Goblin Fruit Jam 2015 ~ OR ~ Canning Season Is Upon Us

So, a year or two ago, I wrote a story. It was a little tiny thing, only a thousand words, and I wrote it so that I could tell it from memory at a local storytelling open mic. It was a story about a small, fictional town (Emerson, Ontario, for those keeping track) and the annual Jam Jambouree put on by one of the churches.
Mrs. Phillips always won the Jam Jambouree…
It was a story about a kid who’d had Mrs Phillips for an English Teacher and hadn’t had a very pleasant time of it, and who decided to show up Mrs Phillips just to Show Her that not everybody was willing to bend over backwards and make themselves small, just so she could feel big.
 
My main character made “Goblin Fruit” jam – or jelly, really – out of a summer’s worth of black currants, choke cherries, and blackberries, along with a glug of vanilla, a hoarded piece of candied ginger, and a nip of creme de casis from a tiny, dusty bottle in the back of her parents’ liquor cabinet.
 
My particular version of Goblin Fruit jelly, for 2015, includes the following:
 
Black currants from a harvest of the Booth Street bush down near Scott (which, fyi, contain a heap of their own pectin) (protection, abundance)
Choke cherries (harvested this morning, just before the rain hit, from the tree on the corner of Arlington and Bronson) (luck, love, passion)
Red (oh well) raspberries from the Everbearing bushes down the alley – only about ten, I picked them as I was coming home from getting the choke cherries (love, protection, passion)
Sweet cherries (again, only about 10) that came out of a bag in the freezer and come from nowhere near my neighbourhood (luck, love, passion)
A vanilla pod given to me by a friend (love, passion, & happiness)
A dash of ground allspice (luck)
A cube of candied ginger (love, and a magical energy boost)
 
As you can see, there’s a bit of a theme running through all of this. ;-)
 
Because I don’t go in for jewel-tone clear jellies, but strain as much of the fruit pulp into the mixture as possible, I’m inclined to call this stuff “jam” rather than “jelly”. Regardless, it should be a dark redish-purple colour when it gets done, and it should taste roughly like cherry candy.
 
Wht I wound up with, after I’d simmered the fruit (in two rounds) and strained it through a sceive, was 2.5C worth of juice-and-pulp, which I poured back into the (washed) sauce pan with an equal amount of granulated sugar (and about two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, just to be on the safe side), and I’ve been quietly simmering that mixture on the stove for the past hour and a half or so while I wait for it to thicken up. It probably would have taken less time if I’d opted for a wider pan (thus allowing for a shallower depth of juice, more surface area, and as such a faster thickening process).
 
As it stands, I’ve filled 5 half-cup jars already, and am quickly boiling three more in order to use up the rest. If I have a drizzle left over, it might (maybe) get whipped into some cream for tonight strawberry-raspberry shortcake confection (we’ve got company coming over).
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad. :-)

New Moon – Bean/Raspberry/Rain Moon Begins

The clouds are threatening (again), but I confess that my calling this “Rain Moon” is more wishful thinking (or request) than reality right now. I need to feed my plants. They could do with the rain (we got a tiny bit between 11:30am and 1:30pm today, but hardly anything I’d even consider calling a storm. Still. The everbearing raspberries are ripening (they’ll keep doing this for another two months, easily) in the alley to the point that I went out and picked a litre of them to put up in the freezer today, and my pole/runner beans are starting to put out flowers and even fruit. :-)
 
This is the moon that contains Lammas, the feast of the first harvest, when tomatoes, zucchini, beans, and lots of other summer goodies start (one hopes! Don’t count those chickens before they hatch!) to flood into kitchens in this neck of the woods. As such, it’s very much a time of “Is this gonna work out?”
 
Chez nous, this is hanging pretty heavily over our heads. My wife gets the keys to her 100%-self-employed shop inside of a week, she’s about to leave her Day Job (is training her replacement right now, in fact); she feels like she’s in free-fall and still “waiting for the parachute to open”. Our mutual partner’s primary is coming home just before this moon hits Full, and that’ll bring its own set of changes. My garden is heavy with fruit, but it’s mostly not ripe yet, and this is what I want us to be living off of, as much as possible, over the winter. I just started a new, casual-hours job. My girlfriend is in the “hang in there” period where she’s trying to negotiate/facilitate a project that would get her (some) work in her field, and build a lot of connections where they’re needed… but nothing is certain yet. My mom is looking for a new job. I just introduced myself to a publisher and gave them the micro-pitch for my manuscript, and got some interest from them, to boot. Is this gonna work out?
 
Two weeks ago, I did tarot readings for my two girls, and they both had super-positive spreads which, as someone who’s heavily involved with both of them and wants them both to be happy and safe, was kind of a massive relief to see. I have yet to do the same thing for me.
 
Literal heavy clouds, polyamoury, and finding the joy amid the uncertainty… Dancing in the storm. This is a very Three Of Cups time (well, by my own interpretation of that card) for everyone I care about: Lots of good stuff in the works, happy reunions, abundance, community, and opportunities abound… but a lot of them are shadowed closely by the possibility that things could topple, and we’ll all be running through the rain for a little while longer, getting drenched in the process, before we land safely somewhere warm and dry, with our arms and rubber boots both overflowing. (Yeah, my interpretation is a little bit different from most of them…)
 
Let’s see what the next two weeks bring.
 

 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Experiments in Glamour… Ish?

I’ve got hand-washed laundry drying in the bright, humid, oven of the back yard right now. I’ve been knitting extensions for my new fishnet stockings all afternoon. There’s flies in the kitchen (and the living room, and, and, and… because we totally left the door open while my lovely wife was fixing boots on the back steps. I would love it if this house could support an exterior outlet, but oh well…), and the new moon is coming on fast, along with the zucchini, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, and snap beans. :-D
 
I had a conversation with my sweetheart the other day. She was visiting (too-briefly, but it was still so good to see her) for a day, and we went out for pho. I told her about getting free pizza[1], and being unsure as to whether it had to do with the pizza guys wanting to get rid of that last slice, or if it had to do with the lipstick[2].
I mean, I had casually thought “Hey, cheap pizza would be good. Free pizza would be great…” on my up the block, but… really? Is it actually that easy? ‘Cause that seems unlikely.
 
She said, with a remarkable degree of certainty: “It’s the lipstick.”
 
Now, my lovely partner may be able to rock a dress when she wants to (and I totally go weak-kneed when she does, which isn’t often, alas, but what can you do?), but she’s not a femme-ID’d individual by any stretch. She is, however, somewhat succeptable to our charms, so I’m willing to take her word on this one. ;-)
 
The thing is, this Lipstick Magic only seems to work when I’m not trying to make it work. Strutting into that store to find a microphone? Yeah, I was wearing great shoes and great lipstick, and was I rocking an iconic Lisa/Violet ensemble, but I wasn’t doing any of that ground-centre-focus business. I wasn’t doing that when I picked up a diva cup and the baby-dyke at the cash made a mistake that I didn’t pick up on until after the fact. And I wasn’t doing that when I walked into the pizza place, halfway between printing off data entry forms and rushing out the go to a tarot-book launch.
I just had my gear on.
 
So I don’t know what’s up with that. Does my perma-grounded Glamour work by front-loading everything, and then just moving like I do?
I have no idea.
But something seems to be working.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad, the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Among other things that have also happened while wearing the same magenta lipstick: I managed to (accidentally) get 20% off a Diva Cup, and ~30% off a computer mic (also… due to human error? Ish? I challenged the price on something and the dude at the cash gave me what I wanted).
 
[2] As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, in these parts, I’ve been trying to bump up my Femme Fabulocity of late, and trying to see if I can use a little Glamour Magic while I’m at it.

Full Moon – Rose/Strawberry Moon Crests

I have been picking berries. A single, deep red strawberry from my garden (and another on the way), a handful or two of serviceberries, almost a litre of red currants hastily plucked while wearing my “Of Course I Can Pick These Berries” skin – they’re going to Toronto with us, for our Archivist’s birthday dinner on Sunday.
My zucchini plant (I think) is starting to trail along the ground. My sugar peas are swelling in their pods. My eggplant bloomed this morning! :-D
I’ve been experimenting just a little bit with actively working my glamour. It’s still a very iffy thing, and it doesn’t necessarily work all the time, but some of it I’ve got down (see above, re: Goblin Fruit berries).
 
My lovely wife is opening her own Outside-the-House shop space for her leatherwork business inside of the next two weeks (if all goes well)! :-D
I’ve managed to wrangle some casual-hours reliable paid work(!) which is making my life a whole lot easier.
It’s been bucketing down rain today, and July is due to be chilly (for a given value of “chilly” that takes “July” into account). I hope my extra squash plants germinate and thrive in spite of that (and, more to the point, that the seeds don’t rot before they have the chance to get big and strong).
 
I’ve been using today – a stat, in Canada – to get packed for my trip and get all of the Birthday Feast stuff organized in the kitchen. I leave tomorrow, and I’m really excited for it all. Seeing my girl, yes, but also meeting other folks while I’m there. I’m going to see if I can’t work a little bit of glamour magic while I’m at it.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad.

The year of the Pig – Part 2: A Week of Francis (Summer Solstice Version)

So we’ve been eating Francis for about a month now. I can’t say it’s been wall-to-wall pork (or even wall-to-wall Francis). There have been a few sausages from Seed To Sausage, an a roast chicken in there. But this past week, I cooked a 4lb ham and this is what we’ve gotten out of it, so far:
 
Friday, June 19th: Braised ham (with potatoes, parsnips, and Various Cooking Greens)
Saturday, June 20th: I… think that was red-lentil curry with lots of (slightly woody) rappini, since that particular leafy-green/sprouting-broccoli has started bolting like there’s no tomorrow. It was… not a big hit. I mean, it tasted good, but the texture was a little bit… twiggy. This is why I started uprooting the rappini plants. I think they’ve served their time, and it’s appropriate to put some more heat-loving crops in the place they were previously occupying.
 
Sunday, June 21st: We didn’t eat at home, but I threw together a couscous dish (see below) that we ate later in the week.
 
Monday, June 22nd: Couscous with pork and (frozen) broccoli. This was basically “We have had a hell of a weekend and are stressed all the heck out” food. Not comfort food. Just food that would provide a heap of protein and some carbs (and some veggies) without too much effort or thought process needed.
 
Tuesday, June 23rd: Ham sandwiches on home-made bread (clearly) with red onion & rainbow chard, plus a “kale” salad made with the last of the rappini (which I’ve mostly pulled up in the interests of planting more squash) plus some crumbled walnuts and dried cranberries. Partially, this was because it’s easy to make sandwiches and salad for four (technically salad for five, actually), and partly because we had a power-outage yesterday that lasted 3-4 hours (nothing spoiled – the ice cream even stayed solid), right over the dinner period. I figured that sandwiches were a good bet.
 
I’ve still got a fair bit of pork left over, even after making a couple of sandwiches for my lovely wife to take to work this morning, so I’m thinking we can probably make it stretch quite easily to the next Fabulous Friday Dinner (which might be a shoulder roast, this time ’round) by doing a noodle dish tonight (ham + garlic scapes + cilantro + rainbow chard + some egg-drops, fried up with glass noodles in some sesame oil and soy sauce) and maybe a pork-heavy chili for Thursday (that would also use up some of my last remaining tomato preserves and some of the weird “prickly-mustard” that (a) is also starting to bolt, but (b) seems to do best when cooked low-and-slow in a liquid).
 
So that’s what a week worth of Francis looks like.
Other weeks will look different.
Like maybe we have pork chops one night, and/or bacon one morning, but the rest of the week is pasta with alfredo sauce, salads made with garden greens, nuts & dried fruit, or bean-based dishes that include onions and kale sauteed in bacon grease and grain cooked in bone stock. I’m hoping that, as the garden continues to produce delicious edibles, we’ll spend the summer eating veggie-heavy meals.
Part of this is just: Yum, veggies. Part of it is trying to squeeze the most of our garden plots while they’re still producing lots of food and have the sun and the rain (and the nitrogen-fixing power fo the legumes) help keep them recovering and keeping on.
Part of this is: hydro is expensive. The rates just went up again, and the less often I use the oven the better. If I can get the hang of baking bread only once a week (unlikely) or baking it during the same hours that I’m roasting or braising a large cut of meat, that will help use the energy efficiently.
And, yes, some of it is wanting to make the meat last for as long as possible. I’d really like it if, in spite of not buying much meat to suplement it, our half-a-pig lasted the whole year (so until mid/late May).

Summer Solstice Garden Tour 2015

Hello again!
 
So Summer Solstice has come and gone (and we’re in the long slide towards the dark again, but it’s easy to ignore that when Bountiful Season is basically upon us), and the garden is starting to offer up food that isn’t made entirely of leaves.
This is very exciting, I don’t mind telling you.
With that in mind, I’ve decided to do another Garden Tour post, partially in response to Erica’s (May) photo tour invitation, and partially just because I like showing off. To that end: Onwards!
 
Lots of Pics Behind the Cut

New Moon – Rose Moon / Strawberry Moon Begins

The roses are bursting into florid bloom righ tnow. (And, okay, have been for a while). The strawberry plants are setting fruit (so’s almost everything else, but the strawberries and serviceberries are the ones most likley to be ripe in the next two weeks, so…)
I have been harvesting actual food frmmy actual garden for a few weeks now, putting some of it up in the freezer and eating a lot of it fresh, too.
The pole beans are starting to need something to climb (besides each other and the fava bean stalks), the peas and favas (and rappini – woops) are blooming and the bees are visiting my garden. The trellis has yet to be built, but it’s getting towards the point where it won’t wait any longer. we may be able to score some free lumber from up the street (some friends have extra left over froma project) which would definitely help.
The heat has hit, and the humidity with it. The Mystery Greens have turned out to be mustard – prickly leaves which I need to harvest and start cooking. I was thinking of doing something like sag masala or something with them.
 
This is the beginning of “Much Too Much” season, as Tamar at Starving Off The Land would put it, the wanton bride that is Summer. My bioregion is a good 6-12 weeks behind the South-English one where the Wiccan year-wheel was devised. You don’t even have scilla and snowdrops around here at Spring Equinox, not typically, let alone daffodils. So it feels strange to be calling Summer Solstice “midsummer” as if it had been sunny, steamy, and fruitful for two months already rather than just barely into the hot and heady.
 
None the less, energetically speaking, things are taking off. (Maybe that’s just Mercury being out of retrograde, I dunno). Our Archivist has a little bit of interim work and a lead on a longer-term paid contract, which is great news. My wife is ever-so-slightly drowning in army boots and army hats and othe army stuff that needs repairing before tourist season really gets going. Even some of my projects are starting to bear fruit (by which I mean “generate money” or otherwise see results). My chapbook made it off the press, for example, and a few people have picked up copies already.
 
Magically speaking, I’m feeling a push towards a certain kind of glamour – which I’ll probably be blogging about in a little bit, so just bear with me – and have been working a lot of candle magic lately – mostly for other people, though I should aim some to my immediate household as well, and sooner rather than later.
 
I have a ham thawing in the fridge, which I probably won’t get to cook until Friday night (good timing), when I’ll put it with the last of my carrots, my very last apple, one of my numerous cooking onions, and as massive a kale-and-fresh-herbs salad as I can manage. (It’s funny. I’m not sick of greens by any stretch of the imagination – we eat those all year here, thanks to the chest freezer – but I’d really, really like to have something else – snow peas, or shelled fava beans, for example – to add to the salads and stir-fries and such-like. That’s still a few weeks away, though. ;-)
 
Anyway. Moving right along.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.