Category Archives: gardening

Full Moon – Melt-Water Moon Crests

Wrote this last Monday, when the moon was full in Libra. As of this posting, Venus has juuuuust stationed direct again. Onwards we go!
 
~*~
 
It’s going to be 22C today! 😀 😀 😀
I wore my monster-fur coat to my temp job (I’m working close to home all week, and have a tonne of social things planned for the evenings!) and didn’t even have to do it up. I probably would have been fine with no coat at all!
 
My weekend is – weather permitting – going to involve a lot of raking and shoveling, turning the compost and getting the garden beds ready for planting! (And, possibly, doing some actual planting of things like kale and radishes and rainbow chard, since they can handle the cold weather and chilly-damp soil just fine). I’ve got a heap of sunchokes that I need to dig up so that the rhubarb has some breathing room, and I’ve also got a bunch of different peppers to seed-start indoors, courtesy of my wife’s dad. Jalapeno, Jimmy Nardella, and one other red bell that sounds like it would be good for salads.
 
Planting list for this weekend:
Tuscan Kale
Red Russian Kale(?)
Rainbow Chard
Snow Peas
French Breakfast Radishes
Daikon Radishes? (I’m thinking of doing these more as a “perimeter fence” around my in-ground bed in the interests of having fewer weeds get through and into my squash and eggplants bed.
 
I’ll plant peppers, eggplants, cherry tomatoes (if I don’t get a bunch of “volunteers”… unlikely), zucchini, fairy tale pumpkin, butternut winter squash, hopefully some “Baby Boo” (or other tiny “pumpkin”), and maybe some collards later on, but it’s cold-weather crops that are going in right now.
 
My other task this week, is putting together a care-package for someone who needs life to be just a little bit easier right now, and will probably make a point of doing a few freezer-meals for us, at the same time. As such, tonight is going to involve a certain amount of re-organizing the fridge and freezers (yes, both of them) so that I have adequate space to host a few lunch-sized and meals-for-two containers of various vegetarian delights. Menu List is: Pumpkin curry, macaroni and cheese, and some kind of harvest stew involving lots of root veggies. Even though I’m not “really” doing the Eat From the Larder Challenge this year – I will be buying coconut milk for this extravaganza, and have already bought two dozen eggs and a bag of coffee since the beginning of April – I’m pleased to say that I have enough salsa, crushed tomatoes, frozen pumpkin, frozen other veggies, fresh (well, in the fridge…) root veggies, and even CHEESE, that I only need to get in coconut milk to make my ingredients list for a few large-batch meals for someone else complete. And I’ll still have lots of frozen summer & winter squash, broccoli, and other goodies (beets, leafy greens, carrots, sunchokes (as’kebwan’), onions, cabbage…) to cook with for the rest of the month. Hurrah!
 
I feel like I’ve had a break-through. All that blogging about relationship juggling acts, and life coaching around boundaries, and magical-working around healing and nurturing my own (whale) heart[1], a year and a half of pushing and digging and swimming in all the Feeeeelings and… now I’m trying something very, very new. I feel like I’m having a Two of Cups experience, in the Kalil Jibran sense of “do not grow in each other’s shadows”, but also in the sense of “new connections” and sparks of recognition. Putting that boundary work into practice.
 
I’ve spent years asking myself “What do I want”, and frequently what I’ve wanted has been – to some, or all, extent – a thing beyond my control. I want this person or that person or those people to respond to me in XYZ ways. I still want those things. But I’m aware that hinging my potential happiness (or lack-there-of) on them… isn’t very effective, and will mostly just make me crazy[2]. So something I’ve started asking (myself) (the gods) for is that I be able to be happy with interpersonal circumstances as they are right now.
 
I admit I feel kind of sanctimonious saying that out loud. Like: If, a year ago, I’d read someone else writing what I just wrote? I would have thought “Well, that must be really nice for you, then, hm? Some of us aren’t totally dissociated from our emotions, fyi!”
 
But that’s part of the whole Whale Heart situation. My Whale Heart knows what it wants. But she doesn’t fling herself off the cliff of desire (I’m mixing metaphors, just… go with it) and blindly hope that someone else will catch her before she smashes on the rocks. There’s a whole lot of careful negation of “what is so-and-so able to give at this time?” + “What do I need to do and NOT do in order to enjoy receiving what they’re making available, rather than feeling used or taken advantage of when they aren’t able/willing to meet me at the more intense level at-which I’m generally operating?”
 
And… look, it’s not like this is a fool-proof method to “be brave without getting hurt” or something. People lie – or variations on the theme of “lie”, if you want to go with something a little less harsh – when they’re afraid they won’t get what they want/need if they don’t tell people what they think those people want to hear. People have crap self-knowledge and think they’re ready to offer way more than they actually are, and then get overwhelmed when someone takes them at their word. People make active decisions to cross their own boundaries (because they’re lonely or because they think X Experience is going to be sweet enough that they’ll just deal with the repercussions afterwards) and underestimate the damage they’ll do to themselves in the process[3]. People are bad at communicating and cross wires with each other all the time. So it’s not like this can’t go completely pear-shaped. But it helps. I can ask myself what I need to do, and not do, in order to:
 
– Enjoy the kind of sex-life that’s available with a grey-A spouse
 
– Avoid over-investing in a friendship-with-benefits that may or may not grow into something else over time
 
– Maintain a friendship with someone who is consistently terrible at making, and following-through on, plans
 
– Have a hook-up with a long-time friend and still be “just friends” (rather than love-sick) the next day
 
…Because the answer isn’t, and can’t be “want less”. But it might be “offer less” or “offer differently”. If my (technically still on-going) Queen of Cups Project has taught me anything, it’s that wanting less – having fewer or lighter appetites, teaching myself to believe that crumbs are a feast – is a sure-fire way to mess with my head and starve my heart to pieces.
 
So. I pace myself. I go slowly. I tidy my garden and start my seeds and cook good, “real” food in my kitchen that I try to keep functional. I say Thank You to my gods and ancestors. I scribble. I reflect. I take careful risks which, small miracle, are so far having surprisingly lovely results.
 
Spring has sprung.
What do I want to plant for myself?
How do I want to grow?
 
 
~*~
 
 
Movement: Ha! I hurt my hip pretty badly about a week ago. The bruise is spectacular. But it means I’ve been going reeeeally easy on the “movement” part of my life. Even with a fair bit of walking, I’ve been calculating just how much walking it’s wise for me to do on a given day. I spent a lot of the last few days sitting down (in cars, in a curling “lounge” during a friend’s game, at my desk in between half-hour spurts of Getting Things Done on my feet). I’m lucky, my injury is all in the muscle and healing up nicely.
 
Attention: Watching for scilla, crocuses, and other early flowers opening up in sunny, south-facing spots. Makes me want to plant a heap of super-early bulbs along the north fence in my back yard… but that will have to wait until October. For now? I watch and I thrill every time I see buds opening and flowers blooming! 😀
 
Gratitude: Grateful for my lovely wife who gives me lots of snuggles and kisses, the exciting new person in my life, flowers(!), hang-outs & conversations with friends, being able to wear sandals today(!), my casis-coloured faux-fur coat that I only get to wear for about two weeks a year, and this is one of those weeks, lazy mornings that let me catch up on sleep, enough food that I can share with other people, rainy days that soak the thawed-out soil and help it get ready for news seeds, sunny days that bring me tonnes of hope and joy, the rhubarb making it through another winter (all of it, by the looks of things!), pepper seeds from my FiL, other people interested in tarot, free time to spend on knitting, the small blue bird who plays games with me on the living room floor, music, a pay-cheque for this week’s work, the chance to watch the moon set through the guestroom window.
 
Inspiration: Tarot’s suite of earth. Venus in retrograde (yes, really). Compost. My writer-friends who are always doing so much. ❤
 
Creation: Two knitting projects on the go – still working on the (cobalt blue) extensions for a pair of (beige, fishnet) stockings, sorting out how to do the toe. Heel up next… or maybe I’ll start the second stocking and go from there. Also working on a “sample” of a sock pattern. Next steps there are (a) finish the sock (taper off the heel gusset + knit in the round, then decrease to make the toe), then (b) knit an actual PAIR of socks for the lovely wife. 🙂 Have promised myself an hour of creative writing on Wednesday evening, plus further scribbling over the course of this week. I want to re-prioritize my writing, so that I can actually get a manuscript (maybe even two?) finished. Rawr!
 
~*~
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I am absolutely getting those earrings – or a smaller version there-of – btw. Can’t wait! 😀
 
[2] Like actual crazy. Panic attacks and exacerbated mental health crap. That kind of crazy.
 
[3] Not that I’ve been considering anything like that at all… >.>

New Moon – Melt-Water Moon Begins (First New Moon After Spring Equinox)

First New Moon after Spring Equinox is in Aries, Venus is in Retrograde, and we’re all revisiting old mistakes and lessons learned. Spring (and light, ye gods, finally!) has hope dripping from ever budding branch, every thawing snowbank. There are green things lifting their heads out of the ground. Last night was misty with evaporating ice. I went out with my coat open today.
I’ve spent the last few months – since shortly after my last Lunar Cycles update, actually – building new friendships and strengthening pre-existing ones, tightening the knots that bind my community together.
This is one of my favourite thing to do.
My wife asked me, last weekend, what would chuff me to death about an item. Like, if I found something fantastic at a thrift shop and then found out something about it that made it even more special, what would that something be.
And the answer I came up with boiled down to “This item connects me to someone I already care about”.
I love my “Babylon” perfume oil because it smells like a chocolate dessert. But I love it that much more because Miss Sugar made it, and decided to send it to me out of the blue.
I love my fermentation crock because it lets me do fermentation experiments in the kitchen (like the sour kraut I’ve currently got bubbling away[1] on the shelf), but I love it even more because it’s a hand-thrown piece of pottery made by a neighbourhood femme who is even more DIY and Nurturing than me (yes, it IS possible).
I love my funky, flared black cotton pinstriped skirt because it’s “professional” enough to wear to an office, and “edgy” enough to wear everywhere else, but I love it even more because it used to belong to a friend of mine who I don’t get to see very often.
I love my leather trench coat because it’s warm and practical and lets me Flag every time I leave the house. But I love it even more because it was a originally a courting gift from my mom to my dad, and I inherited it after he died.
I love my drop spindle because it lets me spin yarn anywhere, any time, but I love it even more because my wife made it for me.
I love my snail coffee table because, hello, it’s a coffee table shaped like a giant wooden snail! But I love it even more because it belonged to my grandmother.
I love the plants in my garden because they’re beautiful and they feed the bees and/or me directly, but I love them even more because they’re transplants from the gardens of my inlaws, my still-loved ex, my closest friends.
I’m delighted that our fridge and stove came from the kitchen of a deceased former-neighbour of my wife; that the desk at-which I’m typing this once belonged to my metamour’s father; that my kefir grains came from one femme friend and are currently fermenting milk in a jar that I originally got when another fem taught me how to make sour kraut – in a kitchen full of other witchy queers, no less – for the first time. The stories of connection, the stories that are connection, that’s what makes them special to me.
 
Horoscopes of late – because of the Venus Retrograde, which is all about checking over patterns in your relationships (to abundance, to material things, to beauty, to sex, to other people, especially romantic and sexual connections, but not only so) – have been asking me “What do you want (to be / to have)?”
 
Some Answers:
 
I want to have the kind of romantic relationships where I can trust myself to maintain healthy boundaries – the kind that allow for exploration and curiosity but that aren’t all about leaping off the cliff of attachment and hoping I don’t smash on the rocks (take a calculated risk – leap off the cliff having invested in a Wing Suit and mapped out a route with a variety of safe landing points on it)
 
I want to have many overlapping, inter-generational circles of friends that, really, are one huge circle of interconnected other circles that all relate to each other; a well connected network of networks, a zillion friends-of-friends who are linked to, and can call upon, each other, who show up for Solstice parties and pot-lucks, sewing circles and bulk-food-buying clubs, sick days and child care and ride-shares and crash space, who show up for each other.
 
I want a productive home, wherein I am a productive home-keeper. Lots of chosen family & nearby friends over for drop-in dinners, pick-up musical jams, crafternoons, brunches, and emotional support (but also who offer support to ME); lots of culinary and crafty projects on the go in the kitchen and the sewing (fibre arts in general) room; clean laundry on the line and the smell of fresh bread in the kitchen; stew in the slow-cooker, pasta on the stove, sausages & veggies on the barbecue, with enough for an unexpected guest or two to drop in; winter squash, cooking greens, herbs, tomatoes, sunchokes, tree fruits[2], berries, and rhubarb running riot in the backyard garden.
 
Heh. I feel like I have a long way to go on that last one. Two years ago, I was putting in my raised beds (about a month from now), planting more kale and chard than I knew what to do with, and routinely making bread and stock from scratch. Right now, in spite of having (at last!) a compost heap of my very own, I feel very much like I’m behind the (magic?) eight-ball when it comes to home-keeping. We’ve been eating quick-prep foods – pasta, sandwiches, 20-minute onion and/or noodle soup from the giant batch of stock I made two months ago, stuff from boxes – frequently and I feel a bit like I need to change up what I’m canning… and possibly borrow my friend’s pressure-canner (in exchange for a batch of canned chick peas, or something) in order to put up more “read to eat in minutes” dishes, because my plan from last year – to make a zillion ragout-type dishes using salsa, beans, and leftover meat… isn’t working so well.
 
April is just around the corner, and for the first time in years, I’m not sure if I’m really going to do the Eat From the Larder Challenge this time ’round. I mean, we could definitely do it. We have tonnes of food – including a slew of sunchokes that are still buried and waiting for the raised beds to thaw enough for me to dig them up – but what I have a lot less of, this year, is time. Getting home at 7pm and needing to launch into a FAST dinner for two very hungry, worn out people… that leaves a lot less room for creativity than having hours of “free” time in-which to wash dishes (to keep the kitchen functional), scratch-bake coffee cakes, bread, crackers, and savoury crepes; or long-cook dishes like roast chicken or braised pork hocks.
 
That doesn’t mean I won’t try to use up my preserves – bake turkey wings with salsa & serve them over rice, make new batches of stock from the (numerous) bones in my freezer, bake bread and/or muffins on the weekends, slow-roast the giant Fairy Tale pumpkin that I still haven’t cut open (I bought it back in October, and it’s ripened to a gorgeous milk-chocolate colour) and use it in curries and veggie-roasts, make rosee sauce using jars of crushed tomatoes and spooning it over pasta with frozen greens and diced leftover pork – all of this stuff is definitely on the list of things to do. But I’m also willing to go waaaaaay easier on myself if I decide to buy Box Lasagna or Freezer Pizza, or even discounted smoked hams, in the middle of the month. And that means that, this April, I will be less “eating down the larder” as a challenge to myself, and more just… business as usual.
 
Right now, business as usual involves a pork roast + mushrooms + root veggies (carrot, onion, celeriac, potatoes) + the last of my garden’s winter squash (a gorgeous, meaty butternut – long-keeping veggies for the WIN) cut into quarters roasting away in the oven. There will be apple cider with dinner[3] and – probably – ice cream for dessert.

~*~
 
Motion: Now that the ice is pretty much gone (Halleluia!), walking is a joy, as well as a means of getting around. I’m choosing to walk places more frequently now, which is really lovely. Additionally, I’ve been out dancing recently (and will be again, this Saturday), and have been doing a lot of modeling work that’s involved very short poses – like multiple hours worth of two-minute poses – which is proving to be a nice work-out and is helping to limber up my back. (On that front, the MRI turned out well, and I have additional Back Exercises to do, so I’m doing those too). Soon there will be raking the raised beds and turning the compost added to the list of ways I’m moving my body on the regular. 😉
 
Attention: I’m paying attention to boundaries and behaviours, particularly my own. Moving cautiously forward, trying to be excited/curious instead of fearful when it comes to trying new things, especially with what one could optimistically (hopefully not too optimistically) call my romantic life. Trying to balance hope and desire with a realistic understanding of reality, and choosing my own actions accordingly.
 
Gratitude: A wife who thinks I’m beautiful and who goes on dates with me. Deep discounts on turkey, pork, and root veggies at the grocery store. New friends (witchy friends, femme friends, cute friends who flirt with me, recently-moved-back-to-Ottawa friends) to have adventures with. Afternoons spent knitting with kinky pals. Green things poking through the earth. Rain, not snow. People who answer my questions thoughtfully and kindly and make space for me to feel my feelings and be vulnerable with them. Temperatures above freezing! New books of poetry to read! New lipstick to wear. Crows in the garden! Going to the Against Me show last Friday and seeing half my queer neighbours there! Longer days and shorter nights! Hope. HOPE. HOPE!
 
Inspiration:
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha’s poetry, as always, reminding me How To Boundaries and asking me “What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want To Be?”. Also: I’ve started using Pinterest again, making “Dream Home” boards because I find that Telling The Internet is a bit like Telling The Bees, and you can make magic happen by calling things in by using this stuff with your Intentions turned on. Plus it’s just nice to dream and play like this. 😉
 
Creation: Wrote three poems today, including a Glosa. Two of them are pretty good. One of them is… probably more than one poem, and will need to be edited and re-constructed in order to see what’s what. Recently learned how to turn a sock heel! 😀 Working on re-prioritizing my writing, as I totally let that slide for, like, practically a year. Time to get back in the boat.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad, the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] This is batch #3. Batch #2 went moldy and gross – though, underneath the layer of Ugh, the result was actually just fine. Mushy, but fine. Smelled like sour kraut, rather than mold or something rotten. So there’s that. I’m keeping a better eye on this batch. Fingers crossed!
 
[2] Despite renting out house, we are considering planting a super-dwarf cherry and/or a super-dwarf three-variety apple in our back yard. The western and southern exposure would mean (eventually) lots of fruit for canning, baking, fresh-eating, and sharing with Our People, so… if we can swing it, we’ll do it.
 
[3] We’ve been doing A Tasting – so far Thornbury kind of sucks, but Forbidden (from Coffin Ridge, which is also a winery, and located in Annan Ontario) is delicious – “chewy” with an almost apricot under/after taste. Recommended! Tonight it’s “501 Streetcar” from Brickworks Cider House in Toronto – I’m looking forward to trying their peach cider when it comes out.

Warming Herbs for Winter

Hey there!
So Snow Moon began not too long ago (not that I’ve done my blog post about it or anything, but… bear with me), and the snows have come in force, bringing a lot of ice and a lot of quite cold (-23C, so seasonal, but not horrific if you’ve got somewhere warm to be) temperatures.
When I think of “warming herbs” – meaning herbs (and spices) that will produce heat in the body to help you sweat out illness and similar – I tend to think of things like ginger and cinnamon. These days, I also think of garlic and mustard (Woohoo!), but I was wondering – thanks to this post over at Little Red Tarot – what else I might be able to draw on, in terms of locally grow-able flowers, leaves, and roots, that will help someone (like, say, ME – I got a bad bronchial+sinus infection, quite a few years ago now, and it’s left me pretty susceptible to getting more of them) deal with Winter illnesses at home, without having to book an appointment with my over-stretched GP.
 
Labador Tea (Ledum glandulous) – good for calming coughs. Also good – when the dried roots & leaves are ground and added to an ointment – for helping to relieve chapped lips and hands.
 
Lavender – I use the essential oil to help heal badly chapped lips and knuckles when the cold, dry air makes them split. NOTE: Lavender is a common allergen, so be careful with this one. Topically, it’s good for helping to heal burns. It’s a powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal (so, for example, good to use on your feet if they are getting gross after weeks of heavy socks).
 
German Chamomile (Roman Chamomile works too, but German is hardier for the garden) – Steep the flowers into a tea to help gently warm you up. If it’s anything like Ox-Eye Daisies, it will help to increase circulation, but… meh?
 
Burdock Root – Like chamomile. Make a tea of the roots (you can also tincture them)
 
Mullein (Verbascum thrapsis) – One of the primary herbs for any lung problem, including whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis and chest colds. Allegedly, the leaves were smoked to relieve lung problems. I wonder if you could use them in a hot water inhalation (the way we use eucalyptus essential oil).
 
Angelica ROOT – including (hard to find, apparently) Ontario native species Purple Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea) – will help “cut through obstruction” and make you sweat. This one is easy to grow from seed and needs lots of space in the garden. It’s a carrot-family plant, and should be harvested in the fall (late October, early November) of its first growing season. Use the leaves to make a chest compress to relieve inflamation.
In TCM, this root is called Dong Quai, and is used for menstrual stuff like relieving PMS symptoms & menstrual cramps, or helping to encourage a late period to get started. It’s also good for upset stomachs (think gas, bloating, digestive difficulties… but also (apparently?) IBS and colitis?)
As a Winter Herb, though, it’s particularly good – steeped as a tea, or made into a tincture – for helping to increase your circulation, reduce mild fevers (don’t use it for bad fevers), and help you to loosen up thick, gummy phlegm that’s making it hard to breathe.
NOTE: If you are a pasty, white person like me? This can make you more sensitive to sunlight. Also it’s not wise to take this one while you’re pregnant or lactating (it’s bad for fetuses and kids under three).
Allegedly, the taste is somewhere between celery and… juniper? I have no idea how that works, but people candy it and say that angelica root tea tastes good rather than, like, barely tolerable, so… maybe it’s one to look into?
 
Peppermint – The leaves make a good tea for coughs. Essential oil is cooling (topically) and anti-microbial (see: “mint”) so, when accessed through the leaves, can help get rid of coughs and colds that way.
 
Basil, Thyme, and Rosemary – Like mint, these herbs make a tea (or an addition to savory dishes) that acts as a digestive aid and can help push through light-weight phlegm. Good for when you have a frog in your throat, not so useful for something heavy like walking pneumonia.
 
Fennel – Simmer the seeds to make a tea – which you can drink as-is, or else thicken into a syrup for use in calming coughs and shortness of breath as well as loosening up congestion. Apparently you can’t use this stuff in high doses as it can cause spasms and hallucinations (I don’t know what constitutes “high doses”, though, so that’s not very helpful).
 
Yarrow – Use the leaves and flowers to make a tea, or add them to a bath, to help you sweat out a fever. (Drink lots of water with this stuff. Also, avoid this one if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant). The tea encourages circulation and combines well with peppermint to help one conquer a cold or fever. (Also lowers blood pressure? Maybe, if you have low-enough-to-worry-about blood pressure, this is one to avoid?)
 
Anise Hyssop – Use the leaves to make a tea to help with colds and with chest pain brought on by coughing. You can use them in a hot bath or inhalation to help you sweat.
 
Garlic – This is a fairly powerful antibacterial and antiviral (eating whole cloves of it raw will also make you – or at least ME – throw it right back up, though, so make sure to mix it with something easier to swallow). It’s also improves circulation, which will help warm you up.
 
Cedar (leaves/fronds) – Cedar has antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. A tea – or a hot bath – made with the tips of the leaves, is good for coughs and colds. The essential oil can be used, topically, in an ointment like vix to help relieve congestion (don’t take cedar essential oil internally, generally speaking). I think (I think) you can use this, much the same way you’d use eucalyptus essential oil in a steam inhalation.
 
Mustard – Use the seeds of the mustard plant (like: the one you would use as cooking greens) to make a VERY HOT poultice. From what I hear, this is super uncomfortable and shouldn’t be put directly on skin BUT if you spread it on a scrap of cloth, and put the cloth on the chest of someone with pneumonia or otherwise really bad chest congestion,it will have an effect similar to a eucalyptus rub (but NOT soothing – this stuff can cause blisters if you put it directly on your skin).

Green Tomato Chutney 2016 Recipe

So, I’m about to run out of the house to do laundry, but I wanted to get this down. I finally got around to making my green tomato chutney (after, what, a month of saying I was going to get to it?), and put it in the slow-cooker to do it’s thing while I’m out this afternoon.
The recipe is a little different from last year’s, because I have slightly fewer tomatoes (my mistake – I waited too long, due to having run out of canning jars, and the first batch I harvested went moldy), and slightly different ingredients on hand, and also because my garlic basically dried to the hardness of cashews in the fridge, but here’s what I did:
 
 
Green Tomato Chutney 2016
 
~10 C green cherry tomatoes (halved, if they’re bigger than your thumb-nail)
8 garlic cloves, rough-chopped (very rough… um…)
1 yellow onion, diced
5 apples, diced
 
1 C cider vinegar
1 C kombucha vinegar (yep, I totally trying this out)
3 C white sugar
 
¼ C prepared mustard
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp nutmeg
1 tbsp ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
20 grinds of black pepper
 
 
DIRECTIONS
Put everything in the slow-cooker and set it on “low”. Let it do it’s thing for 24 hours and see where everything is at. If it smells tangy and zippy and tastes good, turn up the heat ’til it’s bubbling. Sterilize some 1C jars, can and process in a boiling water-bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cool (listen for the “plunk” that tells you the jars have sealed properly). Let sit for at least a month before opening to allow everything to get even more flavourfully mixed.
Enjoy!
 
I have no idea how many jars of chutney this will make, but I’m guessing about 6-8. Fingers crossed!
 
I’m glad I got around to doing this. Green-tomato chutney is a really great way to get tasty, edible veggies into your system over winter, it adds a lovely tangy flavour to pork, turkey, cheese, and even tuna sandwiches,and it lets me get a second harvest from my cherry tomatoes (some of which are sitting in a bowl, with an apple, ripening indoors) after the season is well and truly done.
Green tomatoes from the garden + onions & apples (both pretty inexpensive, if you buy them, and apples can often be found on urban trees either growing wild, or planted so long ago that the current owners don’t know what to do with all the food that’s suddenly available) make for an inexpensive preserve that let’s you use free bounty and “hard luck harvests” to make something delicious.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Moon – Harvest / Squash Moon Begins

It’s been an Eight of Disks kind of day. Grey clouds scudding across the sky, sun warm when it’s out, but mostly it’s chilly enough to remind me that it’s autumn, nearly October.
I’m running that canning workshop the day after tomorrow, and one of today’s tasks was getting the last of the ingredients together. I’m so relieved that Ontario blue plums are still available, because I’d have been in some trouble otherwise. (I promised I’d bring enough to make 3 litres of the recipe I’m teaching – about 1 pint each, basically, since it’s a small class – and I was worried I’d have to add rhubarb or apples or something to get the full amount).
Other tasks have included vacuuming, dishes, laundry… all the things that are required to keep a house going, day to day. It’s been really good to just dig into it and do it without feeling like I “should” be doing something else.
 
I’m feeling the spiral of time particularly thickly right now – mostly because, this time last year (and every year before last year for the past six years), I was prepping to go to an event that isn’t (exactly) happening this year. I keep going over “this time last year…” in my head, and part of me really wants to stop. I’m trying to focus on food, and the very beginnings of our local Festive Season (which basically runs from the full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox, all the way through the winter to almost Beltane – although, yes, things quiet down a little bit after Mother’s Nigth and New Year’s Day). I’ll be cooking a couple of turkeys, this time next week, bringing one – along with a wild rice pilaf ft butternut squash, McIntosh apples, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, onion, garlic, and sage – to a potluck thanksgiving gathering, and the other will be pulled apart and frozen in meal-sized portions to be added to pasta dishes and similar on nights when I’m too tired/busy/lazy to cook anything with a lot of forethought.
 
i’m glad that the temperature has dropped, though also glad that there hasn’t been a frost just yet. My forest of cherry-tomato and roma tomato plants (most of them a re volunteers, if you can believe it) are heavy-heavy with green fruit, and I’m looking forward to stewing it all into a chutney again, but it will be nice to gather in at least a little bit more of the ripe stuff before the season ends for good.
 
I picked all of my eggplants yesterday. Small, glossy, and dark purple – one of them has a “nose”, of all things, this random purple spike sticking out of the side. I’m going to peel them and cook them up with chick peas, coconut milk, and some of last year’s tomato sauce for dinner tonight. I’m down to only a few jars of 2015 preserves at this point (phew!) and I’m kind of hoping we’ll all be slightly sick of prserved tomatoes by the time the frost hits. That way, I can easily put off opening this year’s preserves until January or February, when the root veggies start getting scarce and I need to start leaning on what I’ve put up in jars.
 
That’s the way I’ve been cycling things, so far. Trying to rely only on jarred and frozen veggies for as little time as possible (which, let’s be honest, is still something like five months, but still), and have a few solid blocks where I’m serving fresh stuff (even raw stuff!) without anything I’ve put up. Otherwise, it can get to be too much vinegar in everything. Tonight we’re having jarred tomato sauce, yes, but this morning was eggs with garden tomatoes. Chicken and pasta with sage pesto fresh mashed from the garden and never having seen a freezer, or jerusalem artichokes (a solid month or more away from being dug up) sthen boiled like buttery potatoes or else sliced thin and stir-fried for a crunch like water chestnuts.
 
Next New Moon is the weekend of Samhain. I’ll have the squash in by then, and the garden will have mostly gone to bed. Between now and then, who knows what will happen.
 
~*~
 
Motion: Lots of walking, lots of lifting. A friend told me I was strong and that my muscles are in good conversation with each other, which was not what I was expecting at all, but which is wonderful to hear. The weather’s getting chilly, but I’m still trying to get out dancing now and again. Some of that’ll happen tomorrow evening, I think. 😉
 
Attention: Watching the way my hope and my cynicism fight it out against each other. It’s not a great thing to watch, but there it is. Also keeping an eye on screen time (I say, typing this on a computer, having spent the last two hours reading The Internet…) – my lovely wife has suggested that we do a regular No Tech Night together – the kind of thing where we stick to tarot cards, accoustic instruments, conversation, reading aloud to each other, and that sort of thing for the evening’s entertainment rather than zoning out behind our electronics. I fully support this plan (and so want to get this finished in the next 10 minutes).
 
Gratitude: Running into a friend while out doing errands today (she said “I had no idea why I came in here, and then there you were”). Grateful, too, for the above-mentioned No Tech Nights. Grateful for house guests. For suggestions on how to approach house-hold cleaning and organizing as a series of short, contained “blitzes” rather than as this endless battle against entropy (hopefully this method will help us get our house in order for what, with a little luck and some encouragement, will be a winter full of guests and gentle entertaining). Grateful for friends who get in touch to tell me that they miss me. ❤ Grateful, even, for the taurus (they had it tattoo'd on their arm) working their second shift at the McDonalds counter (yeah, you heard me) who made me change to get the laundry done with. Grateful for local-ish blue plums and on-sale Quebec McIntosh apples at the grocery store. Grateful for witchy fam and people to talk shop with.
 
Inspiration: Other artists (always), though not necessarily the way they usually are. The poetry of other femmes (always – this week, it’s Leah Horlick’s For Your Own Good), geeking out about how we’re a narrative species that loves fitting life’s intricacies into patterns that make sense to us. Talking tarot and witchcraft with masc-of-centre folks who, until this year, I never expected to be such a part of my woo-munity.
 
Creation: I wrote two poems this week, and submitted them to an anthology of femme writing! 😀 Heaven and Earth only know i either (or both? A gal can dream) will be accepted, but I’m so glad that I did this!

Full Moon – Apple Moon Crests (and Wains) PLUS Autumn Equinox

There’s a nip in the air that wasn’t there a week ago. The sun is still warm, even hot, when it hits you directly, but the mornings are chilly and, while we haven’t needed to turn the heat on yet, I know it’s not going to be long before that becomes a necessity again.
People with gardens are harvesting hardcore, bringing in the green tomatoes before they get hit by the frost that’s threatening to arrive any day, putting up the last of the rhubarb jam. I did a second round of tomato-canning last weekend, while that big, gorgeous harvest moon rose in the sky, and my wife spent the weekend with her GF.
I’m teaching a water-bath canning workshop next weekend. (It’s a go! Woot!) We’ll be using neighbourhood-harvested chokecherries + farmers’ market plums and a slew of other goodies to make Chokecherry Chutney (which, technically, is a relish given how I’ve done the seasonings. I’m keeping the “chutney” for the aliteration of it all. 😉 )
The chokecherries have been sitting in my freezer, already strained into a purree, for over a month. Even though there’s at least one tree in the neighbourhood that’s still got berries on it, I didn’t want to risk not having any available for this workshop, so into the freezer they all went. I suspect my October is going to be full of canning – a nicer time to do it, since the weather will be cooler and a hot, steamy kitchen will hold more appeal than it does in August. Chokecherry curd, GoblinFruit jam (chokecherries, black currants, raspberries, vanilla, and whatever else I can throw in there), rhubarbicue sauce, and lots of pumpkin butter. I tried harvesting apples from a local tree, but most of them were out of reach, so… we’ll see what we can add to my three apples + a couple of crab apples. They may end up in a green-tomato chutney (ft mustard and black pepper for heat), or else just baked into some kind of freezer-friendly cake recipe.
 
I’m feeling the need to rush, right now. Like I should be harvesting bouquets of grape leaves and dandelion greens and chard (my chard is finally starting to take off, can you believe it. Autumn plantings for the win, I guess?) and putting them up in the freezer so that we’ll have plenty of greens frozen for over winter when the imported stuff is soooo expensive. Like I should be buying as much yellow zucchini as I can get my hands on and putting it up in pucks so that we have something other than root veggies to draw on in January and February. Like I should be making (more) vegan sage pesto for the freezer and drying basil and Greek oregano in the dehydrator. And I should. I should be outside with a bowl, right now, cutting rhubarb stalks and yellow chard fronds and ripe, skinny eggplants off the gorgeous plant that finally started heavy-producing when the drought broke (I have a blowl of ripe baby-tomatoes and purple beans sitting on the counter already). I could do a nightshade heavy meal with added white beans and some of last year’s salsa on top of the left-over beefheart and quinoa slow-cooked dinner I made on Thursday,and it would feed the four (we have guests this weekend) of us quite nicely.
 
My wife, her GF, and our two guests are off canoing this afternoon. I begged off because I’m down with a head-cold and the idea of spending a windy, chilly autumn day on the water seemed like a less-than-wise way to go. So I’m home, writing about seasonal changes and plotting what to do with my garden’s bounty before the frost knocks it all down for another year.
 
The cross-over into Root Time is only a few weeks away at this point. The days are noticeably shorter than they were not that long ago and, now that the Equinox has (just barely) come and gone, they are shorter (only just) than the days are. I’m aware of all the Personal Growth I’ve been doing over the past six months, wondering how much of it would stick if I found myself trying to open my heart again to another unknown quantity.
I read a blog post the other day that asked “What are you afraid of being”, and the answer is: I’m afraid of being crazy.
I’m afraid of being in that space of spiraling anxiety and hyper-arousal and constant doubt where self-soothing, for all that I do it as hard as I can, also feels like I’m gas-lighting myself, telling myself pretty lies that only make it easier for someone else to be careless with me.
 
I’ve spent most of 2016 trying to tease out the strands of what I can manage and control in terms of anxiety and boundaries versus what I can’t (other people’s feelings and behaviour) and how to tell when to pull the plug on something that isn’t feeding me. There is still so much I don’t understand, and I am afraid of being crazy if I try this again.
Miss Sugar recently talked about “the dark part of the forest“, the dark side of one’s own Glamour, and how her Glam is equal parts Glenda and Elphaba. Equal parts the charming femme escort who works the tropes of femininity so hard they break (to paraphrase Kathryn Payne) and the fierce, terrifying, single-minded “belle dame sans merci” – the femme who is written off as mad/insane because she’s sick of playing by the rules that say “want less and you will always have enough“.
Carrie’s post for this moonth’s Scorpio tarotscope, over at Siobhan’s Mirror, says “The door of your transformation has been cracked open, and it cannot be closed again“.
Has it? How do I trust that what my gut is telling me is true? That it’s neither wishful thinking & relentless hope nor the awful stories my anxiety, fear of abandonment, and generalized self-loathing want me to believe are true?
 
The Autumn wreath is on my door. I have a couple of butternut squashes (hallelujah!) ripening in the garden, more rhubarb than I know what to do with (no, actually, I totally know what to do with it), and some shorter-than-expected but hopefully proliffic jerusalem artichokes that I won’t need to harvest until my birthday roles around, shortly after Hallowe’en.
From now until the snow flies and the killing cold comes on the heels of the longest night, we’re in the season of the witch.
Time to tincture, time to brew.
What’s brewing for me?
Time (and my intuition) will tell.

~*~

Motion: Not nearly enough, but Plank every day is still happening, which is something.
 
Attention: Paying attention to the way I watch people’s body language, check-in a LOT when they look stressed/uncomfortable/distant, noticing how often this happens with masc folks in particular, and wondering how much of my over-performance of emotional labour relates to the genderedness of emotional labour (which is heavily fem(me)inized) and whether or not my fretful/soothing (freeze & please, mend & tend) reaction to someone else effectively Doing “Resting Bitch Face” While Masc is entirely a case of hyper-awareness around other people Being Displeased (which is, of course, my responsibility to manage…) or if it’s actually a reaction to someone “failing” to smiiiiiiiile or otherwise perform “everything’s great, and I’m engaged in the proceedings”… It’s a weird thought-process to follow, but at least I’m noticing it now.
 
Gratitude: Grateful for ripening squash. For a new-found urban fruit tree near my wife’s workplace (ish) that is ready for harvest (it miiiiight be plums?). For the chance to see Against Me perform in Montreal. For old acquaintances blossoming into friends who want to come for weekend visits, and for new friends making the time to get to know me. For the chance to share knowledge and canning techniques and recipes with people who want to learn. Grateful for the slow return of body responsiveness, too.
 
Inspiration: Necessity, in many cases. What do I do with a dozen ripe and over-ripe pears? What do I do with four stale cherry-chocolate-chip muffins? How do I stretch this grocery budget farther than I did last month? (Answer: Make a lot of cheap eggs-flour-milk desserts like pear upside-down cake and chocolate-custard bread pudding with pears, plus Add Beans to Everything). Beyond that? I’m reading Bill Pfeiffer’s Wild Earth, Wild Soul which… has some good stuff, I think, but which is also getting my White Hippie Side-Eye going pretty hard in a couple of places. His “Wild Earth Intensives” are a neat idea, but I’d like to see what I can do to rejig some of the techniques for a decidely urban landscape.
 
Creation: I’ve mostly been creating in the kitchen these days, cobling together recipes for sage pesto, pickled pie cherries, and a slasa that involves more dried fruit than last year’s did. Today, I’m finishing off a sweater (minus the trim, which I’ll get done over the next few weeks). Poetry Critique Group is approaching again, so I need to get on that with some new pieces.

Full Moon – Tomato Moon Crests

Thunder Moon was the wrong name. I said, a mo(o)nth and a half ago, that the minor drought conditions seemed to be lifting.
I was wrong.
It’s been weeks and weeks of oppresive, heat and almost zero rain. Things have been so dry that one of my tomato plants tastes like… the tomatoes taste like salt and bananas, if you can believe it.
I’m pretty sure part of why I’m writing this today, after weeks of no updates, is because (yes, it’s Full Moon today[1], BUT) the heat broke, just a little bit. It rained over night, and I don’t feel nearly so exhausted.
 
I cut down most of my mustard greens today. They’re a cold weather crop that bolts much faster than I expected. Between the tiny leaves on the bolted stalks and the general heat-wilt, we just haven’t been eating them. Late August is coming, and I am hoping to plant out some rainbow chard (again – I have about two rainbow chard plants, and they are struggling. The rest never even jerminated, that I can tell) for an autumn harvest. Considering using a totally-threadbare tank top, stretched over a dollar-store trellis, as a sun-shade so that the seeds will jerminate, instead of cook, this time ’round. (I have a LOT to learn, folks. You should see my neighbour’s crops. They’re all doing just dandy!)
I have bought zucchini and curly (Scotch?) kale at the market. My plan is to process that stuff for frozen veggies over winter today. That and, hopefully, drag my ass out to harvest choke cherries.
 
I feel like “nothing is getting done”, even though that’s not really true.
I started my Life Coaching sessions (just barely), about 10 days ago, and did a lot of soul-searching / psyche-digging (more psyche-digging) to answer my coach’s initial questions (more on that in another post).
I went to Queer in the Kitchen and learned how to make sour kraut (which is now sitting, doing its Fermentation Thing, and should (in theory) be ready to eat around Labour Day Weekend) and offered to do a water-bath-canning class for them (we’ll see if that actually happens, but I’m excited at the possibility)
I’ve gone dancing a bunch of times, and started chatting about tarot cards with someone who DJ’d one of those dances and then went to the sour kraut workshop.
I’ve written more poetry for “How to Cook a Heart” and (finally) did a little bit more work on The Novel (yesterday).
 
And yet… I feel like all I do is make dog harnesses and eat ice cream while wilting in the heat. The thought of turning the oven on is enough to make me want to Never Cook Again (or at least not until we get our usual cold snap in early September). I feel like buying vegetables from the market, when they are the same kind of vegetables I planted (zucchini, cooking greens, eggplants), is cheating. Like we should just live off of grocery store root veggies + the roma tomatoes I was planning to buy and can anyway this winter, rather than giving us some minor variety in our diet by paying for things I was expecting to successfully grow myself. The house is a constant mess, and I don’t even know where to start with it.
 
When I look at where I was, this time last year, I was so hopeful. And what I feel now is tired. Like a waste. Like “why do I bother” and “why am I here”. When did I stop being hopeful and start feeling like I needed to justify my continued existence?
…And yet, when I cut the cards on my new tarot deck (the Mary El one), the card I pulled is the Queen of Cups, cancer’s crab – all feelings, all the time – climbing from her heart to her throat.
The questions my life coach asked me, two weeks ago, were to get a handle on what I want to accomplish through the coaching. Unsurprisingly, the single word we boiled things down to is Receptivity. Maybe I could have gone with “worthiness”, but – like my coach’s preliminary suggestion of “self-sufficiency”, it’s too easy to turn that into something that will hurt me rather than help me. Too easy to turn that into the “shame dance” of trying to prove to someone else that I’m worthy (of love, of care, of anything other than a kick or a curse), rather than teaching myself not to brush off kindness like it’s something I shouldn’t need.
 
I read – or tried to read – my most recent tarotscope (via Siobhan’s Mirror, ‘scope itself done by Marianne at Two Sides Tarot), which said… I don’t actually know what it said. Because I read this bit:

Before we get into that, though, can you take a moment to recognize just how capable and skilled and creative and worthy you are?

 
…And just stopped. Like: Nope. Can’t do that right now. Can’t do that at all. Why are you lying to me, horoscope-person? I can’t deal with this crap.
 
Like, if I say that I’m worthy, and mean it; if I say that I’m capable and skilled and creative… then why have I not done more than this? Why am I not pumping out poetry – good, well-crafted poetry that only needs some polishing to make it worth publishing – every day? Why am I just sad and tired all the damn, stupid time? Why is my novel still languishing in it’s half-finished state? Why is my house so filthy and over-stuffed? Why is my larder so full of things I bought, instead of things I made?
 
I’ve been reading Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey (a book of very short poems and lots of doodles), and she has one that says “How you love yourself is // how you teach others // to love you”.
And I don’t love myself.
If I did, I would probably treat myself better, not brush off someone’s “how are you” as a formality, not beat myself up so much.
I don’t have a clue were my self-inflicted nastiness came from. I guess… some part of me thinks that being worth caring for is entirely bound up with how much abuse I’m willing to take?
I don’t know. It’s dumb, and I need to cut it out.
I don’t love myself, and I need to learn how.
Life Coach is showing me The Plan for this on Wednesday.
I hope I can make it work.
I am so sick of feeling like this.
 
 
~*~
 
 
Motion: A lot of walking. A lot of dancing. One really, really long bike ride (2 weeks ago, 27 km round trip – with 7 hours of harness-making in the middle) followed by barely being able to take a single (long, fairly big, but still) hill on my normal bike the next day. Getting back on the bike on Wednesday, but I don’t think I’ll be riding to work again any time soon.
 
Attention: Paying attention to ripe tomatoes, chokecherries ready for harvest. The water levels in my garden. The sky, praying for more rain.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for multiple modeling jobs this week and into the next; for the way my wife smiles at me in the morning (adn the fact that she wears crop tops…); for hanging on a corner in the Market, watching fireworks, with a bunch of random strangers (and being able to tell them why they were happening, because I am apparently a know-it-all…); for getting some work done on my novel; for the half-cracked pear tree branch that has falling over our yard, sitting on top of my neghbour’s trellis, and the tree-owner telling me to harvest as many as I could reach… just to wait until early September so that they’ll actually be ripe. (So, guess who’s making pear butter this year!). There are good things in my life, and I need to rmeember that.
 
Inspiration: Read Juliet Takes a Breath the other day. Between that and watching queer kids (ages 12-15) get excited about drawing at Manga Camp (I was their model. They thought I looked like Harley Quinn. I’ll take it. 😉 ) I am chock full of “Yay, Adorable Babies!” which feels pretty great.
 
Creation: Was able to dive into my own novel (finally, again) to do some re-structuring. That felt really good. I still have to finish the damn thing, but it’s something.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Actually, it’s totally not for another week. Woops. >.>