‘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.
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.
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.
Have a great day.
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday I went to visit a friend who grows native plants and trees in Monee, Illinois. We met through discussions about bread when he began to buy janiesmill flour during the first Covid winter and our friendship took a major turn when he and his beautiful wife came to the mill with a tray of plants a month or so ago as a thank you. Not realizing that gardens are my one true love. And because I have very little time to garden now – one day a weekend during one short summer a year – I was desperately seeking plants that are native to our area that I did not have to fight to keep alive. I do not believe in annuals – trees and perennials are my thing. Then you have to factor in that I never stay anywhere long enough to see any of my gardens mature. So as you can imagine – connecting with Connor is pure joy.
The Walsh family nursery is called Possibility Place. It is in Monee, Illinois. It is huge, 80 acres of native plants and forest.
They sell online plus they sell wholesale and retail from the nursery if you call and arrange things ahead of time. Spread the word!
Let’s have a look:
Here are a few shots of their own private incredible heavenly garden.
I got so carried away looking at the garden and talking about plants that I forgot to take many photographs- that was how entrancing my visit was. A little heaven.
Have you ever read that book “The Hidden Life of Trees.”? Find it. I love that book – Connor and his love of trees made me think of that book.
All natives. All grown from seed.
Connor talks a lot about textures. It is the perfect way to look at groupings of plants.
This is a haven for birds and small wild animals. Here they call little wild animals critters. We talked about how rural people love clean huge car park-like lawns and how they rake leaves up and remove them in great plastic bags whereas nature loves those long flowery pastures and deep beds of leaves in the winter and hates plastic bags. Given half a chance I would only mow tracks through our lawns – but John would never agree to that. He is ALL about the sit upon mowing.
My three major take-aways from my visit with Connor.
One: You CAN plant trees close together. In fact trees help each other survive so DO plant them close together. As you know I have never had a problem with this because I plant jungle-fashion! Or I throw potatoes like Gertrude Jekyll and plant wherever a potato falls.
Two: Trees do best planted WITHIN gardens with other trees and shrubs. Not standing alone. They are happier and healthier with undergrowth.
Three: Plants and trees and shrubs migrate seeking sun or shade or nutrients so don’t get hung up on the garden boundaries of these gardens; your live plantings will grow outside your little live human lines!
Connor and his family at Possibility Place grow plants and trees that are native to this area so he had many offers for me of marsh plants that will grow in or beside the pond.
You know how I do not like to own more than I can fit in two suitcases. Luckily plants and trees do not count! These gardens I have created all over the world are my gift. I leave them behind.
So- I came home with THREE Sycamore Trees. (Connors tree planting suggestion is to plant two trees close together and one a little apart to give that wild look). Three hibiscus, a native variety that loves wet feet and has huge orange flours in the late summer, and a couple of iris that love growing close to ponds too. So – two of the sycamore trees are planted down in the dell by the run-off pond and one up by the duck pond and the iris and hibiscus in the low ground. And that is just the beginning.
The tree plantings by the pond are going to become jungles too (next I need woody undergrowth started in my tree gardens). I plant thinking of reflections and shadows so I have all this in mind.
I also propagate plants by dividing the plants that can be divided like hostas and lilies and iris and taking cuttings from the woody perennials. This skill comes from my days as a solo mum in New Zealand living very poor with many children- I literally stole cuttings from big gardens – I would do garden tours to collect material to grow my own plants because I could not afford to buy them. I can stumble slightly, take a cutting with a perfect heel and whip it up up my sleeve like magic. Yes! I am one of those awful people.Terrible but true. I was a leaf thief!
Not now though. I only take cuttings from my own plants now. Every time Connor gave me a leaf to smell I returned it to the garden. Sanctimoniously. I have turned over a new leaf. Anyway, I see these new plants as mother plants – they will spread and I will help them along with my cuttings and divisions. Too much fun.
Here are a few chick photos for you.
We have a few warm dry days ahead of us. Maybe the tomatoes will start to ripen.
I love meeting new people! You too. I love meeting you and I love your comments! Have a lovely day! Time I started some bread for the week.
Love miss c
I am off out this morning to find the gardens of a baking friend. A couple who I met through janiesmill who live about an hour from here, love to bake with good flour and have a small business growing plants native to this area.
I have dug a little canal to an overflow pond from John’s big pond that enables me to refresh the water in the pond every day. Just a little – but it has greatly reduced the green pond problem. We hooked up a pipe to the guttering of the house so when it rains that water is channeled into the pond. And it has rained every day since John went away so I have been able to get a LOT of fresh water into the pond and old water out.
Today I will take you to the gardens of my new friends – they have some native water hibiscus that you can plant directly into the water or around the edges. These plants in turn will help aerate the overflow pond which is really a big puddle! And I love to plant natives – especially bog plants in our swampy land.
Having said that – this pond lettuce is definitely not native and is multiplying fast. I am sure it is an invasive species somewhere! In the winter we will place a collection of plants in the basement because they will not survive the winter here.
The end has begun for the big barn. John discovered a broken beam in there yesterday. Needless to say the cows are out of the barn now ( they actually did not need to be in there anyway) and he will do some maintenance but these barns are over a hundred years old. This one has pretty solid asbestos roof, none of the wood is tantalized so rot is present. But that huge roof will always be a worry.
We have been so humid and so wet for so long that there is mold on my oilskin coats hanging in the house so I bet if I went through the hay stacked above the floor in the barn I would find wet hay from that back window: But I am not going up there until I am sure it will not collapse. Though the hay has to be moved regardless.
I am sure it will probably last another twenty years but that asbestos roof which we have been advised not to touch ( it is out of harms way up there) is very heavy. So, stand by for updates.
I have counted a total of FOUR chooks wandering about the farm with little chicks in tow. They are impossible to get shots of as their mothers are very good at hiding them. Probably a total of 24 new chicks ( thank goodness I had already given away that first flock of 13 chicks) we officially have TOO MANY. Plus they are wild – getting all of those tiny genies back in the chook house bottle is going to be a mission. But I only want hens on the hen house so we have a while before I know what we have. Plus they have to survive this environment.
I never saw that great hawk/eagle again. Hopefully she is busy with her own chicks.
OK! I am off out to look at plants. I will check in later. You all talk amongst yourselves until I get back!! I love it when you all answer each other’s comments.
Well, it is Sunday morning and overcast and rainy yet again. But there is a breeze so I hope this rain will lift and the wind will start drying out the waterlogged hay fields. All that forage has to come off and the bales stacked in the low protein side of the barn. Watery grass is leached of nutrients.
Yesterday I was talking about the chemical fields being black and dead as opposed to our organic fields that are green and alive with weeds. Both flooded for the same amount of time. Here is a photo to show you.
That(right) is not tilled ground. It is just dead – waiting obediently for orders from its farmer. The organic side (left) has a mind of its own. I know which field I would like to be.
Pasta. My Grandmother’s Grandfather came from a little town called Bocchere in Mantua, Italy. He was born there in 1838 and left to join the gold rush to the South Island of New Zealand when he was 24. We have only just discovered this in the last few months. My son Sam does all our research. He digs out all these amazing facts. There was a legend in our family about my mother’s grandmother Christina who always wore black and scrubbed the stoop of every house she visited ( and behind the toilet, whether it was clean or not, which horrified my mother). She would be ready to travel hours before the train left – sitting silently on a straight chair beside her packed bag until my Dad brought the car around to deliver her to the train station exactly an hour before it left. (Not strange in this day and age but in those days you walked from the street, through a beautiful little wooden train station, with a trail of grandkids carrying your bags and straight onto the train where the grandkids got you settled and kissed your cheek goodbye before exiting the train and waving you off). She was not a last minute lady. Word has it that she was pretty formidable. John Franco was Christina’s Papa.
Different regions of Italy had different pastas and ( my pasta obsession explained) I am researching the foods from this area of Mantua. When Giovanni Franco lived there it was part of the Austro/Hungarian empire. Even more interesting. Do Hungarians have a history of different pastas too? I will research further. And yes! Before I retire from the world ( never) I intend to visit this little village – I hope it is still there – and eat Tortelli de Zucca. I am going to make it soon. I am still practicing making my tortellini! All I have is UTube. If this were a novel … I would find long lost Italian great aunties in Bocherre to teach me. They would have a huge wooden table under grapevines with tons of local wine and fresh bread. They would be welcoming and the air would be full of lights and family and laughter and huge platters of pasta.
This is not a novel. So- UTube it is.
Today’s lunch is my old favorite- gnocchi. I LOVE gnocchi. And it is so easy to make.
I hope we get some sun later on. But ‘til then the dogs and I will slosh about under the clouds. With cows.
The Charolais calf is not in this photo because he was chasing Ton. He loves playing with dogs apparently. TonTon felt his dignity had been compromised and left the scene.
The wee pea chick has died and is buried in the garden. But that is the way of it. As my Dad would say – ( and all his ancestors were Irish) – ‘worse things happen at sea’.
And on that happy note; Have a lovely day.
It is Saturday morning – after another fraught week.
A huge hawk came onto the farm while I was at work on Tuesday and killed Mrs Flowers. I saw the hawk when I was driving up the drive from work. The birds were frantic, wild birds flitting from tree to tree hiding under the canopy as the hawk perched high on the barn.
It was huge. The size of my torso. It hurled itself down from the barn as I walked to the house- I felt it as it swooped above the trees, I instinctively ducked amidst a cacophony of wings and warning calls as the birds dived for cover. The Guineas were screaming up at it and everything but the ducks had gone into hiding. I immediately turned and went to the area that Mrs Flowers has been freely raising her last chick and all that remained was a great pile of feathers. When a bird is attacked like that they will jettison their feathers on an attempt to loosen the hold of the predator. But she was gone.
I retrieved BooBoo and we very slowly tracked the baby and found her in a low bush. Crying with terror and loss. The cats were still locked in the basement so we followed the little bird until I could scoop her up. Boo is an amazing asset in times like this. He seems to know instinctively who I am looking for and whether it is friend or foe.
The chick lived for few days in a large enclosure with a rescue rabbit and another chick. Mr Flowers lay beside the pen, attracted by her plaintive calls I suppose. But at this moment she is dying. She has pined away. She does not want to live without her Mum.
Isn’t that sad. Poor wee soul. Another reason why I hesitate to write is these things. The sadness of losing even a bird weighs heavy on me and I hate to tell you and you will be sad too. I try to search for the lesson that goes with the saga of the pea chick but I can’t find it yet. Fighting nature does not work. Maybe that is it.
The fields are drying up – interesting that our organic fields have instantly burst into green growth of all kinds whereas the chemical laden fields across the road that was drowned in the same flood are still totally black. Not one living plant is coming back. Only the GM crop was allowed on that field and that is dead so now there is nothing.
John will be home in a couple of days having missed this entire episode. He has been gone a few weeks. He will take over the place again so I don’t have to do chores after a 12 hour day. I have a new sump pump for him to install too. And hopefully he can fix the washing machine that quit during the flood. Then I can scuttle back into my corner and get on with flour and bread and pasta and supermarkets! Teaching people how to bake. And food. I have had no time for food. Lucky for me the courgette plants on the porch have offered me a courgette a day!
This weekend, now there is no reason to lock up the cats or fret about birds, and the calves are settled in this field….
I am going to cook.
I have developed a loose formula for my pasta. One egg per hundred grams of flour. (Not that big egg (above) though – double-yolkers are not in my equation). The water is harder to quantify – I always need a little extra water to get the dough just right but it is always a different amount because no egg is the same! I will work on that this weekend.
Soon we will be selling semolina and that will be a different equation! Semolina seems to need more fluid.
I also have two new flours to test bake. We are bringing in a new High Protein wheat while we wait for the Glenn to be ready to harvest. So I am going to put it through its paces.
There is rain in the forecast and it is very cool – low 70’s.
I hope you have a lovely day and I also hope to be back in your inbox tomorrow with a more positive attitude. Baking always cheers me up.
Love miss c
PS you can find our flours at janiesmill.com. Use the discount code SPREADTHEWORD47. A little gift from me.Thank you!
It might take a while to get you all up to date! Let’s hope I can stay the course a bit longer this time. Though we will be drifting into bread baking a bit more often – this being a huge focus in my life. In the meantime we will mop up a few details.
The new calves are settling in beautifully with Tia doing a fine job of being Auntie. I like having a well trained aunty with new ones. She comes when she is called and the bobbies follow.
Look at the legs on this fellow. Sturdy ankles.
Pania is training her chick too.
At a week old she has got the baby to fly to the fence to shelter under her wing for the night. Height is a little safer. We lost one pea chick to a well fed cat. I was spitting mad. I am always in two minds about cats- they are useful at keeping vermin out of the feed and rats out of the barns but they are hell on my birds. I was deeply upset when I saw a cat with a dead pea chick in it’s mouth. So I put all the cats into the cool basement during daylight hours. ( they are thrilled to bits of course). Once I see that Pania has her baby safely tucked away for the night, I let them out. But on Monday I am back to work so they are on their own.
Here is the shot I promised you so you can see the tomato string in action. If you keep in mind that tomatoes are actually vines not bushes it is an easier concept to manage. As the bottom leaves die off and the fruit is harvested, lengthen the string – this lowers the stem to gradually curl to the ground – allowing you to train and harvest from the higher ups as they drop to eye level. These plants are not quite there yet. We had a very cold start to the summer.
The duck pond. Today I am working on a dry creek to an overflow draining pond. The fun part is planting around the overflow pond. The trees have grown so dense in my gardens that there are piles of plants happy to be brought out into the light. And there will be ample water! My run off water will be the irrigation for all the new marsh plantings.
Sustainable means less waste. And I hate to waste water.
Have a lovely day.
miss c –
Your celi, but changed. ( I feel older after this past year – not so much older in my body but older in my mind). I think you know what I mean.
I am popping in to test things out today and share a few photographs with you.
I had a wee problem with a few trollers on the blog. They made everything sour. So I went quiet for a while hoping they would get bored. Now I am being careful. Poking my wooly head around the corner.
During all this time I have been in my work-triangle of mill to farm to bed. Head down. An apple a day. Lots of water. Getting on with it. Baking on the weekends. Saving. All that ordinary stuff.
If you are on Instagram you are welcome to join me over there. I will post pictures there more often but I miss telling the stories of the farm. Of course in the winter I never see it. I leave at 5 am and get home around 6pm. In the dark both ways.
Let’s hope the trolls did not hear me say I am on Instagram but I have been dying to invite you there I so am willing to risk it. You can work out the name I use- to post over there – that should sort the bastard mink out from the goats. Stay in touch.
The rain came last week. Torrential like rainy season in the tropics. At one point we had 2 inches in 10 minutes and again and again and in the end the rain gauge floated away and I stopped counting. The rivers and creeks and ditches rose, there was nowhere for the water to drain to – we are so flat and low. And the landscape went downhill fast. There was a fault in the ditch bank and the water made good use of it.
The flooded ditch water poured through the hole and into our fields. All the crops in our fields except a few higher islands of new corn are drowned. The road was closed with waves of water washing over it. I could not get my car out and the basement was flooding and holes were appearing in the plaster in the ceiling above old windows so I waited it out. My little car could not get through the water until yesterday – the rain started on Friday.
The gin was gone. I needed to get out.
When this all dries out the farmers will till it up and plant a cover crop. It is a disaster. And not just for us – many farmers lost their crops. But no one was hurt, the cranes and ducks are very well fed. The snapping turtles are out and about and a couple of beavers and unusual flocks of water birds have been sighted. Tadpoles are everywhere!
I have developed a fascination for clouds lately. Now that things are opening up and we are relaxing a little I feel my head turning upwards more.
If I could paint – I would get a krink in my neck painting these clouds. Watercolors I think.
Because I don’t have a lot of time to garden I have created an entire garden out of old pots on the porch. I am growing good food and tons of herbs on my little green belt.
Just as well because John’s big tomato garden got a good drowning after 6 days of solid rain. Do you see the strings up the back – I am growing tomatoes up those, as the tomato vines get higher and I begin to pick, I just drop the line a little every few days curling the vine down onto the top of the pot so the fruit is always within reach. An old glass house trick.
In the end Tia was not pregnant and as Aunty Del died softly in the night a wee while ago, ( which broke my already Sheila-broken heart) I brought Tia a couple of orphan calves for company. They will stay a few years and get fat in the fields.
Though the hay fields are underwater too. Hmm. That Champagne calf is a Charolais. Lovely animal. I won’t get attached.
The floodwaters are slowly draining now. They smell kind of brackish, dark and ominous. I dreamed the other night a crocodile came up out of the floodwaters. But they don’t have crocodiles here – alligators but not in Illinois. But anything could be washing through that big hole in the bank. Once the ditch, that was once a creek, goes down, the men will fix the breach in the bank and we will see what nature decides to bring next.
I hope you are all well. It was lovely dropping in! See you all again soon.
Have a great holiday weekend.