I just finished teaching a weekend class on pollinators and gardening at the Folk School. My class was a great group of folks. We learned about seeding starting and growing native milkweeds for monarch eggs and caterpillars, planting flowers, native shrubs and trees for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, the challenges of neonicotinoids and herbicides. The weekend exhibited beautiful May weather! Enjoy our photo album:
John Clarke in the Folk School bee yard, showing the class the old bee hives, plus two brand new Russian bee colonies installed from the Beekeeping Class three weeks ago with Virginia Webb. Russian bees seem to be more varrora mite resistant than our beloved Italian honey bees.
[caption id="attachment_13059" align="aligncenter" width="600"] The "Science of Bread" Class Photo, May 2015[/caption]
Magical. That’s the word used over and over to describe a week at the Folk School. And there’s always something that makes the visit extra special: last May it was the baby barn swallows peeking over the edges of their nests in the rafters outside Davidson Hall.
This year it was the mountain laurel in full bloom; the mother-to-be barn swallows sat patiently atop their nests. The Folk School is a magical place, but also, when you’re there, you slow down and pay attention to things like the birds and flowers.
[caption id="attachment_13066" align="alignright" width="215"] Nicholas holds the focaccia fresh out of the oven.[/caption]
I was at the Folk School last week to teach my annual “Science of Bread” class—not a magical name by any means, but bread-making can be wondrous even when you know about the microorganisms and molecules that make it work. In addition to making dozens of loaves, the class started a sourdough starter by attracting wild yeasts and bread-making bacteria from the air into a container of flour and water. They also braved the production of salt-rising bread, a first for me. Making salt-rising bread is similar to creating a sourdough starter in that ingredients (in our case, raw potatoes, corn meal, sugar, and baking soda) are left out to attract microorganisms that cause the bread to rise when the dough is mixed the next day. (“Salt-rising” is a misnomer.) The ingredients are kept at 110 degrees, however, so that the microorganisms attracted to the mixture are different than the usual ones; this results in the unique flavor and aroma of salt-rising bread.