Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Not quite right for March

It was 87 degrees in Detroit yesterday.  Here's what is in bloom around my house....a good month ahead of time.  WOW!

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Friday, March 16, 2012


I'm a trained weather spotter for Washtenaw county.   What that means is that every two years, I sit through a training class with a bunch of nerdy people that tend to obsess about things like the weather and being a ham radio operator and a having an anemometer hooked up to their computer.   It ain't me -  I don't fit in with this crowd, but several years ago, I decided I would do this thing. Since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated with the weather.   I wanted to be a meteorologist when I was in elementary school, not sure why I changed my mind.

So last night, I was driving home from work when my sister called and said " Are the trained spotter that saw the funnel cloud in Dexter?" I wasn't home I wasn't.   I could see the wall cloud in front of me as I was driving westward, but here in Michigan, we don't get the stereotypical tornado alley wall clouds like they do in, say, Kansas.  Like this:

Instead, we get a great gray blob of a cloud that goes all the way to the horizon - i.e. it looks like rain.   That's why it's hard to see a tornado in Michigan, because our geography of lakes makes the air very humid.  So it can look just like a field of gray.   The storm happened so fast that we really didn't get much of a chance to be warned to spot tornadoes like we usually do.   I received this email at 10:34 am:


I had commented to my coworkers, "Looks like we might get some rain tonight" and someone responded that they thought it was going north of us in Dearborn.   And that part was somewhat true...a line of storms did go north of us.  That evening, the sirens sounded in Lapeer as well.   But this storm certainly came out of nowhere fast.  But trained spotters did see one and sure enough, a tornado touched down in my little town.   Here's the storm report from the National Weather Service
3/15/12 Dexter Tornado

Dexter Tornado
A National Weather Service Storm Survey confirmed an EF-3 tornado touched down near Dexter, MI with maximum wind speeds of 135-140 mph. The path length was 7.2 miles with a maximum width of 800 yards. The tornado touched down at 5:17pm just northeast of the intersection of N Territorial and Dexter Townhall Rd. The tornado moved southeast and produced EF-1 damage with winds estimated at 100 mph. Damage was limited to uprooted and snapped trees as well as minor roof damage. The tornado strengthened as it hit the Horseshoe Bend Subdivision with winds estimated at 120 mph and structural damage to the outside of homes. The tornado then continued to track southeast alongside Dexter-Pinckney Rd. and produced EF-3 damage at 5:31pm. Winds estimated at 135-140 mph destroyed one home northwest of Dexter. The tornado then made a left turn and paralleled Huron River Dr. producing EF-2 damage on the north side of Dexter. The tornado then produced EF-3 damage again at 5:49pm in the Huron Farms Subdivision with winds estimated at 135-140 mph. One home was destroyed and another house had only interior rooms left standing. The tornado then weakened as it moved southeast and lifted at 5:52pm near the intersection of Zeeb Rd. and Ann Arbor-Dexter Rd.


That means that the tornado lifted just about 3 miles from my house.   I didn't get home until about 6 pm, so I missed it all.   But we are glad to be safe.  A tornado in March - who would think of it? 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bread in the Tassajara Style

I had my moment of Zen this morning when I was flipping through Molly O'Neill's One Big Table cookbook, looking for a bread recipe to try.   February got away from me and I never got around to baking a loaf for the monthly Bake Your Own Bread, but I was going to take it on for March right here and now.  I was surprised to find a dearth of bread recipes in the book, but there was a charming vignette about the Tassajara Bread Book turning us all back on to making our own bread in the 1970s, and I remembered I have this cookbook.   My friend Lisa told me it was a great book, so I picked it up for 50 cents at a garage sale last summer, but never cracked it open.

This cookbook is written by Zen priest Edward Espe Brown of the San Francisco Zen Center.   It's very 1970s, with it's hand drawings and funky format.  The recipes in it are mostly descriptions of processes - Brown is a big believer in cooking by intuition.   Given my track record of many failed bread experiments, I wasn't sure this was going to work for me.   But then I came across this prayer at the beginning of the book....

Bringing food alive with your loving presence.
To have compassion, to have respect
for fresh foods, for broken bowls,
for dirty napkins, and little bugs.
To take care of leftovers,
not saying, oh that's all right, we have plenty
we can throw that away.
Because everything is saying love me,
have compassion, hold me gently.
Please hug me now and then
(we're really one, not two),
but don't get attached
(we're really two, not one).
The bowls and knives, the table, the teapot,
the leftovers, the molding vegetables,
the juicy fruit,
everything is asking this of you:
make full use,
take loving care
of me.
The cups, the glasses, the sponges,
the sticky honey jar,
all asking to fulfill.
Just to make deepest love all the time,
concentrating not on the food, but on yourself:
making your best effort to allow things
to fulfill their functions. In this way
everything is deliciously full
of warmth and kindness.
Okay, I'll give it a shot.   I'll let everything fulfill their functions.   Following the yeasted bread process,  I came up with my own bread recipe.  The Tassajara bread process secret is making a sponge....a wet yeasty mixture to get the bread started.  Here's how I did it with what I had in the house:

For the sponge:
3 c. lukewarm water
2 T yeast
1/2 c. hickory syrup (you could use honey or molasses here)
1 c. dry milk powder
3 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3 c. all purpose flour
1 egg


  1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the sweetening and the dry milk (optional). Stir in the 3/12 cups of whole-wheat flour to form a thick batter. Beat well with a spoon (100 strokes).
  2. Heat a coffee mug with a couple inches of water in it on high in the microwave for a minute.   Leaving the mug in there,  place bowl  in microwave and shut the door - your microwave makes an excellent bread proofing box.
  3. Let the dough rise for 45 minutes.
  4. Fold in the salt and the oil, then fold in the additional 3 cups of flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Knead on a floured board for about 10 minutes, using the additional  flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the board. Stop when the dough is smooth. 
  5. Reheat the cup of water in the microwave etc. like you did before
  6. Let the dough rise for 50 to 60 minutes, or until doubled in size. Punch it down.  Do the microwave thing again.
  7. Let the dough rise for another 40 to 50 minutes, or until doubled in size. Shape the dough into loaves and place in 2 loaf pans.  Microwave thing again, and let rise for 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  9. Brush the tops of the loaves with an egg wash (a egg beaten with a few tablespoons of water or milk) and bake for 40 minutes to an hour, or until golden brown. Remove from the pans and let cool before slicing.