Random Rant: Recipes Are Kinda Like Songs

I’m two drags in and watching Chef Show on Netflix while my wife edits photos. She’s watching The Social Network on her phone in the background as she works. The animals are sprawled out all over the room. The loud hum of the shitty window a/c unit that we use to cool off our attic-turned-upstairs extra room is the only thing separating our sonic proximities via volume masking. Like Zoro!

I digress… That’s the situation. Now, here’s the thought… Being a musician, I can’t help but draw analogs between various things and music/recording. As I watch Jon and Roi work their way through their scheduled recipes, I can’t help but think of recipes as songs. Seems easy enough. Songs can be performed by the author, or covered by other artists. Those covers can be super accurate representations or wildly embellished. It just sort of clicks as a comparison.

Anyway, sorry to waste your time. I blame it on the mild headache that typically follows a period of eating all of the foods in excess that I usually avoid. This Easter weekend has put me in close proximity to various sweets and delicious carbohydrates. It’s got my keto all out of whack at the moment and I’m currently in day 2 of digging myself out. If you know what it’s like… you can sympathize. It’s all good though. It’s all self-inflicted. All things in moderation, including moderation.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ve got to get back to this group text involving a heated discussion centered around how shitty of a person Rose is in Titanic. Until next time.

State of the Shop #003

Out with June and in with July. We’re officially passing the halfway point into 2020. It’s hard to believe that all of this has been going on since March. Tomorrow, the United States of America celebrates Independence Day while a growing swath of the country is experiencing significant upticks in COVID-19 cases; particularly among the younger people that were previously not thought to be an issue… or so it’s being reported at this time. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s hard to know what to think and how to act. I like to think of myself as someone that’s good at taking in a vast amount of information from which I am able to process and navigate a path forward that makes an ideal win/win/win situation possible. Right now, it’s really difficult to do.

Again, I want to emphasize that Lauren and I are fine. We’re wearing our stylish masks and coordinating them with our different outfits. We’re healthy and getting by. After months of quarantine, our mental states have definitely had their ups and downs… But that pretty much goes for everyone. Lauren and I are avid accomplishers and slayers of to-do lists. As it turns out, Pandemics aren’t very hospitable to this lifestyle. It’s kind of hard to plan, forecast, and execute projects when you have no idea what the next week will bring. It’s times like these that we’re extremely thankful that we have the roastery. If we had not diversified our business, the situation would be much more dire. Regardless, the whole hurry up and wait feeling is for the birds.

We had originally set a tentative re-opening date for mid to late July, but it’s subject to change in response to a vast landscape of uncertain variables. Even as I write this update, there are states that are enacting indefinite quarantine measures for the service industry (specifically bars, restaurants, and cafes). It’s pretty much a nation-wide shit show and we’re all living in a wild west in terms of figuring out what to do. I’m still keeping up with all the news and updates, but by and large… the 24/hour news cycles are bored and repetitive.

So what’s all this mean…? To be completely honest, we don’t know. Lauren and I talk about the shop multiple times a day. It’s a constant troubleshooting exercise. It’s like playing chess on a board that is constantly changing. The lasting impact that the pandemic will leave on the cultural aspect of bars, pubs, and cafes is what I think about most. Even when the restrictions are lifted, how long will it be before people decide to gather in a crowded cafe with all of their friends, family, and associates? I know I’m not in any hurry to do that, so I can imagine others might feel the same way.

The hard part for us is that the coffee shop was designed for the very atmosphere in which we’re being told to avoid. As I mentioned in State of the Shop #001, the shop isn’t designed to operate as a carry-out option and while we might try that out for a time, it’s not something we’re interested in doing long term. When we created the coffee shop, we set it up to provide an exceptional product, atmosphere, and service to our community. We’re not interested in compromising those standards in order to pretend to be something that the space was never intended to be. We strive so hard to be so much more than just a series of liquids in disposable containers. So, while we’re still fine for now and weathering the storm… The future of the coffee shop will ultimately be determined by how the long term social distancing standards shape our society going forward. If it turns out that the coffee shop environment (as it was intended) is found to fly in the face of these new norms, we will take this feedback to heart as we steer The Caffeinery forward. Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that. 🙂

Anyway, that’s enough REAL TALK for now. I imagine we’re all going to be bombarded by an assload of fireworks over the next couple of days. With everyone being cooped up for so long, it seems like a perfect time to blow shit up. With that… Lauren and I love you all. We’re still here. We’re still going forward with painting and renovations as if somehow we’ll pierce through this tidal wave and come out the other side unscathed. Let’s just hope the second wave is less menacing. <3

State of the Shop #002

So we’re now at the end of June now. This next week, we’re heading into July and the world is still in a state of massive change. That’s fine. It’s all fine. At least, that’s the mantra that most people are adhering to. Either way, the only path is forward. So, that’s what we’ve been doing. Lauren and I have been spending our time working at the roastery in addition to getting our coffee shop up to post-COVID-19 speed. We’ve made some aesthetically pleasing changes that have been on our to-do-list for a while, in addition to installing some new barriers to help improve the level of health safety for our staff and customers. We’ve still got a ways to go, but we’re making a lot of progress.

The politicians have been re-opening the economy at various rates and to various degrees over the past month. There is no real rhyme or reason to the opening… It’s sort of up to state politicians and their gut feelings. So, as you might expect… it’s a mess. The majority of states that have opted to open up earlier, are experiencing pretty significant upticks in COVID-19 cases and now there’s another push to slow openings and in some instances, states are opting to shut the service industry sectors back down. At the same time, a number of medical professionals are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Some are stating that it’s a big deal. Other s are stating that the media is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Normally, we could all turn to the raw data and form an educated opinion, but even the data is subject to polarization as many people don’t trust the collection methods. Indiana is set to open up without restrictions on July 4th. Now, this isn’t to say that Indiana is without cases… The original pre-requisite for re-opening was largely based on seeing a sustained downward trend in COVID cases. BUT, being that we never really reached that point, the politicians seemed to think that maintaining steady numbers was good enough to green light the re-opening.

So here we are… No one really knows what’s going on at this point because everyone with information has an agenda. Small businesses, like us, are basically left to scratch our heads and fend for ourselves. The state is getting everyone ramped up for a post-COVID celebration as if now’s the time for everyone to take off their masks and look to the future. There’s one huge problem though, a good number of the population is calling bullshit on this false bravado that’s being pushed by government. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of us realize that the economy is a factor and that things need to be produced and consumed… After all, that’s largely how the world works. BUT, the politicians calling these shots are doing so from a much safer distance. I’m sure that state governors would make different decisions if they were the one having to work checkout lines at grocery stores or drive-thru windows. Or maybe they genuinely wouldn’t. I have no idea.

Anyway, I know that’s a lot of ranting and it’s not really providing much clarification on the state of things… but that’s basically how it is. Essentially, we’re all on our own and have to make the best decisions for our own family and friends. To be honest, it’s not much different than how it used to be… We were always on our own. Now it’s just more apparent because the thin veil of security theater has been torn down.

Lauren and I are still being cautious with the re-opening of our coffee shop. Our plan is still to shoot for mid-to-late July. We’ll see how all of this pans out with the states surrounding us go back into lock down. As of this moment, it appears that the big push to re-open was premature.

River Rock is HEAVY AF

Yesterday was dedicated to moving and cutting a bunch of heavy-ass used railroad ties to create a border for our backyard fire pit area. Today, we had the pleasure of loading, unloading, and spreading a whopping 2,880 pounds of gravel. I feel like I said that way too fast… Let’s revisit what I just said with a bit more gravity. You see, we don’t have a full-size truck. So, that means we had to actually load each of the 60 48-pound bags by hand. Then, we drove to the house and loaded them into a wheelbarrow 5 at a time and moved them to the backyard.

It’s safe to say that I’m going to be sore AF tomorrow. I can already feel it. Moving bags of rocks is one hell of a way to spend a beautiful Sunday. Despite my aching back, it looks pretty awesome so far. We’ve got 15 more bags to pick up tomorrow and we’ll be done with the gravel part.

Oh, in other news… We learned that under no circumstances should you attempt to burn railroad ties scraps. Being that they are treated with creosote they’re basically the equivalent of burning a tire. So, if you’ve got scraps… be sure to dispose of them properly. The more you know!

Alright, that’s enough for tonight. All I want to do at this point is eat tacos and die. Well, not really die… but basically just be still and do my best not to resist gravity.

Railroad Ties are HEAVY AF

Another week in the books… so they say. How is it the middle of June already? This year is going by so quickly and yet also at a snails pace. The shortest longest year I’ve lived.

It’s 1:21 in the morning and I should probably be in bed, but instead I’m sitting at the computer and combing through the internet as if I’m searching for the edge. Drawn to the screen like a moth to a porch light; or in this case June Bugs… Those crunchy little shits are quite abundant in the midwest this time of year. God forbid you stand near a light after dark… it’s like being shot by a shitty paintball gun.

Anyway… I digress. Let’s recap the day. All-in-all it’s been a pretty pleasant Saturday. I woke up a bit later than I had planned. I had two beers the night before and I hardly ever drink these days. Felt kinda nasty. You people that imbibe this shit on a regular basis are gluttons for punishment. That, or perhaps you’re past the initiation hump and feel no pain. Or you just don’t give a shit and do it anyway. Either way, I felt kinda nasty and it was compounded by some muscle soreness from doing resistance band exercises on Thursday because now that I’m old, you have to do shit like that just to exist. I’m trying to get in shape. This whole quarantine situation has really taken a shit on my normal routine. In some ways it hasn’t been all that bad; but I’ve definitely been eating more and moving less which is a bit of a problem. So I’m trying to fix it.

Lauren and I went to the coffee shop for a bit to check up on all the construction progress. We’re having quite a lot done as we prepare to bring the shop into this new COVID-19 world. It’s going to be weird, but we’re definitely not the type of people that shy away from weird. We’re just adapting and figuring it out. The break has been good. It’s given us time to think things over and re-assess what’s important to us. Our priorities are different now. Once all the hustle and bustle came to a stop and all the noise had gone quiet, it was easier to think. Moving forward we are going to prioritize happiness over the seemingly never-ending chase for more. This will result in fewer days open, and less hours worked. It’s the best possible solution. Mainly because the more you give, the more that will be taken… Until there’s nothing left. Understanding your limits can be extremely liberating; although it sounds really funny to say that limits are liberating.

After we spent some time at the shop, we went to Menards and picked up a bunch of used railroad ties to create a border for our backyard fire pit. We’d been meaning to do this for a while, but today the weather was perfect and it happened. I don’t know if the demographic of my blog knows much about railroad ties, but they’re ridiculously heavy and a huge pain in the ass to move; especially with just two people. I mean, we got it done… but it wasn’t easy. Tomorrow we’ll take some measurements and then get some gravel and finish it up. If I don’t get caught up in just living my life, I’ll try and take some pictures.

On the bright side of things… I had the foresight to double dip our time working in the yard to fire up the BBQ. I smoked a pork shoulder tonight on the Traeger. I’ve finally got my pork shoulder situation dialed in on this machine. I found the right temperature, the perfect pre-wrap smoke time, and the perfect post-wrap time. It turned out great. We’ll definitely be snacking on this for the next couple of days. It will definitely make it into some tacos tomorrow.

State of the Shop #001

I realize that without the coffee shop being open, I don’t get to interact with nearly as many people to keep them updated. I’m sure there are a good number of you that are curious as to what’s going on behind the scenes at The Caffeinery being that the retail shop has been closed for more than a month at this point. I figured my own personal blog might be a good medium to provide some updates.

Currently, there’s a lot of push for people to start opening the economy back up at the federal level and I’m sure soon we’ll see that coming from states as well. I’m sure a lot of you are curious as to what this means for us. So let’s talk about it…

I’d like to start things off by letting you all know that we’re fine. We’re healthy and we’re staying safe. We’ve been adhering to all the CDC guidelines and haven’t exposed ourselves much during this whole thing. In fact, I think we’ve spent more time actually caring for ourselves during this time than we have in the past 6 years. We’re actually getting sleep, exercising, and eating well. We’ve taken this time to do a much-needed re-evaluation of our needs and priorities. Thankfully, for us, the roastery has been able to keep us afloat during these times. It’s made it possible to keep things from grinding to a halt. That being said, Lauren and I are still working as we have no choice because we’re essentially all that’s left of the company at this point. We furloughed all of our employees pretty early on in an effort to ensure that they have some form of steady income during these unpredictable times. So there’s that. It’s also our focus at this point to ensure that both Lauren and I stay safe and healthy because if either one of us gets sick for any extended amount of time, it puts the whole operation at risk.

For those of you that are holding on to the idea that things will all go back to normal as soon as this quarantine is lifted, I regret to inform you that things are never going to be the same. In the next 3-6 months, you’re going to see tons of places call it quits. Based on the information I’ve seen, the collective WE are essentially 8 months to a year away from the earliest vaccine (and that’s if all goes well). The government is relaxing the rules to encourage people to start opening. They aren’t doing that because they think it’s the smartest thing for health… They are doing that because taxes aren’t coming in and they know they can’t keep printing money. They are essentially just telling people to fend for themselves. We are all essentially on our own and being thrown out to fend for ourselves while they attempt to spin the narrative. The whole… We need to let people get back to their normal lives and businesses makes little sense. Sure, go back to opening your businesses; but we need you to do things entirely differently while also understanding that most businesses have already been dealt a mortal wound.

We are going to continue to see safety and health restrictions on coffee shops and restaurants in the form of distancing and occupancy regulations. Coffee shops are communal gathering places that fly in the face of these new safety guidelines. To pretend that they don’t and try and re-invent a space set up for communal gathering and aesthetic is silly. When hospitality businesses open back up they will have reduced occupancy by half (if not more). So then, how do you pay your rent and labor costs with half the seating (or no seating)? It means prices have to go up significantly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing… In fact, it’s been a long time coming for most of us in the hospitality industry that have been competing on price rather than quality of product, service, and environment. This is further complicated for smaller businesses like us. You see, the government just thinks small businesses will snap their fingers and all of the employees will be back and ready to go. WRONG. We already have a significant amount of employees that will not be returning due to a number of circumstances created by the pandemic. So, at this point… the coffee shop would require us to hire and train new staff on top of already managing the roasting facility that continues to grow. Also, if we open back up and allow the public back into the shop… it doesn’t matter what safety precautions we are taking… We are all subject to the lowest common denominator coming through the door. Prior to the pandemic we would have people come in with their kids and tell us they had just come from the doctor and they were diagnosed with STREP throat; but that they are psyched because they were able to come into the shop instead of be at work! This is an airborne illness and the coffee shop is a large SHARED AIR space. This essentially means that no matter how far apart you stand, if someone comes in and coughs, everyone is exposed. We have multiple people on our team that are considered “at risk” and I don’t feel comfortable putting them in harms way. So, with the government saying that everything is fine; they are full of shit at the moment. We will not be opening our doors to the retail cafe on May 1st for a lot of these reasons.

It’s all good. We’re fine. The cafe is affordable to keep closed for a while. We are going to keep it in a state of suspended animation until there is a time that we can boot it up properly. It’s the responsible thing for us to do to preserve the shop for the long road ahead. To open up the shop while schools are out, businesses are encouraging working from home, and etc… You see, the shop is expensive to operate; primarily because of product and people. That space isn’t set up for carry-out and curbside. It never will be. If it was something that would work, we would have implemented it prior to the pandemic. It would just lose us money (as most of these businesses will find out). Right now we’re researching a mobile operation that we can set up that could allow us to provide cafe service to our beloved community while also preserving the healthy and safety of our staff and minimizing overhead costs during these unprecedented times. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted as we move forward. We love and miss all of you! I hope you’re all safe and healthy.