The Beach

For the last couple of days we have been at the beach in Cambria, California. We got a little motel room and in the morning while all the sleepy heads slumbered, I dressed and raced over the road to find the beach.

My heart was literally hammering in my chest. I just stopped when I saw the sea, I did not even sit, I just stood there and breathed slowly in and out. Letting every sense center in my brain slowly open right up to fill like a sponge and collect all the information. And store it. Because these precious oceans of ours are just so incredible.

And I grew up just steps from high tide on Westshore Beach in New Zealand. So being without the sea for so long has left me parched. I soaked it up.

After a while I returned to our room, woke up the sleepy-heads, did the food wrangling thing (why are modern kids so hard to feed) shoved them all into clothes and coats and out the bloody door. I am so sick of closing doors! We spent a blessedly overcast cool day on the beaches of the West-coast.

The cloud hugged the coastline like a great mist. There was no wind.

It was in the 60’sF with cool breathable air – literally 30 degrees cooler than Visalia in the Central Valley. Perfect beach weather. Yes! For people who grow up on the beach a cool overcast day is perfect beach walking weather!

This is a shot of a rock pool. I did fix it a little to bring up the detail but it looks so abstract. Abstract as life. Lots going on in this little pool.

I have no words for it really. But the sea filled us and wore us out, our deep unrecognized longing placated for a while. It was like home.

Now, we are back in the fire scented city of Visalia now. I have my morning coffee.

Then we are off to find a farmers market.

And tomorrow I fly back to Illinois.

My family is calling. More soon.

Miss C

To See You

I’m coming to see you. To see you. To be seen. So much of our lives we live under a diaphanous cloak of almost invisibility- even when purely angry our instincts are to walk away – well mine are. To keep our jobs. Or to maintain our relationships we cannot reveal ourselves. We cannot hurt people with our hammers and arrows. The mud we hold in our fists. We walk away. Simmering. UnSEEN.

Not to reveal the depth of hurt or anger makes life workable. If I watch for a while often I can come up with an answer or call for help. You know the story of Bluebeard right.

So I dive deep, I fly away I go to where I am seen and I can think.

To come and SEE one of my family is a relief beyond measure.

So I fly.

And fly.

And fly. And land again.

My whole self relaxes down into my own self and I am connected again.

When sitting in my son’s couch (not on but in- it is a very soft couch) surrounded by the scents and sounds of imperfect family I can think again. They see me. I am family- I am not a foreigner to manage. I am just Seen – Known.

A cup of tea and a whisky at the same time is seen ( that word again) as unremarkable. Not even remarked on.

At work the job of social media posting (especially Instagram, my favorite playground) has been given to a newly hired marketing company and I lose a real thread of connection to my bakers. I am not to comment or answer messages anymore because this has to be done in their professional voice now. This is such a small thing. Right? I get it – I really do, they need to start properly marketing but it has cut one of my strings to the company. And I am both interested and shocked at my visceral reaction. The images I take on a daily basis to accompany the story of the mill and her farms, are not SEEN anymore.

I am sad to see that written because it sounds so whiney and complainey and I am over it (or at least I have pushed my fury deep where it won’t hurt anyone) and the fallout for you will be more pictures of bread and wheat farming. Hope you can bear it!! But still I simmer.

I love the story of Bluebeard as told in the book Women Who Dance with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I read this book when I was a young mother and have always tried to have a copy nearby as I navigate life in my solitary way. It becomes dog eared, with notations and circles, drawings on its pages, words repeated and extended in its margins then forgotten for long periods of time. I must find it.

But I feel myself going underground again. To think and gather my considerable old crone forces. For what I am not sure. Something. Something Wild.

And I know and love that you accompany me on my inner and outer journeys – you see me. And I see you.

The house is waking up. Time for Wild Me to get up and tame my hair and face for the day.

Have a good one!

miss c

Rescuing Wild Birds with Trees

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Sometimes I can’t even think of a title so I write what I am thinking. Which in itself is probably the most backwards sentence I have ever written.

These are not wild birds!

We are down to two cats now. Two old cats. Lulu and one of the Vandals. The other three died naturally in the barn and John has a cat cemetery. The Vandals were Marmalade’s kittens if you can remember that far back. Only one left now. And Lulu was a kitten rescue – she was only a few days old- one of Nanny Boo’s first babies. Here she is having an old lady morning stretch.

Lulu

But I am not getting any more cats after these ones have gone. The chickens do a good job of keeping the mice down (the cats have never been inside-cats so that is not an issue) but those cats were terribly hard on the native birds and my chook chicks and peachicks. We have piles of trees now – and the native birds are no longer as rare to see so I am happy to not replenish the cat population here. Someone else will have to rescue them. I am rescuing wild birds. I don’t want to see any more piles of brightly colored feathers on the lawn.

I am rescuing birds by planting trees. Our place is becoming a forest – a jungle just like I planned. I am very happy with that. Today I am going to mark a few mulberry trees to cut down for firewood. Every now and then they need culling out so my special trees can thrive. The mulberries are native too and great food for birds. But other trees need to grow in the jungle too. Did I tell you about the native magnolia my tree man gave me?

Here it is. He knows I love trees with big leaves. When I am dead this will be a beautiful canopy of trees all talking to each other. And the house will have slowly sunk back into the marshy ground.

This is the first year we have had apples in a long time. There are piles of them. Hopefully John will make lots of apple sauce for the winter. I will start some after work today.

Tima and Wai at the steps waiting for breakfast.
This is Felicity Broadbent AKA The Paper Bag Princess. A work in progress.

I hope you have a lovely day.

miss c

The Taste of Home

I was listening to the radio in the car the other day and at the end of the interview the interviewer posed a question.

“What is the taste of home for you?”

He said Hush Puppies were his taste of home. I thought hush puppies were shoes but it sounded interesting. Then the other presenters chimed in and they all had an answer. A passionate, ‘mamas cooking’ kind of answer. Anyway then I had to think what the taste of home was for me. I have been pondering this for days now.

I have gone through the foods from my childhood thinking it might be one of them. A roast of mutton with crunchy roast potatoes. Steak and cheese pie. Summer warm garden never-been-chilled tomato and fresh basil on Vogel’s toast. Maybe marmite on toast. Or fish and chips out of newspaper with old fashioned Watties tomato sauce that has no sugar added! Avocado from the trees on Charlie’s orchard!

Then I got hung up on the word ‘home’. I have felt at home in a number of different places. Many of them while traveling alone. So the tastes from all these homes might be The Taste. Edamame – hot with salt at Wagamama in a broken down shopping area in Angel, London. Paella in a tiny Spanish restaurant a little walk from Smithfield in London – (I was not alone that time!). Homemade Pesto and Pasta with piles of Parmesan cheese eaten at a marble table overlooking the Mediterranean on the Amalfi coast in Italy (alone). Potato Salad ( with everything in it) in Prague in a tiny underground bar (alone). Warm Pizza Bianca bought from a hole in the wall on the streets of Paris ( alone but not for long).

Water infused with cucumber at the Termemilano Baths in Milan – not alone that time either and it felt like home with family. That scented water.

Custard Squares and Sally Lunns from the bakery on Emerson Street in Napier, New Zealand. ( never alone).

Can each one of these be my home? That would suit me and my Gypsy Caravan tastes. ( I have always wanted to live in a gypsy caravan but one with walls that would lift out to let all the light in. I have never liked walls). Don’t let me get distracted.

What would your taste of home be?

What taste would I associate with my present home – fried eggs on toast? Eggs from our chickens and home made bread from wheat grown in my fields. Hash browns? Probably hash browns: homemade from newly dug potatoes. Like the ones I had on Friday evening – with a book and two dogs and the potato dug straight out of the ground.

It has been an interesting exercise trying to nail down the taste of home and it has underscored the essential feeling of homelessness that immigrants and motherless women often feel. Though I know many immigrants and emigrants who have found their homes in a new land. I find home in many places. But when I talk of going home- I mean New Zealand.

Have a lovely day – it is perfect weather here this morning. Sparkly. I am going outside to get you some photos.

Are you thinking now? About your taste of home? Would you like to tell us? The Fellowship of the Farmy? We would love to hear about your taste of home.

miss c

Little Hiccups along the Road

The family has been busy these last few weeks minding The Matriarch who had a fall. You know how these things are. But with a very determined and positive attitude she is well on the way to a complete recovery. But the first few weeks she needed tons of care so I was simply too busy to write of any farm news. Once again life intervenes. With all its twists and turns. To not expect these twists and turns would lead to madness but we are never as prepared for the unexpected as we would like.

The cows have been let into the vegetable garden and are munching on corn stalks and rows of corn-gone-hard next will be our amazing cover crop ( organic oats, wheat and soya beans) in there.

More chicks! Now the ducks are hatching out chicken eggs. Their duck eggs are all infertile which is a disappointment and a relief ( is there a word for that?) so a few of the ducks have taken over nests of chicken eggs.

Ducks raising chicks does not end well – the ducks try to teach the chicks to swim quite young and drown them, so these chicks are under a light. Plus chickens lead their chicks to food and scratch it up for their babies calling to the chicks the whole time – ducks do not scratch or call.

Every time we go through one of these extra humid spells we get chicks! The yard is swarming with them!

Tima and Wai are good! Eating well from the restaurant scraps.

The rescue rabbit sits on his house way up high watching the world go by. But he always bounds down to see me when I visit. If I thought Boo would leave her alone I would let her out but I am not sure about that!

Boo and Ton lie about in the shade pretending not to care.

The hay is in and I would not be surprised if John gets a fourth cut this year.

It has been very hot so the loaves are proofing extra fast.

I am off to open up the flour shop and make some bread.

Talk soon.

miss c

Change coming

‘Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are out of the old life and into the new!

Wind in the Willows.

I am sending this book out to my children. I need to read it again too.

Looks like we are going back to the masked days again. So disappointing, though personally I don’t care. I did not mind wearing a mask. It’s a matter of plodding through it. Though I seldom went anywhere but the mill; I had begun to grocery shop on the weekend again and up to Chicago selling flour. Being vaccinated gives one a certain amount of protection but I am incredibly worried about the other members of my American family who won’t even take this simple precaution. It is isolating to be the only one.

We all knew that the virus was here to stay. It’s just the level of infection and the severity of those infections we could have mitigated. Ah well. I just hope and pray they continue to keep it out of New Zealand.

The trees and gardens are growing wild. Which I kind of like.

This is the first year that our young apple trees are producing. The apples are small but ripening nicely. The tomatoes are ripening too and we have begun to make sauce. John grew a good crop of sweet corn. Today I will see if I have everything for corn relish.

Recipe for Corn Relish

Plus I am making loaves of bread with our Black Emmer flour. I will use This Recipe from my Bread Blog. Once I have baked with the Emmer a few more times I will have a recipe to share. It is pretty low in protein so in the end I will blend it I think.

And pasta with the new semolina. I will probably blend the semolina with the sifted Durum flour. I am having such fun watching the occasional Pasta Grannies on UTube. That is the best education! Thank you Char I always use the 100/1/1 specs – 100g flour, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon water. We have piles of eggs! (The water depends on the size of your eggs and whether you are using stone ground semolina. The stone ground seems to need a little more water and time).

Better get going then!!

Lots to do.

miss c

SLEEP IS FUNNY

I understand the biology but really sleep is so odd. Dark comes – we get tired. We all sleep at the same time even the birds even the animals. Our dogs. We all crawl into our safe corners and sleep. Except the nocturnal ones I suppose- but what if people were nocturnal. How different would we be. Bigger eyes maybe. Would we even need lights to see by?! Maybe our houses would be designed to have windowless light free bedrooms for sleeping in the daylight.

Or if we never needed sleep at all and our lives only lasted 30 years. How different would we be. How much more precious would our lives be. And with no sleep at all. No bedrooms. No shutting of the eyes. I think we would have a lot of break out rooms full of quiet.

Early morning ducks just want to GET OUT!!

If only I had the camera aimed slightly higher this would have been the money shot. But capturing the image of the ducks flying out of their bedroom AND opening said bedroom door at the same time leaves a lot to luck.

Did you see the newly hatched chicks in the header? Here is a close up.

One day old. Yes! MORE chicks!!

In New Zealand we drink a lot of tea. If someone comes to your house you ask them if they would like a cup of tea or coffee. Anytime of the day not just in the morning. It would be dreadfully rude not to offer a cup of tea. When I lived in New Zealand people dropped in all the time for a cuppa. But now I live in Illinois. People do not just drop in here. Maybe it is because I am out in the country or maybe a cultural thing or maybe I have few friends but I miss people unexpectedly dropping in for a cup of tea and a natter.

Over the years I have stopped being prepared for people to drop in – now I wear horrible clothes and don’t do my hair for entire days on the weekend.

Anyway – back to tea. Not fancy tea. Just gumboot tea. Or builders tea.

When there is no one to share a pot of tea with. ( the last 15 years) I make my tea using a tea bag. When I use a tea pot I always put the milk in my cup first. But when I use a tea bag I put the milk in the cup last so the hot water hits the teabag first. And I am a very impatient person so while I wait for the kettle to boil I grab the mug and the teabag and the milk so everything is ready.

At this point my impatience goes one step further as I wait for the kettle to boil (too long). I watch myself put the teabag in the mug, then pour a little milk over the dry tea bag, (horrors) – return the milk to the fridge and return to watching water boil. I know that my gentle-self wants that perfect cup of tea (milk last) but my inner impatient self must go fast, must not waste movements, must have everything ( the milk) put back where it belongs ( in the fridge) so I can take my hot tea straight to the table and sit down sooner. I literally watch myself make an inferior cuppa so I can go faster to my chosen space to relax for a minute before leaping to the next task.

And I laugh at myself who I know so well!

I open Our Tiny Flour Shop at the mill at 9am on Saturday mornings. So I am at the mill baking bread in the toaster oven. Today’s loaf will be Red Fife, Black Emmer and our High Protein Bread Flour.

Have a lovely day!

So how do you like your tea!!

miss c

The Swamp

That is what they call our fields. The Swamp. When these acres performs the yields are magnificent but when the weather gets in the way this land ( rightly so) has a mind of its own. It is the lowest point for miles around so it prefers to be very wet.

And you know how wet it got a few weeks ago – flash back to HERE!

Well, the farmers took the insurance on this field: most of it drowned so the financial loss was mitigated, but the fecund growth that has followed the flood is amazing.

Next the farmer will turn all this delicious fertile biomass back into the soil to rest and rot and share all that goodness into the soil. Then later in the summer we hope to sow cowpeas, oats and Daikon radishes as a cover crop. I am almost more excited about the cover crop than the corn. You know what they say about making lemonade out of lemons.

Tima never sleeps with WaiWai now. We will see what happens when the winter comes. The porch will get pretty cold then. But there is no telling her – Tima is a pig.

Chooks and their chicks are all doing well.

This is the big puddle we keep filled for chooks and ducks and pigs to drink. The pigs lie in it too when it is hot. It was the original duck pond – do you remember?

I cannot get enough of this sturdy calf.

The weather is cooling off for a few days which will be nice for the cows.

Now it is time for me to get dressed then go down to the mill to open Our Tiny Flour Shop until noon.

Good morning!

Have a great day.

miss c

Title Here

You know the rule about titles – the first title I think of has to go in the Title Space. Well there you are! Title Here! Snort. ( I cannot write snort without thinking of Sheila – and thinking of Sheila always makes me sad).

I was so looking forward to writing to you again this morning but I did not have enough material so this is coming out this afternoon. I really have missed you ALL! Love. Love. Love all the comments. We are still a delightfully chatty group.

Today I have been baking.

I love dates so I made a rye flour lemon date slice with a caramel icing. Very tasty! The recipe is in production! Soon, soon.

Raisin Bread with rye. ( recipe here). I call this my breakfast loaf. The 300g of seeds and fruit can be anything at all – nuts, dried fruit, seeds! Anything. Don’t even think about it – just throw it in there!

Deli Rye Loaf: Dark Rye and High Protein. Bread for sandwiches.

And after all that discussion about pond plants – The ducks are not even eating the pond plants! Not the pond lettuce yet anyway. I just put my lilies in there this morning to see what comes of it. We had such wild rain and wind last night the pond plants were all thrown to the other side.

Here is my self portrait with pond lilies.

I have the hiccups and they are exhausting. My long dead mother told me that Pope Pius XII died of the hiccups – why would you even tell that to a hiccuping child?! That info left me with a lifetime of hiccup anxiety. Bless her. I love the dark side of my old Mum.

Though if you listen to my latest video on Instagram – you can hear (and probably see) the hiccups! I would place a link here but I am tired now.

For some reason this series of thoughts took me to onomatopoeia then onto alliteration and then onto this post. I wrote this years ago and it still makes me smile! The brain is like that – leaping here and there. Don’t you love that about our brains?! Except when they are tired and cannot work out how to link you to my Instagram posts where the videos are.

Have a lovely evening. I am going to bed. 4am start! I will put the chooks and ducks to bed then bed myself down. Frankly I would sleep with the cows given half a chance like I used to sleep with Sheila who was not a cow but there we go being sad again.

Take care now.

miss c

The Damp

Although the flood waters have receded the ground is so wet that every morning the dew is heavy and the sun rises into misty wet air. The humidity is saturating.

We have not had a full hot drying sunny day in weeks. The clouds and heavy humid stillness hang in the air. Hangs with the air. It is the air. Malodorous. The air is thick and smells brown.

The tomatoes are not ripening and the few that have are tasteless. Too much water. Not enough sun. The early sweet corn is the same. Though my courgette crop from the porch garden keeps on coming!

And it is great for the new trees.

The humidity is literally turning surfaces in the house green with mildew. My coats: leather and oilskin, all have mildew spots. The doors and shelves. I am oiling them all again this weekend. Air thick with humidity.

I say this only because I feel anxious to make a plan to cope with these changes. Increased use of water and electricity cannot be solutions. High tech solar will not work without ample sun. Even our wind is quiet. We need to create ways to cope using our own strong bodies and minds. ( I still like the idea of an exercise bicycle that creates instant power. I would invest in that technology. All it needs is an iPad and I know many retired husbands who could peddle while they surf the internet instead of laying on the couch with the IPad. We need one that will run a dehumidifier though – so far the bikes don’t power very much). Or do they? Do they have plug ins? I need to research the latest.

I always thought a gym could supply power for itself. And as the last person gets off the last bicycle it slows to a stop, the lights dim and flicker as we pan in on the slowly slowing peddle. Peddle goes still. Lights off. Sound of door slamming. Silence.

Can you see the two mini flocks? If I could capture all three chick flocks in one image that would be a treat.

Mr Flowers is super friendly with me now Pania is gone. He follows me everywhere as I do evening chores.

Anyway. Today is dawning humid and hot again. I will be baking though. I have avoided it for weeks and I need to test bake more flours today.

The starter is fed. I lost one starter, that was stored in the fridge, to mold which has not happened before. Luckily I always keep two. Even the fridge is humid.

Take care!

miss c

PS … you will have noticed that carefree naïve ‘celi’ has gone. As one of my oldest friends from our beach days said – (We grew up in my Dads boat building workshop, fishing off the piers and dropping everything EVERYTHING to go surfing.) He said “ c, we are not bullet proof anymore”. The virus is creeping back – California cases are in the news, New Zealand is still closed, Canada is still closed, Melbourne is back on lock down. This time we will make sure to lock ourselves down with a little more luxury and a little more planning and a little less frantic anxiety. And I am back to ‘don’t mess with me’ miss c.