Full Moon – SnowMelt Moon Crests

So the snow continues to melt (and fall again, and melt again, as is the way of things in Ontario, apparently). My sister gave birth on Friday. We are babysitting the pet cockatiel of one of my lovely wife’s Other Partners while said partner visits a friend out of town. Eat From the Larder Month has begun (and is still in the easy stages). I’ve made more beeswax tealights and remembered to light up my altars today. My wife and I slow-danced in the living room and we finalized (uh… for a given value of “finalized”) the design for the garden’s raised beds. I’m drinking tequilla (straight) for the first time. It’s… a weird drink. But hey.
I finished my nibbling’s baby blanket – my mom is taking it, along with a co-ordinating cowl/infinity-scarf/knitted-accessory for my sister, down to Calgary late next week when she visits for a few days. Currently working on a co-ordinating scarf for my sister’s fiance/baby-daddy/partner so that Everybody Gets A Thing, though the scarf (and an accompanying “Welcome to the family!” card for baby Zain) will be sent by mail once it’s finished (2 more days, unless I want to spend every waking hour knitting, which I don’t – shocking, I know, but It’s Spring).
The perfume/ritual oil that I ordered from The Mermaid and the Crow… works? I’m saying that tentatively because (a) magic means pushing the odds in your favour, so maybe it’s not shocking that the responses I’m getting are largely from reasonably expectable corners, but also (b) It’s Spring (among other sitautions) and Certain People tend to be a little more energetic in X department at this time of year anyway. I think we’re all a little bit solar-powered in that regard, though I could be wrong.
I confess, a little part of me is going “What have I gotten myself into” on this front, but I’m a Big Fraidy Cat, so it’s almost definitely nothing to actually worry about.
Anyway. I feel like life is (finally) starting to look up. Here’s hoping it keeps going like this. :-)
By the time this Lunar Cycle ends, we’ll be on the train home from Toronto and, hopefully, the front yard will be full of tulips and daffodils (or, well, crocuses and scilla, because the tulips and daffs won’t be up until early May) instead of snow.
Big changes coming. Good ones, I hope.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Peanut-Butter Chocolate-Chip Shortbread-Esque Cookies (Recipe)

So, possibly to convince my squirrel-brain that we do, in fact, have enough food in the house to eat All The Things and not run out of food before the end of April – and possibly also because it’s been a long weekend and a relatively (HA!) guest-heavy five days – I’ve been baking cookies of late.
Today, I made a small batch of fairly crispy/snappy vegan peanut-butter cookies that started out as a shortbread cookie recipe and wound up including a small number of chocolat chips, too.
Here’s the recipe:
Peanut-Butter Chocolate-Chip Shortbread-Esque Cookies
1½C white (all-purpose, wheat) flour
½ C brown sugar (well-packed)
½ C smooth peanut butter (ideally the “just peanuts” kind, but whatever)
¼ C sunflower oil
2tbsp maple syrup[1]
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼C large-size chocolate chips (or more, but start low and build, as this is fairly crumbly stuff)
Preheat the oven to 350F
Grease a baking sheet really well
Mix everything BUT the chocolate chips together in a big bowl. Kneed it with your (warm) hands to help it stick.
Kneed in the chocolate chips
Pack into flat, mishapen rounds about 1½” in diameter (oiling your hands a little bit will help)
Bake for about 10 minutes, or until things are getting golden-brown around the edges
Allow to sit for a couple of minutes before trying to move the cookies[2].
Serve and enjoy, ideally with a refreshing drink.
Make about 18 cookies.
So there you have it. The second batch of thrown-together cookies I’ve made in five days. Given that I’m about half-done my small jar of peanut butter, I’m going to have to either start cooking with butter again (I have three pounds of the stuff in the freezer, so), or otherwise go easy on the kind of cookies I make over the course of the rest of April.
Meliad the Birch Maiden
[1] It’s a nice touch, but I found the cookies just a little bit sweet… not sure what to do about that, since the liquid sugar is also acting in the role of a binder. Maybe don’t keep the brown sugar fairly loose in the measure?
[2] I let them sit for 3-5 minutes after coming out of the oven, and then I shift them just a little bit on the tray so that they don’t stick once they’re all-the-way cool. Then I leave them there and wait for the chocolate chips to mostly solidify-up again.

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2015 – Week One Wrap-Up

So, as-you-know-bob, I’m doing Erica’s Eat From the Larder Challenge this year. I shall endevor to do it with at least a little less whining than last year (fingers crossed), but we’ll see how it goes.
It’s rapidly dawning on me that I am going to do this challenge by starting with the Easy Stuff. (This will come as no surprised, and I’m kind of hoping that I’m not alone in this boat, but hey). As such dinners (and the resulting Leftovers-as-Lunches) are tending towards either (a) eating out, for various definitions of “out” due to Holiday Stuff going on, and (b) stuff in tins and jars and bags (which was the point, I realize). I’m not quite at the juncture where I have to put red lentils in everything due to being completely out of all other possible protein. I’m not quite at the stage where I have to plan ahead in order to have “snack foods” – like last year’s millet-based breakfast muffins – and get creative about making things like cornmeal crepes and “edamole” (instead of tortilla wraps + tub-o-guacamole from the store) if I want to make tacos for dinner some night.
We’ll see how this holds up (if I’m wise, I’ll have the sense to make coconut-dal with swiss chard or something long before I’m out of other options – variety is key, as I discovered last year).
Anyway. The first (short) week of April has gone like this:
Wednesday the 1st – A friend stopped by, brought us crackers and goat cheese, and I proved hummus – courtesy of the Queering Power Party – plus a dinner of rotini with sauteed (in lashings of butter) mushrooms (dried, reconstituted), snap peas (QP Party again), fresh grape tomatoes (see also: QP Party), a shake or three of parmasan cheese, and some of the chevre my friend brought over. There was also wine – I like wine, and I know I’ll be buying more of it as the month goes on, in spite of staying out of the grocery stores – and I made a batch of double-chocolate peanutbutter cookies as well (the last of-which we ate on Saturday morning). My wife had taken the last of the West Texas Dal for her lunch that day.
Thursday the 2nd – Was a friend’s birthday dinner, so we were actually eating elsewhere. My wife had left-over pasta for lunch.
Friday the 3rd – Breakfast (which happened around noon) was bacon + apricot french toast (using 2 eggs, a bit of oil, a bit of milk, and a couple of tablespoons of apricot butter) made with mainly-whole-wheat home-made bread. Dinner was… out. This time, at a pub. (I remember that it felt like we ate out a lot last April, and I couldn’t tell if that was because we actually were eating out more than usual, of if it just felt like that because (a) not spending money on food at the grocery store, and (b) variety, ye gods, variety). I’m putting this one down to it being the first real warm day of Spring. We’ll see what happens as the month goes on though (full disclosure: We will be visiting Lovely Wife’s Mom for her birthday on the 15th, and then in Toronto – eating at restaurants for, I suspect, 100% of our stay, for the rest of that week).
Saturday the 4th – Fried eggs and toast for breakfast, Easter Lunch with My Mom (at a local cafe), snacking on home-jarred cucumber pickles (there’s going to be a lot of this – I have, like, 9 pints of cucumber pickles left, you guys…), and the following dinner:
2 potatoes, thinly sliced and boiled, added to a frying pan containing:
Bacon grease
1 onion, diced
1 one-cup jar of tomato-peach salsa
1C (approx) frozen edamame
2 pucks (about 1/2 C) frozen diced-roasted eggplant
1 tin of red kidney beans
1-2 tbsp goat cheese
1/2 tsp dried cilantro
Sunday the 5th (today) – has included (a) chocolate bunnies (from my Mom) for breakfast – because we’re ever-so-healthy around here, (b) cheese sandwiches using the last of the home-made bread (new bread is on its first rise at the moment, and I’m hoping to get it baked in the next 2 hours) plus some of our copeous cheddar, and a variet of spreads incuding grainy mustard and apricot butter (not *as* good as apple in this context, but pretty tastey). Dinner is tube-pasta with the last of the QP tomatoes, and the last of a mixed bag of frozen veggies[1] that includes julienned carrots, snap peas, broccoli florets, green beans, and edamame, plus dried basil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and a tablespoon or two of chevre.
It’s worth noting that, most working-week days, “breakfast” actually boils down to “coffee”, with the possibility of toast in there if we really plan things well. I’ll have to make a point of remembering that we have the better part of a kilogram of plain yoghurt in the fridge, along with heaps of frozen red currants, smaller heaps of frozen serviceberries, and various other berries still in the deep freeze. Yoghurt and berries (and walnuts and a drizzle of our very abundant maple syrup) are a fast, easy, really TASTEY, and reasonably healthy way to start the day, so I should probably have that more often. ;-)
If you are doing the Eat From the Larder Challenge this month, how is it going so far?
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] I love those mixed bags that you get from the freezer case at the grocery store. They’re a wonderful EASY way to throw a good mix of veggies into a chili or a stew (or a stir-fry, or a curry, or a pasta-dish… you name it) when you need something that’s relatively no-brains or no-prep. Looking towards the impending garden, and its imagined (fingers crossed) harvest, I’m hoping to put up enough IQF stuff – like pucks of kale, ruby chard, and eggplant plus snap beans, rounds of blanched golden zucchini and just-as-blanched diced winter squash – to be able to do this without relying (as much – I’m not planning on growing broccoli or cauliflower any time soon) on the grocery store stuff. Wish me luck! :-)

Punk-Domestic Chatelainery – Some Thoughts on Language and Meaning

So Erica, from NorthWest Edible Life, posted the following picture to Twitter and asked folks “What is Homesteading To You?”

Picture of a rural log-based house (with a big front porch) in early Winter, ft a hazy mountain in the background. Over it all is written:
“Homesteading Is: // being self-sufficient // Living simple // getting back to our roots // breaking away from commercialism // growing your own food”

So. “Homesteading”… It’s convenient. It’s good shorthand for what most of us tend to be doing which, I suspect, falls roughly in line with what’s on the list in that picture: D-I-Y rather than B-U-Y, embracing frugality for a whole slew of reasons, reconnecting with the daily-living skills of our ancestors to a greater or lesser degree, actively taking part in the rhythms of the land that sustains us. But, if you’re a white person (which, by the looks of things, many of us self-identified homesteaders – urban or otherwise – are) living pretty-much anywhere other than Europe, but particularly in North America, the term “homesteading” has a pretty fraught history. If you’re Canadian, some of the stuff our ancestors did (and which is still going on – so maybe try writing your MP about the need for reparations and a good, hard look into the MMIW situation?), directly or indirectly, was genocide. Here. Where we’re growing our own food and taking great joy in planting the Three Sisters together in our gardens.
So as much as I find the word useful (my twitter bio says “I live in 1821″, among other things) in terms of how it manages to imply wood stoves, fibre arts, cast iron cookware, home-grown veggies, pre-electric machinery, wild-crafting/forraging, seasonal rhythms, cozy-warm candle-light, and making cheese from scratch… it’s also a bit of a problem.
So I have to ask: Is there another word I could be using? Something that takes the rural implications (and Quiver-Full-reminiscent family isolation) out of “back to the lander” while hanging onto the seasonal rhythms and self-sufficiency? Something that pushes “DIY” to a more extreme and broad-spectrum conclusion than stenciling “Riot Don’t Diet” onto a hacked-up t-shirt? Something that takes the term “Productive” out of the assembly line and the cubical farm and plants it firmly in the rich, creative soil of an anti-consumerist, pro-interdependence It-Takes-a-Village home and community?
I’ve seen “Green Living” tossed around. “Voluntary Simplicity” (although that just doesn’t fit our stuff-intensive house or people-intensive home-lives) has popped up a few times, too. I rather like “Punk Domestic” and “Radical Homemaker”, in significant part becuase they invoke the activism and, frankly, broke-ass necessity, of some of my personal Do-It-Yourself Skills. My wife and I, as part of our Power Dynamic, use the language of fealty to describe What We Do. As such, the language of the Chatelaine also seems appropriate: The whole idea of the “Keeper of the Keys” deciding who – and in this case what – is and isn’t allowed entry into the Keep (be that BPA, Monsanto, & CAFO-raised critter-flesh, vs thrifted clothes, home-grown veggies, & eight million mason jars… or whatever your personal dichotomies are), maintaining the stores, spending a heap of time on fibre arts[1] and home-preserving in an eminantly social, but also practical and necessary, way. Even the notion of a whole village turning out to handle the bulk of the harvest together (although heaven and earth know that this is hardly an out-of-date way of doing things).
Anyway. If all of the above gives you an idea of what I mean when I say “(Urban) Homesteading”, if you have any suggestions, please let me know.
– Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] In my case, this is for fun. In the case of actual Medieval Ladies of the Manor? It was because the work was basically never-ending. The silver lining, when there was one, was that most of it was automatic-pilot enough that, by the time you hit puberty (and had been doing this stuff for 10+ years) you could at least hang with your ladies-in-waiting/relatives/room-mates and be social while getting all of it done.

Big Gay Aunties R Us! (My Nibbling Was born This Morning!)

My sister gave birth to her first child today. The “official” (read: roughly when said baby was all the way out of my sister’s body) time of birth is ~10:45am Calgary Time (AKA 12:45pm, where I’m at).
This child’s name is a deliberately unisex name. Whether this is because the parents are clueful enough to prep for the possibility that their new-born son may turn out to have been their new-born daughter all along, or just for the sake of some other sort of convenience, I have no idea, but this Big Gay Auntie is happy to see that choice regardless.
I finished my nibbling’s baby blanket today, sitting on the back porch in the sun(!) on the first really beautiful, honestly warm day of Spring. New life into the world. Persephone comes above ground again, and this baby came with her. <3 (Granted, I doubt my non-practicing-but-technically-Abrahamic sister would be totally thrilled about being put in anything resembling the role of Demeter). I sang blessing lulabies into the yarn as I finished off the last rows, blocked it in a bath steeped with lavender and salt.
It's now roughly the size of a couch-throw, so considerably bigger than planned. My hope is that I can schlep it to the laundromat early next week and put it through a hot wash + hot dryer with a load of towels and socks and stuff, so that it'll shrink, felt just a little bit, and, hopefully, set the dye.
Right now, I'm trying to speed (Ha!) through a coordinating scarf (I know, I just said it was finally WARM outside, but my sister's getting a coordinating cowl, and I want both the parents to have a Thing to commemorate the birth of their first child that just happens to be completely devoid of Baby Markers if you aren't intimately familiar with a certain Security Blanket that (hopefully) gets dragged around everywhere) for my Brother-in-Law, so that when they eventually all drag themselve to my (Read: my MOM's) end of the country, I can hand them over with all due ceremony.
Anyway. Lovely Wife and I were hosting a bunch of people for coffee and similar when the call came in, so I got to announce it to a (small) room full Awesome Queer (and mostly, if not entirely, poly and kinky) Chicks who'd been asking about the knitting project I was trying to finish, so. :-D
Welcome to the Family, and the World, kidlet. We're happy to have you here. :-)

Eat Down the Larder 2015 – Pre-Game Post

So it’s the last day of March. Full moon is coming up in a just a few days. The snow is melting (and, occasionally, falling again, but mostly it’s melting) and there are early, early flower stalks poking their noses above the muck. Spring is springing, as it’s supposed to do.
Which means that it’s Eat Down the Larder Month again.
This is a Challenge put on by Erica over at NorthWest Edible Life, which I participated in last year with much flailing and whining and gnashing of teeth, but which I think is a good idea and a good habit to be in when it comes to not having your dry goods turning to dust in the cupboards year after year.
The idea is that you eat ONLY what you already have on hand, as of April First, in an effort to empty your preserves jars, clear out your freezer, and institute some turn-over in your dry-goods and non-perishables.
In my case, I cheat a little: I know going into this that I’ll be buying coffee (though I may not have to – it’s on my “no stocking up beforehand” grocery list – along with eggs, marmite, and white vinegar for Cleaning Supplies – anyway, so if I get that done today it won’t “count”), earl grey tea, and milk (I go through 3-4 gallons of the stuff every month) as needed. But as far as vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese, carbs, fats, pulses, and seasonings go… No. We’ll make do with what we’ve got.
Which is a fair bit, to be honest.
In addition to being gifted the Queering Power Party leftovers – we have a dozen or so clementines, a bowl of grape-tomatoes, two chunks of Fancy Cheese, half a litre of half-and-half cream, a couple of tubs of hummus, and a few other goodies, courtesy of the QP Organizers who know that buying groceries isn’t always an option for us, even when we’re NOT playing a voluntary austerity game – we’ve actually got heaps of food lying around.
800g of old cheddar (“cooking cheddar”, not the Good Stuff) that I picked up a few weeks ago when they were on for ~$1.25/100g; 3lbs of butter (same situation). A jar of pre-grated parmasan cheese. A litre of 3% milk. 1kg of plain yoghurt.
An unopened litre of sunflower oil plus some olive oil, sesame oil, plus a tin or two of coconut milk and a couple of pucks of lard still in the freezer.
We have half a dozen tins of tuna that we do need to start going through in short order.
Two big bags of rotini plus frozen perogies and half a jar of tube pasta. Probably have a heap of whole-wheat couscous hiding about the place, too.
2lb of cooking onions, a bulb and a bit of garlic, half a celeriac, half a dozen carrots, 4-5 beets, a 3lb bag of boiling potatoes, and a 3lb bag of cortland apples.
Copeous frozen veggies (beans, broccoli, edamame, eggplant, ruby chard, possibly kale) and fruit (berries of various kinds, mixed and single-variety)
A freezer bin containing: 1lb pork sausage (maybe more than that?), 2-3 packages of bacon. 1 whole roasting rabbit, a little bit of fish, 1 beef heart, 2 pork kidneys, a package (iirc) of smoked salmon or similar, and possible (I’ll have to check) a package of two turkey wings (or possibly drumsticks, not sure).
A bag of Great Northern dry white beans, 1L red lentils, 1C+ black lentils, 1L+ brown rice, a cup or two of wild rice, 1C+ pot barley, 2L red quinoa, 1L pearl barley, and maybe some whole amaranth. Not sure what else I have hiding about in the form of dry beans and grains, though
3-4 tins of beans
1 jar of peanut butter
5Kg white wheat flour, 2.5Kg whole wheat flour, ~500g fine corn meal
A jar of yeast for bread-making + plenty of salt, baking powder, baking soda, herbs, and spices
2Kg granulated sugar, 250mL honey, 4+ tins of maple syrup + 250g maple sugar, an unknown but present amount of brown sugar, and LOTS of half-cup jars of jam, jelly, fruit-butter. Also: Chocolate chips. Also: half a pint of rhubarb syrup still in the fridge (makes a very nice cocktail when mixed with vanilla vodka, fyi)
1L cider vinegar + a little balsamic + 500mL red wine vinegar
6+ pints of pickled cucumbers (I’m open to suggestions for how to incorproate this into meals as a vegetable option rather than a garnish, fyi), 1 cup of diced tomatoes, 4-8 half-cups of tomato sauce, 2-3 cups of tomato-peach salsa
Dried peaches, dried mushrooms (I got a pound of them the other day, and put some in a chili, but there’s tonnes of them left… dried mushrooms don’t weigh very much), dried peppers (one hot variety, one mild variety) and dried cranberries.
8+ pints of bone stock already in the fridge, plus 3-4 bags of actual bones that can be used to make more stock as needed.
That isn’t even all of it, I don’t think.
But it’s most of it.
So. With all that (all that!) available, here are a couple of meal possibilities:
Combine 1 tin of chick peas + reconstituted dried mushrooms + reconstituted dried mild peppers + 1 diced onion and some sesame oil in a frying pan and sautee like fuck. Make a sauce using peanut butter, a little more sesame oil, some cider vinegar, maple syrup, prepared mustard and red chili flakes. Combine the sauce with the sauteed mixture. Add in some cooked couscous (or cooked quinoa) and serve.
Make bread and use some of the dough as a home-made pizza crust. Top with apricot butter (instead of tomato sauce), left-over roast rabbit OR left-over roast turkey OR cooked pork sausage rounds, minced onion (possibly fried already), thawed frozen chard, and grated cheddar cheese.
Make cornmeal crepes. Spread with mayo and mustard. Top with tinned lemon-pepper tuna, tomato-peach salsa, frozen edamole (I have one bag left in the freezer), and plain yoghurt.
Fry some onions in butter in the bottom of a big pot. Add some grated carrot. Add a half-cup jar of tomato sauce, a pint of stock, 3C water, Half a cup of pearl barley, half a cup of red lentils, a dozen dried mushrooms (broken up into chunks and rinsed before adding), and 2 pucks of frozen diced eggplant. Season with a little soya sauce and a little ginger.
Fry some onions in butter in the bottom of a big pot. Add some grated carrot. Add a tin of coconut milk + 1-2 tbsp curry powder. Add 2-3 pucks of frozen diced eggplant + 2-3 pucks of frozen chard + a handfull of fresh grape tomatoes. Add 1C water + half a cup of red lentils. Serve over couscous or cooked brown rice. Mix in a little plain yoghurt if you want to.
Brine a beef heart for two days. Slice into thin strips. Combine some of it with reconstituted dried mushrooms, thinly sliced pork kidney, minced onions, grated carrots OR grated beets, diced potatoes, a pinch each of salt and rosemary, and a dusting of flour. Stove-top cook (or oven-braise) in beer, wine or stock. Serve with savoury biscuits.
Combine the rest of the heart with pot barley, black lentils, stock, water, tomato sauce, dried mushrooms, diced potato, celeriac, and frozen ruby chard stems. Cook on LOW in the slow-cooker for up to 48 hours (you may need to top up the liquid a little bit here).
Salad Nicoise ft fresh (or jarred) tomatoes, boiled potatoes, thawed frozen beans, boiled beets, hard-cooked egg (just one, diced fine), diced cucumber pickle, and a dusting of parmasan cheese.
Cook pasta. Top with home-made alfredo sauce (or tomato sauce) and frozen veggies of some sort. OR Cook perogies. Top with same + maybe a little plain yoghurt and fried onions. Sandwiches on home-made bread: roast-rabbit with apple, mustard, diced onion, mayo, & crab apple jelly; grilled cheese with spicy tuna (and probably a pickle on the side, because: pickles) and mayo; Bacon-tomato-and-cream-cheese (or yoghurt-cheese); peanutbutter and jam (of course); hummus and tomato (possibly with left-over edamole).
Pancakes, coffee cakes, brownies, and similar made with fruit butter and/or jam in lieu of some/all of the sugar and eggs. Yoghurt with frozen fruit, crumbled walnuts, and maple syrup.
Lots of options.
Lots of otions.
Just keep telling yourself that. ;-)
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

The Spindle of Necessity


Another Witchy Type talking about the spiritual elements of hand-spinning! Go read! :-D

Originally posted on Knot Magick:

I’ve made no secret that I think crochet is absolutely magical; Its good for body* mind and soul as well as being a useful tool in the witches toolbox, but I thought it was time to consider spinning both magical and mundane. As well as my own use of spinning in my magical practice I’m going to look as spinning and the spindle whorl fïrom the perspective of the Greeks and Plato. Although there are many other cultures around the world that utilise the drop spindle and have their own myths and beliefs that surround it the Greek culture dovetails nicely into my own praxis and interests, and means I’m responding to a kick from the Universe through a series of fortuitous circumstances.

In this post when I talk about spinning I am referring to the process of making thread using a drop spindle. As a method of producing thread…

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