Sunny Laundry Day!

Just because I ranted a bit about the rain and offered rainy-day pics, I thought I’d follow up with a very quick post about the yang to that yin.

Today was a glorious sunny day! Fab for laundry and being outside. I did a good bit of both. I’m actually quite amazed at how hot the English sun is when it does shine. I was able to do and dry three loads in a very short time. LaundryDrying

There was plenty of bedding to ready for our first from-home house guests! We are so excited to have our Stuyvesant/NYC neighbor-buddies arriving tomorrow, by way of Amsterdam. We shall be playing tour guide for/of our new locale.

Happy sunny day to you all, xoN

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Millet Pizza

This is a Full Circle meal for us – it originated in our Waldorf kindergarten days at Hawthorne Valley School. It was a very clever system in place there. Children went for between one and three years, depending on their age, and all veterans taught the ropes to the younger ones. Learning the ropes included learning to love the snacks. If the big kids liked it, the little kids ate it too, and generation by generation, each class learned to love foods that most kids in the general population wouldn’t gravitate towards.

Each day there was a different snack in the Rose Room kindergarten. On Wednesdays they ate millet pizza. Likely there were reasons behind that choice – everything is done for a reason in Waldorf school! Well, one reason was that millet is “the” grain associated with Mercury, the day that governs Wednesday. I remember being so surprised when it finally clicked for me, some time in high school, that so many of the words in Spanish were similar to French – the days of the week, for example. Mercredi or miercoles equals Wednesday. The day of Mercury. How had I never known about that before?

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Anyway, this could be a long and rambling post about language, astrology, all things Steiner, and get quite esoteric, but I shall just say that my daughters still love millet pizza. It’s a comfort food and a favorite meal for them. It ain’t easy to find millet here, let me tell you. But I was able to order a 3-kilogram bag of organic millet through Dr. Gwen since she orders food from the Suma co-op. We’ve nearly finished it.

Even though I’ve been making millet pizza for about ten years, nearly every one I’ve made in England has been met with quite a few complaints. The one I made this week was finally acceptable. Really good, actually. Here’s the recipe, using my American measuring cups – apologies to anyone wanting to use weight measurements.

1 and 1/2 cups millet, rinsed

1-2 Tbs butter

1 and 1/4 cups filtered water or broth, as you like

1 tsp sea salt

about 1/2 cup tomato sauce (they call it “passata” here – new word for me)

grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, 180 C. Rinse the millet with cold water very well several times, to wash off the saponins. You will need a small-gauge sieve to do this, or risk losing most of the millet down the sink. Put the millet in to a large saucepan over medium heat and dry fry the millet for a few minutes, until an aroma develops and a few of the kernels might begin to pop.

Add the butter and continue to cook, stirring for a couple of minutes to coat the millet grains with the melted butter. Add the water and salt, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. The water should be all absorbed.

Let the millet rest off the heat for a few minutes while you select and oil a casserole dish – any medium-sized, deep ceramic dish will do. Use a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to coat the bottom and sides of the dish well. Empty the millet into the dish and use a wooden spoon to press it into a flat, even “crust” that should fill about half the depth of the dish. The millet should stick together and not fall apart. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the surface and then spread the tomato sauce evenly over the top of the crust.

Top with shredded cheese and bake for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese begins to bubble and smell delicious.

 

What I was doing “wrong” for so long is that I was making the millet very mushy. It was too wet, likely because I was soaking the millet overnight. My usual practice with grains is to soak them in filtered water plus a splash of vinegar or lemon juice. This is meant to inactivate the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid present in grains that cause decreased absorption of important minerals.  I think it makes the grains taste better too. You can read all about it in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, or on the Weston A. Price website. But I shan’t do it for millet pizza any longer, at least not with the millet I can get here – a good rinse shall have to do.

Rainy days, and LAUNDRY?

It’s a grey, gray, rainy day here. Quintessentially English, I suppose, though we’ve actually had very few of them so far. When they do come, I always seem to have some laundry to do and it just doesn’t dry! We have an indoor drying rack that we use when the outside line isn’t usable (I adore having the line – Nicholas just put it up a couple of weeks ago). This is our back yard, and I put the line up in the rain for this pic! I won’t show you our drying rack.

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My friend Krishna Kumari sent me a link to a good article about this topic, and more importantly about the difference between English and American psyches. I’ll quote some of the article – full piece is at: https://qz.com/1034914/it-doesnt-matter-where-brits-keep-their-dryers-the-point-is-they-dont-work/

I’ve found it to be the case that most houses I have visited here do not have a dryer at all. My conservationist side appreciates using the “solar dryer” that is already radiating heat every sunny day. And while it is England, we have had sunny days a good eighty percent of the time, so we’ve been amazingly lucky. But that isn’t normally the case, and I can’t quite fathom how people manage when there are a string of wet days.  In June we had a house guest who had been traveling for a month prior to her arrival. I offered to do her laundry, which I did. But then we had three whole days of rain. Everything was hung up on our drying rack and whatever surfaces inside that could be used. Damp, damp, damp. We finally folded the stuff up but it still wasn’t really dry.

The author of the article is writing not about dryers in general but about washer/dryer combos that don’t function properly and says her frustration is really about cultural differences. She’s struck by the fact that inefficiencies that would drive her, an American, crazy, are simply accepted by the English.  She says, “This acceptance is at the heart of many American immigrants’ frustrations about life in the UK. And it highlights a fundamental cultural between the US and UK that I’d characterize, broadly, as a British inclination to accept things as they are, versus an American inclination to alter and change them.”

She has got me nailed there. Good old Wood Element wants to change things that  “should” be different. If it’s wet and rainy a good percentage of the time, WHY live with damp clothes? with bathtowels and denim that stay stiff? I actually line-dry most of my clothes in New York, but towels just beg to be tossed in to the dryer, don’t they? An American would agree, but an English person likely not.

(Here’s another bit of local color – just at the end of our street! Not an amazing shot, but I was dodging the rain drops.)

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My English sister-in-law got a dryer for the first time only a few years ago and was quite excited to have it. But it never quite made it in to her house. It lived on her outside patio area for a while, and is now in a shed. It seems to simply not be a necessity, and she’d rather use precious indoor space for other things. She learned in her first several decades of life to make do without an electric dryer quite nicely. Fair enough. It does save energy, which I quite approve of.  She’s happy to dash outside to get clothes that catch a sprinkling, to use her banister for what needs it. Ah, and she has an amazing thing called an “airing cupboard” where she places any slightly damp clothes, lightly folded, and they dry in there over night. I wish I had me one of those.

Perhaps the acceptance is a good thing. I’ll write another post about this soon, but for now I’ll just copy one more quote from the article: “Americans’ relentless drive for change means that we are also prone to the feeling that whatever we have is never enough; that there’s something inherently distasteful about being willing to accept life as it is.” The English do seem to accept Life as it is. Perhaps it would be better if more of us approached the difficulties that come our way similarly. I think of Byron Katie and her method of “Loving What Is”; I think of Buddhism; I think of the Chinese Taoist concept of Wu wei. They might not be exactly what we’re talking here, but they could be related. Perhaps, perhaps. But I still would like a dryer on a day like this.

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This Week at the Farm

It was just Frith Farm in Beverley for me this week. Getting over to Nafferton is too challenging with summer holidays unless I’m very organized with the kids’ activities. It was a quiet morning on Wednesday, only one other volunteer working alongside me, a woman I’d never met before. She is a yoga teacher. I do meet all the right people at these farms, with interests similar to mine.

Ben had us harvesting onions all along a very long bed. It was like a treasure hunt – we could barely see anything among the grasses, simply because many of the green tops were getting thinner and the onions weren’t tremendously big. The ground had been very wet all Spring, so the onions got planted a good five weeks later than ideal. But the more we searched, the more we found. Each little onion seemed small, but as we kept pulling and adding, the barrow slowly filled. How satisfying to see a nice large pile all together.

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It was a good metaphor for me about how all the little things we do over and over do contribute to a much larger whole. My Wood and Metal wanted to ask – what more little things could I be doing every day to achieve my goals and desires? – they might not seem important enough to do on their own, but if done consistently, something significant can result. And, what little things am I doing every day that perhaps aren’t so beneficial that could be adding up to a really less-than-desirable outcome? Bears thinking about. I like how time gardening reflects human patterns.

And then, because the farm is not in sunny southern Spain, we could not leave the onions out but instead needed to put them in the covered hoop house to dry. The space was a little crowded for them but we arranged the bulbs in as much of a single-layer as possible. It felt like we’d just plucked them from one field only to create a new one –

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The afternoon was spent very differently. The yoga teacher left; two other volunteers and I, plus the two farmers Ben and Matt set to work moving a large pile of woodchips. We shoveled them in to wheelbarrows which we then wheeled over to fill the trenches between the raised salad beds. I’d had enough after a dozen or so of these trips – still getting over my summer cold and I didn’t feel so energetic. Plus it was quarter to three and I had a date with the plum tree.

I walked pretty slowly and spent likely an hour picking up the windfalls. What a windy morning it had been – plums were everywhere!

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I only picked the good ones, of course. Two types of red and two of yellow. These were the smallest, but the yummiest. I do hope I manage to process them all – I carted a good twenty or more pounds of them home. Wish me luck. And many thanks to these beautiful and bountiful plum trees.

Full Circle Moments in Flamborough

For fear of not expressing myself well, I have yet to write properly about my concept of “full circle” and my desire to explore it here in this blog. But I’ll give it a go and allow myself the luxury of not having to get it “right” or even terribly completely just yet.

It had been ages since we’d gone exploring as a family, and we took the afternoon to drive from Bridlington to Flamborough and see that part of the Yorkshire coast. We had lunch in a pub in town (jacket potatoes, steak and ale pie – nice English things) and then walked over to take a peek at the town “green” donated in 1964 by the Lord of the local manor. It was an impressively large area of grass and a play park, and this enormous relic.

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We really didn’t know where we were going, since we hadn’t researched the trip ahead of time. I was so glad to notice a sign to the “Lighthouse”. So we got back in the car and drove in that direction.

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As soon as we went down this road, I had a rush of nostalgia. Nicholas agreed with me that it felt like Long Island, the landscape so similar to that between Amagansett and Montauk as well as other parts of Suffolk County where I grew up. But I wasn’t homesick. It was an excitement for the present experience reminding me of the beauty of my childhood home, and for how the confluence of enviromental factors in very different countries creates a similar energetic. It was a Full Circle moment for me, which I was experiencing daily in our first weeks here. It’s been less often recently, and I would like to turn my attention to exploring both the ones I’m now noticing as well as some of the grander ones that presented themselves in our early days in England.

Cycles are part of Life – we have them every year with the changing of the seasons, every day with the rising and setting of the sun. We have themes that appear and reappear in our yearly and daily experiences – some of them happy, some challenging, many we take for granted. Noticing them and seeing how they are relevant to our current situation is important, I think. I will write about more of those in coming posts. But this one was fairly simple – the topography looked like home and made me think of my childhood. I’m not sure what conclusions I’m drawing, if any, about this being “home” now just as much as the Hamptons were in my past. But it bears thinking about what “home” means in general, what it’s like to change homes, how I’m relating to my current location similarly or differently to how I did as a child.

It was a picture-perfect day. Just look at these scenes…

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The cliffs are composed of chalk, and the sun glinted off them quite dramatically.

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There are a number of caves to explore, but we didn’t get to do that yet. I think a different part of Flamborough is best for getting down to the caves. The many colors of the water were deliciously gorgeous here.

And there are two lighthouses at Flamborough. One from the 1800’s that again really reminded me of Montauk Lighthouse –

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And one from the mid-1600’s a bit further in, recently renovated to the tune of a hundred thousand pounds to repair all the crumbling chalk it’s made of –

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Too beautiful for words, that sky…

What then really got me was that even Montauk Daisies are growing here! Just like home, wow… The coasts are so similar. I had never realized or noticed that before, though. Interesting.

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Plum Flaugnarde

Quite a few posts on plums, for quite a pile of plums remains in my kitchen. My long-time friend Abby from Camaje restaurant in Greenwich Village, NYC, emailed me many years ago asking if I’d ever heard of or made a “flaugnarde”. No, I hadn’t. I’d only known of the very similar dish “clafoutis” which is apparently is technically only allowed to be called that if it’s made with sour cherries still bearing their pits. Well, if it isn’t made with sour cherries, then it’s called this instead. Since that email, I’ve made dozens of flaugnardes, with berries usually. It’s kind of fun just to say the word, which is a little tricky – have to exercise certain mouth muscles that only move when speaking French.

It’s basically a baked fruit custard. I beat four eggs together with oatley milk (my family tends to not enjoy my coconut-milk confections these days, so we gave oat milk a go), a quarter of a cup of brown rice flour, some honey, and a dash of vanilla. Here it is, about to go in to the oven.

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Plum pits that I had boiled, then roasted in the oven are still waiting to be made in to bean bags, or something else – I haven’t yet decided.

When it came out of the oven, we walked over to my sister-in-law’s house for dinner. That is one reason why we came here, to be able to be near family. Ah, to be able to walk to where we wish to go! And we’re truly blessed to have such wonderful family here. We enjoyed this flaugnarde, along with a few other desserts, after a full English Sunday roast dinner. No pics of Sunday roast, sadly!

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Plum Cordial

I went back to the plum tree with Nicholas before he jetted off to Zurich, and the two of us collected a good eight pounds or so of plums that had fallen to the ground. We worked quickly, to be able to then fetch our daughter at the end of her last day of school. Yes, school was still going on for her last week, the end of JULY, egads. In New York, school would have ended five weeks earlier. Somehow, it doesn’t feel interminable, though. Perhaps because she didn’t start school until the Spring, perhaps because we don’t have the ridiculous humid heat of a Hudson Valley summer, but it was somehow okay to still be going to school in July. Curious, for I had thought it a horrifying thought when we first moved here.

Out of that batch of plums, I made jam and cordial as soon as we got home. Here are the plums cooking away. What a color – red skins that soon stain the yellow flesh inside. RedPlumsCooking.JPG

Cordial is such an English thing. European, perhaps. I remember being confused by it in France when we went as children. My mother traveled there several summers to study and would bring my brother and me with her to experience the culture she loved so dearly. Everyone had “sirop”, syrup made from different fruits, but it was completely unfamiliar to our American tastebuds. It’s standard here in England too, and I decided to make our own from these juicy plums.

After cooking the plums, I put them in large square of muslin and tied it to a cupboard handle overnight. What liquid dripped out, I then added honey to, cooked it up some more, and voilà – cordial.

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Then I had to sort through all the plum matter and remove all the teeny pits (“pips” in England). I may find a use for those too…

The cordial is delicious, a deep red color, and nice blend of tart and sweet. I hope it keeps a while, to enjoy in cooler months.

Westwood Wanderings

Nicholas walks on the Westwood nearly every day. I wish I could say I did too, but maybe half the time I join him. A week or so ago, we went together on a damp morning. Our lane leads all the way to the Westwood, we were shocked to see this at the top of the road. My apologies to any Metals (so sorry, haven’t started speaking about the Five Element patterns yet) who would find this too revolting. Focus on the lovely flowers intstead.

CowPile

A cow had obviously escaped and left her mark. Visions of India came to us, where cows constantly roam and freely leave dung about. There, however, it’s a precious commodity and gets collected right away for use as fuel or to make small shelters like mud houses. This one was sitting for a while, having collected a bit of rain. A month or so previous, our next-door neighbor had told us how just last year there were five renegade cows who consistently escaped the Westwood and wandered down our street, just feet away from the middle of town. Every morning she would somehow shoo them back up to pasture. Looks like another renegade is back, likely having come through this gate.

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Turning around from this spot, an expansive view of six hundred acres of pasture opens. Ahh, the Westwood. It is beautiful, the jewel of Beverley. I can’t believe we live a hop, skip and a jump from here.

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Plums again

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I was walking to Frith Farm today, the Beverley organic one, for my one volunteer day this week. I saw a man picking yellow plums off the tree by the side of the road. I smiled at my own initial shock and proprietary feelings. The plums I had discovered weeks ago were being picked by another! And then I quickly came to my senses and was just happy that more people are picking. I’d feel so obliged to pick all of them myself otherwise, and then what would I do with that glut of goodness?

I moved on, but when I came to the next plum tree, the red one, I just couldn’t help myself. I decided to not worry about being late to the farm and spent half an hour picking up windfalls. What if the yellow plum man moved on to red before I made my way home? Or if it rained before I was homeward-bound? That was likely a motivator, to not miss out on any plums. Strike while the iron is hot, my mom used to say. So I struck. How convenient that there was a large mulched area that both cushioned the plums and made them easily visible.

RedPlum Windfalls

There were SO many! I filled my pockets at first, but then realized I was being silly and got out a bag. What lovely heaviness I carried with me the rest of the way to the farm. What I had in my pockets we shared at lunchtime. And when I got home, I weighed the little beauties in the bag.  Over two and a half kilos, so almost six pounds, my goodness!

They smell amazing. Fruity of course, with a tropical note that brings delight and a feeling of freshness. Jam-time.

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And you can bet I’m going back to the yellow plum tree once I preserve these lovelies.

This Week at the Farm

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This week I volunteered at both farms – Wednesday I was at the Dr.’s in Nafferton and there was quite a crew! I met three new people there, a young woman from Poland who has lived in this area for a number of years and is currently studying horticulture, an American PhD student who has lived at the farm previously but I’d never had the pleasure of making her acquaintance, and a young man from New Caledonia but currently studying in France, staying there for over a month to improve his English. A fifteen-year-veteran English volunteer and I rounded out the company of volunteers. What an international crowd.

The focus for the first part of the day was berry-picking. The two Americans searched for raspberries and strawberries, but the birds had gotten the last of both. Ditto for black currant, rats! I was so glad to have gotten a large order the weekend before. Black currants are our fave and I so miss having our own New York back-yard Ribes patch. Gooseberries we found a fair number of, but only on the lowest branches. I managed to get stuck quite a few times with the thorns and wished I’d worn gloves. I next joined the Polish and English women to hunt for red currants, and crouching under the bushes proved fruitful indeed – we filled a number of small containers with the luminescent little jewels. The last morning task was to pick jostaberries. These bushes were under netting, and there were hundreds of berries to be had. I’d never seen jostaberries before, a cross between black currants and gooseberries. We had, actually, planted one in our backyard patch about two years ago, but I must have neglected it, for it never took. Well, these were plentiful indeed, and I both saw and tasted many. I thought they looked like small plump grapes. The dark, ripe ones were quite sweet and very flavorful – but not nearly as piquant as either of their parents. What a lovely morning, save for getting stuck by gooseberry thorns (my thumb still feels sore, three days later).

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The afternoon was less eventful. I always move more slowly after lunch. I did enjoy speaking with the fellow from New Caledonia. My French felt rather rusty with him, somehow, but we exchanged information about living in England and about some English expressions while we planted two types of radishes and some arugula.

After a day of agricultural-rest, I went with my English niece to the Beverley farm for the afternoon. The sky was dramatic and the usually-constant wind was there but mildly so. We removed over-mature winter purslane and transplanted both new purslane and baby orach seedlings into the large raised beds. It felt luxurious and calming, working there, especially when the sun came out. The neatness of the raised bed area was somehow relaxing, and the purple of the orach delightfully envigorating.

Then we got to weeding in the main beds. The little celery plugs I’d planted some weeks ago have doubled in size and the main farmer discussed philosophy with me as we cleared out most of the chickweed, thistles and other weeds encroaching on the young celery’s space. Niece-y was deep in conversation with the other volunteer, a young man she’d actually known in sixth form (like 11th and 12th grade for us Americans) but hadn’t seen in years. All four of us then had “fun with mesh”, transferring bed-long metres of mesh netting from one bed to another and anchoring the edges down with logs and other pieces of wood. It actually was fun. The people are lovely, and the farm beautiful. Truly a blessed afternoon. And while walking home afterwards, Niece-y and I found wild plums. What a bonus.

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