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Monday, August 3, 2015

Bread and Sand

Madley Hadley takes a field trip!

Earlier this summer I was given a hand-me-down magazine, a Rodale's Organic Life.  It was the July/August edition, and therefore included a few activities around the nation that focus on organic living and gardening and baking and such things.  In it I found an event that piqued my interest nigh unto excitement -- a bread fair and a kneading conference, scheduled for August, and as close by as Maine!  It was now only mid-July.  Mr. Madley had been encouraging me to make a day to visit the beach (he knows how much I love the ocean), but I had been waffling and hesitating, but when I realized I could combine a visit to the beach with a visit to the artisan bread fair (I couldn't afford the kneading conference this year, but hope to in the future!), it was decided.  I would visit the coast and then make my way to Maine.

I visited on of my favourite North Shore beaches, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island.  It is a delight and not only features a lovely beach, but also walking trails, swamp marshes, observation towers, and plenty of bird-watching.

At the end of a day at the beach, I dined at Bob Lobster (try it, if you're there -- it's a great "fish shack"), and then hit the road to Maine.

The following morning was the Maine Artisan Bread Fair, held at the Skowhegan State Fairgrounds, and if you like bread, this is the place for you.  There were bread vendors and pie vendors and cookie vendors.  There were artist booths and handmade goods and demonstrations and bags of flours.  There was music and food and even a little something for the kids!  Oh, and lest I forget, there were even some delightful gluten-free breads and cookies and johnny cakes.  Everything at the fair had to be Maine-made, and even much of the grain was Maine grown (this fair is sponsored by the Maine Grain Alliance).

 I purchased a loaf of their MaineGrain Rye, which was wonderful, and a pretzel for the trip home, which was yummy.
 With so many books, how does one decide?!
Lovely concrete decorative tiles from Forma 550.  I got myself a chicken, but I happily would have purchased many more...

 Oats Any Time.  Gluten free.  Delicious.
 If these beautiful pastas had been gluten-free, I might have splurged for a rainbow mix of them....
A couple more vendors.

These handmade spoons and forks (and magic wands!) were lovely.  I ended up with a small butter spreader.
Oh yeah, this was definitely a winning table for me!  Beautiful presentation, delicious bread, local grains, mostly sourdoughs.
Thrashing and sifting the grains -- I wish I had one of these nifty machines!

So, the bread fair was fun and full of marvelous things.  Being a bit out of the way, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't make the 4.5 hour trek just to visit it again, but if I were to add on the kneading conference, I'm sure I could convince myself -- especially if I went with a friend.  Also, I hear there are many other wonderful things to do in the area, and I passed at least one blueberry farm and a few antique stores and such that would make wonderful additions to a trip. 

Now all I want to do is bake bread, and learn how to make even more delicious varieties!

If you are interested in local grains (which is one of the main thrusts of Maine Grain Alliance), there is hope if you live in or around the Valley.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may remember that a few years ago I got involved with a local grain share.  It is still up and running, featuring even more grains than before.  You can find it at Pioneer Valley Heritage Grains (  They feature beans and corns and wheats and other delicious grains.  They have now made the share customizable, which is a great boon for those of use who have gluten-free folks in our homes.  (That was not the case when I bought into the share, and I am still working through the wheat I bought then!)

It's August, and there's still time to get to the beach.  Unfortunately, you will have to wait until next summer to make the Artisan Bread Fair, but in the meantime, save your pennies so you can also go to all the classes at the Kneading Conference.  And maybe buy into the grain share so you can practice your baking skills on fresh, local grains!

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