4 weeks

LJ is telling me it’s been four weeks since my last entry. Ahh!

(pic from a recent misty morning…this is our front yard!!)

So what should I write about. Other than the job that has been consuming my time and energy…here are a few other things:

Fermenting: I’m still fascinated by it. I realized the other day that it’s “living” foods that interest me. Not because of some fad or even because of the health benefits of them (because I don’t really notice such benefits), but because it’s just cool to see something change and grow and show signs of life…tea turning into kombucha, sourdough starter eagerly bubbling when fed rye, milk souring and taking on a new identity… This weird fascination is related somehow to my interest in the cycles of gardening, compost, and even earthen building, where something with structure and life “dies”, returning to the earth, and rather than becoming waste, becomes a source of life for a new generation. 

Fermenting foods is really easy. Those little micro-creatures know what they need to do, and all a mad scientist like me must do is to provide them comfortable living conditions…which for most fermented products means a temperature somewhere between 70 and 100 degrees, relative cleanliness, and occasional stirring and tasting. Sure, things may not turn out as consistently as they would if following the industrial way of killing existing cultures by pasteurizing (heating) them, adding some desired single culture, and controlling the fermentation in sterilized stainless steel containers, but the variability is part of the excitement. Some of my coolest creations have been experiments that I was sure would fail, or even mistakes. The title of the best book on the topic, “Wild Fermentation,” is very appropriate. Wild is best. 🙂

Some of the latest fermentation adventures have involved milk. E and I have been getting raw milk regularly from a local farm, and so far have made: yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream, butter, buttermilk and whey. In fact I have found it interesting that the boundaries between the categories are rather fluid (pardon the pun). For example, we have two substances in the fridge and I’m not sure what they would be called. Some kind of a yogurt cheese, and a runny sour cream? They taste good, they just take a little mental adjustment to realize that they don’t fit in a standard category. We have also made our own fermented mustard and ketchup, which are preserved in the traditional way by fermentation and salt rather than by sugar. When we moved overseas, we had to leave our sourdough starter of about three years vintage behind :(, so I started a new one recently. It’s really easy, just put rye flour and water in a bowl, cover, and watch for it to bubble! I’ve got a new batch of sourdough bread going in the oven as we speak (write). And kombucha, or fermented sweetened tea, continues to be a weekly production here.

From a recent afternoon spent in a bush walk area just a few minutes walk from our place:

Explorings: Recently I took a bicycle excursion to the little village of Makara Beach. It was only an hour’s easy ride, yet seemed to be a different world altogether. The road, which is very popular with bicyclists, follows a stream to its end in the Cook Strait…(for you North Americans, that is the wide channel separating the north and south islands of New Zealand). The route is pastoral and idyllic, crossing several bubbling brooks descending to feed the main stream, and passing woods, baches (simple country cottages), pastured animals, tumble-down barns, and lived-in caravans (old motorhomes). As I rounded a corner I even spotted a house made of steel shipping containers stacked two high and three or four wide, with windows and doors cut-in. Clever. The little village of Makara Beach itself seems to have a rather tough personality, as I suppose it deserves to be, situated as it is between the wild Cook Strait and the rugged terrain of the Wellington coast, and beat by some of the highest winds in the world. I circled the nearly empty beach to find a sheltered spot to sit and read and rest, and was intercepted by a kind soul who invited me to have a cup of tea. Karen looked a bit worse for wear, and understandably so, as she proceeded to tell me her woes…misunderstood by her home town, partner got into drugs and became abusive, had to leave her home out of fear for the safety of her son, now living with her son wherever she can find a place to park her decrepit 1960’s camper van, and looking for work. I ended up spending my afternoon listening to her endless stories and knowledge. Besides stories of her current condition, she was practically bursting with knowledge of New Zealand history, political perspective, and “alternative” health and remedies. She prescribed cayenne pepper for my poor circulation, evidenced by my shivering; and tea made from kawakawa leaf for general health. We have since enjoyed her and her son’s company in our home. Meeting her and hearing her stories has caused me to think about a few things about life and living.

Readings: I’ve had my head in a few books. Life somehow seems to improve when occupied with a good book! The current ones are “The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia” by Samuel Johnson, “The Curse of Louis Pasteur” by Nancy Appleton, and “Living Energies” – a book about Viktor Schauberger.

A typical wrinkly Dorothy face: (:)

Work: Work has been really tough, I have had a lot to learn with limited training from others, and working against a time deadline no less. It has been a nightmare sometimes. I have to say I was unrealistic in my expectations when committing to the job. I have been making a go at it, though, finished a six week project – a major 30-page report – yesterday, and feel like I might be turning a corner…I hope?

A sign of new life: (whoever can tell me what this thing is, wins…um…my respect?)


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