New Moon – Lilac Moon Begins

So Victoria Day Weekend was a few days ago. We spent it in Quebec City with a super-awesome friend, meeting her family, enjoying Lobster Season, and taking part in their first bonfire of the year (as is appropriate for the May 2-4 Weekend, AKA “Beltane North”). I also got to swim in their pool, and was gifted a little treadle-power spinning wheel which, once it’s got its missing parts replaced, will be my “learning model” for wheel spinning. Huzzah! :-D
 
But it was also New Moon (once again) and, back home, it was the weekend that the lilacs exploded.
As such, welcome to Lilac Moon, right on schedule. :-)
 
Our sweetheart has moved most of her stuff (that she isn’t taking to Toronto) into our basement. She did it while we were in Quebec City. By the time this moon is full, she’ll already be in Toronto. I’m trying not to freak out about how soon she’s leaving. My lovely wife is feeling it pretty hard, and I’m starting to get a little bit clingy, myself. I’m trying not to, trying to love lightly, to be able to let her go without sobbing about it too much. It’s not like she’s leaving the country, or even the province, after all. It’s not like she won’t come back and see us, or that she’s moving to get away from us or something.
It’s amazing how quickly and powerfully love can bloom when you’re willing to allow it the chance. It blows you open as sure and hopeful, relentless and beautiful as lilacs.
 
Okay, maybe there’s a little bit of sobbing going on… don’t mind me.
 
We have picked up our half-pig, which is now residing in our chest freezer (it fills up the entire thing – which means we can ONLY buy half a pig at a time) and – counter to The Plan – have already eaten a pound of the bacon. ;-)
We were going to wait until June, just to keep an eye on how much pork we eat in a given month. The hope is that half a pig will last six months[1], but I have NO IDEA whether that will be the case or not.
 
I have learned how to make Creton – a dish that’s a bit like paté, but made by cooking ground pork (and a little bacon grease, if the pork is on the super-lean side, fyi) with diced onions and a little bit of milk or cream, on super-low heat for 4-5 hours, until the liquid is well-reduced and everything has gently, gently, gently cooked all the way through. My friend’s mom taught me how to make it, last Sunday. I am adding it to my list of Things To Make which also includes Paté (using the pig liver) and terrine (a bit like paté, but (a) it includes chunks of muscle – this may be where the tongue gets put to use – and (b) is baked into a form after having been initially cooked else-ways).
 
I have just, just planted my tomato and cucumber starts as well as a bunch of bean and squash seeds, so my garden is just about as planted as it’s going to get (at least this year – raspberries, possibly red currants, grapes, and probably more rhubarb are yet to be added to the perennial bed, so…).
 
In witchier news… I don’t think I’m going to The Witches’ Sabbat after all.
I feel a bit stupid about this.
I haven’t been able to find a ride. BUT I also haven’t looked that hard. I haven’t bugged non-attending friends to drive me the 2 hours or so to the location, for example, and I could yet do that.
I only found out after the pre-registration deadline passed that our sweetie will be leaving Ottawa on the 29th and, as such, I won’t actually be missing time with her if I attend the event.
That said, I’m not sure my lovely wife will want to be alone that weekend and, frankly, I’m not sure what kind of a head-space I’ll be in – probably distracted – during the first few days of our sweetie’s absense, so… Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m not signed up?
Anyway. So I’m a bit disappointed that I’m not attending, but it’s probably (probably?) for the best, at least this year. Maybe I can come up with my own little rite to honour the shape-shifters among us during the same weekend. Probably not an extatic one, I grant you. ;-)
 
Anyway. I have dishes to wash and bread to make, so I’d best get on that.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] With the addition of monthly rabbits from Rabbit Lady (we have another one due in the next day or two, actually, which means I need to thaw and cook the one we still have in our fridge-top freezer ASAP – probably this Friday) and occasional other stuff – Seed to Sausage sausages, but more likely occasional fish and the odd tray of (hopefully at least slightly ethical) beef burgers or chicken drum-sticks.

Update on the Garden (Planting All the Tomatoes)

So, by and large, I’ve planted my garden. Depending on how things turn out, I may or may not add one or two Chinese eggplant starts (from the Kowloon Market, up the street, which usually has them) and/or a few Ground Cherry starts (for the perennial bed), but those will have to wait until the beginning of June because I need to see which seeds are taking off and where I may (or may not) have space for a few more plants.
 
That’s how I do this. I intentionally (foolishly, or otherwise) overcrowd my plants to help prevent weedy things (aka: things I can’t eat AND/OR things I can totally eat, but which will take over fast and which don’t taste nearly as good as the other things I can eat that I planted on purpose) from gaining too much of a foothold. So I have a small forest of roma/sauce tomatoes in the middle of Raised Bed Number One and have planted my pole beans in clusters where (hopefully) they’ll do a good job of both (a) feeding my leafy greens LOTS of leaf-encouraging nitrogen, while also (b) providing those same (cold-hardy, heat-bolting) leafy greens with a little bit of shade during the hotter months of the summer.
 
Click on the Cut Tag to Find Out What I’ve Got

The Year of the Pig – Part 0: The Pre-Game Show

So. Tomorrow I go to pick up my (half of a butchered and pre-frozen) pig. It is a Large Black pig farmed by Barb Schaefer of Upper Canada Heritage Meat. There will be 10lbs or so of bacon + however-much guancale (jowl bacon) a single pig cheek will yield (no clue). There will be liver (I will make an attempt at paté). There will be bones and leaf lard. There may or may not be tongue and heart included in the 6-8lbs of ground pork I can expect. There will be roasts and braising cuts. There will not be sausages – I can get those up the street – but there will be hocks, which I’ve never cooked before but which sound like they’ll braise really well.
My Archivist and I will collect it tomorrow morning (that evening, she and my wife have a date, and I am taking my mom out for Mother’s Day cappuccino – I have jewelry to finish before then) and bring it back to the house and put it in the chest freezer.
 
There is still meat in the over-the-fridge freezer, but the chest freezer is mostly empty and ready to recieve our pig.
I am definitely cheating a little by turning down heart, tongue, and kidneys (unless they can be added to the ground). I feel a bit like I should really be going “Tripe! How do I turn TRIPE into something I actually want to put in my mouth?” (This, in spite of the fact that I eat sausages with Natural Hog Casing (read: intestines) multiple times per week. So I’m aware that a lot of this balking is a strictly head-space kind of thing (why it feels weird to prep a heart that still looks like a heart when it came from a pig but not when it came from a steer, I have no idea, other than the bit where said heart could effectively keep my own blood circulating in a pinch…)
 
So I do feel like I’m only getting my feet wet at this point. None the less, I’m glad of it. I’ve been wanting to do this – buy meat in bulk from a local, reputable farmer – for quite a few years now and it’s frankly about fucking time that I went out and did it. I’m looking forward to seeing how far this half-a-pig can stretch (I may make a point of not actually starting to eat it until June, just so I can keep a bit of a month-by-month tally) and to keeping an eye on how much Other Critter we eat – whether that’s sausages from up the street or duck/chicken/beef/fish from elsewhere around town (probably NOT all that local-sustainable-ethical-organic, to be honest) so that I have a better idea of what we go through in a year.
 
Anyway. The adventure begins!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Beltane Virtual Garden Tour – Pictures of What’s Been Growing in the Yard

Hey!
So I declared, upon the twitter, that my rappini is starting to look like rappini (unless, of course, it’s starting to look like Red Russian Kale but… I’m pretty sure I planted that elsewhere, so… we’re going with Rappini for now!) and Miss Sugar was all “I want pictures!” and I’m nothing if not willing to show off my garden SO here we go:
Lots of Pics Behind the Cut

Full Moon – Leaf Moon Crests

Beltane and the full Leaf Moon have happened over the same weekend. We slept with the bedroom window open (a bit) last night, and the furnace is officially off. The garden is planted with red russian kale, various rainbow chards, fava beans, cilantro, and a couple of kinds of peas. It’s warm enough that I’m inclined to push a few squash seeds into the soil and see if they’ll wake up along with everybody else (although I think it would be wise to hold off on that for at least a week, so that the leafy greens and so-on have a head start on the Butternuts and Pumpkins that can, and will, eat every available patch of earth aforded them).
I’m excited about growing my own food, in (hopefully!) actual significant quantities, again! I’m hopeful about being able to can tomatoes and freeze greens from my own garden (as well as from the farmer’s market, but still).
I also (finally, after years of intending to do so) placed an order for half a pig. I opted for half a pig instead of the equivalent in pounds-of-meat (but including beef and chicken as well) because, frankly, it’s about $400 less expensive which, in and of itself, will make doing this again next year a LOT more possible. It still only works out to about 1.5lbs of meat (not including stuff like bones and leaf lard) per week, and I’ll be suplementing that with not-nearly-so-ethical stuff like Traditionally Raised and/or Free From goodies from the grocery store, or definitely ethical stuff like the meat at Seed To Sausage (which is actually a lot more expensive than my half-pig price per pound, but whatever – ther apple-and-sage AND their red-wine-and-garlic sausages are both outstanding, so).
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So that’s where things are at on the food front.
 
The magnolias bloomed on Beltane. I cna’t tell you how happy this makes me. ;-)
And both the lilacs and serviceberries are getting ready to go any day now. Apples, I suspect, will take a little bit longer. I have tiny flowers in my front yard (which is shady most of the day, otherwise I might have tulips blooming by now, too) and other bulbs coming up and getting (slowly) ready to bloom. I have PLANS to add morning glories, flax, phlox, columbines, and campanels, and other shade-friendly/tollerant/loving flowers – and a lot of fancy garden soil for top-dressing – to the front yard as well. :-) That may be an activity for this afternoon. ;-)
 
I’m looking at attending this event this year. I’m a little nervous, as I’ve never done this kind of a ritual before, but it also sounds pretty far up my alley. It doesn’t quite have copies of my house keys, but it could, if you know what I’m saying. So, provided I can find transportation, I’m going to get myself registered and give this a whirl. O.O
 
Anyway. There’s bread to make, candles to (finally, eugh) light, seeds to plant, and garden beds to water (although possibly not until after 6pm on that last one – don’t need it all to evaporate on me, right?) so I’m going to skedaddle.
 
Roll on, Summer! :-D
 
 
TTFN,
Melaid the Birch Maiden.

Eat from the Larder Challenge 2015 – Week Five (Month-End) Wrap-Up

Happy Beltane! (My Solstice decorations are still up… ye gods, I can’t even…)
 
So I made a bank deposit the other day (like a motherfucking adult, no less) and was astonished to see how much money was in there. I mean, it’s not a lot. It’s pretty-much never a lot. But it was more than I expected and (slightly) more than I need to have in there two days before the rent is due, and it was quite a pleasant surprise.
Part of the reason for this, no doubt, is that I got an extra two-and-a-half days of temp work this month, which I hadn’t originally been expecting. The other reason, though, is that we didn’t buy any[1] groceries this month. What normally would have eaten (literally! Ha!) about $200+ of our monthly budget has, instead, consumed only about a tenth of that amount. And even that had more to do with vacation snacks than anything else. It makes a pretty massive difference, and the potential (potential, don’t jinx it) cash-saving influence of having a vegetable garden is starting to dance pretty emphatically in my head, even as I’m watering my recently-seeded garden beds and hoping for the peas, chard, and kale to germinate and thrive.
 
My “Celebrate Beltane With Groceries” list, this year, is muuuuuuuuuch shorter than it was last year: Just yoghurt, yeast, tea, and eggs[2]. And maybe (oh, the slippery slope) some whole wheat flour & apple juice if I’m feeling particularly extravagant. [EDIT: What I actually bought, go figure, was half a dozen Fancy Things from the Seed To Sausage shop on the corner, yoghurt, eggs, two bottles of juice, and a box of crackers. Because… Guests? Delicious food? Because I can? Probably that last one. But anyway. Yeast and tea and whole wheat flour (if needed) will happen next week, and that’ll be fine. /EDIT]
 
That list might have been (much) longer if we hadn’t been away for a few days (and, because of (mostly, but not entirely) that, bought a bunch of stuff[3]), but it might have worked out that way anyway. I’ve got enough frozen veggies (a few greens, a bag of snap beans, some edamame, and lots of eggplant), dry beans (mostly black and red lentils), dried mushrooms, quinoa (and other grains, but seriously: quinoa), and bone stock to manage another week of meals (I think) without too much difficulty. I’m glad I don’t have to, because I do miss meat (and eggs – ye gods), in spite of still having a little bit[4] in the freezer. But I could manage it.
 
This year, this exercise has me trying to sort out what I typically spend our grocery money on (meat and cheese are pretty high up there, I suspect, if only because they’re in the $5+/lb category anyway) so that I can find ways to streamline that without (ahaha…) compromising on ethics or hedonism in the bargain.
 
I went into this year’s challenge hoping to (a) not go “stir crazy” on the variety-in-my-diet front, and (b) get rid of the brown rice.
I’m getting there. We’ve got about ¾ of a litre (uncooked) left, plus some already-cooked stuff in the fridge that will probably go into this evening’s dinner.
We’ve still got a few half-cups of jam/jelly/marmalade left, along with a couple of (mostly gifted) one-cup jars of various jams (and a pumpkin butter that I’m straight-up hoarding right now). I’ve got one cup of diced tomatoes and half a dozen or so half-cups of tomato sauce[5], but the main savoury, jarred preserve that I have tonnes of is garlic-dill cucumber pickles.
I’m not worried about this, exactly. We (and one of my wife’s other partners) are investing in a gas grill, so we’ll have plenty of opportunity to set out the pickle jar(s) along with the ketchup and mustard and diced onions (and, gotta hope, the eventual garden-fresh sliced tomatoes) when we do up burgers or sausages-onna-bun for all and sundry. :-)
But it’s something to be aware of. Usually, I give away 3-5 jars of those pickles as xmas/solstice/hostess gifts, and this year I had to be mindful about things like airport restrictions on liquids in carry-on luggage (both siblings are flying “home for the holidays” now), which meant pint jars (and even 125mL half-cup jars) were right out.
I love pickles, but I don’t necessarily think of them as a snack food every day, and I haven’t yet figured out how to incorporate specifically cucumber pickles into cooked meals the way I’ve already started using, say, chunky asparagus relish in a stir-fry or mildly pickled carrots in a casserole or a braise that needs some brightening up.
Suggestions Welcome, is what I’m saying. ;-)
 
Anyway. That’s how Eat From The Larder Month has gone this year.
Take-Aways:
 
1) Variety remains the spice of life (and meals), but curry powder, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, and mustard are a big help, too.
 
2) Frozen veggies are a godsend. Also jars of diced tomatoes. Endeavor to put up even more of these this Summer & Autumn.
 
3) We eat a LOT of cheap cooking cheddar. Like almost a pound per week. Zowie. O.O
 
4) I do not want to give up cooking with eggs, but learning how to do so better will probably serve me well in the long run.
 
5) When made correctly (I still don’t know how I did this) bone stock really is basically “meat jello”. I’m still working out how to turn “meat jello” back into a liquid I can cook rice (etc) in, but I’m getting the hang of it. It’s absolutely wonderful for adding umami (among other things) to a dish consisting of mostly lentils and rice, and it, too, is a godsend.
 
Stay tuned for what will be, most likely, an entire summer of ZOMG GARDEN posts. :-) I’ll try to work some witchcraft in there, too. :-)
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] For a given value of “any” that is probably closer to about “$20, tops”, but still.
 
[2] Which doesn’t mean that I’m going to be immune to the siren-song of any deeply-discounted cuts of moderately-ethical pork, fancy cheese, flavoured tinned tuna, or ice cream that I happen to come across while picking this stuff up. But I’m not straining at the traces, hoping to restock my larder with lentils, flour, and fresh veggies. I’ve actually still got a tonne of frozen veggies in the freezer(s), and I think it would behoove me to keep this going a little bit longer if I can.
 
[3] Including train snacks and, like, close to a dozen meals out, the latter of which has definitely eaten through a bunch of cash, even if we spread the expense of it across three people. I remember noticing, last year, that we ate out quite frequently – or at least more frequently than I was expecting – during the month of April, and not knowing whether that was because we were eating out A Lot to compensate for a distinct lack of variety on the home front, or if I was just noticing it more because I wasn’t routinely buying food at the grocery store as well. I still don’t have an answer for that, though this year, at least, I know damn well that most of our restaurant meals were because we were living in a hotel, in another city. None the less, there’s been a lot of eating out and at least some of it has been due to a failure to plan (the bread or the bacon, or whatever, isn’t thawed out; I didn’t make nearly enough dinner on Tuesday to provide to Leftovers Lunches on Wednesday as well; that kind of thing) on my part leading me to decide that buying a sugary muffin from the temp-job cafeteria and/or a hot sandwich from the down-the-street deli was (slightly) better than subsisting for eight hours on the temp-job’s fancy free coffee.
 
[4] One 3lb roast, one roasting rabbit, a package of sausages, a beef heart + 2 pork kidneys, a sliver of fish, and a package each of lox and bacon. Plus two tins of thai-chili tuna and a tin of salmon, on top of that. Which is actually quite a lot, come to think of it. O.O
 
[5] Our new sweetie has been a regular dinner guest for months, and the tomato sauce includes an ingredient that will send her to the hospital, which is why that particular set of goodies is lingering.

Eat from the Larder Challenge 2015 – Week Four Wrap-Up

Hey-hey!
So Week Four involved a lot of tinned tuna.
I finally made the red lentil curry that I’d been putting off for, what, a few weeks now.
It worked out quite nicely. :-) I think a lot of this week’s meals are going to involve frozen roasted eggplant. I went through the chest freezer (which, at this point, contains mostly bags of frozen bones for soup stock – many of which are actually going to get emptied into my garden beds to be used as a source of slow-release fertilizer – providing the P in “NPK”, in particular) and discovered a package of sausages, a shoulder roast, and my other roasting rabbit. I feel like I’ve stumbled upon an embarrassment of riches!
No, really.
I’d be thrilled if I could use that package of sausages in dinner tonight (it will depend on whether or not they have peppers in them. If they’re Honey-Garlic, we’re in the clear, but otherwise our lovely Archivist won’t be able to eat them, and she’s over for dinner tonight). So we’ll see.
If I can’t, it’ll be tuna-fried-rice with garlic, finely slivered carrots, frozen edamame and green beans, maybe a little onion, and whatever else I can find to throw in there.
 
I keep looking at the contents of my fridge and thinking “Wow… there’s so much still in here!”
 
I mean, yes, I’ve been buying milk at an only slightly slower rate than usual (a gallon every ten days or so, rather than per week), and we’re (almost) out of cheese. But it’s been four weeks, and we’ve still got half a pound of cheddar, plus most of a tin of grated parmesan, so go us. We’re out of eggs – alas, and I do miss them. Pancake breakfasts are getting Interesting – I used a half-cup jar of black currant curd in lieu of eggs on Sunday morning, plus a cup of black currant jelly in lieu of sugar. They were really tasty – which is awesome – but they were also kind of… gummy? in a way that pancakes cooked with even just one “fresh” egg typically aren’t. They went over really well, which is fantastic, but I didn’t personally like the texture. What can you do.
 
Now, we have eaten out a bunch of times, between Week Three and the two restaurant meals we ate this week (or I ate, as the case may be – We went out for burritos, early in the week, and I had dinner with a friend on Friday night before going to Writers’ Fest here in town).
But a reasonably big part of our continuing abundance comes from just having known, from last year, that it’s good to have a LOT of frozen veggies on hand and, thus, making sure to put up (in freezer bags, but also in jars, and also in store-bought frozen stuff) a lot more preserved veggies than I had – or had the space for – last year. Last year, I didn’t have a chest freezer, so I was working with less than half the space I have now for frozen meat and veggies. This year, I’ve been able to do things like stocking up when the Traditionally Raised pork goes on deep discount, or pick up multiple bags of Arctic Garden (who get their harvests from Quebec and Ontario, including Ingersol which is my ancestral farming community) broccoli and similar at a time, rather than getting just one. I’ve been able, too, to plan ahead and put up 9+ large eggplants, half a dozen big bunches of Ontario ruby chard and other greens, and goodness knows how many punds of roma tomatoes (as diced tomatoes, bruschetta mix, tomato-peach salsa, and roasted-garlic-balsamic sauce). It’s been really nice to not need to buy canned tomatoes this year, so I think I did good on that front, even though I have been rationing them jarred tomatoes a little bit.
 
Also, I’m kind of pleased with myself because, yesterday, I went to a grocery store and, rather than buying any groceries at all (this is me “resisting temptation”, folks), I bought bed sheets. Which, fyi, I managed to get for damn close to FREE because I had enough grocery points to cover all but about $8 of the purchase. A fitted queen sheet + matching flat sheet + two pairs of matching pillow cases + two new, not-completely-bargain-basement pillows, for eight freaking dollars. I think I win. :-D
 
So it’s been a good week.
Right now, clearly, I’m looking down the barrel of the last four days of April. I don’t think I’m going to celebrate Beltane by buying groceries this year. At least probably not. We’ll see if our road-trip hostess wants us to bring anything and, if yes, we’ll pick something up if I can’t throw it together with what’s on hand. (And, yes, it is SO nice to have the option of doing that).
I know that I have a heap of drygoods, still, some of which have been around for many months already. The red quinoa, for example, which I’ve hardly made a dent in. But I’m slowly using up the red lentils and the (ye gods) brown rice, which was one of my goals for this year’s challenge. I’ve still got, probably, a good litre-and-a-bit of the rice, though hopefully I can use some of that up this evening. I’m not actually sure that I wll buy brown rice again. I mean, probably yes, at some point, but it won’t be for a while (like potentially a year) and, if I do, it’ll be a small quantity rather than the enormous amounts that I’ve been swimming through for months. I’d rather focus on barley (pot and pearl) and quinoa, I think, as well as black (and red – even though red is feeling a little iffy right now – or green) lentils for my amino acid complements at the moment.
 
My plan for Thursday’s dinner – partially because we’re heading out of town on Beltane, and partly because it will be a celebration of the end of Eat From The Larder Month – is to slow-cook (since I’ll be working an office job) that pork shoulder roast in our crock pot using some fancy balsamic vinegar, the last of our peach-marmalade, our last remaining onion, and the bag of dried peaches that I’ve otherwise not put to much use over the past year. I might also put (some of) the peaches into a peach-currant-coconut cake that will use the creamy-fat part of the the coconut milk (I have half a tin of the stuff in the fridge after the other night’s curry) in lieu of butter, or similar. I think it will be delicious. :-)
 
Anyway. Four days to go. I look forward to writing the Challange Wrap-Up post (complete with a list of all the things I bought over the course of a month when I was supposed to be not buying anything, ummm…) and making some notes on what I want my larder to include in the future.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.