Category Archives: local food

Rhubarb Curd 2019

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

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

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

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2019 – Weeks Three and Four (After the Fact) + Some Goals

So, as-you-know-bob, April was Eat From the Larder Month chez House of Goat! As mentioned earlier, the Eat From the Larder Challenge was created, many years ago, by Erica Strauss over at (the now mostly-dormant) Northwest Edible Life blog, as a way of demonstrating the maxim that “Cooking is a basic skill of resilience” in real time while also using up any preserves that are hanging around, wearing out their welcome.
While the first year I did this challenge (2014, I think?), I was pretty strict about following the rules of the challenge, I’ve been getting less and less hard core about them as time has gone on and I’ve gotten the hang of using a Par System (if you wanna be fancy) to keep preserved foods and dry goods actually moving through my larder rather than building up in stashes that end up taking up a lot of space without getting eaten.
I’ve said, often enough, that “It’s always Eat From the Larder Month at my house” because we spend more than half the year relying on predominantly frozen (or otherwise preserved) produce, and because I learned – my first year of doing this – that brown rice will, eventually, go slightly rancid if you let it sit around for literally YEARS without using it… and it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaay better to use it up over the course of 6+ months (and drop another $15 for a new 5kg bag of brown basmati when the time comes) than to let it sit for literally years In Case of TEOTWAWKI.
 
So, particularly if you read the first of this year’s EFtL Challenge posts, it’ll come as no surprise that the second half of the Challenge looked much like the first. I continued to buy milk and eggs.
A neighbour gifted me eggs, whipping cream, and a jar of dairy kefir (she’s vegan, but her recently-visiting parents aren’t) so I now have dairy kefir in my fridge again[1].
I made a steak and kidney pie – and discovered that a 2:1 ratio of kidneys:steak is a little too weirdly-floral-tasting for my tastes, and it would have been awesome to cut it with, say, a tonne of mushrooms and some extra onion or something. But here we are. I still have a frozen pig kidney in my freezer, but that’s down from having three, so I’m calling it a win.
I sprouted some mung beans, and may try to do the same thing with green lentils. (My attempts to sprout chick peas have… not worked out so well, but we’ll see if I can get it right…)
I made sourdough bread a couple of times, and it mostly worked, most of the time, and making bread with bottle yeast is still easier and faster, so I clearly don’t have this down pat just yet.
I made a 3L batch of yoghurt, and used 2C of it, in lieu of cream cheese, to make a chocolate cheesecake(!!!) which actually worked!
I used the gifted whipping cream and some more of the yoghurt to make a liver mousse (uh… yesterday. I got the liver, itself, out to thaw at the end of April, but it’s been hanging out in the fridge until last night).
But, for the most part, it’s been pretty business-as-usual around here. There are still h’ors d’oeuvres in my freezer – where they’ve been hanging out since Winter Solstice, if not earlier – that need to be baked and served. There are elements of my larder that got “eaten down” by other people, because there are a few folks in town who needed extra groceries and I was able to go shopping in my freezer/cupboards for them and basically “off-load” a roasting chicken, a lot of frozen veggies, a loaf of home-made bread, some tinned tuna, some garden rhubarb, the last of the brown basmati rice (picked up in October, so it’s just fine thank you), and a variety of Things In Jars (mostly tomatoes) on other people.
 
The biggest thing that’s come up, though, is that vegetables are delicious, and I would like to eat more of them.
So, like, for those of you who’ve got the cash flow to not worry about this? Produce isn’t cheap. Bags of frozen produce are less expensive (usually) than fresh stuff – which is another reason why we use so much of it – but it’s still not cheap. Blessings Be upon my garden – with its rhubarb and sorrel and crow garlic and plentiful dandelions, with its sage and savoury and lovage and (hypothetical, but here’s hoping) raspberries and even its nettles and occasional purslane, with its self-seeded radishes and mustard greens and its volunteer cherry tomatoes – for giving me free produce all summer long, plus enough (we hope) rainbow chard and (sometimes) winter squash to keep feeding us later on, from the freezer. Bless the neighbourhood’s numerous city service berry trees and neglected chokecherries, and the raspberry canes along the alley. Bless the antique apple tree across from my laundromat and the big, chunky crab apples that grace the verges of the rich neighbourhood to the south, for the cider and fruit butter they give us in the Fall.
 
I’ve been planting for the past week-and-a-bit. Adding manure to the garden beds, and digging at least one new one. Putting in a second lovage plant and trying again with thyme, plus adding a few annual seedlings, too.
I’m thinking about how one of the Big Easy Things a person can do to reduce their own carbon footprint is to eat more vegetables.
I mean, yes, I know. The idea being expressed there is “Get more of your calories from plants (rather than muscles)”. But when I think “Eat Less Meat” what I end up thinking is “Eat Less Flavourful, More Boring, Food” combined with “Access Fewer Amino Acids and Start Feeling Dizzy and Having Trouble Thinking Things Through”.
Whereas, if I think “Eat More Vegetables”, yeah, I may be thinking “¼C diced salami[2] + 2C milk and a tablespoon of parmesan cheese split between three+ people” in a meal that’s half rotini noodles, but I’m also thinking “Five or six cups of veggies: Mustard & radish florets, leafy greens, hothouse grape tomatoes, and herbs… This is beautiful, flavourful, and delicious!”
It’s a plate of shredded red cabbage tossed (or steamed, if you want it hot!) with diced apple, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds topped with yoghurt, minced garlic, and a dollop of grainy mustard.
It’s a thin slices of toast topped with mayo, hot mustard, apple butter, garlicky hummus, and a generous heap of sour kraut.
It’s rutabaga, winter squash, beets, onion, garlic, and parsnips (or carrots, or even creeping bell flower root, if you want to go there) roasted with frozen or hothouse bell peppers and walnuts, then tossed with a 2:1 mix of pot barley and black lentils cooked in bone stock, and topped with lacto-fermented radish roots-and-greens before serving.
It’s hothouse tomatoes & cucumbers, sprouted mung beans, slivered crow garlic, and frozen edamame tossed with yoghurt and quinoa (OR orzo pasta, for that matter).
It’s half a cup of liver mouse, 80g of brie or chevre, and a cup of artichoke-mayo-garlic-parmesan dip set out with soda crackers and wine and a spread of olives (or a tapenade made from a tin of same), dried apples, pears & cranberries, roasted walnuts, bell peppers & tomatoes, chokecherry relish, heavy-garlic hummus, and baba ganoush.
It’s all beautiful, flavourful, and delicious.
It’s all appealing and something I would want to eat.
…And it means upping my veggies per person count from 2 servings per dinner-time to something closer to five or six (a serving of most, though not all, veggies is about half a cup).
Which means my budget – in terms of space, but also in terms of money – is going to have to more than double.
Not the most comfortable though, even at the beginning of Free Food Season. But, I figure, at least Free Food Season will give me some time to adjust to this while everything is bright and delicious, and that’s emphatically a start.
 
So.
What was my take-away for 2019’s Eat From the Larder Challenge?

Variety is still wonderful
 
Veggies are delicious and I need (and want) to eat more of them, which is going to cost money, but maybe I can get more perennials going? Perhaps? (Is this the year I try to plant asparagus?)
 
Sourdough bread remains difficult, but I’m better at it than I was. Also, making dips out of various things is a GREAT way to use stuff up. Whether that’s liver and yoghurt or pressure-canned beans and mashed pumpkin… And strips of mediocre sourdough bread make GREAT dippables if you put them under the broiler with some oil brushed over them first. Pro tip. 😉
 
We easily eat two dozen eggs per week in this household. And a solid gallon-and-a-bit of milk. Four and 3/4 litres per week, if you want to get technical and also include the milk needed to make yoghurt once a month. Which is… a lot. I’m more than a little relieved to still have access to these[3] and this is definitely where our food choices are at their most brittle and where a big bag of powdered milk might be a good way to make the (much tastier) liquid stuff stretch farther, or help me make do when it’s not available

 
During the EFtL Challenge, this year, I nearly ran out of flour and short pasta, and did run out of parmasan and cheddar as well as granulated sugar (but we also have tonnes of other options – like honey and maple syrup – to use in place of granulated stuff). I was out of baking powder before I even started, and have been happily using baking soda (and acidic stuff like fruit butters and yoghurt) in my quick breads. Shortbread cookies made with honey instead of sugar are delicious (next up: Making them with a mix of whole wheat pastry flour and oat flour, in addition to the butter and the honey…)
 
I’ve since re-stocked on flour, sugar, pasta, and other dry goods and pantry staples, and will be having a gallon of maple syrup delivered from a friend’s family sugar bush… some time between now and June, probably? Between that and the garden starting (just barely – we’re still on dandelions, crow garlic, and rhubarb right now) to produce veggies, I’m feeling pretty good.

Goals for This Year’s Preserving Efforts
 
Grow winter squash (including spaghetti squash, butternut, buttercup, and two kinds of pumpkin) AND cucumbers up a trellis to make them harder for the squirrels to attack
 
Grow pole beans (and nasturtiums and icicle radishes) in the same bed as the squash.
 
Pressure can a lot of mashed winter squash and/or dice, steam, and freeze it for the freezer.
 
Grow a lot of radishes (again) and lactoferment the roots and greens together (with mustard seed, garlic, and bird chilies)
 
Maybe try growing amaranth (and inter-plant with eggplant and pole beans), because I hear it’s easy to thresh and winnow and because it’s a really nice addition to Pumpkin Soup
 
Continue to sprout various dry beans and add them to salads and stir fries
 
Grow and freeze as many hardy cooking greens as possible (mainly rainbow chard, but also some kind of kale or mustard greens)
 
Buy enough yellow and green zucchini (like 60, unless my own zucchini plants give me a bumper crop) and red shepherd peppers (like 85… which will cost a LOT more, and so maaaaay need to be significantly limited) and eggplant (15, because I’m not expecting a high yield from my eggplants, tbh) to put up a LOT of frozen veggies, so that I’m less dependent on – but not independent from, I seriously doubt – getting veggies from the freezer section of the grocery store.
 
Grow mustard for seed
 
Occasionally pressure can batches of bone stock AND batches of cooked chick peas or other large beans at the same time
 
Wild-harvest local service berries (freezer) and chokecherries (curds and jellies) at the appropriate time.
 
Sow clover seed in the back yard to help the ground fix nitrogen and get it a bit healthier and more able to support other food crops

 
Ha… These goals are ambitious, and some of them (like the amaranth, though I do have the seeds) may not happen. But here’s hoping I’ll be able to meet that 5-6 servings of veggies person plan, and do a lot of it myself.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I find that dairy kefir – at least mine – smells like a mix between old cheddar and blue cheese. I’m not sure it’s supposed to smell like that, but it still smells like a familiar food, so I tend to put it in bechamel sauce to make it taste cheesier, particularly when I’m all out of parmesan and cheddar due to the challenge restrictions.
 
[2] Or a whole cup of tinned tuna, or the half a cup of diced meat you can get off a left-over pork chop or chicken leg. You get the idea.
 
[3] Not long ago, a friend commented something along the lines of “A million different things can be made from a base of coconut, rice, flour, yeast, sugar, cardamom and saffron”. She was talking about Zanzibari cooking. I think my Million Different Things are probably made from a base of eggs, milk, wheat flour, maple syrup, mustard, black pepper, nutmeg, and salt. (And, yes, you can theoretically use spice-bush berries in place of both the nutmeg and the black pepper, but I don’t have those. Yet).

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2019 – Weeks One &Two (Includes: Pear Velvet Pie Recipe)

So! It’s Eat From the Larder Month chez House of Goat! Full disclosure: Winter 2018-2019 has been substantially easier than winter 2017-2018 (never-mind the year before that one) and we have not been doing the Eat From the Larder challenge literally every other month to the point that the must-have supplies (for me) like all-purpose flour and red lentils are dwindling before I even get started over here. So I’m starting out with more “larder staples” (dry goods) than I’ve necessarily had in years past.
I’m also doing my usual thing where I continue to buy milk and eggs, at normal-for-our-house rates (about 1 gallon of milk and 1-2 dozen eggs per week), because it makes the whole month about a zillion times easier and it means I have something to cook my freezer veggies and jars of preserves with, which makes a big difference.
 
For those who don’t know, the Eat From the Larder Challenge was created, many years ago, by Erica Strauss over at (the now mostly-dormant) Northwest Edible Life blog, as a way of demonstrating the maxim that “Cooking is a basic skill of resilience” in real time while also using up any preserves that are hanging around, wearing out their welcome.
The first year I did this, I went pretty all-in. And I learned a lot about the bits of my larder that I didn’t really know what to do with (lentils), even though I had them on hand. I found out which pantry staples I tended to avoid (brown rice), and how much I want variety in my diet, even when “variety” is defined as “umpteen ways of making the same 10 or so ingredients taste good, day after day”.
 
It made a difference in how I thought about preserving food: Thinking of preserves as “ingredients” rather than “finished dishes” meant that I started paying attention to how frozen serviceberries are more versatile than serviceberry jam, fruit butters make better additions to quick breads than jams and jellies, pickled veggies and dried fruits can both be used to add acidic brightness to dishes comprised mostly of root vegetables.
It also made a difference in how I thought about my eventual (now a reality!) garden: I want perennial food plants – everything from crow garlic, nettles, and dandelions to rhubarb, sorrel, lovage, and culinary herbs – to be available in my yard, because they start arriving early enough to make a difference in a situation where my end-of-winter freezer is looking bare (or even just boring).
 
Anyway. Here we are in, like… Year Six of this challenge, and it’s the end of Week One nearing the end of Week Two.
 
Confession? I’m not taking this challenge particularly seriously. My lovely wife bought us baking potatoes and fancy cheddar (because she’s lovely, and also because I try to do this challenge in a low-key way so I don’t get any push-back… which I might not even get, but I’m letting the brain weasels have this one). We were invited to split a pizza with a metamour (at our place) a week ago, and I didn’t even think about it before saying “Sure, that’d be great”. AND IT WAS. I bought samosas for lunch on Monday of this week, and probably would have done so a second time if a co-worker at my temp job hadn’t brought in Easter Chili (I don’t even know, but it was tasty) on Thursday.
So, while The Challenge has so far been very easy, part of why it’s been easy is because, on mornings when I’ve slept late (“late” = 10 minutes, but wevs) and haven’t had ready-to-go left-overs in the fridge, I’ve opted to buy something rather than not eat.
So, yeah, I’m cheating.
 
That said: The freezer is still emptying out at a reasonable pace. I made a big batch of garlic-curry hummus (ish… it’s mostly chick peas, but not entirely) and between that and making some artichoke-kale-mayo dip (think spinach dip, if that helps), making “toasts” out of some of my sourdough bread (which is working, reliably, for sandwich bread – hurrah!), opening up a tin of smoked oysters, and putting out some dried fruit, I think I can probably come up with a nice snack-feast for later this weekend.
The fact that the crow garlic and rhubarb (and even the sorrel and dandelions) are coming up in the back yard is making it easier for me to stop hoarding be generous with the frozen veggies. So veggie-heavy meals – like strata ft zucchini, red peppers, kale, garlic, and onion (but very little cheese); or chicken stew ft chard, kale, zucchini, celeriac, onion, garlic, and winter squash – have been a delightful option. We’ve also done a cabbage salad (ft walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries with a yoghurt-mustard-mayo dressing) which made for a good next-day lunch as well as a easy, light dinner.
We used up the last of the costco trout the other night, with butter (we are running out of butter) and a little white wine. We’ve got a rutabaga in the fridge, along with a couple of potatoes (all of which are sprouting like heck and which I think I need to put in the ground instead of putting in dinner, but… we’ll see), some Chinese Broccoli and a greenhouse cucumber. (Cucumber salad and a standard short pasta with tuna, frozen broccoli, and bechamel sauce have also featured in the past 10 days of dinners).
I have tonnes of pre-roasted-and-frozen turkey, which I want to start using up.
I have tonnes of fruit butter, too. Which: I found a way to use it up that I really, REALLY like (though, when I run out of butter, I’m in trouble):
 
I made a pie with some of the fruit butter!
 
I’m super excited about this, because I’d been wondering if it would work pretty-much since I put the pear butter up last fall. It’s basically pumpkin pie, except you use a pint of pear butter instead of the 2C mashed pumpkin and 1C brown sugar. You guys. It works so well! Here’s the recipe (which I modified slightly from one like this):
 
~*~
 
Pear Velvet Pie
2C pear butter
1C milk
3 eggs
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
 
Blend the heck out of the above.
Pour into one pre-baked 9″ pie shell (DIY or not, crumb crust or short pastry, you do you)
Bake at 425F for 15 minutes
REDUCE HEAT and bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes
Allow to cool
Serve
 
~*~
 
I assume this will work just as well with apple butter or other fruit butters (Nectarine? Plum?), and I’ll definitely be experimenting at least with the apple, because I have so much apple butter it’s not even funny. Like five litres or something.
 
As far as this specific pie goes? Be aware: Pear butter is hella sweet. When I made mine, I put maybe half a cup of brown sugar into the whole batch. Which was like 3-4 litres of pear butter by the time it was all put in jars. So there’s maybe a tablespoon of “additional sugar” in that pint of what is otherwise just mashed pears, cooked down, with a little bit of salt and cider vinegar thrown in. So I’m assuming that, when I make this with apple butter, I may find that it’s not as sweet. (It will be plenty sweet enough, I’m sure, just not as sweet as this).
 
A similar thing that I’m hoping to do is make what’s essentially a cheese cake, but use plain yoghurt instead of cream cheese. It can be done. The consistency will be a little different (somewhere between normal cheesecake and, like, maybe custard?) but I think, especially if I mix in some melted chocolate chips, it’ll be really good. AND I can top it with some of my frozen berries, which should be awesome sauce. 😀
 
Anyway. We’ll see how the rest of this challenge goes. Hopefully things will remain delicious and easy and our food will remain at least slightly varied (there’s going to be turkey stew with pot barley and rutabaga coming up, I do know that, probably another veggie strata and, provided I can get the noodles right, some sort of udon + soup stock + turkey + lacto-fermented chunky veggies thing).
 
Wish me luck.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Persephone Shortbread + Thumbprint Honey Cakes

Hey, all!
It’s time for a food post!
Today I made:
 
Persephone Shortbread
2½ C flour (all purpose wheat)
1C vegan margarine
¼ C maple syrup
¼ C pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
 
Blend into a dough
Form into balls and flatten (if you want to decorate them later) or press with a fork
Place on a greased cookie sheet
Bake for 10 minutes at 350F
Allow to cool
 
You can decorate these pretty-much however. But a chocolate ganache (melt chocolate chips & coconut cream together – there are a million recipes on the internet) or a glaze like the one below, would be ideal.
 
Pomogranate Glaze
½ C granulated sugar
3 tbsp coconut cream OR hemp milk (in the latter case, at 1 tsp oil)
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
 
Blend over low heat until the sugar liquefies. Spoon (use a tiny spoon) over cookies and allow to cool in the fridge.
 
~*~
 
Thumbprint Honey Cakes
6C flour (all purpose wheat)
3C butter (salted)
1C honey
 
Bring the butter to room temperature (so that it’s reasonably soft)
Blend honey and butter together using beaters, unless the butter is VERY soft, in which case you can use a fork
Add in flour
Blend with a fork (it will snarl the beaters pretty quickly, so better to use a hand tool that’s easy to clear), and then with your hands, until you have a soft dough
Form into 1” balls and drop onto a greased cookie sheet
Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350F
Allow to cool
Try not to eat them all at once. 😉
 
~*~
 
As you may have guessed, I’m not much of a one for fancy shapes when it comes to baked goods. >.> I may or may not do a frosting for the Persephone shortbread (though, if I’ve got red sugar sprinkles, I probably will).
 
The honey cakes recipe is very much my family’s shortbread recipe with honey instead of the more (recently-speaking) traditional icing sugar, in the case of my paternal line and castor/granulated sugar in the case of my mom’s family.
I wanted to give it a try and see what honey would do for the flavor – partly because (even if I can stand by the rest of it just fine) a specific sentence in this utterly ancient post from Rune Soup has bugged me for literally eight years. Are honey cakes actually that bad? Really? – and partly because I’m… weird about food. See below.
 
Flavour-wise, the end result is (surprise) not as hit-you-in-the-face sweet as the shortbread I’m used to, but – maybe because I whipped the butter and honey together first – it’s airy and (maybe not that surprisingly) even a little floral. The honey gives some depth and complexity to the sweetness, too, which I’m enjoying.
 
TBH, I can’t help laughing at myself a little bit. On the one hand, wanting to use frou-frou organic (uh… how do they control for that?) local honey instead of the kind of sugar that my thousand-years-gone pre-Christian ancestors just wouldn’t have had access to. (Yes, yes, I get that the Rich Person’s mediaeval spice chest could have included raw chunks of frighteningly expensive sugar in the 1400s, but you get my drift).
On the other hand… Cocoa, cloves, AND pomegranate molasses? All in one cookie?? (And, yes, maple syrup because (a) it’s vegan, and I wanted a vegan shortbread-type cookie that didn’t taste like margarine, but also because (b) winter contains the seeds of spring, and I’ll be darned if I pass up a food-based metaphor like that).
 
So, like I said, I’m “weird” about food.
On the one hand, I want to cook the way my pre-industrial Scottish ancestors did (uh… except on an electric range, and with central heating and running water…) – because I like fish and game and dairy and lots of greens, and because those things are Good For Me in a food-guide kind of way, and because Ancestor Connection is something that matters to me.
On another hand, I want to have a relationship with the land I’m actually living on – squatter that I am, even if the local folks are nice enough to euphemistically call me a “guest” – which, along with composting and picking up garbage and saying thank you, means eating what grows and thrives here (particularly the naturalized stuff my ancestors brought over that’s – surprise – turned out to be very invasive).
And both of these places produce a lot of berries and bitter greens (yay!), have Actual Winter to contend with, and don’t tend towards fruits loaded with capsaicin (nasturtium leaves, on the other hand…).
BUT
On yet another hand: I drink coffee every damn day, or close to it. Sugar, chocolate & cocoa, earl grey tea, and the various spices found in chai (which… I’m pretty sure the only ingredients in that particular blend that could grow in my neighbourhood are the shredded dandelion and chicory roots) and also pumpkin pie? I use those plenty of those. Salt comes from Windsor, Ontario, and coriander (and bird chilies – entirely thanks to my neighbour) grows in the back yard. But black pepper, tumeric, cumin, and vanilla beans, just for example, really, really don’t.
 
So, on the one hand, I want to get good at making delicious, flavourful food both by using what grows here and by drawing on the foodways of my own ancestors.
Rather like when I started learning how to cook (and enjoy) cabbage, and other long-keeping Product Of Ontario/Quebec produce that was available, raw, in February, I’m now learning how to cook (and, more to the point, BAKE) with more local flavours.
That doesn’t mean I want to give up my fancy imports. I think my wife would go into open revolt if I put a ban on coffee and, frankly, my desk drawer is full of chocolate. I like this stuff. But it’s basically colonization x2 when I’m a white lady in North America buying, say, chocolate, sugar, and tea at prices that are only that cheap/accessible because of colonization and the related sins of poor working conditions, low/no wages, and undervalued currencies.
 
So.
Some of what I do to… reconcile this entirely-self-made dilemma?
I use those not-grown-around-here flavours less often. I sweeten coffee and tea with honey and maple syrup (sometimes) instead of sugar. I use those pomegranate molasses roughly once a year rather than as a routine flavour I reach for. I try not to rely on vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, to say “warm and sweet” or on chilies, ginger, and tumeric to say “flavourful” – even when I have backyard bird chilies & jalapenos available and lots of imported spices,too (I still use them, but they’re not something I rely on).
 
When it comes to savouries, this is pretty easy.
Juniper berries[1] taste like black pepper and xmas trees. Onions, garlic, and mustard seed provide heat or something like it. Cranberries and rhubarb and wine (and beer, and kombucha, and yoghurt, and apples/cider/cider-vinegar, and sorrel, and dill, and sour ruben/kraut, and even dried tomatoes) provide the bright acidity that might otherwise be provided by lemons or limes.
But what I have a hard time with is baking. Fennel seed and anise hyssop can provide a “warm” licorice-y flavour. Maple syrup and maple sugar have some of the same flavour compounds as vanilla, so using it as an alternative sweetener comes with a bit of a flavour bonus. Spicebush – if I can find one in fruit (hahaha…) – allegedly tastes like a mix of black pepper and nutmeg. Fruit – whether that’s pear butter made at Mabon and baked into coffee cake at Imbolg, rhubarb fresh from the garden at Beltane, or Midsummer shortcake heaped with cream and just-off-the-tree service berries – offers all sorts of complexity right along with sweetness and tartness.
 
So it’s not that there aren’t options.
 
But I’m still at the beginning of this particular learning curve, still reaching automatically for the cinnamon and vanilla and black pepper, and it hasn’t become easy yet.
Which, then, brings me to the other thing I do, which is to buy the organic stuff, the fair trade stuff, the “rain forest alliance certified” stuff, when buying the coffee, chocolate, cocoa, and (increasingly, it’s definitely not consistent yet) sugar (I don’t actually know if these folks ship to Canada though, if yes, this is one way to get fair trade sugar at low prices/kg) that I use, particularly when it’s stuff I use every day.
 
So, yes. The cocoa in the Persephone Shortbread is organic & fair trade, and most of the sweet stuff (and the flour, and the fat – butter and margerine respectively – and the salt) comes from Canada. The cloves and the pomegranate molasses aren’t. But this is a better “score” than last year, so I’m going with it.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Get them off a tree, not a creeping-type bush, because Savin Juniper – which is one of the low-growing kinds – is poisonous, whereas Common Juniper is just fine.

Full Moon – Rampion Moon Crests (Lunar Eclipse)

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

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


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

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


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

Full Moon – Berry Moon Crests

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

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


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

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


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