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See if this sounds familiar – what a weekend!

Lately my weekends have been more work than my weekdays. That’s okay though – I think I’m done for a while.

This past weekend was the Daily Life Schola, with lots of assorted classes on everyday tasks in period, and where vynehorn  and I fire the beehive oven and attempt to bake things. That was a qualified success. Friday night our houseguests arrived – isabeau_lark , her brother, and his family. It’s always a treat to have them all come to stay, but there was a lot of running in circles to get the last minute stuff done. With cats in the house, there’s no sense in making the beds up fresh too far in advance, or you just get to wash everything again. As a plus, with the new bookcases in the library, things pushed back more efficiently and there was more room once the bed was pulled out. Nice. We all sat up and talked until way too late, and headed off to bed. Since Isabeau was taking Charlotte’s room, she was relocated into the pack and play in our room. I was initially concerned about how she was going to take confinement, but the prospect of sleeping in mommy and daddy’s room was VERY exciting. I left earlier than everyone else on Saturday because Vynehorn and I needed to be there close to 8:00 in order to get set up and get the oven fired. I got behind three, count them, not one, not two, but *three* tractors on the drive up. Okay – technically one of them was a backhoe. But still… Being more practiced than last year, we got set up in good time and I dove head first into the oven. Literally. Because people were watching, I had a terrible time getting the fire to start – I have terrible performance anxiety about stuff like that. It caught eventually, and I had a nice roaring fire going in very short order. At that point I began to feel unreasonably pleased with myself.

See - fire!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the rest of the family and guests awoke and rolled out. I’m told that Charlotte was quite disconcerted to come downstairs and find *people* in her house.  Apparently she was also quite discontented that I wasn’t there, until Rosamund told her that they were going to go see mommy but she had to get dressed first – at which point she dragged poor Bob up the stairs yelling something about “clothes now!” Apparently there was also another failure to enunciate incident regarding her conversation about her socks. Replace the initial “s” with a hard “c”… 

Last year I left her garb for Bob to dress her in, and she showed up at the event with every piece of her clothing inside out AND backwards. So this year I brought it with me and changed her when they got on site. I was expecting the usual battle, but she was very excited to get dressed – she even let me braid her hair and tie her coif on without objections. This bodes well for Pennsic. 

She's learning to pose for the camera...

Right around in there safiya_shirazi arrived with her toddler, and apparently the Batlet is not a morning person. She calmed down in fairly short order though, and for a good chunk of the day Charlotte seemed fascinated with the idea of a toddler smaller than her. At one point it really looked like the two of them had their heads together figuring out how to spring the little one out of the pack and play. I’m hoping that when they both get a bit older that we’ve got some ready-made playmates here.

We got the oven up to temperature in a reasonably good time, and pulled out the fire. It was absolutely killing me to trash such a lovely bed of coals, but luckily the nice ladies from Bergental decided to hold an impromptu open fire cooking class – so I filled their firepit with coals, and we raked out the oven.

I then learned that while yes, my welding gloves are sufficient protection to pick up burning things and move them (when is why I use welding gloves rather than fireplace gloves,) they’re not meant for prolonged exposure – like carrying a firepit full of live coals for any significant distance. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow…

The first baked item was an experiment with period matzah, which is an inch thick, and must be completed in 18 minutes from the time water hits flour to when it comes out of the oven. It failed miserably, but through no fault of Judith’s, whose experiment it was. The oven, which had been at about 900°F when we raked out the coals had plummeted precipitously to about 350°F in almost no time. Now, last year the in-house baker had fired the oven on Friday, and he wasn’t there this year, so we were expecting it to take longer with a cold oven. But to drop 600°? That we weren’t expecting. We were told that the oven probably hadn’t been fired for close to a year, and the past week has been chilly and rainy. I think that what happened is that the base, which is probably concrete, because it hadn’t been warmed *at all,* in the previous month or so probably acted as an enormous heat sink and sucked the oven warmth down to earth as soon as we removed the fire. This was, as they say, a huge bummer. After much discussion we decided to refire, and this time to push the coals to the side instead of raking them out. I went and repossessed two scoops of coals from Eleanor’s firepit and started a new fire. Even more onlookers, even more performance anxiety, thankfully the live coals saved my bacon. We fired it back up to about 700°, rested the oven, and because we had lost so much time we did one enormous round of baking instead of two. Originally we were going to put in breads, and then put in the pies and tarts when the breads were done. Instead, we put in *everything.* It was a very full oven.

Vynehorn and John loading in the oven - it was hard to get good pictures without getting in the way.

We jam packed that oven.

While that was all baking, I took a turn with Charlotte. Holcomb Farm is the next thing to a petting zoo, and Charlotte was quite taken with the goats and the rabbits. She was constantly dragging either Bob or I back to see the goats some more. “Me see goats” was the phrase for the day. Well, that and “immolation.” 

She wasn’t terribly sure about the chickens, and for that matter neither was I. They had a huge free range field, but about a half a dozen were escaped from it at any given time and were roaming the event. The whole flock had maybe fifteen tail feathers between them, and the escapees appeared to be assessing us for our protein content. I did a bit of reading about the difficulties of chickens and feather picking when I got home, and I have to say that it was the last nail in the coffin of the urge to keep chickens at home. As a matter of practical consideration I just don’t have the time and attention, and we go away too often.

After about an hour, we took everything out of the oven, and it was all gorgeous! The breads were fabulous, the various pies were fantastic. Almost all of my grandpa’s pork pie got eaten, which is always a nice little ego boost.

Baked things:

It was about this point in the event were I pretty much fell apart and decided that I’ll just lay here on the ground, thank you. I never really got moving again. Towards the end of the day the sky darkened up and it started to spit, so there was a sudden flurry of activity to get everything broken down before it got wet. I got all of my things loaded, and headed for home. The conversation went not quite as late that evening, and we managed to get Charlotte’s bed put back together and her transferred into it, as Isabeau had to be home for Sunday mass. 

Sunday morning we all chatted over breakfast, and I mocked up a pattern for Viking shoes for Veronica. Probably they’re not going to be “right” for her period (whatever that is,) but they’ll be more right than sneakers. I’m just not going to put a ton of time into shoes that will be outgrown in year, ya know? She was very good about holding still for me, and we got that taken care of in fairly good order. I’ve made it clear that I have so much to do before Pennsic that I’m not making any promises, but we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll get ambitious between now and then.

After lunch Jan and family got on the road, and Charlotte went down for a nap. Bob got the mower out and gave the grass a trim. I laid down and took a nap. Spraying the mountain laurels failed to occur. Maybe next weekend. 

If it ever stops raining.




( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
May. 24th, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC)
Re: keeping a hot firebox
Well, good to know that we have the reason. Any ideas for a solution? We were thinking that next year we could fire it for longer - get to our target temp and hold it there for a while before pushing the coals aside. I suppose that we could try to fire it the evening before, but that's problematic, and I'm not really comfortable with the idea of leaving it banked overnight with no one to keep an eye on it. They've told us we can, but I'd hate to burn something down through inexperience...
(Deleted comment)
May. 25th, 2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
Re: keeping a hot firebox
The wood was definitely dry - it was beech and maple limbs that Bob and trimmed off our trees last spring (we went on a bit of a trimming frenzy.)

Lighting it more than the evening before isn't really practical. I *might* be able to get up there on Friday, but that would be about all. Hmm. Lots of things to think about.

It would be fabulous if you could make it next year - I know it's a *really* long haul, but we have a lot of fun.
May. 24th, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC)
Oh my god Charlotte's beautiful in that outfit.
I need that for Victoria. Maybe me too.
And then she&I need to get to events...but that's another story.
May. 24th, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC)
It's a stupid simple pattern. Seven pieces, if you count the lining. The chemise is three.
May. 25th, 2011 04:05 am (UTC)
It was a blast as always. I was so happy to be able to use my dish from Eadric in the oven. Thanks again for saving me with the butter for the crust. I have to say, I enjoyed making the bread and the pastry without a recipe. Somehow, it just felt right in that situation.

Seeing everything come out of the oven was really cool. It was all seriously yummy as well! I would like that pork pie recipe sometime.

About those socks, remember..."need two!" :-)

Oh, and speaking of lawns, I love my neighbors. I pulled in just before 1 AM to find my lawn had been mowed.
May. 25th, 2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
Let's hear it for fabulous neighbors. :-)
May. 25th, 2011 10:52 am (UTC)
Nice update. She looks so cute in the outfit and to me seems to be growing very fast.
May. 25th, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)
She's HUGE. I'm not entirely sure where my baby went, but I enjoy the interactive version much more.
May. 25th, 2011 03:46 pm (UTC)
"The whole flock had maybe fifteen tail feathers between them, and the escapees appeared to be assessing us for our protein content."

Yup. They were, trust me. If you fall down, you're prey.

Srsly, though, chickens are dead easy to keep at home. Come by at Pennsic and I'll tell you about our adventures in urban poultry ranching.
May. 25th, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
I thought that was the look I was getting. Charlotte knew. She wasn't much taller than that chicken, and she was keeping a very dubious eye on it.

Given everything that's been going on in your life, we weren't sure if you'd be opening the shop at Pennsic. Regardless, I would love to stop by and talk chickens (I hear my husband's eyes rolling now...) I have many questions.
May. 26th, 2011 04:24 am (UTC)
You should recognize the baking dish right in the middle of the oven. It works wonderfully and I love it!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )