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Magic Meets Science in Bread Making

by Cory Marie Podielski on May 25, 2015

in Around Campus, Cooking, Featured Classes

The "Science of Bread" Class Photo, May 2015

The “Science of Bread” Class Photo, May 2015

Magical. That’s the word used over and over to describe a week at the Folk School. And there’s always something that makes the visit extra special: last May it was the baby barn swallows peeking over the edges of their nests in the rafters outside Davidson Hall.


This year it was the mountain laurel in full bloom; the mother-to-be barn swallows sat patiently atop their nests. The Folk School is a magical place, but also, when you’re there, you slow down and pay attention to things like the birds and flowers.

Nicholas holds the focaccia fresh out of the oven.

Nicholas holds the focaccia fresh out of the oven.

I was at the Folk School last week to teach my annual “Science of Bread” class—not a magical name by any means, but bread-making can be wondrous even when you know about the microorganisms and molecules that make it work. In addition to making dozens of loaves, the class started a sourdough starter by attracting wild yeasts and bread-making bacteria from the air into a container of flour and water. They also braved the production of salt-rising bread, a first for me. Making salt-rising bread is similar to creating a sourdough starter in that ingredients (in our case, raw potatoes, corn meal, sugar, and baking soda) are left out to attract microorganisms that cause the bread to rise when the dough is mixed the next day. (“Salt-rising” is a misnomer.) The ingredients are kept at 110 degrees, however, so that the microorganisms attracted to the mixture are different than the usual ones; this results in the unique flavor and aroma of salt-rising bread.

Salt Rising Bread

Salt Rising Bread

Sticky Buns: Before & After

Sticky Buns: Before & After

Jack (the baker's son) and his challah loaf

Jack (the baker’s son) and his challah loaf

In addition to the ever-changing rhythms of nature and the endless new breads to make, there are always new students to meet. This year’s class included the son of a baker who’d labored in the bakery through his school years and was now learning to enjoy baking at home, a grandmother/grandson team visiting the Folk School with the rest of their family, and an old friend from my 2011 Intro Guitar class, who had come that week because of his partner’s schedule; he told me he had no intention of baking bread at home but wanted to be able to identify legitimate artisan loaves in the grocery store.


The banjo class came to serenade our class in exchange for tasty treats.

The banjo class came downstairs to serenade our class in exchange for tasty treats.

It’s tempting to think of a week at the Folk School as an escape from “normal life”: enjoying nature, learning a craft, and meeting new people. But escaping means you have to return to normal life when your week is over. I prefer to think of my visit as a chance to change. The secret is to carry that change with you when you return home.

EmilyBuehlerEmily Buehler, the author of this blog, is an instructor of Bread Making at the Folk School. She became a bread baker in 2001, intending to take a break after finishing a degree in chemistry. Six months later she began teaching bread classes. Emily has written a book on bread making – techniques, not recipes – that includes a section on the science occurring in the dough. (Chemistry does come in handy!) Visit Emily’s website

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How Does Your Homestead Grow?

by Cory Marie Podielski on May 5, 2015

in Featured Classes, In the Garden


As lush greenery is filling in the landscape, many of us are planning and planting our home gardens. This summer we are offering four great Weekend Classes that will help you to expand and grow your gardens. A new class by local farmer Jen Stockbridge of Stockbridge Farms in Andrews, NC, will teach you all about chickens with an emphasis on egg production. Local turmeric and ginger maven, Karen Hurtubise of Qualla Berry Farm, knows a thing or two about tomatoes as she returns with her popular class all about growing great tomatoes. Kate Hanford is the manager of the popular farmer’s market in Ashville (West Asheville Tailgate Market). She will teach us all about the glory of earthworms, active soil, and how important compost is to garden success. Finally, Ken Zinkand returns with his popular class to teach all about how to grow your own Shiitake, Oyster, and Reishi mushrooms. Student will leave with three inoculated logs to get you started right!

Learn more details about these exciting classes Gardening & Homesteading classes upcoming this summer 2015:

tomatoesGrowing Great Tomatoes

Karen Hurtubise • May 22-24, 2015 (Weekend)

Produce your best-ever, home-grown tomatoes! From Sungold cherry tomatoes and heirloom Brandywines to Italian Tree tomatoes, we’ll explore the timing, colors, size, and flavors of favorite varieties while practicing organic gardening skills of soil prep, seed selection, pruning, fertilizing, trellising, pest and disease control, and harvesting. Also learn about many kinds of basils. Use companion planting techniques to create a patio container or hanging basket of tomatoes, basil, and marigolds to take home. Average garden mobility needed. Register.

Earthworm_divesVermiculture – Homegrown Earthworms

Katherine Hanford • June 12-14, 2015 (Weekend)

One of the most important components of a successful garden is healthy, biologically active soil! How can you bring your soil to life? With black gold! That’s right, vermiculture – composting with worms. Learn how to set up a home vermicomposting system, care for your worms, harvest, and use the castings from your bin. We will also explore large-scale systems for the farm or commercial endeavors. Gardeners of all levels welcome. Register.

Chicken_eggsHomestead Egg Production

Jen Stockbridge • July 31-Aug 2, 2015 (Weekend)

Are you interested in keeping a flock of fowl? Come learn the ins and outs of homestead chicken keeping, with an emphasis on egg production. Discover how to do this in thrifty fashion, using recycled materials to make chicken equipment – waterers, feeders, and nest boxes – some available to take home. All levels welcome. Register.

Lentinula_edodesGrowing Your Own Mushrooms

Ken Zinkand • July 31-Aug 2, 2015 (Weekend)

Join us for an interactive class on gourmet and medicinal mushroom cultivation, emphasizing a hands-on approach. Learn inoculation techniques and strategies for maximizing yields as you work with three select mushroom strains – Shiitake, Oyster, and Reishi. Wild gathering, harvesting medicinals, drying, and cooking tips will also be discussed. Each student will leave with three inoculated logs (be prepared to transport). No experience required, only moderate hand strength. Register.



A big congratulations to Brasstown artist Lynda Metcalfe for being the recipient of a NOMMA (National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Association) Top Job 2015 Silver Award. She received the honor for creating an impressive railing for the Lost Hollow Children’s Garden at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden near Charlotte, NC. I was delighted to sit down with Lynda and learn about this exciting project and what it’s like to be a local artist in the Folk School Community. Enjoy our interview!

The railing in the

The award-winning railing at the Lost Hollow Children’s Garden

CP: Congratulations on your recent award! Can you tell me about the project?

LM: Of course! The award was for a 30 ft. long railing that I designed with landscape architect W. Gary Smith and it is for the new Lost Hollow Children’s Garden at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont. This part of the botanical garden is a whole new area, and up until then, had been an unused piece of land. It has lovely terrain and has been transformed into a fable-like children’s environment. The railings I contributed were functionally needed as guard rails as part of a balcony, but the space is a feature point and will also be used for celebrations, so the landscape architect wanted an extra special artistic touch. My 30 ft. went in between two other longer section of plain railing. I just did the sparkly bit in the middle.

CP: Tell me about the award.

Railing detail

Center piece of the railing

LM: The awarding body is the National Ornamental & Miscellaneous Metals Association (NOMMA) and they have a yearly trade show and conference where they give out annual awards. We got the Top Job 2015 Silver Award in the exterior forged railings category. Considering we were a small outfit (basically a pair of artists working together) competing nationally against every other ironwork company and artist out there, it very exciting to receive this award at that level especially when you have companies of enormous difference competing.

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Learn How to Play Nice Together

by Cory Marie Podielski on April 28, 2015

in Featured Classes, Music & Dance

I secretly took this video perched on the second floor of the Blacksmith Shop on a pretty typical evening at the Folk School. Who are these folks? A new hot old time band? A group of old friends playing from a chosen repertoire? Nope. They are a group of students, instructors, and Folk School folks who heard the word at dinner that a music jam was happening that night in the Blacksmith Shop. I am sure that this particular group had never all played together previously and have never practiced this tune as a group.

Observe, below, jammers in their natural habitat:

OFM027HYou might ask: How can this be? How can the tune sound so good? This is the magic of a jam! Musicians of all levels can come together to play music and create magic. You can find string/acoustic jams all over the place, not just at the Folk School. From small towns to large urban cities, there are thriving jam communities all over the map. There is most likely one in your area too.

Jams are a fun and unique way to connect and communicate with other musicians. It may seem intimidating to jump in and join the group, especially if you don’t know the tune. The Folk School is offering a great line-up of classes to get you playing well with others. Gain confidence to join in jams, learn about keys, tunings and chord changes, and understand etiquette. Take a class focused on playing with other musicians, and soon you’ll be jamming with confidence!

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Susan, Able, and John work on a bench design.

Susan, Able, and John work on a bench design. Photo by Julie Clark.

Blacksmith Work Week is an annual tradition at the Folk School where skilled blacksmiths come for a week and volunteer their time to do projects around campus and make improvements in the Clay Spencer Blacksmith Shop. I talked to Paul Garrett, the Folk School’s Resident Blacksmith, about this year’s Blacksmith Work Week (March 29-April 4, 2015).

Susan & Paul

Susan & Paul. Photo by Julie Clark.

CP: How was Blacksmith Work Week this year?

PG: It was really good. We had a great group of almost 20 people. Everyone had great projects to work on and all went home happy.

CP: One of the new installations is the railing on the back of the Festival Barn Stage. Can you tell us about that design and process?

PG: We wanted to make a simple railing to free up the view to the woods behind the stage. A lot of people have good memories of sitting in the barn and looking out at the woods behind the music and the temporary wooden railing blocked up the view. We replaced it with thin metal posts and horizontal railing so it’s more pleasant to look through. The center panel is going to be a leafless tree. The posts arch outward from the center where the tree will be, so it looks like the trunk is pushing them out.

Blacksmith Work Week volunteers stand behind the newly installed Festival Barn Stage railing.

Blacksmith Work Week volunteers stand behind the newly installed Festival Barn Stage railing. Photo by Julie Clark.

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