Sourdough Update

A few weeks ago, I posted about making a sourdough starter and promised an update when I finally baked with it.

Here it is:

The preparation process is much more time-consuming than the recipe I usually use from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, and despite following the directions, the top of the loaf is a slightly burnt.

Still, I couldn’t resist pulling off a taste, even before taking this picture. The taste and texture was amazing, and I’m quite taken by the fact that a little flour and water are enough to attract wild yeast from which I could make such delicious bread.

Also, having learned I can keep the starter alive in the fridge and only bake once a week means the process of using sourdough is (slightly)less involved than I previously believed.

Conclusion: I plan to make an effort to keep the starter going and try to make baking with it as routine as the Artisan Bread in 5 method.

Walking Alone

I went for a walk today — not earth-shattering news, to be sure — since I usually walk a few days a week. This time, however, I walked by myself, which is something I almost never do.

The route was familiar, the activity trail at a local park, and as I strolled, I found myself pondering three great mysteries.

The first question weighing on my mind was why, oh why, had I left my Yak Trax in the car, and would I manage to not slip and break a bone on the ice? Since this post is not about a visit to the Emergency Room, you know my conclusions on that one.

The second query was a new one: Is there some winter exception to dog care etiquette I don’t know about? I ask because there were piles of canine excrement all along the path, sullying what would otherwise have been a beautiful, if somewhat treacherous, walk. Apparently, the owners of what appear to be many dogs seem to feel cold weather and snow gives them license to ignore their pooch poop duties. It is as if freezing weather makes it okay to demonstrate a lack of regard for the park and others who use it. Can anyone can explain this type of logic? If so, please leave a comment so the rest of us can understand.

My last thoughts weren’t so much a mystery as a sad reflection.

As mentioned above, I rarely walk alone and for a good reason. Although we live in an area of relatively low crime, I don’t feel safe in a park that, although easily accessible, can be at times deserted.

Do a search for “woman abducted,” then do another for “man abducted,” and perhaps you’ll begin to see why I feel this way.

The first search provides multiple hits about women taken against their wills. The second list of hits is evenly divided between men being taken, and men who kidnapped women.

Is this because women are more likely to be victims of this type of violence? My gut feeling is yes, though I can’t provide statistics to back this up.

While searching, I did come across this report that says a man is far more likely to be victim of sexual violence than to be falsely accused of rape [at least in the UK, where the survey was taken] Completely off the subject, but interesting nonetheless, don’t you think?

I remember when I first realized there was a difference in how men and women perceive the safety of a given situation. It was about thirty years ago, and I was driving home late at night from my evening shift at a restaurant. At that time, there was a serial rapist operating in the area, so I was even more vigilant than normal about locking my car doors and being aware of my surroundings.

When I was nearly home, just a few blocks from our apartment, I saw an elderly man walking alone and thought, “That man, even though he’s old and feeble, walking by himself late at night, will never and probably has never had to worry about being raped. He might be mugged for his wallet, but he almost certainly doesn’t have to worry about sexual violence.”

It was an epiphany to think that half the human population had the privilege of being able to view the world so differently from the other half.

I’ll admit I wasn’t always so cautious. When I was in my twenties, I used to regularly cycle alone before going to work. And although I always enjoyed those morning rides, soon after the “old man epiphany,” I dropped the habit.

So, walking alone today was an anomaly. And, obviously nothing happened because I’m here writing this post.

Still, when I reached a particularly empty part of the trail and saw a man standing alone staring at the sledding hill, bereft of children and parents on this schoolday morning, it made me nervous.

What was he doing there? Why the strange interest in an empty hill?

I’ve no idea, but when I got closer, I saw he was older than me, and I figured I could outrun him if I had to.

You may laugh; that was exactly what I thought.

Later, as I approached the car park, I heard a man cough behind me and jumped enough that he apologized, saying he’d cleared his throat so he didn’t startle me by suddenly looming up beside me.

Am I crazy? Paranoid? Overly careful? I’m not sure.

I can only say I believe women experience the world we live in very differently than men experience it.

Do I think that will ever change?

Not really.

But it would be nice if more men realized such a difference exists.

Sixty-one: I’ve Just Begun

I turned sixty-one yesterday, which sounds like a vast age until you reach it. And although I joke about being old, I don’t feel it.

To celebrate, The Engineer and I spent a long weekend visiting Hocking Hills, one of Ohio’s many beautiful state parks.

We did not camp. I tell you this because when I mentioned we were going, several people asked if we were camping. Well, no, because it’s winter in Ohio, and we camp in a tent! It was 11F on the first night and only warmed up on our last day.

The Engineer has, like, a gazillion points at Holiday Inn from all his traveling for work so we stayed there.

Neither of us had been to Hocking Hills before, though I’d heard it’s beautiful. It turns out “beautiful” doesn’t cover it. The park is breathtaking, awe-inspiring, full of waterfalls, gorges, caves, and other rock formations.

Darling Daughter and Partner drove over on Sunday to hike with us. I was so pleased, not just because she’s my daughter, but also because they seem to genuinely enjoy and look out for each other. It warms my heart to see them together.

We hiked from Ash Cave to Cedar Falls, only about three miles, but the snow made it more challenging than you might expect.

Here are a couple of pictures of Ash Cave. I’ve no idea who the people are in the photos; I was just grateful we were there in the winter so there weren’t hundreds. Hocking Hills is an extremely popular park, so popular that when we stopped by on Saturday to pick up some maps, the parking lot at the visitor center was almost full even though the temperature didn’t get much above 20F that day.

Incredible, no?

There’s a fire tower at the mid-point of the hike, and although it’s no longer used, visitors can go up it if they want. (I didn’t.)

Eighty feet may not sound high, but take a look.

I was stunned and impressed when DD was the one who climbed to the top. Meanwhile, I admired the clouds.

Eventually, we reached Cedar Falls.

Seeing these spots in winter was incredible because we could walk on the ice right up to the rock formations.

The park had ice carvings near the trailheads of Cedar Falls and Ash Cave, and I was particularly taken with the ear muffs someone had provided for Big Foot.

After DD and Partner left, The Engineer and I celebrated the day, each in our own way — him with a beer, and me with a flight of margaritas.

In researching our trip, I had looked at trail maps from several sources including two apps, the paper maps provided by the parks, and a tour book. They mostly contradicted each other, which resulted in our hike the next day going from an expected three miles to over five. (This is why you always bring fluids [which we didn’t] and snacks [which we did].)

We were, however, warned about the ice … repeatedly and with good reason. This was one of the smaller patches.

There were several places where we did more crawling than hiking, and at the largest (about ten feet long covering the whole trail), I slid down the embankment and walked on the river ice, which wasn’t as glassy.

The Engineer risked life and limb crossing the ice patch, while I fretted what I would do when he broke his arm or leg since there were very few other hikers and no cell service.

We hiked from Old Man’s Cave to Whispering Cave, going up and down steep embankments over ice and snow, and it was worth it to see views like this.

For our final hike yesterday, we were going to walk around Rose Lake. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the lake trail and were only able to hike the access trail down to the lake and back up.

Still, we can hardly complain when the trail runs through a cathedral forest like this.

We might have missed the trail, but we saw plenty of signs.

From top left: 1) How could you not love a road named “Sauer Kraut?”
2) I still don’t understand why we would have had to disrobe to test the fire alarm had we been in our room, but we weren’t so it doesn’t matter.
3) Restaurant rule #1 made sense to me.
4) The beach rules were being strictly adhered to when we checked out Lake Logan, though some hardy souls were ice fishing.

I’ve written before about my fondness for old barns, especially those with Mail Pouch Tobacco ads painted on the side. This affection extends to other “ghost signs,” and apparently I’m not the only one (click through for more examples).

I’m not 100% convinced this is actually a ghost sign. The lettering and phrasing look real, but it could be a reproduction because the paint looks more fresh than one might expect given the style of lettering in “Firestone.”

Seeing these is like viewing a piece of history, a memory of everyday life in the past, and I like that very much probably because someday, if we’re lucky, that’s what we’ll be.

This brings me back to how I began this post — a comment on my ancientness, and I suppose here is where I should offer some bit of wisdom or something I’ve learned in my more than sixty years.

Here it is: One thing I’ve learned is how important it is for me to continue to go new places, seek out new things, and to try activities I never thought I’d try, to not limit myself to being the type of person I think I am. I won’t even say this applies to everyone. I have no way of knowing if such an attitude is right for you. I just know if I always followed my initial reactions, I would have missed out on a lot (beekeeping, for example).

Also, I think experiencing new things, as much as you can for as long as you can, helps keep you young.

That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.