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- Book Review: Magic for Troubled Times (Deborah Castellano)
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Category Archives: productive home
I am feeling overwhelmed by my CSA.
There, I said it.
I ended up throwing away (I mean, composting, but still) a significant percentage of last week’s veggie delivery, and it was a relief to do so. I’m hoping that by clearing that particular deck – plus cleaning out the fridge over the weekend – I’ll be marginally better-prepared to actually process and use up tomorrow’s delivery of produce.
I’m embarrassed about this. Slightly ashamed, even, although obviously not that much because I wouldn’t be talking about it out loud if I were really having self-worth problems around it. But, even recognizing that we’re pretty-much at Peak Local Food Season right now – what Erica once called “the crush of the harvest”, that time between High Summer and Autumn Equinox where you’re rolling, or maybe drowning, in zucchini and tomatoes and cucumbers and corn – I’m wondering if I signed up for more than I could handle.
I mean, right this second? I definitely signed up for more than I could handle. And, under current COVID circumstances, I can’t just walk the excess around the corner to the local Community Fridge (because it’s closed for the duration, apparently) and “store it in other people” as the saying goes. But, for the preceding three months, while it was difficult to manage the amount of veggies we were getting every week, and while I did end up composting at least one bag of salad greens and a couple of cucumbers, it was still possible.
So I’m trying not to let late August get me down.
Right now, I’ve got a slow-cooker full of about 3L of tomato purree – frozen, thawed, drained, and skins removed, then set to cook down even further with some garlic chives and winter savoury from our tiny garden, plus some salt, balsamic vinegar, and a little cooking wine – slowly thickening into crushed tomatoes at one end of the counter.
At the other, I have what’s left of my bone hoard – pork, or possibly beef, bones from our long-ago half a hog order, plus a couple of chicken carcasses and a lot of celery leaves, onion greens, and carrot ends from the above-mentioned CSA – starting to slow-cook in the instant pot, mostly covered in the water I drained off the thawed tomatoes.
I admit, I’m doing these at the same time, and today in particular, because my friend is coming to retrieve her presure-canner tomorrow night and, while it’s very possible to water-bath can tomato products, I’d like to see what they’re like when they’re not marinated in vinegar. So one (more) batch of bone stock and one batch of crushed tomatoes, and we’ll see what we have at the end of all that.
My tiny garden has three over-ripe globe zucchini still on the vine – they are turning a stripy yellow-brown colour as they ripen towards something more like a winter marrow (uh… I assume) and I haven’t harvested them because I still have one and a bit on the go that I harvested earlier.
It’s so weird. After years of mostly harvesting self-seeded radish greens and dandelion leaves, I’m up to my ears in someone else’s labour – long-since bought and paid for, but still coming in for another six weeks – and the focus of my own garden is to look pretty, more than anything else. The garlic chives are starting to bloom, and I’m more excited about that than I am about having garlic chives to eat.
I’m behind on a lot of things. Not just handling the vegetables. I haven’t written any glosas in two weeks, haven’t even cracked my library book about designing online courses, and haven’t finished the dress for my wife and have barely even washed the fabric for the set of masks I want to make. I am behind.
But I can catch up.
Tomatoes get turned into sauce.
Bones get turned into stock.
Parishibles get turned into shelf-stable preserves.
Blank pages become poems or they become letters to clients.
Fabric becomes clothing.
I can do this.
I chose this for my tarot card meditation today, because – while this particular card hearkens back to the month of March (to Spring Equinox, for sure, but also to the New Moon in Pisces that happened at the very end of February, back when i was first (first?) starting to do shadow work around Money Stuff. Perhaps it’s no surprise that I’m back at now that the pendulum has swung the other way and the Pisces Moon is full) – it’s appropriate to the step by step by step of getting things done, even when they feel insurmountable.
I’m kind of clinging to my to-do list to keep me moving, you know?
Movement: Moon Salutations, walks with my wife and a friend in the neighbourhood, squats and other butt/thigh exercises (yes, really).
Attention: Going over a contract carefully to sort out what my options are once it expires. I should have done this literally six months ago, but didn’t, and here I am.
Gratitude: An excellent birthday for my lovely wife. A standing weekly date with my girlfriend. The “Locked Tomb” series which is charming and entertaining. A metamour who was willing to listen to me wail about overwhelm and anxiety. Enough of a clue about my own brain (finally) to recognize when I’m having an… “activated” reaction rather than a realistic one. Friends who want to read tarot with me. Paying clients and extra work hours. Cheesecake in the fridge. More than one slow-cooking small appliance and (barely) enough jars to fill when the time comes. New books about D/s. A house near the river. The blue jays coming back to our cedar tree. Reading aloud to my beloveds. Getting enough sleep. The possibility of pears from the neighbour across the street. Fish and chicken waiting in the freezer.
Inspiration: Recipes past. My wife’s favourite kind of flavoured chocolate. Autumn storms. Blue jay feathers. Heavy Metal. The Wheel of the Year.
Creation: Well, as I said, I haven’t been writing a whole lot, poetry-wise – though I did write a quick little non-glosa poem while watching the rain not too long ago, so that’s something. I did make a spiffy chocolate-marmalade cheesecake for my wife’s birthday, which worked out really well. We’re about halfway through it, and I’m looking forward to dessert.
We are officially moved.
I have transplanted my garden, added a couple of starts (yarrow and winter savoury) and seeds (dill, golden chard, anise hyssop, poppies, zucchini) out front, and planted frozen service berries (and dried hawthorn berries) around the perimeter of the back yard.
My brother got married on Friday.
That, more than anything, is why I’m referring to this full moon as a Honey Moon. The weather hasn’t exactly been conducive to happy bees investigating the flowers. This time last week, it was 36C and we were all wilting with the heat. I landed myself a sun burn while transplanting the rhubarb, lovage, and sorrel, and we subsisted on pasta salad and ice cream as much as we could.
This week, we’ve seen temperatures drop into the danger-of-frost zone over night, and – while that’s been really helpful for getting the transplants to root comfortably – the salad greens and cucumbers in our weekly CSA box have been languishing in the crisper while I’ve been making pasta with hot cheese sauce and sauteed frozen veggies, and baking box lasagna, bread, and pie in the name of hot meals and an excuse to have the oven on (because our heat is well and truly off).
So, yes. I’ve made our first batch of bread in the new house, which is pretty great. Rhubarb-cherry pie (And rhubarb-service-berry pie) are absolutely lovely and, yes, we have a CSA.
I am definitely excited about the CSA.
I’ve wanted to get one for YEARS, and between all the various repercussions of travel bans during a pandemic, the fact that we know we’re going to be in this house for the foreseeable, and the extra help from the CERB, we were able to do it this year.
I hope we can do it again next year, as I quite like this Thing where we have a bunch of veggies delivered to our doorstep once a week.
It feels very fancy.
That said: You guys, there is definitely a learning curve to this, and I am finding that I’m wasting more food than I might otherwise.
I put up two weeks worth of spinach and beet greens earlier today – so I have five little pucks of cooking greens in the freezer for after our CSA finishes its last delivery about 10 days before Samhain – and I sliced up some radishes and teeny-tiny beets to start making fermented pickles with them (I am expecting further radishes tomorrow, so I’ll add more then). But I haven’t been cooking the radish greens, even though radish greens have been our main cooking vegetable (alongside dandelions) for most of the past five years.
I chose to get us a full CSA, rather than a “lite” CSA, because I knew I wanted to have those extra veggies – tomatoes, cooking greens, summer squash, root veggies, and winter squash – in order to can them or freeze them for later use. Between the cucumbers (so many cucumbers) and herbs in the CSA, and the lovage that seems to be making itself at home in its new bed, I managed to put together a really good couscous salad, and we’ve been enjoying it with and/or as our last few meals. But I have to learn to use things up more quickly than I have been, or I’m going to have a lot of rotten lettuce on my hands.
I’m excited that there are not one but TWO high-bush cranberry (cramp bark) trees on my corner, because, while they take a WHILE to sprout and grow, they DO grow well from seed AND the berries make really good jelly. (Allegedly it also makes good pie, but I’m getting mixed information on how safe it is to eat in large quantities, so I may stick with jelly. It’s part of the elder family – and you need to cook elder berries for them to be safe to eat – so I’m thinking of it in similar terms).
Anyway. My plan is to harvest a couple of handfuls of ripe berries in… August/September (apparently?) to use in lieu of cranberry sauce, come October AND to plant around the yard because they’re also a really pretty flowering shrub that’s native to the province, and that I’d like to plant as part of the under-story of our foresty back yard.
A friend – with-whom I now share a neighbourhood! – has been donating spare plants to me, most recently a big pot full of a BUNCH of ostrich ferns. I’m loving the thought of, next year, being able to pick a few fiddleheads – not many, not this early – to throw into spring stir-fries or pastas, and hoping that they’ll quietly take over from the gout weed that’s currently eating most of my front yard. I gather there are black eyed susans, rose campion, white wild geraniums, sweet woodroffe, and lily of the valley coming my way in the next little while, and I’m very excited.
The card I pulled on the day of the full moon (yesterday), for my tarot card meditation was the nine of stones. I pulled it from my Wildwood deck and, given that I pulled it maybe a scant hour before my brother’s wedding went live, part of me couldn’t help but read it as “Almost there!”
But this card – while definitely meaning “almost there” – has a lot to do with where my wife and I are right now.
We are Officially Moved into the house for-which I did Big Magic to get. (And need to make good on some further Big Magic as a follow-up).
We are feeling unusually financially stable (not that it won’t take some work to keep it that way) and are excited to have more space, to have a home with laundry machines of our own, and “grown up bedrooms” (as my wife puts it) and a whole room to dedicate to my wife’s workshop so that she’s no-longer dependent on anyone else for shop space.
I have two really solid romantic relationships that I’ve done a LOT of self-work to keep and find, AND two tiny, remote jobs that are helping to keep our heads above water when all of my usual (in person) work is on hold until, realistically, there’s a vaccine available for COVID-19.
I just signed a contract for the sale of one (1) short story, to a paid market and sent out another poetry submission today.
We are right down the street from some of our closest friends and chosen family, with plans to bring a portable BBQ grill to a local park – now that we can do so – and have a meal together (ish) in short order.
Things feel really good!
And that’s what the Nine of Stones is generally about. Not just about “almost there” but about “all the hard work you’ve done is paying off”. It’s the ripeness of All The Things coming to fruition. It’s the reminder I’ve murmured to myself, in Child’s Pose, every night for months: “You are worthy of commitment, you are worthy of devotion, you are worthy of thriving. And you do”.
It felt really, really good to pull this card.
Movement: A little bit of walking. Yoga every night. A lot of lifting and carrying boxes and a LOT of digging and transplanting. There’s still a lot of unpacking to do, and it won’t suck to get back to doing some (small amounts of) resistance training again. But it WILL be nice to get into the more leisurely, non-furniture-related part of moving where I spend an hour emptying one box and then go read for a while, you know?
Attention: Black Lives Matter peaceful protests, what various levels of my own governments are doing and/or not doing at this time, what I can do to help (sign petitions, send letters, send money).
Gratitude: Grateful for this house. Grateful for a wife who encourages me to say something when I’m upset about a thing, and actually has a discussion with me rather than a defensive mess. Grateful for our CSA and the money it takes to pay for it. Grateful for automatic deposits and other ways to get my paycheques into my bank account without actually having to take a bus to a bank branch with an on-street entrance (that is one thing I don’t utterly love about my new neighbourhood. Everything else is great, but that’s mildly inconvenient). Grateful for a second-hand BBQ grill that actually works. Grateful for being close to some of my best friends, even though it meant moving away from some of the other ones. Grateful for a cool June (so far) that’s given my transplanted garden some time to recover. Grateful for a new sister-in-law who seems pretty cool. Grateful for video chats with my girlfriend (who – along with her whole household – is still safe and sound, thank all the gods). Grateful for “bougie welfare” keeping us safely housed and in groceries while my in-person work is canceled/postponed. Grateful for Bonus Free Books. Grateful that Magic Works. Grateful for so many good people in my life. ❤
Inspiration: This almost feels like the question “What is giving you hope right now?” There’s a LOT of awful going on. And a LOT of the awful has been here the whole time, while I’ve had the luxury of pretending it wasn’t going on at all. What is giving me hope right now? My brother getting married. The fact that there are fewer than five cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia right now. The number of people who, before March 2020, wouldn’t have really given Universal Basic Income any thought, or would have though it was a bad idea, actually going “This… is good, actually. I don’t want people to starve or not be able to get their medication, or lose their homes. Tell me more about this UBI thing?” and, likewise, people who couldn’t, here-to-fore, imagine a world without police in it are now going “Okay, but do they really need 10% of our city’s entire budget? Surely that money could go somewhere more appropriate, like, say, low-bar-for-entry trauma-informed mental health supports or, perhaps, a universal basic income?” That gives me hope. I hope this makes for real, lasting change.
Creation: Okay, truth be told, I haven’t been feeling super creative lately. Mostly, I’ve been wanting to escape into novels (to the point that I actually ordered new books off the internet yesterday) and have been avoiding Hard Stuff on the literary front for weeks. I’ve created a bunch of letters to politicians. I’ve created some really delicious pies and an excellent salad and the beginnings of a pretty, trans-planted garden. I’ve created a possibly-useful twitter thread for Cdn people who want to (try to) make a difference when it comes to unjust laws outside of our own provinces and (allegedly) made a “useful contribution” to the local Defund The Police conversation that’s starting to happen at the municipal-political level (I am… not sure how that happened, but I’ll take it? I don’t even know). I technically edited some poetry today, mostly to the tune of “Whelp, I can see why this microchap didn’t get accepted…” and sent off one (1) submission. But it feels like a very long time since I’ve written anything new. Hoping that, once things settle down (in the next couple of days), I’ll be able to start devoting time to writing on the regular again. That’s the plan, anyway.
This picture was taken about ten days shy of a year ago, and the rhubarb and crow garlic are… yep, about ten days shy of where there are in this photo, growth-wise. There are bleeding hearts and day lilies starting to poke through the soil in the front yard. We are, very possibly, in our last few months in this house, which is sad and exciting at the same time.
We may, just maybe, have found a new place to live.
It’s not downtown. Which is sad. And being this house’s last family is sad, too.
But the place we found – other than the “not downtown” part and not having a dish washer – is pretty close to perfect. Perfect enough that we’re excited about it.
You may recall that, not too long after my 40th birthday, I did a big ritual with the goal of manifesting abundance, pleasure, and security (as per both The Empress AND the then-recent full moon in Taurus).
The full moon in Libra (also ruled by Venus) was just last night and some of the big stuff seems to be falling into place.
I have two little anchor-income jobs that – while they’re nowhere near enough to live on alone, and they may or may not end up preventing me from accessing Emergency Income Supports (we don’t know yet because Who Is Eligible keeps getting expanded – hopefully at least one of us will be able to access these funds) – are also providing enough cash annually (in theory) to raise our household income by more than $9000. That will make a significant difference in our quality of life.
Likewise, a few days ago, a friend in the neighbourhood pointed us to a friend of hers who is looking to move and whose rental will be available in the next month or two.
You guys. It’s a three-bedroom with LOTS of space (and closet space), a yard to garden, a big driveway with lots of parking, and a big kitchen with room for the chest freezer and some extra shelving. And the (shared) basement has a high enough ceiling that we could actually stand up in it. There’s a possibility that there will be washing machines available, but if not, we’ll have to spend some money on laundry machines as there are zero (0) laundromats within even a half-hour walk of the place. But… $200 for a second hand washer-dryer set off kijiji is still going to pay for itself inside of one year, so. Not really upset about it, especially since it means not having to hoard coins, schedule the availability of clean socks based on the weather report, or drag 2-3 loads of laundry around outdoors during the winter (or, y’know, a pandemic…). Plus we have friends in the area already, including one of my wife’s partners (who is Older and my girl is very happy/relieved to be (potentially) moving to within emergency sprinting distance, basically, if something bad happens).
We’ve talked to the landlord on the phone, and we sent our application off earlier today.
So keep your fingers crossed for us on this one.
The sourdough bread situation is… going about as well as it usually does. I think I need to remember to – at the very least – only give it one rise before putting it in the loaf pans and prepping it for baking, as that seems to help.
I’m doing a Kitchen Sink stew in the slow-cooker today. Using up odds and sods from the fridge and freezer. It’s making the house smell really nice, which is great since it’s grey and chilly outside.
I finished a pair of slippers – for future use as “house shoes” when visiting other people – and I’m continuing to work on my t-shirt dress. It’s slow going, and we’ll see what the end result is like. But it’s good to have a project on the go. I’m taking it kind of one step at a time and hopefully I won’t mess something up so badly that I have to redo it entirely. We’ll see what happens. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve also started hunting through my fabric stash for 100% cotton scraps that I can re-purpose into masks for those rare occasions when we have to be out and about. Lastly, I’m working on a stocking extension. It’s been in progress for years, and is basically something I pick up when I want to knit a thing and don’t have a more pressing project on the go. I’m a long way from done on that one (and there’s definitely a whole other extension to do afterwards), but it’s nice to have something to knit.
Yesterday, I went to (virtual) Full Moon Meditation courtesy of Connect DC and Two Rivers Sanctuary again. While I didn’t get any Big Huge Messages this time, I did have an unexpected energetic experience. I’m not sure quite how to talk about it but… it was a thing, and one that’s apparently happened before (though I only knew about it because somebody who can See That Stuff told me about it after the fact).
The meditation was very comforting. Which I gather is kind of Their Deal when they’re doing Full Moon ritual.
New Moon rituals, if they have them, can potentially be focused on stuff like providing a container for catharsis, but Full Moon rituals – based on attending exactly two of them – seem to be very focused on love and receptivity and belonging. Which is pretty great, and something that I find really helpful, especially in stressful situations where I might (maybe, possibly) be telling myself that I shouldn’t be getting my needs met because other people need more and/or I don’t deserve it, or whatever.
This ritual was very actively pushing back against Scarcity Feels, and I appreciate it, and am glad I was able to take part.
For my tarot card meditation I used a random one-card generator and got the Five of Water.
I know this card best as the Osho Zen deck’s “Clinging to the Past” but, with the occasional exception, it is reliably a card about grief regardless of which deck you’re using.
The Next World Tarot describes this card as one where “hope is nebulous” and grief (disaster, abandonment, failure) feels familiar, reliable and navigable. I know a lot of people who don’t know how to handle it when success comes calling. Right now, I’m personally in a situation where it looks like, maybe, some Big Magic of mine is about to get results, and I’m trying not to get too confident about it Just In Case things don’t work out as well as it (currently) looks like they might. Using the Conditional Tense when I talk about our (potential) new house. Continuing to ask all and sundry to think good thoughts for us. Putting all of this stuff in brackets to essentially keep saying “this is still a big IF and I don’t want to jinx it by Hoping”.
But I AM hoping!
And I’m aware of the grief (and stress, because moving is not a fun time) that will come with a Yes, too. Like I said, further up the post, we will be this house’s last family before it’s demolished, and our beloved shelter deserves better than that. We’ll be leaving this neighbourhood – that we both love – in order to receive/accept this house that is otherwise utterly perfect for us, and there’s going to be some sadness around moving away from so many of our friends.
…And I’m still hoping. I think this will be good.
Movement: Continuing to do my Moon Salutations. Which is nice. Going for very short walks. Dancing in the street when the street is marvelously empty at 10am on a Monday morning. The up-coming Stay Homo and Dance video dance party scheduled for this Friday. Pulling last year’s dead stalks out of the garden to make room for this year’s new growth.
Attention: I’m kind of glued to the CRA website right now, in the interests of finding out whether we’re either Completely Fucked or actually Probably Fine with regards to income supports (Bougie Welfare, basically) from the government. Beyond that? Paying attention to the plants waking up and the baby squirrels and the amorous, courting birds of all kinds flitting about the neighbourhood.
Gratitude: For a metamour who turns up with a care package that includes chocolate and wine. For postcards from my neighbours. For the rhubarb and the crow garlic and the sorrel waking up and growing again. For the grape hyacinths starting to just barely hint at flowering. For the friend who’s offered to bring us pizza. For the people (mostly relatives) who have reached out to ask if we need money, explicitly. For the friend who pointed us towards this house. For video chats. For video dates with my girlfriend. For my DC metamour getting safely through COVID19 without having to go to a hospital(!). For stay-in-your-house shows done via live stream. For remote work that means we have a little bit of income. For my sewing and cooking skills. For my wife’s Official Layoff that will make it easier for us to access government supports. For a (potential) summer move that will let me rescue my garden and bring it with me. For the borrowed-for-the-duration work truck that will let us move without help, if that’s how this goes. For my over-stuffed pantry that’s been feeding us, with limited inputs, since mid-February. For Beltane (and the option of restocking said paintry) on its way. For my wife having time off to rest her body and tinker on her projects.
Inspiration: SPRING! The whole ideal of “Make do and mend”. The culinary experiments of #IronChefCOVID19 and everyone who is trying their hand at sour dough bread (it’s such a thing right now, and I totally get it, and also I can’t blame the people who are looking at this and going “Okay, but why THIS specific food? Why now?” Answers: Because yeast is surprisingly hard to come by right now. Because making sourdough bread (successfully) can help stave off feelings of helplessness and/or scarcity. Because, hey, maybe nurturing a starter along will help some people remember that Not All Microbes and we can actually have relationships with same that don’t involve us actively and desperately trying to murder one another, so there’s that, too).
Creation: Working on a sonnet. Lots of sewing. Lots of cooking. A very small amount of prose (like maybe 650 words in a two-week period). I’m doing. But I’m not doing much.
Here we are.
Two weeks ago, I was like “Okay, so… are all the schools going to shut down?”
Yep. Yep, they are.
The schools are shut down. All my April work was canceled. Did I mention the landlord sold our house to a developer?
I also landed that job I interviewed for.
Thank all the gods.
It’s limited hours (like more limited than it was going to be) but it’s SOMETHING. Which is a huge relief. My other (very part-time) remote-admin job is still happening, which is great. It’s maaaybe $100/month at this point but, again, it’s SOMETHING. So I’m relieved to have it.
My wife still has paid work through her anchor income job – where, thankfully, she’s only working in close-ish quarters with one other person, behind a locked door – which is a big help. There may be income supports coming for us self-employed, gig-economy, and contract-worker types, which is ALSO a huge relief.
It snowed the other day, but it didn’t stick. And the earliest green things are waking up, the day lily spears are pushing up through the ground and the fever few and creeping charlie are greening up again.
I just baked the last tray of… something like cookies(?) involving whole amaranth, mashed prunes, margarine, some ground flax seeds, some all purpose flour, some icing sugar, some cocoa, cinnamon, and cloves, and some salt and baking powder.
They’re coming out more like… weird pancakes? But I’m hoping they’ll crisp up as they cool.
I wanted something to munch on that uses stuff I have a lot of, and that I don’t necessarily use for a lot of other things, and I wanted to be able to bake it with the semi-sourdough bread I just pulled out of the oven as well.
Yeah, I’m trying sourdough bread again.
This time (1) I’m doing “semi sourdough”, meaning that I’m including a half teaspoon of bottled bread yeast in the mix when I blend a LOT of starter with the warm water + sweetener + flour, and (2) I’m having better luck (so far) doing a… weirdo, low-gluten starter. Which I didn’t expect.
The whole situation with my wife being possibly gluten-intolerant… her test didn’t give any indication that this is what’s going on, but the doctor was like “Actually, this does sound like a specific, curable thing that your immune system will just take care of”. Which means we’re back on wheat and similar again, although I’m tending towards lower-gluten and more-easily digestible stuff, for now. Which is another reason for leaning on the sourdough starter a bit more heavily.
The bread turned out okay. Needs more rye flour and/or more salt, I think, to make it really tasty. But it has a decent crumb even if the crust is thick like my wife likes it (which is thicker than I personally enjoy, but here we are). We’ve got bread for toast and sandwiches, which is a relief.
The cookies, for the record, are… weird sweet crackers, when they firm up a bit? They’ll do the job for what I want – which is reasonably palatable, easy-to-access calories, tbh – so I’m calling it a decent start, if not a thoroughly finished product.
In light of the increasing “Stay The Heck Home” messages, I had a word with June – my GodSelf – about the Austerity I took on back around Lupercalia – and got the go-ahead to do a big stock-up in the interests of not needing to hit up a grocery store again.
I strongly suspect I’ll be wanting for eggs and milk in (relatively) short order – though the milk should last until late April, if not for the entire rest of the Austerity, at least. But we now have a 10lb bag each of potatoes and onions, a little pasta, a lot of vinegar and cooking oil, and some other dry-goods/pantry-items that I would have otherwise just not bothered with until Beltane.
Given her actual reaction to me being like “Hey, under the circumstances, can I break my self-imposed rules in order to help keep people from getting sick”, I think it says something about me that I even considered the possibility that she’d say No, or be Mad At Me about it, or something.
But we’re well-stocked, for the moment, even if I’m kicking myself for things like not getting peanut butter or only getting two-dozen eggs, and even if I’m suuuper frustrated to discover that our donated food processor – gifted by a friend who definitely didn’t realize this in the giving – is literally missing its drive shaft.
But, hey, I made hummus with a mortar and pestle and, while I’m not sure I can do much to make sunflower seed butter in this situation… we’re making do.
And also mending, because Why Not up my Iron Age Handicrafts (except not, because I’m also knitting-knitting, which wouldn’t be A Thing for a looooong time yet) and get my mending pile dealt with while trying to manage anxiety by giving my hands something to fidget with? Right? Right.
I’ve made a dress (which still needs some shaping), put a box-pleat into the vent of a quilted winter skirt, and am almost-almost finished binding off the arm-holes of a zip-up vest that started life as a cardigan whose elbows I got tired of darning. So… I’ve been doing Things, at least, which is good.
In magical news, I did my little meditation and met my Fetch. I’m trying to make a point of visiting her every few days, especially right now with everyone cooped up indoors (great for my Speaker/TalkingSelf, less great for my Fetch who is animal-child and also rather athletic and could do with some running around – it may be time to hit the Tiny Weights and/or start doing living room dance parties again) and with all the fear washing around my system, which isn’t helping her feel safe or secure.
I also wrote up a bit of a meditation for someone who recently mentioned to me her own need to take/make time to reach out and Listen for messages from her own People. It’s pretty basic, but I hope it’ll help.
The card I pulled for my tarot card meditation was The Fool.
Which seems incredibly apt, given that this is the New Moon immediately after the Spring Equinox. All sorts of New Beginnings energy flying around the place, right now.
But it’s also… we don’t know what’s going to happen.
“This is a transformative card, emerging in a reading whenever you need spirit, action, and instinct to get through a difficult period.” (Oliver Pickle – She Is Sitting In The Night)
The Fool is an invitation to be curious, rather than fearful, to collectively trust-fall and show up to catch each other.
Movement: I am doing my Moon Salutations quite reliably, but I’m not doing much else. Like I said, living room dance parties and/or doing some work with (tiny) free weights would probably be good for me, since I’m not getting out and walking all over the place these days.
Attention: Keeping in touch with friends in the neighbourhood – asking how they’re holding up, checking in about what they need, letting people know when a local soup kitchen needs donations – and keeping a weather-eye on what my various levels of government are doing to help tenuously employed people – gig economy workers, self-employed people, artists… you know, us – get through months of limited or straight-up lost income.
Gratitude: Thankful for my continued employment. Thankful for any supports that come our way. Thankful for the family members who have let us know they’ll top up our rent, should we need the help. Grateful that this is happening in early Spring, so that I can look forward to fresh herbs, wild veggies, and rhubarb in the coming weeks. Grateful for a solid internet connection so that I can stay in touch with people. Grateful for skype dates with friends and my far-away girlfriend. Grateful for full cupboards. Grateful for the kitchen skills to use the ingredients I’ve got. Grateful for snuggles with my wife. Grateful for the green things poking up through the ground, for the thick, strong worms in our compost heap (which my wife just turned – grateful for that, too), grateful for the antics of crows and bluejays that I can see from my window. Grateful for the warmth of the sun, that I can feel, even when the wind is still cold.
Inspiration: All the people live-streaming musical performances and rituals. You folks are fucking amazing, and you’re making my life that much better! ❤
Creation: Hahaaaaaaaaa… I haven’t been writing much. I’ve been keeping on top of my 500 words… most of the time, but not all the time. I’ve written one sonnet. Which is pretty drafty, but is also an okay start. I have been getting creative in the kitchen – and am considering trying to make my own bitters, of all things, just to see if I can – and I’ve been sewing things, so… creativity is happening. Just less on-the-page than expected.
The snow is melting. Hurrah!
The streets are NOT a mess of slush, thank all the gods, and the sidewalks are almost all clear. Which is fantastic.
Like a LOT of people, we’re practicing as much social isolation as we can in the interests of slowing down the spread of that covid virus that’s going around – though, as self-employed people, it’s not like we have paid time off.
So basically we’re avoiding leaving the house for reasons other than work. I’m checking in with my various modelling clients about whether or not their classes are still running, and I’m glad that at least some of my work is already done remotely, because that will help in the event of, say, any of the local art schools just shutting down for the time being.
On the plus side, we’ve got considerably more than two weeks of food stored up, and were already limiting grocery trips and combining errands so’s as to not have to leave the house more often than necessary.
One thing that’s come up since starting my Eat From The Larder
Challenge Austerity is that my lovely wife may, in fact, be gluten-intollerant.
So the miraculous discovery of an extra bag of short pasta, the 5kg of all purpose flour, the large amounts of pearl AND pot barley, oat groats, and couscous, as well as the small amounts of rye flour, oat flour, and barley flour that I have on hand?
Are now out of the running.
It’s not that I can’t use them. But I can’t use them to make food for more than just myself.
What do I have?
Potatoes (2-3, so very, very few)
Wild rice (moderate amount)
Amaranth (moderate to large amount)
Quinoa (small amount)
Rice (small amount)
Millet (very small amount, also I don’t really like eating it)
Corn meal (moderate amount)
Corn flour (small to moderate amount)
Buckwheat flour (small amount)
Corn starch (small amount)
Romano bean flour (small amount)
Tapioca flour (very small amount)
Arrowroot flour (very small amount)
I can make this work.
I’d be happier if I had a LOT more buckwheat flour and ANY amaranth flour lying around. But I can work with this. Quick breads that get their leavening from baking soda or baking powder are a thing. I can use pre-soaked green lentils & yellow split, frozen (pre-cooked) chick peas, and tinned kidney beans as a “starch” – which is to say “as a filler” to bulk up dishes where I would normally use bread – such as a clafoutis, which is basically quiche but you mix 1/4C corn starch and 1/4C romano bean flour into the eggs-and-milk rather than having a pie crust. It’s delicious, but it’s a LOT less filling than a bread pudding.
I may see if I can trade some of my all-purpose flour for some long-grain rice, and some more of it for some quinoa or kasha.
I confess, I am looking into sour-dough-esque recipes that rely on fermented buckwheat and/or eggs for a lot of their leavening power. But, as my flour is currently really limited, I’m a little nervous to try any of them.
The good thing about sourdough breads is that whatever starter you end up with is going to be enlivened by bacteria that will happily eat whatever flour you feed it with.
The bad thing is that fluffy loaves of bread rely on the stretchy protein of gluten to create those nice, well-aerated crumbs… and there’s no gluten in these, so… I’m not sure how (if) this is going to work.
All-of-which is to say that, for now, I will PROBABLY be relying on stuff like basic corn bread (which uses baking soda and sour milk for the leavening agents), cornflour “tortillas”, and savoury buckwheat crepes instead of trying to do a proper leavened bread during this Austerity.
In more explicitly magic-related news, I designed a guided meditation (which I’ll be putting in An Actual Book) so that I could meet my own Fetch, and I tried out the first part of it last night.
(I think the second part also… tried to happen… but it was fast and I might need to go back and try it again).
I’m going to do a separate post about my first – but possibly NOT first? – time meeting Fetch in person. But just to throw a little preliminary information out here:
The word “Fetch” gets used in a couple of different ways, magically-speaking. One way it gets used is to describe a part of yourself – or, in some circles, a separate entity – who can leave your body and bring things back to you. The other way is the way this term gets used in Feri, for example, where it kind of corresponds to what gets called “Child Self” in Reclaiming. I’m under the impression that the two definitions are not entirely mutually exclusive but, when I talk about Fetch, I’m talking about the second definition.
BUT. More on Fetch elsewhere.
The course I was taking with Ms Sugar has wrapped up (for this iteration – iirc she’ll be running it again), though the work I started there-in is definitely still on-going and will likely STAY on-going until at least early June.
I had a job interview this morning – which… I have NO IDEA how it went, but please think good thoughts for me, if you’re reading this? I’d really appreciate it.
I kinda-sorta started writing a book, too. Which is equal parts exciting and terrifying, and equal parts “Yes! This is where I should put (some of) my energy right now!” and “Are… are you sure about that? What about your poetry manuscript?” (don’t worry, I’m still working on that one, too – and have been able to get out to a couple of poetry workshops in the last two weeks, so that feels good).
I pulled two cards for my Tarot Card Meditation this time around.
The first – which has turned up more than once this week – was the Ten of Fire.
The second was History (one of the Weird Bonus Cards in the Silicon Dawn deck).
I’m used to the Ten of Fire being a caution against exhaustion or a statement about being overwhelmed or having too much on your to-do list. Which is… relatable at this time. In this deck, though, it’s more of a warning against over-consumption and a reminder that “looking out ONLY for Number One” is a bad road to go down. More broadly, it’s a card about… being mindful of what is and isn’t your responsibility (or privilege) to take on, asking for help and/or say “No” when things are too much to handle on your own, and following through on your commitments (“You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it”).
History – according to Egypt Urnash’s little interpretations book – is about the stories we tell to ourselves about ourselves and our situations. It’s cosmology and it’s shadow work. It’s about how we can tie ourselves up with “I Can’t Do XYZ”. It’s a relevant card, given what I’m digging into right now, particularly since I drew it Reversed (Meaning: Having to do with my relationship with myself). I think, in combination with the Ten of Fire, it’s a reminder to pay attention to what is and isn’t mine to carry, about following through on what IS – and putting down, or handing off, what isn’t – my responsibility, specifically in terms of stories I may have told myself (over and over and over again) about what I have to be – need-less? help-less? – in order to keep myself safe in some way.
Definitely worth chewing on some more.
Movement: Not a whole heck of a lot. I’m reliably doing my Moon Salutations, which is a good thing, but I’ve been busing to a lot of gigs, and I’m avoiding leaving the house when possible, so there’s been less body activity going on than usual.
Attention: Listening to my body. Keeping track of how much rest I need vs how much I’m getting, and watching my symptoms (vaguely sore throat since Saturday night, runny nose, generalized tiredness, etc – which are leading me to think this is probably my usual “the snow is melting and there’s just a lot more crud exposed to the air” annual springtime cold, but still). Trying to catch my Stories earlier and earlier rather than getting sucked into them (this is really difficult, which I realize is no surprise to anybody). Watching my writing for continuity and flow and hoping that I’m managing to make sense. Looking and listening for omens and signs that the magical stuff I’ve been doing is getting things rolling in ways that I want them to go (and sometimes in ways that I’m… not thrilled about, but here we are).
Gratitude: Thankful for a wife who loves me. For a girlfriend who is patient and understands how much stuff is up in the air right now (the landlord sold our house, new owner – who is a developer – takes possession in May, and we’re going to have to find a new, and almost definitely much more expensive, place to live, sooner rather than later) and that this is going to effect whether or not I can come and visit her any time soon. Grateful for skype dates and weekends doing easy stuff together. Grateful for my cooking skills, my wonderously (still) full freezers and pantry, which are making things so much easier right now. Grateful, too, for friends who have taken me out for lunch, passed along job opportunities, and generally taken care of me. Thankful for a resilient immune system and for having a lot of essential oils on hand. Thankful for sunshine and above-zero temperatures. Thankful for a job interview today. Thankful for a metamour who’s looking out for us self-employed-no-benefits types over here. Thankful – believe it or not – for a GodSelf who will periodically push me off a cliff just to remind me that trust-falling does, in fact, require FALLING (or at least leaping). Grateful for a Fetch who was willing to try trusting me, just for a little bit. Grateful for milk and eggs and a little bit of butter. Grateful for a miracle tin of parmasan cheese (my years of non-parishable food-hoarding tendencies are paying off, I see). Grateful for my library card. Grateful for my income quilt. Grateful for a book idea that’s structured enough I can actually follow through on it. Grateful.
Inspiration: Chakra work, the Iron Pentacle and Triple Soul concepts of/from Feri, various Major Arcana cards, my own history and experiences, the food I have available to work with.
Creation: I’ve written a couple of poems, edited a couple more, and have started writing a book, which involves also writing guided meditations, ritual outlines, and a certain amount of suggestions for creative altar-building. Also, coming up with tasty, filling, nutritious meals based on what’s available in the pantry and freezer is… feeling (slightly) less like a Terrible Idea, and (slightly) more like a creative challenge at this point – roughly a month after I started. We’ll see how I feel in another three weeks, let along another six, but so far, so good.
A while back, I wrote a some-what freaked out post about climate change and “eat less meat” and what that might look like at for decidedly omnivorous household.
The half-a-hog fund continues to grow, albeit slowly, and we have switched to milk in 1L bottles and, wow, has that made a difference in how I think about cooking grain… Not because not-organic milk in a 1L bottle is substantially more expensive than not-organic milk in a 1L carton, but because a gallon of the stuff IS more than double the price of a gallon bought, all together, in plastic bags… which means I find myself kind of …rationing? Which I don’t like doing. It’s not the end of the world – thought it might mean that I invest in some non-instant powdered whole milk to have on hand, in case I want to cook polenta in milk rather than water or bone stock – but it IS a noticeably higher cost for the amount of milk I typically go through in 7-10 days. So it’s a very different change from the one I went through when I switched from “ordinary President’s Choice 900g bags of coffee” to their Organics version (which… the difference there is about $5 a month, which is extremely manageable).
Project Eat More Vegetables is going nicely, too. Though it’s currently also resulting in a LOT of fruit flies hanging around the place, which is less fun, AND – because apparently I suck at gardening – it also means that those extra veggies are coming in from the grocery stores which…
…which brings me to my next point.
Folks… We’ve been finding baby cockroaches in our kitchen (mostly all in the same place, thank the gods) for a couple of weeks now. They started turning up right around when the landlords gutted the unit at the end of our row after the most recent tenants moved out (and left a LOT of stuff behind which… I thought was maybe telling?)
So, at first, we thought “Oh, maybe something has moved around and someone came into our place. Hopefully that’s the only one”.
But that didn’t last.
This morning, we kind of tore the kitchen apart.
Found the nest – which, thankfully, was small and apparently contained only one adult, who is now very much dead – and started the process of Cleaning And Monitoring.
Which is to say that my kitchen is covered in diatomaceous earth (powdered sea shells, essentially) and has sticky traps in the drawers and at various points on the counter.
It’s also to say that I’ve been putting small appliances and dishtowels and similar into zip-lock bags since about noon.
You guys, I would love to “get off plastic”.
I’ve been bugging all my politicians (and the NDP candidate for my Riding) about how it would make a big difference in everyone’s petroleum-dependence if someone with the power to legislate this into effect would just force large scale chain store – grocery stores, in particular, but not only – to start packaging their dry goods in paper and cardboard the flour and sugar already are.
And I stand by that. I still want that.
AND… I am relieved as HECK to still have access to non-porous, fully-sealing, transparent packing materials that don’t take up a tonne of space and DO come in a fairly wide variety of sizes.
Sure, they’re super-useful for food storage – I’ve got gallon bags of whole roma tomatoes and whole nectarines in my chest freezer right now, waiting to be made into hot sauce, plus more of them on the shelf, stuffed with zucchini (destined to be blanched and frozen in a silicon muffin pan, and then chucked back into (most likely) the same bag, once they’re in single-serving-sized pucks) – BUT what I want them for the most is basically emergency pest controls.
Seriously. I have put things directly into a landfill-destined trash bag today that, three weeks ago – or, heck, yesterday – I would have been hanging onto “in case we can fix it” or because “someone might want it” or “there must be some way to recycle this” or even “What if something goes wrong and I can’t replace this, shouldn’t I keep it as a spare?”
On top of this, as critters that can (like crickets) happily survive on toilet paper tubes and water, cardboard and paper packaging makes for ideal nesting spots for the little bastards.
So I’m basically over here going “Fuuuuuuuck! How am I going to take care of thiiiiiis???” Because I want to keep buying my flour and sugar in bulk-sized paper envelopes. I want to use completely biodegradable dollar-store paper lunch bags to buy sunflower seeds and buckwheat flour from the bulk bins at the Herb and Spice. Heck, I want to hang onto the cardboard box, with is serrated metal strip, when I buy aluminum foil.
…And now I have to look at those things as “potential pest habitat” and get rid of them… or at least find a bug-proof way to store them.
Which brings me to what I spent the non-cleaning portion of my afternoon doing:
I hit up the dollarama – yes, I shop at the dollar store, you all can cope – and got half a dozen different-sized wide-mouth storage jars. Two of them – about 1L each – are going to be for fridge left-overs (I also got a couple of serving-sized, snap-on-plastic-lid glass boxes for lunch stews and similar). But the rest are going to be for holding plastic bags. Garbage bags. Freezer bags. Snack bags. Things I fully expect to treat as disposable, in and of themselves, but which I don’t want getting over-run with creepy crawlies in the mean time.
Beyond that, I’ve transferred most of my garden seeds to an old, pressed tin “Cookie Assortment” box, with the exception of the clover seeds, which are now in a pint jar. My beeswax tealights have been moved to a glass jar much like the one that’s now holding my sandwich bags (I had a few already, some of-which are still in use for food storage – coffee and pasta, respectively – but most-of-which were just gathering dust behind the canning pot).
I’ve moved binder clips out of various not-water-tight plastic receptacles, and I’ve got a couple of extra-large plastic tupperware that are probably going to get used to hold emergency candles, paraffin tea lights, and similar, just to get more cardboard out of the house. But, you guys, it feels SO WEIRD to be working towards a house with as little single-use-plastic as possible… and then to also be like “But we gotta get rid of the cardboard and paper! Thank goodness for zip-locks! This is a disaster waiting to happen!”
Anyway. Hopefully I can make all of this work.
Right now, I need to see if I can scrounge up yet another Giant Plastic Bag – it might end up being a garbage bag, tbh – so I can rescue the gorgeous, antique, wooden cutlery tray that I inherited from my grandparents, and which The Roaches decided would make an ideal nesting place (they’re not wrong) – off the back steps, where it’s been languishing, covered in diatomaceous earth, since we evicted it (and them) this morning.
That and finish dealing with the dishes.
Wish me lucks, folks!
Meliad, the Birch Maiden.
 So, here’s the thing. I still get that cockroaches are people. They’re family-oriented people, no-less, who are just trying to live their lives. And I have no qualms at all about murdering them with extreme prejudice and a good turn of speed, purely because I don’t EVER want to live through being room-mates with them ever, ever again. Which is an odd headspace to occupy, let me tell you…
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.
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 + 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.
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 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.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 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.
 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.
 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).
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
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
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.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
So. I’m trying to make sourdough bread again.
This is at least my third time trying this.
Basically, last time, I got pretty fed up with how heckin’ long it takes to make a batch of bread.
Like… I know the 18+ hours is mostly not “my time” – it’s time when the chef is inoculating, when the dough is rising, and rising, and rising… but for someone who’s used to starting the bread at 1pm and having it done before dinner? This is a LOT of time. Actually having to plan and schedule things levels of time.
Also, I was having a hard time getting the bread to rise enough, and to not kind of… crumble apart when cut and/or go moldy at the drop of a hat.
Seriously. I wasn’t sure what kind of bacteria I had making my starter bubbly, but…. the mold that resulted was a lot more multi-coloured than what I was used to. Which was concerning.
So, based on all of that, something was definitely going wrong.
Given that my bread is less a hobby and more a way of shaving $2/week off our grocery bill while making a semi-reliable offering to the household gods and ancestors… I put my starter in the back of the fridge and basically ignored it unless and until I had a batch of vegan baked goods to make and needed something to function as egg-replaces (for binding, not leavening).
However. Spring is springing, a friend in the neighbourhood is posting about her own sourdough adventures, and I keep waking up at 4am freaking out about How Are We Going To Survive When The World Ends???
So: Sourdough bread.
What I did, was I dug my old starter (still kicking, despite the odds!) out of the back of the fridge, poured off the water, and then scooped what was left – about half a cup of starter – into a new jar in-which I had already mixed the following:
1 tbsp honey
1/4 C plane yoghurt
1/2 C milk
1/2 C water
1/2 C rye flour
1/2 C all-purpose wheat flour
That was the day before yesterday.
This morning, I fed it a tablespoon of rye flour and a couple of tablespoons of water, gave it a really good stir, and put it back in a sunny spot in the kitchen.
This afternoon? This afternoon, I discovered that my jar was bubbling like heck to the point of over-flowing.
So, in a small bowl, I mixed 1C all-purpose flour with 1C water and then added about half of my starter. Which is hypothetically 4-8 times as much starter as I need? But also, I want this to work and I don’t want my starter jar to keep overflowing. So I used a lot.
This mixture is hanging out on my counter, and I’ll be quietly ignoring it – barring the occasional stir, before going to bed, for example – until tomorrow. At which point, I’ll be trying Step Two (The Levain) and Step Three (adding The Chef to The Levain hoping like heck that it all rises properly).
Fingers crossed, and we’ll see how it goes!
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 I’ve got a lot of friends who look at me and my wife and say that we’re where they’ll go if/when the zombie apocalypse hits. But realistically? Yeah, I can grow veggies. A bit. But how am I going to turn our humanure into nutrient-rich, pathogen-free biochar with some kind of a micro-sized gassifier (that I don’t know how to run, no less)? And without that, how am I going to (a) keep us from getting sick from shit-born pathogens, OR (b) keep our limited garden soil fed and fertile? …So the fact that I want to be able to keeping making bread without relying on freeze-dried yeast? Isn’t really going to be that relevant if I also don’t have access to wheat anymore.
See also: Reasons why I’m trying to get the hang of growing potatoes.
 From a previously-boiled kettle, so anything like chlorine or whatever has had a chance to evaporate.
If there’s anything working with a sour dough starter has brought home for me, it’s that (A) I am an impatient person, good grief, and (B) I haaaaaaaaaaaaate not being good at stuff. Hate it. It’s VERY frustrating.
And I didn’t expect the learning curve on this to be quite as steep as it has been, if only for me specifically.
Today I made sour dough pancakes.
Am in the process of cooking them (and probably burning them) as I write this.
They should be just fine. If only because, while I’m using some starter in lieu of baking powder, I’m still aiming for something closer to the “French” pancakes – meaning something like a crispy crepe, especially with four eggs in them – I made as a kid, rather than the thick and fluffy ones that might come to mind if I said, like, “flapjack” or something (stuff that’s closer to a flattened out drop-scone or Welsh cake, basically).
So my attempts at using levain as a quick-bread levener are… probably unsuccessful but also probably tasty, so we’ll see how it goes.
Successfully making Actual Bread, however, is going a lot more slowly.
Both in the sense that I haven’t quite managed it yet, AND in the sense that this process takes 36+ hours to actually do.
The dough seems to do best when rising in the fridge. It develops the sticking-to-itself tendency and the cohesive texture that I want in bread dough that way, whereas if I let it do its thing on the counter, while it does rise reliably, it never loses that sticky, heavy feeling and it’s hard to deal with (meaning: my hands get just COVERED in dough, and it’s hard to scrape off AND it feels gross).
So I think I’ll try to do all-in-the-fridge rising with this batch and see if it works.
Beyond that… This surprised me, though it really shouldn’t have. Sour Dough bread takes a lot more flour. Not all at once, per se, but over time. Because you have to feed the starter every couple of days (provided you keep the starter in the fridge as well).
Which means I get to try and clear some space in the fridge today.
Wish me luck. 😀