Mid Fall Retreats 2019

Smoke Signals collaboration with Free the Picnic


“Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone. It has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”
Ursula K. Le Guin

Our final retreat of 2019 will focus on nourishment from rye, a grain described as a ”rouge weed”, and vegetable forward cooking with two talented chefs, Katy and Ilana, who go under the name Free the Picnic. I fell in love with rye flour and rye bread after having made wheat based sourdoughs for most of my baking life. I love to slice it incredibly thin and pile it high with perfect butter, radishes, fish and pickles. There is a grassy, dank depth of flavor that your body immediately recognizes as food.

Katy and Ilana specialize in vegetable-focused recipes elevated by technique. They teach accessible approaches to professional skills in an inclusive and fun format. With Katy and Ilana as our guides, we’ll make two vegetarian dinner menus that are satisfying, and easy to replicate. Katy and Ilana will also share their favorite cookbooks, basic kitchen techniques, how to use every part of the vegetable, how to make six killer sauces/dressings.

Once we’re fully fed the evenings will find us catching up on life together with a drink in hand, playing card games, having a film night and experiencing some live old time music in a living room concert. The perfect introduction in cooler nights and shorter days.

Retreat Dates

October 28th-November 1st

November 4th-8th

Pine Mountain Settlement School

Pine Mountain Settlement School will be the beautiful backdrop to our culinary adventures. The 800 acre campus is a National Historical Site and has been a school, in various forms, since 1913. I first came to Pine Mountain in 2016 and was moved by the remote location and wild beauty.

In their own words: “Travel back in time with us, to a beautiful mountain valley at the convergence of three streams. Here, in 1913, visionary local leaders and pioneering educators conceived of a school "for the children of the Kentucky mountains." The desire was to transform the mountain community through education by infusing folk tradition with innovative teaching pedagogy. Over the years, the school has changed form. Today, we function as a community non-profit that still uses mountain tradition to address our current problems, although now we provide programming for visitors and school groups as well as community members."

The school is located in a rural area and the roads leading to and from the campus are filled with stunning views, hairpin turns and steep climbs. You do not need a special car or truck to find your way, but you may loose cell service and are advised to arrive before dark.


Noon to 6 P.M. settle in and stroll the campus

6 P.M. Dinner and opening games


7:30 A.M.-8:30 A.M Breakfast 

9 A.M-12:30 P.M. Rye bread baking session w/ Tara

12:30 P.M.-1:30 P.M Lunch

2 P.M. -5:30 P.M. Afternoon cooking lesson w/ Free the Picnic

Squash broth with greens and spiced oil

Green salad with grated walnuts and charred lemon dressing three ways

Warm wheat berry salad

Seasonal Ice Cream

6 P.M. Dinner

7 P.M. Old time music


7:30 A.M- 8:30 A.M Breakfast

9 A.M.-12:30 P.M Rye bread baking session w/ Tara

12:30 P.M.-1:30 P.M. Lunch

2 P.M.-5:30 OPEN TIME

6 P.M. Pizza party!

7 P.M. Film night


7:30 A.M-8:30 P.M Breakfast

9 A.M.-12:30 P.M OPEN TIME

12:30 P.M. - 1:30 P.M Lunch

2 P.M- 5:30 P.M. Dinner lesson w/ Free the Picnic

Creamy beans with green sauce three ways 

Build your own slaw with seasonal ingredients and dressings

Citrus Almond Cake

6 P.M. Dinner

7 P.M. Bourbon tasting 


7:30 A.M. to 8:30 A.M. Breakfast

9 A.M. to Noon Pack up and final stroll around the grounds

Baking Lesson Material

  • Wheat 101

  • Bakers math 101

  • How to write your own bread formula

  • Flour characteristics and qualities

  • How to soak and cook rye berries

  • How to make a 100% rye bread

  • Proofing 100% rye bread

  • Baking rye bread

  • Wood fired oven management

  • How to keep a sourdough starter and 100% rye starter

  • Other applications for rye flour

  • Home milling


  • All meals will be served in the kitchen of Far House

  • Breakfast 7:30 A.M. to 8:30 A.M.

  • Lunch 12:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M.

  • Dinner 6 P.M. to 7 P.M.

Katies & Ilana will be both teaching and our guest chefs for this retreat!

Please notify us of any food allergies or concerns. This week will include gluten, nuts and dairy.

If you have favorite wines, treats or other foods please shop ahead and bring them with you.

The meals for the week will be vegetarian. Sample menu:

Breakfast salad with soft-boiled egg

Wheat berry porridge with sorghum and toasted nuts and seeds

Focaccia Sandwich with seasonal vegetables raw and roasted and a variety of sauces

Middle eastern lunch spread with pita, lentil salad, quick  picked vegetables, hummus, marinated peppers

Japanese sticky rice bowls with smoky squash or sweet potatoes


As a retreat participant you will be staying with fellow bakers in Laurel House or Far House. These are two out of the twenty six classic buildings on the Pine Mountain campus.

Far House has a shared kitchen, living room, laundry and wifi. If you stay in Far House we will be using your kitchen for lessons and meals. If you need quiet time, Laurel House will better suit you.

Laurel House has lodging on the main floor, bellow the dining hall and meeting lodge. Laurel House rooms are private and come with wifi and shared bathrooms. Laurel House is in a central location on campus.

Note these building are historical and have been diligently kept up, but be aware you might cross your occasional, spider, critter or other wildlife. It’s all part of the adventure!

Our Spaces

All baking sessions will be held at the Plant Center and all culinary lessons and meal prep will be held in the kitchen of Far House. We will be walking daily between Far House, Laurel House and the Plant Center. Although roads and trails are maintained by the school, we do advise you to bring good walking shoes and some kind of rain boot. There will be a good deal of walking over our week together.

We encourage you, in your time between sessions, to wander the campus, hike one of it’s many trails, visit the garden and find a stream to follow.


You are more than welcome to travel to Pine Mountain in a vehicle. Parking will be provided.

The airport closest to Pine Mountain is the Tri Cities airport in Blountville, Tennesse. It has several flights per day coming in from Charlotte and Atlanta.

We are happy to provide a shuttle from the airport to the campus upon request for an additional charge. It’s a 2.5 hour ride. The cost of the shuttle will be split amongst those using it. You may pay upon arrival.

Take Away

  • An autographed copy of A Baker’s Year

  • A custom Smoke Signals t-shirt, tote bag and patch

  • A loaf of sourdough, wood fired rye bread

  • A baking booklet of our formulas and tricks

  • A few new friends

Free the Picnic

Ilana & Katy

Free the Picnic is made up of Ilana and Katy, two traveling chefs trying to get the world to eat more vegetables. They cook unfussy, super flavorful food using local ingredients whenever possible. They aim to make cooking fun and not intimidating - (just ask Tara about the Caesar dressing).

Ilana is a self-taught photographer and traveling chef with a background in food media. She graduated from the Culinary Institute of America before working with Outstanding in the Field, preparing and photographing events. She has been on the road for the better part of four years and is currently working as a private chef while doing freelance photography and recipe development.

Katy has a background in high-end restaurants and a B.A. in Creative Writing. She's a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC and spent 3 years cooking in NYC before leaving to travel the country as a a kitchen expeditor with Outstanding in The Field. She once got in a screaming match with a friend because she thought Washington DC was one of the 50 states. Her geography is better now. 

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Tara Jensen

Smoke Signals, Planet Earth

Jensen runs Smoke Signals, a wood fired, mobile baking school. She likes pizza and dogs and prays for world peace everyday. Bread is her method and her medium for making a meaningful life.


Cost Includes

  • Room and board from Monday at Noon to Friday at Noon

  • Three meals per day + coffee + tea + alcohol

  • Any equipment, ingredients or materials for our lessons is also included in the cost


Limited to 8 participants.

You must be 21 or over to attend.

We will be standing during baking sessions. Chairs may be provided as needed.

We will be baking outside in all kinds of weather so please bring appropriate clothing.

In the event that Smoke Signals cancels the retreat we will attempt to provide you with registration in another retreat within a reasonable period of time.  If we cannot we will make a full refund to you.

Registration is non refundable. Should you be unable to make it you may send a friend or family member in your place.

We cannot issue any refunds due to weather related travel delays.

We ask that you plan on attending the entire time, no partial days or session are available.

Please inform us well in advance of any allergies or health conditions that we should know about.