The Tunnel

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.

Cecilia

I KNOW

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!

Cecilia

I need to tell you

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.

Talk soon

Celi

WE HAVE FLOUR

Saturday morning – I simply do not understand why there is a run on flour – it started way before the Shelter at Home order. Are all these people baking?

They must be I suppose.

But how does a big company like Bob’s Mill who say they mill local wheat – how do they run out of flour so fast and we have not. They are a huge conglomerate- with massive mills and I would imagine a huge supply of wheat. America grows lots of wheat. In fact America grows lots of food – the virus has not affected that – so what is going on.

At Janie’s Mill we turn out freshly milled flour every day. We have flour. There is a space for notes in your order form so do tell me it is you so I can expedite your order.

We are running out of everything but we are getting flour out. Tape. Boxes. Bags. All on back order but we stream along!

Anyway – as you can see my time is consumed by the mill. I have a huge retail order to bag and box and get out today then tomorrow I hope to have my first Sunday off in ages. I don’t even know how long it has been since I had a day off.

I will start late today so I hope to take some photos for you before I go in. Maybe I will get some dough started and bake tonight. Though the sooner I go in to work the sooner I will be back. One of my families is holed up at a beach in New Zealand

Sunday: Are you all safe in your houses? Tell me how you are doing – talk amongst yourselves until I am done. I want to know from as many countries as possible so we can all get a big view. Everyone on lock down dims the big picture.

This picture is from my son in Canada. He said since the ski fields are closed and the people were forced to stay away – the animals are out in droves. I feel awful that I cannot get to my children if I need to.

In NZ, anyone coming into the country must self isolate for 14 days, plus NZ is on full lock down now – the borders are closed. And the plane journey would be deadly. That knowledge is making me fractious and anxious. I can go home but I choose not to, in case I bring illness to my families.

Best to stay in my own mill to home to mill bubble. We really cannot be complacent.

Tuesday evening : Take care now – chin up – hold the line. This is new territory for us all.

We shipped 217 boxes today. A new record!

Wednesday morning already? I fell asleep last night with you on my hand.

Good morning!

Talk amongst yourselves- I will be back in a few hours I hope!

Lots of love

Cecilia

I am here

But totally worn out.

Sales of flour at the mill are skyrocketing- at least 15 times more than usual. For every one order two weeks ago I now have fifteen . And yes – we were in no way prepared for hundreds of orders a day. People are so afraid that their panic buying has extended to organic flours. Or maybe there is no flour in the supermarkets- I have not been near a store in weeks.

We have piles of wheat of course so there is no need to panic – I can send flour out endlessly for years – we grow it after all maybe people are afraid that deliveries will cease. I am working seven days a week twelve hours a day and still not keeping up. I have re- configured my systems and brought in two college girls to keep up with demand and I am not keeping up. But we are getting a lot of flour out onto the UPS truck every day.

I try to tell people that my supply chain is the field down the road / there is no need to panic about our flour. But every day more and more orders roll in.

So this is why I am so quiet on the airwaves – I am a bit worn out.

Today I came home early so I could sit on the couch and send you a letter.

It is now that I realize the great safety in growing our own food. We have meat from our fields, eggs from our chickens, we grow wheat in the fields and already John has greens in the glasshouse. I sell all the duck eggs cheap to a restaurant who is making take-out pasta.

The pig food vegetables have dried up. No restaurant veges anymore. But they have plenty of sprouts and I am not fattening any hogs at the moment. Just the five pets. Sheila and Poppy. Tima and Tane. And Wai Wai.

The cows are good. Mr Flowers is Ok. The chickens are not laying too many yet but John collects 33 duck eggs a day – lucky I found a market!

I am going to work another half day tomorrow and get everything ready for another week of orders. The irony is I have no time to bake!

Well, I hope you are doing ok. There is so much to unpack but we are all too weary. Stay home and stay safe. Things have changed now, there us no point in complaining about it. I cannot get to my children and that makes me feel very anxious. But I need to get strong about creating a new normal within the parameters of our health crisis. Soldier on.

Love to you all!!

Tell me how you are doing. We all want to know how you are doing in all this.

Love love

Celi

If we take every challenge one thing at a time it is better. As a whole this is very frightening. But one thing at a time we will get through it.

I NEED A DRINK

Well you know the rules! Once I have written the hearing I can’t change it.

Here is a not-clever chicken, stuck in the porch railings. The two dogs looked on in bemusement. Not sure whether to run for help or give it a good shove.

Yet we keep raising them!

Everyone was out in the sun today. It was even warm. I do not trust our inclement weather even a bit so I feel nervous when it gets warm.

But it is March – anything can happen. The glass house is full of greens and John is sat out at his workshop rendering down the maple syrup.

And the Warthog is greening but you can see the damage from the constant rain this winter – standing water for that long is disastrous to plants. I am honestly pushing for some rice trials.

Pigs, pigs, pigs. All pet pigs now. We get so many buckets of vegetables that these pigs eat great big salads day in and day out.

This is a much prettier shot of the wheat.

Mr Flowers hops on his one foot all the way from the barn to the side of the feed shed every morning for his breakfast and hangs out there for the day. He is wonky but seems quite healthy – his tail is getting longer which is a sign of good health but I fear he will never spread his plumage again. He would need good balance for that. But that’s ok, right? We don’t need to be perfect to be perfectly happy.

We are getting between 14 and 15 duck eggs a day so along with any chicken eggs they will start to sell next week. In the end the eggs make the best money for the farm. Especially ducks who graze all day!

I hope you have a great week!

Celi

NOT QUITE SPRING

But back in the fifties today!!

And look who turned up.

Went to buy bolts at the hardware store and came home with chicks!

Fourteen of them. Eight …. and six ….

They are merrily eating out-of-date corn grits from the mill and snuggling under their light.

The rest of us are in the muck. I work like crazy on Sunday mornings trying to get the Bloody Bollocksy Housework done so I can get outside but look at it. Muck.

The farm is going into a lull now. No more raising hogs for Chicago. I lost in John’s words a ‘shitload of money’ this financial year. And that’s no good.

So- now that Jake has his restaurant up and running I will pull everything back small – feed my own people. And help John use the farm to feed the farm – it is more work but saves a lot of money.

Life changes – that’s how life is. No need to worry. Sheila snd Poppy are not worried. And

Oh look!!

Chicks! 8 Olive Eggers and 6!Mystic Marans. I am cutting back!!

It is night time and I need to run out and check them before I make a cup of tea and go to bed.

I baked all day yesterday!

Good night!

Celi.

TWO ENTRIES

Friday Morning. I am sitting outside the Immigration Office this morning – at least a building called the Application Support Center where we are sent for the official beginning of the agreed Card process. There are quite a few of us foreigners sitting here, waiting in the freezing cold for the office to open.

I am to have my biometrics exam here. They take fingerprints and pictures and I have brought documents to prove I am who I say I am. All this stuff goes off to the FBI so they can check that I have not accrued some kind of criminal record since I last applied for a green card.

Phones must be powered off and inspected.

Later: Well, after a lovely 30 minutes with a really nice group of people, immigrants and staff I have a stamp on the back of my Green Card that is not really green, giving me a 12 month extension. The nice lady told me that if all goes well with their investigations into my behavior in America during the previous ten years, I should have my new ten year green card by next February.

My overriding feeling as I went through the process of mild questioning, fingerprinting and photo was a surge of joy for the little children running about the offices. No-one hushed them or shooed them back into line – they were safe. Safe and warm and happy.

After all they will have gone through I could not help but smile for them.

I read American Dirt while I was away. That book reverberated all through this day.

Sunday Morning. Today has dawned clear and sunny with a proposed temperature of 53f/11 – warm – we will hang the washing on the clothesline. It won’t last long enough to bother the trees but I am glad I don’t have bees because by next week we fall back into the 20’s.

All the animals are present and correct and will love this warm sunny day.

Now I am going to start two new loaves. We are rolling out a new rye. Bono. I baked a fast yeast loaf yesterday and it filled the house with the scent of honey. It is pretty low in protein and really light and fluffy to bag but has a delicate rye taste, with some really sweet notes hitting in with the rye. I really like it. I have a rye sourdough starter ready for this morning so we will see how it goes.

The glass house is waking up.

Plus as an experiment Jill the Miller ran a small batch of oats through the flour mill. Without a sifter. With the stones wide. We made a kind of rough oat flour – really rough. I am going to bake it into a loaf ( with raisins and walnuts and honey scented rye) and see what we think. The crushed oats are Not for Sale at this point but I think it has real potential.

So into the kitchens with me! Then out into the farm.

Take care! If I can I will collect more farm photos today and put them up tonight before the work week descends! Still working on a routine that suits my hours!

Cecilia

MR FLOWERS

Though today it has done nothing but rain, which is kind of nice when I am out of the rain working in the cold dry mill, though the rain was falling on snow and tonight the whole slushy mess will turn to ice and though yesterday was blowing snow with a little sun chiming in: Mr Flowers came right out into the yard, to sit.

He holds his bad leg up and uses it as a crutch when he walks. Poor old fellow. He is lucky he has the barn. He would not last long in the wild. Though he appears to have a cat friend.

His wing is still wonky but I think a lot of that has to do with balance, because it does not seem to impede his ability to fly. He flies down for breakfast in the morning and flies back up into the upper reaches of the barn to sleep at night. The ability of birds to overcome adversity never ceases to amaze me.

The guinea on the left of this picture has no feet at all!

Einkorn Pancakes. Einkorn is a beautiful ancient wheat. Actually Einkorn would make great pikelets.

Even spell check does not know what pikelets are! Though the recipes are not much different. Pikelets and pancakes are pretty similar except pikelets are smaller and eaten warm or cool with butter and jam.

It is evening now – the rainy day after the slushy day after the snowy day.

I got a lot of things started today but finished nary a one. Tomorrow will be a good day too I think, as I start to finish each of my new initiatives.

You have a lovely day too.

Celi

BACK IN THE …

USA.

Back in the USA. And guess what- they are still sniping and arguing with each other. Same words, same tone, different subject, same soundtrack. Radio – off.

And it snowed and the temperature plummeted just as I got off the plane.

All is well on the farm – even Mr Flowers who was not doing well after an altercation with Boo, just before I left, has improved out of sight. He is still hopping about on one foot but getting stronger and will now launch himself into the air and is back roosting in the barn alongside Mrs Pania Flowers.

Jill from the Mill looked after Godzilla my sourdough starter while I was away so I was able to bake two days after I landed. A really lovely loaf too.

BooBoo trying to speak.

While I have been away the winter weather has been unusually warm here in Illinois – staying above freezing most of the time. Kind of a NZ winter here. But today it is frozen and very cold. Back to the usual Illinois weather.

The chooks are laying more eggs and the ducks are starting up again as the days lengthen.

I added more straw already to the beds of wai and tane. Wai loves a mountain of straw so he can crawl into it. And they are both doing really well. Tane is a bit slow but now that I am back he will get hand fed again, so Tima does not steal his food. Tima is fat and happy!

The Farmer was out last night in sowing red clover into the wheat fields. Now that the wheat is established they lay in the cover crop seed so they all come up at the same time in the spring – crop and weed protection together.

The seed will lie dormant on the cold soil being moved down by the thaw and freeze and melting snow, until spring then the cover crop will germinate slightly behind the already established wheat enabling the wheat to rise up above the clover. That’s the plan anyway!

It is cold and blowing outside. I will do the rounds with extra straw. Time to get out there again.

Have a lovely day.

Celi