The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Back after the long hot (not) summer

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OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Back after the long hot (not) summer

First I want to say hello to all of you again after being "away at my summer job".  I've missed you all, and have not even had much time to just lurk, let alone post.  I've purposely held back from posting knowing I could, at any time, be completely unable to follow up or hold up my end on a discussion.  The latest part of Spring and the main part of Summer are my very busiest times of the year, when weeks and even entire months can and do go by without a break.  I've had the liberty of rearranging my schedule some this year so I have had some daylight time off, as a trade for night time on, to get some things done around the house, where I work.  That's the only reason I've been able to continue baking at least, to keep my hand in and the store-bought bread out.


The juggling of my work and off time schedule comes at the price of sleep too often, but it has permitted me to accomplish some baking things I'm proud of.  The biggest one we celebrated just tonight, with:


First Fire!! Woohooo!  The WFO got lit for the first time tonight with a small drying fire.


First Fire in New WFO


Thanks to a herculean effort the last couple of weeks, and the blessing of a wonderful neighbor who pitched in and helped, my earth oven is nearing completion.  Whenever I've been able to steal or swap for a couple of hours of daylight off duty time I've been working on this, since back in March originally.  Finally the rains quit and I could make some progress, then my "summer job" started and it has been pretty slow going.  I had to get it finished enough to use this winter before the rains come again!  I'm there, and will probably get it insulated in the next couple of weeks.  It must finish drying out first though, and this was just a small drying fire for less than a half hour to speed things along some.  It got things warmed up really well though.


This has been the highlight of my summer, without a doubt.  I've done some baking, of which this (back to front, RLB Beer Bread, RLB Sweet Potatoe bread as dinner rolls, and some of "my" sourdough) is my most recent highlight,



and I continue to explore the world of bread.  This oven will expand my horizons and challenge me even more.  I look forward to it with excitement.


I've many pictures of the entire building process from footing to, yes, first fire, thanks to the diligence and skill of my wife/photographer.  I plan on posting them somewhere (Flicker, or ...?) one of these days when summer is completely behind me and I have time to write the story.  Till then, well, we'll just take it as it comes.  It is starting to come easier as the harvest season here in The Valley heads into the home stretch.


It's good to be back on "The Loaf".  Thank's for stopping by for a visit.


OldWoodenSpoon

Comments

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Thanks, for posting again, OWS. Wow, it must be one busy schedule for you.


Your breads look surprisingly well done! Not from the WFO, are they? looking forward to your first WFO Bake.


khalid

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Thank you Mebake! 


Yes, my business schedule is very busy up to about this time of the year.  It keeps the home fires burning though.  Interestingly enough, it was almost exactly 1 year and 1 week ago that I joined TFL.  I had been lurking as time permitted but not till this time of the year did I have time to actually start participating.  That, and I needed some serious help getting my sourdough starter up and thriving.


I only just lit the first fire in the WFO, so this bake was all done in the kitchen oven.  What about them is surprising?  I've been working on getting a bold bake on my bread without drying it out inside, and  have been improving.  These were almost exactly the darkness I've been aiming at.


I can't wait to start learning to bake in the WFO.  I'm very excited about it.


OldWoodenSpoon

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Welcome back OWS


I had noted that you had gone missing in action but on the strength of your post you are exonerated. Well done sir both on the great breads and the new partner in your life. I'd love to know what you do for a living it sounds an interesting and demanding vocation, ( but im just a nosey b----rd ) I am fascinated though at the variety of callings bread followers come from. Lets hope that it doesn't come between you and your new toy, i will certainly look forward to seeing your oven building adventure. I think the last time we corresponded it was to do with temperatures and yeast quantities, i thought perhaps i had frightened you off, but it appears only into hibernation any way very well done old chap!       


kind regards Yozza

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Thank you Yozza!


It is good to be back.  Thank you for the kind words, and the pardon too. :)  You could not frighten me away from here!  I still have your "Simple Factor" notes taped to the front of my baking log binder, and I put it to good use.  As for my work, I'm "in computers".  I'm an independant contractor Oracle Database Administrator (DBA) specialist, as well as a custom software developer.  All my clients are in California agriculture in one way or another.  When the harvest season comes around I get busy; really busy, until harvest starts to wind down.


Happy baking!
OldWoodenSpoon

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Thats great  i feel very pleased that you have found the info usefull and even better if it is in some way contributing to better bread making and if the loaves in the photo are anything to go by i would say you have well and truely tamed the tiger. Oracle eh we are supposed to be changing to Oracle soon for our finanacial and purchasing functions at work. we have used Multisoft currently Finace1 next stop Oracle.


So when you get busy and get out to your clients in ag do you actually get to speak to the men on the land with the dirt under their fingernails or is it at suit and tie / corporate level? Great oppertunity otherwise to score some grain for a bit of home milling.


I recently scored an attachment for the kenwoodchef for grinding grain, have yet to use it though, milling is a whole new fascinating world and a craft that really needs a bit more recognition as it gives us our primary building block in fact our keystone for good bread.


When is harvest season over there? we are still in the growing phase here and this week is going to be a big factor with a whole week of sunshine and days of 25 degrees and no rain at all (WA) anyway good to have you back kind regards Yozza  

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Yozza, it is always harvest season somewhere in California, USA!  This state is really big, (but not the biggest) and the irrigated portions of the southern deserts can bear nearly all year round.  For myself though, up here in the northern-central part of the state, it runs generally from late March with crops like spinach and asparagus and ends in the late Fall (October/November) with almonds, walnuts, pink beans, etc. (This is far, far from a complete survey or even high-level summary of California agriculture which, I beleive, is one of the most widely varied agricultural industries in the world.) 


I don't generally get into the fields, although we have significant automation and instrumentation work in process in the field, so that could well change.  My work deals primarily with the "back end" parts of systems, so I spend most of my time staring at a monitor at my desk, either programming or working on a myriad of administration details.  I grew up on a small truck farm though, and have spent many happy hours and days in the dirt, and often have plenty under my own fingernails.


Thanks for the compliments Yozza, and good luck with the mill attachment.  I am sure you will find it interesting. 


OldWoodenSpoon

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Bread 'Not from the WFO'....  The oven is not yet ready for baking, it is iin the process of having the oven and insulation dried, it is being 'cured' before it can be baked in'..this usually requires the finished oven to sit about 7 days and then a series of firings to bring the heat up slowly, which allows the oven to dry slowly, this prevents damage to the wfo.  Usually about 7 firings each getting larger 'hotter' cures the oven...every oven is a little different, but that's what OWS is in the process of doing.


Sylvia

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

The WFO and your loaves are gorgeous!   Now comes the really fun part, looking forward to your WFO baking...you must be very excited, congratulations and happy baking!


Sylvia

arlo's picture
arlo

My goodness the loaves, oven and everything is glorious! I look forward to your future posts and efforts baking inside your oven.

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Thanks to all of you


for your kind words and enthusiasm.  Arlo, you can count on me posting my journey toward learning my oven and how to use it.  I can't wait to get it completely finished so I can start baking in it, and I will certainly share it here.  One of the things I have noticed in researching and building my oven is that there are not very many really complete stories on the web.  Most stop with first fire or first pizza, and the trials of developing familiarity with the nuances of a WFO are not well covered.  Good or bad, I plan on making a contribution to help fill the gap I feel is there.


Sylvia, a special thanks to you, not only for the praise which I value all the more for having seen your own work, but also for the excellent explanation you provided for precisely where I am right now in the oven project.  That is exactly why I am not yet trying to bake in my new oven.  As you will read here, I should have seen your commentss sooner.


I still have several drying fires to go to finish curing my oven, and I nearly incurred disaster this morning with too hot a fire too soon.  I opened up a pretty good crack with too much fire too soon, and nearly lost the doorway arch.  That's another story though, and I don't have the pictures worked up yet.  It will be salvagable, and it will never show under the insulation, but it scared the pants off me when my keystone bricks started to drop down!


Thanks to all!
OldWoodenSpoon

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

That's a great-looking oven, OWS!  I hope you have many rewarding bakes with it.


While I know that farming has its rhythms and cycles, it hadn't occurred to me that it would be equally demanding on a DBA.  I guess I was assuming that most of the work would be off-season instead of right in the middle of getting the crops in.


Glad to see you back and in action.


Paul

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Thanks Paul!  I do look forward to using my oven, If I can keep from destroying it before I ever get the chance!  Too much enthusiasm, and not enough patience.  Oh well, hard lessons are learned the most thoroughly.


Yes, agriculture has it's rythms, but in my end of the spectrum (mostly in the processing/packing and outside-the-farm-gate systems) it is more like rock 'n roll than a waltz!  I deal a lot with factory floor systems interfaces, and with "mainstream" business applications like order processing, accounting and inventory management.  When they are busy, I am busy.


Happy baking!
OldWoodenSpoon

belfiore's picture
belfiore

OWS,


Your breads are simply beautiful! I look forward to seeing your WFO progress. It looks as though you have a wonderful start.


I'm in AG in the SJV as well, although from the sales floor and il retanursery management perspectives. Our busy season begins about the first of March and is crazy busy until about July. We call it the 100 days of hell. Things slow for us when the temps go up...most people don't look to be outside in triple digit temps unless it's in the pool!


I'm looking forward to being in the kitchen again baking as the temps cool for fall & winter.


Good luck!


Toni

OldWoodenSpoon's picture
OldWoodenSpoon

Thank you Toni; glad to meet you.

The Ag business is unique and comes, as PMcCool said elsewhere, with it's own rhythms and cycles. You and I both get started about the same time of the year, but I guess I have the harvest season component (about 100 days itself) of my work that keeps me busy till mid-September into October (November in the really looong years like 2009).  I'd be lost without it though.  I grew up in it, and it has always been "the way it is" for me.


Thank you for your compliments, and I join you in looking forward to being able to warm the house from the kitchen.  I love fall & winter baking seasons too!  Baking at 2AM in the summer, because you can open up the house to cool off is challenging.  The WFO will help me take that outside in the summer time.  I'm looking forward to it with barely controllable eagerness.


OldWoodenSpoon