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Living in Place: An Appreciation of Pender Island

Just over 10 years ago, Jennifer and I moved to Pender Island from Vancouver.

It was a cold, windy November day. The power went off for a few hours. A neighbour came down the driveway while we waited for the moving truck to arrive. “Welcome to Pender Island,” he said. “You better get used to this weather!”

The moving truck finally arrived, and I remember the miracle of the movers setting down Jennifer’s grand piano in the living room. No mishaps or broken pieces.

Prolific predecessors

Our new home had been owned by John and Isabelle Roberts, two prolific Penderites. John was an architect and builder of many homes on the Island and the Pender Library, and Isabelle was a painter. When someone asked where we lived, we’d say, “In the Roberts’ old house,” they’d immediately know the place.

We lived for a while in the Roberts house, got to know the neighbours and the land around us. We built some stairs down to the rocky beach, put in a hot tub, looking out onto Boundary Pass. I’ve used those stairs and hot tub almost daily, going for cold ocean swims warming up in the hot tub. Our own spa facilities.

An architect came over from Vancouver one day. He measured the rooms, made sketches, but spent most of his time outside walking the property, looking at the ocean, the view of the San Juans, hillock beside us. He came inside to tell us what he thought. Everything he said about the property and house made good sense. It was music to our ears.

The land is where you live

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“Bring the outside, inside,” he said. “The hill, the rocks, the trees, the ocean.”

“Keep the house quiet. The land is where you live.”

Within a few days, we had the architect’s drawings. Modest changes, a few structural fixes, more windows, but the same bones to the house.

It was a fun time, watching the new home take shape. We used a local builder, we got to know the workers. There was an air of excitement as the project took shape.

And at last, we moved in. It was still the old Roberts place, but now it was more ours.

We lived our lives here

We’ve lived our lives here; finished our books; made many new friends. Jennifer overcame some significant health challenges.

We celebrated Pender Island. The land was good to us.

Three years ago, in the Fall of 2019, Mildrith, the wood-fired oven, was born.

We cleared a small space just off the driveway, built the oven out of Pender rock and clay. We erected a shelter of fir posts, beams and island-milled rafters, all made of Pender Fir. Mildrith was born of Pender and made on Pender.

Born of Pender, made of Pender

And thus, also was born the Happy Monk Baking Company, now officially three years old. The first bake day was March 14, 2019. Just over 200 customers have ordered over 7,000 loaves of bread.

That number staggers me, but it’s important to remember many bakeries make that many in a day. They may not be wood-fired operations; they may not be solo bakers like myself. But every bake day, I wake up and wonder how the hell I’m going to turn out enough bread for everyone! We’ve come a long way in three years!

Being a baker takes a lot more time than I thought it would. I bake one day per week, but I’m busy for at least another four days. It’s physically demanding, mentally challenging.

But the rewards are immeasurable!

Bread is the staff of life! We eat it every day, love the smell, savour the taste. I notice how people hold their loaves at pick-up times; I love how they talk about their bread. Bread is magic, as it transforms from base ingredients — flour and water — into exquisite flavour, aroma and sustenance.

It is an honour being one of the bakers of Pender Island. The Happy Monk Baking Company has been an entrée to a much broader community for Jennifer and me. And many have stepped forward to support us, from customers to volunteers.

The Greenangel Choppers deliver the wood to us. Roy Villa keeps the wood properly chopped and stocked for Mildrith. Davy Rippner helps bag the bread, getting it ready for deliveries. Suzanne Stirling does the deliveries when she can, and now, so does her Mom, Micki! The Pollard family allows us to use their front porch at Corbett House as a pick-up location for the Port Washington people.

Jacques Marmen, the prime builder of Mildrith, left Pender Island late last year, and I’ll miss his deep knowledge of natural building materials, spirit, and humour.

There are so many others to whom I owe gratitude, but none more so than Jennifer, my partner, friend, wife and Hunny-bunny. She’s been my sounding board, blog editor, business adviser, and zen presence. This whole operation might have crashed and burned without her!

It belongs to all of us

Pender Island has changed since the two of us moved here. Now, if Jennifer and I tell people we live in the old Roberts house, fewer people would know where that is.

But if we mention Mildrith or the Happy Monk Baking Company, there might be a few more nods of recognition!

Thanks Pender!


Happy Monk Tidings - May 18, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Olive Bread; UPDATE: Canal Bridge project postponed; Assume normal delivery schedule; BLOG: The Breadman's Quest for the Stanley Cup - [See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - May 18, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Olive Bread; UPDATE: Canal Bridge project postponed; Assume normal delivery schedule; BLOG: The Breadman's Quest for the Stanley Cup - [See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - May 11, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Rye-Spelt Sourdough; Blog: Road/Bridge Closure: Be Here Now - [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - May 11, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Rye-Spelt Sourdough; Blog: Road/Bridge Closure: Be Here Now - [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - May 4, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Polenta and Rosemary Bread ☀︎ Blog: An Artisan Bread Manifesto ☀︎ [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - May 4, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Polenta and Rosemary Bread ☀︎ Blog: An Artisan Bread Manifesto ☀︎ [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - April 27, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Spelt Honey Sourdough; Blog: A Podcast for Pender Island [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - April 27, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Spelt Honey Sourdough; Blog: A Podcast for Pender Island [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - April 20, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Mountain Rye ; Blog: Walking with My Father [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - April 20, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Mountain Rye ; Blog: Walking with My Father [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - April 13, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Hot Cross Buns; Blog: Who's to Blame for the Hot Cross Buns Song? [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - April 13, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Hot Cross Buns; Blog: Who's to Blame for the Hot Cross Buns Song? [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - April 6, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Whole-Wheat Flax Bread; Blog: The Baker's Arms [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - April 6, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Whole-Wheat Flax Bread; Blog: The Baker's Arms [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - March 30, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Oat Porridge Bread; Blog: Thanne Longen Folk ...; We're Donating to Ukraine! [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - March 30, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Oat Porridge Bread; Blog: Thanne Longen Folk ...; We're Donating to Ukraine! [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - March 16, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Spelt and Honey Sourdough; Blog: Wheat Connections to Ukraine [ See LinkTree in Bio ]

Happy Monk Tidings - March 16, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Spelt and Honey Sourdough; Blog: Wheat Connections to Ukraine [ See LinkTree in Bio ] ...

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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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Happy Monk Tidings - March 9, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Anadama Bread; Blog: Salvador Dali and the Art of Bread - [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - March 9, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Anadama Bread; Blog: Salvador Dali and the Art of Bread - [ See LinkTree in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - March 2, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough; Blog: Have Your Been Shriven? [ See Link in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - March 2, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough; Blog: Have Your Been Shriven? [ See Link in Profile ] ...

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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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Happy Monk Tidings - February 23, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Danish Rye (Rugbrød); Blog: The Burned Loaf: And Offering and a Blessing - [ See link in profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - February 23, 2022 🍞 - Baker's Choice: Danish Rye (Rugbrød); Blog: The Burned Loaf: And Offering and a Blessing - [ See link in profile ] ...

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

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 ]

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!

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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Happy Monk Tidings - February 9, 2022 🍞 - It's great to be back! Baker's Choice: Durum-Sesame Sourdough; Blog: To Sleep or Not to Sleep [ See link in profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - February 9, 2022 🍞 - It's great to be back! Baker's Choice: Durum-Sesame Sourdough; Blog: To Sleep or Not to Sleep [ See link in profile ] ...

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  1. On this note, we acknowledge that this land is the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, including SENĆOŦEN speaking W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) First Nations and Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group.

3 thoughts on “Living in Place: An Appreciation of Pender Island

  1. Amazing

  2. Wonderful story David! Lucky us on Pender to have you and Jennifer living here and producing such beautiful breads! Love to you both.

  3. What a lovely article! Your bread is fabulous and so unique. I can understand where the inspiration comes from now.

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