In the South Island of New Zealand. Above Wanaka, New Zealand.
Welcome to the boonies!
This morning I am beginning to bake bread without my favourite Janie’s Mill flour is proving to be a bit of a challenge.
Baking bread for my family is my favourite thing. ( I have many favourite things). The house we are staying in is on a road called Gin and a Raspberry Road just up the road from the Canmore Pub. And – unforgivably we forgot the gin – so someone had better drive down into Wanaka today!
I stayed at the Cardrona hotel my first night in the South of NZ because I changed my flights to avoid being caught in an ice storm in OHare, Chicago and arriving in New Zealand 24 hours early i treated myself a night in this lovely hotel. It was not expensive and was perfect. The Cardrona is an icon in the South. Everyone knows it.
The rooms opened on to the beer garden and the garden had a playground so all members of our family were happy.
And now we have relocated just up the road ( straight upwards I might add) so we will be returning! The Cardrona is actually hidden behind that group of tall trees down in the valley. This shot is from the bottom of the wild meadows that surround our mountain house.
So here I am – surrounded in colour and slopes that in the winter are covered in snow and skiers. I am more than happy to be here in the summer.
Now, I need to go and roll the dough. I am working with a relative of my sourdough Godzilla, so I am feeling confident – but the flour is from Turkey which seems a bit weird and I have no idea of the milling date the use by date is in 18 months and of course no mention of the grain the flour was made from. How quickly I have become a flour snob!
Last night there were two owls with two distinctive voices calling for hours in the night. They were in the big tree-house tree outside the kitchen door. This tree is close to my bedroom too, I opened the window so I could hear them call in and out of my dreams. They both used the same range of notes in the same order but one was bell-like in the ( kind of) A minus range and one in ( maybe) a middle C range with a smaller triller sound except that last note that drifts into a sad lilting minor chord.
Why does the word ‘dreams’ describe the uncoordinated uncontrolled images that play into our sleeping heads plus the same word is also used for our aspirations and carefully thought through plans. “I have always dreamed of having a little farm” is not the same as the choppy dreams I have of flying from the top of the barn in a graceful arc to a lake that was never there. Or my dreams of connecting with wild animals – walking with wolves or owls at the window. Wake up! wake up!
I am not afraid of owls anymore. Now that they have invaded my dreams.
Mr Flowers is up in the barn recovering, I hope, after an altercation with Boo.
One thing farming has taught me is that no incident has only one reason or answer. Most accidents or events are the result of a perfect storm of small incidents or conditions.
A. I was not there to keep Boo in check.
B. Mr Flowers has taken to stalking Boo lately and flying at him.
C. Boo has become increasingly vigilant about guarding a pigs food from the birds.
Then D. the trigger – something totally unrelated to the skirmishes between Mr Flowers and Boo: Wai tried to fight Tima ( through the fence of her new home) and got his tusks caught in the fence. Wai was screaming, John was shouting at Wai to stay still while he wielded wire cutters trying cut the fence to release the potbelly, Ton was circling and whining in horror, Tima was roaring and trying to get at Wai from the other side of the fence and the peacock got too close to the frey. Boo reacted to John’s shouts for help, the bucket of feed was unguarded and he attacked.
John did not see what happened but I think Boo heeled the big bird. Literally bit at the birds heels to move him along. Not good. Now the peacock is hopping – one injured leg and one wing not tucked in properly. So Boo must have attacked from the side.
Yesterday Mr Flowers spent the day sitting quietly under the tractor – food and water within easy reach. And last night when I did my last check I found that he had flown up into the top of the barn to perch awkwardly in his usual sleeping spot. This afternoon he was in another spot up high in the barn.
Let’s hope Mr Flowers stays up there while he recovers. It is cold which is good -no flies – he has blood on his injured leg. And it is easy for me to feed and water him up there away from predators – Boo being one of them. And the peacock is moving about on his one good leg – so I can only wish for the best now.
From now on Boo stays in the truck or inside the house during feed time when John is in charge. This is an old rule, that I have re-read aloud. Boo is tricky to manage when the buckets are out for reasons A, B and C. This was terrible luck but at least now my co-worker will be more aware that he has to have Boo in full control and when there is trouble – lock the dogs down first- in the truck, in the house or leashed, John always wondered why I did this – now he knows.
Let’s hope Wai does not try to fight Tima through the fence again. The first time he got his tusks stuck in the fence was the day before this incident and I literally held Boo by his collar while I cut the pig free with my other hand. Boo is high maintenance.
But what a kafuffle.
I leave in a week for my longest trip home in years. I will be there for a month. And I will take you with me!
We will know if Mr Flowers is going to be ok by then. But birds are pretty resilient if we leave them to themselves to recover. I learnt that from The Duke.
TonTon is back on the farm. He was wearing Nanny out with his early morning starts. Out here on the farm my co-worker is up by 4am. So Ton is trained to get up early too.
So back to the farm he came: Bed, Bowl and All, and Nanny went to bed and slept for twelve hours straight!
Well, we gave it a crack!
It was cold for a moment but the wind has brought an uptick in temperatures again.
So we are settled in the 40’s for the week. The nights are a little cold but nothing too wintry so far. I hope this continues up until my flight date – which is the 11th of this month. I fly out to New Zealand then if all goes well I will catch another flight straight down to Queenstown, New Zealand. Some of my family will meet me there and finally I will be able to show you the South Island of New Zealand.
More on that later. I have given Tima her own pen for while I am away. It is hard to make sure Tane gets fed wile Tima is around. So Tima is out with the big pigs – next door to Sheila and Poppy- and Tane took himself in to sleep with WaiWai. Much to Wai’s horror I might add. Wai hates Tima – he has ended up blooded when Tima is around and so he associates Tane with Fat Tima.
But eventually I was able to get WaiWai to lie down so I could cover him up. They have to share this big mound of straw – and will get used to it. Both are survivors. And survivors can be sprites when faced with a challenge.
I will have them settled by the time I go and Tane will get better attention in the barn.
Speaking of pigs in the barn.
The Six are so grateful that they are allowed into the sunny center pen now. They spend more time here than outside!
I hope you have a lovely day.
This mornings bread is spelt, rye and glenn. When this loaf is perfected I will share the recipe with you. It is very tasty!
Off to work for me.
My owl was back last night, it was yesterday evening after work but it had been dark so long I don’t think I am remiss in calling it night. I was making the bed with fresh linen wishing I could just lie down and sleep in it alone and quiet for just a while, when I heard him. The owl. My owl. He comes only a few times a year and feels like a harbinger. I am afraid of him and his Hoo Hooing. He has preceded too many human tragedies for me to take his presence lightly.
His owl sound was round and pregnant and inside a bell like. Casual and patriarchal at the same time, like an old father who says no you can’t, just like he always does, from behind his large old fashioned newspaper, expected and final and calm but you know that if you defy the patriarchal no: you will get a hiding. I stood still in the winter bedroom ringed in frosted windows and doors with my unclothed pillow held in my arms like a forgotten baby and listened fearfully, hard. When I listen I always tilt my head to bring my good ear around into the direction of the sound. I had always wished for ears that followed sound on their own like a dogs or maybe a deer or a bat, but we are not thinking of ears again, as I stand holding a white pillow, we are talking of listening. We are trying to hear clearly. So, I stood still, my head cocked like a startled piglet, my ears not catlike, head down and turned, listening with what human senses I could muster.
I remembered that I had left my phone at work. I was without communication alone out here in this wide open frozen space. How would I know what he was foretelling. I wouldn’t.
He called again this bird. His silky sound.
I decided I had to see him. I had heard him intermittently across my tenure here on the plains but I have never seen.him. What is this human condition to see and poke at and investigate and get out the book and name something. It is so satisfying, whereas the naming somehow catches it and diminishes it. Locked inside its own description. Controlled. All nice and neat. Book shut.
I stood and listened to his call again and knowing that moving would send him away I could not ignore my need to see him. I would smash open this chocolate kinder surprise moment to identify the toy inside.
I slid in my soft feet quiet as the frightened mice to the French doors and keeping my eyes on the big trees I opened the door ever so slowly. I reminded myself again that this would scare him up but I would risk it so I could see him and then I could identify him and file him in the proper folder in my head. Capture his name. Control the fear he prodded in me. The fear that is never idle in a human. (And deep in my conscious I wonder if I was thinking if he was gone the bad things could not happen).
The door handle still cold in my hand, my head the impression of a peer out the door, he was already in the air and soaring away. Immediate. Pulling my head up. God arms outstretched. Silent. Launched. Huge and majestic and poised, he glided from his tree outside my window straight out across the reflective snow field. Not a word. Effortless. Sublime. Ancient. We did not have some epiphanic connection, I did not see him take off. Just the bird against the sky. I was unable to see any markings, no head shape or feathers or tail or tucked up feet. Nothing for my six million dollar human brain to catalogue. He was already a cut out, a shadow puppet, a memory imprint. His wings, his body, his head – turned into his path. This perfect huge portent of a bird. His night shape quickly left the circle of house light and soared through the half lit moonlight and was gone into the black horizon. But I knew him.
I cannot name him for you. Or describe him for you. Or put him in a class of owl birds. Or send you his sound. These small English words are not helpful. But we know him don’t we. My owl. And he is gone for the time being. Being time. Time being what it is.
Sometimes when I am reading a book I try to make myself slow down by insisting to myself to read every word out loud in my head.
I used to encourage my students to do this in exams. Read every word out loud in your head – you will understand it better. Or pinch your hand a tiny bit as a learned instruction to your brain to focus and breathe and read each word.
I was thinking to myself the other day that I did not need another slice of freshly baked bread slathered with butter and local honey. I had already eaten a whole slice with lots of butter with my hot cup of gumboot tea so I certainly did not need another slice – anyway you slice too thick my out-loud on the in-side voice said. So, I used the outloud on the inside voice and told myself, no. I put away the knife, rewrapped the bread in its sweet cotton bread bag, put the top on the honey, shelved the butter in the fridge and left the kitchen.
And it struck me that if I think my thoughts in my outloud on the inside voice – particularly with drama class articulation- I do tend to listen more and make better decisions.
But, like reading, I seldom think in coherent hearable thoughts. Plus I seldom pause and call up this clear inner voice. Usually it is as I imagine space would be – just a wild collection of neuronic, no not neurotic, neuronic sparks and reactions, deep quiet, dark space and bright star lights in the distance.
If I am looking for my farm knife ( and I am always looking for my farm knife) I seldom think with my inner voice – there are no key words- I just wander about forgetting what I was looking for – keeping myself busy until I remember what I was looking for or even remember I was looking at all and it is more a flash of orange in my head ( the farm knife is orange) rather than an actual useable thought. And when I find it I add the knife to my pocket and head for my boots. I only think about the boots if I can’t find them then we go through the whole space like process again. Though, just to be clear, I seldom lose my boots! Neuronic. The thought seldom hits an alphabetic neuron.
I imagine that if I tried to force my brain to think in words poor brain would get tired fast? Do you think? There is so much black unchartered space to cover. I think this is why I love making bread as opposed to making mathematical tables. Bread has no words it is all touch. Also why I love to write – the words are easily retrievable when I write. I do form words as I write.
So, how do you think? Are you linear? Do you make mental lists. Do you think out loud in your head? Do you have a running dialogue in your head? When you think about what you are going to do today is it in words or pictures or reactions or are you neuronic too? We must all organize our thoughts differently which is perfect – after all diversity is healthy.
Do you remember the standing on one leg theory. That we can create an action that forces coherent thought. Stand on one leg, get your balance, breathe, focus. For me this forces me to stop and read my mind out loud in my inner voice and things are usually much clearer when I do that. Just like reading every word on the page. So much better.
I have no other pictures. So here is WaiWai making his bed.
I went around all the pigs houses yesterday afternoon to add more straw and WaiWai was so excited he got straight to work pushing the straw into a high mound. Later when I came to cover him with his blankets he had totally disappeared into his straw. Deep into the mound he had created in his own little way. I spread the blankets on top of the mountain of straw. He loves to be covered up. All my other grown pigs sleep on top of their straw. Wai gets right in.
Sheila has spent a lot of time carrying straw into her house a mouthful at a time. I did not need to add any to her house- I just pushed more straw closer to the door. She does her own housekeeping.
We all love our beds.
Time to bake this mornings bread! It is 100% calumet – whole kernel Glenn. I am giving myself an extra hour before going to work today because I am also making croissants! For the first time. They will be baked tomorrow so I will let you know! I do the laminating stage today. Lots to learn.
Pete the Baker – are you reading this morning? Got any tips? I know you make the best croissants!
PS you can buy my organic cotton holiday bread bags on the janiesmill website. ( our new site is almost finished but not quite). I have created holiday flour gift bundles. They are up already but will be prettier on the new site. Remember to write F after your name on the order form so I can pop your Fellowship gift in with your flours!.