10 years ago this month, I finished my last season as a field biologist studying song birds in the Eastern Sierra, CA. I had gradually made my seasonal field work into a year around job that put me in front of a computer a lot more than I ever wanted to be. I finally had a secure job, monthly income, a 401K and some savings but I was pretty unhappy sitting at a desk. It was time to quit. My husband and I decided to celebrate this new phase in life by hiking the John Muir trail south to north. We started at Whitney Portal and summited the highest peak in the lower 48 as the start of our journey to walk back home to the Mono Basin. It was a magical fall adventure that set the tone for everything to come. The Sierra is my mountain range where I feel most at home and spending almost a month in the high country made my heart sing and I was ready to think about new ideas. During this transitional time while moving through high granite landscapes living so simply, I was reminded that I needed to do physical work and not sit at a desk.
All summer I had been looking into pastry programs in France and on the East Coast, thinking that was where I wanted to go, but the price tag was scary and the advice I was getting was to not do that unless I had a lot of funds. One day our homesteading farmer friend was dropping off our CSA share and he gave me the idea of just staying in the Mono Basin and baking for the people of the tiny town of Lee Vining and making my own Community Supported Bakery.
The idea was perfect and so it all began... STELLA's Community Supported Bakery was born. Things started off with a cake, dessert and bread option and I had 12 people sign up for a month! I couldn't believe anyone would trust their bird biologist with baking their food, but they did. Thank you!
One day our ranger friend came by and brought his sourdough starter and we made some bread together. It was the best bread I had ever made at home. I totally fell in love it right then and there. It was my medium to express myself to be creative and to really work with my hands. Even though I thought pastry would be my field I now wonder why I thought that. My sister told me it made so much more sense I loved bread and not pastries comparing it to my painting days where I was the one needing big sheets of paper and lots of expressionistic colors and textures, not fine pencil drawings with all the details of a pastry, but instead capturing the overall feel and basics of the scene.
Three years of working out of our 300 square foot cabin and many bakery shares later we made our move to Bozeman and increased my baking ten fold the first summer, still baking out of a regular home oven. Finally in 2017 I was able to buy a used deck oven where I could bake 24 loaves at a time and have a button that would bring in the steam! It was an amazing feeling! Since then I have had two kids and baking has nearly come to a stand still but when I do get a chance to get into the flow of baking bread I fall in love with it over and over again. I never get tired of the smell and the feel of the dough and cutting into the first loaf out of the oven with my kids is as rewarding as I can imagine any work ever being.