Thursday, February 18, 2010

No News from Newcastle?

That's the thing about blogging. I know that it's better to blog daily, but I see no point spelling out the minutae of one's life and interest, unless it's actually interesting.

I've never understood the point of writing about writing either. Or filming about filming, for that matter. Perhaps writing about filming, or filming about writing. Cross cultural pollination is certainly something to engage with from time to time. But blogging seems to be about brief and often, rather than the meaning of the subject being tackled. All hair and no meat. Certainly no bones.

There is a persuasive argument that this may be making us more shallow thinkers. I see it (the blogging/social networking phenomenon and so on) as chatting over the back fence - meaningless, but necessary, if you want to keep an eye on the neighbourhood...

But I also want to know stuff. I want to know what's happening, what my friends are doing, what might be of interest to me. This tells me that I am not alone, that I am part of something bigger, even though in actual fact I am simply observing something else, neither bigger or smaller, just another thing in the universe of things... Thanks to the internet, we have become watchers. Nonetheless, watching 'watching' is becoming a broader science in itself...

So it's in that vein that I add to this blog (on a fairly infrequent basis, I know) - and this is my point: if there is no news, why not just shut up shop till there is?

What's New?

This post is all about news from Newcastle, where there is about to be a new bakery. Not just any bakery. This one will be one heck of a beasty - kinda low tech/high tech, fully sourdough and fully organic. The word for this place is 'simple'. If it isn't needed, it's taken away. If it requires energy, it should be examined to find a way for it to require less. If it requires thought, it might well be suspect. Everything in this bakery is simple to understand - for the baker and the baker's clientele.

This bakery runs on the 'bucket and bag' recipe system - a bucket of water and a bag of flour. Sourdough starter drives all the dough, and the signature of the starter (in this case my own 20 year old sourdough starter) is through everything the bakery produces.

The oven is woodfired - but not like any other woodfired bakery oven you've ever seen. This woodfired oven is actually closer to an Artisan Bakery's deck oven, only it's a fully efficient woodfired technolgy powering it.

Did you know that the most efficient transfer of energy is through flame? Thus, a furnace is an excellent means of transferring energy from one medium to another. In our case, we can use flame to heat thermal mass. This is then used to bake bread, blanch grains, roast meats, reheat food, boil and heat water, and eventually preserve or dry other perishable foods. All using the same heating cycle, the same fuel. This fuel can also be used to power turbines, which in turn can power refrigeration and other energy using devices.

So, it's possible to do all these things with a simple woodfired oven. As energy becomes more costly, far greater efficiencies will need to be achieved. The technology I am working with traces the natural cycle of burning to extract the maximum potential from an energy persepctive. There may be many other technologies which emerge to become useable. But right now, this particular technology is pretty interesting. So I'm going to give it a bit of a go!

This is an interesting and surprising world.

Why would you invent the internet? It made no sense to anyone else but Tim Berners-Lee at the time, but invent it he did. Or organise it so it actually worked, anyway.

He actually built upon the shoulders of others before him. But his gift remains something that has transformed a society in a very short time.

My thoughts are more humble, but equally obsessive. I keep thinking of a way to produce food cheaply and efficiently, while remaining highly environmentally friendly and efficient. I simply work from the principle that food will be harder to produce, and production will become more expensive. People will need to consider more efficient means of feeding themselves.

There are, in this story, many ways to skin a cat. And I admit, there will be others to come. But imagine a future where resources like water, grain and energy are all expensive, and limited in supply. Imagine, in this mix, a major component of the energy system, fossil fuel, becoming so expensive as to render it cost ineffective.

This is the scenario I use to examine my latest obsession - the super efficient woodfired bakery.

Stay tuned as details are revealed. This bakery will happen, and it will happen in Newcastle NSW. If you would like to stay in the loop, follow this blog!


  1. I enjoyed reading your blog ~ thanks for posting such useful content. very interesting blog....

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  2. I love reading through your blog, I wanted to leave a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuation. Wishing you the best of luck for all your blogging efforts.
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  3. Such a helpful blog!
    I am new to baking and was wondering if any of you have ever used any starters from Sourdough's International.. I have a friend who loves it but I'm looking for some more opinions.