Category Archives: local food

New Year New You 2016 (…and 17): Week 19 – Concrete Things

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!
 
It’s been a little over eight months. I never, strictly speaking, finished my 2016 New Year New You practice, my Queen of Cups Project remains on-going. None the less, and even though a project like this is more likely to last years than to be easily wrapped up in one turn of the seasons, I still feel a bit like I’ve left a loose end flapping.
So here we are.
It’s been a whirl-wind of an almost-year. Body Time, to link back to the last post I made about this project, remains a work-in-progress BUT I keep getting better at it. I’ve pushed through tears and overwhelm and… actually been able to engage my body and FEEL THINGS, physically speaking, that I’ve been having trouble with for years. So that’s a big plus. 😀 Got a better handle (ish) on where my boundaries are and what I can do to feel like I’m taking care of myself, staying in control of a situation (not “driving off a cliff”, so to speak), and not just willfully setting myself up to get hurt.
Go me. 🙂
 
Instructions: This week’s prompt, over-due as it is, asks what (concrete) thing I can do to make my life better.
 
Tarot Card: I’m inclined to lean towards the six of fire, partly for its success connotations, for the boost of a (relatively) easy win, but mostly for its sense of abundance.
 
See, what I’m doing this week – this weekend, as it happens – is putting up 40 lbs of tomatoes for the winter. I’m just doing crushed tomatoes this year, nothing fancy, though I miiiiiight throw in some winter savoury from the garden (passion, sensuality, and sex, if you were wondering) and minced garlic (hella protection + more passionate, sexual stuff… I’m noticing a theme here). Assuming I boil off 10lbs worth of water, this should net me a little over 18 pints of crushed tomatoes, though it might be more than that. I admit, I hope so. The closer I can get this to $1/pint, the better. 😉
Canning tomatoes won’t change my life. I’ve done it too many years in a row for this to be earth-shaking. But it will make my life easier and happier in concrete ways – both right now (I like canning – shocking, I know), and over the next 12 months or so when a couple of days worth of effort (thank the gods for my food processor…) back in September will make the vegetables portion of our meals that much easier.
So that’s what I’m doing.
Wish me luck!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

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Mid-July: In Which Everything Goes To Hell – 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 some planting, a tiny bit of harvesting, and a little bit of… building?
 
I rescued three cucumber plants and a zucchini from Certain Death in a neglected loblaws garden center… about a week ago. I transplanted them, plus one of my pre-existing but too-heavily-shaded-by-beans-and-radishes cucumbers and a couple of my probably-pumpkin plants to:
A new in-ground bed that I put together by piling up bolted mustard stems, overlaying them with some newspaper, and then emptying a bag of soil on top of everything.
They seem to be… mostly not dying? Which is sort of what I was going for. One of the (very small…) cucumbers is flowering, as is the probably-a-pumpkin (you can see both below). The zucchini occasionally tosses out a male blossom as well. I’m hoping that, by August, they will be blooming with the lady-flowers and starting to hint at bearing fruit.
 

Cucumber plants plus something that is probably a pumpkin, but might be a zucchini.  You can also see the bottom of the trellis I put up over the weekend.  We'll see if it holds and/or if anything manages to climb it.

Cucumber plants plus something that is probably a pumpkin, but might be a zucchini. You can also see the bottom of the trellis I put up over the weekend. We’ll see if it holds and/or if anything manages to climb it.


 
So there’s that.
 
I’ve given my daikon-radish “fence” a major haircut, so that the beans and eggplants and everyone else in that bed can actually get some light. This is less of thing for the Ground Cherries, which can handle a bit of shade (though my particular plant is probably getting too much from the tomatoes to produce much fruit. We’ll figure it out).
My jalapeno has three little peppers starting on it.
My eggplants have, between the two of them, three fruits developing.
My yellow bell pepper is… Let’s say I’m not holding my breath on that one…
But my tomatoes!
It’s been magnificently rainy this summer, and kind of on the cool side, so pretty much everything is moving slowly. I’m used to getting my first ripe cherry tomatoes, oh, about two weeks ago, and as of now, they’re all still green.
Which is fine. They’ll get there. Even if I’m bringing them indoors in October and letting them ripen next to an apple in the kitchen.
And look! This is my first year growing beefsteak tomatoes! I have… ANY! 😀
 
Beefsteak tomatoes, at the slightly-yellowish-green phase of edging towards ripening.

Beefsteak tomatoes, at the slightly-yellowish-green phase of edging towards ripening.


 
I’m pretty sure I’ve got at least one roma tomato, too, and the Big Tomatoes are in the ground, rather than the raised beds, so they’ve actually got enough root depth and aren’t getting themselves sick with blossom-end-rot and what-not. Hurrah! 😀 (Not that I’m counting my tomatoes before they’re ripe, or anything, but I’m hopeful, y’know?)
 
In further squash news: Danger Squirrel and company have eaten most, possibly all, of the waldham butternut and golden-zucchini seeds I planted, many months ago. But this bruiser that came up in the compost heap is, I’m fairly confident, a Fairy Tale Pumpkin:
 
Fairly confident that this is a Fairy Tale Pumpkin growing out of my compost heap, as squash are wont to do.

Fairly confident that this is a Fairy Tale Pumpkin growing out of my compost heap, as squash are wont to do.


 
Fairy Tale pumpkins are great, in that they are HUGE, and they finish ripening off the vine (like: harvest it when it’s dark green, streaked faintly with orange, at Samhain, but don’t cut it open until the rind is a milk-chocolate brown, around Imbolg). BUT they are not so great on flavour. Like ponca butternut (an ancestor of waldham butternut) and any zucchini you’ve ever left too long on the vine, a lot of their size is water. So they’re not great for things like pie or baked veggie side dishes where the squash flavour is something you care about. But they’re excellent for adding to braises and stews where the extra liquid will be soaked up by barley (for example) and the otherwise mild pumpkin flavour will be augmented by whatever else you’re cooking with it.
 
In other news!
My raspberry bush is FRUITING!!!
My raspberry bush is fruiting!

My raspberry bush is fruiting!


 
The friends who gave it to me warned me that it hadn’t fruited in all the years it had been in their yard. I said I was willing to give it a shot, as they wondered if being near other raspberries – like the ones in the alley behind my house – might encourage it to fruit.
That wasn’t what did it.
What did it was a big heap of bone meal dumped around the roots of the plant. Turns out, there was fruit (ish… proto-fruit) all along, it just needed some phosphorus and calcium to help the fruit develop into something that could actually ripen. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!
😀
 
So I harvested a couple of raspberries from my own canes today. Hopefully more will follow.
Beyond that, I haven’t been harvesting a whole lot. There have been garlic scapes, the occasional bit of chard, a heap of snow peas(!!!) and the last of the radishes. Oh. And a sprig of mint for hibiscus iced tea. But that’s been it. I think there will need to be a kale salad in my near-future, though, as the Cavalo Nero is getting bigger, and could do with a trim.
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been… not a huge amount of activity, honestly. And a bunch of stuff that didn’t work.
I tried to make a sour dough starter. Which started beautifully, but died very quickly, in spite of regular feeding. I think I must have been doing it wrong. (That said, if I can make a chef from scratch every time…? That wouldn’t be the end of the world…)
 
I wound up making “by any means neccessary” bread, using 1 tsp dry yeast + a cup of kefir and… you guys, it’s not good. Like, “it makes great toast” levels of not good. It looks beautiful, and smells awesome, but it tastes like, well, like a fermented milk product (which is not what I look for in a sandwich-canvas) and tends to get soggy REALLY easily.
 
Speaking of fermented milk products… my kefir got fruit flies. In the worst way. I had to toss the entire batch, plus about 1/4 of the actual grains, because I wasn’t able to separate them from the corpses of fruit flies gone to their fermented-dairy graves.
On the plus side, the grains I was able to save are still alive and kicking and making kefir, so I can keep churning out coffee cake and scones until the heat turns up in these parts. So there’s that.
 
The Ex is coming by in two weeks to collect all the stuff they’ve been storing in our basement (among other places), so my wife and I have been moving some things around. Our antique kitchen table is now The Bird Stand (it looks good there, and it means it’s not blocking the washer and dryer… not that the washer and dryer are hooked up or anything… >.>) and we are sorting out where to store all the bird food and bird toys and such-like. It’s a work in progress.
 
Which… So is the rest of the main floor. I know this section is about what’s going on “in the kitchen”, but our front room (when we moved in, it was – briefly – my wife’s workshop, and it’s been a never-quite-defined half-storage room ever since she got her own shop) is currently the staging area for both The Ex’s stuff and a bunch of items we’re holding for a friend who’s getting divorced and will need help with furniture and other stuff when the time comes. When that’s all been taken care of, we’re going to turn everything around in there, so that my desk is facing the window and the bistro set I’ve been referring to, somewhat hopefully, as “the dining room set”, will be moved into a more accessible area, so that we can actually, y’know, dine at it.
The living room is looking better than it has in a while (hurrah!) though there are still things that need touching up. The birds are fed and watered and have had their cages cleaned (and, in Fiona’s case, some of her stuff has been moved around… though not by very much. I don’t want her to get bored…), and the vacuuming actually got done, albeit not by me.
 
The kitchen, to drag this back onto the topic at hand, is still a mess. Moving the table into the living room means I’m out about six square feet of “shelf” space, and the counter is feeling the pinch (and, consequently, I am feeling the “Augh, I don’t know where to staaaaart!” that I feel whenever there’s no clear space to put something down).
I’m continuing to use up my crushed tomatoes and my salsa (I made SO MUCH last summer), but I have a LOT of preserves still to go through. Crab apple jam, pear and pumpkin butters, chokecherry-plum relish, jalapeno jelly, a jar or two of pickled beans (they’re lovely on sandwiches, but see above re: soggy bread), and a LOT of gifted preserves (delicious gifts, mind you) from other folks. I need to do an inventory, and I need to put up shelves. This might or might not be the summer that happens, but it needs to happen. I have too many empty canning jars and nowhere for them to live. Too many (Ha! Meaning two, at the moment!) fermentation projects on the go. It’s time to add more storage to the kitchen.
 
 
Anyway, so yeah. Not a whole hell of a lot going on in terms of house-hold productivity this week, but that’s where things are at. Did I mention I had a grease fire (small, put out quickly and easily with baking soda) AND boiled a pot dry today? I did. “Productive Home”, indeed. :-\
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Full Moon – Berry/Rose Moon Crests

Hey kittens,
 
So it’s been a while.
Can I tell you I’ve been feeling “distracted” for years? Like, very briefly, before we moved into our lovely new house (back in September 2014), I felt like I kind of had a handle on things, and I’ve been feeling like I’m playing Catch-Up ever since? I don’t know where this feeling is coming from. I mean, probably? Probably it’s a mix of scrabbling for money and the decrease in “free” time (and brain space) that comes with that.
Or maybe it’s something else.
I don’t know.
 
What I DO know is that my wife and I went on a Laundry Date today (yes, we have a washer and dryer, courtesy of a generous couple of friends; no, we haven’t re-arranged our own – somewhat-mousey, ugh – basement so that we can carry them downstairs and hook them up) chez the Laundromat.
We went for a motorcycle ride the other day. Can I tell you how amazing it is to have a vehicle again? Evne one that won’t keep you warm and dry, it still gets us to work in 15 minutes and lets us go away for the odd weekend, which is AMAZING.
 
I put in another in-ground garden bed yesterday. Planted rescue-cucumbers (discounted to $0.54 at the Loblaws, and probably not getting watered anymore) and a rescue zucchini, plus transplanted a few cucuberits (one cucumber, two… probably pumpkins? Not sure…) into the same bed and sprinkled bone meal around all of them.
I can’t say I’m super-hopeful about any of them taking off. That family doesn’t like having its roots disturbed, plus the super-market starts had been neglected for a while and it’s not like my yard is super-amazing in terms of soil nutrients. Mostly what grows in the ground is (a) self-seeded mustard greens, (b) dandelions, (c) cats’ ears, (d) yarrow, and (e) creeping charlie. Stuff that feeds lightly and/or has hella tap-roots. But, frankly, I have fertilizer (well, bone and blood meal) and I’m not afraid to use it.
 
On the more more hopeful end of things, I’ve pulled out most of the bolted mustard and radishes (few of which ever developed big, juicy roots, ’cause apparently they don’t like being transplanted either) and my chard now has a LOT more space. I’m hoping that between the additional breathing room and the on-going heavy rains (and sunshine, every now and then!), I will get myself some very healthy chard and kale… right up until November. Fingers crossed!
Likewise:
I seem to have one jalapeno pepper (so far), one eggplant (so far), three beefsteak tomatoes, one roma tomato, and a TONNE of cherry tomatoes slowly developing as actual fruit. I am hopeful that things will continue in this vein! 😀
We are continuing to get LOTS of herbs (sage, cilantro, apple mint, winter savoury, and garlic scapes, all of which I’m harvesting. The lemon balm and the peppermint seem to be doing nicely as well, but I won’t be harvesting them (much) this year, so that they can get well-established). The French Sorrel seems to be doing nicely, too, though I would still like to get some Leaf Sorrel (MUCH bigger leaves) added to the mix.
 
I harvested raspberries from the alley this morning! I still haven’t gone out to pick service berries. I honestly don’t know if I will. Part of me wants to, and part of me is all “Meh. I haven’t actually used up the ones from last year yet…” so… not sure. But if I do, I need to do it THIS WEEK or I’m out of luck.
The cherries look like lipstick trees! (This is such a great time of year).
 
 
My tracking of Full Moon Energy Weird is… not currently registering a whole lot? So we’ll see what this looks like when mapped over multiple months.
 
So, here’s a thing I’ve started to notice. I do a “spare cards” pull at the end of every tarot spread. Doesn’t matter what lay-out I’m doing, I pull an “Advisor” card (top of deck), plus an “over-arching influences” (top of deck), and an “under-lying influences” (bottom of deck) card to go with it.
What I’m noticing is that these cards tend to provide the jist of the answer I’m asking for. Like, the entire rest of the reading boils down to detail-work, but the answer is in those three cards.
Like, last months (just barely posted) Full Moon post included a very short tarot reading, and the “context cards” made more sense than the actual (two cards only) spread.
Likewise, I recently did a (much larger, grand cross) reading about Dealing With Money Feels, and the answer was so clearly written in those last three cards. Sure, the Queen of Earth fell out of the deck (relevant…), but here was the last little bit:
 
Advisor: The Emperor
Overarching/Underlying: The Guardian (15 MA) / 10 of Earth (“Home”)

 
Sure, the Emperor CAN mean “dealing with The Man”, it can mean Patriarchy. It can mean pre-established and disempowering rules and laws (which always have to do with power structures, not with What Is Right).
But the Emperor (the Green Man, The Code), is also: Structure, getting organized, bringing order our of chaos, recognizing one’s own authority. Taking control of your own life, getting your ducks in a row. Being in a position of strength. Being your own boss. Breaking the chains that held you and going in a way that is good for YOU to go. Setting a direction. Bringing security and comfort. Sticking to a plan. It can mean “skills, confidence, competence. Al the stuff that the Three of Stones asks you to recognize in yourself and expect to be valued. Being able to talk the talk of the walk you’re already walking. It can mean self-discipline. It can mean leadership and taking the initiative.
The Emperor has good boundaries, and a willingness to act, to dare, but also the pacing to get stuff done in an orderly and sustainable fashion.
(Seriously. I was going to search “Emperor” on Little Red Tarot, and Beth had JUST posted a new post on exactly what I needed!)
 
My overarching and underlying cards?
Home – the ten of earth – all that material abundance, solid foundations, financial stability, all that stuff in “Made It Home”, in “We Are The World”, a house where all the windows open, with fruit trees, berry bushes, greens and nightshades and cucuburits, growing lavish in the yard, a kitchen overflowing with good food for everyone who comes and out of my always-open door, no fear of the rent not being payable, a home-base to come back to, to anchor me (us), no matter where we go on our adventures. An absolute certainty that we have, and will always have, enough to share on top of having enough “just in case” and enough for ourselves.
Crossed with? The Devil. With bindweed, with conditioning, with the boogy-man that stands in the way of really examining all the Stuff that lurks in my personal underworld. Call to katabasis, to the digging deep (and surfacing) in all my dirty secrets about wealth, worth, value, and morality.
 
 
Well. Okay, then. O.O
 
Anyway, onwards.
 
 
~*~
 
Motion: Lots of walking, this past week, as I was temping close to home. Also lots of bending and digging in the garden.
 
Attention: Watching the clouds, waiting for (and receiving) rain, rain, and more rain. Over-thinking everything (alas, but there it is), and trying to figure out how to stop.
 
Gratitude: Long rides in the country under clear skies. Working farms. My wife loving me. The friend who gave me a lift home on Friday, when it was pouring rain. Greens (and snow peas! and more on the way!) from the garden.
 
Inspiration: Big, beautiful moon last night. All the flowers blooming like crazy.
 
Creation: Chasing the first threads of a new (ish) story. No idea if it will go anywhere, but trying to catch hold anyway. Wrote a poem (about Scorpios and Feelings and the High Priestess tarot card) the other day. Message is “finish your damn book”, and no clue how to get there, but: scribble, scribble, ugh, scribble, scribble. So here we go…

First Weekend in June – 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 a lot of planting!
 
I think I’ve got the garden pretty-much planted for the year. I mean, yes, I’d still like to get my hands on some lovage (and I may have a source!), but other than that and maybe transplanting a bunch of winter squash, I think we’re set. It’s time to grow-grow-grow!
 
Planting(s):
The beans, winter squash, and yellow zucchini seeds that I had just planted, the last time I did one of these things, are poking their heads out of the earth and starting to look like they might grow into Serious Plants.
That said, most of the winter squash… doesn’t seem to have come up? It looks like I got a package of Mostly Duds on that one. BUT a few are coming up – which I’ll need to move around slightly, as it appears Danger Squirrel has been moving things around on me – AND I’ve got some sprouting in the compost heap, where they’ll stay as they should be super happy in there. The winter squash (which I think miiiiiight be Fairy Tale Pumpkin) that sprouted early-on from compod seeds needs to be transplanted (again) so that it can get its roots inper soil than is available in my raised beds, but it seems to be growing fairly happily, which is a good sign.
I’m saying that I might actually get a real squash CROP this year, even though I know it’s way too early to be counting my pumpkins and butternuts at this point.
The daikon radish “perimeter fence” is also doing its thing – though it remains to be seen if it does its JOB, which is keeping the soil IN, and the marauding runner-roots of crab-grass and creeping charlie (which I love, and use as ground-cover in the front yard) OUT of, my vegetable patch – but they’re growing, so that’s good.
My transplanted rainbow chard seems to have recovered from being unceremoniously uprooted and moved around, which is kind of a relief. Ditto, the breakfast radishes, which had been growing all in a clump and are now much more spread out.
In addition to the seeds that are coming up, I planted a whole bunch of starts. Two ground-cherries, from a friend up the street, a jalapeno pepper and an aubergine from another couple of friends (also up the street – I live in a goooood neighbourhood), and a bundle of goodies that I bought, once I had the $20 to do it (freelancer life, I tell you…), including:
A Lebanese Cucumber (because I think my first one got frost-zapped, or close to it, and I wanted to make sure I had some cukes this year)
A Japanese(?) Eggplant – the long, skinny ones
Chives (the standard-issue onion type, that get the purple flowers)
Lemon Balm
Sorrel (we’ll see if it takes off, the way my friend’s – also up the street – has in her shady front garden)
Black Cherry baby tomatoes
Roma tomatoes (I don’t actually remember the variety off the top of my head)
Beefsteak tomatoes (for my wife, who loves them. I’m… not holding out a tonne of hope, but we’ll see)
 
The friend who gave me the ground cherries may have some “mild salsa peppers” to send my way, as well. (Their parents have a Tiny Hippie Farm in the Valley, where they raise laying hens, and they often have spare plant-starts to give away to their youngster’s garden-enabled friends).
 
In Other News: My raspberry bush has one (1) flower! But there’s a strong possibility of more, so I am starting to get hopeful for fruit in the back yard! 😀
 
Harvesting:
Lots of rhubarb.
Lots of mustard greens.
You’ll hear more about both of those, below.
Beyond that, the garden is still young, and most of my perennials are flavourful herbs, rather than early veggies, so there’s not been a lot to pull out of the ground just yet. I admit, I’m hoping for a week or two more of cool weather (although maybe not as cool as it’s been…) so that my peas and greens can stay comfortable and my radishes have a solid chance to get big enough to harvest. >.> It’s funny. I want my peas to start flowering, but I don’t want my khol crops to bolt. But those things happen at the same time! I have to remember that if I want my fruit crops to start producing, I have to let my greens go to seed as well. 😉
 
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been fermenting. And cleaning. And furniture-moving. O.O
 
Ferments:
So I treated my kefir grains to some whipping cream. As you can imagine, it’s much thicker than it has been, AND it’s delicious. Not that I’m going to switch my kefir to an all-cream-all-the-time diet, but it’s definitely something I’m doing again, and will probably try to do every now and then for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure that I could use this extra-thick kefir to make, effectively, a sour-cream “cheese cake” type custard, but… maybe? Certainly something I’d like to try!
Earlier this week, I made orange-pops, which is a recipe I got out of My First Cookbook EVAR (I think I was seven, if not slightly younger, when I was given this cookbook). Basically, you take a (small – slightly more than 1C) tin of frozen orange juice, mix in 2 cups of yoghurt, and a tablespoon of vanilla, blend with a fork (or a whisk), spoon it into freezer-cups, and freeze it over night. I used kefir instead of yoghurt. Tastes great, but it doesn’t freeze super-solid (unlike the chocolate-coconut ones), which means sometimes I pull the stick out with no popsicle attached. I wonder if adding coconut milk to this recipe would help or hinder on that front…
In other fermentation news, we have gone through about 1/3 of the sour kraut. I’m enjoying it, my wife is enjoying it, and tbh I’m also loving how quick and easy it is to add veggies to a sandwich – no washing, no chopping, because it’s all already done. TO THAT END, when I pulled a grocery-bag full of mustard greens, dandelion greens, and Vietnamese garlic greens on Wednesday (and picked some wild grape leaves, on the way home), I decided to ferment them into something like a sour kraut (except not, because these greens are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more delicate). It’s an experiment – I threw a little bit of onion, and a bunch of mustard seeds and (dried) coriander, plus a bird chili into the mix – and we’ll see how it goes. I HOPE it’s good, as it’s a good way to use up pulled greens, but… Look, honestly? Three days later, there was no bubbling going on. I added some kefir whey (I wanted to skip that step, to see if I could do a vegan ferment and also avoid the mold possibilities in letting dairy just hang out on top of the salt water like that, but oh well) and we’ll see if it helps, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m wondering if the dandelion greens have too many natural defenses (unlikey?) or if I just washed my greens a little too well? We shall see.
I have also made bread but, since it’s not sour dough, I’m not sure that it counts as “fermenting” at this point. Still! Bread! The loaves turned out small, but well. And that’ll do.
 
Other Kitchen Stuff:
One of my favourite Heathens is coming to visit for a few days (in town for a conference, and we’re conveniently located), so I’ve been tidying All The Things, prepping the guest-room, getting a spare house-key cut, checking my stocks to see what kind of vegan food I can whip up for dinner on Monday, that sort of thing. BUT I also spent a big chunk of yesterday moving in a WASHER AND DRYER (!!!) which meant my house felt really chaotic for a while.
The washer and dryer, which were given to us by some generous friends who were moving & at the same time and said we could have their old set FREE if we were able to ourselves, are currently sitting in my kitchen, where my ancient kitchen table used to be. Technically, the table is still the – we’ve just cleared it off (which took several days worth of finding homes for Things that got dumped onto the table because they didn’t have anywhere else to live) and shifted it around a bit.
I suspect the new machines won’t be hooked up for, probably, another month. the washing machine needs to be further moved into our basement (which… it may not fit through the door, but we’re willing to give it a shot) where the hook-up is – or else my ex-contractor wife will need to renovate the kitchen, which (as this is a rental) we’d rather not do – and the dryer will need to be hooked up to the vent (which IS in the kitchen) and set on top of… something… so that it’s not blocking the kitchen’s Cold Air Return. Both machines need a bit of a clean before that happens.
We’ll also need to find a new spot for that table, but an old friend (read: ex-partner), whose stuff we’ve been storing for two years, has decided to make a more permanent move to Alberta and will be collecting the rest of their things from us some time in the next month. Which means the plant stand and small cupboard we’ve been using as bird-cage stands will need to be replaced. With, for example, an antique drop-leaf table.
None of that has happened yet, but the table is tidy for the first time in a year-and-a-half, and the laundry machines are IN, and that’s a major part of the battle. I’m really happy about it. 😀
 
ANYWAY. That’s been my Productive Home week this week. Still to do: Make a vegan dessert (either chocolate Wacky Cake or a rhubarb pie), vacuum the main floor, sweep upstairs, and put clean sheets on the guest-bed. Also figure out whether or not I can hang a set of curtains today. :-\ (The walls are lath and plaster, which means stuff meant to be screwed into drywall… doesn’t work so well. But also, our guest would probably appreciate some curtains). ONWARDS!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Moon – Flower Moon Begins

Today, the new moon shifts from Taurus into Gemini.
The folks at Hoodwitch – who point out that this one is a Super Moon? – mention that this is a time when people may find themselves feeling a little overwhelmed, or else feeling like they can take on more than they actually can. (Guilty. My wife totally sat me down and told me not to reinvent the wheel on a particular project). They suggest that this is a good time, energetically, for rituals around goal-setting (new moons in general) but particularly for creative writing, communication, and social boundaries: Gemini is chatty and social, but is also an Air sign so, tarot-wise, Gemini exists in Sword Time, in terms of things you may want to focus on. Want to Work yourself to be better at Using Your Words? Now’s the time to do it. Want to get your actions more in line with your actual values? This – especially with Venus squaring Pluto right now – is a prime opportunity get that stuff sorted out, make a plan and implement it (for longer-term project, which this might be, I recommend Miss Sugar’s New Year New You magical-action project prompts – I’ve found them really helpful on a number of occasions). Want to focus and get clear about some Stuff you’ve got that’s keeping you confused and spiraling, dig down and sort out what you really, really want (as Ariel, at Siobhan’s Mirror, suggests I do in her Scorpio Tarotscope for this New Moon), or maybe let go of some Old Baggage? This is a good time to work on that (and, handily, Hoodwitch has you covered with a Meditation suggestion).
 
Liz Worth talks about Gemini New Moon as a time of social choices. She offers a handy tarot spread (bottom of the linked post) and asks us to consider who is choosing us, and where we’re putting our social energy. Are we deepening connections with people who matter to us? Are we reaching out to people who reach back to us? Or are we tossing our social energy “juggling balls” at people who aren’t tossing them back, and aren’t showing up? Are we expressing ourselves to the best of our abilities? She points out that Gemini Time has a shadow side that looks like indecision and lack of commitment, and a certain amount of abdication when it comes to owning our choices (and our ability to make them). <– This is absolutely something that I have a LOT of problems with and am only very recently starting to get the hang of. I've been faced with a series of crap options on the personal front and, not liking any of them, have chosen to stick with the status quo while telling myself (and firmly believing) that someone else had all the power in those situations… even though, really, I was making a choice to stick with something that wasn’t going well. This Gemini New Moon is a good reminder for me to watch myself, and my (in)actions, in those situations. As Hoodwitch points out: “Practice acceptance this week, even about the things you want to change. Acceptance isn’t consent; it’s self-awareness.”
 
Questions to Ask Yourself during Gemini New Moon and its Waxing Period:
What can I cultivate, nurture, and allow to take root within myself as this moon waxes?
You’ve got all that composted energy from the recent Balsamic Moon to work with so, set goals, yes. But then act on them. A goal is just a wish, if you don’t put some action into it. For each goal you set, come up with one internal and one external action you can take to further it. (E.G.: I want to use my words better. Internal Actions: I can do a faceup tarot spread to help me sort out what I want to say, or I can bless and drink a tea made from nettles and thyme, to bolster my courage and my way with words. External Actions: I can push myself to Use My Words to ask for what I want or need – attention, respect for a boundary, choose your own adventure – clearly and specifically, once a day, for a week… and see how I feel).
What I can I breathe through and/or air out during this period of clarity? Gemini Time means connections, but Air Time more generally means boundaries and sometimes cutting ties, whether with people or with old habits. Get clear on what are deal breakers (and who or what need to be offered less of your time, energy, and attention as a result) versus what are things you can accept as a “price of admission” in your social interactions (and therefore work to stop spending your energy stewing about them)?
 
Ariel’s tarotscope for Scorpio suggests that good things (and some much-needed financial/material stability) come for those who stand their ground. Which is a relief to hear. Gods know I have a hell of a time talking about Money Stuff, and don’t have a really solid grasp of what “normal” or “healthy” look like when there’s cash on the table (or not on the table, as the case may be). I hope her predictions hold true, but I suspect I’ll need to Use My Words and have some scary/stressful discussions in the near future to make sure of that. O.O
 
As far as good things coming to me go… I’ve landed another part-time contract: One day per week (or a little less – more like 4 hours, with the option of a few more as needed) at a very respectable rate of pay, working From Home for a friend who needed, essentially, a research assistant. I’ve also received a wodge of seeds and starts from friends of mine (an aubergine and a jalapeno pepper; a couple of ground cherries; a whole bag of seed packets that I can use in the front and back gardens). I’m really enjoying showing off my garden, and trading rhubarb (stewed or cooked up like lemon curd) for plant starts or giving it as thank-yous. I’m also enjoying harvesting from it! Rhubarb Bars, stewed rhubarb for desserts; baby mustard greens, dandelion greens, and garlic chives for dinner veggies with pasta and cheese sauce; sage (which is about to flower – it’s gorgeous in flower!) used to flavour dips and roasts.
The garden doesn’t quite have its legs yet, so to speak, but it’s getting closer every day. I spaced out my radishes this morning, and we’ll have them to eat in another week or so. The chard is starting (slowly) to take off, and so is the kale. I’ve (re)-sewn sorrel, and I hope it will germinate this time ’round. I may be able to get some lovage (a heavy perennial “herb” that works more like a vegetable. You use the stalks and leaves in place of celery and I think it would be good for “transition periods” – right when it’s available – for soups, stews, and as a pot veggie to cook up with a roast) from a friend of a friend.
I planted (well, seed-scattered) larkspur, forget-me-not, and field poppies in the front yard, and I now have lupin and nasturtium seeds to add as well. I’ll be getting some Lily-of-the-Valley and, maybe, some Dame’s Rocket (“Wild Phlox”) seeds later in the summer, after they’ve had a chance to seed. My goal is to hit up one of the markets (Byward or Parkdale) in the next week or so and see if I can’t get my hands of a few more herb, flower, and veggie starts to top things off but, for the moment, I’m waiting for my seeds to germinate… so that I can remember where they were planted. Adding more transplants has to wait until then! 😉
 
 
~*~
 
Movement: Not a whole heck of a lot. I spent most of last week sick, and I’m still recovering. I’m finding I need more sleep than usual (or at least “usual” during long-daylight time) and I get tired faster. I’m still walking a lot, and working in my garden (which involves lots of bending and squatting and digging), but I’m also taking a lot of rest breaks.
 
Attention: Paying a LOT of attention to boundaries and how much energy I have available to throw at any given project. Some of this means checking, and double-checking my schedule to make sure I know how much of my time is devoted to Other People (whether that’s social time OR paid-work time) versus how much I have available for writing, tending the garden, home-keeping, and other stuff that’s more solitary and self-recovering. Also working to be more actively attentive-to/engaged-with my wife, making time for date excursions and conversations, trying to make a little LESS space in my life for “screen time” (says the lady who has been on her computer for four hours at this point…)
 
Gratitude: Friends & family who give me things – Plant starts, seeds, a covered hotel room (!!!), a car to borrow (!!!), knife-throwing lessons, a recently-replaced washer and dryer (!!!!!) – to help me out. (Seriously, I can’t tell you how excited I am about all of the above, but in particular about the fact that we are going to have an in-house washing machine and drying machine as soon as early June! To be able to make the week’s bread, work my new from-home job, do the dishes, AND do the laundry all at the same time? SO AMAZING!) Grateful, too, for a long walk with my wife, dinner and conversation (and compassionate advice) with a friend, garden chats and catching up with other friends. The ability (thanks to the above-mentioned car and hotel room) to attend my family reunion in mid-June. Grateful for warm weather and long, sunny days. Grateful that my neighbour lets me use her garden hose to water my plants.
 
Inspiration: Dane Edidi’s poetry book, Remains: A Gathering of Bones JUST arrived in the mail, and I’m looking forward to digging into it. I’m also told that one of my library holds has come in, and I’m excited to dig into the work of one of Urban Fantasy’s grandmothers. I’m also getting inspired by the garden- and kitchen-craft of other folks – whether they’re friends and neighbours, or long-distance folks whose blogs I read. It’s great to geek about gardening and fermenting with other people who do what I do, to trade plants (or SCOBYs), and get ideas for what to try next.
 
Creation: Lots of kitchen creativity. Lots of garden nurture, though that’s not exactly “creative” on my part. Coming up with new recipes. Writing poems. Made jewelry for a friend (who was wearing them when she won her Big Award – I’m so chuffed about that tiny, rather insignificant, but special for me detail). Hoping I can push next week for a writing date or two. I read the work of people who come up with, like THIRTY, GOOD poems in the space of seven days, and I’m just like… How do you do that?? But I want to try, too, so I shall. (Remember what I said, above, about Internal and External things I can do to forward my goals? External: Schedule writing dates and put them in the calendar, then follow-through and attend them. Internal: Refill my creative well by reading lots of poetry by other femmes (which will then be glossed in my poetry writing, so…)

Chocolate-Pumpkin Coffee Cake (No Eggs)

So, it’s Beltane. I’m out of eggs. And bread. And company is coming for dinner tonight.
Thank goodness I’m home today. 🙂
 
I mean, okay, yes, technically it’s May First, and even if I’d been doing the Eat From the Larder Challenge this year (I didn’t), it would be fine for me to skip out and get some groceries, it’s cold and rainy and I Don’t Wanna.
 
So I went hunting on The Internet for vegan coffee cakes that I could mess around with, in order to make an easy dessert that I could adapt to feature sour-milk (or kefir, in my case, since I have an over-abundance of the stuff – oh, darn) but that would hold together without any eggs, and without my having to macgyver an egg-substitute out of peanut butter or similar. The below recipe draws heavily on this Chocolate Pecan Cranberry Coffee Cake which, itself, looks really lovely.
Here’s what I came up with, using the above-linked recipe as a starting point:
 
~*~
 
Chocolate-Pumpkin Coffee Cake
 
INGREDIENTS
 
¼ C margarine
1 C pumpkin butter (or other fruit butter)
1 C kefir (you can sub with: sour milk, yoghurt, whey, vegan “milk” with some vinegar in it… whatever’s around)
1 tbsp vanilla
½ C granulated sugar
+
2 C flour
¼ C cocoa
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
+
½ C chocolate chips
½ C dried cranberries
¼ C crumbled walnuts
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
1) Preheat the oven to 350F
2) Grease a 9″x9″ cake pan
3) Mix the first group of ingredients together in a big bowl
4) Add the second group of ingredients and blend (you can use a fork for this) until smooth
5) Add the third group of ingredients and mix (lightly) until well-distributed[1]
6) Scrap the batter into the cake pan (it will fluff up really fast)
7) Bake for 1 hour OR until it smells done and can pass the fork test[2]
8) Allow to cool (and set) for a few minutes before cutting into squares and serving
 
~*~
 
So there you have it.
I like to make coffee cakes using fruit butter in place of at least some of the sugar. Partly because it makes things slightly less overpoweringly sweet, but mostly because it makes for a velvetier, moister crumb (AKA: helps keep a cake with dried fruit in it from being Too Dry) while also letting me stuff some extra Plant Stuff into our eating. 🙂 Plus it helps act as a binder, which mitigates the No Eggs situation.
 
As a side note, I can’t help smiling a little that the pumpkin butter I made at Samhain is being baked into the cake I’m making on Beltane. Hello, Year Gate, nice to see you again. 🙂
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] It’s May Day, after all – Fair Distribution Of The Tasty Bits! 😀
 
[2] NOTE: When I say “bake for 1 hour”, I mean “That other recipe says ‘bake for 1 hour’, and so this SHOULD work fine, but my cake is still in the oven, so we’ll see if this works”. Thence: Fork Test + Use Your Nose. Always good to have more than one way to tell. But I’m assuming that it will take about an hour.

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

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

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