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Free Trade

Tunes for a Friday evening. Here are two of my fave performers, April Verch and Joe Newberry playing a medley of Canadian and American old time tunes (and as a bonus, April Verch fiddles and step dances at the same time). This should get your weekend off to a good start.

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Sourdough with olives (loaf 5)

This morning I baked a sourdough loaf with olives!


I used those briny crinkled black olives, cutting a handful of them off the pits. After the initial overnight rise, I placed the dough on a towel coated generously with corn meal and spelt flour, then I spread the olives on top of the dough. After that I folded the sides of the dough to the middle. I let the dough sit wrapped in the towel for half an hour then baked as usual at high temps in a Dutch oven (30 minutes with the lid and 15 more without).

It’s a super-tasty sourdough, with good chewiness and lots of crunch in the crust.

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This is quite a February thaw we’re experiencing here in Toronto. It’s the worst time for dog owners and as you know, with two Newfs we have a lot of dog – wet, sloppy, muddy dog.

The snow has melted very quickly in the back yard, but I guess the ground is still frozen because there is some serious ponding going on out there. What a sloppy mess!


Our yard, which for much of the year is a beautiful spot in the universe to hang out, is a place to avoid just now. UPDATE: I think I saw a trout rise out in the pond. Maybe I should get the old fly rod out and take a few casts.

When it gets like this, I’m always reminded of a line from the Wade Hemsworth song, The Shining Birch Tree, when he sings “come the in-between seasons of the freeze and the thaw….” Here are Murray McLauchlan with Kate and Anna McGarrigle performing it (and yes I know, I’ve shared this one before, but you wanted to hear it again, didn’t you?)

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The Surrounding Game

The Surrounding Game is a documentary film by Will Lockhart about the game of Go, which follows some young American Go players as they begin the first ever American professional Go qualifying tournament in 2012. The film is available for download from the website, either for rent or sale. Here’s the trailer…

Go is played professionally in China, Korea and Japan, places in which this game is a really big deal. Players start studying to be professionals as children and work at the game for many hours each day, and professional players are held in great esteem. While the game has been growing in North America, if you walk down the street and ask people if they play Go, or even know what it is, many will still not know what you are talking about, even after all the media attention garnered by the artificial intelligence called AlphaGo.

The American Go Association decided in 2012 to hold a tournament to promote 2 players to “professional”. Never mind, with only 2 professionals in the country, there isn’t a lot of pro competition. However, part of the deal is that the initial pros in the USA are sent to Asia to participate in major tournaments over there. In other words, they’re making a push to develop some players to a world class level, even if that push is in its infancy.

I’ve been playing Go for many years now and still in the scheme of things I’m puny and weak. The more I learn, the stronger I get, the more I realize how little about the game I know. It becomes more and more interesting and is a very satisfying lifetime study. I liked The Surrounding Game. It is well done and highly engaging, and if you have any interest in the game at all, I think you’ll really enjoy it. It might even inspire you to learn the game.

If there is anyone here in Long Branch interested in learning Go, I’d be happy to teach you. Just drop me a line.



Filed under: Go
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Remember when Western was a music category?

Let’s listen to some Wilf Carter.

Ain’t Gonna be a Hobo no More

Hang the Key on the Bunkhouse Door

Rootin’-tootin’ Cowboy

and one more…. Springtime in the Rockies


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And another – loaf 3

Before turning in last night, I prepared a bread dough – again using my sourdough monster – so it would be ready to bake this morning. This is a no-knead loaf, and is loaf #3 from this starter. I’m using standard grocery store bread flour, nothing fancy. IMG_8821.jpg


Previously I did the final short rise with the dough wrapped in a towel coated with a mix of flour and corn meal. I recently bought some finer corn meal and this time I coated the towel with just the fine corn meal with no flour.

I again slashed the surface of the dough with a serrated knife, but this time the dough did not accept the slash in the same way. The last time the slash really opened up the surface. This time the dough seemed to close right up over the slash. Maybe the consistency of today’s dough was a little different, I’m not sure. Perhaps it should be ever-so-slightly less wet? Over time, I’ll experiment some until I get a good understanding of what changes to the dough do to the final product.

I baked this loaf just a coupleĀ  minutes less with the lid off than the last one so there is less of the chestnut colour on the surface (30 minutes lid on + 13 minutes lid off). Still the crust looks to be nicely developed. I’ll let it cool, run some errands and cut it open for a sandwich later on.

The other day somebody asked me if I grease or coat the Dutch oven in any way before putting the dough in. I don’t. The loaf itself has some coating – as I mentioned I’ve used a cornmeal and flour mix and also straight-up cornmeal. I’m also going to try wheat bran in the future. I do pre-heat the Dutch oven with the lid on to 500F.

Since I’ve started baking bread at high temperatures, I’ve noticed the orange colour of my Dutch oven has darkened a little. I’m sure those enamels are not intended for such high temperatures. I’m going to keep an eye open for a cast iron pot and lid with no enamel for bread baking.


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I baked another sourdough loaf this evening after leaving the dough to rise for 12 hours + another half hour loosely wrapped in a tea towel well coated with corn meal and flour. Once again I used my sourdough monster rather than a commercial yeast and as usual I baked the loaf in my trusty Dutch oven at 500F – 30 minutes with the lid on followed by 15 minutes with the lid off. You want to get some good colour on the crust including some chestnut brown areas.

This is seriously good bread. I would like to say it is because I have some kind of special baking skills but the fact is that anybody can do this. It takes patience to develop a good starter and more patience to simply leave your sticky dough well enough alone for a long enough period of time. You need to have either a Dutch oven or a big pyrex pot or a cast iron pot so you can create an oven within your oven where you can trap the steam from the loaf you’re baking. This is vital. You also need to have faith in baking at such a high temperature.

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Scarlet Tanager – final stages



I just grouted this scarlet tanager mosaic and it’s almost done. We still have to do a final polish, clean up the edges and install hardware on the back. This work was done with Italian Smalti glass tesserae on a wood ground.

We do custom mosaic work – we’ve created giant birds and butterflies, a granite magnolia bench, and life-size mosaic bears. We’d love to make a mosaic for your garden. See more at Long Branch Mosaics.