one of those rare mornings where i woke up and victor had already left for the office. his bedroom door was opened (unmade bed), the draft curtain to the front door was pulled aside, and his black slippers were in the foyer.
i went to the supermarket to pick up a few things before delivering them to the cafe. despite the rain - which should clear the air of pollen - my throat was still itchy from seasonal allergies. seems like everyone is suffering this year: my 2nd aunt was asking me what i take for my allergies (sometimes benadryl, but only because i'm allowed to fall asleep at my workplace).
then i went to the comcast office on sherman street to get a replacement remote control. i wasn't able to control the cable box last night (which made for a painful night of television, manually scanning channels 2 to 70) and this morning it wouldn't even control the television anymore. comcast equipment seem to have a built-in latent failure. although this was my first time replacing the remote, i've replaced the cable box 3 times, and the smaller digital-to-analog box once. it's not like i'm overusing the equipment; they just seem to naturally break down after a while. even at the comcast office, they didn't need to see cable bill for confirmation, they just handed me a brand new replacement remote from a box full of remotes.
bruce and i talked about going to the mt.auburn cemetery today, where i told him we might be able to see some baby owls. when he didn't get back to me i was ready to go by myself before he finally reached me around 1:00.
the rain and the fog shouldn't stop us from naturing. if nothing else, the wet weather adds a certain dramatic ambience to everything. when we first got to mt.auburn we checked the bird board. there was no mention of any great horned owls, just a lot of warbler sightings. we made a beeline to the consecration dell, which from birding outings in the past i knew to be the home of some owls.
we saw nothing. there was plenty of birds, all singing and fluttering through the trees, but moving either too fast or too high for us to get any good looks. we did see a bluish grey warbler land in a nearby bush, but neither of us could remember enough details to make a positive id.
since the tower was nearby, we decided to climb it. from on top we couldn't see boston due to the thick fog. the farthest thing i could spot was the steeple of harvard's memorial hall. i kept wiping off the mist sticking to the filter of my camera lens.
from the summit we walked down counterclockwise in a search for the car. it's funny, but this is probably the first time all year that i've been out naturing, and normally i wouldn't even consider mt.auburn cemetery nature since everything is so manicured. i should definitely get out into the wilderness once the weather improves, although like i said before, i do like naturing in the rain (i hardly ever do it though, since i don't have a car, and i would never ride the motorcycle on the highway in the rain).
it was pure serendipity that we managed to find the baby owls. we came across a path that was sectioned off by caution tape. never one to obey these simple rules, i stepped over the line while bruce read the sign: "great horned owl nesting area." i quickly retreated. could this be what we were searching for all this time? up on a hill were some people looking at something. i asked a woman with a smile on her face if she'd seen the owls. she pointed them out to us; once we saw them we were amazed by how conspicuous they were.
there were two great horned owl chicks, like a pair of fuzzy grey 2 liter soda bottles perched on a tree branch.
they were sleeping when we first saw them, but the small crowd of spectators must've peaked their curiosity. they stretched, they preened, they spun their heads, they looked. even though they were babies, they had the cold stare of natural born predators. you knew when you were being looked at, great big owl eyes staring at you.
we met one woman who said she'd been there everyday. she said normally there'd be a bank of photographers but was surprised there wasn't any today. up to this point the chicks had been in the nest, but today they ventured out onto a nearby branch. we saw great big talons, and although they were still covered in down, their wing feathers were coming in as well. it wouldn't be long before they could fly. they were so fluffy they looked like cats, or perhaps monkeys. the woman told us the parents were nearby but rarely seen, being that owls are nocturnal.
so what began as a disappointing trip actually turned out quite well and we managed to see exactly what i we wanted. i would've much preferred seeing an adult great horned owl, which i've never seen in the wild before. great horned are the bad-asses of the owl kingdom since they eat other owls and occasionally hawks as well.
back at home i continued working on my no-knead bread. by then the dough had been fermenting on top of the fridge for more than 24 hours. it was all pockmarked, which i took to be a good sign since that meant fermentation was happening.
i've never cooked with cast iron before. it has a feeling of seriousness about it, from the austere all-black coloring to the weight of the equipment. i categorize kitchen equipment in one of two categories: harmless tool versus potential murder weapon. for example, knives are definitely in that latter classification. my stainless steel meat tenderizing hammer is another. and now i'm adding this cast iron dutch oven as well.
onto a large plastic board i sprinkled some flour and dumped the dough on top. i folded together the ends of the dough and flipped it over onto a floured towel that i put into a medium-sized pyrex bowl and set back on top of the fridge for 2 hours of rising.
supposedly at this stage the dough was supposed to double in size, but it hardly changed. maybe it wasn't warm enough so i dunked the pyrex into a larger bowl full of hot water. maybe the yeast was bad? so i tried proofing it with some warm water and sugar. no bubbles at all! so the yeast expired after all! but there was no turning back at that point. the dutch oven had already been preheated at 350° for 30 minutes. risen or not, this dough ball was going to get baked. i plopped the dough from the towel into the pan; it hardly covered the bottom. into the oven it went, covered with a cast iron lid.
30 minutes later i took out the dutch oven and looked inside. despite the size, it looked surprisingly bread-like. i baked it for another 20 minutes uncovered to get some browning.
i was surprised by the final result. i sliced it open to inspect the inside. it had a hard crunchy crust but the inside was moist and spongy. even though the dough barely rose, the still came out pretty decent. it was good enough that i quickly managed to eat half a loaf. next time i'll use new yeast and will rise the bread suspended over a bowl of boiling water (a technique i learned online).
tonight was game 1 between the dallas mavericks and the oklahoma city thunder. even though on paper the game seemed close, dallas was in control for much of the game. it was no surprise that they won. dirk nowitzki is a machine (the germinator) and nobody can stop pint-size j.j. barea. i don't think it's too crazy to think the mavericks will sweep the thunder and wait for the winner of the miami-chicago series (which will be chicago).