Baking Adventures: Week 1
It's been a week since the big trek north and I've begun to settle in to the old red farmhouse that sits at the top of Orchard Hill. To the south is the Orchard Hill School, where you often hear pre-schoolers playing outside, chasing after irritated but accustomed chickens. To the west is the Orchard Hill Bakery where I'm lucky enough to roll around in flour and scoop out a mouth-watering variety of cookies each week. While modest in size the bakery acts as the center of this small community, bringing friendly and familiar faces through the door with the promise of freshly baked breads that have just been pulled from the roaring wood-fueled oven in the back.
Upon my arrival, I pulled up my trusty new 2002 Subaru and quickly ran inside the farmhouse, walking briskly but carefully up the ice covered steps. As I entered the house I was met with delighted shrieks and mischievous giggles while the smell of pine hit me from the wooden floors below. As luck would have it, my arrival was timed perfectly with four moms who were running their homeschool program. Musical instruments strewn across the carpet, the kids burned off steam and lunch was prepared from scratch: sweet potato soup sewn together from fresh local ingredients, likely pulled from their very own gardens. As I stepped into the intentional chaos, Fred, the small and overly energetic dog, warmly greeted me as though we were old friends.
The farmhouse is a peculiar but delightful place that never leaves you wanting for company. Yoga classes come and go while potluck dinners and community meetings are determined to edge their way into the rest of the calendar. While the days at Orchard Hill are overflowing with energy, nights here are deliciously quite, gifting Moose and I with a sense of privacy that many on the farm may never cozy up to. Howling wind knocks at the windows from time to time but I'm convinced it shows up to make sure I remember the open fields and dazzling stars sitting right outside my window. Moose hasn't grown accustomed to the noises quite yet but has taken to watching the yoga classes from the stairs above.
Work at the bakery is hard but fruitful. I spend my days preparing hundreds of pounds of flour, salt, yeast, eggs, and an assortment of other ingredients that make their way into the mouths of our neighbors. I've learned that the perfect loaf of bread has no step-by-step process when baking in a wood-fueled fire at varying temperatures. So I sit diligently with my wooden paddle until the tops of the Farmhouse White loaves turn the perfect golden color, indicating that they're ready for retrieval. Quality is taken seriously here and hands are never idle. The team works until the last chore is finished, sharing responsibility for every pile of flour that still needs to be swept up from the bakery floor.