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A Hard-Earned Homecoming

Feb. 13, 2:45 am. Air temperature: -3.8ºC (25ºF). Mildrith internal temperature: 977ºF (525ºC)!

For days, I’d been keeping an eye on the weather forecasts.

An arctic outflow was making its way south, they said, bringing lower than seasonal temperatures. And that, combined with windy conditions, could produce wind chills of up to -20ºF. Snow was expected in coastal locations.

The weather was conspiring against the first Happy Monk bake of 2021 in more ways than you might think. Would Mildrith, the wood-fired oven, be able to hold enough heat to bake all the bread orders? Would the dough proof sufficiently in the colder room temperature of the kitchen? What would I do with all the loaves of bread if we couldn’t deliver up-island?

Would I even remember how to mix and bake bread after six weeks off?

Snow flurries

At two in the morning of bake day, I poked my head outside. It was -3.8ºC (25ºF), with a slight dusting of fine snow on the ground. Ha! So much for the predicted snow flurries! The bread would get baked, and we’d get it out to customers, no problem. The bake was on as long as Mildrith was willing.

And she was! I’d fired her all the day before while I mixed dough, then shut her down at about 9:30 before going to bed. She was still too hot to handle when I opened her up: 977ºF (525ºC). But the cool air would quickly bring her down to bread baking temperature.

There was still a lot of bread to bake, so the race was on! The first loaves stayed in the oven about 3 minutes too long and were a little dark. The next ones came out perfectly. The last batch took a long time to finish but lacked the dark crust colour I prefer. Mildrith had no more heat for finishing the bread.

Scary roads?

Towards the end of the bake, at about 7:30 am, I realized there was more snow than I realized. Six to eight inches! Our street was thick with snow. Gowlland Pt. Rd, with its hills and sharp curves, would be treacherous. Canal Rd, Inar’s Hill and the Bedwell Harbour – Schooner Way hill into Magic Lake: they’d all be scary!

So thinks a wussy west-coaster like me when the snow comes! Most South Pender people would make it to our house to pick up their bread. What about the rest of the

I confess I spent a lot of time walking around, worrying, wringing my hands. If I slid into a ditch, I thought, that’s where the bread would live and die. I fretted! It would freeze unless I could urge customers to come and pick up their loaves themselves. From a car in the ditch!

Coffee helped

Coffee helped. And so did the wise people of Pender Island.

At about 10 am, I started calling people to find out about road conditions. Some reported ploughing already; others said they couldn’t even get down their driveways to the road. But a neighbour relayed that the snowfall would diminish around 2 pm, and by then, the main roads would likely be clear.

And Jennifer was right again. Everything was going to be OK!

We sent out an email that we’d be delayed with deliveries by a few hours.

Our Subaru Outback had just been serviced. An All-Wheel Drive with relatively new tires, it had been reliable in the snow before. We drove ever cautiously, made it up and down those hills made fearful by snow and ice. And arrived without incident, a little late, at our bread pick-ups!

A bread day unlike any other

It was a bread day unlike any other! The weather threw up challenges! Sub-zero weather was one thing, but it also provoked doubts and petty fears about my ability to get the bread out to people.

The minute I pulled into the Medicine Beach parking lot, all those worries vanished as people walked up to take their bread. They smiled and held their loaves happily in their arms; they said hello the way they always do. It was like a homecoming; Odysseus returning to Ithaca after years at war and a long journey home.

But I’m not Odysseus. I’m just an Island baker, but I was supported and greeted as warmly as he was by all my friends and customers. And the Happy Monk Baker is glad to be back!


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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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#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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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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2 thoughts on “A Hard-Earned Homecoming

  1. Wow!..what a day, what effort, what community; welcome back!!

  2. David, Another great anecdote. You met Polyphemus and defeated him! Leigh

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