Reading: Corn, fermentation, cottage industry laws, symbiotic man & following a tree

Bioartefactos: Between transgenic crops and ancestral biodiversity

Art is one of the better ways to show this cultural diversity that at the same time is intimately related to the natural world, which for us now means also the production and designing of “bio-artifacts”. Corn is a bio-artifact. But we have to learn to see degrees, nuances and be more specific in the kind of analysis that we make when we draw a border between the natural and the artificial.

It can be said that there is no problem with transgenic food, but there is no consensus in the scientific community about this. And this should be enough to have more precaution. But I insist, what is at stake is not only the way in which we produce food and what for, but also how we dwell in this world, and what cultural diversity are we willing to preserve and respect.

Ferment Your Garden: Summer Recipes

Cottage Industry Laws

One sunny morning last autumn I went to the farmers’ market for pumpkins, eggs, and whatever vegetables were still available at this, the final market of the season. One of the more prominent booths, Magic Garden, featured friendly elderly ladies offering produce, dried herbs, and a dozen different types of relishes and sauces in home-canning jars.

“We can do this now,” one of them said brightly while passing her arm above the display, “thanks to that new law.”

The law to which the vendor referred was Oregon HB 2336, signed in 2011 and implemented in January 2012, which allows farmers to process their own produce in a limited number of ways, and then sell directly to consumers in a farmers’ market setting. Previously, the canning would have been required to occur in a licensed commercial kitchen.

Symbiotic Man: A Commentary in Six Drawings


Following a tree, July

The Problem of Work (part 2)

(First read part 1, here)

By Camillo Berneri, in Why Work? Arguments for the Leisure Society. Vernon Richards, ed. London: Freedom Press, 1983, pp. 59-82.

This essay was first published in Italian with the title Il Lavoro Attraente (Geneva 1938). An English translation was serialised in FREEDOM in the late ’40s. This is a new translation by the editor based on the FREEDOM version and restores the Kropotkin quotation from The Conquest of Bread but not those from Marx and Engels.

III. “Lazy” People and the Problem of Free Work

Many “lazy” people would work could they find an occupation suited to their psychic and physical personality. Kropotkin writes on the subject in Conquest of Bread:

Somebody has said that dust is matter in the wrong place. The same definition applies to nine-tenths of those called lazy. They are people gone astray in a direction that does not answer to their temperament nor to their capacities. In reading the biography of great men, we are struck with the number of “idlers” among them. They were lazy so long as they had not found the right path; afterwards they became laborious to excess. Darwin, Stevenson, and many others belonged to this category of idlers.

Very often the idler is but a man to whom it is repugnant to spend all his life making the eighteenth part of a pin, or the hundredth part of a watch, while he feels he has exuberant energy which he would like to expend elsewhere. Often, too, he is a rebel who cannot submit to being fixed all his life to a work-bench in order to procure a thousand pleasures for his employer, while knowing himself to be far the less stupid of the two, and knowing his only fault to be that of having been born in a hovel instead of coming into the world in a castle.

Lastly, an immense number of ‘idlers’ are idlers because they do not know well enough the trade by which they are compelled to earn their living. Seeing the imperfect thing they make with their own hands, striving vainly to do better, and perceiving that they never will succeed on account of the bad habits of work already acquired, they begin to hate their trade, and, not knowing any other, hate work in general. Thousands of workmen and artists who are failures suffer from this cause.

[p. 73] On the other hand, he who since his youth has learned to play the piano well, the chisel, the brush, or the file, so that he feels that what he does is beautiful, will never give up the piano, the chisel, or the file. He will find pleasure in his work which does not tire him, so long as he is not overdriven.

Under the one name, idleness, a series of results due to different causes have been grouped, of which each one could be a source of good, instead of being a source of evil to society. Like all questions concerning criminality and related to human faculties, facts have been collected having nothing in common with one another. People speak of laziness or crime, without giving themselves the trouble to analyse the cause. They are in a hurry to punish these faults without inquiring if the punishment itself does not contain a premium on ‘laziness’ or ‘crime.’

This is why a free society, if it say the number of idlers increasing in its midst, would no doubt think of looking first for the cause of laziness, in order to suppress it, before having recourse to punishment. When it is a case, as we have already mentioned, of simple bloodlessness, then before stuffing the brain of a child with science, nourish his system so as to produce blood, strengthen him, and, that he shall not waste his time, take him to the country or to the seaside; there, teach him in the open air, not in books — geometry, by measuring the distance to a spire, or the height of a tree; natural sciences, while picking flowers and fishing in the sea; physical science while building the boat he will go to fish in. But for mercy’s sake do not fill his brain with classical sentences and dead languages. Do not make an idler of him! …

Or, here is a child which has neither order nor regular habits. Let the children first inculcate order among themselves, and later on, the laboratory, the workshop, the work that will have to be done in a limited space, with many tools about, under the guidance of an intelligent teacher, will teach them method. But do not make disorderly beings out of them by your school, whose only order is the symmetry of its benches, and which — true image of the chaos in its teachings — will never inspire anybody with the love of harmony, of consistency and method in work.

Continue reading…    

The Problem of Work (part 1)

By Camillo Berneri, in Why Work? Arguments for the Leisure Society. Vernon Richards, ed. London: Freedom Press, 1983, pp. 59-82.

This essay was first published in Italian with the title Il Lavoro Attraente (Geneva 1938). An English translation was serialised in FREEDOM in the late ’40s. This is a new translation by the editor based on the FREEDOM version and restores the Kropotkin quotation from The Conquest of Bread but not those from Marx and Engels.


On this eve of social upheavals and in the midst of so much ranting about state socialism, authoritarian communism and simplistic economics it should be the anarchists’ specific task to put the problem of the discipline of work in clear and concrete terms; a problem like any other social problem needs to be up-dated in accordance with new technical trends, with new economic physiological and psychological knowledge, as well as with the various problems that are having to be faced as a result of the different tendencies emerging from the ranks of the industrial proletariat.

While keeping to its broad aims and final objective, Anarchism must define the means and methods of its future as a new order. What activity is more universal than work? What problem is vaster and more intermingled with all other problems than that of work? Economic, physiological and psychological laws, as well as practically all society and nearly the whole of man’s life are involved in this activity, which even to-day is drudgery, but which tomorrow will become the supreme human dignity.

The essay which follows is a kind of introduction to the theme of “Attractive Work,” to which I should like to see the attention drawn of all those who could contribute ideas, personal experience and particular technical knowledge. An expert would have done more and better; but as the experts are usually disinclined to part with their acquired knowledge, it is up to the less inhibited to raise these questions and bring them to the attention of our comrades.

We shall have made a stride forward if, at our meetings and in the press, we are able to analyse the question of free and attractive work, the more so as this problem involved many others and is, by its very nature, likely to recall interesting experiences and to suggest constructive schemes.

Continue reading…    

Work schedule

Thinking a bit these past two weeks or so about rhythms of productivity in my research and writing: Since late April or so I’ve felt a kind of …. I don’t want to say lack of motivation, because it’s not that. My cohorts and I are shifting into a phase of hyperproductivity, to be expected as we’re on the brink of summer, so a lot of my time and mental space has been going into our collective work, which is linked with my research. And I’ve been plodding along on knitting the world’s most time-consuming scarf, and making bread a couple times a week, and working in the garden, and reading plenty. All of this, though, I’m doing without the same sense of urgency that I felt earlier in the year. I’m taking my time. It’s like entering a phase where you can’t handle much more mental input, and you aren’t quite in a phase of giving output, instead swimming about in that in-between time of reflection and rest. Maybe we could call it winter.

I’ve got taped to the wall above my desk several things that make me feel happy and inspired while I’m working: old photos of my grandmothers, a tiny Rhode Island flag, an epic manifesto that Mas and I wrote over a couple too many gin tonics a few Christmases ago… One of the artifacts is Henry Miller’s writing schedule (most of the points applicable to other kinds of creative work), and I think I like it so much because there’s both strictness and leniency to it — it demands personal discipline but also makes room for periods of winter.



1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.

2. Start no more new books, add no more new material to “Black Spring.”

3. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.

4. Work according to program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time.

5. When you can’t create you can work.

6. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.

7. Keep human. See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.

8. Don’t be a draught-horse. Work with pleasure only.

9. Discard the program when you feel like it — but go back to it the next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.

10. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.

11. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterward.

That’s all for now. I’m going to go work specifically on Numbers 1, 3, 6, 8, 10.


Thoughts on art and craft + a knitting update

I was at a workshop a couple of years ago with a bunch of other master’s of arts students, and in our discussion one of the attendees said something that really made my blood boil. He was from a small town in the Jura Mountains and said that a few years prior one of the guys in the village decided to organize a local art biennial. Because why should biennials only be reserved for big cities? So this inspired individual got everyone together and actually pulled it off, but in telling the story this student chuckled at the small town naivety over what qualifies as “art” — “So I went, because (ha!), I thought, this would be interesting, and it was all a bunch of craft.” Ho ho. How quaint.

In that vein, some thoughts on:

Craftivism (blog by Betsy Greer)

Functional Beauty and Handmade Political Art (Maria Alina Asavei – Art & Education)

Dark Matter: Activist Art and the Counter Public Sphere (Gregory Sholette)

The Counterfeit Crochet Project

Speaking of that, you ask, how’s the knitting going? Just great, thanks for asking. Here it is:

image (43)

Continue reading…    

More things to read

A random salad of subjects, but I can’t stand having 800 tabs open all at once on my web browser so I’m filing them here.

A small personal study on knitting and attention

image (8)

Some exciting knitting developments: I learned cable knit (a simple version). Socks can wait another day, I feel accomplished enough for the moment.

I also brought along my knitting to this week’s pre-doctoral seminar at CCC, which was on economies of attention. Knitting (and other craft work involving repetitive movements) has positive effects on memory (see here for example) and so I was interested in experiencing what effect knitting would have on my abilities to listen and retain information. This is nothing new — it’s been reported in the mainstream media in the past several years (eg here and here) that knitting is good for your memory. And Walter Benjamin says so, so there must be something there:

storytelling is always the art of repeating stories, and this art is lost when the stories are no longer retained. It is lost because there is no more weaving and spinning to go on while they are being listened to. The more self-forgetful the listener is, the more deeply what he listens to is impressed on his memory. When the rhythm of work has seized him, he listens to the tales in such a way that the gift of retelling them comes to him all by itself. This, then, is the nature of the web in which the gift of storytelling is cradled. This is how today it is becoming unraveled at all its ends after being woven thousands of years ago in the ambience of the oldest forms of craftsmanship.

I went about my knitting experiment in not exactly the right way — Benjamin’s comments about craft have to do with their capacity to bore us with their repetitive motions, and it’s the boredom that readies the mind to listen. What I should have done is arrive very early for the presentations and install myself with my needles and yarn and knit for an hour until I was good and bored and ready to listen to stories. Except we started at 9 a.m., and it takes me nearly an hour to bike to school, and I was not prepared to leave the house at 7 a.m. As it was I got there 15 minutes early, enough time to talk with other students and drink a tea, and so when we all finally got into our seats and I picked up my knitting, I was not at all bored. Plus I’m still a beginner knitter, so even though I was using an extremely simple pattern, it still demanded at least a small amount of concentration. But the lack of boredom was the big issue. Without boredom I found myself in the same state of concentration as always, which is generally good, but I didn’t feel any increase in focus until the third presentation, after I’d been knitting for two straight hours.

A close-up of what I did…

image (9)

I tried out both of the patterns given on the above link, the first during the first presentation and the second during the second. They’re so close that they’re practically identical but I prefer the second — the one on the top. I’m going to pick up some moss green yarn later this week and make a scarf with it using this stitch for my friend Hannah (green is her color). To pick up some more knitting mileage until it’s time for socks.

A few more thoughts on knitting:

How much do you spend on your crafts?

What’s the point of knooking? (I had to look that up — knooking is knitting with a crochet hook)

How we can defeat global capitalism by knitting socks

Some reading + a plant update


and I discovered this publishing house today (like I need any more books): Permanent Publications


When I was three years old we went to go visit my mom’s uncle Mark and aunt Mary on their farm in Kentucky. My only memory of the trip was coming upon a litter of newborn kittens in the barn, but I’m told that I also “helped” Mark plant pumpkins, and for the rest of the week-long visit kept pestering him as to when they would be ready to pick. I kind of feel like that still. (PS The punchline of the farm story is that come October we received a gigantic package in the mail — my dad had to go out to the mail truck to help the postman carry it inside. It was addressed to me, and we opened it up to find a hundred-pound pumpkin inside. There’s Uncle Mark for you.)

Luckily, with adulthood comes patience (sometimes). The germination corner of the dining room table has been steadily turning green, and some of its contents will be ready for planting in about a month.


image (6)

Eggplant (finally — I’d all but given up hope because the seeds were pretty old):

image (5)

And in the other room, my intrepid little avocado tree:

image (3)

My first tree house (part 2)

(Part 1)

When we left off, I was trying to figure out how to build a railing around the platform that I’d bolted (ouch) to the tree. This is how the railing started out:


And this is when I thought it was done (prior to paint):


Not the prettiest architectural detail known to man. But I thought it would work. And the kids were happy.


Their grandfather, however, was dubious. One day when I was up in the tree tinkering around with something or another, he appeared out of nowhere, silently, as he was wont to do, and nodded at me in greeting. He asked how it was going. I said things seemed to be going all right, and that I hoped to start painting soon. He nodded again, and said that it looked good, except that there was one thing that concerned him a bit. He walked over to the edge of the railing and shook it with one of his hands. The railing wobbled… a lot.  That was a little embarrassing to say the least. I said that I’d noticed it wobbled but I figured that the kids wouldn’t be leaning hard up against it, that was common sense. He raised his eyebrows as one does at someone who apparently has no experience with small children (I didn’t). We discussed it and tried to brainstorm possible ways to make it sturdier without taking the whole thing apart, and in the meantime decided that the tree house for the time being would be off limits to kids without adult supervision…. which is kind of against the spirit of tree houses, so I knew I had to figure out something, and quickly.

Shortly thereafter I planned a weekend with Mas to go out and visit an art installation in the mountains built by a collective that includes a friend. We planned on hiking up from the valley, staying the night in the installation — which was livable, and at the time housed at least three members of the group that built it — and continue hiking the next day.

The hike up:


When we got to the top, after several wrong turns in the village, we finally came across our destination:


The installation was a massive wooden maze — think Swiss Family Robinson + The Baron in the Trees + a band of pirates — of corridors, ramps and rooms built on the roof of a chalet that had been scheduled for demolition. Workers in fact had already begun tearing out floorboards and walls in the chalet’s interior, and then stopped work for the five-month duration of the installation. Colonies of wasps moved into the chalet, and the artists lived atop it in the open air. None of the guys who worked to put it up were what most people would call building “professionals” — there were no architects, engineers, construction workers, or carpenters on the team. They had learned to build from experience and common sense. And it was solid and sturdy, though many of the visiting public (including architects, engineers, construction workers, and carpenters) couldn’t believe that a structure resembling a fistful of Pick-Up Sticks could possibly be safe, even as they were standing in it.

Like I said, we’d planned on stopping by, staying the night, and then continuing on with our hike the next day. But then Sunday came and went and we wound up leaving Monday afternoon, and then only because I had to work for the next day. Climbing back down to solid ground was a shock to my inner clock as well as to my body. One of the building rules for the installation was that none of the planks were to be vertically or horizontally placed. The effect was that you were forced to walk always on sharply angled floors, which was really jarring at first to my sense of equilibrium, but after a few hours I got used to it and was bounding around like a squirrel on tree branches. Leaving to go back to Geneva felt like disembarking from a boat. Mas and I practically had to hold on to each other in order to walk straight. The mental effect was the same, which I’ll go into in a bit.

I spent three days back at my bookshop job in Geneva, and as soon as I busted free at 6:30 on the third day I went straight back to the mountains with the backpack I’d packed beforehand in preparation. The rest of the month of August went pretty much like that — luckily my schedule at work was pretty light that month, but even so I wound up switching with two of my coworkers so once I had nine straight days of freedom to spend hanging out at the installation, reading, writing, and learning more about how it had been built. (And actually, how it was continuing to be built, because that was a thing too — the building of it kept going throughout its entire lifetime and would continue until the last day, when the joke was that one of the guys would drill a screw into the wood and then immediately reverse the direction of the power screwdriver to remove the screw he’d just put in and then turn around and carry on with dismantling the rest.)

The building of it, they told me, had started with a ramp on the roof that led up to the chimney. Around the chimney they built a large wooden octagonal table (the Stammtisch) with a hole in the middle for a small firepit, which worked as the common area for everyone to hang out. From there it grew organically and every which way — ramps and stairs leading to bedrooms, an outdoor shower, a kitchen area, and a slide leading into the chalet via a window (the only part built inside the house) where they could go in case of thunderstorms and torrential downpour (and on at least one occasion, massive hail). The ramp that started on the roof was extended and turned into a tunnel that went in one window, out another, and down to the ground. The opening of the tunnel on the ground was where visitors were expected to enter: when they came for the first time (there were plenty of repeat visitors) there was always a look of confusion until finally they called up to someone on the roof “How do we get up?” The answer was always “Through the tunnel at the side of the house. Down on all fours.” (Unless the visitor was eight months pregnant, like my friend Hannah was at the time — she got helped up the secret way.) There was a delay of a couple of minutes and plenty of giggling and shrieking (the tunnel got pretty narrow at one point, and it was unlit) until the visitor tumbled out onto the first ramp on the roof. The look on their faces was always the same, no matter what their age was, and that was a look of pure, giddy joy.

A picture gallery is in order here.

Needless to say this was the most fun summer I’ve ever had in my entire life. I basically lived on a pirate ship for a month. And while a lot of it was fun and games, I learned so, so much that to be quite honest I’m still wrapping my head around it all nearly two years later. Some of the learning was building related, but the majority of it was learning how to deal with a different rhythm of time. My research was pretty existential to begin with, but this experience multiplied that. I spent a lot of time reading and writing there, especially during one week when the guys had to go off to check out the site for one of their upcoming projects and asked me to hold down the fort. One of the books I read was Sylvain Tesson’s Dans les forêts de Siberie (The Consolations of the Forest, now translated in English). As a (true) story I found it to be a little Eat Pray Loveish if Eat Pray Love had been fueled by vodka and written on the taiga by an anticapitalist, but there were several passages that made me think about what I was living at that moment … albeit Tesson isolated himself in a lakeside cabin, his nearest neighbors a good 100 kilometers away, and I was hanging out in a trippy tree house with three to four other people, a steady stream of visitors, and a village down below where I could go buy groceries and use the Internet. But I’m telling you, I felt camaraderie.

The cabin, realm of simplification. Under the cover of pines, life reduces itself to vital gestures. Time torn from daily duties is spent at rest, in contemplation and for small pleasures. The range of things to accomplish is reduced. Reading, pumping water, cutting wood, writing, and pouring tea become rites. In the city, every act is carried out to the detriment of a thousand others. The forest pulls together what the city spreads apart. (p. 6 in the French, my translation)

This is where I felt a connection. On my days back in Geneva I couldn’t believe how hard it was for me to readjust, and I felt immense frustration over the fact that I was spending hours upon hours doing things from which I felt distanced, even alienated, but which nevertheless I did because that’s just how life is when you live in a city in the 21st century. I know I probably sound like anyone else who’s ever gone on vacation to a remote locale, but for me the simplification of the day, combined with never really knowing what time it was, combined with the physicality of where I was living, plus the fact that I was outside all day, every day and through the night, plus the fact that I knew this experience was a one-time deal (it was taken down in late September) — all this made for a wakening up of my senses that I’d never felt before in the same way.

It made me think above all of idleness, and of how idleness is such a dirty word for so many people. There’s an essay by Robert Louis Stevenson that I love, “An Apology for Idlers,” in which he writes that idleness does not consist “in doing nothing, but in doing a great deal not recognized in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class.”

That idea has informed much of my research for some time, and especially in conjunction with my experience on the pirate ship. Because I was doing a lot: reading, gardening, writing, thinking, meeting and talking with people, learning some building skills and baking bread:

_DSC1025  _DSC1050

What is idle about any of that? What end purpose does it serve? What is it producing?

For me it reinforced a passion for my work and helped push for a change in my way of thinking about how I spend my time and for what and for whom, which has all contributed toward making me a happier person than I’ve ever been. Not a bad investment of a month of my life.

And with that, I’ll leave you with a little Thoreau to take with you on the rest of your day:

I sometimes dream of a larger and more populous house, standing in a golden age, of enduring materials, and without ginger-bread work, which shall still consist of only one room, a vast, rude, substantial, primitive hall, without ceiling or plastering, with bare rafters and purlins supporting a sort of lower heaven over one’s head, — useful to keep off rain and snow; where the king and queen posts stand out to receive your homage, when you have done reverence to the prostrate Saturn of an older dynasty on stepping over the sill; a cavernous house, wherein you must reach up a torch upon a pole to see the roof; where some may live in the fire-place, some in the recesses of a window, and some on settles, some at the end of one hall, some at another, and some aloft on rafters with the spiders, if they choose; a house which you have got into when you have opened the outside door, and the ceremony is over; where the weary traveller may wash, and eat, and converse, and sleep, without further journey; such a shelter as you would be glad to reach in a tempestuous night, containing all the essentials of a house, and nothing for house-keeping; where you can see all the treasures of the house at one view, and every thing hangs upon its peg that a man should use; at once kitchen, pantry, parlor, chamber, store-house, and garret; where you can see so necessary a thing as a barrel or a ladder, so convenient a thing as a cupboard, and hear the pot boil, and pay your respects to the fire that cooks your dinner and the oven that bakes your bread, and the necessary furniture and utensils are the chief ornaments; here the washing is not put out, nor the fire, nor the mistress, and perhaps you are sometimes requested to move from off the trap-door, when the cook would descend into the cellar, and so learn whether the ground is solid or hollow beneath you without stamping. A house whose inside is as open and manifest as a bird’s nest, and you cannot go in at the front door and out at the back without seeing some of its inhabitants; where to be a guest is to be presented with the freedom of the house, and not to be carefully excluded from seven eighths of it, shut up in a particular cell, and told to make yourself at home there, — in solitary confinement. Nowadays the host does not admit you to his hearth, but has got the mason to build one for yourself somewhere in his alley, and hospitality is the art of keeping you at the greatest distance. There is as much secrecy about the cooking as if he had a design to poison you. I am aware that I have been on many a man’s premises, and might have been legally ordered off, but I am not aware that I have been in many men’s houses. I might visit in my old clothes a king and queen who lived simply in such a house as I have described, if I were going there way; but backing out of a modern palace will be all that I shall desire to learn, if ever I am caught in one. (Walden, p. 157-158 in the Dover Thrift edition.)

PS: Since I mentioned I did a bit of reading during that month, I’ll share with you my list in case you want to discover or rediscover any of it:

  • Thoreau, Walden (read for what I think was the 200th time)
  • Sylvain Tesson, Dans les forêts de Siberie / The Consolations of the Forest (He brought several boxes of books with him for his six months of isolation, and includes a list of all of them early on in the book. He had some odd reading choices that I don’t know I would take the time to read, but a lot of good ones that I’ve already read or want to some day.)
  • “L’homme qui plantait des arbres” (“The Man Who Planted Trees,” novella, you can read it online here, and/or see the animated short here)
  • Seneca, “On the Shortness of Life”
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract
  • Emerson, Self Reliance and Other Essays
  • Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Sourdough take six + the library is going to blacklist me

This is something like round six of sourdough starter cultivation. I had a nice one going last summer and fall, but after doing a workshop with it, which entailed weeks of bread baking in advance to better my sourdough skills (I’m a novice after all, but novices can share knowledge, too), I couldn’t stomach another round of sponges and rising times so I decided to let the starter sleep for a while in the fridge. Then I forgot to feed it for quite a long time (… months….) and so of course it died. Since then I’ve started a starter several times but each time life called me elsewhere and I didn’t follow up on it, and thus another one would buy the farm.

The last death was an epic one — I had trucked my starter to the workshop Mas and I did the other week, along with a few other DIY projects I had hanging around the apartment, plus a load of books having to do with our subject. After we’d finished up at the end of day 3, Mas and I went to another meeting for a different project we have going on, and after that meeting a group of us went out for a beer, which turned into going to Pachinko, and in case you had any doubts, no, sourdough starters do not like going to hipster dive bars. Because, yes, I was that stupid to pack up my starter AND not only my starter, but a dozen or so books, too, and take them out on the town with me. In my defense I hadn’t anticipated moving around as much as we did. I had packed up the books so as to avoid having to lug them all back after the last day of the workshop, and had taken along my starter as well because I feared for its safety. I clearly didn’t fear for its safety all that much, though, or at least not enough to verify that the lid to the jar was screwed on securely. I think we all know how this is going to end…

Sourdough starter all over my coat:

image (10)

The stupidity of carrying a jar of starter in the same bag as some of your most prized books:

image (11)

Including library books… about bread:

image (13)

No, I’m not slitting my wrists in despair there — Alvaro suggested letting the starter dry a bit and then shaving it off with razor blades.

image (12)

It sort of worked, but since starter is wet there are a few books with permanently damaged covers or pages. Including one library book (Le Pain) which I’ve now got to replace. Stupid, stupid.

After a brief mourning period, I began a new starter. Here it is this morning, day eight or so:

image (9)

Tonight I’m going to make a sponge, tomorrow I’ll be organizing my day around rising times for the dough, and with luck we’ll have fresh sourdough for tomorrow night’s dinner. I’ve got high hopes for this starter, by far the most lively I’ve ever managed to cultivate. I’m guessing it’s the flour (organic, 95% whole wheat, recently ground).

I feel a renewed motivation to be a better caretaker (and not only because I’m doing another workshop in three weeks, coughcough) — maybe it’s the coming springtime making me think of growing things. Who knows. It’s probably also because I feel more direction in the bread part of my research, and am starting to lay out more of a methodology and thinking about how to present it. I feel kind of wary of having a fixed idea in mind of what I’m going to produce, because that can steer the research process and cause me to miss out on a path that might not be the obvious one but which might lead me toward something interesting. But at the same time, having an image of what I’m working toward helps me stay more focused and I feel more confident in what I’m doing if I have an idea of the route. I guess I’m more tree than rhizome.