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Morning on the Back Forty

Dawn on South Pender after the bread is out of the oven.

The morning is mine because no one else is awake to claim it, except a few deer in the back forty and a mouse hiding in the woodpile. I’ve stepped outside into the chill and darkness, lit a fire in the wood oven. The flames crackle. There is endless dark behind me.

It is just after two a.m. I’ll start loading the bread soon after four. I carry trays of dough in baskets from the garage fridge down the driveway. I wear a headlamp so as not to step off the slope and tumble onto the lawn. Luminescent deer eyes blink when I turn to look at them.

The moon is at high noon, well above the trees in a clear sky. It casts a faint silver glow on the grasses and leaves. A fleck of moonlight sparkles off a wet leaf or a headlight of the car parked in the driveway. I hear the flames crackle even though the oven door is closed.

What’s a cruise ship doing here?

I recognize patterns of the stars from the corner of my eye. The Big Dipper. And why should a cruise ship, the size of a city, be humming through Boundary Pass at this hour? Six thousand insensate passengers are missing the moment.

The trays of dough are heavy. I make three trips to reach a load, arrange the baskets neatly on my baker’s bench. The inside walls of the oven are 950ºF. No more wood for the fire. I’ll let the flames die down, and embers burn to dust, then sweep out the ashes in an hour or so.

A gentle gust of wind rustles the leaves of the trees. I feel shivers up my spine. I stop to look at the sky, the moon. Shivers a second time. I’m aware of my breath, aware of the ground beneath my feet pushing up against my earthly weight. A third time.

A muted bird call

Random sounds. The wood chimes by the front door of the house, a solitary frog croaking, a muted bird call. In ten minutes, the wash of the cruise ship will arrive at the rocks below the prow of our property.

Wood smoke stings my eyes, the scent shocks my nostrils. I sweep the hearth clean, but the oven walls are now in the 650s, another half hour or more before the first load goes in.

Does anyone know I’m awake? Is there a neighbour across the way, reading the New York Times, or sipping scotch or playing solitaire on a tablet? Is someone tossing in bed, worrying about bank accounts, or an email that arrived from a daughter in Manitoba? Will they see my headlamp undulating through the silhouettes of trees?

Flour, turn, score, place

We’re down to the 550s, time for the bread to go in. Flour the peel, turn out the dough boule, score the loaf and slide it in the oven. Working fast, so the loaves bake evenly. Flour, turn, score, place. Finally seal the oven, close the doors, I’m done.

And so the morning goes, loading dough three, four times, pulling out billowy, chestnut brown loaves that smell rich and wholesome, heady, like an old-time home kitchen. I carry trays of them into the house to cool. The bread is hot and cracking — singing, as bakers say — they are still cooking beneath the crusts.

I look up for the first time in an hour or more. The sky has turned dark blue in the east, a finger of orange light. Breeze moves through the trees, their silhouettes are more defined than an hour ago. The moon has fallen lower in the west. The currents of the Salish Sea are embossed by silver light. The breeze skitters across the water’s surface.

There are hours to go for the baker’s day, but the best of them have passed. The world is waking, smoke appears from the chimneys of neighbours. A birdsong crescendo. The first planes and helicopters buzzing overhead into Victoria.

There is time for a coffee, now, before bagging the loaves, sorting the orders, loading the car. The kitchen is suffused with bread smells. The day is on.


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These corn kernels are headed to the mill to make cornmeal for Anadama Bread this week. It’s a bread with origins on the east coast, but that shouldn’t stop us west coasters from enjoying it, too, godanadamit! This is organic field corn from @fieldstoneorganics of Armstrong, B.C. … and the hard red whole wheat from Metchosin, B.C. make this Happy Monk take on Anadama a bona fide west coast phenomenon! Just sayin’!
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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries

These corn kernels are headed to the mill to make cornmeal for Anadama Bread this week. It’s a bread with origins on the east coast, but that shouldn’t stop us west coasters from enjoying it, too, godanadamit! This is organic field corn from @fieldstoneorganics of Armstrong, B.C. … and the hard red whole wheat from Metchosin, B.C. make this Happy Monk take on Anadama a bona fide west coast phenomenon! Just sayin’!
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#anadama #anadamabread #cornmeal #cornmealbread #metchosinbc #armstrongbc #stoneground #stonegroundflour #stonemilled #stonemilledflour #stonemilledbread #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries
...

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Morning Breadsong (volume up!) A pile of Salish Sourdoughs just out of Mildrith, the wood-fired oven. 
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#breadsinging #breadsong #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland

Morning Breadsong (volume up!) A pile of Salish Sourdoughs just out of Mildrith, the wood-fired oven.
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.
.
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#breadsinging #breadsong #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bakerslife #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #breadmaking #breadmaking🍞 #sourdough #sourdoughbread #coboven #earthoven #earthenoven #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland
...

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It just needed a few more minutes. That was three hours ago. Saved my best for last!  #showusyourfuckedloaves

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Happy Monk Tidings - February 16, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice this week: Sourdough Sandwich Loaf; Blog: Festival of Fornacalia - All hail, Fornax! Goddess of the Ovens! [ See link in Profile ]

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John-boy’s got his arms loaded with a bunch of Happy Monk bread, one of his favourite states of being. He’s generous to a fault, though, and spread the loaves around his close circle of friends. That’s m’boy!

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The 2kg Desem miche is out of focus, in the back ‘cause it would have drowned out the little 1kg Durum Sesame loaf in front. The miche is a monster but every bit as delish as the Durum loaf! The Desem’s coming soon! Won’t be a miche, though!

The 2kg Desem miche is out of focus, in the back ‘cause it would have drowned out the little 1kg Durum Sesame loaf in front. The miche is a monster but every bit as delish as the Durum loaf! The Desem’s coming soon! Won’t be a miche, though! ...

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