i went out just once for a 4:00 neighborhood meeting about the elm tree. it was cold, wet, and near dark, but i had a hot mug of tea to help me stay warm. an arborist came to give us his opinion. he was all dressed up - not for us - but because he had to go to a funeral afterwards (the euphemism he used was "i'm going to go say good bye to a friend" - which i didn't get at first, but kate caught his meaning right away). everyone was present except for steve (paul was his surrogate) and franz's upstairs neighbors (who kept the condo as a rental when they relocated to california). when the arborist left, we continued the meeting at renee's place, where she provided snacks (cheese, crackers, apple cider). it was typical cantabrigian decision making, a lot of talking by committee but no real decision. i could care less about the tree since 1) even if it falls it wouldn't affect me and 2) after paying my share of the roof repair i'm kind of reluctant to spent anymore money.
my kaufman field guide to nature of new england (2012) arrived today. the field guide i use the most often is my audubon society field guide to new england (1998, first edition). it's useful in that it covers pretty much everything: rocks, weather, stars, birds, flowers, mushrooms, insects, fish, plants, trees, and animals. it's the only guide you need and up until now nobody's created anything similar. so when i learned that kaufman was coming out with a similar new england field guide, i was immediately interested. i'm familiar with kaufman's work, and his bird of north america guide (2000, first edition) is the bird identification book i use the most (with the sibley as an additional reference).
the kaufman guide is a much better version of the audubon guide. it's like they took everything from audubon and improved on it. the audubon touts 1300 photos; the kaufman lists at more than 2000 photos. the kaufman style (for those who don't know) is a digital cutout of the subject, to remove the sometimes distracting background. the only thing lacking in the kaufman is a weak weather section (only 2 photos of clouds, everything else a lengthy text write-up; audubon has more clouds images and informative weather diagrams). the kaufman tree section doesn't include silhouettes of the trees like the audubon guide so you can't use a tree's shape for identification. the kaufman also doesn't have a recommended list of parks and reservations in the new england area (the audubon does). all in all, i still think the kaufman guide is better. if the job of a general field guide is for identification purposes, kaufman wins because it's more comprehensive.
thumbing through the new field guide did make me yearn for some naturing. unfortunately at this time of the year, there isn't a lot of naturing to be had. migrating birds are long gone, the trees are bare of leaves, wildflowers have gone to seeds, and the only animals left are the few hardy ones that live in new england year round. all i can do is wait for next spring, use the winter to refamiliarize myself with the native flora and fauna with the help of this new guide.
when i came back from my tree meeting i began the final steps of my no-knead bread. i took out the fermented dough (20 hours) and folded it together into a cheesecloth-covered pyrex dish for a second rise of 2 hours.
the dough did rise, but not nearly enough, so i knew right away this wouldn't be one of my best breads. it could either be because of the temperature (62°F inside the house), the humidity (it was still a lot of snow-melt outside), or the yeast (1+ years old). i could've also over-proofed the dough since i waited 20 hours. the best bread i ever made were in august, when the weather was warmer. the problem is when the weather is warm, i don't feel like eating bread. only when it gets cold do i start craving carbs, but unfortunately the temperature inside the house isn't optimal. i even tried to put the dough near the forced air vent, but it was too little too late. i could use one of my submersible aquarium heater and rise the dough in a warm water bath, but that seems overly complicated.
the final bread was okay given the circumstances. a nice rise in the middle, but the edges were a little flat. i shared some with drew, who immediately busted out a bit of leftover cheese. the bread was a little bland (not enough salt, i used kosher this time, not sure if it made any difference), but the cheese definitely made it better.
for dinner i finished the rest of my ricotta spinach pie.