First Weekend in June – A “Productive Home” Post

So! Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing, and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity. It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
 
IN THE GARDEN there has been a lot of planting!
 
I think I’ve got the garden pretty-much planted for the year. I mean, yes, I’d still like to get my hands on some lovage (and I may have a source!), but other than that and maybe transplanting a bunch of winter squash, I think we’re set. It’s time to grow-grow-grow!
 
Planting(s):
The beans, winter squash, and yellow zucchini seeds that I had just planted, the last time I did one of these things, are poking their heads out of the earth and starting to look like they might grow into Serious Plants.
That said, most of the winter squash… doesn’t seem to have come up? It looks like I got a package of Mostly Duds on that one. BUT a few are coming up – which I’ll need to move around slightly, as it appears Danger Squirrel has been moving things around on me – AND I’ve got some sprouting in the compost heap, where they’ll stay as they should be super happy in there. The winter squash (which I think miiiiiight be Fairy Tale Pumpkin) that sprouted early-on from compod seeds needs to be transplanted (again) so that it can get its roots inper soil than is available in my raised beds, but it seems to be growing fairly happily, which is a good sign.
I’m saying that I might actually get a real squash CROP this year, even though I know it’s way too early to be counting my pumpkins and butternuts at this point.
The daikon radish “perimeter fence” is also doing its thing – though it remains to be seen if it does its JOB, which is keeping the soil IN, and the marauding runner-roots of crab-grass and creeping charlie (which I love, and use as ground-cover in the front yard) OUT of, my vegetable patch – but they’re growing, so that’s good.
My transplanted rainbow chard seems to have recovered from being unceremoniously uprooted and moved around, which is kind of a relief. Ditto, the breakfast radishes, which had been growing all in a clump and are now much more spread out.
In addition to the seeds that are coming up, I planted a whole bunch of starts. Two ground-cherries, from a friend up the street, a jalapeno pepper and an aubergine from another couple of friends (also up the street – I live in a goooood neighbourhood), and a bundle of goodies that I bought, once I had the $20 to do it (freelancer life, I tell you…), including:
A Lebanese Cucumber (because I think my first one got frost-zapped, or close to it, and I wanted to make sure I had some cukes this year)
A Japanese(?) Eggplant – the long, skinny ones
Chives (the standard-issue onion type, that get the purple flowers)
Lemon Balm
Sorrel (we’ll see if it takes off, the way my friend’s – also up the street – has in her shady front garden)
Black Cherry baby tomatoes
Roma tomatoes (I don’t actually remember the variety off the top of my head)
Beefsteak tomatoes (for my wife, who loves them. I’m… not holding out a tonne of hope, but we’ll see)
 
The friend who gave me the ground cherries may have some “mild salsa peppers” to send my way, as well. (Their parents have a Tiny Hippie Farm in the Valley, where they raise laying hens, and they often have spare plant-starts to give away to their youngster’s garden-enabled friends).
 
In Other News: My raspberry bush has one (1) flower! But there’s a strong possibility of more, so I am starting to get hopeful for fruit in the back yard! 😀
 
Harvesting:
Lots of rhubarb.
Lots of mustard greens.
You’ll hear more about both of those, below.
Beyond that, the garden is still young, and most of my perennials are flavourful herbs, rather than early veggies, so there’s not been a lot to pull out of the ground just yet. I admit, I’m hoping for a week or two more of cool weather (although maybe not as cool as it’s been…) so that my peas and greens can stay comfortable and my radishes have a solid chance to get big enough to harvest. >.> It’s funny. I want my peas to start flowering, but I don’t want my khol crops to bolt. But those things happen at the same time! I have to remember that if I want my fruit crops to start producing, I have to let my greens go to seed as well. 😉
 
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been fermenting. And cleaning. And furniture-moving. O.O
 
Ferments:
So I treated my kefir grains to some whipping cream. As you can imagine, it’s much thicker than it has been, AND it’s delicious. Not that I’m going to switch my kefir to an all-cream-all-the-time diet, but it’s definitely something I’m doing again, and will probably try to do every now and then for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure that I could use this extra-thick kefir to make, effectively, a sour-cream “cheese cake” type custard, but… maybe? Certainly something I’d like to try!
Earlier this week, I made orange-pops, which is a recipe I got out of My First Cookbook EVAR (I think I was seven, if not slightly younger, when I was given this cookbook). Basically, you take a (small – slightly more than 1C) tin of frozen orange juice, mix in 2 cups of yoghurt, and a tablespoon of vanilla, blend with a fork (or a whisk), spoon it into freezer-cups, and freeze it over night. I used kefir instead of yoghurt. Tastes great, but it doesn’t freeze super-solid (unlike the chocolate-coconut ones), which means sometimes I pull the stick out with no popsicle attached. I wonder if adding coconut milk to this recipe would help or hinder on that front…
In other fermentation news, we have gone through about 1/3 of the sour kraut. I’m enjoying it, my wife is enjoying it, and tbh I’m also loving how quick and easy it is to add veggies to a sandwich – no washing, no chopping, because it’s all already done. TO THAT END, when I pulled a grocery-bag full of mustard greens, dandelion greens, and Vietnamese garlic greens on Wednesday (and picked some wild grape leaves, on the way home), I decided to ferment them into something like a sour kraut (except not, because these greens are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more delicate). It’s an experiment – I threw a little bit of onion, and a bunch of mustard seeds and (dried) coriander, plus a bird chili into the mix – and we’ll see how it goes. I HOPE it’s good, as it’s a good way to use up pulled greens, but… Look, honestly? Three days later, there was no bubbling going on. I added some kefir whey (I wanted to skip that step, to see if I could do a vegan ferment and also avoid the mold possibilities in letting dairy just hang out on top of the salt water like that, but oh well) and we’ll see if it helps, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m wondering if the dandelion greens have too many natural defenses (unlikey?) or if I just washed my greens a little too well? We shall see.
I have also made bread but, since it’s not sour dough, I’m not sure that it counts as “fermenting” at this point. Still! Bread! The loaves turned out small, but well. And that’ll do.
 
Other Kitchen Stuff:
One of my favourite Heathens is coming to visit for a few days (in town for a conference, and we’re conveniently located), so I’ve been tidying All The Things, prepping the guest-room, getting a spare house-key cut, checking my stocks to see what kind of vegan food I can whip up for dinner on Monday, that sort of thing. BUT I also spent a big chunk of yesterday moving in a WASHER AND DRYER (!!!) which meant my house felt really chaotic for a while.
The washer and dryer, which were given to us by some generous friends who were moving & at the same time and said we could have their old set FREE if we were able to ourselves, are currently sitting in my kitchen, where my ancient kitchen table used to be. Technically, the table is still the – we’ve just cleared it off (which took several days worth of finding homes for Things that got dumped onto the table because they didn’t have anywhere else to live) and shifted it around a bit.
I suspect the new machines won’t be hooked up for, probably, another month. the washing machine needs to be further moved into our basement (which… it may not fit through the door, but we’re willing to give it a shot) where the hook-up is – or else my ex-contractor wife will need to renovate the kitchen, which (as this is a rental) we’d rather not do – and the dryer will need to be hooked up to the vent (which IS in the kitchen) and set on top of… something… so that it’s not blocking the kitchen’s Cold Air Return. Both machines need a bit of a clean before that happens.
We’ll also need to find a new spot for that table, but an old friend (read: ex-partner), whose stuff we’ve been storing for two years, has decided to make a more permanent move to Alberta and will be collecting the rest of their things from us some time in the next month. Which means the plant stand and small cupboard we’ve been using as bird-cage stands will need to be replaced. With, for example, an antique drop-leaf table.
None of that has happened yet, but the table is tidy for the first time in a year-and-a-half, and the laundry machines are IN, and that’s a major part of the battle. I’m really happy about it. 😀
 
ANYWAY. That’s been my Productive Home week this week. Still to do: Make a vegan dessert (either chocolate Wacky Cake or a rhubarb pie), vacuum the main floor, sweep upstairs, and put clean sheets on the guest-bed. Also figure out whether or not I can hang a set of curtains today. :-\ (The walls are lath and plaster, which means stuff meant to be screwed into drywall… doesn’t work so well. But also, our guest would probably appreciate some curtains). ONWARDS!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Moon – Flower Moon Begins

Today, the new moon shifts from Taurus into Gemini.
The folks at Hoodwitch – who point out that this one is a Super Moon? – mention that this is a time when people may find themselves feeling a little overwhelmed, or else feeling like they can take on more than they actually can. (Guilty. My wife totally sat me down and told me not to reinvent the wheel on a particular project). They suggest that this is a good time, energetically, for rituals around goal-setting (new moons in general) but particularly for creative writing, communication, and social boundaries: Gemini is chatty and social, but is also an Air sign so, tarot-wise, Gemini exists in Sword Time, in terms of things you may want to focus on. Want to Work yourself to be better at Using Your Words? Now’s the time to do it. Want to get your actions more in line with your actual values? This – especially with Venus squaring Pluto right now – is a prime opportunity get that stuff sorted out, make a plan and implement it (for longer-term project, which this might be, I recommend Miss Sugar’s New Year New You magical-action project prompts – I’ve found them really helpful on a number of occasions). Want to focus and get clear about some Stuff you’ve got that’s keeping you confused and spiraling, dig down and sort out what you really, really want (as Ariel, at Siobhan’s Mirror, suggests I do in her Scorpio Tarotscope for this New Moon), or maybe let go of some Old Baggage? This is a good time to work on that (and, handily, Hoodwitch has you covered with a Meditation suggestion).
 
Liz Worth talks about Gemini New Moon as a time of social choices. She offers a handy tarot spread (bottom of the linked post) and asks us to consider who is choosing us, and where we’re putting our social energy. Are we deepening connections with people who matter to us? Are we reaching out to people who reach back to us? Or are we tossing our social energy “juggling balls” at people who aren’t tossing them back, and aren’t showing up? Are we expressing ourselves to the best of our abilities? She points out that Gemini Time has a shadow side that looks like indecision and lack of commitment, and a certain amount of abdication when it comes to owning our choices (and our ability to make them). <– This is absolutely something that I have a LOT of problems with and am only very recently starting to get the hang of. I've been faced with a series of crap options on the personal front and, not liking any of them, have chosen to stick with the status quo while telling myself (and firmly believing) that someone else had all the power in those situations… even though, really, I was making a choice to stick with something that wasn’t going well. This Gemini New Moon is a good reminder for me to watch myself, and my (in)actions, in those situations. As Hoodwitch points out: “Practice acceptance this week, even about the things you want to change. Acceptance isn’t consent; it’s self-awareness.”
 
Questions to Ask Yourself during Gemini New Moon and its Waxing Period:
What can I cultivate, nurture, and allow to take root within myself as this moon waxes?
You’ve got all that composted energy from the recent Balsamic Moon to work with so, set goals, yes. But then act on them. A goal is just a wish, if you don’t put some action into it. For each goal you set, come up with one internal and one external action you can take to further it. (E.G.: I want to use my words better. Internal Actions: I can do a faceup tarot spread to help me sort out what I want to say, or I can bless and drink a tea made from nettles and thyme, to bolster my courage and my way with words. External Actions: I can push myself to Use My Words to ask for what I want or need – attention, respect for a boundary, choose your own adventure – clearly and specifically, once a day, for a week… and see how I feel).
What I can I breathe through and/or air out during this period of clarity? Gemini Time means connections, but Air Time more generally means boundaries and sometimes cutting ties, whether with people or with old habits. Get clear on what are deal breakers (and who or what need to be offered less of your time, energy, and attention as a result) versus what are things you can accept as a “price of admission” in your social interactions (and therefore work to stop spending your energy stewing about them)?
 
Ariel’s tarotscope for Scorpio suggests that good things (and some much-needed financial/material stability) come for those who stand their ground. Which is a relief to hear. Gods know I have a hell of a time talking about Money Stuff, and don’t have a really solid grasp of what “normal” or “healthy” look like when there’s cash on the table (or not on the table, as the case may be). I hope her predictions hold true, but I suspect I’ll need to Use My Words and have some scary/stressful discussions in the near future to make sure of that. O.O
 
As far as good things coming to me go… I’ve landed another part-time contract: One day per week (or a little less – more like 4 hours, with the option of a few more as needed) at a very respectable rate of pay, working From Home for a friend who needed, essentially, a research assistant. I’ve also received a wodge of seeds and starts from friends of mine (an aubergine and a jalapeno pepper; a couple of ground cherries; a whole bag of seed packets that I can use in the front and back gardens). I’m really enjoying showing off my garden, and trading rhubarb (stewed or cooked up like lemon curd) for plant starts or giving it as thank-yous. I’m also enjoying harvesting from it! Rhubarb Bars, stewed rhubarb for desserts; baby mustard greens, dandelion greens, and garlic chives for dinner veggies with pasta and cheese sauce; sage (which is about to flower – it’s gorgeous in flower!) used to flavour dips and roasts.
The garden doesn’t quite have its legs yet, so to speak, but it’s getting closer every day. I spaced out my radishes this morning, and we’ll have them to eat in another week or so. The chard is starting (slowly) to take off, and so is the kale. I’ve (re)-sewn sorrel, and I hope it will germinate this time ’round. I may be able to get some lovage (a heavy perennial “herb” that works more like a vegetable. You use the stalks and leaves in place of celery and I think it would be good for “transition periods” – right when it’s available – for soups, stews, and as a pot veggie to cook up with a roast) from a friend of a friend.
I planted (well, seed-scattered) larkspur, forget-me-not, and field poppies in the front yard, and I now have lupin and nasturtium seeds to add as well. I’ll be getting some Lily-of-the-Valley and, maybe, some Dame’s Rocket (“Wild Phlox”) seeds later in the summer, after they’ve had a chance to seed. My goal is to hit up one of the markets (Byward or Parkdale) in the next week or so and see if I can’t get my hands of a few more herb, flower, and veggie starts to top things off but, for the moment, I’m waiting for my seeds to germinate… so that I can remember where they were planted. Adding more transplants has to wait until then! 😉
 
 
~*~
 
Movement: Not a whole heck of a lot. I spent most of last week sick, and I’m still recovering. I’m finding I need more sleep than usual (or at least “usual” during long-daylight time) and I get tired faster. I’m still walking a lot, and working in my garden (which involves lots of bending and squatting and digging), but I’m also taking a lot of rest breaks.
 
Attention: Paying a LOT of attention to boundaries and how much energy I have available to throw at any given project. Some of this means checking, and double-checking my schedule to make sure I know how much of my time is devoted to Other People (whether that’s social time OR paid-work time) versus how much I have available for writing, tending the garden, home-keeping, and other stuff that’s more solitary and self-recovering. Also working to be more actively attentive-to/engaged-with my wife, making time for date excursions and conversations, trying to make a little LESS space in my life for “screen time” (says the lady who has been on her computer for four hours at this point…)
 
Gratitude: Friends & family who give me things – Plant starts, seeds, a covered hotel room (!!!), a car to borrow (!!!), knife-throwing lessons, a recently-replaced washer and dryer (!!!!!) – to help me out. (Seriously, I can’t tell you how excited I am about all of the above, but in particular about the fact that we are going to have an in-house washing machine and drying machine as soon as early June! To be able to make the week’s bread, work my new from-home job, do the dishes, AND do the laundry all at the same time? SO AMAZING!) Grateful, too, for a long walk with my wife, dinner and conversation (and compassionate advice) with a friend, garden chats and catching up with other friends. The ability (thanks to the above-mentioned car and hotel room) to attend my family reunion in mid-June. Grateful for warm weather and long, sunny days. Grateful that my neighbour lets me use her garden hose to water my plants.
 
Inspiration: Dane Edidi’s poetry book, Remains: A Gathering of Bones JUST arrived in the mail, and I’m looking forward to digging into it. I’m also told that one of my library holds has come in, and I’m excited to dig into the work of one of Urban Fantasy’s grandmothers. I’m also getting inspired by the garden- and kitchen-craft of other folks – whether they’re friends and neighbours, or long-distance folks whose blogs I read. It’s great to geek about gardening and fermenting with other people who do what I do, to trade plants (or SCOBYs), and get ideas for what to try next.
 
Creation: Lots of kitchen creativity. Lots of garden nurture, though that’s not exactly “creative” on my part. Coming up with new recipes. Writing poems. Made jewelry for a friend (who was wearing them when she won her Big Award – I’m so chuffed about that tiny, rather insignificant, but special for me detail). Hoping I can push next week for a writing date or two. I read the work of people who come up with, like THIRTY, GOOD poems in the space of seven days, and I’m just like… How do you do that?? But I want to try, too, so I shall. (Remember what I said, above, about Internal and External things I can do to forward my goals? External: Schedule writing dates and put them in the calendar, then follow-through and attend them. Internal: Refill my creative well by reading lots of poetry by other femmes (which will then be glossed in my poetry writing, so…)

May Long Weekend in the Garden – A “Productive Home” Post

So! Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing, and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity. It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
IN THE GARDEN there has been sprouting and there has been planting! Of both seeds and starts! And there has also been (a tiny bit of) harvesting! Because perennial food crops are fantastic!
 
PLANTED:
I picked up some starts from the local Home Hardware (I’m not choosy). Purple basil, peppermint (I seriously managed to kill my peppermint last year – possibly due to drought, or possibly due to poor management – so I’m trying again), Lebanese cucumber, yellow bell pepper, and yellow cherry tomato. I got them in the ground early this afternoon, along with planting some golden zucchini seeds. We’ll see if they come up.
 
I’ve got scarlet runner beans and butternut squash, along with a “perimeter fence” of daikon radish (I’m hoping the long, thick tap-roots that develop will help keep water in, and invasive runner roots out, of the in-ground bed where I grow my cucurbitas and all my nightshades) planted as seeds, and have some probably-butternut squash coming up from compost-seeds already, which is nice. My rainbow chard is popping up all over, and I spent part of this afternoon transplanting it into more orderly rows (yeah, I’m doing rows… ish. I want my chard to have lots of room to get big and gorgeous and start thriving). My kale – which is, in theory, the Tuscan Black variety (Cavalo Nero) – seems to have sprouted, too, which is nice. I’ve been thinning out the self-seeded mustard greens a LOT in order to give the chard and kale some room to grow. Mustard, I’ve decided, makes a lovely “baby green” for salads, but isn’t something I love as a cooking green, partly because it bolts so darned quickly. It makes for decent sprouting broccoli when it bolts, though, so I’ll have to leave some to mature. 😉
 
The as’kebwan’ (sunchokes) are starting to sprout (again – I dug up a bunch earlier, as I needed to get the last of last year’s harvest out of the ground, once it had thawed – they’re great, by the way, and finding their way into a lot of stew and “potato” salad).
I have no idea if my (new to me) raspberry bush is going to flower this year. Or any year. But fingers crossed?
 
READY TO HARVEST / HARVESTED:
I have tonnes of rhubarb (and sage, and winter savoury) ready to harvest. Along with some frozen rhubarb left over from last year. Uhm. So, as I’ve previously mentioned, I need to make some pies. Or at least a Rhubarb Cafloutis or a crumble or shortcake or something. It makes a great coffee cake (I use the recipe in Company’s Coming “Muffins and More” for cranberry coffee cake, and just use diced rhubarb in lieu of cranberries) and, now that I have eggs in the fridge again, I may just go that route as it packs easily for lunches.
 
The sage has been getting picked and chucked into braises, fairly frequently, but I haven’t been doing a whole lot with the savoury. The dandelion greens and Vietnamese garlic (the tops, not the roots) have been getting added to pastas every so often, but (weirdly?) I’m concerned about using them up too quickly (or at least before the garlic starts to scape).
 
OTHER:
I turned the compost (first time!) and edged the in-ground beds (front and back). I’m happy with how the compost is doing. I put stuff like pizza boxes and newspapers in the compost heap in order to add carbon to a pretty “green stuff” heavy heap (at least I think it’s heavy on the green stuff, as it’s mostly spent coffee grounds, old tea bags, egg shells, and veggie ends) and its rotting into oblivion along with everything else, which I assume is a good sign.
Also, there are wriggly worms in the compost (and even in the raised beds!) and the soil in the back yard’s in-ground bed (which, until Wednesday, the compost heap was sitting directly on top of) is dark a relatively easy to turn – unlike the dirt in the rest of the yard, which is pretty compacted and mostly supports stuff with deep tap-roots, like dandelions.
 
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been baking and fermenting!
 
FERMENTS:
I’m drinking a LOT of kombucha lately. Partly because I’ve been home, sick, this past week, and drinking Lots Of Fluids has been a significant part of the bill, and partly just because it’s hot out now, or reasonably so, and I’m wanting cool bevvies, rather than hot ones (at least when I’m not hacking up a lung. Appetizing, I know). So I’ve been topping up my kombucha bottle a lot more frequently. NOTE: This makes for a less sharp kombucha which, with my love of the sour stuff, isn’t really what I’m going for. It’s still good, it’s just “lighter” than I like. I continue to cut it with a cup or two of lightly sweetened, long-steeped hibiscus (raspberry/pomegranate/etc) tea, as I like how that works out.
 
I’m continuing to make dairy kefir. My wife won’t touch it in terms of using it as a yoghurt substitute, but she likes it fine in baked goods, so I’m using it a lot in pancakes and coffee cake and similar. Even in bread (see below). I’m making Very Small Batches, and hoping I can get back to the stuff I was making in winter, where it would separate really evenly into curds and whey, and I could get super-thick “kefir cheese” (more like yoghurt or sour cream) that way, while using the whey in things like bechemel sauce or briases. Today, I made chocolate popsicles using (1) chocolate chips, (2) coconut milk, and (3) kefir. They probably won’t be solid until tomorrow, but they should be VERY delicious (and not overly sweet, which is a help when you want something refreshing on a hot day) if the liquid mixture is anything to go on.
 
I (finally) drained my sour kraut crock and packed the fermented cabbage (which is crunchy and done, but also salty AF, holy moly…) into some big mason jars and put it in the fridge. Time to start using this stuff on sandwiches. (Conveniently, I have some beet-and-bean spread sitting in the fridge that will work really nicely with this).
 
Speaking of sandwiches… I tried making a sour dough starter. It.. was not that? successful?
I separated out into Kinda Brown Water on top, and sludge on the bottom. Except, when I drained off the water, it was actually pretty bubbly and fermented-looking. So… It sort of worked? Maybe?
Basically, I poured the entire ferment into my most recent batch of bread, along with 2tsp of dry yeast, so while it was doing its thing, I don’t actually know if it was lively enough to lift a whole new batch of dough.
Yeah.
I’m learning to make sour dough from books like Michael Pollan’s Cooked, and I’m not too quick on the uptake. I don’t usually (yet) start making my bread dough the night before I actually want to bake it, and I’m realizing that if I want to do sour dough, that’s how it’s going to go. Or else I’m going to be starting the chef – like maybe making a chef from equal parts kefir and flour and water, which I’ve done, but am not entirely sure about (my wife liked it. I wasn’t too keen on the texture, which was a lot denser than I’m used to, but it was flavourful and made an acceptable sandwich, so it did the job) – at breakfast, and baking the bread after dinner. This is, by the looks of things, a bit of a slower process than the “only takes 2 hours” version using dry yeast woken up in sweetened warm water. So we’ll see. I’d like to keep this up, just because it would be nice to not need the dry yeast, eventually. But, for now, I’m really glad I have some on hand.
 
BAKING:
The entirety of this week’s baking has been the above-mentioned bread and rhubarb coffee cake. There are a couple of chicken legs baking in the oven right now – although that’s more like a “confit de poulet” than a “baked goods” kind of thing. It’ll be dinner along with some left-over potato salad (not made with sunchokes, or even at home, but left over from a catered lunch at a place where I was temping) and some wilted greens (as in: dandelions and garlic greens. I want that sorrel to successfully germinate even more now… Hm… a little lovage wouldn’t hurt, either…). Big Plans for this weekend include a new batch of bread (made with dry yeast, I have zero doubt), a further rhubarb Thing (maybe muffins), and cookies or cornbread. Probably not both.
 
 
GENERAL HOUSEHOLD STUFF:
Put together a care-package for someone who helped do the C-16 rally on Parliament Hill the other day. (Pasta, crushed tomatoes, salsa, tinned tuna, tinned soup, and 2L of pumpkin-coconut-lentil stew that I made with the stuff I had lying around).
I haven’t been gleaning a lot yet this year. I’ve got dandelions growing in my raised beds, so we’re just harvesting them like any other intentional crop. The the local fruit trees (my favourite cherry, plus tonnes of serviceberries) will be fruiting in about six weeks, and so will the red currants, and I’ve been watching their progress with GREAT interest. (The alley raspberries are about to flower, though they’ll take a little bit longer to fruit). I’m hoping the garden will keep us happily in greens all summer (and fall, and into the early winter…) with lots to spare for the freezer, so I’m not worrying too much about foraging for wild greens right now.
Went grocery shopping! I’ve been on “milk and eggs only” for 3-4 weeks, after a fairly lean winter. We’ve run out of a few things that I’ve been putting off replacing. It’s really nice to have cooking oil, mustard, mayonnaise, chocolate chips, and a bunch of other “not 100% necessary” things again. Plus I bought chicken. 7 chicken legs for $10. I have no idea if that’s a good price or not, but I’m really happy to have 3 meals for two + a chicken leg for some evening when I’m on my own over here, sorted as the greens start to come in. There’s still a lot of dry-goods to replace (particularly flour, but also honey and some basic baking things), and I want to re-stock on chicken and fish in one big go, though I suspect that will happen at Costco or similar, rather than ordering another half a pig. (Yet. We’re still finishing our first one). We’ve got a gallon of maple syrup due to arrive some time this coming week, which I’m looking forward to. I want to try using it more frequently in my baking.
As per usual, I’ve been offering the first slice of every new batch of bread to my gods and ancestors + Anybody local who wants to partake. Now that I’ve got the compost turned (and regularly watered – thanks to the neighbours who are okay with me using their hose), I can use it as an offering place for more stuff, should I happen to have it. The compost heap makes a great offering altar, just because it’s got All The Things in it – heat and wetness, earth and air, and movement, and change, all going on at once. If I manage to successfully make mead (hello, summer fermenting project), some of it will be going in there.
We turned the heat off. (Technically this happened a week ago, but close enough). It’s been wonderful to sleep with the windows open again!
I moved the fig tree outside. My landlord’s husband and I stood outside, drinking coffee and chatting about gardening. He said the fig tree needs a bigger pot (again), and that going around the edges with a big knife will help keep it from becoming root-bound. Which, admittedly, it might already be. But… we’ll see. It’s not technically ours, we’ve just been babysitting it for two years.
 
ANYWAY. That’s the state of the garden and the rest of the household for the moment.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Full Moon – Leaf Moon Crests

I planted Motherwort in my garden this morning. 😀 A friend of mine gave me three dug-up plants from her garden, and I gave her some culinary sage from mine. It’s been gentle-raining, off and on, all day, which should do it some good. My hyacinths bloomed this year, and my tulips are looking like they might manage a bloom or two as well. My Crane’s Bill (Wild Geranium) and Violas are about to flower, maybe the Lamia, too. The Lungwort, of course, has been going great gangbusters for weeks.
Things I would like to add to the front yard: mugwort, lily of the valley (the friend who gave me the motherwort has some she’s willing to part with, once the blooms are done), blood root, Siberian scilla/squills, grape hiacinths, blue crocuses, dark purple tulips (think Queen of the Night), sweet william, bee balm, Russian sage, more bergamot, and more columbines.
In the back, my peas are (just barely) coming up, and the self-seeded cilantro is too. I have self-seeded mustard greens coming up all over the place – which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand: Greens! On the other hand: No root space for my rainbow chard to take over, and I want LOTS of rainbow chard this year! I have a new raspberry plant – a gift from another friend, who contributed roughly half of my front yard garden plants last year – in the perennial bed, too, and need to start harvesting my rhubarb. Time to make some pies!
What would I like to add to my perennial bed? Sorrel (which I’ve seeded, but which may or may not come up this year), chives, and maybe a red currant bush.
In the neighbourhood, the service berries have started blooming, and the apples, pears, cherries and, y’know, lilacs aren’t too far behind (give it another week, probably). The maple and birch trees are in flower. The leaves are bursting forth all over the place.
 
Hilariously, or not, I’m back to sewing dog harnesses. All that job and money stuff that the recent New Moon touched upon? Well, I got an easy-out in terms of dealing with them – at least for the time being.
I needed to find a part-time job to make sure I had some reliable income, and the gal who runs the dog harness company lost 2/3 of her brand new staff inside of the first week, so I said I could go in and do what I’d been doing before, and we worked out a deal. As of the Full Moon, I’ve been getting paid to sew dog harnesses (YAY!) plus, while I’m still going to need to take the bus into work, at least some – probably most – of the time, I’ve worked out with a co-worker that she’ll give me a lift home on the days that I’m in. I’ve offered her preserves and/or garden produce as a thank-you for this because food? I always have enough food to share. ❤
 
Anyway, with regards to the actual moon phase… Ha. Unsurprisingly, I'm writing this about three days late, and the full moon in Scorpio is actually waning through Sagittarius and into Capricorn. Still, I'm working from the perspective that the astrological house that the Moon is in at Full and at New have a certain amount of sway over, well, things I might want to be paying attention to at the time, if you will. (A bit like writing prompts for you brain/life?)
So here we are:
 
The Hoodwitch (who also offers some suggestions for herbs & stones to work with at this time) tells us that: one can use the energy of a Scoprio Full Moon to get to the heart of, and excise (hello, waning moon!), intense stuff around guilt, lust, and obsession.
 
Chani Nicholas reminds us that “Power must be claimed” and suggests that the current full moon energy can be used to tap into the intense, transformative power that comes from actually checking in with your feelings and sorting them out.
 
Mystic Mama points out that Scorpio Full Moon is a time when we can get a good, long look at what we really want, and who we really are – both the stuff we like, and could be proud of if we’d only let it out, and the stuff we don’t like and try to pretend isn’t really there. She asks us to check in with ourselves about whether our goals are really OUR goals, or if we’re wanting things that we think we’re supposed to want due to what we were taught to value in our families of origin, what we think we need to “want” (or present as wanting) in order to get our (secret, unspoken – Scorpio Time is the time to take a look at those) needs met, or just due to swimming in the societal kool-ade our whole lives.
 
Sarah Gottesdiener over at Little Red Tarot offers wisdom from Liz Migliorelli, saying that “noticing is not enough”, not only are we called to tune into our deepest, most intense emotions and intuitions, not only are we called to step up and do the hard mental, emotional, and physical work of transformation, we’re also called to release and let go, to “let the old dreams die, let the wrong ones go” so that we can let the right ones in. She asks “How can we ease our physical tension around true embodiment of our full range of emotion?”
 
Tarot-wise, Scorpio Full Moon is a High Priestess kind of time, but also a Moon kind of time. A diving deep and surfacing kind of time. A feeling ALL the feelings time. A hard-look-in-the-mirror time. It’s a time to heal ourselves. A time to rise from the ashes of whatever Tower needed to be burned.
It’s a good time to do rituals and/or exercises to help heal your sexual/reproductive organs and – Scorpio being the sign of Go Deep or Go Home – to heal your emotional Stuff around same. So, Scorpio Full Moon energy is good to harness around things like getting over the ex who broke your heart, easing the heartache of infertility or the hurt, rage, and confusion of sexual trauma, as well as for untangling the internal knots that keep you shame-spiraling around wanting, needing, or feeling things in a big way. It’s good energy, too, to harness if you want to get your second chakra (Pluto) AND/OR your third chakra (Mars) spinning on good bearings.
 
This is a time to get to the roots of what needs to re-balance, within yourself, in terms of:
– Money Feels
– Sex Feels
– Guilt or Shame around the concept/accusation of “selfishness”;
– Where (and why, and how much) you’re offering your energy versus what’s coming back to refill that well;
– Creativity Feels;
– Sorting out where you are really being victimized or taken advantage of, versus where you are martyring yourself, or shooting yourself in the foot, by hiding your desires, down-playing your needs and waiting for others to guess and provide
– Guilt or Shame around taking time for art, pleasure, beauty, and other stuff that gets dismissed as “frivolous”;
– Blocks around your sense of Self;
– Blocks around creating change in your habits and behaviours
– Feelings around your Personal power (Do you give it away in order to secure something you fear being without? Do you practice building the courage to be direct about asking for what you want?)
 
Questions you can ask yourself during Scorpio Full Moon and its waning period:
What can I let go of
and allow to pass on as the moon wanes through determined Capricorn, stubborn but open-minded Aquarius, and sensitive, cathartic Pisces?
What can I compost into something new and fertile in the roiling cauldron of the coming dark/balsamic moon (one that will be characterized by a bold and sensual energy that matches Scorpio’s own intensity)?
 
 
What am I working to let go of? Scarcity-Thinking. Resentment. Anxiety around my ex (ha, see above…) who will be moving back to town in less than two months. The assumptions I make about what I surely must want in terms of personal interactions and expectations. The heaviness of my metaphorical foot on the brakes when it comes to opening up to pleasure and desire (yes, even still, even after all the progress I’ve already made, this continues to be A Journey).
What about you?
 
~*~
 
Movement: Tonnes of walking. A lot of time on my feet, too, which is less great. Modeling work. Digging (and squatting, and bending) in the garden!
 
Attention: I am trying to Science my way through decoding my own Relationship Assumptions, and notice (but it’s not enough to just notice) the points where I’m defaulting to a rote reaction (the irritation I feel when I think I’m being ignored or punished; the frisson of fear that shows up when a crush talks about relationship developments with other folks) rather than checking in with how I actually feel (See both Chani’s and Hoodwitch’s Scorpio horoscopes for this week – linked above) and/or where that feeling might be coming from. I am also paying a TONNE of attention to my garden right now. It’s so exciting to watch things sprouting, greening, growing, and coming back to life! Ditto the numerous (more have been planted since last year!) neighbourhood service berries and my favourite alley-way cherry tree as they bloom and – hopefully, eventually, fruit!
 
Gratitude: Thankful for fresh greens in the garden (they are dandelions, but I am A-Okay with that!) and for my seeds germinating and pushing up through the ground. Thankful for a gentle walk with my wife this morning, and also for the guts to ask a cafe-worker if they ever have tarot readers working at their shop (I now have an email address to ask about coming in and doing for-pay readings once a month. Fingers crossed!) Grateful for friends who bring me plants and food. Grateful for a part-time job with co-workers who are game for ride-sharing. Grateful for plant trades and fermentation-supply trades and a broad community of people who share what we have.
 
Inspiration: Lots of Femme Poetry coming in the mail, and in through the library, too. All the green and growing things giving me hope.
 
Creation: Planting in the garden, but also thinning and weeding, putting a little more effort into “curating” the garden and making those spaces grow what I want to grow. Still working on the stocking extensions, but I’m on the last push and will, with any luck, have a finished pair of stockings by this time net week! Taking myself on writing dates (sometimes with other people, sometimes solo) and working on my Lip Gloss manuscript. Pushing for a focus on femme inter-reliance and also on magic and witchcraft, as there are SO MANY witchy femmes out there, and I want to touch on what we do and how we do it.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Divination as Psychic Homeopathy

Leah Lakshmi’s thoughts on kitchen table healing and tarot cards. Go have a look.

Brownstargirl Tarot

I’ve gotten more open about being a healer- I can even say it to people without coughing. It’s when they ask me, “What kind of healing?” that I still stammer a bit. I can joke with friends about being Deanna Troi identified, or being  “psychic tarot card reader identified”, but it’s still a profession with a lot of woo stigma in it.

It’s sort of easy to say that I do tarot and divination. But I’ve realized that what I do maybe is a little more than that- or maybe it’s what most tarot readers do most of the time. A friend and client said, “It’s like you’re one part card reader priestess, one part older sister giving you the real deal, one part life coach, with a little bit of somatics thrown in.”

A lot of folks who come see me are people who feel more comfortable getting their cards…

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New Moon – Leaf Moon Begins; Beltane 2017

New Moon in Taurus was on Wednesday. Beautiful green things are leafing out all over. The hyacinths are blooming, even in my shady AF front yard. My wife’s Dog Harness contract is over-over-over (beyond doing some management stuff, which is fine and won’t take too much of her time) and she is back to doing actual LEATHER work at her workshop. Chani is telling us all about how New Moon in Taurus brings love and solid commitment to accomplishing good things, how Venus (which is finally stationed direct, and which rules Taurus) is being a little more gentle with her lessons while still effortlessly getting thing done as she moves through compassionate Pisces. The HoodWitch informs us that this particular New Moon touches on, well, a whole lot of stuff that’s in my personal “Oh, gods, do I really have to deal with this???” house – money, work, emotional patterns based on security – all that Job Stuff, not to mention the “too cautious to move, too incautious not to leap” stuff that’s been asking me to find a behvioural happy medium that will actually let me get stuff don – like body, sensuality, home-and-family STUFF – without a lot of hand waving and/or skipping over (or right back into) my own shit in the process. The HoodWitch horoscopes for this week are ringing a lot of bells, on that front, too. Handily, she has some lovely, appropriately sensual, simple rituals to help me (or you, for that matter) focus intentions and, frankly, put a call out for help or support on dealing with my Feeeeelings And Stuff around these subjects & situations.
On an only somewhat related note, Ariel, over at Siobhan’s Mirror, has handed me a tarotscope that’s all about recognizing that wishes can, and have, come true. The tarot reading I gave myself at New Moon said much the same, with the Nine of Cups featuring prominently and a heap of signs pointing to All That Struggle being behind me (well, mostly – my Present includes the 3 of swords crossed with the High Priestess, which suggests I’m still Processing) and the need for me to realize that, rather than all this good stuff I’m starting to step into being just “wishful thinking” and me kidding myself, I’m actually shifting towards the more playful, well-boundaried, pleasure-achieving open-heartedness that I’ve been striving for with regards to my Queen Of Cups project.
All of which is fantastic news. I mean, seriously. LOOK at this:
 

 
Beltane (today) dawned rainy, grey and cold. Which is pretty par for the course, in these parts, even if we were having gorgeous, gorgeous super-warm weather earlier in the week.
I’m home today. Planting sorrel and collards. Doing multiple loads of dishes. Vacuuming. Baking bread. Baking a lot of things, actually, mostly to use up the kefir in the fridge and make room for the next batch. >.>
We hung the ancestor photos (all but two – we ran out of screws) – FINALLY – over the weekend, and I’m feeling a whole lot better about that whole situation.
 
New Moon plus the Year Gate swinging into Spring and towards the rapidly approaching Summer (that’s Ottawa – Three weeks between grey-and-mud-and-near-freezing-temperatures and flowers-and-flipflops-and-30-degree-highs), no wonder things feel like new beginnings.
 
What do I want to call into my life? Well, as Miss Sugar puts it, Butter, A Dress, and Travel.
Maybe, more accurately, I should say that I’m feeling hopeful on the heart front and, while there are still things to be sorted out, I don’t think I’m in the metaphorical dark woods anymore. I’m in the sparsely treed borderlands, at worst. (I reeeeeeeeeally hope I’m not wrong on that). But I’ve still got Scarcity Brain eating at me and, frankly, I’m thirty-seven. I would like my middle-age to look less like Catfood For Dinner Is A Real Possibility and more like… more like Wife and I (and anyone else we end up living with, because polyamoury) are both bringing in enough money, doing flexibly-scheduled, preferably part-time work, ideally in a creative field, that we each like and are good at, that we can cover our expenses, have an RRSP or two, go on an actual Vacation now and then, and share some of that cash with other people who are doing art and activism that we like and care about. I would like my old age (which feels a whole lot closer now than it did ten years ago) to be comfortable and gentle, rather than impoverished and stressed out.
 
Keep Calm and Carry Green Garnets in Your Wallet, I guess?
 
 
~*~
 
Motion: Went swimming yesterday (mostly this involved sitting in a hot tub, but there was some treading water in the deep end of the pool as well). Enjoying how easy it is to walk places these days, too! There’s a day-dance coming up in just under a week, which I’m looking forward to. Raking out the garden and doing lots of bending and digging in a friend’s flower beds, the other day, has left me with slightly stronger thighs (and also sore feet).
 
Attention: Paying attention to my boundaries, to the sprouts sprouting in my garden (some are wanted, some are most-like not, but I’m not sure what everything is yet, so…), to friends going through hard times, to my Feelings around money/employment and how I tend to see “wealth” (fiancial) and “abundance” (everything else) as two distinct categories that don’t have a lot of overlap and maaaaaaay be mutually exclusive (I gotta fix, that, you guys… it is not helping me out right now). Also throwing some more attention at The Novel.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for rain, for getting the ancestor photos hung, for lots of frozen veggies still in the freezer, for finding out (how did I not know this already?) that my wife actually LIKES tinned cream of mushroom soup! (Who knew?) For romantic canoodling. For people who want to hear my thoughts. For time to sit in a hot tub and relaaaaaaaaax. For flowers coming up in the front yard, and the slow spreading of my ground-cover plants. For a quiet week. For repeat clients calling and booking again. For kind friends who help me out with stuff I don’t know how to fix myself (take that however you want to).
 
Inspiration: Queer Femme Witches, and Queer Witches more generally, Everywhere. ❤ Spending time with other writerly chicks, nattering over plot-fixing and character development. Reading Black Wave (Michelle Tea) and Nevada (Imogen Binnie) and trying to learn how to make a self-absorbed character who doesn’t have her shit together likeable, or at least relateable, or failing that, enough of a train-wreck to be interesting. >.>
 
Creation: I continue to slog away at The Novel, as mentioned above. Trying to sort out how the hell the climax will work (which involves sorting out what the book is Actually About). Poking at the poetry of other femmes, choosing poems to gloss, and lines to build new poetry from. ❤

Chocolate-Pumpkin Coffee Cake (No Eggs)

So, it’s Beltane. I’m out of eggs. And bread. And company is coming for dinner tonight.
Thank goodness I’m home today. 🙂
 
I mean, okay, yes, technically it’s May First, and even if I’d been doing the Eat From the Larder Challenge this year (I didn’t), it would be fine for me to skip out and get some groceries, it’s cold and rainy and I Don’t Wanna.
 
So I went hunting on The Internet for vegan coffee cakes that I could mess around with, in order to make an easy dessert that I could adapt to feature sour-milk (or kefir, in my case, since I have an over-abundance of the stuff – oh, darn) but that would hold together without any eggs, and without my having to macgyver an egg-substitute out of peanut butter or similar. The below recipe draws heavily on this Chocolate Pecan Cranberry Coffee Cake which, itself, looks really lovely.
Here’s what I came up with, using the above-linked recipe as a starting point:
 
~*~
 
Chocolate-Pumpkin Coffee Cake
 
INGREDIENTS
 
¼ C margarine
1 C pumpkin butter (or other fruit butter)
1 C kefir (you can sub with: sour milk, yoghurt, whey, vegan “milk” with some vinegar in it… whatever’s around)
1 tbsp vanilla
½ C granulated sugar
+
2 C flour
¼ C cocoa
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
+
½ C chocolate chips
½ C dried cranberries
¼ C crumbled walnuts
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
1) Preheat the oven to 350F
2) Grease a 9″x9″ cake pan
3) Mix the first group of ingredients together in a big bowl
4) Add the second group of ingredients and blend (you can use a fork for this) until smooth
5) Add the third group of ingredients and mix (lightly) until well-distributed[1]
6) Scrap the batter into the cake pan (it will fluff up really fast)
7) Bake for 1 hour OR until it smells done and can pass the fork test[2]
8) Allow to cool (and set) for a few minutes before cutting into squares and serving
 
~*~
 
So there you have it.
I like to make coffee cakes using fruit butter in place of at least some of the sugar. Partly because it makes things slightly less overpoweringly sweet, but mostly because it makes for a velvetier, moister crumb (AKA: helps keep a cake with dried fruit in it from being Too Dry) while also letting me stuff some extra Plant Stuff into our eating. 🙂 Plus it helps act as a binder, which mitigates the No Eggs situation.
 
As a side note, I can’t help smiling a little that the pumpkin butter I made at Samhain is being baked into the cake I’m making on Beltane. Hello, Year Gate, nice to see you again. 🙂
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] It’s May Day, after all – Fair Distribution Of The Tasty Bits! 😀
 
[2] NOTE: When I say “bake for 1 hour”, I mean “That other recipe says ‘bake for 1 hour’, and so this SHOULD work fine, but my cake is still in the oven, so we’ll see if this works”. Thence: Fork Test + Use Your Nose. Always good to have more than one way to tell. But I’m assuming that it will take about an hour.