Today is Thursday. That means we reached peak bakery output in our week. Monday I had some bakery orders for Girl Scouts. Pita bread for thirty and piles of hi fiber, tasty, seedy banana muffins for the same gals who headed out to camp and kayak and hike. Then Tuesday, working on inventory and making ingredient orders, shuffling papers, tending to accounting. Bill paying. Kids' college financial aid loose ends, and unbelievably big piles of ridiculous things I have to sign and send for this and that. Then I come up with a loose list of what I plan to sell on Thursday. Wednesday I scrub and clean and clear away unfinished paperwork and begin to mill. I make cookie dough and stick in the fridge to ripen. I mill more grains with my stone burr mill from Meadows Mills in N. Wilkesboro, NC and then mix warm whole grain flour with coconut oil, yogurt and iced water to form a tender pie crust for fifty veggie tarts.
Three twenty eight am comes early for this night owl. I tried to go to sleep at 8:45, probably drifted off by 9:30pm.
Thank God for ritual. The alarm goes off. I don't think. If I think, I will go back to sleep for another two hours because that would be logical. I get up anyway, shuffle directly into the kitchen. Put on the kettle. Turn on the bakery lights and pull out gallons of local raw milk to warm. Take the french press coffee pot, fill with water and shuffle out to garden to pour the watery old grounds onto whichever plant cries out to me the loudest.
This morning it was the tomato plant in the front bed, on the side by the mailbox.
By the time I have shuffled through those steps, the kettle begins to whistle and the milk is warmed. I grind the coffee beans, pour the water and let the coffee steep while I take warmed milk into the bakery, and begin to perform alchemy.
I have three giant mixing bowls that will occupy several gallons of mixture. Summer sales are down as customers are traveling, and distracted and out and about. So instead of larger mix, I place two pans filled with twelve cups each of warmed milk from Z-Bar Ranch into two bowls. Add a couple of cups of Fain's raw honey to each. A couple of tablespoons of yeast. Into the silver bowl I add around 18 cups of spelt flour. Into the white plastic bowl with a crack I add 16 cups of golden wheat flour. Into the other white plastic bowl I pour 7 1/2 cups warmed water, add yeast and 8 cups of the golden wheat flour to begin the sponge for the italian peasant bread.
By this time, the coffee is fully steeped, and while I am still not having to think or really be awake, I do know it is time to press and pour myself a very large cup of coffee, leaving plenty of room for heavy whipping cream. By now, 3:47 am.
I beat the sponge for the italian bread fifteen minutes or so. The third pan of milk should be warmed by now, ready to be transformed into Grainier Seedier Milk and Honey bread sponge.
At this point, the music is cranking. Dixie Chick station on Pandora.
For some reason, every song seems to make me sad. What the heck? I was hoping for energetic, girl band power music! But there are a couple of songs that really tap me into grief mode.
So I cry. And keep on working. I have a bowl of old grain that needs to be tossed to the chickens, so I walk outside into the dark, pre-dawn backyard, and marvel for a moment at the waning moon, already high in the velvety black sky. I think about the outing Thomas and I made on Tuesday evening. I really wanted to go, then, right before time to drive to Marfa, I told Thomas I was just too tired to head out. He let me know he had his heart set on our excursion, so I went with him, out to the truck to make the 26 mile drive west.
We didn't really know where we were going, but the event had been advertised. A Japanese movie made in 1953. Ugetsu. Subtitled. Free.
We get to the location. Find a big yard with a barn door open. We hear sounds of people milling around. I feel kind of strange and foreign. We don't know a soul. We pick a couple of plastic chairs and I notice an acquaintance who walked in. Ahh. Relief!
The movie is set in 17th century, civil war torn Japan. I find myself delighted to recognize many Japanese words and understand them! The fable is a story of two families who get caught up in the ambitious search for fame and riches, one man wishing to become rich as a potter, the other as a soldier. At the onset of the story, there is a prophetic word given, suggesting that the search for said riches would bring them all to ruin. The sassy wives try to encourage the husbands to live a simple life, but the men are hell-bent on the path to success.
I find that even though the movie is dated, filmed over sixty years ago, Thomas and I are fully engaged in the story. As it progresses, we find ourselves in the middle of a Japanese fairy tale, with the men reeling in their moment of glory, seemingly achieving all they ever desired, with fame and glory and doting women and all. Of course they have a few twinges as they remember their wives and the other life, but assume they will have plenty of time to make all things right.
Meanwhile, we witness scenes where the wives suffer terribly for the foolhardy choices of their husbands. It is painful to watch.
As the story comes to an end, well, I guess most of you will probably never watch an esoteric Japanese film from the 50's, so perhaps this won't spoil things for you too much....Well, the one husband, who becomes a glorious soldier, finds his abandoned wife in a brothel, broken and hard. They somehow manage to painfully reconcile, and return to their farm and the day dreamer finds purpose and joy in working beside his wife. The other husband manages to barely escape a ghost lover who wishes to take him to her kingdom in the other realm, and finds his way back home, where he is greeted by the ghost of his wife who was murdered by desperate soldiers. He repents and finds his purpose in his work and caring for his son.
And we are left to see that some lessons just aren't learned the easy way.
That pain and suffering are most often the only path to enlightenment. Because we are not quick to listen to advice? Because we forget to think of others?
The movie left me a bit stunned and pensive.
And I felt so grateful to share that experience with Thomas! And enjoyed pondering many things while I continued the baking.
After the italian comes the ancient seedy. Then the Spelt Almond Raisin Rye. While the dough mixes and yeast rises I prepare brownie mixes and pancake mixes. Then make a giant pan of almond raisin granola. I boil the syrup, just to the right point, add vanilla, and mix with oats and cinnamon. The aromas are overwhelming!
And so the day continues, the sun rises at some point, the flour and water and yeast turn into bouncy balls of dough, cut out and weighed, kneaded into loaves or rolled into pizza crusts. The oven whines, the heat builds, and steam and amazing smells fill the neighborhood. I send out my email list to customers and post the menu on facebook.
At ten thirty or so in the morning I pause to eat lunch. The kids are up. The girls get ready to go to work. I wash a big pile of pots.
By twelve thirty the bread is all baked, all 75 loaves or so. I get the baby quiches going, make pound cakes and cookies and a giant jar of green tea for me, served over ice. The rain begins to fall and I run outside to catch buckets of water to dump into the fish pond. The rain falls so furiously I get completely soaked! Thank goodness this is right before shower time. I think I collect fifty gallons of water in the five gallon buckets before my break comes to an end.
Thank God for gully washers!! My garden won't need to be watered today!
Customers pop in early and by three thirty I have a steady stream. All are my friends. How lucky am I? They are happy and grateful to pick up their bread and other good stuff. I am exhausted and happy and grateful for my job.
So there you go.
I want to write. I truly do. But I don't know where to begin...
So perhaps if I just start where I am that will help prime the pump. I miss you guys.