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Study in Grey

 

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52 Loaves: A review

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52 Loaves by William Alexander. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2010.

A few years ago, I took a notion that I would like to work on breadmaking skills. Once the weather turns cold the appeal of the fireside is undeniable and a loaf of bread baking in the oven, filling the house with that warm, fresh-baked aroma, certainly helps to complete the ideal. There is a certain mystique around breadmaking, but the process is actually quite simple, at least for a basic loaf. I wrote about baking bread on a snowy pre-spring day back in March. You will find that post here.

A year or two ago, when I expressed an interest in breadmaking, my sister gifted me Bill Alexander’s book, 52 Loaves, for Christmas. Like many readers, I have a shelf full of books awaiting me. After joining the queue for an extended period, 52 Loaves finally made it to the top of my reading list. With another winter at hand, I enjoyed this foray into Alexander’s experiences with bread.

The book’s title, 52 Loaves, suggests to me that Alexander experiments with a different bread every week for a year. That’s not the case. Rather, Bill sets baking the perfect loaf of one particular type of bread as his goal and sets out to achieve this perfect loaf by experimenting with the baking process over a year of weekly sessions.

The loaf in question is peasant bread, or Pain de Campagne, which uses just four basic ingredients: flour, yeast, salt and water. Alexander’s search for perfection leads him in many directions across the year. He experiments with growing his own wheat and processing it into flour. He visits a yeast production factory in Montreal. He builds his own backyard oven. He experiments with the baker’s percentage. He develops his own levain, or sourdough starter. He takes a baking course in Paris at the famous Ritz Hotel. He visits a traditional market and communal baking oven in Tunisia. And finally, he shares the art of breadmaking with monks in France!

Alexander is a convivial and informative guide to the many aspects of breadmaking. His book is at once an entertaining read and a source of interesting facts and data about the staff of life, bread. Quite highly recommended for anyone who has ever enjoyed a loaf of bread.

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Our New Boy

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This autumn, we welcomed a four-legged addition to the family. What a beauty he is! Meet Finnegan, a 4 1/2-year-old arabian-thoroughbred cross (anglo-arab).

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Finnegan has a very sweet personality, and takes all that comes his way in stride. He is calm and intelligent.

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He is currently living at a local stable so that we can take advantage of an indoor arena and training over the winter.

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Finnegan has a good start at basic work under saddle. My daughter Ponygirl and I are beginning work at building his dressage foundation. Above, Ponygirl rides with visiting Clinic guest coach Jade Deter.

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We don’t know much about Finnegan’s background. We purchased him from a foster home after he had been rescued from an auction frequented by meat buyers. How he came to be in such dire circumstances is a mystery. He is a bit underweight for his size and age, and we expect him to do some filling out over the next year.

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A lucky star must have guided him to us and a chance at a new life.

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We look forward to many happy years with our new boy.

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Here I am in the saddle, above, and Finnegan with Ponygirl, below.

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Ready For Winter

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After a cold and windy weekend closed out a cold and snowy week, today we are being treated to a mild, sunny day. The snow has quickly melted and although it is still windy, the sun is blissfully warm.

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It’s amazing how some plants can cope with the cold. In spite of having been buried in snow and subjected to freezing temperatures, these little epimedium plants appear unscathed. The parsley is still edible!

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While this bright day is lovely, we know this balmy weather won’t last long. However, we’re ready for winter, as ready as we ever will be.

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A few weeks ago, I had a load of bark mulch delivered and I spread about half of it around the garden. If this mild spell lasts for a few days, I might do a little more mulching, but otherwise, the remaining pile will be handy in the spring.

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A variety of birdfeeders are in place and are already attracting an appreciative flock of diners. You can see that these goldfinches are ready for winter too. They have lost their breeding-season brilliant yellow and are now dressed in a muted gold feathercoat, ready to be one of the flock.

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Here’s our little kayak, hanging in the rafters over the wood pile.

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Here’s even more wood! Garden ornaments have been returned to the little garden shed, where they’ll be protected from the worst of the weather.

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This hay storage building is new this fall. It was installed just a few weeks ago and our hay supply has been moved inside. It will offer drier, more convenient storage than the old, rather battered outbuilding.

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Also new this autumn is this run-in shelter for Czarina and her two donkey pals. They’ll be able to eat their morning hay in comfort, protected from the wind and snow. But they’re not there this morning. They’re taking advantage of the last of the pleasant weather to graze for a few hours more.

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November Sky

 

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