16 November 13

From Field to Flour

Two years ago we started getting involved with Farm 2.6, a new educational community farm a few miles west of Davis. I had the odd idea then of putting in a small wheatfield, with the idea of baking some bread from wheat I had grown myself. Today I ground my first batch of flour from the wheat!

Wheat berries There is a reason why grains do not figure in most home gardening efforts, despite being an important diet staple. It is an awful lot of work to produce grains in any sort of quantity at all. (For those who are nevertheless still interested, one good text is Gene Logsdon’s Small-Scale Grain Raising). The timeline of our efforts was as follows. In late winter of 2012 we sowed the field in red clover as a cover crop and to put nitrogen into the soil. It then lay fallow until late January of this year, when we planted the field in a hard red spring wheat. It didn’t end up as a very densely planted field, and there were many, many weeds in it, but wheat we got, and several of us harvested it by hand in early July. The wheat then sat in the barn until last week when at a work party it was threshed and winnowed. The threshing was done by dancing on the heads of the wheat placed in a pillowcase; the winnowing was done with the aid of a small fan. The resulting wheat berries are at left.

Grinding the wheat We have a small hand-cranked grain mill at home and I set to grinding today. This too is hard work, and in about an hour-and-a-half I grinded about 3 cups of flour. I ended up borrowing one of our pieces of cat furniture to clamp the mill to; the cats were curious what use I was making of it. Below is some of the flour. Next up comes baking a loaf of bread! The ground flour

Posted by at 09:18 PM in Food | Link | Comment [1]

14 August 11

Sunday Challah

Whole wheat challah Now that I’m back from vacation in Pennsylvania, I’m continuing on with my project to work my way through the recipes in the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. Today I baked their whole wheat challah recipe. Despite it being entirely from whole wheat flour, it tastes amazingly like challah. There are four eggs in the dough, and it was incredibly sticky to work with.

Posted by at 10:20 PM in Food | Link | Comment [1]

5 June 11

Loaves For Learning

Hearty molasses bread For some reason I’ve gotten it in my head to work my through the recipes in the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, baking a couple loaves of bread each weekend. I’ve been doing this for several weeks now. At left is what I baked today, a molasses bread recipe. This is made with coarse stone-ground flour and has an overnight first rise.

Posted by at 10:14 PM in Food | Link | Comment [2]

24 December 09

But We Forgot The Beer Beforehand

Yesterday we went to see “Invictus,” the movie directed by Clint Eastwood about Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s largely Afrikaner rugby team, the Springboks, during the 1995 Rugby World Cup played in South Africa. It’s a great story, and pretty much all true. Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon do credible jobs playing respectively Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar, the team captain of the Springboks. In classic sports movie trope fashion, the underdog Springboks manage to win the final, and more significantly help to unify the country in those fragile post-apartheid years.

As it happens there’s a bit of local color to the story. There’s a guy in Davis named Michael Lewis who writes a column every month or so in the local paper on beer and brewing (Lewis started the brewing science curriculum here at UCD). His last piece was about the story of the movie. It turns out Lewis was actually in attendance at the final of the World Cup, having been an amateur rugby player from a long ways back and for some reason was on hand in South Africa at that time. As he puts it — “The event is quite clear in my memory — despite a prodigious amount of pre-game beer sunk with my son and my brother-in-law, at his club — because it is, without a doubt, the seminal moment of my life associated with a sporting event.”

He concludes: “I look forward immensely to seeing the movie…partly, I suppose, because I’m an old rugby player, but mainly because I feel some ownership of it, odd as that might seem. Perhaps you’ll enjoy it as well. Look out for Jonah Lomu, the SAA 747 *, and the No. 6 jersey. And to make the experience thoroughly authentic, have a few beers before you go.”

* The bit in the movie about the jetliner is true.

Posted by at 09:15 PM in Music and Film | Link | Comment

19 September 09


Before I visited the new Getty Museum in Los Angeles I happened across a New Yorker article on the landscape design for the museum, the famous altercations between architect Richard Meier and the landscape architect Robert Irwin. (Architects can have really big egos, exacerbated to infinity by open purses.) It described cascading gardens that filled hillsides, that echoed and mimicked the chaparral landscape on top of which this great white city (“Oh, it’s just like Jerusalem”) had been plonked, glowering above the 405.

When I got there, eager to see this vast transformation (desecration) of the landscape, I asked a guard how to get to the rest of it. Oh, this is it, he said. It? It seemed tiny compared with what I’d been expecting. No expense had been spared for sure, but it seemed way overwritten. It also seemed way out of scale with the rest of the structures. (To be fair to Irwin, it seems that the number of edifices multiplied over time, while he’d been given an initial set of plans to work from, so it was never going to be to scale.)

Disappointment. Arrgh.*

Most of my friends in Davis rave, rave, rave about the Davis Farmers Market. It was sold to me repeatedly when we were planning to move here. Best in the country, best in the state, biggest, best, best, best. I remember thinking when I first got here well, this is nice, but where’s the rest of it?

It’s probably unfair to compare any farmers market in the U.S. with what I grew up around in Spain and France. The “smelly markets” that made us wrinkle our noses (brats from JFK-era sanitized California supermarkets) filled large warehouses, overflowed from them. Fish, driven in that morning from the coast. Meats. Stalls numbering in the dozens all selling fresh vegetables and fruit, artfully stacked and arranged. They were vast, overwhelming, gorgeous. We took them for granted.

Farmers markets here are a 70s resurgence, a protest, the anti-supermarket. If the Davis one is the biggest and best, I’m not well encouraged to visit others. (Numenius tells me the one in Bloomington he visited in in September was excellent, but that was probably because many of the sellers were Amish, and they never were shopping in supermarkets in the first place.)

So, a typical experience of shopping at the DFM: I look around. I try and fit what I see into an ensemble that will work for lunch or dinner. (We only eat organic veggies and my choices here are limited to about 3 or 4 stalls, so the comparison is even more unfair, but still.) I can never quite find what I’d envisaged. I buy things anyway. They go into my bike basket and I have just spent $30 on stuff I didn’t plan on buying, without finding what I needed, so I bike over to the Coop to get the rest. Invariably. Every time.

The Davis Food Coop happens to sell produce from the three local organic growers who show up on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Farmers Market. It also sells produce from about 8 other local organic growers. And about 12 other not-so-local ones. I never leave there unable to find what I went in for. Sure, it’s really a supermarket. But it’s also a community in which I’m invested.

This morning I will go to the Farmers Market, hauling along Sweet Caroline my new spinning wheel for Spin in Public day. (Not on my bike, but when a bag arrives next week for my wheel, this will not be out of the question.) I will run into, probably, 25 people I know (more if they come in more than one at a time). I will joke and laugh and revel in the community that convenes in the Central Park area of Davis every Saturday and Wednesday. I may buy lunch. I may even buy flowers. But I will probably not, apostate that I am, buy produce. They may revoke my citizen of Davis card…

* Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Posted by at 07:27 AM in Nature and Place | Link | Comment [4]

8 August 09

A Fine Day By The Bay

We went on an wonderful outing today to the Giants game in San Francisco, escaping the heat for a pleasant sunny SF day with the fog content to hang just outside the Gate, taking a lovely ferry ride from Vallejo direct to the ballpark, meeting up with our friend Barbara at the game and returning back to Davis with her, and best of all, watching the Giants come from behind and beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-2 in convincing fashion! The bullpen was solid, unlike last night’s meltdown.

I hope everybody’s Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbors’ Porch Day went according to plan.

Posted by at 10:23 PM in Baseball | Link | Comment

10 June 09

In Search of the Cachapa

I went to a retirement party on Sunday, a friend who has worked in communications for sustainable agriculture and who gathered her various communities at her home. We spilled out into the Village Homes common area, laughed, talked, caught up. I’ll miss her searing intelligence, cheek (well, chutzpah), and questioning in meetings, her role as chief bullshit detector…

One of the delicious morsels served at Lyra’s party was carrot cachapas. Cachapas are Venezuelan pancakes usually made with fresh corn. Corn’s not quite available here, fresh, so the chef at Tuco’s used carrot puree instead. They were tiny carrot pancakes encasing a fresh goat cheese (which didn’t taste goaty in the slightest; I was surprised to learn it, and I have a very strong goat-sensor), like a sandwich.

They were incredible. I am going to try to replicate them, kind of smooth carrot latkes with cheese…

Posted by at 06:12 PM in Food | Link | Comment [1]

20 May 09

Even The Petals Are Edible

Guava blossom Our guava bushes are blooming profusely!

Posted by at 11:55 PM in Gardening | Link | Comment [2]

8 November 08


I’m in Maine, here to visit family before the snow flies. I’ve been making sushi with my nephew this evening, which I consider to be a step up from when I did this four years ago… photos will appear when I can figure out how to do it.

Simon's sushi table At some point I’ll describe what it was like to travel across the country sitting next to two young evangelical christians, one of whom wore Sarah Palin glasses, on the day after the election…

Finished socks Update: finished the socks, which I gave to my sister who is modeling them.

Posted by at 03:39 PM in Food | Link | Comment [4]

5 November 08

Onion Soup

my presidential vote Following an election night tradition she learned from Arthur Goldhammer, Pica made and brought onion soup to an election party we had over at Mary’s this evening. We’re all verklempt at the result.

Posted by at 12:08 AM in Politics | Link | Comment [4]