Bread Alone

As if perfect challah was not enough, E proceeded to bake the best bread I’ve ever had, and that’s no joke.  She thinks the TN water has something to do with it.  It’s not toxic.  But I say it’s alchemy.

I can’t even begin to describe this bread–perfectly crusty on the outside and fluffy substance on the inside, like an excellent Italian or French bread, and somehow made with only a few basic inexpensive ingredients.  The secret was letting it rise all day and evening, to achieve an almost sourdough character, then  recreating dutch oven conditions (we don’t have one yet) to bake it.  I literally could live on this bread alone–well OK, maybe some good cheese to go with it, and some wine or beer to wash it down, I suppose some produce for fiber, and some good olives wouldn’t hurt…but seriously, I can see why simple homemade bread is so primal and basic to human culture, not just survival.  With only some bread flour, water, yeast, a little something sweet for the yeast to eat, and some cornmeal for texture, you can create an edible work of artisanal wonder.  A picture doesn’t do it justice, but here’s what’s left of it:

Also, Pesach is looming, so maybe I’m getting bread out of my system.  And beer.  And now, back to E’s legendary challah.  Erev cheers.


E is busy reinforcing shed doors so we can secure them, caulking the leaky tile shower, building needed shelving, checking the inadequate electric grounding, and many other jobs.  We live at Lowes, although today their wood cutting machine was still broken, so we had to visit the competition, Home Depot, to have panels cut to size.  It’s amazing what can fit in a tiny Subaru, with clever positioning.

The critters are busy, as well, what with all the accommodations.  This morning I watched the chief squirrel chase a rival squirrel and a big woodpecker away from the bird feeder.  A family of wrens have been vigilantly tending their nest between the window panes of my office.  They’re putting up with us.  Many raptors fly and perch right overhead.  So far no bears or coyotes, but I’m sure they’re lurking.

It’s warm and springlike, being erev Spring, so of course our area is supposedly under the threat of strong tornadoes, large hail, damaging winds, severe thunderstorms, a cold front with snow in the higher elevations, and something called a “mountain wave high wind event”.  Whatever that is.  Sounds psychedelic.

But masses of spring flowers are blooming, and all my seedlings are coming up, so I’m happy.  Now if the topsoil folks can manage to fix their equipment and mix and deliver my garden soil, I can plant my veggies.  Folks seem a little mechanically-challenged down here, but cheerful at least.  It’s all good.

Anecdotes from the Hillbilly Almanac

Being “outdoorsy”, I’ve worked in some extreme weather, but I have to say I’ve never witnessed such strange, volatile climate conditions as we did during this transition.  Here is just a sampling of the fluctuations we experienced during the week moving from OH to TN:

I’ve already mentioned the first trip to TN mid-Feb. with the very large van full of boxes, which we quickly unloaded, then turned around and drove back to OH.  That’s how I spent my birthday, in a haze of moving and more packing.

2/21/18: We and friends in Ohio loaded the truck in a “spring” drizzle.  Sam, Dana, and Roland were invaluable and appreciated for all their immense and expert help.  Then we drove through the night in pouring rain and wind through Kentucky.  It was scary, but E did it.

2/22: Just as we neared the TN border, the sky finally cleared.  Still without sleep, we single-handedly unloaded heavy furniture (whoever invented the dolly was a genius) in only a couple of hours, and then began to set up the house.  It was warm, with an occasional sprinkle, reaching an unbelievable ~75 º.  There were masses of spring flowers blooming–daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, with irises and tulips on the way.  Trees were budding out, and birds were everywhere, in contrast to OH.

After dark, still warm out, under a crescent moon, we stood out in our field and heard–spring peepers?!  In February.  Unbelievable.

2/23:  It felt like summer; it must have been ~80º!!  We exchanged the truck for a rental car, then worked on the house.  In the evening, we drove back to OH.  KY was experiencing unusually high temps and extreme flooding.  Some places were under water.  Then the temperature suddenly dropped 30 degrees.  We arrived at the apartment after midnight.

2/24: We returned the rental car, cleaned up the apartment, and turned right around and drove back to TN for the last time.  As we left OH, there was a tornado alert, which was very abnormal for this time of year.  We got out in the nick of time!  E’s only regrets are leaving behind a few good friends and memories, and her son in the cemetery back home.

Back in TN, there were more spring flowers and trees blooming, and the grass was greening up.

2/25: We finally slept!  Then it was back to work.

Since then, E installed a whole shower door from scratch, so we could use the shower.  Then she deep-cleaned, repaired, and refinished all the kitchen cabinets, which were in terrible shape, so we could unpack the kitchen boxes, which was a job in itself.  In between were other repairs and cleaning jobs to make the house more functional, with many more to go.  Plus all the running around taking care of the bureaucratic business of becoming residents.  There were the inevitable snags with ignorant people, but mostly our experience has been very positive and welcoming, a far cry from Ohio.  We’re exhausted and achy, being Old People, but we get it done.

Now in March, it’s temporarily back to what I assume is more seasonal cold weather (?), but down in this zone it’s time to sow many early spring seeds, so I’ll be doing that as soon as it stops being freezing!  I’m confused.  it’s March, so it must be TN!  It’s hard to keep track sometimes.

I’m looking forward to slowing down enough to finally see and help out my son and grandkids, which is much of the reason we decided on TN in the first place.  Our time with them is limited, at least according to their hypothetical plan, so I hope to make the most of what we’ve got.  He has to be one of the most patient people I know, to put up with all these setbacks.

And that’s our story thus far.  Stay tuned for the next boring episode!


Two Bitches and a Truck…and a van, and rental cars, and sheer determination

It’s been so long, we now live in a new state.  It’s been a long, exhausting blur of loading, commuting between states almost nonstop, often in the middle of the night in deluges, unloading, repeat, mostly without help.  We’re grateful for the friends who came through for us at the midwest end, helping us load a 16′ moving truck.  It was hairy going for a while there, but we made it.  We’ve been deep into major repairs to make the house functional, but I thought I’d take a break to post a few photos of the journey to show we’re still alive and well.


Our big truck, which E drove successfully, and flowers in winter.

Our last rental car, and Cincy at night.

More flowers (!!) and a sunrise out back.

Our first official Shabbat with a functional kitchen.

The Skullies relaxing in their office, guarding our new garden seeds, courtesy of my brother and bro-in law’s generous birthday gift.  Shabbat Shalom, y’all.