URBAN HOMESTEAD REPORT


Baking day

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.


Cob cover

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

No Comments

  1. Wildside says:

    Thanks for the comments about use of artificial light! And the added info… Something I’ve always just naturally felt too. Like yours, our house is often dark at night, usually lit by candle light and night light (and/or TV) and I fear our visitors think we are a bit too odd… But then, sometimes they ask me when I’m going to light the candles, as they were looking forward to the occassion!

  2. Dermot says:

    Great post – ah, that bread looks good! —

    I’ve been picking up the “lights-off” habit too –
    the expense of leaving a light on has to be paid
    for with money. Why would I sit in a grey cubicle
    for an hour to pay for a lightbulb in the
    kitchen to be left on all night? And yet, millions
    do. —

    Greg Palast had a recent piece on Onions from
    New Zealand being flown the the UK, at the same
    time that the UK’s onion harvest was coming in:

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2005/10/01/growing-my-own/

    — A world gone mad.

  3. Anais says:

    Hi Dermot

    Thanks for the compliment. Hope you are feeling better?

    Also, thanks for sharing the Palast article. Trade wins over local – sad, very sad. So much wasted time and energy to ship unnessesary goods from far away when the produce is being grown right in our own locale.

    Definitely a mad, mad world.

  4. peaknik says:

    Hi! I guess that’s what’s wrong with me. I work the night shift–5p-5:30a. 8 years of it. I do feel drained much of the time and even depressed sometimes. If I ever find the perfect job, I want to get back on a schedule on days.

    I’m still admiring your cobb oven! Love it!

    I’ve taken up the veggies for the winter. Trying to figure out what to do with the herbs, whether to leave them out if they’re perennials or to bring them in and overwinter them. I have rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, mint, & basil. I’ve also broadcast my first-ever cover crop of red winter wheat. We’ll see what happens. Sounds like I have an acre, doesn’t it!? It’s only for my small raised beds. But we’ll see what happens!

    I brought in my last batch of cherry tomatoes. Any suggestions on how to make some cherry tomato salsa? They’re coming out my ears!

    Have fun with your stove for me!

  5. Jeff says:

    I really like the aesthetics of the pictured cob cover,(very creative) but I would agree that you might need quite a few more “fronds” to adequately protect it against winter rains.

    And, unfortunately, boiled linseed oil does not provide much protection from water. I use it on furniture and my children have proven this many times!

  6. Anais says:

    Jeff – thanks for the comments. We, too, think it will need a couple more leaves. Will have to make Ray see that.

    Thanks for the tip on lineseed.

    Cheers,
    Anais

  7. Anais says:

    Hi Peaknik

    Thanks for posting and sharing your comments and garden report.

    Could be about the lights — they are definitely an artifical element that disrupts are natural body cycles.

    Yes, I really like the cob oven. Sure wish you were closer so you could come by and try your hand and cooking in the oven.

    Wishing you a bountiful fall harvests and all the best in your journey.

    Blessings,
    Anais