Eat From the Larder Challenge 2019 – Weeks Three and Four (After the Fact) + Some Goals

So, as-you-know-bob, April was Eat From the Larder Month chez House of Goat! As mentioned earlier, the Eat From the Larder Challenge was created, many years ago, by Erica Strauss over at (the now mostly-dormant) Northwest Edible Life blog, as a way of demonstrating the maxim that “Cooking is a basic skill of resilience” in real time while also using up any preserves that are hanging around, wearing out their welcome.
While the first year I did this challenge (2014, I think?), I was pretty strict about following the rules of the challenge, I’ve been getting less and less hard core about them as time has gone on and I’ve gotten the hang of using a Par System (if you wanna be fancy) to keep preserved foods and dry goods actually moving through my larder rather than building up in stashes that end up taking up a lot of space without getting eaten.
I’ve said, often enough, that “It’s always Eat From the Larder Month at my house” because we spend more than half the year relying on predominantly frozen (or otherwise preserved) produce, and because I learned – my first year of doing this – that brown rice will, eventually, go slightly rancid if you let it sit around for literally YEARS without using it… and it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaay better to use it up over the course of 6+ months (and drop another $15 for a new 5kg bag of brown basmati when the time comes) than to let it sit for literally years In Case of TEOTWAWKI.
 
So, particularly if you read the first of this year’s EFtL Challenge posts, it’ll come as no surprise that the second half of the Challenge looked much like the first. I continued to buy milk and eggs.
A neighbour gifted me eggs, whipping cream, and a jar of dairy kefir (she’s vegan, but her recently-visiting parents aren’t) so I now have dairy kefir in my fridge again[1].
I made a steak and kidney pie – and discovered that a 2:1 ratio of kidneys:steak is a little too weirdly-floral-tasting for my tastes, and it would have been awesome to cut it with, say, a tonne of mushrooms and some extra onion or something. But here we are. I still have a frozen pig kidney in my freezer, but that’s down from having three, so I’m calling it a win.
I sprouted some mung beans, and may try to do the same thing with green lentils. (My attempts to sprout chick peas have… not worked out so well, but we’ll see if I can get it right…)
I made sourdough bread a couple of times, and it mostly worked, most of the time, and making bread with bottle yeast is still easier and faster, so I clearly don’t have this down pat just yet.
I made a 3L batch of yoghurt, and used 2C of it, in lieu of cream cheese, to make a chocolate cheesecake(!!!) which actually worked!
I used the gifted whipping cream and some more of the yoghurt to make a liver mousse (uh… yesterday. I got the liver, itself, out to thaw at the end of April, but it’s been hanging out in the fridge until last night).
But, for the most part, it’s been pretty business-as-usual around here. There are still h’ors d’oeuvres in my freezer – where they’ve been hanging out since Winter Solstice, if not earlier – that need to be baked and served. There are elements of my larder that got “eaten down” by other people, because there are a few folks in town who needed extra groceries and I was able to go shopping in my freezer/cupboards for them and basically “off-load” a roasting chicken, a lot of frozen veggies, a loaf of home-made bread, some tinned tuna, some garden rhubarb, the last of the brown basmati rice (picked up in October, so it’s just fine thank you), and a variety of Things In Jars (mostly tomatoes) on other people.
 
The biggest thing that’s come up, though, is that vegetables are delicious, and I would like to eat more of them.
So, like, for those of you who’ve got the cash flow to not worry about this? Produce isn’t cheap. Bags of frozen produce are less expensive (usually) than fresh stuff – which is another reason why we use so much of it – but it’s still not cheap. Blessings Be upon my garden – with its rhubarb and sorrel and crow garlic and plentiful dandelions, with its sage and savoury and lovage and (hypothetical, but here’s hoping) raspberries and even its nettles and occasional purslane, with its self-seeded radishes and mustard greens and its volunteer cherry tomatoes – for giving me free produce all summer long, plus enough (we hope) rainbow chard and (sometimes) winter squash to keep feeding us later on, from the freezer. Bless the neighbourhood’s numerous city service berry trees and neglected chokecherries, and the raspberry canes along the alley. Bless the antique apple tree across from my laundromat and the big, chunky crab apples that grace the verges of the rich neighbourhood to the south, for the cider and fruit butter they give us in the Fall.
 
I’ve been planting for the past week-and-a-bit. Adding manure to the garden beds, and digging at least one new one. Putting in a second lovage plant and trying again with thyme, plus adding a few annual seedlings, too.
I’m thinking about how one of the Big Easy Things a person can do to reduce their own carbon footprint is to eat more vegetables.
I mean, yes, I know. The idea being expressed there is “Get more of your calories from plants (rather than muscles)”. But when I think “Eat Less Meat” what I end up thinking is “Eat Less Flavourful, More Boring, Food” combined with “Access Fewer Amino Acids and Start Feeling Dizzy and Having Trouble Thinking Things Through”.
Whereas, if I think “Eat More Vegetables”, yeah, I may be thinking “¼C diced salami[2] + 2C milk and a tablespoon of parmesan cheese split between three+ people” in a meal that’s half rotini noodles, but I’m also thinking “Five or six cups of veggies: Mustard & radish florets, leafy greens, hothouse grape tomatoes, and herbs… This is beautiful, flavourful, and delicious!”
It’s a plate of shredded red cabbage tossed (or steamed, if you want it hot!) with diced apple, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds topped with yoghurt, minced garlic, and a dollop of grainy mustard.
It’s a thin slices of toast topped with mayo, hot mustard, apple butter, garlicky hummus, and a generous heap of sour kraut.
It’s rutabaga, winter squash, beets, onion, garlic, and parsnips (or carrots, or even creeping bell flower root, if you want to go there) roasted with frozen or hothouse bell peppers and walnuts, then tossed with a 2:1 mix of pot barley and black lentils cooked in bone stock, and topped with lacto-fermented radish roots-and-greens before serving.
It’s hothouse tomatoes & cucumbers, sprouted mung beans, slivered crow garlic, and frozen edamame tossed with yoghurt and quinoa (OR orzo pasta, for that matter).
It’s half a cup of liver mouse, 80g of brie or chevre, and a cup of artichoke-mayo-garlic-parmesan dip set out with soda crackers and wine and a spread of olives (or a tapenade made from a tin of same), dried apples, pears & cranberries, roasted walnuts, bell peppers & tomatoes, chokecherry relish, heavy-garlic hummus, and baba ganoush.
It’s all beautiful, flavourful, and delicious.
It’s all appealing and something I would want to eat.
…And it means upping my veggies per person count from 2 servings per dinner-time to something closer to five or six (a serving of most, though not all, veggies is about half a cup).
Which means my budget – in terms of space, but also in terms of money – is going to have to more than double.
Not the most comfortable though, even at the beginning of Free Food Season. But, I figure, at least Free Food Season will give me some time to adjust to this while everything is bright and delicious, and that’s emphatically a start.
 
So.
What was my take-away for 2019’s Eat From the Larder Challenge?

Variety is still wonderful
 
Veggies are delicious and I need (and want) to eat more of them, which is going to cost money, but maybe I can get more perennials going? Perhaps? (Is this the year I try to plant asparagus?)
 
Sourdough bread remains difficult, but I’m better at it than I was. Also, making dips out of various things is a GREAT way to use stuff up. Whether that’s liver and yoghurt or pressure-canned beans and mashed pumpkin… And strips of mediocre sourdough bread make GREAT dippables if you put them under the broiler with some oil brushed over them first. Pro tip. 😉
 
We easily eat two dozen eggs per week in this household. And a solid gallon-and-a-bit of milk. Four and 3/4 litres per week, if you want to get technical and also include the milk needed to make yoghurt once a month. Which is… a lot. I’m more than a little relieved to still have access to these[3] and this is definitely where our food choices are at their most brittle and where a big bag of powdered milk might be a good way to make the (much tastier) liquid stuff stretch farther, or help me make do when it’s not available

 
During the EFtL Challenge, this year, I nearly ran out of flour and short pasta, and did run out of parmasan and cheddar as well as granulated sugar (but we also have tonnes of other options – like honey and maple syrup – to use in place of granulated stuff). I was out of baking powder before I even started, and have been happily using baking soda (and acidic stuff like fruit butters and yoghurt) in my quick breads. Shortbread cookies made with honey instead of sugar are delicious (next up: Making them with a mix of whole wheat pastry flour and oat flour, in addition to the butter and the honey…)
 
I’ve since re-stocked on flour, sugar, pasta, and other dry goods and pantry staples, and will be having a gallon of maple syrup delivered from a friend’s family sugar bush… some time between now and June, probably? Between that and the garden starting (just barely – we’re still on dandelions, crow garlic, and rhubarb right now) to produce veggies, I’m feeling pretty good.

Goals for This Year’s Preserving Efforts
 
Grow winter squash (including spaghetti squash, butternut, buttercup, and two kinds of pumpkin) AND cucumbers up a trellis to make them harder for the squirrels to attack
 
Grow pole beans (and nasturtiums and icicle radishes) in the same bed as the squash.
 
Pressure can a lot of mashed winter squash and/or dice, steam, and freeze it for the freezer.
 
Grow a lot of radishes (again) and lactoferment the roots and greens together (with mustard seed, garlic, and bird chilies)
 
Maybe try growing amaranth (and inter-plant with eggplant and pole beans), because I hear it’s easy to thresh and winnow and because it’s a really nice addition to Pumpkin Soup
 
Continue to sprout various dry beans and add them to salads and stir fries
 
Grow and freeze as many hardy cooking greens as possible (mainly rainbow chard, but also some kind of kale or mustard greens)
 
Buy enough yellow and green zucchini (like 60, unless my own zucchini plants give me a bumper crop) and red shepherd peppers (like 85… which will cost a LOT more, and so maaaaay need to be significantly limited) and eggplant (15, because I’m not expecting a high yield from my eggplants, tbh) to put up a LOT of frozen veggies, so that I’m less dependent on – but not independent from, I seriously doubt – getting veggies from the freezer section of the grocery store.
 
Grow mustard for seed
 
Occasionally pressure can batches of bone stock AND batches of cooked chick peas or other large beans at the same time
 
Wild-harvest local service berries (freezer) and chokecherries (curds and jellies) at the appropriate time.
 
Sow clover seed in the back yard to help the ground fix nitrogen and get it a bit healthier and more able to support other food crops

 
Ha… These goals are ambitious, and some of them (like the amaranth, though I do have the seeds) may not happen. But here’s hoping I’ll be able to meet that 5-6 servings of veggies person plan, and do a lot of it myself.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I find that dairy kefir – at least mine – smells like a mix between old cheddar and blue cheese. I’m not sure it’s supposed to smell like that, but it still smells like a familiar food, so I tend to put it in bechamel sauce to make it taste cheesier, particularly when I’m all out of parmesan and cheddar due to the challenge restrictions.
 
[2] Or a whole cup of tinned tuna, or the half a cup of diced meat you can get off a left-over pork chop or chicken leg. You get the idea.
 
[3] Not long ago, a friend commented something along the lines of “A million different things can be made from a base of coconut, rice, flour, yeast, sugar, cardamom and saffron”. She was talking about Zanzibari cooking. I think my Million Different Things are probably made from a base of eggs, milk, wheat flour, maple syrup, mustard, black pepper, nutmeg, and salt. (And, yes, you can theoretically use spice-bush berries in place of both the nutmeg and the black pepper, but I don’t have those. Yet).

New Moon – Flower Moon Begins

White grape hyacinth blooming amid green crane's bill and last year's dry leaves

White grape hyacinth blooming amid green crane’s bill and last year’s dry leaves


 
The New Moon in Taurus brought summer weather with it. Hot sun on bare skin. Magnolias opening, but a week later, it’s cold again. Drizzly. Closer to five degrees than ten. The cold-weather crops (“crops”) that I sowed a week ago are sprouting and probably loving this weather. I have chickpeas (slooooowly) sprouting in a jar on the counter, but I’m huddled over my computer as I write this, looking out at the grey day and its Scotch Mist weather.
 
I have a Pinterest board where I put pictures that make me think “glamourous”. There are a vast number of women with horns among those images. Last night a memory tugged at my mind and I put “horn dance” into the search bar, and what I found was the oldest dance in England.
So now I’m thinking about how the Horn Dance – the one done in Abbots Bromley (Northern England, about 300km south of my families historical territories in Scotland) which is a solid thousand years old at this point – happens during the same time as the actual deer are rutting in the Fall (the few weeks on either side of Autumn Equinox, roughly), and how the dance is connected to the fertility of the fields. I’m thinking of Root Time and Leaf Time, the stag king and the wolf king – and since when do I think of “kings” at all, but here we are – and how they trade places at Samhain and Beltane, at first planting and last harvest.
I’m thinking about land-waking rights and how modern, city people (AKA: people like me) tend to think of “land waking” as a thing that happens in the Spring (AKA: right now) because the perennials are coming up again, the trees are leafing out, the geese are back and the robins are singing, and there are baby squirrels tearing about all over the place. I’m thinking about how Beltane is our sex holiday, but that – from a purely conception-related stand-point[1], so do what you wanna with that one – it kind of makes sense to have something similar in the Autumn, right around when you’d be planting new apple trees (or shallots and garlic, or larkspur and scilla for that matter) and feeding them up for the long sleep to come when they’ll get their roots in good and strong before their waking in Spring.
I’m thinking about Harvest – midway between Mabon and Samhain – and how much magic and ritual happens in that fucking dungeon. I’m thinking about the horned beast that lives in me, that came out to dance during one of those rituals, how the red thread of connection from that ritual is woven into the fetish shawl that I pin together with antler tips.
 
I’m thinking all this while my altar candles burn down and I huddle in my (recently washed – I’ve spent the past two days doing laundry) fuzzy bathrobe trying to stay warm, having turned the heat off in the house at the New Moon.
I have bread to make today (yeast bread, rather than sourdough, though I’ll be feeding my starter again), dishes to do, a lot of mending to work on – fixing a couple of sweaters, finishing a project that exists somewhere between a skater skirt and a cotton slip, seeing how many zippers I have lying around and whether or not I can put one in the side of a midi-length crinkle cotton skirt, or if I even need to do so (I might be able to do buttons and loops or something at the waist-band instead…) It’s a day for hot tea and having the oven on, for hiding out under a heap of cloth and keeping cozy.
 
Next World Tarot - PAST Three of Swords, Reversed - PRESENT Magician, Uprights - FUTURE Knight of Cups, Upright

Next World Tarot – PAST Three of Swords, Reversed – PRESENT Magician, Uprights – FUTURE Knight of Cups, Upright


 
For the New Moon in Taurus, I pulled three cards from Cristy C Road’s Next World Tarot. And then I wrote poetry about them, as one does. The short version is:
A past of heartache and a future of open-heartedness and, right now, a moment of change, of leveling up, of “from this moment onward, you have agency”. A claiming of my power and my potential.
A work in progress, obviously – I mean, it’s never “one and done”, right? But, if I’m reading this right, then I’m on the right track and should keep doing what I’m doing, and changing what I’m changing.
Fingers crossed!
 
~*~
 
Movement: Walking. Moon salutations. Went to the park and attempted to do pull-ups (and failed, utterly, but that’ll get better with time and practice).
 
Attention: Watching the weather. Watching the calendar (my girlfriend will be here in a week). Paying attention to my hips and lower back and how and when they ache and what helps. Watching the leaves come out and the flowers in the front yard start blooming (just barely) and the rhubarb start to get big and the lovage, for whether or not it’s taking its transplant well (seems to be).
 
Gratitude: It being warm enough (technically) to turn the heat off. Good relationships with my metamours. Fresh greens from the garden (dandelion, sorrel, crow garlic, nettles, lovage). Cucurbit seedlings from friends. A cupboard full of fabric and yarn for me to make things with. A fridge full of food. Hangouts with My People. A new bag of (parafin…) candles for the altar. Yoga poses that consistently open my hips and de-kink my lower back. My wife’s compersion. My girlfriend’s impending visit(!!!).
 
Inspiration: The garden. Household maintenance tasks (believe it or not). My romantic relationships. Queer communities and subcultures. Thousand-year-old dances. The Next World tarot deck. My hopes for the future.
 
Creation: I’ve written six poems in the past week, and have another one (barely) started, with notes for topics to explore in a bunch more, so Go Me.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] A kiddo conceived around Mabon would be born right around Midsummer which, in these parts, is just about when the food gets really plentiful, and just a little bit before the real heat sets in and makes being heavily pregnant utter hell.

New Year New You 2019: Week Fifteen – In Which We Are Grinding Along

I’m (once again) doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. It’s a good mix of practical, magical, and thought-based exercises to help accomplish specific and significant change in your own life. If it’s relevant to your interests, give it a try!
 
Instructions: We’ve spent a few more weeks thinking, planning, and doing magic. Now it’s time to return to the task at hand: doing the work necessary to accomplish our goals.
 

Next World Tarot - 7 of Pentacles - Abuelita's Labour of Love Pays Off

Next World Tarot – 7 of Pentacles – Abuelita’s Labour of Love Pays Off – An old lady sits surrounded by the art she’s been making for years which, it turns out, people want to pay for.


 

Osho Zen Tarot – 7 of Rainbows – “Patience” – A heavily pregnant person with long hair sits serenely under the phases of the moon.


 
Tarot Card: Seven of Earth. I chose the Seven of Pentacles, and I’m not a hundred percent sure it’s the right card. I’ve often gone with the Eight of the same suit for prompts about gettin’ ‘er done and keeping at it. But I wanted a card that allowed for a little bit of stock-taking as well as action, for a little bit of thoughtfulness alongside the grinding, a little reminder that “this is a marathon, not a sprint” even if the point of doing this as a project with prompts and activities is to get that long process going a little harder and build up some solid momentum.
Cristy C Road says, in her write-up for her Next World rendering of the Seven of Pentacles, “Our bodies execute magic daily, and your destination will blur if you forget the journey”.
 
And this project continues to be a journey. I wrote my initial goals post almost a year-and-a-half ago. I can recognize that I’m making progress, even if it feels super slow.
My glamour magic is at least somewhat effective.
I’ve had eight poems published since I started this project, with another five accepted for publication before the end of 2019 (so far – part of today is dedicated to working on another submission that will, hopefully, up that number again).
I’ve started dating a pretty amazing out-of-town lady and have also been going on more dates with my wife.
I have a whole other project on the go that specifically pertains to sex and sexuality (partnered and otherwise).
While the “know in my bones” part of a lot of those goals is still very (very) much a work in progress, I’ve started telling myself that I have permission to ask for the experiences, care, and pleasure that I want and will really enjoy, that all of me is worthy of love and belonging, and that my “scary” side isn’t actually scary to people who are good for me.
So, like… I’m doing the fucking work, and I’m getting results.
 

Things I’m doing this week to further my goals:
 
Going to a poetry launch at VE, yesterday (helping to refill my creative well while surrounding myself with poetry folks)
 
Going to the Bi/Pan public get-together on my way home from work – also yesterday (thus potentially finding new people who are a great social fit for me, while also getting to say Hi to one or two people I already know are a great social fit for me)
 
Moon Salutations (which open up my hips and unlock my lower back, and which also give me 10 minutes to reach out to one of my Goddesses who I feel like I’ve been neglecting)
 
Reading Burnout, by the Nagoski sisters (and trying to remember to Practice Self-Kindness instead of spectatoring and catastrophizing in Very Specific Situations)
 
Taking care of my garden (because cultivating food is one way I also cultivate abundance and sensuality, particularly while feeling the FINALLY warm sun on my FINALLY bare skin)
 
Asking at the local coffee shop about how to get my self-published chapbooks onto their ‘zine wall, and then – earlier today – following up on that information
 
Going to the park a doing something akin to “assisted” or “suspended” pull-ups (in the interests of eventually being able to take an aerials class and actually get my body into the hoop to do all those cool, graceful, balance-based Beginner Tricks that I think I might be able to pull off… once I’m up there)
 
Working on new poems and finishing my latest poetry submission (to further show off my writing chops and move a little closer to the point where I can start shopping the chapbook around)

 
Concrete things to keep myself moving along, one foot in front of the other.
It’s funny. Or not funny, I’m not sure. I’m thinking about ritual. About Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha defining “prayer” as repetition, intention, change.
So often my repetitions feel like a rut. The rhythm of my days feels very small, less like the foundation of an ostinato and more just the trudge-trudge-trudge of someone who never does anything new. Returning to this post again and again. Some days I feel like nothing gets accomplished, in the grand scheme of things. Other days – like today – I write three new, good poems (based on a three-card draw of a deck I haven’t used in a while, no less) and a draft of a fourth; get extra cream in my coffee from a friendly, queer waitress; get to impress a 2-year-old with my not-so-amazing, but aiming-for-amazing, balancing tricks. Some days the rhythm of yoga and garden and kitchen and writing and making my living by the strength and stamina of my body, some days it feels magical. Some days I can see where this journey is meant to be taking me.

Full Moon – Leaf Moon Crests

My perennial bed, still messy with deadfall, but the rhubarb, nettles, and crow garlic are reaching for the sky.

My perennial bed, still messy with deadfall, but the rhubarb, nettles, and crow garlic are reaching for the sky.


 
Okay. So, admittedly, the trees are still pretty bare around here. BUT at least we have this. Too small to harvest (yet), but my perennial food plants are doing their thing. Crow garlic, nettles, rhubarb, chives, dandelions, and sorrel are all coming back to life.
Which is fantastic.
Sometimes it’s warm enough, and sunny enough, in the mornings to drink coffee on the steps (while wearing a light coat, but still).
That said, I myself feel like kind of a mess. Possibly because my awful new provincial government is gleefully cutting everything that even slightly supports marginalized populations, I’ve been feeling frantic more than anything else. Trying to focus on much of anything has been difficult. Trying to slow my head down enough to write or Be Mindful/Present while doing yoga, has been difficult. I tried out an ecstatic dance group in town and… while I’m not saying I’ll never try it again, it was not a particularly comfortable, let alone enjoyable, time. I want to hide out in bed all day in the hopes of staying warm (and it is spring, the temperatures are reliably staying above freezing and the trees are budding and, in some cases, flowering).
 
It’s hypothetically “pink moon” right now – presumably because whoever came up with that name lives in Vancouver or Southern England or somewhere else where there are potentially cherry blossoms as early as Spring Equinox – but things are not feeling super pink around here.
That said, I’ve had at least one horoscope tell me that this Taurus Season is The Time to let go of all those old patterns that are preventing me from “[stepping] into full-flaming Scorpio Phoenix Power towards what [I] really want”.
Which I guess kind of brings me to the following:
For this cycle’s full moon tarot meditation, I did my usual “Shuffle until something falls out of the deck” method of divination. This is what I got:
 
Tarot of the Silicon Dawn - 7 of Fire, + 4th Fool + 99 of Air

Tarot of the Silicon Dawn – 7 of Fire, + 4th Fool + 99 of Air


 
This is a story about risk, reward, and self-sabotage. At least I think it is.
Given the things I’m trying to accomplish through these projects, I’m reading this as:
7 of Fire: “Valour”. Egypt Urnash asks “Will she choose the strife or the will?” A card about being sure, about knowing what you want and going after it.
4 of Fools: The fool who’s so close to flying this time, but whose self-doubt trips her up. The one who mistakes “keep yourself small” with “have some common sense”.
99 of Air: The very Disaster Thinking that eats my brain, gets me spectatoring when I’d rather be engaged and enjoying myself, and makes me duck my head and avoid the spotlight when it comes looking for me.
 
So. what do I do with this?
Keep it in mind. Catch myself if I’m self-sabotaging or trying to keep myself small and… try to turn it around. Make the follow-up phone call. Send the chapbook out on sub. Keep breathing. Take one step closer rather than stepping away.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Attempt at ecstatic dance. Frequent (but short – ~15 minutes) walks to and from the place I’ve been temping these past two weeks. Moon Salutations yoga routine.
 
Attention: I’m watching the garden. I’m watching the buds on the trees.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for crow garlic, sorrel, nettles, chives, rhubarb, and dandelions. Thankful for date nights. Thankful for paid work. Thankful for risotto. Thankful for visits from friends.
 
Inspiration: My Glamour Board (which is on pinterest, you’ve been warned). I’ve been doing a lot of “shopping in my closet” and clothes-weeding this week.
 
Creation: Other than a couple of very drafty poems, I’ve mostly been working on a lace project (knitting). I think I need another six inches of length or so, at which point I can call it done.

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2019 – Weeks One &Two (Includes: Pear Velvet Pie Recipe)

So! It’s Eat From the Larder Month chez House of Goat! Full disclosure: Winter 2018-2019 has been substantially easier than winter 2017-2018 (never-mind the year before that one) and we have not been doing the Eat From the Larder challenge literally every other month to the point that the must-have supplies (for me) like all-purpose flour and red lentils are dwindling before I even get started over here. So I’m starting out with more “larder staples” (dry goods) than I’ve necessarily had in years past.
I’m also doing my usual thing where I continue to buy milk and eggs, at normal-for-our-house rates (about 1 gallon of milk and 1-2 dozen eggs per week), because it makes the whole month about a zillion times easier and it means I have something to cook my freezer veggies and jars of preserves with, which makes a big difference.
 
For those who don’t know, the Eat From the Larder Challenge was created, many years ago, by Erica Strauss over at (the now mostly-dormant) Northwest Edible Life blog, as a way of demonstrating the maxim that “Cooking is a basic skill of resilience” in real time while also using up any preserves that are hanging around, wearing out their welcome.
The first year I did this, I went pretty all-in. And I learned a lot about the bits of my larder that I didn’t really know what to do with (lentils), even though I had them on hand. I found out which pantry staples I tended to avoid (brown rice), and how much I want variety in my diet, even when “variety” is defined as “umpteen ways of making the same 10 or so ingredients taste good, day after day”.
 
It made a difference in how I thought about preserving food: Thinking of preserves as “ingredients” rather than “finished dishes” meant that I started paying attention to how frozen serviceberries are more versatile than serviceberry jam, fruit butters make better additions to quick breads than jams and jellies, pickled veggies and dried fruits can both be used to add acidic brightness to dishes comprised mostly of root vegetables.
It also made a difference in how I thought about my eventual (now a reality!) garden: I want perennial food plants – everything from crow garlic, nettles, and dandelions to rhubarb, sorrel, lovage, and culinary herbs – to be available in my yard, because they start arriving early enough to make a difference in a situation where my end-of-winter freezer is looking bare (or even just boring).
 
Anyway. Here we are in, like… Year Six of this challenge, and it’s the end of Week One nearing the end of Week Two.
 
Confession? I’m not taking this challenge particularly seriously. My lovely wife bought us baking potatoes and fancy cheddar (because she’s lovely, and also because I try to do this challenge in a low-key way so I don’t get any push-back… which I might not even get, but I’m letting the brain weasels have this one). We were invited to split a pizza with a metamour (at our place) a week ago, and I didn’t even think about it before saying “Sure, that’d be great”. AND IT WAS. I bought samosas for lunch on Monday of this week, and probably would have done so a second time if a co-worker at my temp job hadn’t brought in Easter Chili (I don’t even know, but it was tasty) on Thursday.
So, while The Challenge has so far been very easy, part of why it’s been easy is because, on mornings when I’ve slept late (“late” = 10 minutes, but wevs) and haven’t had ready-to-go left-overs in the fridge, I’ve opted to buy something rather than not eat.
So, yeah, I’m cheating.
 
That said: The freezer is still emptying out at a reasonable pace. I made a big batch of garlic-curry hummus (ish… it’s mostly chick peas, but not entirely) and between that and making some artichoke-kale-mayo dip (think spinach dip, if that helps), making “toasts” out of some of my sourdough bread (which is working, reliably, for sandwich bread – hurrah!), opening up a tin of smoked oysters, and putting out some dried fruit, I think I can probably come up with a nice snack-feast for later this weekend.
The fact that the crow garlic and rhubarb (and even the sorrel and dandelions) are coming up in the back yard is making it easier for me to stop hoarding be generous with the frozen veggies. So veggie-heavy meals – like strata ft zucchini, red peppers, kale, garlic, and onion (but very little cheese); or chicken stew ft chard, kale, zucchini, celeriac, onion, garlic, and winter squash – have been a delightful option. We’ve also done a cabbage salad (ft walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries with a yoghurt-mustard-mayo dressing) which made for a good next-day lunch as well as a easy, light dinner.
We used up the last of the costco trout the other night, with butter (we are running out of butter) and a little white wine. We’ve got a rutabaga in the fridge, along with a couple of potatoes (all of which are sprouting like heck and which I think I need to put in the ground instead of putting in dinner, but… we’ll see), some Chinese Broccoli and a greenhouse cucumber. (Cucumber salad and a standard short pasta with tuna, frozen broccoli, and bechamel sauce have also featured in the past 10 days of dinners).
I have tonnes of pre-roasted-and-frozen turkey, which I want to start using up.
I have tonnes of fruit butter, too. Which: I found a way to use it up that I really, REALLY like (though, when I run out of butter, I’m in trouble):
 
I made a pie with some of the fruit butter!
 
I’m super excited about this, because I’d been wondering if it would work pretty-much since I put the pear butter up last fall. It’s basically pumpkin pie, except you use a pint of pear butter instead of the 2C mashed pumpkin and 1C brown sugar. You guys. It works so well! Here’s the recipe (which I modified slightly from one like this):
 
~*~
 
Pear Velvet Pie
2C pear butter
1C milk
3 eggs
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
 
Blend the heck out of the above.
Pour into one pre-baked 9″ pie shell (DIY or not, crumb crust or short pastry, you do you)
Bake at 425F for 15 minutes
REDUCE HEAT and bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes
Allow to cool
Serve
 
~*~
 
I assume this will work just as well with apple butter or other fruit butters (Nectarine? Plum?), and I’ll definitely be experimenting at least with the apple, because I have so much apple butter it’s not even funny. Like five litres or something.
 
As far as this specific pie goes? Be aware: Pear butter is hella sweet. When I made mine, I put maybe half a cup of brown sugar into the whole batch. Which was like 3-4 litres of pear butter by the time it was all put in jars. So there’s maybe a tablespoon of “additional sugar” in that pint of what is otherwise just mashed pears, cooked down, with a little bit of salt and cider vinegar thrown in. So I’m assuming that, when I make this with apple butter, I may find that it’s not as sweet. (It will be plenty sweet enough, I’m sure, just not as sweet as this).
 
A similar thing that I’m hoping to do is make what’s essentially a cheese cake, but use plain yoghurt instead of cream cheese. It can be done. The consistency will be a little different (somewhere between normal cheesecake and, like, maybe custard?) but I think, especially if I mix in some melted chocolate chips, it’ll be really good. AND I can top it with some of my frozen berries, which should be awesome sauce. 😀
 
Anyway. We’ll see how the rest of this challenge goes. Hopefully things will remain delicious and easy and our food will remain at least slightly varied (there’s going to be turkey stew with pot barley and rutabaga coming up, I do know that, probably another veggie strata and, provided I can get the noodles right, some sort of udon + soup stock + turkey + lacto-fermented chunky veggies thing).
 
Wish me luck.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Year New You 2018 (2019) – Week Fourteen: Spiritual Consultation

I’m (once again) doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. It’s a good mix of practical, magical, and thought-based exercises to help accomplish specific and significant change in your own life. If it’s relevant to your interests, give it a try!
 
Instructions: Now would be a good time to check in with your personal Powers That Be (PTB) about your goals“.
 

Wild Unknown Tarot - Temperance - A blue heron + the mingling of water and fire against a rainbow background

Wild Unknown Tarot – Temperance – A blue heron + the mingling of water and fire against a rainbow background


 
Tarot Cards: I picked Temperance for this one, because of how it relates to both “union of opposites” endeavors and, more broadly, to cooperation and compromise.
 
See, the whole “check in with your deities (etc)” prompt… I took a “radiomancy” approach to my tarot cards today and just… shuffled the deck until something fell out.
What fell out was this:
 
Empress crossed with the King of Air. Related Influences: Seven of Air vs Seven of Fire.

Empress crossed with the King of Air. Related Influences: Seven of Air vs Seven of Fire.


 
The Empress (which is what my whole project is about) crossed with – or is that brought about through? – the King of Air. The two other cards – both sevens, which means they relate to the Chariot and its “Get Up / Wake Up, and GO” energy – read as “obstacles” vs “helpers” or a case of “what do I need to let go of” vs “what do I need to act on/with”. Influences to be taken into account, if you will.
 
As far as messages from My Ladies go? This is… very relevant, nothing unusual, and… basically confirming stuff I’m aware of already? Unless I’m missing something?
The diametrically opposed sevens: The seven of air vs the seven of fire. Shame & avoidance vs Courage & conviction.
This has been my problem for ever. I push towards the thing, I get stuck, I regress, I push further, wash, rinse, repeat. Part of me reads this as just, like, “The struggle is real” with a side order of “Also, healing works in spirals and is not in any way linear, and there’s going to be points where you’re making a lot of progress very fast and there’s going to be points where you’re seriously feeling stuck and like nothing is changing”.
But, with this specific project in mind, I can also read it as the overthinking stuckness and “freezing” that I experience literally butting heads with the vitality and bravery that it’s going to take to navigate those Stuck/Lost feelings.
 
The one card I’m not sure what to make of is the King of Swords.
This card could be a reference to my tendency to over-think things and to how researching The Thing is not the same as doing it. But – while I don’t usually read upright cards like this – the fact that the King of Swords is upright suggests that maybe this is something about, well, what my wife called “Cognitive Behavioural Witchcraft”. The way I use magic and ritual to kind of reroute my neural pathways and get myself to, hopefully, stop believing the old tapes and, hopefully, stop making the same set of mistakes.
 
Heh. There’s this meme that’s going around right now:
 

 
And… it’s not inaccurate. Sometimes my readings look more like “Yep… that is definitely an accurate description of my situation…” rather than “Wow! That’s some useful advice as to next steps to get where I’m going!”
That said, I’m choosing to interpret this as a “Yes, keep using your Very Smart Brain and your magical skills to unblock your sexual blocks and further develop your shame resilience! It’s going in fits and starts, but it’s working!”
With any luck, I’ll be correct in this.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Moon – Leaf Moon Begins

“Magnolia x veitchii bud at Brooklyn Botanic Garden” – Photo by Rhododendrites – Via Wiki Free Images – A twig, ending in a fuzzy, unopened magnolia bud in sharp focus, against a blurry background of vague greening.


 
I admit, I might be jumping the gun a little bit on “leaf” for a name of this lunar cycle, as the trees are very much still bare. BUT the earliest crocus and scilla are starting to poke their green sprouts above the soil and the grey-brown creeping charlie in my back yard is starting to re-green, so I’m going with it.
The compost was turned for the first time this year (by my wife) last weekend. The snow is disappearing at a rate that seems both rapid and sedate (meaning: the streets were never a disgusting slurry of melt-water and accumulated dog shit, thank you literally all the gods). The freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw of night and day, since Spring Equinox, has – I hope – been good for the maple syrup folks but, either way, it’s sap time – the once-a-year heartbeat of the world (systolic-diastolic, hemisphere to hemisphere, north-south, north-south[1]).
My wife asked me, yesterday, if I keep a garden journal and, yeah, I do. It’s this. So many things have been added to my lunar cycles posts since I started writing them in… 2011, I think? But they were initially a way to keep track of what the weather was doing and get a feel for what the seasons feel like in my bio-region. One more way of “getting to know the neighbours”.
I shuffled my wildwood deck and asked my Ladies of Earth and All Green Things how they were doing and if they had anything to say. The card that came up – and I do recognize that I have some say in this, which… I’m not sure how I feel about that right now – rather frequently was The Breath of Life.
Right now, the neighbours are waking up. A stretch. A yawn. A big breath in before the long out-breath of sprout and bloom and fruit and fall again.
Heh. I can’t help but smile a little at this, just because the folks who came up with the Wildwood deck in the first place think of Spring (Imbolg to Beltane, in their case, because they’re in Southern England) as the time of Arrows.
In my case, the waking up doesn’t happen until now and, like me, my Ladies may be stiff in the morning and need to thaw their joints out for a while. Still, I’m watching the back yard for the rhubarb, which should be sticking her head up above the soil, oh, probably right around Full Moon, if last year was anything to go by.
 
It’s early April. Which means I’m doing the eat from the larder challenge again – in my usual “milk and eggs are still fine” way – in an effort to clear out some freezer space and use up the vast quantities of jam and fruit butter I put up last year. So you can expect at least a few posts about fruit-butter Hippy Muffins and hummus seasoned with garlic, basil, and jam (no, really – just don’t use a LOT of jam). I’ve managed to successfully make two batches of tasty, structurally-sound sourdough bread which, while still in the realm of flukes and coincidence, bodes at least a little bit well for continuing in this vein.
 
Last full moon, I wrote about being on the hunt (again) for another anchor income. I’ve since had a few leads, and one “preliminary interview”, though we’ll see whether or not it comes to anything. Fingers crossed, because it would make a big difference to have that reliable cash coming in, even if there’d still be a fair bit of hustle going on, on top of it.
In poetry news: I spent last week at VERSeFest, getting inspired and scribbling drafts (hallelujah!), received a cheque in the mail for the publication of this poem, and – just this morning – signed the contributor contract for the pieces I wrote about here. It’s National Poetry Month, and I’m looking forward to writing many – probably mediocre, but drafting is still drafting – poems during the next few weeks.
I’m also looking forward to visiting some friends, just outside of town, this weekend, and am hoping to read, knit, and write some more poetry while I’m there.
 
Something I’ve recently started doing, which is relevant to the theme and scheduling of these posts, is Moon Salutations. It’s a series of yoga poses that focus primarily on (gentle) back-bends and hip-opener poses and, while I’m not scheduling them during my day to line up with moon rise, I am using them to take a couple of minutes in my day (usually morning) to both (a) help my lower back and hips unlock[2], and (b) spend some time intentionally thinking about and focusing my thoughts on my Lady of the Moon.
I figure I’m doing a lot of stuff that focuses on my Lady of the Sun – because she handles stuff like courage, money, and (most relevantly, in this instance) sex – with added, somewhat coincidental (sorry) links to my Lady of the Earth just because of all the root chakra stuff I’m doing, and I thought it might be a good idea to reach out to someone I feel like I’ve been kind of neglecting… for ever. Not right of me, you know? I want to do more to reach out to her. This is one way for me to do that, so I’m doing it. ❤
 
~*~
 
Scorpio Mystique says:

New Moon occurs on Friday morning, take time to set New Moon Intentions that allow you to embody Aries energy — let yourself be seen, take the lead, and be more self-confident. Where would you be six months from now if you had no fear?

 
…and suggests thinking about it specifically and making a concrete plan to get there.
She says “You’re the Phoenix, baby. You can go through hell and back, and still you rise, from your very own ashes, soaring higher than ever before”.
So. Where would I be in six months, if I had no fear?
Reading at the local launch of Hustling Verse. Launching my chapbook of lunar poetry through a local qaf small press. Possibly prepping to facilitate a panel discussion on sacred kink, deep play, and ordeal work? (Yeah, that one feels a lot more precarious).
What would I be? More economically stable. Physically stronger and more limber. More sexually curious, joyful, and confident.
 

Mary El Tarot - Knight of Discs - A child sits on the back of a lounging white tiger, under the shelter of a mature, leafing tree.

Mary El Tarot – Knight of Discs – A child sits on the back of a lounging white tiger, under the shelter of a mature, leafing tree.


 
The card I drew – by splitting the deck at random and seeing what was there – for today’s (this waxing moon’s) tarot meditation is the Knight of Earth. A card of slow and steady progress, of responsibility, and of getting one’s house in order – literally and figuratively. Maybe because it’s tax season, maybe because I’ve got a lot of personal projects on the go, maybe because the earth herself is slowly but surely waking up, maybe because Yes, Aries Season, but I know myself enough to know that slow, steady, consistent steps get me where I need to go more reliably than a flat-out sprint ever has… maybe for a lot of reasons: this card seems particularly apt today.
 
If I were to set an intention, with this card in mind, for this waxing Aries moon?
It would be to bloom like spring. Slowly and steadily, but surely. Inexorably, moving towards creation, vitality, sensuality, and abundance.
 
I invite the firy energy and passionate verve of Aries to light me up and fuel me for the long haul ahead
I invite the steady, determined energy of the Knight of Earth to walk me through these small, cumulative acts of transformation.
I invite myself to open and open, to let my deep red umbilical roots explore their way deeper in to the earth and draw up the strength, stability, and nourishment I need, to breathe in the breath of life and feed my own warm fires of creativity, connection, and courage, to lift myself from a steady base and rise.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Moon salutations and other yoga, very close to daily (almost but not quite). A number of modeling gigs that were heavy on short poses (meaning more emphasis on strength and flexibility rather than endurance, in terms of what my body needs in order to be able to do them). Long walks to and from work. I skipped the ecstatic dance party last night (I have been more physically worn out lately than I’ve been in, I think, a while… don’t know why), BUT there’s another one coming up just before the full moon which, health & body stuff permitting, I’ll get out to. A little bit of dancing to F+tM and Kesha in my hallway, which does my back and hips and heart lots of good.
 
Attention: Watching the green come back. Keeping an eye out for rhubarb shoots and impending magnolia blossoms. On a more inward-focused note, doing root chakra exercises that have a lot to do with mindful/attentive/intentional/focused breath and muscle relaxation. Holding my Lady in my mind’s eye when I do my Moon Salutations. Attending to my sourdough starter in a way that is slightly less lackadaisical than it has been in the past. Watching the birds and other critters in the back yard as they wake up, come back, or just hunt around for nesting materials now that the snow is going away.
 
Gratitude: SPRING! Temperatures above freezing! The greening of the world! Birds making nests! A turned compost heap! Sunshine that actually feels warm! A great conversation with my girlfriend! An impromptu fancy meal with my wife and her girlfriend last night! My food processor and yoghurt-enabled instant pot! The friend who gives me a friends-and-family deal on her family’s sugar-bush goodies! Paid poetry publications! A donated replacement recycling bin from a friend up the street! Someone buying me two books of poetry as a thank you for a reading I did half a decade ago! Making out with my wife! Amazing poetry shows! Flirting with my girlfriend via text! A pretty amazing present from a metamour! Hanging out with other poets! Job opportunities that actually fit with what I want to do! Successful sourdough bread! Parties and hangouts with friends! …It’s been an astonishingly awesome couple of weeks, kittens. ❤
 
Inspiration: TBH, actually the contents of my freezer and cupboards. It’s nice to be meal-planning again, even if it’s not a hard-and-fast plan. Also: Talking about ritual and kink with a friend over twitter, because that’s always awesome and inspiring.
 
Creation: I have written some poems! I have plans (to be enacted this afternoon) to write some more! Woohoo!
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] “That would have to be important. How fast did a forest’s heart beat? Once a year, maybe. Yes, that sounded about right. Out there the forest was waiting for the brighter sun and longer days that would pump a million gallons of sap several hundred feet into the sky in one great systolic thump too big and loud to be heard.”
― Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters.
 
[2] The phsyio I do for my back effectively boils down to doing Plank on a frequent and regular basis, but some of the other exercises are meant to strengthen the muscles around my lumbar spine and yoga poses like Bow, Warrior 1, and Crescent Moon make a start at that as well. Between that and the hip-flexor stuff that goes on in the same poses, I find they’re helping – though I need to be careful with stuff like Bridge and Plow (good ones for Root Chakra work, and core strength, but also prone to exacerbating my back pain) – to loosen me up in the mornings and make it easier for me to both walk upright, and to sit at a computer for long periods of time. Woot!