Tag Archives: ancestors

Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance

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.

Thanks,
Meliad.

Chokecherry Chutney / Plum Relish and The Reason for the Season (of the Witch)

Hello!
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. 😉
Enjoy!
 
~*~
 
Chokecherry Chutney 2016 (AKA Plum Relish)
 
Ingredients
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
 
 
Directions
 
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.
 
Day Of:
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.

Tarag? Skyr? – Adventures in Cheese-Making Part Four!

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.
 
Wait, what?
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:
Fairly solid
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.
Still nothing.
Tried a (slightly) larger bit, then another.
Still fine.
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.
 
Whee! Experimenting!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Full Moon (Super Moon) – Apple Moon Crests

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.

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

New Moon – Apple Moon Begins

A friend of mine has an apple tree. She’s invited me to swing by with a back pack and take as many as I can carry home with me.
I’m making her apple butter as a thank you. 🙂
 
Apple Moon is a physical moon, a labour moon. In my case, it’s going to involve about 20lbs of tomatoes and, hopefully, an equal amount of apples, being processed into the main-stays of my winter larder. It’s still hot and humid out, but the days have been getting noticeably shorter (noticeably since Lammas, anyway – just like how, around Imbolg, it’s finally light out at 4pm again) and, even with the heat and easy late nights out dancing (Pride Week is just getting started in these parts, so there’s that), I’m starting to feel the pull of the dark half of the year.
 
As my thoughts move in that direction, towards the season of hospitality in particular (which, in these parts, starts in early October and just keeps going until some time in March), I’m drawn to the idea of “community care” and the importance (as my wife puts it) of having an open door – of taking people in when they need it. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha – one of my favourite femme poets, and a hell of a tarot reader – asks “What kind of Ancestor do you want to be?” The year is bending now towards maturity, towards harvest, towards plans and intentions coming home to roost: The season of the Witch. What kind of community-member do I want to be? What kind of Witching do I want to do?
I once took a leadership course – Leather Leadership – and one of the questions we had to consider what what kind of leader do we (each) want to be?
I want to be the kind of person who is a community Auntie. Someone who’s generally ready with a spare bed or a hot meal or a kind-but-sensible ear (and the sense to only offer advice if it’s asked for, y’all…) when someone needs it, whether or not I think of said hypothetical someone(s) as part of my Nearest and Dearest or not.
Am I up to the hard parts of the task?
Am I worthy?
What steps do I need to take to get myself all the way there?
 
I’ve been coming to terms with what my garden is capable of this year, and whether or not I’m likely to get the perenial bed I want given the soil depth I’ve managed. I’m honestly worried about my (basically unkillable) rhubarb plants (plural) and am wondering what precautions to take in order to make sure they survive the winter and thrive next year and years to come. Simultaneously, and in a similar vein, I find myself looking at projects and wondering whether or not it’s okay to let some of them – like my hoped-for-but-not-happening squash harvest – fall to the wayside. It feels disappointing to consider this – I put a lot of time into them, and to find myself wondering if they’re worth continued, concerted effort is… a little bit demoralizing.
I love watching my wife’s ambitions and goals take off and start flying. That’s fantastic in and of itself, but also (from a D/s perspective) it’s great to see My Project – my Servant and the skillsets I’ve been encouraging for the past five years – starting to really bear fruit! I’m so proud of her, both as her partner/spouse and as her Owner. Be told: My wife is fucking awesome.
In terms of my own projects, though, I find myself wondering if I’m just being a lazy twerp by letting things slide on the Project X front for now. Part of me feels outright foolish for not sticking to my guns and pushing to improve my new skillset. Because it is foolish to do that. The other part of me says “You got into that business to make money (and pretty things). You are now making money much more reliably and much more easily by doing something else that takes up about as much time per week. Quitting may be a stupid option, but scaling things back to half-size production? That’s just fine.” And I think that might be the way to go.
Time will tell, but I’ve been on “Vacation” for about six weeks now, and some action has to be taken if I’m going to keep this project on the go.
 
Anyway. Those are my rambling thoughts at the beginning of Apple Moon.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Hearth, Hospitality, and Home

My fingers are ringing with the bright chill of peppermint and rosemary essential oils. There’s lavender mixed in there, too, and white vinegar, and salt. I swear, the idea was just to deoderize (ye gods) a tea towel and some of my dish cloths, but I wound up sloshing the last of it across my steps, pouring out protections just ’cause I can.
 
That’s the lovely thing about herbal magic. Generally speaking, if it’ll cure a cold or sanitize a diaper, it’ll probably also work in protection magic. That’s how it goes, right? If mint and birch will open up your lungs again, by breathing the steam or drinking the tea, then maybe hanging a bunch of them (to dry, yeah) over your threshold will keep the sickness from your door in the first place. Maybe it’ll keep other bad stuff away, too.
 
So that – along with putting the coffee on – was what I did before 8am this morning. (I know, I know, a whole heap of you folks have to be at a desk by 8am and were doing this with the sun barely over the horizon, but we run on a slightly different schedule here).
 
I’m going to spend the day (a) prepping my set list and numbering chapbooks for my show, but also (b) catching up on various house-wifely and kitchen-witchly tasks that have been needing some attention. Stuff like re-stocking my beeswax candle supply (since I’ll be lighting my altars tonight anyway), doing the laundry in the hand-crank machine, feeding & weeding the garden, patching my wife’s skirt, plus the usual daily tasks like dishes (endless dishes…) and dinner.
 

 
Maybe it’s because Mercury is (fucking finally) out of Retrograde, and the conversations are flowing more freely again, or maybe it’s because I just read S. Bear Bergman’s Blood, Marriage, Wine, and Glitter, but I’ve been thinking (and talking) a lot about hearth, hospitality, and family of late:
Talking with a friend, as I taught her to spin, about “career housewifery” and how some people are happiest and most fulfilled when their paid work is, at most, part-time and, frequently, piecework or casual hours.
Talking with my mom about both my sister’s new baby and my (and my wife’s) new, recently-relocated girlfriend and realizing that my mom is handling the reality of my polyamoury really quite well.
Understanding, more and more, how much hospitality matters to me, how much it feeds me on an emotional, heart-and-soul level, as well as how much it touches on, and overlaps with, my faith and what, in turn, that means in terms of being welcoming and offering people my spare bed to sleep on, whether or not I necessarily want to hang with them for the next 72 hours, or whatever. All that stuff from The Oddyssey, where you invite someone[1] in, feed them a really good meal, and then get around to “So, who are you, anyway?” that’s really relevant here.
 
So much of my day-to-day work/Work is… care-taking. The sheer weight of gratitude when my girfriend gets the interview, my friends (plural) come out of their surgeries safely, my brother gets to change streams, my extended fam gets to keep its reunion for another year. That my devotional candles include my gods, my ancestors, and one dedicated to “family and friends” – to my leather/glitter family close and distant. That the garden I plant, that is connected to and is-flat-out my gods (Misha, Mattaer, in particular), that connects me to my farming (and primarily maternal, though paternal too) ancestors, that I harvest with feeding The Multitude in mind, that it was built by that family (the soil, the bedframes, even some of the plants). That the garden I planted for beauty and the bees is made up almost exculsively of plants given to me by glitter-fam, wine-kin, leather-crew.
 

“Masha, my own, my littlest sister,” the matron called down. “Take this with you.”
She bit off her yarn in her teeth and tossed the red ball to Marya, who caught it and squeezed it like fruit at the market. The yarn was softer than any wool, expertly spun, thick.
“It will always lead you back, to your country, to your home. I make all my children’s stockings with the stuff, so they will know how to come home[…]”
Deathless (Catherynne M. Valente)

 
A million years ago (AKA 2004), in an entirely different house and an entirely different life, or close to it, I commented to one of my witchy friends who’d come for Summer Solstice (a week after I’d moved in) that my religion is garden-kitchen-table religion. It’s the feasting and the feeding, the communion of wine-and-weeding, weekly brunches in untidy homes because family doesn’t care about the mess; of potluck feasting and gifted jars of fruit-butter; of “I can stretch dinner for an extra person” and “Ye gods, please take this bag of zucchini/rhubarb/mint/tomatoes off my hands”. It’s the holiness, and wholeness, that are passed hand-to-hand along with the gravy, the green beans, the goodie bags. It’s the protections stirred into the soup, spun into the yarn, sewn into the patches. Every stitch to keep you safe and bring you home again.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] And, yes, there’s a bit of a “vetting process” as to whom you invite in. In the case of Ancient Greek Nobility, it was “Does he [always he] own his own his own warship? If yes, clearly he’s The Right Sort.” But it’s just as easily understood as Bear’s “shaking the queer tree” method of couch-surfing and finding couches for others to surf based on having a friend in common, wherein said friend’s existence is a tacit approval of both the person who needs the couch and the person who has one available.

Big Gay Aunties R Us! (My Nibbling Was born This Morning!)

My sister gave birth to her first child today. The “official” (read: roughly when said baby was all the way out of my sister’s body) time of birth is ~10:45am Calgary Time (AKA 12:45pm, where I’m at).
This child’s name is a deliberately unisex name. Whether this is because the parents are clueful enough to prep for the possibility that their new-born son may turn out to have been their new-born daughter all along, or just for the sake of some other sort of convenience, I have no idea, but this Big Gay Auntie is happy to see that choice regardless.
 
I finished my nibbling’s baby blanket today, sitting on the back porch in the sun(!) on the first really beautiful, honestly warm day of Spring. New life into the world. Persephone comes above ground again, and this baby came with her. ❤ (Granted, I doubt my non-practicing-but-technically-Abrahamic sister would be totally thrilled about being put in anything resembling the role of Demeter). I sang blessing lulabies into the yarn as I finished off the last rows, blocked it in a bath steeped with lavender and salt.
It's now roughly the size of a couch-throw, so considerably bigger than planned. My hope is that I can schlep it to the laundromat early next week and put it through a hot wash + hot dryer with a load of towels and socks and stuff, so that it'll shrink, felt just a little bit, and, hopefully, set the dye.
 
Right now, I'm trying to speed (Ha!) through a coordinating scarf (I know, I just said it was finally WARM outside, but my sister's getting a coordinating cowl, and I want both the parents to have a Thing to commemorate the birth of their first child that just happens to be completely devoid of Baby Markers if you aren't intimately familiar with a certain Security Blanket that (hopefully) gets dragged around everywhere) for my Brother-in-Law, so that when they eventually all drag themselve to my (Read: my MOM's) end of the country, I can hand them over with all due ceremony.
 
Anyway. Lovely Wife and I were hosting a bunch of people for coffee and similar when the call came in, so I got to announce it to a (small) room full Awesome Queer (and mostly, if not entirely, poly and kinky) Chicks who'd been asking about the knitting project I was trying to finish, so. 😀
 
Welcome to the Family, and the World, kidlet. We're happy to have you here. 🙂