Are you Board with the Same Old Brew?

Walking in the door of Fairhope Roasting Company, I was greeted by Roast Master Hanson Eskridge and Mackenzie Chandler, his marketing expert and logo designer. I wandered around, pumped a cup of coffee into a logo-ed mug, and got caught up with the personal and creative lives of my Southern Bloggers Jubilee friends.

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A graduate of Fairhope High, Hanson went off to “experience” college, and then headed north to pursue his passion to roast coffee. A talkative, animated, and single guy, Hanson worked at Bull Run Roasting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Last summer he was back in Fairhope pitching his investment idea of a roaster, the first on the Eastern Shore, to Will Carlton. It turned into a “good combination” with Hanson as owner/roaster, Carlton the local investor, and Mackenzie, Will’s daughter, handling all the marketing.

Three roasts were available, and I sampled them all. Morning (light), Medium (Fairhope), and dark roast were all delicious, and I found myself going back for the Fairhope, as it seemed to have the viscosity of a stout, a beer style I’ve been enjoying lately.

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Hanson led us to the roaster, which is located in the more industrial wing of the operation. We heard the Probat 1989 roaster whir to life. If Hanson had a nickname for his roaster, he didn’t mention it, so I’ll refer to her as Brassy, as that’s the way she looks, and may be what she’s made of.

“Timing and temperature,” Hanson said are critical in the roasting process. As the gas-fired roaster reaches the correct temperature, it’s filled with Honduran beans. During the roasting, he pulled samples at intervals to show us the darkening of  the bean. During the early part of the roast, the aroma filling the air was not the familiar scent of coffee. It seemed a bit more dank, a little peanut like, actually. Then we heard Brassy. Not a “pop” but a tiny blast. Hanson called it, “First Crack,” and it sounded like damp wood burning in the fireplace. After he spilled the beans from Brassy, the more familiar smell of coffee vapors filled the air. After cooling in Brassy’s spinner, he transferred the beans in a high-tech Rubbermaid bucket to the grinding and packaging area.

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Fairhope Roasting plans on doing cupping sessions soon, according to Hanson, and they already have plans to purchase a sample roaster specifically for these sessions. Cupping sessions are like wine tastings. Hanson will take people through each roast taste by taste, and encourage feedback and discussion. Until then, he plans to post dates and times on social media when he’s roasting so current and future customers can see how the green bean is transformed.

I was surprised to learn that, like a peanut has a red shell, a coffee bean (it’s really a seed) has a chaff. During the roasting of 20 pounds, Hanson said he loses about 15% of the weight in chaff and water. We each got a bag of Fairhope Roasting to go, which was very generous.

Fairhope Roasting Company coffee is delicious, fresh, and available locally or you stop by their location at 361A Commercial Park Drive. If you want to learn more and sip some local roasts, Hanson will be at Mobile Green Drinks at Fairhope Brewing tomorrow from 5-7. The two companies have fused their brews and a Coffee Painted Black India Pale Ale will be available.

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In my mailbox at the library later that day was a manila envelope. At first, I thought it was something from a coworker. Then I noticed it was addressed to me. I still love sending and receiving handwritten mail.

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The couple at the flea market saw me eyeing it.

“It still works,” the woman said, adding that it originally belonged to her mother. Her husband showed me how it collapsed and even included a wedge to make sure the contraption didn’t spring open in transport. Patricia said she had no room for the ironing board now that she and her husband were full-time RVers.

“Thanks for the story behind the board,” I told her before slipping it under my arm and carrying it away like a surfboard. I didn’t think much about the scraps of paper that lingered on the bottom. Until she mailed the label to me!

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The Rid-Jid ironing board, also from Minneapolis sits open in front of my office window.  Yes, I also use it to iron my clothes. I even went out and bought the most manly looking cover I could find. As advertised, the board still does not, “wiggle, wobble, jiggle, joggle, slip or slide.”

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On Saturday morning I brewed Fairhope Roasting’s coffee through my new Hario V60 slow pour coffee kit. When I visited Stumptown Coffee in Portland, my appreciation for the taste of coffee, not the cream, truly evolved. Since then I’ve become a big fan of slow coffee. The slow coffee movement is where you, the drinker, control the ingredients, time, and temperature of the brewing.

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I didn’t roast the coffee. I didn’t make the iron or the board, but there is something satisfying in participating in these rituals with new tools and techniques that harken back to old ways. I brewed a quality, fresh cup of coffee from beans roasted locally. My shirts are ironed on a board made in the 1930s. Whether you use new, bright, and shiny, or antique, dull, and rusty, the way we get things done affects us emotionally and opens us to change. As I pour the coffee, press the wrinkles, or push the ink onto the page, I think about the people who  made the coldest day of the year quite personal, comfortable, and warm.

Are You Part of Your Community?

                              Morning/Afternoon

Yesterday was a day off from work, but I was at the library for a monthly Southern Bloggers Jubilee meeting. We had Pat Smitherman, Crafty Hope’s husband and KPMG Web Developer, show us a few things about HTML and CSS. I learned quite a bit, but I’ll continue to use WordPress because it’s so user-friendly. (Want to learn more about blogging, take my class, Starting a Blog, on Monday September 15, at the library. It’s priceless, as in free, but you have to sign up.) Pat the code walker was patient with us, and it never hurts to pick up a few tips in another language, especially computer speak. Some of my fellow bloggers were really digging it. A few had their heads buried in their laptops writing code like they’d been trained by Anonymous.

After wrapping up our meeting and waiting out the rain, I chatted briefly with Tamara Dean, the library director, in her office. She handed me the DVD about the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, America’s Amazon. Tamara forwarded me the number of Mango users, which continues to soar. Mango is our online language learning program, which also has a popular app version.

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Evening

After an early dinner, I stopped by Fairhope Brewing for Mobile Bay Green Drinks, “a monthly happy hour for environmentally thoughtful folks.” It’s a “get involved/what’s happening” night for local organizations and businesses. It was the first time I attended, and there was lots of information, and free stickers too. Free samples from Sunflower Cafe awaited with additional items available for purchase. As I sipped my Fairhope 51 Pale Ale, a group of about 40 people listened to speakers who stepped up to the microphone, set up in the middle of the tap room.

The Slow Bicycle Society on the Eastern Shore was represented by Molly Peterson, who serves on our library board. I’m part of this group of riders that bike locally and take regional bike ride field trips. Several Slow Bikers were in attendance and Molly also spoke on behalf of Baldwin County Trailblazers, the group behind the Eastern Shore Trail.

Others speaking up were representatives from Alabama Coastal Birdfest, taking place the first weekend in October, Pro Cycle and Triathlon, which has slow bikes for sale and for rent now too. Katy of Pro Cycle was fond of the phrase “rip your legs off,” when describing her rides. Apparently, there are paces for everyone, including people like me. I just want to keep the leg and a half I’ve got left. Alabama Coastal Foundation clean-up, a fishing rodeo, and BARC Rib fundraising events were promoted during the open mic segment.

I enjoyed a delicious creamy coconut pop from Frios, a gourmet frozen treat stand set up inside the tap room. By the way it was delicious! Until I tasted blood. I bit the inside of my cheek chomping the sweet sugary goodness. No biggie, it’s frozen, I just kept eating on that side, and a couple bites later, the bleeding stopped.

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Night

With the tropics still dazzling my taste buds, I went to the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) public hearing on their Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan. Sounds rather somber, but as a reporter I’ve covered much worse. A sewer commission meeting comes to mind.

I thought I might be a sight to stare at, an amputee coming to a bike meeting with shorts on, flashing my prosthesis. Plus, the leg was making a popping sound as I walked in the room. If they stared, I didn’t notice. They were welcoming, and I suspect happy to see another resident at a public hearing. I even saw someone from my book club, “Drinkers with a Reading Problem,” at Green Drinks and at the MPO public hearing.

The MPO staff is eager to hear from the public on what they believe the future walkability and biking needs of the Eastern Shore should look like. Read the draft report, you have until September 22, to send comments. I’ll be advocating for a bike path/sidewalk from my neighborhood, River Station, to Wal-Mart, which is about a third of a mile away. There is no plan to build a sidewalk, even though it is very dangerous for walkers and riders to use County Road 48, the major east west corridor connecting the county with downtown Fairhope. The five other people at the meeting, including two staffers were very encouraging and positive, but realistic. All the goals require funding, not all of which has been secured.

If you want to look at the 92-page draft report, there is one available online and at the Fairhope Public Library. It rests on the ledge of an easel that has an MPO map on display near the public computers. The short term goals of what pathways to build, and staffer Matthew’s “30 days on a bicycle,” are must reads.

All of these organizations, government entities, and businesses have websites, Facebook pages, or both. Check ‘em out!

                                          Full Moon

When the meeting ended, I turned east to head home and was greeted by a harvest moon. It was rising up and looked like if I kept on driving I’d crash into it. It loomed so large, you couldn’t miss it. The moonlight reminded me to say thanks to those who are engaged in what’s going on around the Eastern Shore. We need people in the community to be the squeaky wheels. I’ll be sure and wear my popping prosthesis.

 

What Makes a Public Library Great?

I spent four hours, on my day off, in the Fairhope Publlic Library with a group of local bloggers I belong to called, Southern Bloggers Jubilee. The seven of us met in the library to socialize, learn, and hopefully have a few laughs, all before we head to lunch.

We had our regular monthly meeting, and there was a shwag bag, which included an application for a Fairhope Library card, stickers, coupons, and a welcome flyer. Tamara, the director, and I led the group on a tour to show off the wonderful space, architecture, art, books, programs, classes, and study rooms.

During the tour, the bloggers took photos and made notes. Along the way, Tamara and I said hello to patrons and introduced staff members to the group. Everyone blogged about how wonderful the library is in Fairhope, and they conveyed it so well in words and pictures. Please visit their blogs to see and read everything they discovered.

We Are: Clamco

Lorraine had a wonderful photo of Worldbook, a set of encyclopedias now rarely used. She reminisced about a set of encyclopedias in her childhood home. In our conversation at lunch, Lorraine talked about how a friend of hers in Jersey, an amputee, married his prosthetist. I found it fascinating for two reasons. There are not many female prosthestists, though the number continues to rise. Secondly, pyschologists say amputees marry their caregivers. I’ve researched this all the way back to America’ s first amputee, Peter Stuyvesant. He lost his leg to a cannonball, and when he returned to the Netherlands to recuperate, he married his nurse.

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Kim learned about our genealogy collection and even signed up for a class. It was on her Macbook that the group hovered around to learn how to use Picmonkey, an online program to format photographs for your blog, specifally your header, the image at the top of the page. She took a great photograph of our head-dressed staffer Megrez.

 Crafty Hope

When I introduced all these women to Tamara, I got a little ahead of myself and almost introduced Hope, as  Kim. I corrected myself and said Hope makes  jewelry from found items, like washers, brass, copper, glass, metal from file holders, etc.  She makes crafty, creative, and one-of-a-kind bracelets, necklaces, and earings, which she sells on her Etsy site. Also, her husband is coming to our next meeting to talk about HTML. She cautioned us that he doesn’t know much about blogs and confessed, “he doesn’t even read mine,” which I didn’t believe for a second. Even if it were true, she has a real following with us, the Southern Bloggers Jubilee.

Flower Child Designs

Deborah arrived late, but was eager to contribute to the discussion. Many of us complimented Deborah on how well her painted hardwood floors turned out. She talked about the success of her “linky parties,” and I laughed because it sounded funny to me. I learned that “linking parties” are a way for similarly themed bloggers, like fashion art, and jewelry, to connect.

Fairhope Supply

During her tour of the youth services department, Leslie Anne was verklempt. (Talk amongst yourselves. The topic: Is a jubilee a lagniappe?) She got emotional as the memories turned the pages of her mind to her son’s time in the library. She also snapped a photo, the first I believe, of me in shorts in the library, showing off my sleek carbon fiber and titanium prosthesis. Did you see it? She also had me take a photo with the newest Florida State graduate. Tamara just graduated from FSU with a Master’s in Library and Information Science.

Professor Storytime

Karyn, who welcomes guest book reviews on her blog for Throwback Thursdays, was enamoured with the children’s department. Her own children’s book, Jubilee, is wonderful, and you should check it out. On her blog, Karyn has a great photo of a mom and her son reading in a window seat. During the meeting, Karyn said my blog needed a new header, and a sidebar. She also suggested I use three photos in the header. Everyone at the meeting who saw my recent post, told me to use the coffee shop photo in the header.

The Library

During our bloggers meeting we discussed SEOs, Hootsuite, how to insert the Southern Bloggers Jubilee and Bloglovin’ “buttons” into our blogs, Instagram, and gave praise for things we are doing well, and offered suggestions for ways to improve.

It’s only now, weeks after the meeting, tour, and having read everyone’s blog posts, that I’m beginning to catch what the Southern Bloggers Jubilee netted. The value of our library is in the building, architecture, art, books, and DVDs, and the beauty of our library lives in the hearts and minds of the  people who populate this memorable place.