Every Day, It’s A-Getting Closer… (Shifting towards “local-ish” dry goods)

Today I stopped by the local Hippy Organic market to restock on some dry goods. I got brown basmati rice – which, as it turns out, I didn’t really need (woops) – from overseas, and about 2 litres of red quinoa (which works out to about $30…) from Bolivia, and everything else – the pot barley, the red lentils, and the black beluga lentils – came from Canada, most likely Saskatchewan. (They also have (cultivated) wild rice from Saskatchewan, if you’re looking to bring it in from somewhere closer than California, fyi).
While my rules (which are more like “guidelines” anyway…) about Local Food don’t tend to include dry goods – for a slew of reasons that mostly boil down to laziness and/or… “frugality” (yeah, let’s call it that) on my own part – I find that, while I’m not buying my whole wheat bread flour from the Oxford Mills mill just yet, I am leaning more and more towards buying dry-goods that are grown in Canada, even if they haven’t been grown in Ontario or Quebec.
I look forward to the day when Ottawa Valley edamame and whole wheat pastry flour plus Northwestern Ontario red, green, & black-beluga lentils, yellow split peas, quinoa, and amaranth are available at my local grocery store but, for the moment, while I can probably grow my own quinoa[1] if I’m really feeling the need, I’m probably going to keep shifting our “day to day diet” towards pearl and pot barley[3] and away from grains that have to cross one or more international borders to get to me.
Does this mean that I’m never buying rice again? Hmm… Maybe? I’m hesitant to say “That’s it, no more rice for us!” at this stage of the game. But if this barley business works out well, I can see rice taking a definite back seat to the grown-in-Canada grains quite quickly. Similarly, I’m more likely to grow butter beans – romano, in particular, but also fava, Christmas Lima, and maybe navy or great northern – that can double as dry-beans, and blanch and freeze them (or dry them on the vine, then finish them in my dehydrator, and store them on the shelf in jars) myself, rather than buying kidney beans or edamame that have been brought in from across half the globe. Between that, a lot of Ontario potatoes, and a home-grown crop of sun-chokes, we should be doing okay for starch. ;-)
You guys, I can’t tell you how excited I am to have garden space again! I was walking home today, and I picked a few fully-ripened-and-dried seed-pods from a purple-and-pink common mallow, just to scatter them in the front yard. I know I’ll have to wait until May to get my backyard raised beds going, but I’m going to have SUCH a time this winter, planning the lay-out and deciding what to plant where. I’m having visions (not Visions, just “visions”) of dragging in a gallon of snap beans every week for a month, of dozens of pumpkins and butternut squash lining my cold room shelves, jar after jar of tomato preserves, and a freezer full of carefully-blanched chard. I hope I’m not over-estimating what a few 2×8 beds can yield in a given year, but… my last garden (which, granted, was in the actual ground, not in extra-large containers) offered up that much produce fairly reliably, so… Maybe?
Here’s hoping that, by this time next year, I’ll be tallying up preserves that include 40lbs of home-grown tomatoes, a freezer full of home-grown greens and beans, and maybe a litre of dry-beans (cranberry/romano or great northern, most likely) just to see if I can do it.
Wish me luck!
Meliad, the Birch Maiden.
[1] Assuming we don’t go through more than a kilogram of it in a given year, since there’s a limit to what you can do on that front in a small, container-gardened space, and assuming I can winnow it well enough to not be full of chaff[2], AND assuming I can get my head back around to rinsing the stuff before I cook it…
[2] That basmati rice that I didn’t actually need? I thought I had 2-3 cups of long-grain brown rice still to be used up. It turns out I have about double that and, here’s the thing, the rice in question is… chaffy. I keep running up again bits of rice that haven’t cooked properly because they’re still wrapped in their protective, straw-like husk… The texture is awful, they don’t taste particularly good, and the tooth-cracking element is not fun, let me tell you.
[3] Pearl barley is like “white rice” – it’s had the hull removed and cooks in about 20 minutes. Whereas Pot barley is like “brown rice” (or red rice, for that matter), it’s “whole grain” rather than polished, and takes about 40 minutes to cook. Barley also has the added bonus of not turning to glue or losing its structural integrity when it’s been over-cooked. I’ve been known to stew both pearl barley and pot barley for around ten times the recommended cooking times, and they’ve both turned out just fine. Given my inclination to cook 2:1 grain:lentils, this would mean that I would cook red lentils with pearl barley (or quinoa of any colour, or white/polished rice) and beluga/black lentils with pot barley (brown rice).

Carpathian Onion Soup (Recipe)

So I came up with this soup a few weeks ago, and tonight I find myself turning to it again. It’s a variation on the theme of “French Onion Soup” but features a few twists that I’ve decided to call “Carpathian” purely because of the garlic factor. I’ll probably tweak it a bit tonight – bacon, instead of sausage, a little bit of nappa thrown in, and maybe some roasted garlic hummus on the toast (in lieu of the cheese) for our one non-dairy-eating guest. :-)


For the sauté
3 red onions
1 medium-sized carrot
6-10 medium-sized cloves of garlic
¼ C lard (or sausage drippings, or bacon grease… you get the idea – though for a vegetarian version, using butter or sesame oil would work fine)
1 pre-cooked, mildly spicy sausage (leave out if you want this to be veg-friendly)
1 tsp each: tomato ketchup, grainy mustard

For the broth
½ C + 2-3 C water
1 tbsp each: soy sauce, granulated sugar, white wine vinegar (balsamic could also be lovely)
1 tbsp each: dried tarragon, dried (winter) savoury
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp dried rosemary

For the toasts
3 slices of bread (cook’s choice – I’ve made this with everything from home-made whole wheat to store-bought wonder-fluff, and it works with whatever)
Havarti cheese, sliced thinly or grated (you can use the cheap, grocery-store blocks for this if you like, they work just fine) enough to cover all the slices of bread

1. In a cast iron frying pan, melt the fat over low heat
2. Grate ¾ of the carrot and slice the rest into paper-thin rounds
3. Peel the onions, cut them in half, then slice the halves into paper-thin rounds
4. Peel the garlic and mince in a garlic press
5. Slice the sausage in half length-wise, then slice into thin rounds
6. Combine the above in the frying pan and sauté, covered, on low heat until the onions are translucent and everything smells amazing
7. Add the ketchup and the mustard and stir in until well-combined
8. Allow to continue simmering on very low heat
9. In a sauce pan, combine the herbs, paprika, vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar with the half-cup of water and whisk together until a smooth “slurry” forms (you can use a fork)
10. Add the rest of the water and bring to a boil
11. Carefully add the onion mixture to the broth mixture and lower the heat
12. Allow to simmer while you make the toasts
13. For the toast, set your three pieces of bread on a wire rack, on a cookie sheet
14. Cover each slice of bread with cheese (not too thick, but don’t be stingy, either)
15. With your oven-rack on its LOWEST point (below the middle of the oven), place the cookie sheet in the oven and BROIL the bread and cheese for about two minutes (long enough for the oven to reach broiling temperature – you will need to keep an eye on things to make sure nothing burns)
16. Turn off the oven
17. Ladle the soup into three bowls
18. Take the toasts out of the oven and set one, cheese-side-up, on the surface of each serving of soup
19. Serve and enjoy

U is for Un-Covered and Up-Cycling – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Maybe this is a silly way to go about this, but here we go. I’m currently lacking an altar cloth. This isn’t typically a huge big deal because, for the past seven years, I’ve had multiple small altars all over the house and have put them on surfaces that I’m not worried about over-heating or getting wet.
This time around, though, I’m putting everybody in (more or less) the same place – in part so that, when I have the altars lit, I don’t have to keep running up the stairs to make sure the top floor hasn’t inadvertently caught fire.
But my new altar/shrine space is on top of my fancy marquetry cabinet, and I do not want to wreck that lovely surface.
Consequently, I’m kind of in the market for an altar cloth.
You want to know what I’m considering?
Our new fridge? Rather than putting in the two bottom drawers, we’re just going to slide a Rubbermaid bin into the bottom of the fridge[1]. So we’ve got a piece of glass shelving just… sitting around, available.
So I’m thinking I’ll grab one of my many, MANY shawls – probably the white one that was my grandmother’s (she may or may not have woven it herself, I’m not sure) – and use that as an altar cloth, which I’ll then cover with the glass shelf, so that the fabric and the wood are both covered with a fire-and-water-proof medium that I can put candles and incense on, and that I can wash easily when I need to.
This feels both brilliant-creative (‘cause it is) and a bit silly/opportunistic because… fridge parts? Really? But cooking and preserving are a huge part of my life and my religiosity, so having a piece of a refrigerator incorporated into my altar doesn’t seem entirely out of place, even as it does seem a little… I dunno… like I’m going to wind up in one of those lists of signs that you’re a “red neck”[2] pagan.
In any case, that’s what I’m planning.
On with the washing of the fridge parts!
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] We’ll see how well that works… um… I’ll keep you posted.
[2] I know. And also, really… It still fits. Broke. Prone to fermenting my own ale in a large, plastic bucket and making my altar candles out of re-purposed bacon grease, I have totally used a chicken leg as a wand. Yes, actually, that’s me. On with the fridge!

U is for Unholy Harvest (Sacred Desire Ritual) – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So I’m just back from nearly a week in Toronto, seeing my People and my extended leather family/phamily, and it’s been a wonderful thing. I mean, yes, I’ve got “Con Crud” with the sore throat, slight fever, and runny every-damn-thing that go with it, but it was still a wonderful thing.
Every year there’s a current of Woo that runs through Harvest. A lot of us aren’t Woo People – either because we’re atheist-skeptic types who want nothing to do with that stuff, or because we’re “Woo Adjacent” but understand it in psychological/physical terms rather than magical/mystical/spiritual/religious/energetic terms, or because their particular Faith does Woo differently from the pagan weird-ball types that crave this kind of ritual – but a tremendous number of us are Woo People, are witches and tantricas, TCM & Reiki practitioners, warlocks and Wiccans and Heathens, who make up this subsection of my People who need to put our roots down in this space/Space together.
And we did ritual this year: On purpose, and as a group.
Now, before I get into it, I want to just acknowledge that some of the venue rules (no open flames, essentially) were broken, and I’m not okay with that. I understand the importance of having Actual Fire in this kind of ritual, both because it’s a ritual about desire and because there’s nothing like candle light in this digital/electronic world to open the doors in people’s minds that say “we’re outside of the every-day now”. But in ritual space it really is the thought that counts, and I know that. A flickering LED “tea light” in a red glass cup, blessed and dressed appropriately will accomplish the same ends (I’ve had way too many moments of “Oh, yeah, you don’t need to blow this one out” to not know that they make really excellent stand-ins for wax candles) without putting us at risk of losing our ritual/play/learning space or our opportunity to keep doing rituals like this in this space.
So there was that.
The ritual itself was pretty amazing.
Given what I’ve been studying over the past year or two, I was able to recognize a lot of the threads that went into it (or relate what went into it to stuff I’ve been studying… I won’t know which is which until I’ve had a chance to swap book lists with a couple of awesome femme witchy types, but still). I saw elements of Reclaiming, of Barbara Carellas style Tantra, of (Blue Star?) Feri, of Wild Wood ecstatic techniques, as well as touches of martial arts sparring that had been retooled into something more erotic and dance-like, and breathing techniques that I recognize from my own (rather rusty) singing practice. There was a lot of body work and some trust/touch stuff happening as well.
I cried through a lot of it, which is not surprising.
The over-arching work of the ritual was to create a sigil that called up/in your deepest desire. I won’t tell you what mine is (clearly), but I feel like I’ve taken another step towards putting myself all the way back together again, which is a good thing. What surprised me was how easy it was to come up with a sigil for this particular working. Usually I draw a total blank when it comes to stuff like that, so I’m taking the ease of that creativity as a good sign.
Beyond that, my partner for one of the body exercises told me she had a good time “meeting my horned beast” and her words shot through me because I know where my horned beast lives. Walk onto my shadow-bus and he’s in the front row, sometimes with a bull’s head, sometimes with a boar’s. It was kind of like having a puzzle piece slot into place, like… “Oh! That’s who you are, that’s where you fit. That’s what this face in the basement of my brain relates to in how I live and what I do.”
I mean, I have no clue what to do with that information, exactly, but… at least I have that information. Y’know?
The other thing that happened, that was big enough to be picked up on by other people (I think, going by the comments one of my friends made after the fact) was that, during the energetic washing portion of the ritual, I called in water to wash me over, and she came. Like, two BIG waves that bowled me over and rocked me in that rocking-in-the-spirit kind of way.
So it was big. And I got to sing. And I have a piece of the thread we used – symbolic of blood ties – to connect us all together, which I’ve since spun into the yarn that will go into making of the stripes on my fetish shawl (my spinning kit was in the room, pretty-much by accident, for the whole thing which, like… I feel like that was a necessary thing as well as a happy accident, y’know?) so things are… coming along and doing what they need to do to be what they need to be. Which sounds kind of weird, when I write it down, but there it is.
My wife was waiting for me when I came out, and I asked her “are you getting anything off of me right now?” and she told me I was glowing like a lighthouse and “Oh, god, the photons”. Which kind of matched how I was feeling, so it’s nice to know it wasn’t just me… y’know?
So that was the (deliberate) holy ground at Unholy Harvest. I hope we get the chance to do it again. <3
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Nyk is Alive, Goddesses Afoot: Missing Person in Ottawa FOUND

I’d have posted this sooner, but (a) I was out of town at Unholy Harvest, and (b) I haven’t had internet access since last Thursday afternoon (it was hooked up in the new house yesterday, but only started working this morning).
Nyk Morrigan has been found. She’s safe, she’s okay enough to be able to talk to people on the phone. I have no other details and I don’t need any.
Thank you to everyone who spread the word, re-blogged, and sent the Woo her way. I was so sure that her body would be pulled out of the river, and I can’t entirely express how happy and relieved I am to have been wrong about that.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!
On a related note: If you would like other people to experience this kind of relief, or you want to “pay it forward” in some way, you might consider donating to the No More Stolen Sisters campagne at Amnesty International, and spreading the word when other women and girls – like Diamond Saddleback, below – go missing.

Diamond Saddleback
15 years old
Black hair, brown eyes, indiginous
5’6″, 120lbs
Scar on right cheek
Pierced nose, pierced lip
Last seen on October 7th, in Red Deer, Alberta
Wearing: jeans, white sneakers, and a black hoodie

Diamond Saddleback
15 years old
Black hair, brown eyes, indiginous
5’6″, 120lbs
Scar on right cheek
Pierced nose, pierced lip
Last seen on October 7th, in Red Deer, Alberta
Wearing: jeans, white sneakers, and a black hoodie
If you have any information that will help find her, please call:
Red Deer Police at: 403-343-5575
Crime Stoppers at: 1-800-222-8477
You can also get in touch with Crime Stoppers through their website.

Missing Person in Ottawa – Please Help in Any Way You Can

My wife spoke to her Lady, asking if this woman could be sent home safe, and her Lady said “Don’t ask for that”. I gather what this meant was “The price for such an ask is far too high. Don’t ask.” But I’m afraid this woman is going to be dragged out of the river. I’m afraid we’re already too late.
None the less:

Nyk Morrigan / Laura Way: 36 years old. 5’4″.
Blue eyes + short, bright redish-burgundy hair.
Small nose-stud on right side. Eyebrow piercing on left side. Butterfly tattoo on upper-left chest.
No clothing description available. Believed to be traveling from Barhaven to Gatineau on the city bus around 8:15pm on Tuesday, October 7th.
If you know her whereabouts or have any information to share, please call the police at:
613-2361222 ext 2912

Nyk Morrigan / Laura Way: 36 years old. 5’4″.
Blue eyes + short, bright redish-burgundy hair. Small nose-stud on right side. Eyebrow piercing on left side. Butterfly tattoo on upper-left chest. No clothing description available.
Believed to be traveling from Barhaven to Gatineau on the city bus around 8:15pm on Tuesday, October 7th.
If you know her whereabouts or have any information to share, please call the police at: 613-2361222 ext 2912
Even if it’s too much to ask, I still hope. Let her be alive. Let her be okay.

Full Moon (and New Moon) – Blood Moon Crests (and Begins)

So I never posted an entry for Blood Moon’s new moon. Woops. Things have been a little busy around here.
At the moment, we’re about (probably just shy of, really) half-way through the move. We’ve got a little bit of furniture left to bring over, but most of the stuff that’s left is stuff that has to be sorted and weeded and Dealt With in a time-consuming manner.
We’re already living at the new house, which is WONDERFUL. The difference, just in terms of my general well-being, between the beginning of Blood Moon and NOW has been imense. Two weeks ago, I was in the middle of a full-time temp contract, trying to get the hang of running a busy front desk during the day, and trying to cook in a desperately pared-down kitchen – most of-which was in bags on my living room floor – as soon as I got home, whilst packing and moving stuff as quickly as two exhasuted and frazzled people are capable of moving it, once the dishes were done. Now, I’m finished my contract and, while things are still on the hectic side (we’re going out of town, the day after tomorrow, for An Unholy Harvest – I’m quite looking forward to the ritual workshops that I’ll be attending, for example – so there’s a lot to get done in terms of packing and prep on that front) at least we’re in a roach-free house (knock on wood…) and I’m cooking in a kitchen where I’ve got all of my equipment and most of my food supply (we haven’t transferred the contents of the fridge/freezer unit yet, since we still have to give the new-fridge shelves a good, thorough wash before installing them) and that makes a hell of a difference, even if my studio (I get a studio!) and half the kitchen are still full of boxes and bags that have yet to be unpacked.
Things are going far more smoothly, and its showing in our tempers, which is wonderful.
Today I bought (a) daylight-spectrum 1450-lumin CFLs (“100 watt” if we’re talking incandescents, but only 23 watts in this case) to put in my studio, the living room, and the kitchen, as well as flower bulbs (two kinds of purple-themed tulips (one solid, dark purple and one white with purple stripes), some blue hyacinthes, and some kind of tiny, super-pale-blue (almost-but-not-quite white) flower that should come up around the same time as the snow-drops, chionadoxa, and scilla do (still need to get scilla, for sure). I also bought Quebec cranberries plus Ontario pears (I was so worried that I’d completely missed the season, but Nicastro’s still has them, so YAY!), garlic, and tomatoes for making cranberry curd, pear butter, and roasted-garlic-balsamic tomato sauce, respectively. I’ll be picking up a few pie-pumpkins some time late next week for pumpkin butter (and jack-o-lanterns!), too, but I can hold off on that for a little while yet. I’m already planning the garden that we’ll put in once May rolls around – a 2×8 perennial bed (rhubarb, sea berries, sun chokes (provided I like them – I’m about to give them a go, so we’ll see), red currants or raspberries, ground cherries (an annual, but they self-seed) peppermint, lovage, sage and thyme, and a common mallow if I can swing it) plus three or four 2×8 annual beds complete with arching trelisses between them for climbing crops like squash and pole beans, and hanging baskets for vining tomatoes plus chard and kale (to keep the slugs from getting all of it).
Blood Moon (Harvest Moon, Ancestor Moon) is the moon of the Last Harvest, the moon of Slaughter, the time when we make the switch from shoots-and-fruits to Root Time. With the count-down on for getting out of the old apartment, I’m feeling the anxiety that comes – the squirrels are feeling it, too, I’m sure – with shorter, colder days and the very real need to get everything Done, get everything In before the ice is on the puddles in the mornings and even the kale is keeling over (although, realistically, we’ve got another two months for the kale, which grows into early December here, before the cold and the dark say “Time’s Up”).
For the rest of us, though, Time is definitely running out. The leaves of my neighbour’s asian fuzzy squash plants are wilted and brown, and our own hardy plants (jade, philodendron, hens-and-chicks) are coming in off the porch this evening, lest the frost take them in the night.
I have offerings to make the the land, before it goes to sleep for the winter, an altar or three to set up, an apartment to leave behind (and a lot to move before then), and a squash-heavy feast to plan before this lunar cycle is done.
Wish me luck!