Category Archives: gleaning

May Long Weekend in the Garden – 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.
 
IN THE GARDEN there has been sprouting and there has been planting! Of both seeds and starts! And there has also been (a tiny bit of) harvesting! Because perennial food crops are fantastic!
 
PLANTED:
I picked up some starts from the local Home Hardware (I’m not choosy). Purple basil, peppermint (I seriously managed to kill my peppermint last year – possibly due to drought, or possibly due to poor management – so I’m trying again), Lebanese cucumber, yellow bell pepper, and yellow cherry tomato. I got them in the ground early this afternoon, along with planting some golden zucchini seeds. We’ll see if they come up.
 
I’ve got scarlet runner beans and butternut squash, along with a “perimeter fence” of daikon radish (I’m hoping the long, thick tap-roots that develop will help keep water in, and invasive runner roots out, of the in-ground bed where I grow my cucurbitas and all my nightshades) planted as seeds, and have some probably-butternut squash coming up from compost-seeds already, which is nice. My rainbow chard is popping up all over, and I spent part of this afternoon transplanting it into more orderly rows (yeah, I’m doing rows… ish. I want my chard to have lots of room to get big and gorgeous and start thriving). My kale – which is, in theory, the Tuscan Black variety (Cavalo Nero) – seems to have sprouted, too, which is nice. I’ve been thinning out the self-seeded mustard greens a LOT in order to give the chard and kale some room to grow. Mustard, I’ve decided, makes a lovely “baby green” for salads, but isn’t something I love as a cooking green, partly because it bolts so darned quickly. It makes for decent sprouting broccoli when it bolts, though, so I’ll have to leave some to mature. 😉
 
The as’kebwan’ (sunchokes) are starting to sprout (again – I dug up a bunch earlier, as I needed to get the last of last year’s harvest out of the ground, once it had thawed – they’re great, by the way, and finding their way into a lot of stew and “potato” salad).
I have no idea if my (new to me) raspberry bush is going to flower this year. Or any year. But fingers crossed?
 
READY TO HARVEST / HARVESTED:
I have tonnes of rhubarb (and sage, and winter savoury) ready to harvest. Along with some frozen rhubarb left over from last year. Uhm. So, as I’ve previously mentioned, I need to make some pies. Or at least a Rhubarb Cafloutis or a crumble or shortcake or something. It makes a great coffee cake (I use the recipe in Company’s Coming “Muffins and More” for cranberry coffee cake, and just use diced rhubarb in lieu of cranberries) and, now that I have eggs in the fridge again, I may just go that route as it packs easily for lunches.
 
The sage has been getting picked and chucked into braises, fairly frequently, but I haven’t been doing a whole lot with the savoury. The dandelion greens and Vietnamese garlic (the tops, not the roots) have been getting added to pastas every so often, but (weirdly?) I’m concerned about using them up too quickly (or at least before the garlic starts to scape).
 
OTHER:
I turned the compost (first time!) and edged the in-ground beds (front and back). I’m happy with how the compost is doing. I put stuff like pizza boxes and newspapers in the compost heap in order to add carbon to a pretty “green stuff” heavy heap (at least I think it’s heavy on the green stuff, as it’s mostly spent coffee grounds, old tea bags, egg shells, and veggie ends) and its rotting into oblivion along with everything else, which I assume is a good sign.
Also, there are wriggly worms in the compost (and even in the raised beds!) and the soil in the back yard’s in-ground bed (which, until Wednesday, the compost heap was sitting directly on top of) is dark a relatively easy to turn – unlike the dirt in the rest of the yard, which is pretty compacted and mostly supports stuff with deep tap-roots, like dandelions.
 
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been baking and fermenting!
 
FERMENTS:
I’m drinking a LOT of kombucha lately. Partly because I’ve been home, sick, this past week, and drinking Lots Of Fluids has been a significant part of the bill, and partly just because it’s hot out now, or reasonably so, and I’m wanting cool bevvies, rather than hot ones (at least when I’m not hacking up a lung. Appetizing, I know). So I’ve been topping up my kombucha bottle a lot more frequently. NOTE: This makes for a less sharp kombucha which, with my love of the sour stuff, isn’t really what I’m going for. It’s still good, it’s just “lighter” than I like. I continue to cut it with a cup or two of lightly sweetened, long-steeped hibiscus (raspberry/pomegranate/etc) tea, as I like how that works out.
 
I’m continuing to make dairy kefir. My wife won’t touch it in terms of using it as a yoghurt substitute, but she likes it fine in baked goods, so I’m using it a lot in pancakes and coffee cake and similar. Even in bread (see below). I’m making Very Small Batches, and hoping I can get back to the stuff I was making in winter, where it would separate really evenly into curds and whey, and I could get super-thick “kefir cheese” (more like yoghurt or sour cream) that way, while using the whey in things like bechemel sauce or briases. Today, I made chocolate popsicles using (1) chocolate chips, (2) coconut milk, and (3) kefir. They probably won’t be solid until tomorrow, but they should be VERY delicious (and not overly sweet, which is a help when you want something refreshing on a hot day) if the liquid mixture is anything to go on.
 
I (finally) drained my sour kraut crock and packed the fermented cabbage (which is crunchy and done, but also salty AF, holy moly…) into some big mason jars and put it in the fridge. Time to start using this stuff on sandwiches. (Conveniently, I have some beet-and-bean spread sitting in the fridge that will work really nicely with this).
 
Speaking of sandwiches… I tried making a sour dough starter. It.. was not that? successful?
I separated out into Kinda Brown Water on top, and sludge on the bottom. Except, when I drained off the water, it was actually pretty bubbly and fermented-looking. So… It sort of worked? Maybe?
Basically, I poured the entire ferment into my most recent batch of bread, along with 2tsp of dry yeast, so while it was doing its thing, I don’t actually know if it was lively enough to lift a whole new batch of dough.
Yeah.
I’m learning to make sour dough from books like Michael Pollan’s Cooked, and I’m not too quick on the uptake. I don’t usually (yet) start making my bread dough the night before I actually want to bake it, and I’m realizing that if I want to do sour dough, that’s how it’s going to go. Or else I’m going to be starting the chef – like maybe making a chef from equal parts kefir and flour and water, which I’ve done, but am not entirely sure about (my wife liked it. I wasn’t too keen on the texture, which was a lot denser than I’m used to, but it was flavourful and made an acceptable sandwich, so it did the job) – at breakfast, and baking the bread after dinner. This is, by the looks of things, a bit of a slower process than the “only takes 2 hours” version using dry yeast woken up in sweetened warm water. So we’ll see. I’d like to keep this up, just because it would be nice to not need the dry yeast, eventually. But, for now, I’m really glad I have some on hand.
 
BAKING:
The entirety of this week’s baking has been the above-mentioned bread and rhubarb coffee cake. There are a couple of chicken legs baking in the oven right now – although that’s more like a “confit de poulet” than a “baked goods” kind of thing. It’ll be dinner along with some left-over potato salad (not made with sunchokes, or even at home, but left over from a catered lunch at a place where I was temping) and some wilted greens (as in: dandelions and garlic greens. I want that sorrel to successfully germinate even more now… Hm… a little lovage wouldn’t hurt, either…). Big Plans for this weekend include a new batch of bread (made with dry yeast, I have zero doubt), a further rhubarb Thing (maybe muffins), and cookies or cornbread. Probably not both.
 
 
GENERAL HOUSEHOLD STUFF:
Put together a care-package for someone who helped do the C-16 rally on Parliament Hill the other day. (Pasta, crushed tomatoes, salsa, tinned tuna, tinned soup, and 2L of pumpkin-coconut-lentil stew that I made with the stuff I had lying around).
I haven’t been gleaning a lot yet this year. I’ve got dandelions growing in my raised beds, so we’re just harvesting them like any other intentional crop. The the local fruit trees (my favourite cherry, plus tonnes of serviceberries) will be fruiting in about six weeks, and so will the red currants, and I’ve been watching their progress with GREAT interest. (The alley raspberries are about to flower, though they’ll take a little bit longer to fruit). I’m hoping the garden will keep us happily in greens all summer (and fall, and into the early winter…) with lots to spare for the freezer, so I’m not worrying too much about foraging for wild greens right now.
Went grocery shopping! I’ve been on “milk and eggs only” for 3-4 weeks, after a fairly lean winter. We’ve run out of a few things that I’ve been putting off replacing. It’s really nice to have cooking oil, mustard, mayonnaise, chocolate chips, and a bunch of other “not 100% necessary” things again. Plus I bought chicken. 7 chicken legs for $10. I have no idea if that’s a good price or not, but I’m really happy to have 3 meals for two + a chicken leg for some evening when I’m on my own over here, sorted as the greens start to come in. There’s still a lot of dry-goods to replace (particularly flour, but also honey and some basic baking things), and I want to re-stock on chicken and fish in one big go, though I suspect that will happen at Costco or similar, rather than ordering another half a pig. (Yet. We’re still finishing our first one). We’ve got a gallon of maple syrup due to arrive some time this coming week, which I’m looking forward to. I want to try using it more frequently in my baking.
As per usual, I’ve been offering the first slice of every new batch of bread to my gods and ancestors + Anybody local who wants to partake. Now that I’ve got the compost turned (and regularly watered – thanks to the neighbours who are okay with me using their hose), I can use it as an offering place for more stuff, should I happen to have it. The compost heap makes a great offering altar, just because it’s got All The Things in it – heat and wetness, earth and air, and movement, and change, all going on at once. If I manage to successfully make mead (hello, summer fermenting project), some of it will be going in there.
We turned the heat off. (Technically this happened a week ago, but close enough). It’s been wonderful to sleep with the windows open again!
I moved the fig tree outside. My landlord’s husband and I stood outside, drinking coffee and chatting about gardening. He said the fig tree needs a bigger pot (again), and that going around the edges with a big knife will help keep it from becoming root-bound. Which, admittedly, it might already be. But… we’ll see. It’s not technically ours, we’ve just been babysitting it for two years.
 
ANYWAY. That’s the state of the garden and the rest of the household for the moment.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

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).

New Year New You 2016: Week Eleven – Casting Out Doubt

I’m doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation (again) because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. You should try it!
 
Instructions: “[…]Use a method of your own choosing to banish the negative energy” or otherwise communicate with your own Jerk Brain to get it to give you a break.
 
Tarot Card(s): Page of Water, Queen of Earth (and, yes, my Mary-El deck arrived a few weeks ago, thense the links to images from that deck for this post). Neither of these cards explicitely have to do with Casting Out Doubt. But they’re relevant for a couple of reasons, one being that I did a two-card pull that relates to my Queen of Cups Project (and various points there-within such as my life-coaching sessions and the Plan that is to Get My Groove Back, so to speak) and I didn’t even pull these two cards, they just popped right out of the deck, like: Here’s your answer, kiddo. (This deck is proving very accurate on the jumpers front, so far, I’m just saying…).
Anyway, so there’s that. I’ll get into that a little more later, mind you. The other reason why these are relevant to the “casting out doubt” prompt is that the first one – being a Page card – is about approaching things (feeeeelings) with curiosity, rather than fear, while the second one is very much about being rooted and steady (rather than riddled with anxiety). the combination is basically a case of “Here’s something you can do instead of assuming the worst and spinning about it all the time”.
Useful? I think so.
 
ANYWAY.
 
So, as-you-know-bob, I am a BIG fan of ritual/magical baths as a form of spell-casting and Creating Change At Will. unsurprisingly, my method of casting out doubt involved (a) having a giant, scrubby shower (and, yeah, some Stuff came up during the shower, and I was just, like, “Don’t be mean to yourself. Let all that stuff just sluff off and let it go”. Which… we’ll see if that bit sticks, honestly, but I gave it a go), and (b) taking a sensual-glamourous bath after the fact to soak in (and soak up) something better to fill that vacuum left when I got rid of all the EUGH[1].
So.
The other day, I went out and gathered a whole wack of “second chakra associated” flowers and leaves. I picked bergamot petals, geranium blossoms, rose petals, rose leaves, and motherwort[2] tops (mostly leaves). All sorts of pinks and reds. I wound up explaining to a newly-arrived-home couple just what, exactly, they had growing under their tree (Motherwort – see footnote[2]). They’d asked if they had “something special”, since I was obviously investigating the weedy patch they’d (woohoo) missed with the mower.
 
I wound up waiting a solid 48 hours or more before I actually took my bath, though.
I kind of think that’s telling, seeing as the whole idea was to open up my centre of drive, passion, confidence, and sex… and I was consistently putting it on the back-burner while I got other stuff done. :-\
Hm.
 
But I took my bath: all the petals plus dried bay leaves, sea salt & epsom salts (to draw out any residual gunk), and essential oils of rosemary, clary sage, ylang ylang, and sweet orange.
Soaked and floated in the hot water. Did Child’s Pose to open my hips, and breathed in the smell of all those oils and flower petals.
 
Got interrupted towards the end, a young woman (possibly from Korea, going by the alphabet her phone was using) who’d taken a wrong turn trying to find her airBnB. This is most likely Just A Fluke, but I’m choosing to read it as any of the following:
Sometimes people turn up in your life when you’re not expecting them and/or when it’s not entirely convenient. Just go with it.
Things are not always going to go according to your internal scrips. See above and just go with it.
See also: Have a sense of humour about it, for fuck’s sake.
 
I can still smell rosemary on my skin.
I hope this is one more thing that will help me open myself up without seeing every damn thing as a threat. Which… I guess I can use as a handy segue?
 
About that tarot reading!
It was a “who” and a “how” card to answer the question: “Who and how do I need to be in order to open myself up the way I want and need to?”
The page of water and the queen of earth, respectively, fell out of the deck almost as soon as I started shuffling.
So that’s apt.
WHO: The Page of Cups says “be in the moment”. It says “learn to trust” and “trust the learning”. The Page of Cups is very much me on a lot of levels, just figuring this heart stuff out (after nine years of working my ass off for it, still just figuring stuff out) but also being neck-deep in it all the time. It’s very much what my Life Coach is trying to help me do, with regards to approaching pleasure and relationships with curiosity rather than trepidation. It says be loyal, be devoted, be compassionate and supportive of yourself as well as others. Be emotionally vulnerable.
BUT
HOW: The Queen of Earth says “don’t fling yourself off a cliff to do it”. Offer that loyalty, devotion, compassion wisely. Make sure you have an oxygen mask of your own, rather than hoping someone else will pass you one in the event of an emergency. Explore, see where things go, walk into this stuff with joy and hope. For sure. But also make sure that you can stand solid on your own. Be aware of what you value, what you want and what you need, as you go out exploring. You can be emotionally vulnerable, you can let your heart be curious, because you can pull back and prioritize yourself when you need to. (Which is also part of the Life Coaching stuff, as it turns out).
 
The Queen of Earth, in the Mary-El deck, is weaping diamonds. It makes me think of this post I wrote just before C ended our relationship. In this context, I read it as “there is value is showing your emotions” and also “experiencing your bodiliness, letting your feelings come through your body, isn’t weak. Quite the opposite”. There are a million ways to interpret a given tarot card but this seems like a relevant way to read this one today.
 
So. That was how I went about Casting Out Doubt. It’s been helping. Every time I pass a rose bush (which are still quite fragrant in these parts, even as the flowers are fading), I catch the scent and breathe in love and gratitude. It’s a nice reminder and it helps me stop spinning my self-doubt wheels.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] That’s a thing to keep in mind. If you banish something, it can be a good idea to fill the void the banishment leaves with something you actually WANT (either by putting it there, or by ritually inviting it to take up residence), so that you don’t end up with either (a) the same damn shit again, OR (b) just any old thing that happened to be in the area filling in the available psychic/physical/emotional space. A bit like my tarot-pull being all “Here’s what to do INSTEAD of the disfunctional thing you’ve always done”.
 
[2] Motherwort calms the heart (it makes a good anti-anxiety tincture, similar to skullcap in that regard, but much muuuuuuch easier to get ahold of in urban areas as it grows quite happily in disturbed ground like construction sites), builds self-trust and confidence, bolsters libido, and attracts joy, success, & a sense of purpose. It encourages listening/discerning one’s heart’s desires and has associations with Venus, Freja, and Ogun (er… apparently). It can come and live in my garden any time.

Common Motherwort (Leonurus Cardiaca)

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. >.>

New Moon – Thunder(?) Moon Begins

Well, I’m writing this something like 10 days after the new moon actually turned up, but let’s go with it.
The minor drought we’ve been having in these parts seems to be on the mend, as we’ve ben having big rains (and little rains) and, ah… gentler temperatures the past few days.
 
My lovely wife and I went to Toronto Pride, for reasons that had nothing to do with Pride and everything to do with seeing my ex / her sweetie off to Alberta and their first Real Job In Their Field (I am a weird – or maybe not-so-weird – mix of proud-fam, missing/sadness, and relief (of various types) on this front), but we stuck around for Festivities and visiting our various friends in the area. It was a good time, and it gave us a chance to reconnect with each other, which was much-needed. 🙂
 
Came home, however, to the results of the back x-ray I’d had a few days before leaving. A scary-sounding set of results that included words like “disease” and “obliteration”, followed with an “emergency” appointment with a back surgeon a week later (that was three days ago, as of this writing).
 
That was a scary week.
BUT all is well. Or as well as it can be. Basically, I have to do a lot of core-strengthening exercises so that I can rely on muscle (rather than bone and somewhat-non-existant discs) to hold up my torso. More reasons to ride my bike, do non-push-ups, sit up straight, and bounce on a yoga ball. 😉
My wife jokes about how she now has “a prescription for a ripped wife”. I’ll take it. 😉
 
In other news: My (yellow!) cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen, and they are delicious. I have (so far) one golden zucchini and one eggplant, but may get one or two more… here’s hoping. Still not much luck with the rainbow chard, but I remain hopeful. My cucumbers and butternut squash vines are starting to take off (thank you mamas!), so we’ll see if I get any fruits from them as time goes on. I’m just glad they’re growing and getting bigger!
I’ve been harvesting mustard greens (and dandelions, and lamb’s quarters) for pastas, sandwiches, and putting up in the freezer, too. Not a lot yet, but I’ve made a start.
The nieghbour gave us a bag of some of her spinach-like succulant greens (most of which I put up, but we’ve also had some in a stew and some on our sandwiches) and I got to participate in a “fruit recovery” harvest of a local cherry tree, which was nice. I need to pit and freeze the cherries today, though. It’s time. In theory, they’ll wind up jarred into pie filling or else turned into a cherry salsa (pie cherries, onions, basil, cilantro if my garden’s still got some, coriander, garlic scapes, black pepper, ground cloves, a little salt, some wine-vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and maaaaaybe some candied ginger), though I don’t have very many, so we’ll see if I just kep them frozen. 😉
It’s time, too, to pick raspberries in the alley and freeze them for later – I want to make more goblin fruit jam again this year, since last year’s batch was soooooo good, using choke cherry purree and some of these raspberries, plus whatever other odds and sods I can come up with.
 
We are Summer Cleaning the house in an effort to get rid of the mice (unlikely, since the walls are audibly full of them and we live in a row-house which shares walls with other homes) or at least the smell of them. Between the mopped floors and the re-arranged furniture (and bird cages!), our living room is feeling a lot more open, and I’m really liking it!
 
Did a tarot-interpretation for someone the other day – a reader who I respect quite a lot, who did an all-call for help making sense of a reading she did for herself – and just got a note back saying that my interpretation helped a lot and was in line with messages she’d been getting from Elsewhere, too. So I’m feeling (a) moderately amazed, but also (b) kinda chuffed abou tit. Go me? 😀
 
My thre singing lessons have come and gone, and I’m feeling more confident about my singing (and that I’ve Still Got It, basically), plus I’ve made a good start at learning Casta Diva. It’s still very-much “on the page”, but it’s somewhat “off the notes” at this point, which is nice.

~*~
 
Motion: Due to the whole Back Diagnosis thing, I’m doing (reallly basic) core-building exercises and making a much bigger point of engaging my core muscles when I’m out walking around town, sitting at a sewing machine, and what-not. Not exactly “motion”, but related and neccessary.
 
Attention: Trying to lavish attention on my wife, and to attend to my duties as a domme in terms of holding her reins as well. Additionally trying to peel back further layers of my emotional onion so that I can be more cognizant of it when I’m playing into my own meta-narratives and that sort of thing.
 
Gratitude: Greateful for the chance to reconnect with my wife. Grateful for back problems that are NOT a disaster and that I can fix (or mitigate significantly) just by getting stronger. (Thank you all the gods!) Grateful for a (small, but legally acquired) harvest of sour cherries from a tree in the next neighbourhood over. Grateful for friends who trust me with their hearts and their fears. Wow. ❤
 
Inspiration: Reading More Than Two (a Poly-101 book with lots of useful questions for the readers to ask themselves), partly to ask myself those questions, but also to get a feel for what gaps there are in this kind of literature. I’ve got PLANS, kittens. Let’s see if I can follow through with them.
 
Creation: Continuing to work on my “How to Cook A Heart” manuscript (a poetry collection looking at queer, polyamourous relationships & family-building through the lens of seasonal eating & local food), specifically – and maybe this bit belongs under “inspiration” – by using the Tarot’s suit of Earth (2-10, maybe some others if I’m inclined) as a skeleton upon-which to hang some of the abundance/security/cultivation stories I want to tell. Pleased with how it’s going so far. This suit isn’t the Feelings Suit, I realize, but I find that its material-security and home-life themes twine very well with discussions of compersion, fears around being a third wheel, metamourships & constelationships, and the making of chosen-family from scratch. Tarot being a symbol system (and thus Made Of Metaphor to being with), using it to structure one’s poetry is a tried-and-true method for a reason. 🙂

Onwards!

– TTFN,
– Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Chokecherry Chutney (Gleaning Local Fruit to Make Preserves)

Hey there!
 
So last week, I got to pick about 3L worth of chokecherries from my friend’s front yard tree.
I stewed the fruit and strained it through a seive in order to get as much juice and pulp as possible. (I didn’t actually get as much as possible because I didn’t start off scraping the bottom of the seive at regular intervals – I probably could have got an extra cup or two of fruit puree if I’d gone that route). What I wound up with was about 1L of fruit puree. I reserved 250mL of it in the fridge (for making chokecherry curd, later today) but the rest went into making this fancy-ass preserve that I’m calling a “chutney” but that is really closer to something like a chunky, savoury jam.
 
Regardless of what you want to name it, here’s the recipe:
 
~*~
 
 
INGREDIENTS
 
10 “prune plums”, peeled and diced
½ C granulated sugar
+
3 C chokecherry puree
¾ C red wine vinegar
+
1 red onion, chopped
+
¾ C dried (sweetened) cranberries
¼ C dried currants
+
1 C granulated sugar
2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp dried mint
2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp dried basil

 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Peel the plums (if you are stewing the chokecherries at the same time, you can chuck the plum skins in with them to stew, otherwise they can be added to fruit butters or even just composted).
 
Dice the plums. Toss them in a bowl with 1/2C granulated sugar and let sit for a few hours (possibly while you stew chokecherries, or possibly while you get something else done. Wevs).
 
Combine in a broad, somewhat shallow, pot: Chokecherry puree, diced plums, red wine vinegar[1] and all other ingredients.
 
Stir periodically to prevent sticking, but mostly just bring to a boil and allow to simmer for an hour or so. If you leave the lid of the pot slightly askew, you can let the water boil off faster[2] without splattering everything everywhere[3].
 
Sterilize some jars + lids and rings. I was expecting this to make upwards of 2L worth of chutney, but only got a little over half that much, so.
 
When the chutney is bubbling and nicely thickened (and the liquidy part will sort of glob together a little before dripping off a spoon), ladle it into your sterlized jars.
 
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 10-15 minutes (using 1C jars).
 
Allow to cool, listening for the “plunk” that tells you they’ve properly sealed.
 
Makes 5C Chutney.
 
~*~
 
 
So there you have it.
 
I came up with the recipe because (a) it’s pretty easy to get your hands on free choke cherries around here, and (b) I wanted something in the same family as my usual rhubarbicue sauce (rhubarb chutney) that I didn’t make this year, since my rhubarb plants have been getting established and aren’t ready to be harvested yet.
It’s based really loosely on the “chokecherry chutney” recipe in Wild In the Kitchen – at least that’s where the fruit ratios got their start – but it departs radically from that recipe’s spicy-cherries-and-apples signature from there.
 
Chokecherries have a lot of tannin in them so, when I was considering flavour combinations, I went for things that pair well with red wine – plums and cranberries being the big ones – and that also paired well with both cherries (and plums) and with things that go well with red wine. Thus my choice to use cloves, yes, but also rosemary and mint in the mix.
 
This preserve pairs well with roast lamb, for sure, but also with pork and poultry. It makes a great spread for a ham or turkey sandwich, for example, but also works well (maybe thinned out just a little with some water or red wine) when used as a glaze for roast duck, braised pork shoulder, or barbecued spare ribs. I’m inclined to see how it would work as a (distant) alternative to tzaziki when eaten with something like sweet potato latkes or falafel.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I actually added the vinegar to the puree as I was making it, but do what you will.
 
[2] This was a fairly significant thing for me. It felt like forever before the mixture thickened up.
 
[3] There will still be some splatter, however, because we’re talking about boiling sugar and lots of chunky stuff that wants to sink to the bottom of the pan. Wear oven mitts while stirring, and maybe use the pot-lid as a shield, I’m just warning you.

Chokecherry Curd 2015 Recipe

So, as-you-know-bob, a few years ago I posted a recipe for cranberry curd. It’s a good recipe if you’re starting with raw (fresh or frozen) cranberries, BUT what if you’re starting with, say, a litre of sour-fruit puree? A recipe that starts from raw and doesn’t tell you the volume of puree you’ll wind up with is… not entirely helpful on that front.
So!
Today I find myself (woohoo!) with about a litre of chokecherry purree – having picked 2-3lbs of chokecherries from my friend’s tree, yesterday, and then stewed and milled them to form the base of a chutney I’ll be making later on – and a definite interest in seeing if I can do a chokecherry curd along the same lines as the cranberry curds and black currant curds that I’ve made in the past.
 
Chokecherries are pretty ubiquitous in these parts. They’re native to the area, which helps, but they were also a big favourite of city planners and condo developers about, oh, 25 years ago because (a) they have eye-catching purple foliage that turns crimson in the fall, (b) they have long, frilly white flowers in the spring that turn into grape-like clusters of almost-black berries over the course of summer, and (c) even though they drop their fruit all over the sidewalks, the birds and insects love them just as much as they love serviceberries, which means they get cleaned up pretty quickly with no effort on the part of Neighbourhood Associations or what-have-you.
So there are a LOT of them around the place, and – because raw chokecherries are bitter enough to make your lizard-brain go “this may actually be poisonous,kiddo” (or at least to turn your mouth inside out from the puckering – thense the name), most people will only ask why you’re picking chokecherries, not ask you to stop doing so.
 
Y’all know how my motto is “Free fruit is good fruit,” right? Right.
 
So I’ve already made chokecherry jelly this year, and will be making chokecherry chutney (with the addition of not-so-free plums, onions, and dried cranberries, but hey) shortly as well. I’ve decided that, since I only need about 3C of chokecherry puree to make my chutney, I’m going to use the extra cup worth to try the following recipe:
 
 
~*~
 
Chokecherry Curd
 
INGREDIENTS
 
1C choke cherry puree
¼C butter
¾C sugar
+
¼C sugar
3 eggs
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Sterilize 6 half-cup jars before you actually start making the fruit curd[1]. You won’t really have time to get this bit done once you’ve started the cooking process, so.
THEN
In a sauce pan, over very low heat, stir the puree, the butter, and ¾C sugar together until well-combined.
In a 2C measuring cup (or a random bowl, but the measuring cup makes pouring easier), blend the eggs with the ¼C sugar until extremely smooth.
Add the egg mixture to the puree mixture slowly and carefully while stirring gently over that same low heat[2].
Once the egg mixture and the fruit mixture are smoothly and completely blended, you can – if you want to – turn the heat up to “medium”[3].
Continue stirring, gently, to prevent scorching and to help the mixture thicken (if it starts to boil “too early”, turn the heat down, fyi).
The mixture will eventually turn a slightly paler shade of pinky-purple (though it will still be dark). Around this time, it will start to bubble and also (rapidly) get thick enough to “coat the back of a spoon[4]”. This means it’s ready to can! 😀
Take your curd OFF the heat!
Pour/spoon your curd into those sterilized jars.
Cap them and process them in a boiling water bath (yes, even if you sterilized the jars in the oven) for a solid 15 minutes (you can go longer, if you want) for half-cup jars. You’ll need to go longer if you’re using bigger jars, fyi. (I like the little ones because they make really nice gifts, and you can use up a whole one during a single pancake brunch).
 
~*~
 
 
Anyway. That’s my (as-yet-untested) [EDIT: It works! :-D] chokecherry curd recipe.
 
Wish me luck! 😀
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1]Keep them warm-and-clean either by keeping them in the hot water, or by keeping them in a 225F oven. You can sterilize the glass at this temperature, if you bake them for 20 minutes, but you still have to boil the lids and rings if you go that route.
 
[2] The idea here is to prevent the egg mixture from, basically, “flash-cooking” before it’s blended into the fruit mixture. Part of making that work is pre-blending the eggs with some sugar. The other part is keeping the heat low and making sure to blend the fruit in steadily, but also fairly quickly. A whisk is a wonderful tool for this, fyi.
 
[3] This isn’t strictly speaking recommended. But I’m also impatient when it comes to waiting for my fruit curds to thicken, so I do this fairly frequently and… it doesn’t actually hurt anything. You just run the risk of scortching things and having them burn to the bottom of the pan. Less curd for you plus you then have to be careful about making sure you don’t scrape up any bitter, burnt bits into your delicious, sweet-tart-and-creamy fruit curd. Make your own decisions on that front.
 
[4] You know how you can test jam/jelly for done-ness by seeing if the drop run together before gloobing off the end of the spoon? This is the same idea. It’s a bit like the Cold Plate Test, but using your (typically hot) stirring implement. Basically, you slide a spoon through the mixture and give it a good tap on the side of the pot to get rid of any excess. If the back of the spoon stays well coated upon doing this, then you’re probably good to go.