New Year New You 2018 – Week 8 (Asking For Help)

I’m (once again) doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. It’s a good mix of practical, magical, and thought-based exercises to help accomplish specific and significant change in your own life. If it’s relevant to your interests, give it a try!
 
Instructions: This week’s prompt is about asking someone for help. Most of us hate that shit with a hating that fires a thousand suns. Asking for help feels almost like admitting defeat. And by defeat, I mean admitting that you’re not invincible. Well. You’re not. Sorry.
 
Tarot Card: Honestly, this could be any – or maybe all – of the Fours.
 

The minor arcana Fours
Crystal Visions Tarot
“Four is the number of stability, the home, the physical realm, organisation, security, limitations and mercy.”


 
All the fours relate to both The Emperor (tradition, personal power, structure) and Temperance (balance, team work, moderation in all things). They’re also the first “plateau” in the climb from two to ten through the each suit.
I find that they pertain to the hopes and fears we have around trusting and working with other people. (Granted, I also think the sixes are about this, so maybe I’m just projecting here).
The four of fire is about participation and being an active part of A Group. The four of earth is the fear that nobody will have your back when you need it. The four of air is pulling away, or taking a step back, in order to prepare to re-enter a social (but not necessarily friendly) milieu. And the four of water… The four of water has one interpretation that I think fits this theme very well: Just take the fucking cup.
 
There is a well-worn, and more than a little frustrating, pathway in my head that goes: When I’m freaking out about something (which is often), I literally forget that people will help me.
Like, I have to stop myself and walk my brain through a multi-step process to get myself out of the head-space that truly believes “I don’t have friends” and back to something that more closely resembles reality.
So, when it comes to this particular writing/action prompt, I’m trying to recognize and accept the fucking cup more reliably when it’s offered to me.
 
When someone invited me to participate in a flash performance at a local poetry show? I said yes.
When a local author offered me a paid gig reading tarot for teens this Fall? I said yes.
When I got hit with a shitty summer cold and my wife said “Stay in bed and rest!”… I said yes (though I don’t think I could have done otherwise), rather than feeling guilty about not making my own sandwiches.
When a friend offered to cover the difference between missing and making last month’s rent payment? I said yes.
When a temp-job contact told me about a mat-leave reception contract in the same close-to-me office building and offered to put me in touch with the appropriate people? I said yes. (This was literally yesterday, and I’ve been having The Anxiety about it ever since, but I still said yes).
 
There was a time when accepting gifts/support from people – letting my girlfriend pay for dinner, for example, or believing someone when they say they want to hang out with me instead of assuming some kind of ulterior motive – felt fraught with danger and was fraught with shame. And certainly some of it still is, though being broke for eight straight years has definitely, uh, “helped” with that. I may still have difficulties around believing it when my partner(s) tell me I’m awesome, but if they offer to make me a sandwich, I am there!
 
Anyway. So, for this prompt, I had a look back at my goals for this project. Some of them (like putting my creative stuff out into the world by sending out poetry submissions, reading at open mics, and saying yes to participating in group performances) is going just fine. Some of it (like letting go of detrimental behaviours or opening up to relationships/behaviours/activities that are good for me) is… not so much.
There’s a lot of (ineffective) self-protective “don’t wanna” going on, and a fair bit of, I dunno, “The danger you know is better than the danger you don’t” in terms of how I interact with people. Like “Sure, I know that hiding my feelings because I think they’re stupid is… detrimental. But at least I know that, right? At least I know I’m putting my hand in a blender and can maybe mitigate/prepare-for some of the damages? Whereas if I do something different, there could be unexpected surprise blenders just appearing around my fingers, and then what would I do??”
It’s dumb.
I know it’s dumb.
So… One thing I am doing marginally more consistently is, as per her request, letting my wife know about what’s going on in my head. Like, if I’m getting all wound up because: Anxiety, I’ll actually tell her about it. Which I’m finding (and it feels really weird to discover this, even though it’s maybe not that surprising)… it helps. Really? Really.
And the combination of (a) showing my Crazy, if I can even call it that, and (b) having someone validate that weird collection of feelings, is kind of helping on the front of these two goals:

I want to recognize and know-in-my-bones that my “scary side” isn’t actually scary to people who are good for me.
I want to recognize and know-in-my-bones that all of me is worthy of love and belonging BY/WITH people who are good for me.

 
So, asking for help? Not exactly.
But accepting help when it’s offered, trusting that those offers are sincere and that I won’t be humiliated and/or abandoned while risking being vulnerable…? Yeah. I’m giving that a try.

New Moon – Apple Moon Begins (New Moon in Leo, Partial Solar Eclipse)

Crab apples, Malus sp. - Photo by Jonathan Billinger - Via Wikimedia Commons

Crab apples, Malus sp. – Photo by Jonathan Billinger
Via Wikimedia Commons
Close-up of deep red crab apples, ready to be picked.


 
I may be jumping the gun a little here, but there have been ripe apples falling off the trees between here and the Redeau river for weeks, so even if the crab apples aren’t quite (quite) ready to be picked by the grocery-bag-full yet (I will be testing this theory tomorrow, while doing The Laundry across from a bunch of city trees, so we’ll see) I’m going to go ahead and call this one Apple Moon.
 
I pulled a LOT of quack grass (and some crab grass) out of the raised beds today. Also, gave the bolting mustard and icicle radishes a bit of a hair cut. I want the seeds, but I also want the volunteer cherry tomatoes and the kale (or is it collards?) and chard to have some breathing room and light access. So a lot of it is now drying (like hay? Ish?) on a bed of as-yet-unflowered new dandelion growth in the hopes that it dries down before I chuck it in my compost heap.
For my efforts, I managed to find one (1) beautifully ripe yellow cherry tomato and one (1) undersized striped zucchini. (I also harvested a very, very woody icicle radish which I slivered – along with shredding the more delicate greens – and added to my current batch of “wild” (ish) fermented veggies.
It’s a start.
 
The veggie ferment, btw, is now in the fridge. It was smelling Not Great – as in “smells like saurkraut is supposed to smell but… also with an over-layer of Ewwwwww” – and putting it in a cooler environment will help the Good Bacteria take over from the not-so-great bacteria in a timely fashion.
 
I’ve got four at-home days coming up, and my plans include doing laundry (finally!), harvesting crab apples and/or heirloom red-fleshed apples (hopefully! If successful: also making crab apple jelly and/or apple butter), setting up a new batch of yoghurt in the instant pot, and digging a lot of sunchokes out of the other raised bed (Thanks, helpful squirrels! I so appreciate the way you replanted literally ALL of those…) with an eye to pickling them in big chunks with some garlic, ginger, and mustard seeds. Maybe some bird chilies as well.
We’ll see how this actually goes though, as the week progresses. I’ve got poetry to submit, word-counts (novel) and further poetry to write, and a couple of things to mend as well, so. We’ll do what we can.
 
I’ve run into a bit of a problem with the yoghurt. I’m not sure if I’m trying to culture too much milk with only half a cup of starter, or if I’m not mixing the starter in well enough, or if I’m over-heating the milk initially, or if I’m waiting too long to transfer the yoghurt to the fridge (unlikely), but… I’m winding up with “thick milk + lumpy bits” rather than the relatively smooth, definitely cultured-all-the-way-through yoghurt that I was initially getting. I’ll take a look around the internet and see what’s what, but if anyone reading this is recognizing the problem and knows how to solve it, do feel free to leave me a comment on the subject.
 
My sourdough bread is… getting more like the kind of bread I want it to be. Which is a good sign. It’s still not as dry as I’d like it to be… I’m not sure if that means I need to cook it for longer, or let it rise in the fridge over night (my current suspicion is the latter), but things went relatively well the last time I made bread, and I didn’t use any “booster yeast” (1/2 tsp of bread yeast added to the initial sponge), so that’s a good sign.
 
My wife and I are going to visit the Twist Fiber Festival in Saint-André-Avellin next weekend. There will be demos. There will be a food tent. There will be art exhibits. There will be a “mini farm” (which… is that like a petting zoo? Or an animal expo? I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to finding out). There will also be vendors and pay-to-register workshops, which I will be avoiding because I have very little cash but a HUGE yarn stash (by my standards) AND access to youtube tutorials. But the plan is, in addition to taking a day-trip, to pick up some manure compost (and maybe some bagged mulch?) and cart it all home where it will sit and do nothing until the fall.
 
My wife and I were chatting about the garden this morning. About how the food forests that I day-dream about are honestly waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay beyond my current scope. My approach to gardening is mostly to ask “What grows here anyway?” and try to make the most of it, coupled with an attempt at planting things so heavily that the plants I want (like rainbow chard or “dazzling blue” flat-leaf kale or zucchini or winter squash or tomatoes, or, or, or…) overpower and shade out the plants I don’t (quack grass, crab grass… actually, that’s about it).
And that technique isn’t really working right now. So I’m starting (and ending up super out of breath… not a good sign) to weed my raised beds a little more intensively, in the hopes of preventing another wild-grass take-over of my food-growing spaces. Here’s hoping I manage to do some good.
 
Oh. I did, indeed, try mixing up a batch of rhubarb wine. Specifically, I took half a batch of my ginger beer, added 2C frozen diced rhubarb, and 1/2 tsp of bread yeast, plus some honey, and let it go for a couple of weeks. Just yesterday I racked it (sort of) and topped it up with a handful of chokecherries (that I mashed and pitted) plus honey, pomegranate molasses, some water, and 1/4 tsp more yeast. I figure I’ll let that sit for another week or so, and then rack it again and shove it into the back of the fridge to age (“age”) for a while. Based on the smell, I’m expecting something that tastes predominantly ginger-y but with lots of fruity undertones. Fingers crossed!
 
On the astrological front. It’s Leo Season. Everybody’s going “Look at me! Look at me!” on some level. Lammas, the first harvest, was a little over a week ago (or about two weeks ago, if you’re doing the lunar version), the nights are getting longer, though the days are still long (and hot), and Eclipse Season is in full swing.
The thing about quarter/cross-quarter days is that, because they happen roughly six weeks apart, they make for good points of reflection.
Liz Worth, who tends to talk about Eclipse Cycles – the multi-year dovetailing of eclipses that chase each other across any specific two signs at opposite points on the zodiac wheel (when the sun, and therefore the new moon, are in one sign, the full moon will be in the other) – recently brought up that Leo and Aquarius are both very creative signs, but that they’re creative in different ways. That Leo wants self-expression and the spotlight (freedom TO), but that Aquarius wants freedom FROM old habits/behaviours/rules that don’t apply or that hold them back. Maybe it’s no surprise that having eclipse energy (transformation a-go-go) in both of these signs, one of-which overlays Imbolg (a time of germination, stretching, hopefulness, and hidden/underground changes) and one that overlays Lammas (a time of reaping what you’ve sown, but also a time for sowing a second crop of short-season, cold-weather-loving seeds. In other words: Building new plans and projects in places where you’ve already seen some results), means feeling the push to make things (changes, projects, splashes) happen in your life.
 
What were you starting to work towards back in February? Now’s a good time to check in with where those projects are at. What kind of results have you been seeing? What do you need to turn under vs what do you need to tend better? What can you build from here-on-in before the Last Harvest at Samhain spins us back into the Root Time of resting and dreaming underground?
Liz suggests the intention/affirmation of “I am ready for my next step”, and offers a related tarot spread to figure out what that might be (it’s at the link, above).
 
Horoscope-wise: Jessica Lanyadoo, over at Hoodwitch, informs me that “There is strength in your willingness to move slowly and with intention, Scorpio”, and reminds me not to rush those changes unless I actually want to haul the same old garbage along with me into my next stages (which… not so much). On a related note, Chani offers this affirmation-scope: “What I am beginning now will grow over the next six months. I confidently pour my energy into what I want to bloom and become. I spend time developing the projects that most reflect my values.” Miriam, courtesy of Radical Tarot’s Tarotscopes, offers this bit of (awkwardly on-the-nose…) encouragement to Scorpios like me:

Oh Scorpio, it’s been a torrential few months. You seemed to be pulled back, dragged through the past, reminded of hurts and anger from several years removed. But even just the past few days have found you realizing that this was more a bow-and-arrow situation, necessary tension building to propel you further than ever before, quite specifically in the direction of hitting the mark where it comes to your passion. […] The magic is in your hands, and pushing past your need to pull away and be secretive will really allow all of this to spark, catch, and take blaze with truly dazzling effects!

 
Which I guess brings me to my Tarot Card Meditation:

The Lovers - Tarot of the Silicon Dawn (Egypt Urnash): Three colourful, femme sweethearts circle each other, laughing and playful together.

The Lovers – Tarot of the Silicon Dawn (Egypt Urnash)
Three colourful, femme sweethearts circle each other, laughing and playful together.


 
On top of being explicitly queer (both in the art and in the write-up), this is one of the most marvelously, deliberately polyamourous Lovers cards I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. I’m delighted to have drawn it for today’s meditation.
It is – as I’m finding a lot of these meditation random-draws are – remarkably relevant to current personal events, and also to that tarotscope from Miriam.
I pulled the card reversed – so this is about me and how I related to lovers-type situations. My relationship with my own desire. My relationship with my own sexuality. My ability to give myself permission to want, and ask for, and experience pleasure when there are other people involved.
I can’t help wondering how deeply this relates to the draw I did when Rampion Moon was full, about creatively engaging in my web of relationships by being willing to take some risks.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Hours of walking, some week-yanking (read: squating for 15 minutes at a time… urgh), but not much else. Plans for later this week to go apple picking in the neighbourhood and out near Mud Lake.
 
Attention: Totally absorbed by my friend’s recently-launched debut novel. Also paying attention to what veggies and fruits I can forage, harvest, and/or buy on-the-cheap-because-in-season. Brought home 3kg each zucchini and roma tomatoes, most-of-which will end up in the freezer, one way or another, for use in stews and pastas over winter.
 
Gratitude: Grateful for the rain that is still falling. For running water and a neighbour who lets me use her hose. Also grateful that said neighbour periodically hands us bags of snap beans or whole fuzzy melons from her much-more-prolific-than-ours garden. Grateful that I know what wild greens I can eat. Grateful for the apple trees that grow across from my laundromat. Grateful for upcoming work that has not been canceled (I had a bit of a scare last Friday but, while my next long-ish office booking has been shortened, I’m only losing two days, which is a BIG relief!). Grateful for a wife who loves me, and says so often. For a metamour who brings us corn on the cob and coconut oil and lends us her car so that her girlfriend (aka my wife) and I can go on day-trips together. Grateful for a second radish crop. For thriving rainbow chard (at last!). For my first home-grown zucchini EVAR and for the first tiny cherry tomato of my year.
 
Inspiration: The above-mentioned debut novel, and the woman who wrote it <3. A rejection letter from a paid market that was, none the less, very encouraging. My wife, who is quite the bad-ass and an astonishing wiz at fixing unfamiliar analogue machinery.
 
Creation: Making some progress on the spite-novel (aiming to make some more progress this Wednesday) and also on the knitted tank top. Made a batch of offering-candles today (beeswax + lard. We’ll see how they do). Plans to make some super-dangling rainbow earrings over the next few days as well.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad.

Full Moon – Rampion Moon Crests (Lunar Eclipse)

Photo by Tomasz Sienicki Via Wiki Media Commons Heavy rainfall on a suburban street. There are mixed coniferous and deciduous trees in the foreground.

Photo by Tomasz Sienicki
Via Wiki Media Commons
Heavy rainfall on a suburban street. There are mixed coniferous and deciduous trees in the foreground.


 
The rains came back! 😀
The temperatures haven’t been quite as astonishingly high and we’ve been getting a little (and sometimes a LOT) of rain most nights, and some days, for the past week.
I hope this continues.
August (coming fast) has historically been thunderstorm season in these parts, and we sure do need them right now.
It’s kind of amazing to watch the second crop of radishes germinate, and the dandelions starting to put out new leaves.
I reseeded my greens bed with rainbow chard, collards, and Tuscan kale, in the hopes of filling in a few empty patches with greens I can throw in my freezer.
The chard that’s been struggling for the past month seems to be doing a little better in the cooler temperatures and regular rains. (I water the garden every day, but ten minutes with a hose is NOTHING like four hours of the entire sky dumping water on you). The soil in my raised beds is still pretty dry below the surface. One of my goals, this autumn, is – after the frost kills everything off, but before the ground is frozen – is to dig a lot of organic matter (like dried up veggie stalks and straw, but also manure compost if I’m able to find some) but, ideally also a lot of absorbent cotton rags (like threadbare old tank tops, for example) way down deep to help retain water in what is still some pretty depleted soil.
I mean… good luck with that, person with back problems who can’t deal with squatting for more than two minutes at a time, but that’s the goal.
In the mean time, I’ve been harvesting mostly-wild leafy greens – purslane, sow thistle, lamb’s quarters, and wild grape mostly – from the back yard and the surrounding neighbourhood and turning them into “wild sour kraut”, which I put on sandwiches and mix into soups.
 
Today I pulled up a bunch of icicle radish (some with nice root, but mostly just for the greens) plus some sow thistle, and I’ll be adding that to my current veggie ferment, which is mostly wild grape leaves (currently the biggest leaves available,which is why). It’ll be a nice, crunchy one, but also a bit more tannic than usual.
I’ve been (buying and) freezing zucchini for a month or so, too, which is nice.
I have to tell you. I know Michael Pollan has some Problems[1], but every time I read one of his books, it does make me think about what kind of food I’m growing (or not), cooking, and eating, and that what I want to be dishing up – stews, pot roasts, and braises heavily studded with winter squash, mushroom, sturdy cooking greens, and garden herbs; pasta dishes bright with chard, young (not nearly so bitter) wild greens, yellow summer squash, cherry tomatoes, and crow garlic; strata baked from sourdough bread, heavily drained labneh (yoghurt cheese), sliced apples or pears, and eggs from ethically-cared-for hens (I wish) – isn’t quite where I’m at yet, even if I’m close.
Basically, I think I need to double the amount of veggies I cook in a given dish, or else cook more than one dish worth of veggies – doing a tomato-cucumber salad to go with the pasta or the pilaf, or steaming some broccoli or winter squash to go with the carrots, potatoes, and cabbage that were cooked in the same pot as the pork and barley.
I admit that the thought of buying substantially more veggies – even frozen ones, which are generally less expensive than fresh – is daunting. But I think it will be better for us, over all, if I can make it happen.
 
I’ve spent most of last week modeling for a five-day oil painting course. It was really nice, and was enough hours that I was able to top up the rent for August, but I’m very glad to be getting my “weekend” now that it’s Monday.
Plans for today include writing this blog post, steaming some zucchini, finally making some candle offerings to my gods and ancestors (those candles are now lit, and I’m quite happy about it), getting a few more greens into the fermentation crock to pickle, and finishing reading that latest food theory book.
It’s going to be an easy day. I hope.
 
I’ve been thinking about ancestors lately.
In part because I’ve been watching half a dozen or so people trying to paint pictures of me, and I see the parts of my face -reflected in their paintings – that come from my various parents, grandparents, and generations further back.In part because I’ve been reading In Defense of Food and the part of what that books says is that “food” is something your more distant ancestors would recognize as such[3].
Cooking with barley rather than rice (not exclusively, granted). Trying to grow my own “kale yard” (which was what the Scotish folks allegedly called the household veggie garden, ’round about the 1600s when we were eating a LOT of wild foods as well) and forage a lot of urban greens[4], is stuff that my ancestors have done. Up until pretty recently (my mom grew up dairy farming; my dad, while he grew up wealthy, also grew up rural and did a lot of fishing for meals). I’m a much worse angler than I thought I’d be (based entirely on childhood fishing trips), but I’m theoretically getting better at gardening and foraging and fermenting, and I’ve been making really good jam and relish for years. And all of this stuff is Family Stuff. My grandparents (my mom’s parents) saw a former garden of mine – something like 13-14 years ago, in a much different part of town – and they were so happy to see me growing food of my own. I’m proud of it, when I’m able to manage to do it, and part of why is because it’s something I learned from them to value and also do.
 
Tarot of the Silicon Dawn (Egypt Urnash) Left = Three of Water (A trio of intergalactic snake people, entwined and having a jolly good time together). Right = Eight of Fire (A fire-haired video game character pitching a flaming pentacle at the viewer while gaining extra hit points).

Tarot of the Silicon Dawn
(Egypt Urnash)
Left = Three of Water (A trio of intergalactic snake people, entwined and having a jolly good time together).
Right = Eight of Fire (A fire-haired video game character pitching a flaming pentacle at the viewer while gaining extra hit points).


 
I drew two cards for my Tarot Card Meditation. The first by just flipping over the shuffled deck and seeing what was on the bottom, and the second by cutting the (now upside down) deck at random and seeing what it “opened” to.
Who I need to be? The Three of Water
Abundance. Pleasure. Love overflowing. (Egypt Urnash).
Discover pockets of joy and comradery. Reconnect with your happiest safe haven. Find peace amid chaos. (Cristy C. Road).
How I need to be the three of water? The Eight of Fire
Courage. Boldness. You’ve got the power-up and some extra lives to experiment with. (Egypt Urnash).
Ignite your passion as you heal with laughter, yelling, song, and dance. (Cristy C. Road).
Who I need to be is an active participant in my web of relationships.
How I need to be that, or maybe what I need to do (action-wise) in order to be that, is creatively engaged and (surprise, surprise) willing to take some risks.
 
Discover pockets of joy and connection. Heal with laughter and song and dance. I kind of feel like this – appropriately, perhaps – relates to the card I drew at the New Moon, which suggested that I needed to get the heck out of my funk, reconnect with my sweetheart(s), and re-engage with joy, instead of staying camped out on the Planes of Desolation and Preemptive Disappointment.
This is like that. Creative engagement and some emotional (uh… I assume?) risks are both necessary for connection with other people, especially if you’re me.
 
~*~
 
Movement: You wouldn’t think sitting still for six hours a day, all week, would be such a strain on your neck and shoulders, but there it is. However! The studio was a ~45 minute walk from the house, so I got in a good hour-and-a-half walk every day, which is nice. Totally skipped going dancing on Saturday, though, due to the 7am alarm clock I’ve been dealing with all week.
 
Attention: Watching the water levels in the garden, the heavy clouds and whether or not they’re likely to spill. Whether or not there are puddles (or even wet pavement) when I get up in the morning. Watching for signs of recovery and new growth in the garden.
 
Gratitude: Grateful for rain. For enough modeling hours to cover the rent. For knowing how to find & harvest leafy greens and fruit (chokecherries, early apples) somewhere other than a grocery store. For libraries. For coming home to clean dishes last night. For a wife who misses me and makes me smile. ❤
 
Inspiration: Watching people learning to mix bright colours into skin tones and figuring out how to make a 2D picture look like a 3D form using lighter and darker shades. That’s pretty cool, and I kind of want to try painting a picture of an egg now. >.>
 
Creation: Remarkably little. I’ve made some progress on my knitted cotton tank top, and have written a few thousand words in my Spite Novel, but that’s about it.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad.
 
 
[1] Specifically, he’s a fairly wealthy man, born in the mid-1950s, who lives in an area where you can grow/buy fresh local veggies 100% of the year, and he’s writing for people who are in more or less the same demographic (not actually bad, in and of itself), even if they aren’t in the same part of the world. He has some spots where his understanding of the culture he’s writing in and for gets a little willfully spotty, particularly around the idea of who is most likely to be taking on the extra 2+ hours per day of meal prep that his particular dietary/ethical suggestions require, and what gender they will most likely be. Just because Michael – as a freelance writing who often works from home – does most of the cooking at his place, and has a job that allows him to do so by interspersing those two hours in and around the rest of what he’s doing on a given day… doesn’t mean that’s how it goes in most households in the demographic he’s writing for, let alone, say, Millennials and Gen-Xers, in their 30s and 40s, who are more likely to be “spending less than 10% of their income on food” because they are spending 40%-50% of it on housing[2], and still have to come up with a way to pay for those pesky utilities (y’know, like heat) and crushing student loans while working unstable gig-economy and low-waged service-industry jobs.
His writing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and sometimes he writes as though it does.
 
[2] In our case, it’s more like 65%, if you were wondering.
 
[3] Which is not stopping me from buying freezer pizza, ice cream, chocolate bars, frozen berry punch from concentrate, or tinned mushroom soup, I’ll have you know.
 
[4] Which tend to be invasive plants brought by my colonizing ancestors, see in particular: rampion and garlic mustard, but also plantain, purslane, dandelions, crow garlic, and lambs quarters.

Sour Dough Adventures

If there’s anything working with a sour dough starter has brought home for me, it’s that (A) I am an impatient person, good grief, and (B) I haaaaaaaaaaaaate not being good at stuff. Hate it. It’s VERY frustrating.
And I didn’t expect the learning curve on this to be quite as steep as it has been, if only for me specifically.
 
Today I made sour dough pancakes.
Am in the process of cooking them (and probably burning them) as I write this.
They should be just fine. If only because, while I’m using some starter in lieu of baking powder, I’m still aiming for something closer to the “French” pancakes – meaning something like a crispy crepe, especially with four eggs in them – I made as a kid, rather than the thick and fluffy ones that might come to mind if I said, like, “flapjack” or something (stuff that’s closer to a flattened out drop-scone or Welsh cake, basically).

So my attempts at using levain as a quick-bread levener are… probably unsuccessful but also probably tasty, so we’ll see how it goes.
 
Successfully making Actual Bread, however, is going a lot more slowly.
Both in the sense that I haven’t quite managed it yet, AND in the sense that this process takes 36+ hours to actually do.
The dough seems to do best when rising in the fridge. It develops the sticking-to-itself tendency and the cohesive texture that I want in bread dough that way, whereas if I let it do its thing on the counter, while it does rise reliably, it never loses that sticky, heavy feeling and it’s hard to deal with (meaning: my hands get just COVERED in dough, and it’s hard to scrape off AND it feels gross).
So I think I’ll try to do all-in-the-fridge rising with this batch and see if it works.
Fingers crossed.
 
Beyond that… This surprised me, though it really shouldn’t have. Sour Dough bread takes a lot more flour. Not all at once, per se, but over time. Because you have to feed the starter every couple of days (provided you keep the starter in the fridge as well).
Which means I get to try and clear some space in the fridge today.
Wish me luck. 😀

New Moon – Rampion Moon Begins (Cancer Season, Partial Solar Eclipse)

Creeping Bellflower Super invasive BUT the roots are edible and (in theory) taste like parsnip. This is the Rampion from Rapunzel's story. Photo is from Ruth's Tree Farm.

Creeping Bellflower
Super invasive BUT the roots are edible and (in theory) taste like parsnip.
This is the Rampion from Rapunzel’s story.
Photo is from Ruth’s Tree Farm.


 
We’ve had almost no rain for a month.
My front yard, with its pink bee balm, purple bellflower, and orange day lilies, is crispy as fuck because I barely water it.
My back yard is doing better, because there’s a hose back there. But we’re not doing super well on the food-production front.
I think I’ll be digging up some of those bell flowers – along with the various sunchokes/as’kebwan’ that Danger Squirrel et familia have re-planted in my raised beds, which I suspect I’ll just ferment from the get-go in multiple jars – to help us save on groceries, because my zucchini and cukes are not really producing (or, if they are, they’re being eaten by the squirrels).
In theory, my potatoes (yukon gold) are getting close to harvest-ready, though I’ll probably let them get a bit bigger, if I can swing it. I’m not sure how to cure potatoes, so I’ll have to look that up.
The fava beans that I grew entirely as a nitrogen-fixing crop are producing beans, so I can harvest those as well, and we can have fava beans on toast or something.
Basically, Ontario’s Yummy Season has arrived. And also my garden isn’t doing a whole lot, beyond giving us some amazing herbs and trying not to die in what I’m pretty sure is actually a drought.
 
This is where I really, REALLY notice the difference between the perennial plants and the annuals. The perennials – even the crispy-fried flowers out front – are still actually growing, getting bigger, managing to do more than survive out here. The annuals, on the other hands, are straight-up suffering, and they’re getting watered once, usually twice, a day (in the cool of the morning, and again at twilight).
It’s also dawning on me just WHY my neighbour, who gardens very intensively and very successfully (I am in awe of her, tbh), brings in 20+ bags of top soil and manure compost every year.
 
I’m well aware that my soil is very depleted and, while I did top it up with some manure compost early in the growing season (which helped significantly), it’s not helping enough. My compost heap, itself, is cooking along quite nicely (and is now receiving human hair and toilet paper tubes along with the more typical kitchen waste, because I’d rather feed the ground that’s feeding me than send this stuff to a landfill or even a recycling depot), but it’s not enough to feed the whole garden. Not as it stands right now.
 
Our garden has mostly given us leafy greens, so far. And many of those have been “weed” greens – dandelion, crow garlic, sow thistle, purslane, lambs’ quarters, and other related plants. This is fine – I let those plants go to seed in our yard on purpose, because they are food plants – but the goal remains to get enough cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and winter squash (along with, maybe, some root crops) from our garden to not have to buy groceries as much as we currently do. And, frankly, we are not making enough big, healthy leafy greens to freeze for winter alongside what we eat day to day with our meals.
 
You can take a look at this post for a run-down of the various mostly-fermentation-related kitchen things I’ve been up to. I’d originally planned on walking through all of them here, but it was eating a LOT of space, so I made them their own post.
 
I recently spent a lovely evening out with a friend in Gatineau Park, nattering about all sorts of things, and I wound up lending her Starhawk’s Earth Path and chatting with her about earth based spirituality stuff, and I’m excited for that kind of shop-talk to continue.
I like shop-talk about religious stuff. Especially with other people who tend to be a bit DIY about it. I love chatting about land-connection and animism – figuring out How To Animism, when you were raised in a religion that didn’t have a lot of immanence going on; figuring out how to navigate recognizing the personhood of your food, or the made objects around your house; figuring out how to recognize the overlapping physical and not-so-physical worlds without (a) totally reinventing the wheel, OR (b) appropriating practices from cultures whose traditional animism is considerably more recently-interrupted (or uninterrupted) than your own. All that stuff.
So it was nice to get to do with someone in person. 🙂
 
Tarot Card Meditation:
It’s Cancer Season, as-you-know-bob, and there was a partial solar eclipse yesterday evening. I have to tell you, we’ve been having a stressful couple of weeks here at House Of Goat, and I was a little nervous about what I was going to pull for my meditation card today.
 
Tarot of the Silicon Dawn Egypt Urnash Maya (Card 8.5) An intersex babe having some fun D/s sexytimes with her two lovers/submissives. My kind of card.

Tarot of the Silicon Dawn
Egypt Urnash
Maya (Card 8.5)
An intersex babe having some fun D/s sexytimes with her two lovers/submissives.
My kind of card.


 
So it was kind of fantastic to have this card literally leap out of the deck for me.
Maya is card eight-and-a-half, one of the Silicon Dawn’s bonus/weirdo cards. Egypt’s write-up says that this card is the “bastard child of The Devil and the High Priestess”. All the things you’re afraid to meet in the underworld (or your own unconscious mind). All the things you want but aren’t supposed to. What are you trying to tell yourself? What would be fulfilling, pleasurable, connecting right now?
I seriously feel like this was basically “Oh my gawd! Don’t be so gloomy all the time! It’s the weekend! It’s summer! You’re going on a road trip and know how to make your own booze! Have a fucking party for once!”
 
This message dovetails pretty nicely with Chani’s horoscope for Scorpio right now, with its reminder to choose that which stirs my soul, lifts my spirits, and gives me a reason to keep pushing through the hard parts.
And they – Chani and Maya, both – are right. Freaking out isn’t going to solve any problems. And I am going on a road trip (or, well, a day-trip, but still). Heart palpitations about money, and emails to send to the minister of education, will still be there on Monday. I get to have fun, spend some time with my wife, visit my friends and my in-town-for-48-hours brother, eat ice cream and drink home-made wine.
Let this weekend be something beautiful, restorative, and good.
Thanks, tarot cards. ❤
 
~*~
 
Movement: Lots of walking, and a small amount of yard-work in someone else’s yard, but that’s about it.
 
Attention: I have to admit, a LOT of my attention is on the sky right now. Will it rain? At last? Will it not? :-\ Fingers crossed!
 
Gratitude: Grateful for reprieves. For a break in the heat (a bit). For the hope of rain, even if it hasn’t fallen yet. For friends who send money, treat us to meals out, drop off spare food, pass on hand-me-downs and boots-to-good-homes, or otherwise help us make ends meet, and make life feel like it can still be something more than austerity-all-the-time, when things are hard. For friends who listen and help us keep some focus when we’re freaking out, too. Grateful for pink and purple and blue and orange and yellow flowers. For bumble bees in the morning sun. For coffee with my wife on the steps. For a borrowed car and the chance to get out of the city for a day. For summer warmth and sunshine. For new library books. For reminders to pay attention to the pleasurable, the holy, and the joyful.
 
Inspiration: Resilient weedy greens. Flowers that bloom despite the sun that’s kind of frying them to a crisp. (I know. They’re blooming all the harder for it, and I know why. Don’t spoil my happy though, ‘kay?) Also finding inspiration on other people’s blogs, folks who are canning, fermenting, making salsa and wine out of excess rhubarb, or dying fibre using red cabbage, onion skins, hibiscus flowers, and the soaking water from black beans… and also using koolade and vinegar, because that works, too.
 
Creation: A little bit of knitting. Some clothing repairs. Writing a few thousand words on my “spite fic” of an attempt at a YA novel. A couple of new poems. Nothing huge, but things are in the works. 😉

Fermentation Elation – A Productive Home Post

So! Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing, and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity. It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
There’s been almost no rain for the past month, which is not a great situation. The garden is looking pretty crispy, even in the back yard where I’ve been watering every day. Also, I’ve come to the conclusion that my soil is depleted enough that it needs some major-by-my-standards remediation. Meaning that – when the heat breaks, and provided I’ve got a spare $20 kicking around – I’m going to try seeding the non-garden parts of the yard with white clover in an effort to at least get some nitrogen back into the ground.
But, for now, I’m relying on my garden for herbs, greens (mostly “weed” greens), and rhubarb. Which is about as productive as it’s able to be right now.
As seen in earlier posts, I’ve been out collecting service berries (see below), as well as wild greens that don’t grow in my yard. But most of the productivity at our home is happening inside the house.
 

 
Inside the house, things are going quite well:
Earlier today, I blanched a bunch of grocery store zucchini (there are another 8 or so in the fridge yet to do) and put them in the freezer, in a silicone muffin tray. I also froze (on a cookie sheet) the last of the service berries, and transferred the latest batch of my fermented wild greens (a litre and a half!) to the fridge, in mason jars. Oh, and I re-bottled the cider that I started fermenting at Winter Solstice.
I put it back in the plastic jug, with a little more bread yeast and some maple syrup for food, to do a technically-third ferment, because it turned out VERY dry and VERY still, and I wanted something fizzier and a little bit sweeter to bring to my mom’s tonight.
Which, I guess, brings me to: I’ve been making booze.
Cider, see above, but also I started a batch of honey-wine a couple of weeks ago, just after Summer Solstice (as seems quite appropriate) and, while it’s a little more ginger-y and a lot less service-berry-y and rose-petal-y than I had been aiming for, it does smell like something I would actually want to drink. So I’m calling it a win. (Here’s hoping it still smells that good after it’s had six months to age in the back of the fridge). I also made ginger beer, which is marvelously fizzy, and which I’ve been drinking heaps of in the hopes of scaring off the sore throat I woke up with this morning. (Seriously… My body’s been kind of a weird barometer these past few months, so I’m hoping this is due to a major pressure change in the night, and not to me getting sick, and that we’re actually going to get some solid, steady rain. Which we badly need!)
I’m thinking I’m going to try making rhubarb country wine – maybe even rhubarb-chokecherry country wine – in another couple of weeks, around Lammas. My goal is to put up a bunch of tasty drinks that I can serve at my Winter Solstice party at the end of the year. 😉
 
In other fermentation news (apparently this is A Thing in my house, now): I’ve made two batches of sour dough bread. I’m still working out the slightly trial-and-error (in my case) process of figuring out how long to cook the stuff, but I’m thinking that third time will be the charm, and cooking it for about an hour and a half should result in some good, tasty, fully-cooked bread that is also easy to cut with a normal bread knife. (I over-baked it and ended up with a very thick crust which, sure, my wife thinks is great, but which I find tricky to do for stuff like sandwiches).
 
Anyway.
Right now? Right now, I’m preparing to do my first experiment in home-dyeing.
I’ve got black beans (which, in theory, will give me a nice blue) soaking on the counter and, on a shelf, I’ve got an old plastic ice cream bucket filled with a mix of water, vinegar, and shredded aluminum foil, in which I am soaking a cotton crop top that I’d like to make bluer than it currently is. (Currently, it’s a kind of faded, greenish pastel turquoise which, while okay, is not ideal).
In theory (in theory) the vinegar will leach some of the aluminum into the water and will mordant the cotton (the vinegar doesn’t really work as a colour fixative for plant fibres, though, I need to use salt for that) so that it will better take up the eventual dye, giving me both a more even AND deeper colour of blue. No idea if it’ll work, but it’s (probably) not going to hurt, so I’m giving it a go.
 
Oh. And I’m knitting a tank top. This is old news, but I’m starting to do the cabling (for shaping) and am knitting in the round and, while it doesn’t look like a shirt (or even a tube) just yet, it’s much closer to being a shirt than it was even ten days ago, so I’m happy about that.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Full Moon – Berry Moon Crests

On the left, a tall, 2L glass jar covered with a white and green striped cloth, half-full of beige glop (my sourdough starter). On the right, a blue ceramic cereal bowl full of ripe, dark blue service berries. In the background, the grain of a thick, wooden chopping board.

On the left, a tall, 2L glass jar covered with a white and green striped cloth, half-full of beige glop (my sourdough starter). On the right, a blue ceramic cereal bowl full of ripe, dark blue service berries. In the background, the grain of a thick, wooden chopping board.


 
The moon shifted into Capricorn today. My bee balm and day lilies are getting ready to bloom, the cherries are turning bright, lipstick red, and the service berries are RIPE!
I went out this morning and harvested a bunch – lots still not-quite-there, too, so (weather permitting) I’ll be able to go out again on Friday and harvest another litre or so.
Half of today’s lot (also about a litre) are in the freezer already, while the other half are pictured above in a cereal bowl next to my sourdough starter.
 
Which, also: I’m trying to do a sourdough starter again.
It’s… going better than last time, but… still kind of iffy? It smells VERY boozy, and there’s a pervasive scent of cooked broccoli that I originally thought was coming from the sourdough jar but which… might be coming from somewhere else. (Which is distressing in its own right… do I have a glob of rotting mustard greens somewhere in the kitchen that I can’t see?? Is there a dead mouse hiding somewhere out of reach? Ugh…)
Anyway. Regardless, I’m trying to do sourdough again.
Part of me is seriously going “Why? Don’t you have enough fermented stuff to look after?” Because being able to make bread in a couple of hours (as opposed to the 12+ hours it – in theory – takes to do sourdough once you’ve got a starter actually up and running[1]) is really nice. Especially for someone like me who routinely forgets to take things out of the freezer to thaw in a timely manner. >.>
BUT I’d still like to see if I can make this happen. I like the thought of having… I guess you’d almost call it a back-up plan? In case we have a tighter-than-usual month AND run out of bottled yeast at the same time.
Besides, the thought of being able to make, like, yeast-raised shortcake or yeast-raised coffee cake or whatever just kind of appeals to me. I want to give it a go. 😉
 
Anyway. As I said, I went out to pick service berries today. Chatted with a couple of old guys about them. (It’s funny, women almost NEVER ask me about them. They just notice what I’m doing and, if we make eye-contact, they give The Nod. But dudes? Every. Time). One of them told me about being born in the bush and how his parents would dig up wild horseradish and wild garlic, and said it was nice to see people still doing that stuff.
Which, y’know, was very nice to hear. I still don’t want to go visit him at his “house of the lord”, but hey. I assume he meant well by the invitation.
 
I’ve got a bit of a cucumber beetle infestation happening out on my squash crop – like ALL of them. Buttercups, zucchini, AND cucumbers. Not sure about the butternut squash, but it’s not flowering yet, so who knows. I kind of want to spray everything with soapy water, but I don’t even know if that will act as a deterrent or if I just have to go out there with a chopstick covered in something sticky and keep picking them off.
Alas, probably the latter.
I’m hoping that I still get some zukes and cukes and winter squash off my vines, though. Fingers crossed they everything gets pollinated and that the cute-but-desctructive baby squirrels stop eating the fruiting flowers!
Those motherfuckers.
 
ANYWAY. I have my first harvest of cilantro (a very few fronds) sitting in a mason jar vase in the fridge. I watered the garden today, even though it’s supposed to thunder down rain in short order (and I can see the clouds building from where I’m typing this), because they frankly needed the drink and a little bit extra isn’t going to hurt them. This is the point in the year when my micro-bio-region comes into its “yummy season”, as a friend of mine calls it. We’re still mostly eating just greens (and rhubarb, although that, too, is a leaf-stem, so…) from the garden, along with the occasional snow pea or radish root. I have no idea if any of the fruiting flowers on my squash plants have been successfully fertilized yet, so I’ll have to wait a bit and see. And/or start hanging out in the back yard around 7am with a makeup brush and doing the bees’ duty for them, which might work. But here’s hoping for a fruitful fruiting season in my back yard and beyond!
 
With that in mind, I did today’s tarot card meditation, by pulling two cards and asking myself “How can I cultivate more abundance in my life?”
 
The Chevalier of Swords and the Nine of Swords from the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn.

The Chevalier of Swords and the Nine of Swords from the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn.


 
I have to tell you, I was not expecting to pull a couple of swords out of that deck.
The suit of swords is the suit of air. Of thought processes, “old tapes”, black-and-white thinking, logic, and decision-making.
So my first reaction – or maybe second… after “Wuh??” – was “Oh. Change your thinking“.
If this is a “Who do I need to be? How do I need to be?” duo (I thiiiiiiink that’s one of Asali’s practices, but I might be mis-remembering), this is how it goes:
 
The Knight of Air is decisive. Sometimes that means she flies off the handle, sees enemies everywhere, or springs into action based on the lies in her head, rather than the truths or the facts. Other times, she’s the opposite: Witty and clever, but thoughtful enough to put her feelings on a shelf rather than letting them lead her all over the place.
If “who I need to be” to cultivate more abundance in my life is the Knight of Swords, I think I need to be the second version. I know I tend to get sucked into scarcity thinking and I routinely have to remind myself, when I’m having a hard day emotionally, that no, actually, the story in my head is WRONG and I do, in fact, have friends, have people in my life who love me and check in on me and will support me if I need it.
 
Which brings me to the Nine of Air.
This card has come up before. It’s the “Lying awake at night, can’t sleep for worrying” card. A card about betrayal. A card about “Everything is awful and I don’t know what to do”. Cristy C Road says, of this card, “Rest and grieve, but stay alert to old fears grabbing at your mind. […] Let vulnerability be your strength”.Egypt Urnash – who did the art and the write-up for the deck I drew these cards from – says “take help when it’s offered”… (there may not actually be enemies everywhere).
If “How I have to be [the knight of swords]” is the nine? I think that means I have to allow for some tenderness, some feelings. Be logical, but don’t cut yourself off from your emotions. Think things through, ask “where is this coming from”, rather than assuming that the thought you’re spiraling on is the only accurate way to look at a situation. Recognize when you need a hand (and when one’s being offered), rather than being arrogant/perfectionist about Doing It All Yourself (or having to).
 
~*~
 
Movement: Ha. Well, I spent a couple of hours walking slowly around the neighbourhood, bending fruit-heavy branches down to where I could reach them, and harvesting berries. So that’s definitely some movement going on. Beyond that, there’s been some garden-tending including putting up a trellis for the cucumbers to climb (so far, they’re barely noticing it, but I keep re-directing them and hopefully they’ll grab hold soon) and turning the compost again.
 
Attention: A lot of my attention has been focused on the living things around me. Checking the cukes and zukes for cucumber beetles (and crushing those little bastards), watching the service berries for signs that they’re ripe enough to harvest. Squinting at my sourdough starter, stirring it up, and squinting again, wondering if I’m actually seeing signs of bubbly life or not.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for a garden that feeds us. For a city that decided “Hey, these fruit-producing trees thrive on neglect! And the birds will eat the fruit, so we mostly don’t have to clean up after them, either! Yes! Let’s plant them everywhere!” and planted a lot of food trees in my neighbourhood. Thankful for long-time clients who hire me for week-long bookings that allow me to pay the rent during the summers, when work is kind of scarce. Thankful for a wife who talks me through panic. Thankful for being able to sleep for eleven hours when I needed to. Thankful for tomatoes forming on the vines, and for the friends who gave me their extra tomato plants in the first place. Thankful for the smell of roses. For the peony my friend gave me years ago, and for it finally blooming (first time ever!) a couple of days ago. Thankful for light but steady rain. Thankful for the enormous double rainbow that lit up the sky last weekend (Happy Pride, people who aren’t in Ottawa). Thankful for small birds and art and hot baths and massage bars. Thankful for friends who want to hang out. Thankful for easy strolls to the park with my wife. Thankful for the smell of dill and cilantro and garlic scapes (all recently picked in the garden) clinging to my hands.
 
Inspiration: Re-reading Cooked by Michael Pollan is definitely what inspired me to try making a sourdough starter again. Beyond that, I’ll be attending a book launch tomorrow (Thursday) evening, and feminist writers’ panel discussion on Saturday night, and I fully expect both of those to be inspiring as heck. I’ll be bringing my notebook. (And also money for poetry books).
 
Creation: Picked up my knitting again. I’ve almost got all the stitches for that cotton tank top picked up, so soon I’ll be in the wonderful spot (again) where all I have to do is Knit For Ever and I’ll eventually have a shirt. (I mean, okay, yes, there’s going to be some cabling in there and some increases that I’m hoping to make look a bit like something lacy (hahaha), and holes for something like sleeves (not actual sleeves, but… ish). ALSO! I started playing around with some ideas for a YA novel. Which is, tbh, basically “spite fic”. But it’s 4000 or so words of magical baby-queer dream-woo spite fic, already, so I’m going with it. Also, while this isn’t exactly “creation”, I have been sending out poetry submissions to various magazines – I’ve got one or two more to do in the next couple of days, mind you – and I’m proud of that. Onwards!