We had a sweet little Sunday morning, today.
The sun was in and out and the temperature was perfect.
We brought the cows back from across the way. The whole herd. Well – all five of them. John will work on the fences over there and in a few months they will go back there to camp for the winter.
This is not the best shot but I love this fat dove-gray chook. She lays green eggs. And is pretty sweet. John’s pond.
A little walk around the farmy on a Sunday.
I am making a steak and cheese, potato top pie with peas for dinner. Perfect!
Hope you are all well – plodding along in the new world.
When it rains I naturally turn towards the kitchen .
This are the chickens when I let them out yesterday – apparently the ducks pond has nicer water! Ooo.
Yesterday – I also shifted The Four from one field to another. Pigs shift very slowly – there is a lot to investigate on the way.
I take a bucket to sit on and a book to read when I shift pigs. I don’t mind if they mosy along.
Above is my pizza base. It is the sourdough one. Make it the night before – let it sit out 24 hours then divide and refrigerate until you need it.
I made a pear and sharp Canadian cheddar cheese pizza. Oh my!
These loaves are Spelt, Rye and the Janie’s Mill Sifted Artisan. I call the Sifted Artisan Bread Flour the Sifted Sister – I think I am the only one who laughs at that joke!
Very autumnal loaves – as is today. Not cold just wet and dark. I dread this winter.
I am putting my bread recipes in the #justjanies blog on the janiesmill website. They let me have a blog over there because I am not much good at writing recipes and they edit me in the recipe pages and I hate being edited. I am too much of a free spirit and I am not succinct enough. ‘Patting the dough on the head like a dog’ makes perfect sense to me and probably to you too! So I am happy to have my little blog corner.
Go to #Just Janie’s and will find me waffling on in there. Not terribly often. It is a flour blog. But I do love sharing my discoveries! Today I hope to get the sourdough pizza base in there and this Spelt/Rye loaf.
So – I had better get busy!!
Take care. Talk soon, lovelies!
The pond is not quite finished but it has been filled and is circulating as a trial.
It really is awfully pretty.
My big black cow Tia has been sent to a bull to be bred – Aunty stayed home, much to her disappointment, but I am not breeding her again. As well as losing that calf last time, one of her quarters never really kicked in. So, she will probably always present with mastitis now and I don’t want to risk it again. She can be the companion cow.
I am a weekend farmer now, baking bread and writing to my kids on the weekends. Growing my vegetables and herbs on the porch. Puttering about making pig beds.
I am still putting in 12 hour days at the mill. They have moved me into sales at work which has left me floundering, actually. I have never worked in sales but it is the quiet period in the baking world – too hot to turn on the oven so the online sales are quiet. So I am out drumming up sales in stores. Where did that expression come from ‘drum up’ maybe it comes from the beaters who would scare the forest life into one space so the rich people could shoot them from their chairs without actually going hunting.
People will start to feel the pinch here soon. So, it is going to take some thinking outside the square to succeed in sales, in the middle of a pandemic.🦋 Selling without a handshake and a smile will take some doing. I go out armed with masks and sanitizer but it feels a bit stupid to be going in and out of stores at this time. I am meeting lots of people though.
I must think right outside the square to get our good food into grocery stores around the Midwest. I will focus on small/organic grocery stores – the big supermarket chains are a huge proposition that will take a big set up. Many establishments are not even accepting samples due to the pandemic. And it is hard to meet anyone face to face because faces spread the virus.
Sorry to go on – but you all have always been my springboard for ideas. Now that I am out of the tunnel and roaring along again – this change in job description feels a bit like being broad-sided. Then upended. Then pushed out the door!
If you owned a cool little boutique grocery store /organic store during this period how would you like to be approached? All I know for sure is that my personal approach will not be like the slicked back professional approach. I cannot be who I am not.
I need to look back and see if I have any decent photos for you.
The following week!
I am in the same spot, writing from the sunny coop, that used to be an Airbnb in the olden days. But a week later. I went out looking for photos and never came back!
It is another sunny Saturday. While California is being scorched, we are once again having a mild summer with just enough occasional rain to keep the fields green and verdant. John is bringing in so much hay he is selling it!
We are babysitting two cows and their calves now ( Tia is with their bull) because we have so much grass and our friends lost their rented land. When Tia comes back she will join the others Across the Way and the visiting cows are here by the house.
I am going to post this now before it becomes a novel of epic proportions. I still write to you every Saturday! Now it’s the lack of farm photos that hold me back.
I dream of Sheila often you know. They are not sad dreams but I wake up with such a sense of loss. I know that Sheila is a symbol of all we have all lost. Our careless care-free world is gone. I think we are all suffering from differing degrees of loss. This persistent anxiety that will pass into normalcy as time goes on. But the extra care we must all take to keep our families and friends healthy and safe has to become the norm.
I think we are all thinking outside the square.
How are things in your part of the world? In your corner of the Forest?
As pertains to the Virus and the Social Discourse.
Let’s have another go ’round. This is an incredible time in the history of the world – full of immense change. We need to talk about what we are seeing – not so much to comment but to document as objectively as possible. Though objective is almost impossible, we can try. And if you have a friend somewhere we don’t have a Member of the Fellowship invite him or her to write in.
I saw three little boys walking to school the other day- in Chicago – back packs and new shoes, jostling and fooling around – all wearing slightly different masks. I wonder if some masks are perceived as cooler or more fashionable than other masks!
I love you all! We are so important as a group – the Fellowship of the Farmy- I need to write more! Let’s hold onto each other.
I am going out to change WaiWai’s bedding then Tima’s bedding ( they still hate each other and refuse to sleep together, which is fine. – for the summer!
So, talk amongst yourselves – I will be back.
PS sent without editing!
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