The staff/stuff of life

Just finished breakfast –  freshly ground coffee with one grind of salt and ten grinds of black pepper in my one person coffeepot,  a la Russian neighbour. Toast from my freshly made loaf of wholemeal bread, just out of the oven, made by Moi, manukau honey from the bees in our forest, and delicious Danish butter … pigs heaven for the likes of me…

I had Googled:
What is in white sliced bread? And the answer so horrified me, that I did endless research on unmucked- about flours from Australia, New Zealand Hawkes Bay, bakers in the English Cotswolds and others in New Zealand South Island…
This is the answer to the white sliced bread inquiry:
Wheat Flour [with Calcium, Iron, Niacin (B3) and Thiamin (B1)], Water, Yeast, Salt, Vegetable Oils (Sunflower, Rapeseed and Sustainable Palm in varying proportions), Soya Flour, Preservative: Calcium Propionate; Emulsifiers: E481, E472e; Flour Treatment Agent: Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C ),and it’s bleached with chlorine  or calcium peroxide or other  equally unhealthy chemicals!

So I’ve now started using a brilliant no-knead bread recipe found on the wonderful internet – no hands at all, and just let it rise sitting on the kitchen bench – no fuss,  and have sourced from both our local supermarkets unmucked around white flour, as well as wholemeal…

I had lost this blog, and WordPress has changed so many times in the ten years I’ve been blogging, that I could no longer find the formula I used to use for getting back into it when I’d slipped out… I did try to jump through all the hoops, and tried hopelessly to decipher computer speak, which is  a language I’ve never learned. Finally after weeks of fruitless and frustrating endeavour I found there was a simple word actually on the blog. The word was Login. So I clicked on it, and to my naive amazement, found I was back in. So here I am ….

Meanwhile, trying to ignore climate change, wars, famine, floods and other catastrophes around the world, I’ve been concentrating on the things nearer home.
We can’t have pets here, and I miss having a dog after all the years of two or three at a time – seventeen rescued in all, and I miss having a cat too, after all the years of living with their sweet presence… they’re not allowed in this wild life sanctuary/forest, where the native birds who are mostly flightless, live on the ground.

So I find I have birds as pets – the two quail who lived here when we first came, have multiplied hideously in the seven years that we’ve been feeding them, and we now have twenty five ! They eat my flowers, so I’ve trained them to follow me from the garden up to the top of the drive when I call ‘come, come, come’. There they feast on the budgerigar seeds I scatter on a patch in the woods there. They love the budgerigar seeds best, and so do the sparrows.

The sparrows, green finches, chaffinches, grey warblers and black headed tits always know exactly where I am in the house – if I’m in the bedroom, they flutter around outside the bedroom window. If I’m sitting on the sofa in the sitting room, they cluster in the tree outside the french windows and gather on the veranda rail, until I go out and scatter seed for them in a patch on the other side of the house, so we don’t get their droppings.

I’m a total slave to them –  leaving my breakfast and my tea getting cold to rush up the drive followed by a line of quail scuttling after me, or little birds diving down from the trees all round to make a moving carpet of little brown bodies hoovering up the seeds. My husband is just as much their slave, and has made tiny concrete ramps for the steps in the garden, so the minute balls of fluff which are baby quails, can scurry after their parents up the steps!

And while we have been battling with the result of too much rain – landslides on the roads, pinning us inside the high wrought iron gates of our sanctuary, I’ve  watched with amazement the drought the other side of the world – items of news like the great Rhine river closing to traffic because it’s so low – and wonder how the EU trade will continue, and discover that the source of the mighty Thames has dried up, with just a trickle of water five miles further downstream.

I can’t understand why draconian water restrictions aren’t in place… not just hose pipe restrictions, and polite requests to use a low setting on lavatory cisterns. When we lived in Hong Kong in 1965- 70, Mao Tse Tung cut off the water to Hong Kong one hot summer, and all four million-plus people were rationed to four hours of water every four days, when the water was switched on from eight o’ clock till midnight.
Everyone filled their kettles  and saucepans and jugs and baths to try to last the four days, with long queues of desperate Chinese lining the streets to the nearest tap/standpipe, staggering home with a bucket each side. 

Because our army quarter was on the top floor of a twelve story building, the pressure took two hours to build up, so with two toddlers, I had two hours of water every four days, in the middle of a steaming, hot tropical summer we managed – the whole colony stayed at home that night, catching up on washing clothes and sheets,  and having  showers and baths and shampoos  to last for the next four days ! This ordeal by water lasted for the four hottest  months of the year,  but we emerged unscathed, if a little smelly !!!
As a friend said “Bah, the world is full of snowflakes who couldn’t cope – they’d probably melt if confronted with such a challenge !”

So watching the world and its wars from the long perspective of the ‘silent generation’ ( those of us born before 1945), I sometimes wonder if TS Eliot’s words that ‘the world will end not with a bang, but with a whimper’ are the most optimistic we can hope for… But I still cling to Tolkien:
“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”
Simply put – the Scouts motto – DOB – do our best !

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

This is the wonderful recipe for no-knead bread I gleaned from the internet, with my own slight tweaks.
artisanbreadwithsteve on Youtube was the original source.
475 mls of cold water1  1/4 teasp instant yeast1 1/2 teasp salt1 tablesp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of  organic unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
Pour water into a bowl, and stir in the next three ingredients. Then add the flours and mix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrapping or even a shower cap, and leave on the kitchen bench for eight hours.
Stir it all again, as it dwindles down to size again, and sprinkle oats or sesame seeds on top.
Tip into a bowl or saucepan with plenty of room for the dough to rise.
Cover with a damp tea-towel ( no lint) and leave to rise again for about 30  minutes to an hour.
Heat the oven to 400 C, and oil a dutch oven with olive or grape seed oil, and put in the oven to heat up.
Tip the risen dough into the hot Dutch oven, and bake in the oven for forty minutes.

Watching the dough rise throughout the day has become one of my hobbies…  sometimes I use more white flour instead of wholemeal – just because…

Before I discovered a source for organic flour, I used ordinary flour, and the loaf still tasted good.
The original source for the word ‘lady,’ came from ancient Norse, and it meant ‘loaf kneader.’
Bon appetit !


Filed under cookery/recipes, history

23 responses to “The staff/stuff of life

  1. So happy to read your new post, Valerie. From now on I will call the good stuff “unmucked around” flour. And I loved reading your description of how you two live for the birds. The ramp for the baby quails touched my heart! May it long continue to be lush and green where you are living. But yes, “you never miss your water till your well runs dry.” x Josna


    • Lovely to hear from you Josna… hope all is well with you, and your well has not run dry, wherever you live!
      Yes, our podocarp forest seems to overcome dry summers and wet winters and beautiful green surrounds us !


  2. Janet Osmond

    So good to see you back again with your wonderful stories! I will certainly be making that bread!


    • Thank you so much Janet for your lovely comment – the bread is so easy to make, I’m sure you’d enjoy it… one of the pluses, is that it’s so delicious that I no longer need honey or marmalade to make it taste good – butter is enough.
      I have a special implement for stirring that by serendipity a friend gave me before I took this route – but apparently using the stick/handle and not the paddle of a wooden spoon is the best way to go… good luck !


  3. Jane Sturgeon

    So good to see and hear you here, Valerie. Lovely to dip into your world for a while. I am going to have a go at making this bread. Much love, always, Jane Xx ❤


    • Hello Jane, Lovely to hear from you, I hope all is well with you…
      Are you too enduring the incredible heat I’ve been reading about ?
      If you do decide to try the bread, you might be interested in the comment I sent to Janet above…it makes it easier… you might also be interested in my reply to the comment below about bleach – food was so simple when I grew up, no plastic wrappings, chemicals etc – just watching the grocer slicing the bacon on his big machine and easing off a chunk with a wire from a huge round cheese!
      Much love, Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jane Sturgeon

        Hello Valerie, thank you, I went and read your food research and your tip about the wooden spoon handle. Thank you. It is hot again here and we are managing. I have been baking and creating more in the kitchen, so your bread recipe is timely. Much love to you both. ❤


  4. Dear Valerie,

    How lovely to read your voice once more.

    We do horrendous things to our wheat and flours, don’t we? When I was in Israel a few years back I could eat wheat bread with no issue. Back in the States I remain gluten free.

    I can picture you and Himself with your bird friends. 😀 Makes me smile.
    Currently I’m visiting my brother and sister in law and their three rescue dogs. I’m enjoying the puppy love. I’d really like to have a dog of my own but we’re just not in a position to give one the care it would deserve.

    Speaking of dogs, I’m being accosted by one of the sweethearts. Hugs to you both.




    • Hello Rochelle, so good to hear from you… thank you for commenting.
      Which climate change challenges are you facing at the moment ? –
      Heat, drought, floods, wild fires ? Everyone I write to in different parts of the word seem to have some extreme weather…
      What a shame you can’t have a dog – I thought retirement meant enjoying all the things one never had time for before…
      However, energy is needed for a dog I always feel, as it’s like having a permanent toddler to be fed, bathed, walked, watered and cuddled !
      Love from Himself, and me,


      • Yes, dogs require care and cuddling. I just don’t feel we can give a dog the care it deserves, Although this week is really making me rethink this. Lots of cuddling and doggy kisses. I’ll send photos soon.
        We have had terrible heat this summer but no floods or wild fires in the middle part of the country. This week with my brother on the coast, it’s very hot but a few dips in the ocean have helped.


  5. paulmullings

    Val, NZ flour isn’t bleached, why did you think it was?


    • Thank you for reading ad commenting Paul… I found your comment intriguing – I thought it was bleached because that was in the list I read of sliced bread ingredients. Certainly the unbleached flour I now buy is a different colour to the normal supermarket flour.
      I had no difficulty believing that flour was bleached anyway, ever since I learned from an organic butcher that even organic chicken has to be bathed in bleach, while the citrus fruit processing plant in Keriikeri bathes all fruit in huge baths of 24D, followed by a bath of bleach, and then another dipping in 24D before being encased in wax. Japan is the only country which will not accept fruit processed in this way.
      Frozen battered fish is caught in the polluted Mekong delta, sent to Russia to be processed, then on to China to be battered using fifteen ingredients, instead of just flour water and salt, before finally arriving in Australia to be packed, and exported to NZ…
      As for processed foods like packaged meals, vegan substitutes and other processed foods, they are stiff with chemicals to improve taste – even ice cream which has no smell, has chemically manufactured caramel and chocolate tastes added…
      Needless to say all these additives actually affect the brain according to recent research…
      PS – not Val – but Valerie !!!


    • Dear Paul – I feel the same !!
      My food is very pure these days !!!


  6. Helen Eisenhofer

    Lovely to hear your “voice” again Valerie and to know you are enjoying your life and surroundings and My mouth waters at the thought of freshly home made bread. We are both well and hunkered down in our dome over the winter spending our time reading, listening to music and watching what is happening in the world on tv with our favourite being the BBC world news. Best wishes to you and yours. Helen Eisenhofer


    • I always love to hear from you Helen, so good to know that you are still making the most of life …As a foodie you might be interested in my reply to Paul Mullings above …
      Your winter programme sounds very similar to ours, with the exception that we always have a game of scrabble after supper !!
      Love to you both, Valerie


  7. Annabel Langbein also has a no-knead bread. It’s the nearest to Vogels I’ve found in a homemade loaf.


  8. I am so so so excited, Valerie! You have been missed. You encouraged me to go back to making bread again. Sending many hugs your way.


  9. Hello dear Rebecca,
    Lovely to see your beaming smile and read your comment.
    Thank you, and I hope you enjoy your bread making – I absolutely love it, and would hate to go the other way with a bread-making machine like some friends have…much love, Valerie


  10. What a beautiful and fun post. I’m so glad you posted all about your fantastic new recipe. Complete with a photo!
    I also love the bird lovers you and your Man are…it’s nice to care for those wild souls in our lives. Love You, my very long-long-long time friend!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s