A Poem by Nils Aslak Valkeapää

I do not own the copyright to the following poem.

It was written by Nils Aslak Valkeapää (1943-2001), a prominent Sámi writer, visual artist and creator and performer of yoiku music also known as Áillohaš. Below is a poem from his book, Trekways of the Wind.

For a moment I was with you
rested for a while

And now my friend, my dear bird
it is time to leave again
It is always like that towards the end

And I take out the white reindeer fur coat
not so new any more
but not worn either
And I take out the mottled fur shoes
new shoe strings
nice dark fur leggings
the silver belt the gákti
the silk scarf the cap
the fur gloves
And the food pack

I leave
to arrive
go away
to be closer

To the space of your thoughts
to your heart
I crawl
into the heart

I journey
on the sea of time
follow
the tracks of the wind

Breaducation

©2022 Michael Raven

I don’t write much about it lately, but I am still making bread and trying to find the perfect ratios (for me) of the primary bread ingredients: water, flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.

I still haven’t quite found what I’m looking for, but I’ve learned a lot in the meantime. First-off, there is a lot of variation in measurements and methods of measurement, and not all of them make a ton of sense. Take, for instance, the recipe that I tried out these last two batches, a standard free-form bread with all of the above mentioned primary ingredients. I was looking for something that was a little lighter, with more bubbles than what I had been finding with no-knead dough. While I like my bread dense and chewy, I also like it to rise a bit. The last few batches of bread before this recipe were sugar-free, but didn’t stand up well to the refrigerator treatment and were so-so when it came to terms of size and texture within, even fresh out of the bowl. So I started looking for recipes calling for a little sugar to aid the yeast to make something a little less… stonelike.

This is the second recipe that I’ve tried with sugar that was really, really, wet when I made it — too wet, in my opinion. The instructions called for adding flour as needed in 1/4 cup increments in both cases, but I don’t know what to look for until I pick up the towel after letting it rise and see that it still is going to be hard to work with because it just doesn’t want to keep form (perhaps desirable in a pan, but these have been free-standing loaves). The first time I made it, I thought i had maybe not been careful with the volume of water added, so I measured out the quantity based on mass (grams) instead of volume, and it was the same gooey mess trying to transfer to the baking stone. I felt like I was in a mad scientist experiment gone wrong. It’s ALIVE!!!

I started looking at a book I have written in the 80s-style checkout lane types of books for bread and, while the recipes are definitely skewed towards less “artisan” styles of bread and more designed to discuss add-ins for different flavor profiles, I noticed that the ratios of water-to-flour were about half that of this current recipe. This recipe was about 1:1 by mass (710g water to 750g flour, or 3 cups flour to 6 cups flour). Most of the recipes I was seeing in this book were on the order of 1.5-2 cups water to 6 cups of flour — that’s a massive difference! (pun intended). No wonder these loaves are so gooey. I looked at some of the other recipes I’ve been trying and, as you might expect, the ratios are closer to this bog-standard recipe book than they are to the one I just tried twice (with the same results both times, although I added nearly a cup of flour to the dough beyond the volume/mass given in the current recipe).

Lesson learned. You can’t always rely on internet recipes when it comes to baking, even if the star rating of the recipe is 4.5 over 40 people. The amount of water seems out of line with other free-standing rustic loaves (or bread baking in general). I recall the carrot cake made a few years back that called for twice the oil that anyone else called for (and noted well down on the comments that the oil quantity was off) and I ended up with a raw-center/burnt-edges carrot cake for my birthday. I should have learned my lesson that time.

What I might do is get something more reputable from the library for information about the science of the measurements. While these have been tasty, the texture is also a bit on the chewier side and less firm than I would like. I have a sense that I need some sugar for the yeast to munch on, at least when my drafty home is in the middle of winter — but I like the idea of bread without added sugar. As a scientist, I think I need to understand the chemistry a bit better to get better results via tweaking the recipes to better suit my desired outcome.

Until then, I’m still hunting for that ideal loaf.

Warp Four. Engage.

©2022 Michael Raven

Remind me (if I ever ask or should need reminding): Wool can be a difficult yarn to weave with.

I managed to get my loom warped with panel two of my shawl-like woolen cloak on the fourth attempt. It wasn’t without it’s difficulties, but I managed and I think my issues are almost entirely related to the fact that I was using a yarn of 100% wool, one that is incredibly stretchy. It is also “clingy” with the loose fibers that are part of it’s nature.

Continue reading “Warp Four. Engage.”

Inkle me; so sew me

©2022 Michael Raven

I received my inkle loom this afternoon. Some assembly was required and I have to let the glue dry overnight before I can try it out, but I have to admit that I’m excited about the prospect of adding another fiber art to my experience. I hesitate to refer to it as a skill; I mean, I have yet to actually weave anything on it, how can it be a skill yet? But I am looking forward to having it become a skill.

Ashford inkle loom (photo from vendor webpage, I do not own the copyright)
Continue reading “Inkle me; so sew me”

jack

©2022 Michael Raven

seeking a unique skill
i am (sadly) still
a jack of all trades
master of none

I’m getting decent at weaving on a rigid heddle loom. Not great and I am by no means an expert, although I am still in the learning stages. I’m not sure I want to get into complex weave patterns, but I might develop an interest in those, eventually. Right now, I’m happy working on my basic technique over and over when it comes to the rigid heddle loom and not terribly interested in learning how to do tweeds or houndstooth patterns (for example). Those seem like high-maintenance, low-reward weaving patterns. Like I said, I may change my attitude over time and I really should try to at least sample some of those techniques.

Right now, I have my eye on adding an inkle loom to my collection to make borders and bands for the pieces I am working on. I have to figure out the “how” of the thing works, but I suspect I might have to come up with my own patterns after I figure it out, as I am not finding the patterns I want online or in books. There are plenty of fancy designs out there, just very few in the Celtic/Norse look that I would want to achieve. This gives me an opportunity to develop a skill like what I eventually ended up with when I was crafting shots of expresso, which is about the only skill I’ve had when I felt I was approaching “master” talent levels before I decided I was tired of being a poor barista. I want to reclaim that sense of accomplishment I had with the espresso, and playing around with weaving seems like a good space to work within (although I don’t know if I’d ever aspire or be able to reach “master” status, nor do I need to — I just want to feel like a skilled craftsperson).

I’m still deciding on the extra loom. It’s quite a bit of cash for something that seems like it could go terribly wrong very quickly.

Shawl weaving

©2022 Michael Raven

I finally got over the disasterpiece I had left on the loom for nearly a week and decided to overhaul it and make it work today.

Oh, I thought things had gone wrong with my last project, but I was given an education that I probably won’t forget right away. The shawl/cape project I had set up to do couldn’t have gone much more wrong before I even got to weaving.

Continue reading “Shawl weaving”

Making bread

©2022 Michael Raven

I’ve been making rustic bread for the past week or so. Several times now and I’ve discovered a genuine interest in crafting artisan rustic breads as a result. I’m no foodie, so I’ll skip pictures for the time being, especially as it is the experience of making and eating simple crusty breads that is more interesting to me than the end appearance. Besides, I am still learning the basics.

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Another scarf; a postmortem

©2022 Michael Raven

I’ve finally gotten around to finishing the scarf for my second twin (above, before wet finishing). It took longer than the last for a number of reasons and, as frustrating as those reasons were, I consider them to be valuable lessons.

First, she had liked what I had done for her non-twin sister with the checkered patterns and insisted that I replicate that effect. No matter how much I tried to explain to her that using two batches of variegated thread would probably not result in that look, she insisted that I try. So I did. If you look closely, you’ll see bands of purple/blue/white that stand out in the patterns on the long edges and occasionally through the rainbow pattern. These are the colors she chose and wanted, so I worked with it as best as I was able.

That was the only the first challenge.

Continue reading “Another scarf; a postmortem”