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The Full Moon was technically yesterday. The sun is low, low in the sky by 4pm, and Winter has definitely arrived.
In the past two weeks, we’ve gone from “a dusting of snow” and temperatures where it didn’t matter (much) that my big, leather coat is still missing a button and needs its button holes tightened to full-on WINTER with a foot of snow already on the ground, bitter winds, and -16C (before wind chill) temperatures. It’s both Very Unpleasant (because everything takes longer to get to – a 45-minute walk is now an hour, for example, because the snow clings to my boots, and is slippery, and both of those things slow me down) and kind of a weird relief, because this the kind of fast drop into winter that I remember from around when I was ten (but not when I was 17 – when it would get quite cold, but there wouldn’t be much snow…) We’ll see what Climate Chaos has in store in terms of zig-zagging temperatures, though, as this week continues on.
I admit that the weather has me thinking ahead to Midwinter, sending a Solstice Letter off to this project and planning out what I want to do as the Season of the Witch (two weeks left!) turns over into the Season of the Hag just as Long Nights Moon in born.
One of the things I’m thinking of is ritual. As in something a little more involved than the (approximately) weekly ritual of lighting candles and saying Hello to my gods and ancestors on (usually) Friday nights, or the quick greetings I send, like text messages to the great beyond, when I pass the ancestor photos on the stairs, see the moon come up, feel the sun on my face, take out the compost, brush past a hawthorn/rowan/sumac/cherry tree, or cross the street.
I’m thinking of something that maybe feels a little bit more like church, if I can put it that way.
See, I did something this year that I haven’t done in a long time.
Technically, the specific thing was something I haven’t done before, ever. But, more broadly, it’s something I haven’t done in a long time. Like I said, my usual offerings are done… pretty lackadaisically. I light up my altar candles, pour some boiled water into a cup, say Hi to everybody, and then go and do my own thing while the offering candles burn down. Beyond that, “ritual” tends to be more like “ceremony” and tends to be very me-focused. All those magically-infused baths and tarot meditations.
There isn’t anything wrong with this, BUT it’s been a long time since I did something that felt more like “church” and less like “therapy” in a ritual context. It’s been a long time since I did something group-based, too.
I recently spent nine days – okay, eight days, ‘cause I was late starting (typical…) – taking part in an Ancestor ritual that’s open to pretty-much anyone who wants to participate. It’s an Ancestor Elevation ritual to give comfort and honour to the trans folks who’ve died this past year, and in years gone by. It’s done in relation to TDoR.
I have to tell you. I initially felt a little bit weird doing it. Like I was imposing or something. If the website hadn’t literally said “you don’t have to be trans to take part in this” I probably wouldn’t have done it. But I’m glad I had the opportunity, and I’m glad I took it. (And I’m also glad that I finished it).
This next bit IS going to be very me-focused.
I appreciate the container that the specifics of the ritual provided. That there were elements that were important/necessary to include (and that, by having everyone include them, builds a certain amount of cohesion across rituals that are being done privately or in small, unconnected groups). But I also appreciated the amount of freedom available within that container. It meant that I didn’t have to be sitting there with my computer on, reading Prayer 7 of 22 off the screen, but could make it my own.
Mostly what I did was choose a piece from the book I was adding to the altar that particular night, read it to anyone who happened to be listening, add it to the altar, and then do some singing. No lyrics. Just energy offered through sound. Music’s good for offerings. It can be soothing and uplifting by turns, if that’s where you want it to go.
I hope it helped.
Some nights, I did the ritual with my wife, but mostly it was just me. I’ll be putting it in my (newly arrived) date book, so that I can do it again next year. It feels good to do something to mark the occasion that is meant to help the people who were killed or died by suicide.
And so here we are.
And now I’m thinking about ritual as a thing that is a container. I’m thinking about it as a way to direct my actions outside of my own (sliiiiiiiiiiiightly neglected) self-improvement projects. I’m thinking “What kind of ancestor do I want to be?”… And I’m thinking about what I want to do with the impending darkest time of the year.
I’m thinking about doing actions on a theme – dark, cold, shadows – Could I follow the Fool’s Journey down into the dark, where the Sun shows up on December 20th, Judgement on the Solstice, and The World the night of my big celebration? How can I relate The Fool, the Magician, the High Priestess, the Empress AND the Emperor, the Heirophant, and The Lovers to questions around what is Darkness, when do I need it (contemplation, drawing inward, root time, introvert-time, self-care) and when do I need to bring in the light (hope, offering support, SADD stuff, both seeking and offering guidance)?
Just as a for-instance.
For now, I’m still chewing on it. It might end up being a card-a-day draw, and trying to see how the card relates to a theme I want to explore that week. It might end up being something super-basic like dropping off socks and soap to a couple of drop-ins around the neighbourhood and inviting people in for comfort food once a week.
We’ll see where it takes me.
So. My tarot card meditation for today is the Ace of Bows. The roots of fire. Which is hilarious given that it’s such a Midsummer card, but here we are.
This is a card about creative projects and fresh starts, sure. But it’s also a card about directing your energy, about seeing things through, about “Give’r!”. It’s a card that says “JFC, Meliad. Write something for your novel. November’s almost over.”
However – appropriately to both the multi-day ritual I just finished and the impending darkest dark of the year – the Ace of Bows is also the candle in the dark. It has resonances with The Star, in the sense that it pertains to finding your own true north. What are the principals that guide you through the dark of uncertainty?
What kind of ancestor do you want to be?
Choose your actions, and make your creations, accordingly.
Movement: Only the usual walking and modeling work. I’ve been doing transcription for the past few weeks, so I’m actually moving less than is necessarily good for me. I need to remember to walk up and down my own stairs and do ten yoga poses in a row on those (many, many) days when it’s cold and awful and I don’t want to leave the house if I can avoid it.
Attention: I’m paying attention to the weather report. To the state of the sidewalks. Calculating how long it will take me to get from point A to point B. Watching my bank account and wondering how long the money from my transcription job will last. Watching the little white cat with the black tail who comes to our compost heap hunting for rats, and hoping she sticks around.
Gratitude: Grateful for snuggly, cozy nights with my wife. For video-based date-nights with my girlfriend. For transcription work that pays well (uh… or that will, once the cheque shows up…) and extra modeling work coming in at the last minute. Grateful that my wife and my girlfriend really like each other and want to hang out more (YAY COMPERSION!) Grateful for the neighbourhood rat catcher hanging out in our yard. Grateful for a quiet afternoon and discount hair dye, because my hair is now maroon once more, and I’m very happy about this situation. Grateful for free clothes from friends AND for places – like the GG Lit Awards (I am not a winner, just an audience-member) – to wear them. Grateful for friends who will listen to me cry. Grateful, too, for friends who feel safe and comfortable crying on my shoulder.
Inspiration: Really enjoying Lindsay Nixon’s Nîtisânak and Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning. Also drawing inspiration from – believe it or not – the snowy weather. The wind carves the snow ‘til it looks like the bottom of a sea bed (which is what we, in my neck of the woods, are living on, as it happens).
Creation: Not a whole heck of a lot. Lots of cooking, sure. I came up with a potentially delicious mulled-wine recipe that relies on juniper and anise hyssop (i.e.: stuff that actually grows here) for flavouring, and I’m looking forward to testing it out. Ripping out a knitting project and starting it over completely? Sure. But these days I’m barely even doing any mending, let alone creating new garments from scratch. That said, I did get some good news on the publication front a few weeks ago (more on that when the anthology comes out), which is really nice and kind of a shot in the arm.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 Which doesn’t mean this lets anybody off the hook on the front of doing actual stuff to help out, and look out for, the people who are still alive. Check in with your friends. Bring people groceries or let them use your laundry machine. If you can, give somebody a steady job. Throw money at people’s crowd-funding campaigns and Patreon accounts, and otherwise buy their work.
 See: Poem by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha in their book Bodymap.
 Which… I think it’s interesting that I associate The Dark with time to recharge (maybe not shocking, sleep being what it is) and time to spend on my own, just breathing, just having a bit of calm (maybe I associate light with being over-stimulated?) A thing to think about.
 The ciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiircle of liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiife…
The rains came back! 😀
The temperatures haven’t been quite as astonishingly high and we’ve been getting a little (and sometimes a LOT) of rain most nights, and some days, for the past week.
I hope this continues.
August (coming fast) has historically been thunderstorm season in these parts, and we sure do need them right now.
It’s kind of amazing to watch the second crop of radishes germinate, and the dandelions starting to put out new leaves.
I reseeded my greens bed with rainbow chard, collards, and Tuscan kale, in the hopes of filling in a few empty patches with greens I can throw in my freezer.
The chard that’s been struggling for the past month seems to be doing a little better in the cooler temperatures and regular rains. (I water the garden every day, but ten minutes with a hose is NOTHING like four hours of the entire sky dumping water on you). The soil in my raised beds is still pretty dry below the surface. One of my goals, this autumn, is – after the frost kills everything off, but before the ground is frozen – is to dig a lot of organic matter (like dried up veggie stalks and straw, but also manure compost if I’m able to find some) but, ideally also a lot of absorbent cotton rags (like threadbare old tank tops, for example) way down deep to help retain water in what is still some pretty depleted soil.
I mean… good luck with that, person with back problems who can’t deal with squatting for more than two minutes at a time, but that’s the goal.
In the mean time, I’ve been harvesting mostly-wild leafy greens – purslane, sow thistle, lamb’s quarters, and wild grape mostly – from the back yard and the surrounding neighbourhood and turning them into “wild sour kraut”, which I put on sandwiches and mix into soups.
Today I pulled up a bunch of icicle radish (some with nice root, but mostly just for the greens) plus some sow thistle, and I’ll be adding that to my current veggie ferment, which is mostly wild grape leaves (currently the biggest leaves available,which is why). It’ll be a nice, crunchy one, but also a bit more tannic than usual.
I’ve been (buying and) freezing zucchini for a month or so, too, which is nice.
I have to tell you. I know Michael Pollan has some Problems, but every time I read one of his books, it does make me think about what kind of food I’m growing (or not), cooking, and eating, and that what I want to be dishing up – stews, pot roasts, and braises heavily studded with winter squash, mushroom, sturdy cooking greens, and garden herbs; pasta dishes bright with chard, young (not nearly so bitter) wild greens, yellow summer squash, cherry tomatoes, and crow garlic; strata baked from sourdough bread, heavily drained labneh (yoghurt cheese), sliced apples or pears, and eggs from ethically-cared-for hens (I wish) – isn’t quite where I’m at yet, even if I’m close.
Basically, I think I need to double the amount of veggies I cook in a given dish, or else cook more than one dish worth of veggies – doing a tomato-cucumber salad to go with the pasta or the pilaf, or steaming some broccoli or winter squash to go with the carrots, potatoes, and cabbage that were cooked in the same pot as the pork and barley.
I admit that the thought of buying substantially more veggies – even frozen ones, which are generally less expensive than fresh – is daunting. But I think it will be better for us, over all, if I can make it happen.
I’ve spent most of last week modeling for a five-day oil painting course. It was really nice, and was enough hours that I was able to top up the rent for August, but I’m very glad to be getting my “weekend” now that it’s Monday.
Plans for today include writing this blog post, steaming some zucchini, finally making some candle offerings to my gods and ancestors (those candles are now lit, and I’m quite happy about it), getting a few more greens into the fermentation crock to pickle, and finishing reading that latest food theory book.
It’s going to be an easy day. I hope.
I’ve been thinking about ancestors lately.
In part because I’ve been watching half a dozen or so people trying to paint pictures of me, and I see the parts of my face -reflected in their paintings – that come from my various parents, grandparents, and generations further back.In part because I’ve been reading In Defense of Food and the part of what that books says is that “food” is something your more distant ancestors would recognize as such.
Cooking with barley rather than rice (not exclusively, granted). Trying to grow my own “kale yard” (which was what the Scotish folks allegedly called the household veggie garden, ’round about the 1600s when we were eating a LOT of wild foods as well) and forage a lot of urban greens, is stuff that my ancestors have done. Up until pretty recently (my mom grew up dairy farming; my dad, while he grew up wealthy, also grew up rural and did a lot of fishing for meals). I’m a much worse angler than I thought I’d be (based entirely on childhood fishing trips), but I’m theoretically getting better at gardening and foraging and fermenting, and I’ve been making really good jam and relish for years. And all of this stuff is Family Stuff. My grandparents (my mom’s parents) saw a former garden of mine – something like 13-14 years ago, in a much different part of town – and they were so happy to see me growing food of my own. I’m proud of it, when I’m able to manage to do it, and part of why is because it’s something I learned from them to value and also do.
I drew two cards for my Tarot Card Meditation. The first by just flipping over the shuffled deck and seeing what was on the bottom, and the second by cutting the (now upside down) deck at random and seeing what it “opened” to.
Who I need to be? The Three of Water
Abundance. Pleasure. Love overflowing. (Egypt Urnash).
Discover pockets of joy and comradery. Reconnect with your happiest safe haven. Find peace amid chaos. (Cristy C. Road).
How I need to be the three of water? The Eight of Fire
Courage. Boldness. You’ve got the power-up and some extra lives to experiment with. (Egypt Urnash).
Ignite your passion as you heal with laughter, yelling, song, and dance. (Cristy C. Road).
Who I need to be is an active participant in my web of relationships.
How I need to be that, or maybe what I need to do (action-wise) in order to be that, is creatively engaged and (surprise, surprise) willing to take some risks.
Discover pockets of joy and connection. Heal with laughter and song and dance. I kind of feel like this – appropriately, perhaps – relates to the card I drew at the New Moon, which suggested that I needed to get the heck out of my funk, reconnect with my sweetheart(s), and re-engage with joy, instead of staying camped out on the Planes of Desolation and Preemptive Disappointment.
This is like that. Creative engagement and some emotional (uh… I assume?) risks are both necessary for connection with other people, especially if you’re me.
Movement: You wouldn’t think sitting still for six hours a day, all week, would be such a strain on your neck and shoulders, but there it is. However! The studio was a ~45 minute walk from the house, so I got in a good hour-and-a-half walk every day, which is nice. Totally skipped going dancing on Saturday, though, due to the 7am alarm clock I’ve been dealing with all week.
Attention: Watching the water levels in the garden, the heavy clouds and whether or not they’re likely to spill. Whether or not there are puddles (or even wet pavement) when I get up in the morning. Watching for signs of recovery and new growth in the garden.
Gratitude: Grateful for rain. For enough modeling hours to cover the rent. For knowing how to find & harvest leafy greens and fruit (chokecherries, early apples) somewhere other than a grocery store. For libraries. For coming home to clean dishes last night. For a wife who misses me and makes me smile. ❤
Inspiration: Watching people learning to mix bright colours into skin tones and figuring out how to make a 2D picture look like a 3D form using lighter and darker shades. That’s pretty cool, and I kind of want to try painting a picture of an egg now. >.>
Creation: Remarkably little. I’ve made some progress on my knitted cotton tank top, and have written a few thousand words in my Spite Novel, but that’s about it.
 Specifically, he’s a fairly wealthy man, born in the mid-1950s, who lives in an area where you can grow/buy fresh local veggies 100% of the year, and he’s writing for people who are in more or less the same demographic (not actually bad, in and of itself), even if they aren’t in the same part of the world. He has some spots where his understanding of the culture he’s writing in and for gets a little willfully spotty, particularly around the idea of who is most likely to be taking on the extra 2+ hours per day of meal prep that his particular dietary/ethical suggestions require, and what gender they will most likely be. Just because Michael – as a freelance writing who often works from home – does most of the cooking at his place, and has a job that allows him to do so by interspersing those two hours in and around the rest of what he’s doing on a given day… doesn’t mean that’s how it goes in most households in the demographic he’s writing for, let alone, say, Millennials and Gen-Xers, in their 30s and 40s, who are more likely to be “spending less than 10% of their income on food” because they are spending 40%-50% of it on housing, and still have to come up with a way to pay for those pesky utilities (y’know, like heat) and crushing student loans while working unstable gig-economy and low-waged service-industry jobs.
His writing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and sometimes he writes as though it does.
 In our case, it’s more like 65%, if you were wondering.
 Which is not stopping me from buying freezer pizza, ice cream, chocolate bars, frozen berry punch from concentrate, or tinned mushroom soup, I’ll have you know.
 Which tend to be invasive plants brought by my colonizing ancestors, see in particular: rampion and garlic mustard, but also plantain, purslane, dandelions, crow garlic, and lambs quarters.
Tonight, the full moon is in Taurus – aptly I think) my wife and I are going to have a cozy evening at home, making and mending stuff with the altars lit. My birthday is next week. I’m about to turn 38.
It’s funny (or not). The thing about Scorpio Season is that it’s deep-dive time, it the period where you dredge up stuff that you’ve been hiding from yourself or avoiding looking at and… I always expect that Stuff to be Bad. Stuff that has to be fixed or purged or navigated or mitigated or solved.
I don’t expect it to be something good.
Here I am, and the messages I’ve been getting since the sun moved into Scorpio a couple of weeks ago… they’ve all been stuff like “Oh, hey, did we mention that you’re worthy?” or “Maybe it’s actually okay for you to want things, and not just things that you know other people want you to want. Did you consider that?” or “There are actually people in this world who will want to give you the things you want to receive, and who will want to offer you the things you want to access”.
Which is amazing.
And I’m kind of going, like, okay but… what’s the catch. Because there’s gotta be a catch.
And probably there is one.
Like, I’ll have to Let Go of an unhealthy thing that’s part of my core identity (likely), or something like that.
Which is hard, even when the thing you’re letting go of suuuuucks and is bad for you.
Still, it’s nice to think think that maybe the Big Secret I’ve been keeping from myself is actually a positive one. 🙂
Samhain came and went. We lit up the altars, made offerings of white wine and Sortilege (and chocolate). We even had NINE trick-or-treaters (which is unheard of in our chunk of the neighbourhood). It made me really happy to ask the kids about their costumes, a lot of-which were cobbled together rather than bought off the rack, which was kind of awesome. (Best one was the zombie-apocalypse survivor in the air filter mask). 🙂
In less-woo news: I used a pressure-canner for the first time last weekend! I got to hang out with Lovely People and put up some food that I would normally buy already-in-cans! (We also made strawberry-rhubarb jam with a bit of apple and grated ginger thrown in). I’m excited. Turns out there’s a pressure-canner at the Ottawa Tool Library, too! Am serioulsy considering the benefits of pressure-canning bone stock, long-soaking beans, and maybe curried pumpkin soup (with red lentils, garlic, amaranth, dairy cream or coconut milk, and bone stock – meaning you can make it from field/jack-o-lantern pumpkins as well as pie pumpkins) a couple of times per year. I know that having pints of stock on hand last winter was incredibly helpful when it came to throwing together 20-minute easy meals (AKA: lentil soup, french-onion soup, and other things ending in”soup” that didn’t take a lot of creativity to make happen), but having litres of stock on hand and shelf-stable means a lot more space in the fridge, without losing the fast-and-flexible, bio-accessible goodness that is bone stock. (I’m a bit of a fan).
The weather’s cooling down (appropriately, given that we’re in Root Time now), and it’s nice to be cooking slow-braised meals again. I’ve got chicken thighs and late-harvest veggies (potatoes, carrots, kale, onions, garlic) roasting in my iron pot in the oven. I think I’ll maybe bake some apples along-side them in a pie plate for dessert.
I’m starting to work on heavier knitting projects again, too. Still finishing up my second stocking-extension (which I’ve been doing for most of the past year. >.>) but I’ve started up a bulkier, warmer (ish) piece as well, and I’m looking forward to putting some hours in on that one.
All in all, November’s kicking off pretty nicely so far. Here’s hoping it continues in this vein. 🙂
Movement: Lots of walking the past two weeks, plus one night out dancing. I’ve got some garden-digging to do in the next 48 hours (weather permitting) to get as’kebwan’/sunchokes in, and that will be… tiring, but good for my arms. 😉
Attention: Heh. I’m paying attention to who’s flirting with me, tbh. I second-guess it a lot, but it’s still nice to think people (plural) actually are. 😉
Gratitude: Friends who trust me and talk to me when they’re having a hard time. Friends who listen to me when I’m flailing. Friends who bring me food. My lovey, snugly wife who’s been waking up happen this past little while and who makes me breakfast and keeps my leather in good shape. Hardy garden greens still offering up mountains of kale and chard (and sage, and dandelions, and winter savoury, and sorrel) even as the temperature drops. Neighbours who are completely chill about my messy, open-air compost heap. Shop keepers who are patient with my crappy French and ask me what I’m knitting. Schools who call me looking for last-minute (and not-so-last-minute) models, and folks who want me to come in and cover their reception desks more often than expected. Young people who are happy to talk poetry, magic, bdsm, and other fun stuff with me. A relationship with my mom that has vastly improved over the past 10 years. People who blush ever so slightly when they talk to me. Useful poetry critiques on works-in-progress. Easy access to low-scent shampoo (on sale, no less!) and cute treats like violet lipstick and neon pink yarn in my price-range. Having my house back (Harvest Stuff returned to the basement, and held-furniture sent off to its various new homes!) and my dining table accessible again! Witchy femmes (always). ❤
Inspiration: Friends who knit. Friends who preserve food in various ways. Poets. Young people full of enthusiasm and wonder. ❤ (Old people full of enthusiasm and wonder, too, though I don't get to see that as often). The nights that are getting longer and coming earlier.
Creation: I’m making a Safety Shawl for my next(started this morning) knitting project. Neon pink for brightness and pale turquoise for reflective-throw (if I can find shiny plastic beads or a big spool of reflective-tape ribbon, I will incorporate those as well), because if I’m going to be working in an industrial park this winter (which… is a maybe at this point, rather than a definite) I want some high-visibility thing I can wear so that I don’t get hit by a car while shivering my way to the bus stop. Doing twisted stitches and using thick (ish) yarn so I can get this big blanket-scarf of a thing made by the next New Moon (coming at us juuuust before Sagittarius Season kicks off). Also re-jigging a poem and telling stories with my tarot decks. It’s a good time. 🙂
Hey, Pagans, Heathens, Druids, Goddess-Spiritualists, Witchy-Woo Folks, and others who practice earth-centered religions/spirituality, ancestor veneration, and/or polytheism in Canada:
Please go and take a gander at the Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance. You may wish to sign it yourself, as an individual or as a representative of your particular faith group, circle, kindred, grove, coven, or other congregation.
So, today I ran a canning workshop which, alas, did not have a great turn-out. BUT the lovely thing about running a canning workshop is that either (a) you get a big group and you all geek about canning and you have waaaaay less stuff to cary home than you originally brought OR (b) you get a small group and you all geek about canning and you get to bring home a whole bunch of preserves that you didn’t have to mess up your own kitchen to make. (The ACO, where I ran the thing, has a dish-washer and TWO STOVES. It was great!)
So I’m counting it as a win. 🙂
My one co-canner and I nattered about canning (of course), about how satisfying it is, about our respective not-distant-at-all farming ancestors, and about familial and cultural food traditions… and on my way home, I realized: we were talking about what this time of year is about. About the harvest, about getting the family (chosen or origin or both) together, about sharing, about where and whom we come from.
It was really wonderful.
Anyway. I had about 5 cups of chokecherry purree put aside for today, so I ended up re-jigging last year’s recipe into something a little more plum-heavy. You can call it Choke Cherry Chutney if you want to, but you could also call it Plum Relish. Either way, it tastes amazing, and I have six jars of it put up in my cupboard. 😉
Chokecherry Chutney 2016 (AKA Plum Relish)
30+ blue plums, pitted and diced (leave the skins on, it’s fine)
5 C chokecherry puree
1½ C red wine vinegar
4 medium onions, diced
2 C dried (sweetened) cranberries
2 C granulated sugar
2 tbsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
Well in advance:
Pick chokecherries – you will need 3 litres to start with. This will take anywhere from 2 hours to a couple of days, depending on how abundant the chokecherry trees are being in a given year.
Wash the chokecherries, discarding any stems, leaves, and other detritus
Simmer chokecherries in a little water, covered, for half an hour, poke at them with a fork occasionally
Strain chokecherries & liquid through a sieve (or a food mill, or an apple-sauce strainer, or a colander with very small holes… you get the idea), scraping the sides to make sure you get as much pulp in with the juice as possible (this will take about an hour if you’re using a sieve, it will probably take less time if you’re using a food mill or an apple sauce strainer). The goal here is to remove the pits (which, like all almond-related fruits, have cyanide in them) and get a smooth chokecherry base for your preserve.
Wash, pit, and dice the plums
Peel and dice the onions
Combine all the ingredients in a wide, ideally deep, pot (this stuff will splatter)
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent things from sticking to the bottom (leave the lid off the pot, at least a bit, to let the liquid cook down faster)
Sterilize a doezen 1C jars + lids and rings – you can do this in a dish-washer, by boiling them in a water bath, or by baking the jars (you still have to boil the lids and rings) in an oven set to 225F for 20 minutes.
When the chutney is bubbling and nicely thickened (the liquidy part will sort of glob together a little before dripping off a spoon and/or when you stir the mixture, you’ll be able to see the bottom of the pan for just a second before the mix oozes back in to fill the space), ladle it into your sterilized jars.
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Allow to cool, listening for the “plunk” that tells you they’ve properly sealed.
So I usually buy milk, by the gallon jug, at the local convenience store. It’s close by, I can return the jugs for a deposite (way better than throwing them out, in my books, plus that $0.25 is not to be sneezed at, especially when I go through this stuff like I do), and – provided that trans-pacific trade agreement doesn’t come into effect as-written (uh… not holding my breath, but I reeeeeeeeeeally don’t like what it would do to Canadian farmers) – the milk in said jugs is super-local, even if it’s not organic by any stretch of the imagination.
Usually this does me just fine, because I drink enough heavily-adulterated tea and coffee, plus make enough alfredo sauce, pancakes, and other milk-friendly foods, that I can go through a gallon of the stuff in about 10 days. But the minute I get a cold/cough/sore-throat, work a few full-days at a temp job (or a slew of modeling gigs with early starts), or get a visit from my cows-milk-alergic sweetie, the giant jug of dairy gets shoved to the back of the fridge to make way for herbal berry teas, goat’s milk (and/or almond milk), and juice that fill the “lots of fluids” niche… and the chances of my milk going off? They go through the roof.
Consequently, due to a perfect storm of all of the above, I had two half-finished jugs of milk go off on me, one after the other, in December. That’s four litres (in 2L batches) of milk, with a lot of overlap, that needed to be used up during a period when my fridge and freezer are both super-stuffed with frozen veggies (having only just stopped harvesting kale and chard from the yard), raw root veggies, and numerous not-usually-in-stock goodies (like half a dozen fancy cheeses, at least one open bottle of wine, sweet cider, various kinds of paté, and chocolate bark)… meaning I couldn’t just make a quadrupal batch of waffles plus a couple of cherry-chocolate-chip quick breads, and then freeze them (not even in a bag hanging off the back doorknob, which could have worked just fine, given enough zip-locks and tupperware, if we hadn’t spent most of December with well-above-freezing temperatures on hand).
The first half-gallon did end up in quick breads and coffee cakes. but the second one happened right between Winter Solstice and New Years, and honestly? I just let it go. I let it sit in my fridge and curdle/clabbor/etc to its heart’s content.
And, today, I drained off the whey, and called it Cheese.
I know. But bear with me.
I trust my food.
I trust that, in a kitchen where wine, home-made bread, and live-culture yoghurt feature heavily in the cuisine, and where kefir, kombucha, blue cheese, and chevre make their appearances, most of the bacteria in my fridge? Are bacteria my species has been cultivating relationships with for thousands of years (sans fridges,even).
I trust my food knowledge, too. I’m a home-canner. I know that anything well into the sour (NOT bitter) spectrum is not going to harbour deadly stuff like botulism, and that vinegar, hot peppers, and garlic will kill off most of the nasty stuff that causes food (particularly meat) to spoil.
I also have a pretty good idea of where most of my food came from, how it was grown/raised and (in the case of the wine and some of the diary products) how it was processed, so… I’m not too fretful about the kind of nasty stuff you get when “pink slime” is involved… because it generally isn’t.
Which means that when the milk in my fridge goes off? I’m willing to see where it wanders.
Where it wandered, this time (having been left, for over close to three weeks, to swell it’s jug all out of shape, and having had the cap taken off and screwed back on a few times over the course of its wandering), turned out to be:
With lots of whey below it, and
Smelling both super-sour and faintly of something like kefir.
So I tasted it.
NOTE: The fact that my weirdo milk product both (a) was clearly fermenting, and (b) smelled more or less like something else I’d already eaten safely is WHY I was willing to taste it.
I tasted a curd, about half the size of my smallest fingernail.
Nothing weird happened to my tongue or lips or gums.
I swallowed it.
Tried a (slightly) larger bit, then another.
The stuff is sour as hell, and tastes both a little bit like beer and a little bit like yoghurt, so I decided “Screw it,”, drained off the whey, and strained the curds in my mash bag (which I got from a wine-making store for the purposes of making cheese… on purpose).
At this point, I have a cup-and-a-half or so of home made Accidental Cheese that I’m pretty sure is the product of a little bit of free-range bread-yeast (that I use to super-slowly fridge-ferment berry iced tea into something that sparkles about a year later) and a little bit of free-range yoghurt bacteria, and that will probably work best when cooked into a quiche or a pot-pie that would benefit from some cottage cheese thrown in.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
So the full moon was yesterday.
I spent it canning tomatoes.
I spent today canning tomatoes.
I still have tomatoes on the stove, in the slow-cooker, and in the dehydrator (but – for the most part – not in my fridge anymore, so there’s that), and I’ll soon have crab apples to jelly and – if I’m very lucky – pears to render into butter as well. I have a small number of peaches to preserve, as well as a few eggplants to roast, dice and freeze, and a few golden zucchini with-which to do the same, and a cup of chokecherry puree with-which to make a small batch of fruit curd in short order (I need to get more eggs, and more butter, before that happens though).
Apple Moon has, thus far, been all about the canning.
My wife commented to me, the other day, that she really enjoyed listening to me and my Canning Buddy hashing out how the day would go, in terms of what needed to be cooked in which receptical and when we’d need to start chopping X, Y, or Z, versus when we’d need to start sterilizing jars in the oven, and so-on, in order to keep things running smoothly and efficiently in the kitchen. She said that we were doing something that women have done for millenia: Planning out how to get things done and make things happen. Just for a moment, I saw backwards in time to my grandmothers, great grandmothers, great-great-many-times-great grandmothers standing in kitchen with wood floors, stone floors, dirt floors, a great kettle steaming on the stove – the range, the hearth-bricks, you name it – bubbling with food that needed to be cooked down or fermented to the point where it would keep over winter and keep everyone alive. Keep me alive, in the abstract, self-centred sense as well. And here I am, doing much the same thing, with all of them standing behind me.
Hello, Ancestors. It’s nice to see you here. ❤
Speaking of which… As far as what I talked about at the beginning of this lunar cycle… What I said about it being a “physical, labour moon” holds true. I’ve been doing plenty of hauling and plenting of physical, get-er-done stuff in the past two weeks, and that’s not going to change. But I’ve unexpectedly found myself also doing some emotional heavy lifting – maybe I can blame that one on Venus’ retrograde coming to a head (and then an end) fairly recently? – that threw me for enough of a loop that all that What Kind of Ancestor stuff I was mulling over, back on the 17th, just got pushed a little bit to the side. Unless I interpret that question more as “What kind of example do you want to set?” In which case: The kind of behavour I want to model as an Auntie/Ancestor/Example is… kindness, patience, open-listening, generocity, proactiveness (wish me luck on that one…), well-rounded creativity, “follow your bliss but also pay your bills” practicality, and… Look, if my lovely wife is Called to help people across the border into Death, I feel more like my Witchy work leans towards helping people deal with how they relate to one-another in life. (I am, and have always been, far more Nanny Ogg than Granny Weatherwax).
Which leads me to ask:
Okay, self, so how do I model that behaviour and, more to the point, which parts of that really need my attention right now?
And the answer there comes pretty readily:
Proactivity and the witchy work of Interconnectedness… without turning into an enormous busy-body in the process. :-\
In another two weeks, we’ll be into what I’m currently thinking of as “Harvest Moon” (although we’ll see if that moniker holds true by the time we get there) but, right this minute, I need to be proactive about getting some dinner (finally) made, now that my second-last batch of crushed tomatoes is off the stove.
Wish me luck.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.