Oh dreary days. Each day seems to be a carbon copy of the other – cool, foggy mornings, clearing to hazy sunshine. However, for the last two days, the cloud cover has so thick it’s brought light to heavy drizzling. Today looks to be a much better day with the sun peeking through the clouds. It’s perfect weather for salad and cool weather crops and cooking in the cob oven.
On Monday, Justin fired up the oven (which he likes to do– what is it with guys and fire?) and I baked four tasty herb breads: two Irish soda breads. The herb breads were delicious with warmed up homemade vegetable soup for dinner. For dessert we made crepes with peach sauce. I could have cooked and warmed up more tasty goods but the weather changed, started to drizzle, then it was crucial to cover the cob oven. The loaves were a wee bit burnt on the bottom. With a little research I learned that I can’t determine the correct temperature using a basic thermometer that we have placed in the oven. Seems that the thermometer is reading the air temp of the oven, not the marble slab.
Reading a copy of THE BREAD BUILDERS, I came upon a valuable tip for my next attempt which would help me determine if the slab is too hot– “the flour test.” It stated that one should sprinkle flour on the interior surface and it should turn a light brown in 15 seconds. If that happens then the slab temperature is correct. Cooking with fire and in such an earthen oven is a more intimate experience (getting to know this particular oven) and I am slowing building a relationship with this oven, my oven.
Ray dropped by Monday afternoon to bring the last pieces of metal for the cob covering. Once it’s erected we’ll see if it will do the job of keeping the rain off. We did “mock rain” test using the garden hose, but I still am a bit apprehensive if it will keep off the rain that blows in from the sides. I still have to seal the oven with boiled linseed. So that’s something I need to tackle soon before the winter rains descend on SoCal.
Another load of sweet smelling conifer mulch was delivered yesterday. Since early this dark and foggy morn, the guys have been moving the load from the driveway to the backyard, filling all empty containers on the property.
These loads of mulch will be valuable topsoil by spring which is always a welcome occurrence in the garden. People often ask us what our secret is to getting good soil – it’s mulch and compost. Those two simple processes will pay off in time building healthful soil and ,eventually, healthful plants. We have so much soil on parts of our property from the continuous mulching and composting, that our property is 1 foot higher in some places than it used to be.
Now that the days are short and sunshine is less, we supplement our use of electricity by using oil lamps that sat useless, collecting dust, dust during the summer months. For years, there has been a rule in our house that no unnecessary light is used in rooms that aren’t occupied. This habit has gotten so “bad” that when we are visiting relatives, we habitually turn off lights in rooms that aren’t in use and they, of course, think we are a bit odd.
Through constant practice our eyes have adjusted, helping us navigate into rooms that are dark . If you visit our home at night, we limit the lights (or no electric lights at all) and it appears that no one is home. Quite a contrast to houses that we used to see on nights when we’d walk to the Rose Bowl where every room in the house was brightly lit. (Comment–a French lady who was a friend of the family lived in a dimly lighted house in New Orleans. Even though she was old she had good eyesight. She said, “This is how we light our homes in France. There is too much light in American homes.) This lights off policy not only reduces our use of energy but benefits our health. It’s been reported that exposure to constant artificial light may reduce levels of melatonin, which regulates the body’s internal clock, and the Circadian cycle. In the city, do we ever really experience total, natural darkness. I have found that when I do go to places that are brightly lit I get very nervous, whereas soft lights have a very calming effect.
Exposure to bright light at night can disrupt the internal clocks that make our various circadian cycles tick. Such cycles affect behavioral rhythms, daily changes in blood and urine chemistry, and the production of melatonin, a hormone involved in wake/sleep cycles and body-temperature fluctuations that is produced at night by the pineal gland. Connected by nerves to the eye, the pineal gland is very light-sensitive, and sudden or continuous exposure to a bright light can suppress the production of melatonin. In the short term, the disruption of biological rhythms can produce grogginess, depression, and impaired thinking.
Via The Dark Side of Light