After the many attempts I chronicled last week, I have now successfully grown a crop of yeast and made fantastic sourdough bread with it. The keys seemed to be allowing the water to sit out so the chlorine in it could evaporate, as many of our intelligent commenters suggested; and allowing time for the mess in the jar to mature.
In case you are wondering about my title, here for your reading pleasure is "Anecdote of the Jar" by Wallace Stevens:
I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.
The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.
It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.
I think that poem would be just as astonishing if Stevens had put a shovel upon the hill. However, my prejudices are showing. It's not artifice or imagination that organizes the slovenly wilderness and gives it meaning. It's the will to garden.