This is Mike Buckner. He is a gristmill master, restorer of trains & homes. He’s a caretaker of chickens, dogs, & hogs. He’s a farmer of wheat, corn,& sugar cane. A father to a beautiful family& much more. He is a true hardworking Southern craftsman who owns & operates a historic water-powered gristmill in rural Junction City, Georgia. A few weeks ago, we had enjoyed a weekend in Georgia soaking up the country air with friends (you can read about strawberry picking here). I am finally getting around to sharing more photos of our trip. The highlight of the weekend was spending the day at Fielder’s Grist Mill with the Buckner family. They opened up their home & operation to us so generously on a Saturday. Surprisingly, we learned they are distant cousins of mine through my grandmother’s side! I knew I felt a connection with these people. Aside from the grist mill, the property is also occupied by a beautiful plantation home, built by Mike Buckner himself with fields of crops and flowers, old trains being restored, playful dogs, & a beautiful lake.
Many people think it is called a grits mill, which would make sense but it is grist. Grist means grain. Fielder’s Grist Mill is named after Edlow Fielder, Mike Buckner’s grandfather. They product the freshest, tastiest, most authentic grits I have ever tasted which are ground right in front of your eyes from start to finish. The mill has been around since the 30’s I believe, run by generation after generation.
Staying focused on quality, old-fashioned grits, Mike Buckner seeks out pure, non-hybrid corn varieties. These varieties keep the oil content higher than hybrid varieties which makes for tasty sweeter grits, corn bread &the like. If he doesn’t grow the corn himself, he purchases it from Kentucky. Mike told us that people used to line up on the weekends with their own corn they grew for him to grind. There are other things to see aside from the grist mill, including the Buckner home. The home was originally located in another part of town but Mike Buckner took it apart, numbered every single piece of wood, moved it to his family’s property & re-built it. It took him ten years. After seeing it – I’d say was worth the wait.
After being shown around by Mike. Buckner & his son, we left with one-pound bags of grits, corn meal, whole-wheat flour & some sugar cane syrup. One thing I loved about spending time with the Buckner family is that not once did I hear them say they are “sustainable,” “organic,” or “green,” but they very much are in their own way. There were no selling points or labels, although they could have very much used them. They grow their own food, gather eggs from their chickens, & keep their home & property in great condition with their bare hands. It’s simply inspiring. I could have spent days on their property taking in how much tradition, nature & history was among us.
We have a surplus of wild onions around town in Raleigh. I have been picking them anywhere I can find them.Ffrom our yard, the farm that we are members of, even the side of the road. I can’t let a sweet wild onion or garlic chive go without entering into someone’s tummy! This past week I made a big batch of wild onion & cheddar cornbread muffins with the corn meal from Fielder’s. I love savory baked goods. These are great alongside a piece of steak or fish or just as a morning snack.
Wild onion & cheddar cornbread muffins:
3 cups cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups milk plus a splash of vinegar or buttermilk
2 local pasture centered eggs
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup wild or green onions
1/2 cup melted butter or shortening
Preheat oven to 375- 400 degrees depending on your oven. Grease a 12 or more cup muffin tin. Sift the corn meal, baking soda & powder & salt. Combine milk & eggs. Add mixture to corn meal. Add grated cheese & onions then fold in melted butter or shortening until just combined. Don’t over mix. Distribute to muffin tin & bake until golden for about 20 minutes. Let cool before removing from muffin tin & enjoy! These freeze very well. To send them over the top, grind some black pepper over the muffins before baking.