How Did My Own Ancestors Build Relationships with The Neighbours? (In Which I’m Just Spitballing…)

So I started reading a book (big surprise). I fact, I’ve been reading a bunch of books, including a few on the archaeological remains of the pre-Christian British Isles. But the book I started yesterday is called How Forests Think (Eduardo Kohn) and it’s both fascinating and a bit of a slog, if only because it’s academic writing and I’m out of practice so even reading relatively accessible academic writing is a bit chewy to get through. But it’s got some really neat ideas so far.
So far granted, being Page Ten.
BUT, from what I can parse through ten pages of introduction, this book is about expanding the (very white) discipline of anthropology – the study of how human being related to each other and the world we exist in – to include how the other lives in that world relate to us. That “relating to” isn’t just about Us telling stories about The Other, but also how They tell stories about Us and each other and, maybe most particularly, about how WE as distinct human and non-human (and animal and non-animal, for that matter) cultures co-create stories about the relationships we have with each other.
 
Which is awesome!
 
And which is also a “weird” way of thinking, if you’re White People. Either a very, very new possibility for our collective/canonical thought or – more likely – a very, very old one that we, ourselves, forgot – and tried to get everyone else to forget, too – but that other people have successfully hung onto despite our shitty best efforts.
 
You guys. I want this to be a Pagan way of thinking.
 
Like, I’m not sure it’s even possibly to “re-indigenize” myself, as a woman of Scottish/Brittish, German, and otherwise variously European ancestry while living as a settler and a colonizer on someone else’s land. And I’m aware that, on some level, I’m still thinking of myself as “the boss of them” when it comes to the other mammals who share my (“my”) yard, and that my relationships with them remain fairly extractive in nature. But. I do want to develop this kind thinking in myself. As a pagan, as someone who cultivates and harvests and eats non-human people, I want to cultivate (further) the understanding that they are people. People who may think about me and my existence, and/or who may relate with me if I open up and allow for that to happen.
 
Anyway.
Back to this book. The idea, the author says, is to explore ways to view ourselves (qua humans) as distinct AND part of a larger conversation or part of a larger whole/community of relationships and kinships that include non-human and non-animal people rather than thinking of ourselves (qua humans) as the only kind of life that has a worldview or relates to other lives.
Which… duh. Anyone who’s so much as met somebody else’s pet knows that animals other than us relate to, and form relationships with, members of their own and other species.
And I like that.
 
One of the reasons I like digging into paleoanthropology and pre-medieval archaeology of Scotland and Northern England is because it might, maybe-maybe, give me an idea of how my own ancestors might, hypothetically, have related to a world that they knew related to them, too.
 
To be honest, I want to find evidence that we were getting it right, once upon a time. Long before feudalism and the idea that a single person could own a vast swath of land and dictate how everyone else who lived there could access or interact with it. Before Christianization. Before Rome. What we were like in the Iron Age? What were we like earlier than that?
But the information I’ve got – through library books and BBC documentaries – feels so… scattered.
Like, I know about the deer masks and the possibility that they were involved in some kind of shape-shifting… thing. And I know about the heaps of shells and the burials with seal flippers. I know about how all the rivers and wells were sacred. How gods were location-specific. How you got to, or became part of, the world of non-corporeal-intelligences by dying (the river goddesses who became so by drowning in their respective rivers, the “passage graves” that were also faerie mounds).
 
That stuff tells me that seals were relevant. That deer were relevant. That specific places were marked out as Special. It tells me that my ancestors, like every human being pretty much ever, most likely created rituals around uncertain events (like hunting or traveling or dying) to attempt to grant us either a little control or a little negotiating power or a little good luck or favour, because those things might help get us the results we hope for rather than any kind of worst case scenario.
It tells me that seals may have been connected to the afterlife. Like the stories of selkies, it suggests that maybe there’s a relationship there that involves shape-shifting/skin-shifting and that maybe also involves mixing families.
 
Basically, I can extrapolate very broadly from the few bits of actual information available, and then tell myself a story – one that may not be at all accurate – that says “My very distant ancestors may have had a story that said we/they were related to seals. This relationship may have made it okay for us to (a) hunt them OR (b) harvest fish and shellfish from the seashore or the ocean itself, specifically because we are also ‘of the ocean’ in a way that other predators, like wolves or lynx, are not”.
Think also of the Welsh (were they ever more broadly Brythonic?) stories about Anwyn – the otherworld that is “very deep” and quite probably an island – and how you get to the land of the dead via the water, you become a goddess of a river by drowning in it. The people under the hill, and the people under the waves, were – at least some of them – our ancestors’ ancestors.
…Maybe.
 
So… did we have a relationship – like a literal, familial-in-some-way relationship – with the seals?
Maybe?
Did we – meaning literally my “we”, the Selgovae who lived by the water just north of Hadrian’s Wall, the people of what was eventually the Kingdom of Strathclyde (what is now northern England and southern Scotland) – have something similar with the red deer? “The Selgovae” is what Ptolemy called us. “The Hunters”. Did we skin-walk to negotiate with the deer folk? Did their sprits speak through us or borrow our bodies?
The Red Deer Frontlet masks/“masks” at Star Carr (contemporary northern Yorkshire, or about a week’s walk from my Ancestral Seat in Galloway/Dumfries) hint that maybe this was A Thing for My People a whole 11,000 years ago.
But, again, we don’t actually know.
I certainly don’t.
And that was a looooong time gone.
 
Anyway. As I said, I’m only on Page Ten of this book. I have no idea how forests – or meadows or, most relevantly, the scrubby disturbed-earth that makes up a lot of That Other Space in urban areas – think, or might think, or might be inclined to have relationships of any kind with me.
 
But a place to start – at least according to a Druid I got to talk to not that long ago – is to notice and recognize, to pay attention and acknowledge, to say Hello to the non-human people you meet who aren’t just directly-related to humans (e.g.: a dog on a literal leash, or your friend’s favourite succulent – although sure, them, too). Go out. Say Hello. Start – or keep on – getting to know The Neighbours.

Rhubarb Curd 2019

It’s SUMMER!
The sun is bright, the breeze is a huge relief, and we’ve been having thunder storms!
My squash are already flowering! Woohoo!
It’s hot! It’s humid! What better time to boil 3 gallons of water at a time and make preserves? 😀
 
I know, right?
 
But I’m doing it, anyway.
As per usual, we’ve got a tonne of rhubarb and, in the interests of getting our garden to feed us just a little bit better every year, I harvested an armful of it (not reeeally an armful, but a sizeable bouquet none the less), stewed it with a little water (and no sugar – yet) with the goal of making a LOT of rhubarb curd.
Rhubarb curd being the rhubarb version of lemon curd, obviously – you use pureed rhubarb instead of lemon juice and you get a sweet-and-tangy, super-rich preserve that can be readily turned into a cream pie later on in the year, when the thought of baking things is horrifying to contemplate.
 
Anyway. This recipe is for a (relatively) large batch and, using the equipment I have in the kitchen, it takes two mixing bowls AND two pots, outside of the huge one I use as a canning bath (and/or for making crushed tomatoes and salsa). If you’ve got multiple vast, deep bowls and pots, you can do this with fewer receptacles involved, which does make things slightly easier, but if you’re like me… just make sure you separate things from the get-go rather than trying to figure out “three eggs by volume” once it dawns on you, mid-way through a dozen-and-a-half eggs, that you’re not going to be able to fit all of this in one pot.
 
And now, the recipe:
 
~*~
 
 
Rhubarb Curd 2019
 
INGREDIENTS
2C + 4C rhubarb puree, separated (this starts as about 12C raw, diced rhubarb + a little bit of water)
2C + 4C sugar, separated
1C + ½C butter, separated
+
1C + ½C sugar, separated
12 eggs + 6 eggs, separated (as in 12 whole eggs in one bowl and 6 whole eggs in another)
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Sterilize 8 pint jars (+ lids) in the biggest canning pot you have
 
In a BIG pot AND a sauce pan combine the rhubarb puree, butter, and sugar (bigger amount goes in the bigger pot, etc)
 
Start heating it (on low, so the sugar doesn’t burn), and let the butter melt, while stirring occasionally
 
In two bowls different-sized mixing bowls, blend the heck out of the eggs and sugar (bigger amount goes in bigger bowl, etc) – I use an electric hand-mixer to do this
 
Once the butter is melted in the rhubarb mixture, and everything is well-mixed:
Add the egg mixtures to their respective rhubarb mixtures, and blend on LOW with the electric mixer until things are well-incorporated
 
Increase heat to medium
 
Stir each pot occasionally, to keep the sugar from burning to the bottom, cooking until the mixture is good and thick AND the colour has changed slightly (it will look a little more opaque)
 
Pour into sterilized pint jars
 
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes
 
DONE!
Makes ~8 pints.
 
 
~*~
 
NOTE: You can replace the 6C rhubarb purree with an equal amount of choke cherry or cranberry puree if that’s what you’ve got and/or you want to make a curd that is a rich purple OR a bright pink colour. Rhubarb curd ends up being kind of beige… Which is fine, just not too fancy-looking.
 
My biggest pot will fit seven pint jars, so I sterilized seven jars and put the remaining 8th pint worth of finished curd into two clean 1C jars, which have since gone into the fridge. (The ones in the water bath have another 10 minutes or so to go).
 
The plan is to use one of those 1C jars to make yoghurt pops… once we run out of ice cream and/or when it’s time to take another loaf of bread out of the freezer to thaw. (We don’t have an ice cream maker – though that’s something we’re looking at doing fairly soon – but I’ve got a popsicle mold and I know how to use it. 😉 )
 
 
Other stuff I’m doing in the kitchen:
 
Steaming and freezing greens – specifically radish and mustard greens, so they’ll be on the bitter side, but at least I remembered to label the bags this year, which should be an effective way to remind myself to go easy on the bitter greens when I’m making stews.
 
Making rhubarb-mint simple syrup (it mostly smells minty, tbh, but we’ll see how it does) for cocktails
 
Drying raspberry leaves – and, in the near future, feverfew – for over-the-winter teas
 
Making rhubarb-mint iced tea (usually with some additional herb – anise hyssop, raspberry leaf, and creeping charlie have all made appearances) with a little honey in it, just to have on hand
 
Attempting to make “cooking wine” out of frozen “grape punch” from concentrate… It’s… okay? It’s was still a little sweet for cooking with, when I decanted it into a clean bottle and chucked it in the fridge, about two weeks ago, but hopefully what’s left of the yeast will make short work of that, and I’ll have a flat, sugar-devoid, complexly-flavoured thing that I can use in dressings and marinades and (eventually) soups and stews, without having to have shelled out for Actual Wine.
 
Trying to Eat More Vegetables – and relying on hothouse bell peppers and greenhouse tomatoes & cukes to do that, still, even though the garden is giving us heaps of herbs and I landed some field zukes from the grocery store this morning. We’ve been eating somewhat vegetarian meals around here for the past week – if only because it’s easy to cook enough chick peas and quinoa to fill a liter tupperware (respectively) and then just keep them in the fridge and add veggies and cheese to the mix. Tonight I think there’s going to be a pasta salad with tuna in it, though, because variety is a wonderful thing.
 
 
Anyway. That’s what’s up with me.
TTFN,
Meliad, the birch maiden.

In Which I Talk At Length Climate Change and (Eventually) what “Eat Less Meat” Looks Like for a Household that is Not At All Vegetarian

Okay, kids. So here’s the thing. I’m freaking the fuck out about climate change. As I said to my lovely wife, this morning, I’m scared as heck about it and, while I’m taking steps to mitigate/reduce our households personal carbon/climate impact (more on that in a minute), I’m also painfully aware of exactly how little that will actually accomplish in the grand scheme of things, and how little the people who can actually effect the kind of nation-scale sweeping changes that will Save Us All are willing to do (because it will piss off their donors and threaten their hold on political power and high salaries, basically).
And I’m freaking out.
My wife said, basically, that she thinks it’s going to go like: The shit is going to get very real, very fast (…more so than it is already?) and then there are going to be some very big changes that happen extremely quickly – like Emergency Measures Act quickly.
And… I don’t want it to go that way.
I want to to be going that way NOW, when there’s still a few years of buffer to make those big energy transitions a little less bumpy.
I want my legislators to actually fucking legislate rather than approving oil pipelines that poison the ground, destroy native territories (acknowledged and unacknowledged, you guys), and put literally everything we rely on for survival at risk.
 
I want to see building codes updated across the country so that every new suburban (or otherwise) housing or industrial development has to basically be wallpaper its roofs with photovoltaic panels, and every new high-rise (apartment, office or mixed use) has to come equipped with a load-bearing green roof planted with wind-pollinated crops – wheat, corn, barley, rye, oats, for sure, but also stuff like super-dwarf chestnut, walnut, and heart-nut trees and hazelnut/filbert bushes. I also want to see requirements for extremely efficent insulation, passive solar heating-and-cooling, and the escape from reliance on Air Condition to keep offices and apartments comfortable during the summers, because that will reduce both HFCs (used in fridges, freezers, and A/C units) and the fuel requirements for heating our homes and workplaces during the six or seven months of the year when we need to have the heat on.
I want to see oil rigs and refineries and nuclear energy phased out and wind farms and solar farms phased in, and phased in QUICKLY.
 
I want to see cities adopting biochar as a way to deal with their carbon-based waste (everything from the plastic that lines tin cans & the paper-and-plastic mix of those damned window-envelopes to polyester rags & mixed fiber clothes, to human and animal poop, to grease-saturated cardboard pizza boxes, to kitchen compost) to produce both (a) enough methane to run its own water treatment plants plus, ideally, enough extra to run every gas grill currently relying on fossil fuels[1], while also (b) sequestering a huge volume of carbon in the resulting charcoal which, (c) happens to also be usable as a hell of a good soil amendment thanks to it being made out of bones and coffee grounds and human piss and kale stems and dry leaves and grass clippings and dog strangling vine and giant hog parsnip and animal poop and a million other things besides just fucking wood chips (which… biochar made only out of wood? Is not the most useful thing on its own, and I gather it can be slightly detrimental in a situation where the soil is already pretty depleted).
 
I want the laws around agriculture in my country to require grass-feeding and grass-finishing for meat animals (like everything from small/”small” stock like turkeys, meat and laying chickens, rabbits, and cavias, to Large Black pasture-finishable pigs, to ostriches and emus, to beef cattle, sheep, goats, bison, and elk) AND for dairy-and-fiber animals (cattle, sheep and goats, but also odd critters like alpacas and llamas), and to more quickly outlaw things like battery cages (Canada is in the process of phasing these out[2]), farrowing crates, and finishing feedlots (CAFOs). I want our cattle farms – beef and dairy – to be contributing to carbon sequestration through “bio-mimicking” (rotational, “adaptive multi-paddock”) grazing[3].
 
I want to see flocks of chickens and turkeys, and even rabbits, in moveable hutches, grazing under the semi-shade of solar arrays (you can do this with sheep, too, but not goats – ’cause they like to climb – and not cattle, just because cattle are HUGE). I want to see dairy and beef cattle, Large Black pigs (and any other pasture-finishable breeds) chowing down on grassland under the graceful, if slightly noisy, dance of enormous wind turbines[4]. I want the transition of farms from single-crop to multi-crop AND (more to the point) to mixed veggies + grains + legumes + orchards + livestock + green energy harvesting, to be government-subsidized for a decade or two while people get the fucking hang of it. And I want a lot of Canadian farms to be OWNED and run by the same people who are doing the farm labour. I want to see Six Nations farmers and Jamaican expat farmers and southern-Scottish-extraction farmers (yes, I mean my relatives here), and Metis farmers. I want to see Japanese, Lebanese, and Somalian born farmers growing hothouse veggies and running mixed orchards. I want it all.
 
I want big companies like Loblaws and Canadian Tire (and whoever owns fucking Loblaws and Canadian Tire) to be FORCED to change up the packaging of their store brands so than random shoppers like me get to choose between the feel-good, actually environmentally ethical option of a 12-pack of TP packaged in flimsy cardboard sleeves (think cracker-box weight), a jar of mayo in a glass bottle, a kilogram of pasta in a non-glossy, biodegradable paper envelope and – tbh, I would legit take this, even if I’d want it to be the extreme minority option and only used for freezer-case items – polylactic acid (fermented cornstarch based) “bio-plastic” bags[5] of frozen veggies and perogies in the freezer case… or taking the petroium-plastic-packaged everything from a non-store brand. Because I think both the grocery stores AND the non-store brands would quickly find out exactly how happy random, distracted, grocery shoppers are to HAVE the option of Actually Not Horrible ready to go at their stressed-out, in-a-rush fingertips, and then everybody would get of the fucking bandwagon because they want our sweet, sweet consumer dollars and brand loyalty.
 
I want an affordable, electro-magnetic, green-energy-run bullet train that can shuttle me my place to Montreal, and then from Montreal to NYC, and then from NYC to DC, in a speedy six hours (with, okay, a one hour layover here and there, maybe, because I’d have to change trains at least once). Because even though it would take twice as long, and have a crappy effect on my back, hips, and knees, it would also take a mere one third of the time that the train currently takes, and I’d still get to see my girlfriend on the quasi-regular while having a lower carbon footprint (AND less exposure to radiation) than flying.
 
I want MASSIVE reforestation projects to happen, with an eye to both re-wilding AND sustainable logging, and I want them to be led and run by indigenous people in their returned-and-acknowledged territories. I want my country to work out something where we are actually paying indigenous people WELL for short-term logging rights in their territories and where we’re required to follow High Sustainability Practices, and hire a lot of indigenous people, when doing that logging. So that Canada, as a nation, can still have a logging industry, but it works very differently, and a whole lot BETTER, than the one we’ve got right now. Ditto any kind of mining.
 
…But you guys? I’m not holding my breath on getting any that stuff.
At least not outside of the “farmers of numerous racial and national backgrounds” part, because we already have at least some of that.
 
As this article from Forbes says, “We know what we have to do to avoid a climate catastrophe: eat a plant-rich diet, change our energy mix, electrify transport, [and] reverse deforestation.” But also: Educate girls, restore indigenous territories and land-stewardship to indigenous people (and follow their fucking lead), and capture refigerants (see above re: stop relying on air conditioning units and start using good insulation and passive solar for heating and cooling).
 
So what can I personally do?
 
As a renter, rather than a landowner? Not tonnes. I can’t switch my furnace from natural gas (fossil fuel) to a pellet-fueled wood stove with catalytic converter and a thermostat-run-hopper to feed it (still burning something carbon-based – pellets made of compressed coffee, sawdust, and other plant-based agricultural waste – but at least it’s renewable, plus the catalytic converter ups the efficiency, and lowers the particulate-based air-quality-destroying pollution of a wood stove by a very substantial margin). I can’t dig a very deep well and get some geothermal heating put in. (I’m not even sure I could do that if I owned the place, tbh). I can’t cover the roof in solar panels or return indigenous territories to their rightful stewards. As a single individual without a tonne of political power, I can’t reverse deforestation – beyond what I’m doing now, which is essentially guerilla orchardry, but which isn’t very effective over the short term – or up the availability of education for girls.
BUT.
I can – provided our income gets significantly better – switch our electricity provider to a company like Bullfrog Power which adds green energy sources to the ones supplying the power grid to offset (and, in theory, eventually replace) the not-so-green stuff that is currently the majority of our energy supply here in Canada.
 
I can continue to not have a car – Which, tbh, is not likely to be how this goes. I feel pretty conflicted about this because, on the one hand? Enormous growth in our household’s carbon footprint if we do this[6]. And I don’t want that. On the other hand? A car would give us some significant freedom of movement, buy my wife an extra 2-3 hours of personal time (time for sleep and time to interact with me and her other partners) every weekday, from November through to April, and the degree to-which that benefits her mental health, her physical health, and her relationships is pretty fucking huge. So she and one of her partners are looking at potentially buying a car together. I have no idea how to off-set this, other than through the whole “have one less kid than you were planning to” thing… given that we’re all child-free, that one’s a given. But this is definitely looking like a thing that will be part of our future, and a shared car is still a car.
 
I can continue to not have an air conditioner – though the fact that I have a chest freezer, even a small one, is also contributing HFCs to my environment. (I have not done the math on the difference in Emissions between keeping a chest freezer full of food that was locally grown and put up in season versus not having a chest freezer and buying fresh produce flown in from Argentina and New Zealand – or even just California and Florida – for six or seven months of the year, but I suspect I’m coming out smelling a little better in this, even with the HFCs taken into account). That being said I can also pay attention to what local, non-frozen veggies are available from hothouse producers here in (or very close to) town during the winter months and continue to rely predominantly on non-frozen veggies like long-keeping winter squash, beets, potatoes, cabbage, rutabaga, and parsnips over the winter, so that the freezer space I am using is being used efficiently.
 
I can Eat Local – whether that’s from the garden or the grocery store or a farm that raises pasture-finished livestock that I stuff into the above-mentioned freezer to use it efficiently. And I can grow/buy/forage fruit and veggies in season and freeze, water-bath-can, dry, and/or pressure-can them so that I don’t have to rely on imported frozen veggies from a grocery store (yep… those bags of kale and squash I was so enjoying this past winter were… mostly not from around here. Dammit), let alone the fresh-and-flown-in versions.
 
I can eat less meat – Yes, even though I don’t want to. And even though, as per the links about farming and carbon sequestration through AMP livestock grazing, a locally and humanely raised Large Black pig is a heck of a lot closer to carbon neutral than industrially raised barley and lentils trucked in from Saskatchewan, let alone almonds from California and quinoa from Bolivia, despite all that, I can still eat less meat.
 
Ugh. Okay. This is going to be a bit of rant, but bear with me.
Most of the times I read about “eat less meat” or “eat a plant based diet” it’s either people who are vegan, and want everybody to eat ZERO animal products (which… if it works for you, go to it, but I’ve been eating vegetarian food for most of this week – not even vegan, just no meat – and I’m hungry to the point of being shaky, even though I know how to combine fats, beans, and grains to get accessible complete proteins, and even though eggs don’t actually take that much thinking, so… given that this is always how vegetarian eating goes for me? Probably not the best plan for my body)… OR they’re writing to an audience of people who are so wealthy they can eat beef – like actual steaks – multiple times per week without having to think about it, because the articles in question literally say things like “Eating steak one less time per week will make a significant difference to your personal carbon footprint”.
Which… You’re not wrong. It definitely would. But I’m already eating close to ZERO beef per month, never mind per week, so what even are you talking about – looking at you, Michael Pollan – when you tell your readers to “eat less meat” because I think I’m already well over your particular bar on that one. /RANT
 
ANYWAY. Either way, the “eat less meat” people don’t seem to be talking about my lived experience or my body’s particular needs, so I get to kind of make my own way about this.
AS SUCH: What does “eat less meat” mean for me and my household:
 
It means getting half a hog all at once from one of those local, humane farmers, so that (a) most of our meat for the next two years will be coming from exactly one death, and (b) most of our meat for the next two years will be coming from within an hour’s drive of our home, and (c) most of our meat for the next two years will have had a decent life where it got be an Actually Piggy Pig and got to eat food that was good for it and didn’t spend any of its life in a shit-choked prison feeling nothing but despair.
On a related note, It means getting a couple of turkeys at Thanks Giving and relying on them for non-pork meat for most of the rest of the year. Those birds don’t get a good life. I’m not under any illusions there. But 2-4 of them in my freezer is slightly less blood and misery on my hands than a dozen+ roasting chickens, so… not less meat, exactly. But fewer lives.
 
It means making good use of those lentils and barley from Saskatchewan, but cooking them in bone stock and frying them in bacon grease, so that we get the flavour from meat[7], and – in the case of the stock, at least – some of that sweet, sweet bio-accessible protein, without relying on it for a substantial part of the meal’s calories.
It means taking a shot at growing grain amaranth in the back yard, and using that – plus those Saskatchewan red lentils and/or some milk (see below) – to provide the protein in a soup or stew, whether or not there’s bone stock and bacon grease involved.
It means buying the free run eggs even though they’re twice the price.
 
It means, since I know damn well I’m not going to stop relying on dairy, finding ways to get my milk (and cheese, and yoghurt, and ice cream, and, and, and…) from local sources, ideally ones that are humane and don’t involve completely screwing over the cows. Right now, that means I’m buying foodland ontario milk in plastic bags. But getting the organic milk in glass bottles – even though that basically means spending 4 times the money[8] – is a possibility. Most likely how this would work is I start switching from getting a gallon at a time to getting a 2L carton of “normal” homo milk at the beginning of the week, and then suplementing it with 1L glass bottles as needed. Not my favourite way to go, but definitely feasible. Once I’m (financially) used to doing it like that, I can (a) track how many glass bottles I’m getting on top of the 2L carton, and (b) start switching over to only getting the 1L bottles. This is sort of how I did it with organic fair trade coffee, so I think it would work with dairy, as well.
It means eating more organ meats and less muscle meats when we are eating meat that doesn’t come from that half a hog. This means a lot of chicken liver pâté (actually liver mousse) and marinated chicken hearts, I suspect.
 
It means making falafel patties and waldorf-esque or nicoise salads for summer dinners, and making hummus and “artichoke asiago” (or, more likely, leafy-greens-and-parmasan) dips to go along with the brie and blue cheese rather than (or in addition to, there-by allowing us to cut down on the serving sizes of) the dry sausage and liver mousse we usually have on our Wine And Cheese date nights. It means having thick-hummus-and-sour-kraut sandwiches as often as we have chicken/pork or cheese sandwiches for lunches. An “eat steak one less time per week” situation where “steak” is pork shoulder and shredded turkey.
It means eat more vegetables, meaning I need to aim for 3-4 servings of veggies per person (about 2C, cooked) per dinner, plus some pasta/whole grains/potatoes/bread… and then worry about Where We’re Getting Our Protein (which might be chickpeas, lentils, a tablespoon of parmasan cheese + 2 tablespoons of diced dry sausage, or a cup or so of shredded frozen turkey split between three+ servings of stew. Not “fewer meals ft meat” but “less meat per meal”.
 
It means, essentially, that my whole grocery bill (as opposed to just the coffee and chocolate parts of it) is going to double (but slowly – for a given value of slowly – as I have the liquid cash to actually do this) in order to lighten the burden my particular household’s food-ways place on our home. Ye gods, I am NOT looking forward to that.
But here we are.
 
Anyway. That’s my long, loooong post about Eating Less Meat and other things I can do to not wreck the planet (as much). Thanks for sticking with me.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Yes, I’m very aware that this is, in itself, not actually helping anybody’s climate change initiatives.
 
[2] We stopped manufacturing battery cages two years ago, but using them won’t actually be illegal until 2036. Dammit. Go get those free run eggs, folks!
 
[3] Yes, this kind livestock raising DOES result in more methane-due-to-animal-farts. But it also offsets 100% of that methane (apparently) through carbon-sequestration in the grasslands that are regenerated (and the root systems that get super deep because of it) through the frequent movement of the herds from one grazing area to another to another to another. You can find a blog post – with a related podcast – about it here.
 
[4] I live downtown within spitting distance of a highway on-ramp. They’re currently tearing up my nearest major intersection using a giant pneumatic hammer. Don’t @ me about the alleged health detriments of fucking wind turbines, okay?
 
[5] These aren’t ideal. Corn (or similar) used to make this stuff does contribute to the mono-cropping hegemony and, as we’re seeing with the demand for ethanol-based fuel for cars, frequently results in food-production land in The Global South being converted into fuel-production land for export… which leaves already-vulnerable and exploited populations that much worse off and more likely to face famine conditions. So, like… this is preferable to a sea of petrolium-based products, but it’s not ideal and I would rather we were able to come up with something like… I don’t know… Aluminum envelopes for frozen goods or something. I really don’t know what to do about this on an industrial scale.
 
[6] I did the math – some time last Summer, I think – and found out that, while we do have a motorcycle, which does put our footprint (as two adults) above the sustainable line per person… it doesn’t put it over that line by much. We could slide back under by replacing our last three incandescent bulbs with compact florescents, and by turning our heat down by two degrees celcius when the furnace is running. A car – even a hybrid or a fully electric one (and it’s more likely to be the former, tbh) – would squash that possibility entirely.
 
[7] My Traditional Foodways include getting a LOT of a dish’s flavour from ferments, including cured meat (such as bacon and dry sausage) and cheeses, as well as the more obvious wines, beers, ciders, vinegars, and various mustards.
 
[8] Seriously, I could get 3L organic homo milk DELIVERED to my door, in glass bottles… but it would cost me $21. Whereas a gallon of organic milk in a big plastic bag, would run me about $11 and what I’m getting right now is just shy of $6/gallon. That is a HUGE jump in price, and I’m balking at it pretty hard. Am I ready to spend $85+/month on milk alone? Because, right now, that’s more than a week of groceries. O.O

Full Moon – Honey/Rose Moon Crests, Summer Solstice Impending

“Bee on a Rose” – Courtesy of AussieGal through Wiki Free Images – A honey bee approaches a cluster of pale pink rose blossoms.


 
It’s full moon today! It’s bright and sunny and breezy and warm! The seed-mustard that got decapitated at New Moon is now in full flower! The groundcherries have been transplanted to a slightly safer location! I planted tomatoes! (And also added anise hyssop, borrage, and extra squash to my garden). The roses in the neighbourhood are big and blousy and fragrant as heck! It’s a beautiful day, and my wife and I are going to go out for ice cream when she gets home from work. 😀
We’re both still recovering from bronchitis, which is less than fun, but the hot weather makes it easier (and encourages us both to drink heaps of water, which helps deal with all the crap that comes with bronchitis, tbh) and we’re both really ready for a date with each other, so we’re jumping on it while the weather’s nice.
 
In other news, I am trying to make “cooking wine” (because I’m not actually expecting this to be good) by fermenting frozen-from-concentrate grape punch with bread yeast. I mean, who knows. But it’s a $1.05 level experiment, so I’m giving it a go. I also have plans for a variation on cafloutis that uses rhubarb curd as a significant ingredient. The plan is to fill a grased pie plate with service berries, and then douse everything in a batter made from a pint of rhubarb curd plus a cup of milk and half a cup of flour. Possibly, there will be an extra egg, but I doubt it. Dinner’s going to be some kind of picnic food – probably chicken sandwiches with mustard greens and some quartered tomatoes with a little salt on them. We can eat them all on the back steps, with wine, and then take a walk to go get dessert.
 
Chani Nicholas is talking about how the New Moons and Full Moons connect with each other, and that right now – with the Full Moon in Sagittarius – is the time to check back on what you were striving for when the moon was new in the same sign. So right around Early December of last year.
At the time, I was thinking about the impending Winter Solstice, about social justice stuff and, more to the point, about long term planning and sharing what we have. A lot of the positive changes that have happened since then weren’t even on my radar yet. Still, I can look back, and see where the turning points are.
 
Summer Solstice is coming up at the end of the week. I’m watching cherries, red currants, and service berries fill out and start edging towards ripeness. All the flowers – motherwort, rose, wild geranium, and bergamot – that I gathered to open up my heart years ago, coming back to bloom again. How do I share myself in a way that doesn’t drain me? How do I open up, be curious, and believe my own Yes – intuitive or otherwise – without taking the kind of poorly planned risks that are more likely to get me in trouble than to get me somewhere I want to go? Where are my own turning points, and am I at one now?
 
Over at Hoodwitch, Lisa Stardust is pointing out that the current astrological configuration is one that “cosmically task[s] [us] to assert our will and fight for our dreams”, and warns about being clear on what those dreams actually are, and to actually be honest with ourselves about that. Like, do you want to Just Be Okay? Or do you actually want this weird Palimpsest Life to start making bank in a more than subsistence fashion that might mean you get to retire some day? Is your dream to be paid stupidly high amounts of money to do easy work, or is it to be paid appropriately to do work that you’ve been involved with for so long it feels easy, even though you know it’s not? Because one of those things is true, and the other is a lie that sells yourself short.
 

Next World AND Silicon Dawn decks – Seven of Earth, Knight of Air, Page of Earth, Nine of Air.


 
Liz Worth offers a tarot spread for connecting with this Full Moon, so I gave it a whirl. Here’s what I got:
 
What am I ready to break away from: Seven of Earth
The Seven of Earth is a card about “doing things for the love of it” and “things paying off in the long run” (rather than the short term). It’s a good card, with a lot of positive aspects, but I can relate to being pretty fed up with “work hard now, get paid… maybe?” situations when those labours of love aren’t being supplemented by labours – of love or otherwise – that are being appropriately compensated.
In a lot of instances, when I get this card, I tend to read it as “keep following your bliss, and the rest will work out eventually” but, in a slot designated as “what am I ready to break away from” I’m inclined to read it, instead, as a reminder to know the worth of my time, energy, attention, and skillsets, and to start demanding that people value them appropriately.
 
What kind of freedom can I create for myself: Knight of Air
The Knight of Air is opinionated, decisive, and doesn’t mince words. She knows how to navigate her own anger and channel it appropriately. I had hoped to find a pentacles cared here – some hint that I could create financial and material freedom for myself – instead, I have this. The suggestion that I need to stop beating around the bush, say what I want, and expect people to follow through, rather than doing the thing I tend to do – whether we’re talking romance or employment or anything else – where I shrink back and ask for less than I want in the hopes of getting anything at all.
The freedom I can create for myself comes from using my words and not settling for less.
 
What kind of inspiration can I now embrace: Page of Earth
The Page of Earth is a sweet card. It’s a card about embracing curiosity and exploring new things. All of that “Stop second guessing your Yes” from New Moon? This relates to that. It’s a card that says “use your body to act on your dreams”. It says – in direct relation to the Seven of Earth, above – “Work with what you have, but have a little faith in yourself, and in others, in order to grow prosperous and draw to you what you need”.
In the context of where to find inspiration, it’s a little harder to read. But I think it’s suggesting that I can be inspired by what I do in the day-to-day, whether that’s working in my garden or my kitchen, or working at a job. That, if I approach all my day-to-day things with curiosity and an openness to new experiences, that I will be inspired by what I come across and what I try.
 
What next step can I take to create the change I want: Nine of Air
Ugh. Okay. The Nine of Air is kind of a crappy card to pull. Even at the best of times. So often, it’s a card about giving up, a card about grief.
The Next World tarot treats it as a call to “stop ignoring your pain” and to really sink into it and feel all those feelings, to embrace grief and rage and hysteria as power. Which they are. Rather like the Osho Zen deck that depicts the Nine of Air as “Sorrow” and alludes to the awareness that comes when you actually pay attention and recon the costs of what you’ve lost, this deck suggests that “this is the moment we are asked to ignore” by our bosses, among others. In this way, it relates to the Seven of Air (in this reading) and its reminder to “know and demand your worth”.
The Silicon Dawn treats the Nine of Air as… “seeing enemies everywhere” and suggests that maybe – as suggested by the Page of Earth – my Next Step is to “have a little faith” that not everybody is trying to screw me over.
The Wildwood tarot offers a very different take from both of these, framing the Nine of Air as “dedication” – possibly via the way that people who go hard for things tend to be really stressed out – and remind us of the need to approach the things we want with sincerity, self-discipline, and hard work. Like, even if you land that dream job, it’s still a job, and you still have to show up and do what you get paid to do.
No kidding.
Here’s hoping I get to take that step.
 
~*~
 
The two cards that fell – or rather slid – out of the Next World deck as I was shuffling for my Tarot Meditation cards were: The Five of Swords and the Seven of Wands. “Survival” and “Courage”, respectively.
According to Cristy C. Road, the Five of Swords “asks you to walk the path of respect and humanity […] to challenge stability to find safety”. More broadly, this is a card of self-interest, of prioritizing your own needs and wants over someone else’s convenience or complacency. Similarly, Ms Road describes the Seven of Wands as one who has what she needs to make her own magic, to nurture and wield her own power, and who needs to create a bubble where she can do that, despite the systems of power (political, social, or personal) that employ scare tactics, intimidation, and shame to discourage her and keep her small. It’s a card about holding fast to your boundaries and going after what you want.
Both of these cards relate so much to above reading’s reminder to “Know and demand your worth”.
I’ll try to hold onto that as I take steps, in the next two weeks, to nail down my goals.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Lots of walking. A little bit of yoga – every time I skip it for a day or two, I’m reminded of why I actually should do it every day. >.> – but, still. A little bit of yoga. And I did, in fact, make it out to Actual Dancing two weeks ago, which was great.
 
Attention: Watching the garden, and the variety of wildlife that lives in it – we have BUNNIES! Or at least bunny, which suggests there’s probably a mom somewhere in the vicinity. My squash is doing… okay, given its initial attack-by-squirrels (or possibly rabbits), and the annual herbs are edging towards big enough to start harvesting.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for reality checks. For flirty texts with my girlfriend and dates with my wife. For greens and radishes and rhubarb from the garden. For sunshine. For laundry money. For a plane ticket and a travel date lined up. For all the gay-gay-gay happening in cities where I’m not, that makes it feel like Pride is an entire season long. Ice cream and weather warm enough to enjoy it outdoors.
 
Inspiration: Reading Trigger (Venus Selenite), Hild (Nicola Griffith), Ritual Sex (Tristan Taormino & David Aaron Clark), and Urban Tantra (Barbara Carrellas).
 
Creation: The tailoring on the leather jacket is… getting close to done. (I haven’t worked on it in almost a week, mind you).

New Moon – Honey/Rose Moon Begins

“Honey bee approaching a dandelion” – photo by Kreuzschnabel via Wiki Free Images – A hhoney bee, dusted with pollen, approaches a dandelion blossom.


 
Technically there are three harvest-times for honey – in Ontario, anyway. The first is happening right about now. (The second, for those who are wondering, happens around Lammas – for darker honey from goldenrod and fruit blossoms – and the third happens just before Samhain and is when you harvest honey from late-blooming asters and stuff like buckwheat). So I’m calling this the “honey moon”, even though the roses have – just barely – started blooming in the neihbourhood and should be busting out all over the place before Summer Solstice hits.
 
My land-lady’s husband came by this morning and mowed the “lawn” – which, alas, included the tops of most of my yellow seed-mustard plants AND the tops of 2/3 of my ground cherries. I need to put in some kind of a fence or something so that (a) the ground ivy can’t get in and do it’s job (preventing soil erosion) while also disguising my food plants as a weedy patch, and also (b) so that my food plants are properly fenced off from the dandelions and ground ivy that cover the rest of the yard and, ideally, protected by said fence from the whipper snipper.
I’m not hugely worried – it’s early yet – but I would like it if I actually got some fruit off the ground cherries…
 
There are some significant changes happening on the home-front right now. My lovely wife has moved into a new shop space (above ground, and considerably less expensive) which is taking a lot of pressure off me, money-wise (thank you, all the gods) and I’m looking at taking a step further along one of my many career paths, and have an interview to that end coming up next week. It may or may not get me anywhere, but it’s worth a shot and I think it could be good for me in more ways than one.
 
Tarot of the Silicon Dawn - Maya, Queen of Fire, White Galaxy Rose, Queen of Earth

Tarot of the Silicon Dawn – Maya, Queen of Fire, White Galaxy Rose, Queen of Earth.


With all this in mind, I decided to do Liz Worth’s suggested tarot spread for folks wanting to connect with the Gemini New Moon:
1. What am I learning at this time?
2. What am I teaching at this time?
3. What am I overthinking at this time?
4. What am I becoming at this time?
 
As is my somewhat lazy tendency, I didn’t so much shuffle the deck as cut it at random to get my first three cards. My fourth card is a jumper which… that’s a nice card to have jump out of the deck at you, I don’t mind saying.
 
What am I learning at this time: Maya / 8½ – one of the Silicon Dawn’s “bonus” cards, and all I could think when I saw it was “Accurate…” Maya is a dominant babe with a couple of submissive playmates, which… . Described as the child of the High Priestess and the Devil, Maya is your own wildness, your willingness to prioritize your own pleasure over whatever Shoulds are squirreling around in your head, your willingness to go on an adventure, your sense of play. It’s an explicitly sexual card that asks you specifically to loosen up in order to get what you want. This is very-much in line with what I’m doing, both in terms of glamoury and in terms of my Empress and Notice Pleasure projects.
 
What am I teaching at this time: Ace of Fire – I… am not sure what to make of this. Like, it’s a wonderful card to pull. Very driven. Very passionate. It’s a card about spiritual growth (believe it or not) and energetic potential. It’s a card about cultivating confidence, optimism, and curiosity. It’s about daring to take risks, expressing yourself, and inspiring others. Egypt Urnash’s own write-up for this card asks “How do you want to transform yourself today” and its explicitly femme rendering of a dancer in the flames, of the destruction that precedes rebirth, reminds me a LOT of the Judgement card from the Mary El deck, of “YOU are the thing that’s burning”. In-so-far as I’m trying to re-learn how to burn, how to literally run energy through my body the way I used to do without even knowing I was doing it, how to re-program the energetic pathways in my own brain, I’m also trying to teach myself to do this. But am I teaching this stuff to anyone else? Kids, I have no idea.
 
What am I overthinking at this time: White Galaxy Rose – This is another one of the “bonus” cards in the Silicon Dawn deck. I tend to think of these cards – the black and the white galaxy roses – as being Maya’s two playmates. I also tend to think of them as two ways of looking at infinite potential (and, as such, they’re linked to the Ace of Fire, above, and also to the Magician card). The black rose, I tend to understand as “the beginning of everything”, whereas the white one? It’s very “I have no idea what’s going to happen next. It could be anything”. There’s a certain amount of “flying – or maybe creating the cosmos – by the seat of your pants”. That said, thanks to the power of search engines, I found Egypt Urnash’s old LJ, of all things, and she had this to say:

For me, they mostly seem to come up if I’m asking the deck a yes/no question. The black one is NO, the white one is YES. More precisely the black one seems to be DUDE NO, JUST NO, WHY ARE YOU EVEN ASKING ME THIS, YOU TOTALLY KNOW IT’S A NO, and the white one is WELL DUH YES? WHY DID YOU EVEN THINK IT MIGHT BE OTHERWISE?

So… I’m overthinking my YES?
That’s… not unlikely, actually. I do that a lot. Second-guessing myself, questioning if I really want what I want… okay, cards. Duly noted. Will try to be like September and say YES more often.
 
What am I becoming at this time: Queen of Earth – This was the card that jumped out of the deck. Solid, sure of herself, openhearted, “fecund and generous” as Egypt Urnash describes her. She has lots of resources (social connections, financial means, a full larder and a spare bedroom) at her disposal, and is materially & financially secure enough both to share, and revel in, her own abundance. Trustworthy, caring, warm, and reliable, she’s also able to both make good decisions from a place of surety and security (rather than scarcity) and to luxuriate in creature comforts. She heralds abundance and joy. Ye sweet, beloved gods, YES. This is what I want to be becoming.
 
~*~
 

Tarot of the Silicon Dawn - Three of Fire (Inward-Facing)

Tarot of the Silicon Dawn – Three of Fire (Inward-Facing) – Two kiddos under a tree, watching the lights.


 
So! If I take all of the above, how does it relate to the card I drew (same method) for my tarot card meditation? The card I drew was the Three of Fire which, in the Silicon Dawn deck is the three of pentacles, which she calls “Creation” and describes like this:
 

“Will is in harmony with the world. Here is what you can make, if you dare. All of this is yours. […] Our creation is done; now is the time for you to go play in it.”
[…] Spring comes to all of that vastness at once, and here it is – flowers blossom, bees buzz, and it’s time to get started doing something. So: Go make something to equal the artifact you live in. Dream big and get started.

 
Well. Spring it is, and that couldn’t be clearer.
Wish me luck.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Moon Salutations. Lots of walking. A certain amount of desk-dancing while I write this, wich plans to go Actual Dancing this Saturday night.
 
Attention: Watching this chest congestion like a hawk, because I do NOT want to get sick (at least not for another week – at which point I’ll have the better part of ten days to get myself healthy again, and I’ll deal if that happens). How I catch myself and pull back in situations where I’m about to make a connection (with another person, human or otherwise)… it’s… something to think about, notice, and probably one of the many instances where I’m pulling back from a YES that I do, actually, want to offer. So… Thinky-thinky.
 
Gratitude: A writing date with a friend. My wife’s new shop space and the financial flexibility that’ll give us. My upcoming interview. Continued modeling work. A garden that’s full of radish and mustard greens and, incidentally, a tonne of ground ivy that I can steep into a tea to combat bronchitis. The smell of crab apple and lilac blossoms in the air. Time to take good care of myself when I’m feeling under the weather. Running into a friend while doing groceries. Flirty interactions with my sweethearts. A wife and a girlfriend who love me.
 
Inspiration: Pulling tarot cards for poetry inspo. Listening to my girlfriend’s stories about her religious experiences as I reach out to my own gods.
 
Creation: Most recently? Two (very long) poems, that need whittling down, but are a good place to start.

Full Moon – Flower Moon Crests (and Wanes)

Pear blossoms in bloom. White flowers, green leaves, red brick in the background

Pear blossoms in bloom. White flowers, green leaves, red brick in the background


 
It’s drizzly again, but humid now. The temperature is higher. The tulips, daffodils, and cherries are blooming, and the crab apples and pears – as seen in the above photo – have opened up as well. The service berries have pretty-much finished their flowering. Even the rhubarb is starting to flower. We are deep in Beauty Season already.
It’s lovely out.
Even with the drizzle.
I’ve spent the day watering the garden (possibly unnecessarily) and getting the house back in order after a spending a week with my visiting girlfriend (who left me with copies of Hild – a historical novel set in 7th Century proto-England which includes some really solid research into, and depictions of, early-medieval English life with regards to food and textiles, and the work involved in making same – and Ritual Sex, which is a book of essays and stories, by various authors, about pretty-much what it says on the tin. My wheelhouses, let me show you them).
 
I finished the cotton skirt (which has a draw-string and no zipper required). I still have a dozen things to mend or alter or create from whole cloth (literally), but I’m a little bit closer to what I want my “summer wardrobe” to look like (shrugs and boleros, flowy maxi skirts, cute sun dresses, and fitted tank tops, maybe the odd shawl, as needed).
I’m thinking about glamour – as in the active practice of doing personal authenticity in a way that is also fascinating to others – and about how I want to present myself when I’m out in the world.
 
A long time ago, I was 30lbs under weight[1] due to stress, recently separated and in the midst of an actually very easy divorce, and trying to figure out how the heck I wanted to dress myself when I’d spent the last seven years working in a retail environment where we were expected to wear what we sold, and where the clientele was about 30 years my senior and employed full-time by the government. I was trying to figure out how to dress myself, yes. But I was also trying to figure out what I wanted people to see when they looked at me. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be “as a grown up”, when “grown up” had rather suddenly stopped meaning “suburban home-ownership + husband + hypothetical impending children”. I feel like I’ve been trying to sort that out for the past 12 years.
 
More recently – as in this past week – I’ve been “on vacation” living an on-going power exchange with my girlfriend in a way that’s really only possible when you’re on vacation (as in: in the same city, yeah, but more importantly: enjoying limited stress, deliberately limited distractions, tonnes of sleep, and abundant time for long walks by the river or otherwise going on dates). Under these circumstances, it’s easier to dress with clearly-defined intent, focus deeply on your Other Person, and to both plan, and follow through on, shared activities.
Whether the “vacation” in question is a once-a-season get-together with a loved one, or a once-a-year cheap fare to an all-inclusive beach locale or a saved-up-for major subcultural event, it’s a situation where glamour is easy. As Ms Sugar might put it, vacation, like Pinterest, is seductive “because everything is beautiful and nothing hurts there”.
 
So I find myself asking: How do I bring that glamour – that focused intention, that follow-through, that action of being interesting and interested – to my day-to-day life? How, too, do I invite that attention and sensuality in as well?
 
Next World Tarot - Two of Wands - A Black femme in a blue skirt and a leopard print top, with close-cut hair, holds a mace in her left hand and regards the reader through cat-eye glasses.

Next World Tarot – Two of Wands – A Black femme in a blue skirt and a leopard print top, with close-cut hair, holds a mace in her left hand and regards the reader through cat-eye glasses.


 
This conveniently relates to my Tarot Meditation card, which is a reminder that I have power here, and can make choices that will help make these things happen.
I initially drew this card from the Silicon Dawn deck, where it’s called “Will” (the two of pentacles) and is described by the artist as something like “The confidence to dance with the lightning” and the balancing of the ever-moving energies that one exists between. (Egypt Urnash also says, in her write-up of this card, “If you’re asking whether you should have some kind of tantric ceremony soon, the answer is ‘Yes'”, so… relevant to my interests, tbh).
 
I generally understand the Two of Fire – regardless of how the suit is named – as a card about “Make a Decision”. A card about setting your intention and then putting in the work – and the Will – to follow-through and go get it.
I see this reflected in the way Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha describes this card, as it appears in the Next World Tarot (the image is a portrait of a specific person), in their piece “3 crazy queens” (in Tonguebreaker”):

She stands there, asking you What is your deepest truth and desire, your deepest wound to heal? Only facing those things in a world on fire will give you what you need to live.

 
If I look at this card in the context of the “present” situation in the three-card draw I did at New Moon (and, yes, the moon is waning right now, but I’m still working with this), I have to ask myself:
In the face of infinite potential, what choices am I making that will point me towards that open-hearted future I want so much? Where can I say “Yes” more? Where can I choose the lens of curiosity and adventure over the lens of anxiety and catastrophizing?
Reader? There are definitely some situations in my life where this choice is very obviously before me, and I will try to say “Yes” and be adventurous.
Wish me luck!
 
~*~
 
Movement: Walking all over town. Moon Salutations. Weeding the garden. Modeling gigs with short poses.
 
Attention: What information is coming my way? Where can I see opportunities arising? How did those squash seedlings wind up sprouting in the compost? (Okay, I strongly suspect the squirrels for that one…)
 
Gratitude: Grateful for partners who love me and think the best of each other. For friends who show up when one of us needs help with groceries. For hot, humid weather (even if there’s not a lot of it, yet). For modeling work. For fresh bread from the oven. For squirrels who, apparently, think the compost heap is an excellent place to bury purloined squash seeds (I actually agree with them on this, thence the gratitude). For books from the library and gifted books from my sweetie. For being able to being able to be in the same room with my girlfriend for a whole week, after months of being apart. For my wife, who gave us the space to do so, and who was happy to come home to me. For my family.
 
Inspiration: Patrick Califia’s “Shiny Sharp Things” essay in Ritual Sex.
 
Creation: I’m mid-way through altering a turquoise leather jacket (the plan is to do the sewing over the weekend, as I’ll be hanging out with my lovely wife as she sews back patches and similar at the Ride For Dad after-party and will, thus, have access to her sewing machine, contact cement, and leather-compatible needles. Also wrote up a new recipe for Rhubarb-Banana muffins, which I’m testing out (they’re baking right now) today.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Let’s just say I have a pretty solid idea of what my bones and organs weigh because there really wasn’t much else left of me at that point.

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).