Nestled under a thicket of pine trees lies a quiet home. The aroma of freshly baking bread whiffs from the windows.
A solitary man sits inside on a rocking chair, surrounded by a few mementos, a bookshelf full of texts covering this and that and a few family photos of his children. What catches the eye is a bread machine, plugged in where a dining room table would go.
Wesley Sheldon, 89, explains keeping the machine in the living room, where it is warmer than the kitchen, helps the bread rise and produce an overall better loaf.
Nearly a decade ago, Sheldon began baking breads on nearly a weekly, sometimes daily basis. After more than 729 loaves, Sheldon had already burned out one machine and is on his second bread machine.
For Sheldon, a man with limited mobility, baking bread is a pastime that keeps him active and his brain sharp.
After serving in the military during World War II, working maintenance for 17 years at Valley schools, raising a family and losing his wife, Sheldon still cares about putting bread on the table.
“I make raisin, French and potato breads,” he says. “The latest is whole wheat bread.”
The majority of bread is given away to family, friends and anyone who will take it.
“Sometimes it is hard to give it away,” he jokes.
Sheldon said a friend, Chiryl Cole, the former owner of Back to Basics, got him first interested in baking bread.
Cole told Sheldon it was time he started doing something again after losing his wife 15 years earlier. While Sheldon used to help his mother knead dough as a child, he hadn’t picked up a packet of yeast since.
“I was the youngest, so I was Mommy’s helper,” he said. “It always looked like fun punching the dough around.”
Today, Sheldon uses a modern bread machine, so he does not have to knead the bread, but he still enjoys the process.
Sheldon uses a well-worn binder full of recipes that Cole meticulously wrote out in large, readable handwriting, since Sheldon is blind in one eye.
After selecting a recipe, Sheldon gathers his ingredients, which are spread throughout his kitchen. In one cupboard sit bags of flour and yeast, each with a large white label below, identifying it clearly for Sheldon.
While it doesn’t take much to pour ingredients into a machine and press start, knowing the right measurements and altering a recipe to produce the best bread, every time, takes practice.
“It takes me the longest to pour everything,” he said.
Sheldon bakes a loaf at least once a week, more than enough bread for one man. Since he cannot eat most of it, Sheldon gives neighbors and friends bread regularly.
Sheldon’s breads are some of the best bread she has ever had, Cole said.
“He has gotten it to such a fine art,” she said.
When the Roundup visited, Sheldon gladly donated a loaf of raisin bread. Although he complained it had turned out too heavy, photographer Andy Towle gladly accepted.
When not baking, Sheldon says he keeps the pounds off — from all the carbohydrates — by walking back and forth in his backyard.
For 40 minutes every day, Sheldon paces 75 feet from one side to the other, 30 times. This, Sheldon figures, is a mile and a half.
“I move pretty slow these days,” he said, “but I move like the Energizer bunny. I just keep going.”
Below are two of Sheldon’s basic recipes.
Add ingredients according to your bread machine’s owner’s manual, hit start and let the aroma of fresh bread fill your home.
Whole wheat bread
2 tsp. instant yeast
2 tsp. bread dough enhancer
2 Tb. Nonfat dry milk
2 Tb. Honey or sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 Tb. Vital wheat gluten
3 cup whole wheat flour
3 Tb. oil
1/3 cup warm tap water
1/3 cup water
2 Tb. Butter
2 Tb. Sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup instant potato flakes
3 cup bread flour
1/2 tsp. yeast