A little while back I posted something about all the 'lasts' there have been. You know, doing this and that the last time, and how little import such thoughts seem to have compared to how much we all (I think) suppose there should be attached to our 'last-time-evers.'
One of those things I did for the last time was start a batch of kefir.
I make kefir from starter sachets. They make these by spray-drying kefir cultures, called grains. I make organic cow's milk kefir a litre at a time, and the first litre of a new batch is always a little bit exciting. They are all a teeny bit different in either consistency, aroma, in all sorts of ways really, and this is how you'd think it ought to be with a natural process. Temperature and time affect it, as do factors like how often I agitate my fermentation container, and how often I open the lid and let it breathe etc. Then of course, there is the variation caused by environmental bacteria - that introduced from the air, and from me, as I make and handle it all.
To make the next batch, you just use a bit of the previous batch as a starter, and add another litre of milk. A batch can take from 12 to 24 hours to ferment, I find. They say the sachets are good for 5 or 7 generations, after which time the colonies of bacteria and fungi (there are somewhere between 20 and 50 different organisms that make an average kefir culture) have change more into a yoghurt than a kefir, those bacilli like the acidophillus strains being more aggressive. The milk also clabbers at some point, which is to say it starts to separate out into curds and whey. I just shake it back together again, which it seems to love, and then the clabbering stops, seemingly never to recur.
What I've found though, is that with a bit of listening, a bit of kefir-whispering and paying attention to the subtle changes, it is not just good beyond those 7 generations, but it seems to tend back towards a more complex, rather than less complex, kefir after a point. Grains start to form of their own accord. Environmental bacteria get a look-in, much of which naturally will be directly back from my personal microbiome, that multibillioncelled 'other' me whose cells outnumber me, and which makes up as much as 10% of my mass. It becomes a very personal kefir.
This batch has met Meeta too, as she's helped me prepare a feed or two using it, so it has gotten added goodies from her; most or many of which I probably share already.
So I decided when I moved out of home up here to hospice ... oh, and I have to tell you something about that too, I'll come back to that ... that I'd make a fresh batch of kefir to take with me, and it's a really fine batch in every way.
The title of this post is misleading, as really I only make a new batch every 2 to 3 days on average, but the feel of the title is right nonetheless, and if not taken so literally, then ...
It's a wonderful meditation on life, the simple art and act of kefir making. Possibly one of the most simple and direct ways of communing with the cycle of life and consumption of life we can do. I think of it more as farming than anything else; husbanding a herd of microbiota to thrive and have the best possible life they can have, that I may feast of their offspring and even more importantly the by-products of their own deaths. It has become a holy little thing, this humble plastic flask (BPA-free food grade etc etc) of whitish liquid that comes out of the fridge to keep me company from time to time, prompting me to give it a little shake or not as the mood strikes, or memory kicks in. Slowly changing hue and ever-so-gently pushing out the sides of the flask as a moderate gas pressure builds up, undoubtedly a living thing. It and the blends that Meeta brings are still all of my subsistence, materially speaking.
Today, I had a half a minute of wistfulness as I started up another batch that shortly it too, would die, but it felt nice. I feel like I understood something about ancient urges to take companions (wives, horses, soldiers etc) into death with you. It would be a bit like taking a talisman of this 'other' me, my microflora self. Haha, perhaps like the legendary Chinese court eunuch's testicles in a jar.
And this, I note, is my very first attachment to any projected thought about an afterlife. I really have never clung to an image-projection of What Next Looks Like in that way before. Odd, but cute I guess. I mean, of course the kefir has soul.
Kefir will be the last sustenance I take, I'm almost certain. The last food in life I came to. Seems right.
Anyway, about that leaving home thing; yes, I'm not going back now. For one thing, I'm not sure I'd manage the steps. But more importantly it's just time. That thing inside we call home (and it's interesting that my second-favourite t-shirt at the moment is a cartoony big happy-looking snail) has detached enough from the house. In one sense, I left it too long to go back. Even just in this last, what, two weeks is it? three? that I have been here I have changed too much for the house to fit me. And also, I have no real desire left to go back. I do miss the dogs but they still visit me. As for Buckley: Well, cats are ... cats are OK like that I find. I experience animal telepathy with cats, and always have. I just assumed all my life that this was normal and when I discovered as a child that apparently it's not a mainstream view I sort of just shut up about it. I mean, 'cat people' know anyway, and so do cats, so what does it matter? So Bucks and I, we're OK.
So I'm glad of that too.