.
The Spring Bread Subscription starts next Wednesday and runs through the end of May. The Baker’s Choice is made up of breads I tasted or talked about on this bakery tour, from dense, seedy ryes to a tender, wholemeal brioche. Sign up for the whole nine weeks, or just order bread (at a slightly higher price) one week at a time.
For those who are curious about rye baking and science, I’ve posted the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series of Up Rye Zines on the website (free) and in the webstore ($5.50). It’s a thoroughly nerdy project that I’m very excited about, and not only because researching rye bread makes for an excellent distraction from financial projections, loan applications, and hunting for commercial real estate.
The market season starts up again next weekend! Hopefully we'll have a Saturday as glorious as this one, but I’ll be there, rain or shine, with a full lineup of breads and pastries.
See you soon.
Owner | Baker
I have been back now for two weeks, after two weeks of travel. The traveling days were bright and distinct. Even the mundane hours—long train rides, waiting in airports, sitting on rooftops under a different sky—are heavy threads of memory. Whereas these days at home have been light and comfortable, and so ordinary I could snip them out of the fabric of my life, and leave not even a wrinkle to mark the mending.
See you at market.
Owner | Baker
TODAY AT MARKET
Red & White, (Smoky!) Vollkornbrot
Mountain Rye, seconds*
Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies
Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies
Toasted Farro + Hazelnut ($10)
Mountain Rye ($7)
*I managed to overferment and collapse the entire batch of Mountain Rye. It will be on super sale, for those who don't mind a flying roof on their bread. This means that solid rye loaves (Vollkornbrot) are in limited supply, so come early if you want one!
NOTES FROM MOROCCO:
We came down from the mountains fast. Hassan drove the taxi with focus and deliberation, both hands heavy on the wheel. He didn’t slow for school children or blind, cliff-side corners. He played chicken with donkey carts and heavily loaded trucks, and won. The High Atlas were austere and very beautiful. I wanted to linger over the flash-flood gorges cutting deep and rust-red into yellow hillsides, the steep, diagonal bands of uplifted sedimentary rock, the almond orchards blooming fresh pink against rocky fields, and the brilliant green of the terraces, but each time I thought to ask Hassan to slow I hesitated, nervous to disturb his concentration, and the scene was gone.
The villages we flew past were the same and different. This high, all were built in the traditional boxy style: tall earth and stone walls, white-washed windows, flat roofs with dry plant fringes to wick away the rain. And each was entirely of its place, the houses built from the rock and dirt excavated to make their foundations. Villages built on red earth had rammed, red earth walls and flat, red earth roofs, villages on grey-green hillsides were laid with tight-fitted, grey-green slate, yellow hillsides made yellow houses, grey made grey, orange made orange. Once, we passed a village straddling geographic time, and it was striped, pink houses on bottom, yellow on top, just like the sedimentary layers below.
We drove by riverside villages with fields terraced, precariously, directly into the floodplain, and ridgeline villages with fields walled into the steep hills below.
We drove along the top of a fairy-tale gorge that plunged down to our right, deep and deeper to an unseen river. The village sat high on the valley wall, a honeycomb of tan houses against tan rock and a few, tough junipers. Below the village, the grain terraces fell down down down, all the way to the gorge bottom, glowing heart-stopping green, like tiny, emerald scales.
We drove below a rust-red village on a rust-red hill, growing up out of a forest of huge prickly pear, below the deep, blue sky. The combination reminded me, strongly and disorientingly, of the American Southwest.
We drove through villages with empty streets, streets filled with children just out of school, streets blocked by flocks of sheep and goats, unperturbed by the impatient taxi inching too-close behind. We drove through villages with men lounging in doorways, men slumped together on steps, gossiping, men leaning together against sunny walls, the pointed hoods of their djellabas raised against the wind. We drove through games of street football, the boys scattering before Hassan’s horn. We drove past women and girls hauling water, carrying brush, tugging along reluctant children and donkeys, and crouched by cold creeks washing laundry and beating rugs.
We drove till the hills gentled, the fields grew wider and more casually terraced, cinder-block and concrete replaced rammed-earth and stone, and we could see the central plain stretching out into city smog below. We drove out of the mountains, and their harsh and wild beauty. I wasn’t ready. I wanted to turn back. But already the road was straightening and widening, and Hassan was picking up speed.
Owner | Baker
The SPRING BREAD SUBSCRIPTION starts Wednesday. This is your last chance to sign up!
BAKER's CHOICE subscription ($72)
MOUNTAIN RYE subscription ($63)
VOLLKORNBROT subscription ($63)
Available by pre-order for Wednesday, 4/4:
WILD & SEEDY ($8)
MOUNTAIN RYE ($7)
And Raven Breads will be back at the FARMERS MARKET every weekend, starting next Saturday!