I have decided this morning to quite simply lie in bed and do this mornings work here.
It is a still and overcast morning after a night of gentle steady rain. Maybe it is going to be hot – I don’t know. After a year working in the depths of the mill I have lost track of weather. It is always cold in there – we have to refrigerate the flour. So I am refrigerated all day long.
The ducks are laying consistently – waiting for their pond with ill-grace. They spend a lot of time out in the shorn fields picking up dropped wheat.
The new chickens have started laying their little green eggs for my green eggs and ham!
BooBoo and TonTon sleep sprawled all over the floors and when they hear my car coming up the track after work, they erupt from the doors protesting that they ‘just now laid down after a big busy day at dog-work! Whadayamean I’m lookin’ dog-fat!!’
I still collect pig scraps from the local restaurant- on my way home from work- buckets and buckets of scooped watermelon and grapes and strawberries and greens – a salad bar in a bucket!
The dogs help me feed the plonkers.
WaiWai comes creeping out. Complaining softly. He is still covered in zinc, patches of bright pink skin showing through- he sleeps all day in the empty barn. Poppy is down the back in an enormous field of pig feed and Tima is in another diet field. She is happier now because that she is where she used to live with Tane.
But none of these pigs can sleep in the same place. If there is ever an escape the fights are awful, so winter will be interesting.
Cows in over-grown fields. Gardens high with flowering weeds amidst my jungles. I feel liberated by allowing myself to stop pulling weeds and letting the wild trees grow. Trees love tree friends. Weeds are ok. All my forests are growing – the Fellowship Forest down the back is shooting up. Poppy lies in the afternoon shade from those little trees. Her field is lush.
I will get up now I think. 7.30am! That was a pretty big lie-in.
Everything is pretty lazy.
Later now. After a day.
And now again to sleep. I like my sleep.
Not a lot happening on the farm on this mid- summer weekend. The weather is hot and drier lately so John has been baling the straw left over from the wheat crop. As the cover crop of clover begins to take off, I think the straw will become hay! Next year will be corn and then corn stalks so we need to get as much straw as possible. A few years worth.
The loss of Sheila still sits beside me. Like a good old dog I must let her go now but I not ready yet. We all must let go our pets eventually. Pet is such a small word that does not cut it. It is interesting the connection between man and beast. How strong it is, yet how short. And why do people have to live so long when our dear companions only have such short lives.
For a while I felt like a child’s balloon with the string cut. You know the feeling. It takes a little while to come back down again.
There is just so much going on and big parts of a persons life are not for a public forum such as this. I often remind myself that everyone has silent struggles – we will never know of them – so we must try to be kind.
Today I send another 40 Bake Your Own Bread in a Box Kits to Chicago. I am told they have been well received by the households we are donating to through IGrow Chicago. I think they will do even better as the summer lifts and the Autumnal cool slides back in.
The Janie’s Mill bakers and you all, have donated 408 kits. And that does not count this weekend. I am so proud of this.
Not one duckling hatched – once again. I took all the ducks off their nests; made under trees, in long grass beside the track, in the gardens and sheds and barns. They were ( and still are) everywhere. At least 15. The stink of rotting and popping eggs is pervasive – getting into every corner of the farm. Some have remade the nests and laid more eggs and are sat again. There is only one drake now and I wonder if he is just too young to be fertile. Or these ducks are like mules and cannot re-produce.
The pond continues in it’s construction at a pace. John and his friends keep scouring the local farms for piles of rocks. The ducks are not waiting for completion though. There is always a little water in the bottom of the developing pond and the ducks hobble down the rocks and in for a good swim. I got on the back-hoe myself the other day and deepened their puddle pond in the corridor paddock but they prefer the new pond already.
WaiWai was appalled that I deepened his puddle. He lost the shallow drinking edge – ( though I made him a better one) – Wai is a creature of habit. He has spent all summer covered in zinc cream. His skin is way too thin for the sun. Such a grumpy pig.
Well, it is Sunday here. And a beautiful day. I need to make more bread today.
I made a lunchbox loaf yesterday (specifically for my breakfast at work) – two loaves.
1000 grams of whatever flour needed finishing up ( Glenn, Red Fife, Bono) + 800g water. ( whip or sieve to combine the dry ingredients before adding the water). I gave this a good two hours autolyse because of the Red Fife. During this time I soaked two cups filled with cracked rye, raisins, flax seeds, sprouts, assorted nuts and seeds, a lemons worth of zest, plus two cups of rough cut oats, all in warm water with molasses. After one hour I strained the oaty, fruit and nut mixture and added 200g sourdough starter. After another hour I added the oat and sourdough mixture to the flour and mixture. I turned it out on to a floury counter and pressed in 20g salt.
I gave it a couple of folds over an hour or so – this is a very wet dough so I used the bench scraper. Divided and rolled into shape and set the dough in two loaf tins to rise for the day.
Sprinkle with rolled oats.
Use a lot of steam in the oven. Bake at 500F for ten minutes then 450 for ten minutes then 375 for 40 minutes. This is a dense bread designed for nutrition during the work day, not prettiness, so the loaves will need a good long cook.
When the loaves are very cold – slice and freeze. My house is not air conditioned so freezing is best. Every day I bring out a couple of slices, slather the frozen slices with butter then wrap them and stow in my lunch bag for my breakfast at work.
I start work at 5.30 in the morning so by 8am, when all my teams are up and running, my sandwich is perfectly thawed and ready for a munch with the last of my coffee.
I hope you all have a good day.
Sheila lost the use of her back legs three days ago. I tried and tried to get her to stand but she could not.
All through the night we talked about things, out there in the straw, as Poppy slept on. Sheila was sitting most of the time, all through that last night. Huge in the night. Shone by a little moon. Four times my size and gentle. I gave her drinks and hand fed her treats as we talked about old times – about bad pigs and good fields and how she would sit on command and wait to eat and walk down the creek with me and bring me her bowl for food then pick it up and run off with the filled bowl to eat it over there. And how she adopted Poppy when Poppy was tiny but never wanted piglets of her own. She was a pig apart. My special girl. Ni night she said again and again. The only word she ever learned – ni night I said back to her.
In the morning I brought the vet out for her. Amazingly while I was in calling him and getting dressed, she dragged herself all the way out of the barn and into her garden. I don’t know how. All I saw were the drag marks.
Then she turned her large body around to face the gate where I would come through and lay down.
I sat with her, she and I, for a long time again- waiting. Her voice had changed – it was urgent and low- after a while she was jawing at the pain, and she lowered her head to me.
Both the vets came out. The senior who has vetted me through all my farming (though it was his day off) and his young vet who pulled Del’s dead calf. Do you remember her?
By then I had no words / all I was saying to her was shh shh – shh, shh shh – as though to hush her to sleep. To not see them coming. My throat was closed around the awfulness of losing my companion of almost nine years. At the end my elder vet’s jaw was working, the younger vet was in tears , and I just stood and howled. My head down and my arms straight at my sides. I just sobbed.
The vets said things I don’t remember and left us with her huge dead warm body. John brought the tractor round, his hat low over glistening eyes and began to dig her grave.
I sat again with her – but in the end I let her go.
I miss her more than is reasonable. And I keep thinking I will tell her because I think she would get it. CShh shh I say to myself every time I begin to cry again. Hush, now. Ssh ssh.
The wheat has been harvested and my fields have lost their romance. The wheat has gone.
It was here – so beautiful and now harvested and collected and gone to be tested for all manner of things before the women at the Mill turn it into food.
Though the harvest itself holds a certain terminal beauty. Like a sandcastle – there and gone.
They are harvesting Frederick here. Frederick is just below a medium protein flour. It is a favorite cake flour amongst the bakers ( cake- sifted) and the whole wheat flour blended with the Glenn makes a nice loaf of bread. I think people like the Fred for its mild flavor. I am more of a Glenn girl.
Anyway the wheat is gone now. Today we will bale as much straw as we can.
Sheila is getting old. I say this without ceremony because I feel shipwrecked or more ship-lost-at-sea at the thought of losing Sheila my old dear pig. Pigs don’t stop growing – they slow down but she keeps on getting longer – and she is over 6 foot long now and up to my waist in height (and I am not a short person). But her back half is not keeping up with her front half as though they are being directed by two different brains. Rising out of a sitting position takes real determination. Walking, with her long back and bad hip, is more of a drunken sway. I am afraid that soon she will sit down and won’t be able to get back up.
But she still looks me straight in the eye and gently takes food from my hands when I feed her. She still fights Poppy if Poppy tries to steal her food. She still wallows in her enormous mud puddle and waits for me in the evening. She is quite deaf but if I wave her bucket of vegetables about and call with a very high voice she gets up after a struggle and still comes lumbering out into her garden for her evening vegetables.
But she is getting old. And you and I need to start preparing ourselves.
Soon she and Poppy will go into one of the bigger pig gardens. They are wonderfully shady now and Sheila will like that.
I am reading this book:
Writers and Lovers – a Novel
Though I have not finished it yet. I love to read – it helps me to not think. It is like traveling very safely.
I told my fourth son in New Zealand he might have to buy a bigger boat in case he has to come and get me.
I can hear the ducks outside the window. It seems to me there are less of them. There are a number sitting on eggs but no eggs are hatching. The ducks sit for over a month but eventually the nest is abandoned. One nest has two ducks in it. But no ducklings for us. John is digging a big pond, deeper than himself, where his swimming pool used to be, and lining it in with rocks at the moment. The rocks cover a big black liner. The ducks will be happy when that is finished. I told him I would start a budget for replacement fish. It will attract herons too which is pretty cool. ( more replacement fish). I told him to place the rocks in such a way that the fish can hide from the birds. I have no idea where one even buys fish in those numbers.
It is a beautiful day. I might garden later. First though: ‘the working woman’s Saturday morning jobs.’
Maybe, just pictures today?
Storms everywhere. Globally. Locally. In the Sky. In my Heart.
The Pig Garden.
The four took all day to wander across from their spring garden to their summer garden.
There is so much foliage in there we may not see them again for some time. I love my pig gardens. There are masses of butterflies in there already.
And fireflies at night.
Aunty Del says good morning. The ducks say Good Morning. ( I am experimenting with Calzone).
I say Good Morning too.
We are all experiencing some level of anxiety and even depression about the present troubles. Everything affects us all and so it should. So, be kind. Keep your distance. But be kind.
Create systems that are long term. No more hunkering down and waiting. Get busy. Let’s literally design our lives to create safe living spaces and inclusive caring practices that include all our neighborhoods.
I am working with this quote today. To examine my fears and use them as information. I am going to collect each fear like a data point and plot it on a graph. You remember that old Nike saying “fear is your only enemy”. I used to have the poster on my classroom wall.
By the way ‘the book of longings’ is really good.
Well. ‘Nuff Said.
Actually three sitting ducks.
One beside the front steps,
One in the woodpile,
And one in the barn ( in the dark ). I saw her, she hissed at me from the gloom – but it was too dark for a picture. I bet there are more sitting hidden in the trees but we must not raise our hopes – they may be infertile like last years duck egg hatching attempt. They still feel like promises though.
Incredible how they sit for weeks like that without moving. They all have water and food nearby but I don’t see evidence of eating. Or drinking for that matter – it is the way of birds I guess.
I miss home a lot lately.
I find myself stranded behind my mask at a loss as to what to say. Ordinary things seem so trite now. I have been told more than once that I don’t understand – I never grew up here – and that is true – so I do stuff more than say stuff now.
Getting back to the farm in daylight is a blessing – every evening Sheila is sitting at her gate waiting for me. Literally sitting at her gate. John says he does not see her all day. I think she just waits until she hears my car then comes out into her field for her vegetables and a drink and a scratch and then while Poppy is vacuuming up the left-overs Sheila and I walk slowly back to the barn and I help her make her bed. She is an old pig now. Tall and long with less teeth. But still my lovely girl.
Tima waits at her gate too. John is forbidden from feeding her – she got so fat she was having trouble breathing and I could hear her snoring from my bedroom. So she is in the diet field and I feed her at night. No grains at all ever for that pig.
I hope you are well and hanging in there.
You know how last time I wrote you a letter, I was talking about how I felt I was coming out of a long shambly walk down a long dark tunnel. Now I am standing out in the light at the end of my tunnel blinking in the flash of an incredible sea change of social discourse.
Black Lives Matter. Hallelujah! A cry that needed a million voices to be heard. Shame on us.
I get that there is the fear of violence and more looting. And I understand that I am not an American so I don’t really have a right to speak. And I get that many people are afraid.
And I am not black. I trust the black people in my community to be telling it true. This many voices is a revelation and a movement of such significance: to ignore it or fear it or speak against the essence of their voices is arrogance. Dominance is the same as oppression and I reject the call to dominate my black neighbors. Instead I will feed them. Bread. Of course.
We will all do what we can. And as usual I fall squarely into Martha’s camp. Mary is out there fighting for her voice to be heard and acted on. I am Martha in the kitchen feeding her so she stays strong. Carrying my basket of bread behind her.
I was thinking of what to write to you, in my farm blog that seldom drifts into politics- though honestly this is not a political issue – this is an issue of humanity and a very American issue. And I live in America and cannot ignore these cries. But I was sitting on the step thinking – in a rare moment of stillness while the dough got to work, when Mr Flowers, using his broken leg as a crutch, raised up his tail feathers and shook them. Calling out.
Even balanced on one leg he lifted that weight. And his voice rung out across the farm. I did not think he would be able to do it – on one leg.
The sunrise this morning.
I am baking bread again today. I will bake over thirty loaves once I am done. I have two food pantrys’ attached to community centers- one a dance studio in Pilsen and one a community center in Englewood – that I want to befriend and support. Naturally I wish to feed the children. I will tell you more about that another time.
I am sending bread at this point but I am also designing a kit called ‘Bake your own Bread in a Box.’ Everything to make one loaf of bread – with a recipe. I will enable a button in the janiesmill.com website so anyone can buy these boxes and/or donate them and I will deliver them into the South Side every week. What do you think? This might be fun for the young people – to bake themselves a loaf of nutritious bread. The box will have enough flour, salt, and yeast to make one loaf. And a recipe. I hope they will invite me up to come and teach bread-making classes one day!
I am being encouraged to make a short utube vid to go along with the recipe. But I am still on the fence about that.
But I am not on the fence about answering this call from my black neighbors in any way I can.
The remaining four little pigs are growing well. Tima is on a diet in her own field because she keeps finding duck eggs and eating them. We have cut our second load of hay – it is cool and windy this morning- which is perfect for hay. Sheila is feeling her age. BooBoo moves the ducks into their night quarters every night- he is a great duck herder. The cows graze and the fields grow. The little chickens are in with the big flock now, their door will stay shut for two weeks so the little chickens learn where their new home is and will go back in to roost at night.
So far this summer there is no sign of either the skunks or bastard mink. I am on the alert though and every hole into the chook-house is blocked and checked.
The organic warthog wheat is growing!!
So the farm rolls on. And the flourmill rolls on and we are wide awake in the world. No more turning a blind eye. Eyes wide open now at the beginning of a brightly lit tunnel!
Thank you much for being where you are and who you are!
Lots of love
I have been trying to write to you for weeks but every time I reread the words I wrote they seem unhelpful, foreign even. Written by a sad person. But here you are – a bunch of unrelated beginnings:
I don’t know which days I wrote them:
Do you feel like you have been living in a tunnel. I do. I watched a little frog hop into the bushes last night ahead of my booted feet – it is wet and warming up so the little frogs are out – it was like the tiniest of shadows, insubstantial, a tiny ghost caught in my eye then gone. I feel like this frog, scuttling to and fro along my designated pathways of mill to farm to mill to farm, forced to move on only two tired legs, not quite sure why things are thus.
Then: I have not written lately because this is how I think now. Maudlin and cast down.
Another day I wrote this: Breath has become our enemy. Mouths are covered. Ears strain forward from elastic bands. We focus on eyes, we are masters now at reading eyes.
Then this: I am searching for more masks for my mill people. Everything is going to take weeks to be delivered. I will not buy the disposable masks used by more important people. Even if I could find them. I leave those for the more important people. I search for American made ones. Ones made from the left overs of other projects like shirts or hoodies.
Everyone only tolerates wearing the masks but me. I feel safe behind one. My face can rest. I let my eyes do the talking. I feel less ‘seen’ but I am behind a mask fourteen hours a day so I also feel suffocated and confined. I need to find more filters.
Hmm: just discovered that there is no space in my little abattoir for my beef cows. With the big slaughter houses closed my little place is booked up to February. 2021! The hogs will be even longer. This is all no good. Nothing I can do about that problem. But no meat for us for a while.
And: I have decided to take the Airbnb offline. It is my safe place now. And people make me nervous.
This: I still have been nowhere but the mill and the farm. Since this all began. Since just after I got back from New Zealand. In fact I feel as though I might never go anywhere again.
This entry: The world as we know it is gone. We are facing an uncertain future. We are. Due to aggressive proactive measures ‘ shelter and wait’ the human loss has been mitigated but at a terrific cost to our futures. I believe this minute organism, so small it can be carried on and expelled by breath, yet replicates 2000 times faster than a cold and has big teeth, is the catalyst of a new way of living. This will not be the first pandemic to hit our modern delicate biological systems. We need to be always ready now. Plan ahead.
But we are herd animals. We collect in tribes. In years past these tribes and villages did live close and safe – connections were at yearly gatherings or fairs. A funeral was a village affair – a wedding the same. People did not wander far. The biggest cities were always dangerous, beset with disease and strife. But we need our tribe – we need to gather.
So, In a way this is not new. Staying in our patches. A mill feeding her village and sending flour in sacks to the big towns bakers is old. Going to a local farm to buy your eggs and milk is old. Having large country gardens and city gardens is old.
A later thought: I have just realized that my Green Card never came. The immigrant service must have been disbanded. Immigration is at a stand still here in the U.S. and my application seems to have been caught up in the slow down. I am not alarmed. The repercussions of being illegal would include eviction from the U.S. I would want to self isolate for a long time before I could see my family though. But NZ feels safer to me now. I did complete the application procedure so I think that should help whenever that big machine starts up again.
And this morning.: Sheila and Poppy are well. Sheila is so much happier now that it is warm. Wai and Tima get on alright but do not choose each other’s company.
Mr Flowers limps about curling his bad foot under and using it as a crutch but when he flies out of the barn in the morning he is still our regal jewel.
I have lost two of the new pigs to some ailment. I wormed them and the vet sent antibiotics but still two died fast and the rest still have not started to really thrive. One is still particularly unwell but I am determined not to give up. I carry him out into patches of deep weeds and grass for the day. He eats out there and is drinking again but still very unsteady.
Dogs are good. Cats are all present and correct. The chickens are laying and the ducks have taken us over. One is sitting on eggs right next to the front door in the garden by the deck.
She is well camouflaged.
Today for the first time in what feels like forever the sun is out.
I think sun will help.
Take care my darlings – sorry to talk so much about myself. But I feel foggy and out of focus. I have lost my sense of being and am just waiting now. Like some of you maybe. Lucky I have a very busy job. But still a large part of my Self has curled up by the fire with her back to the world. Still. Gathering my forces maybe. But deep down. I have gone deep.
What the hell, right. No hugs. No kisses. No closeness. No faces. It is so loud at the mill- with two mills running 24 hours a day now and with masks on all the time – we have given up on casual conversation – just shark attack quick 6 second communications.
If I am home by 7 of an evening it is an early night. I leave at 5.30am. But I could work 24 hours a day and still not be done.
The demand for flour is like a big monster and when that meets a little country mill that celebrated for breaking-even last financial year, well, as you can imagine, the owners are pretty excited. In fact the owners are working longer hours than me trying to keep this thing afloat in these wild seas.
The orders are like a big maw. Insatiable. We keep running out of everything, then finding a new supplier then running out of that, it is an incredibly game of hide and seek.
But surely this has to settle down soon. Something will break. Not me, 12 hours a day is just farmers hours to me. I have been nowhere but the mill and the farm for weeks. Just like you all. Keeping isolated. We need to. I know that. But there must be a way to create joyful communication within this isolation.
Piglets are coming today. This summers first group. That will be good. And I will shift the chicks out into their outside space. Hopefully this last week was the past of the cold. Why is it still so cold.
The good news is that there is a massive drop in pollution. This surely must impact the climate crisis. More people taking walks and sitting in their porches I hope. I have a friend in Chicago who describes every day as a Sunday afternoon.
John’s sons have been sent their stimulus checks of 1200 dollars. I won’t get one because I am not an American citizen though I am still working so I have no need of one. John is retired so his small income is un-interrupted for the moment. Though there is concern that the pension funds have been tied to the stock and mortgage markets.
However we need to all be very frugal. The anxiety of it all must be monitored within ourselves as well. Now is not the time to break and run out screaming – we have a while to go, the time to plan and change has come, we need to be adapting and growing as we hunker down. So we emerge like butterflies new and better prepared and different. It will be different. Now we need to seek ways to thrive. We need to find new ways of getting the job done. New ways of living. New ways of doing business. New ways of being loving.
We adapt – that is what human beings do.
How are you all doing out there. Let’s hear from each other again. Answer each other’s messages too. I love it when you all talk amongst yourselves. We have been the fellowship a long time now.
Write me a message. Tell us about what is going on in with you and in your region. Tell me how things are with you. Let’s have an update. I worry about you all out there.
🦋All my Instagram posts for the mill have always had this butterfly in them. This blue butterfly. So people know it is me talking – ironic really. 🦋 because this is now where my focus is lying – emerging from all this – new. With wings! Different . We can design a new world.
I need someone to make me a T-shirt!
That our poor old Tane died earlier this week. I am so sad for us and so glad/sad for his release.
He was a good old fellow- I know that in the larger scheme of things and especially at the time of global stress and anxiety and illness, and death, losing a pet pig is small. But there you are.
Tane died in his sleep – deep in his straw bed with Tima his warm fat wife cuddled in beside him.
Tima is still lost without him – she lies outside their home looking inside during the day. The last few nights she has taken to sleeping in the same room as WaiWai, though he is not the cuddling sort. I go in and cover them both up at night. They both say thank you.
I am what my Mum used to call crying tired.
Not enough help at the mill and everyone so grateful for flour. And losing my kunekune boar who had a bad hip and the sweetest disposition.