Tag Archives: economics of food

Green Tomato Chutney 2016 Recipe

So, I’m about to run out of the house to do laundry, but I wanted to get this down. I finally got around to making my green tomato chutney (after, what, a month of saying I was going to get to it?), and put it in the slow-cooker to do it’s thing while I’m out this afternoon.
The recipe is a little different from last year’s, because I have slightly fewer tomatoes (my mistake – I waited too long, due to having run out of canning jars, and the first batch I harvested went moldy), and slightly different ingredients on hand, and also because my garlic basically dried to the hardness of cashews in the fridge, but here’s what I did:
 
 
Green Tomato Chutney 2016
 
~10 C green cherry tomatoes (halved, if they’re bigger than your thumb-nail)
8 garlic cloves, rough-chopped (very rough… um…)
1 yellow onion, diced
5 apples, diced
 
1 C cider vinegar
1 C kombucha vinegar (yep, I totally trying this out)
3 C white sugar
 
¼ C prepared mustard
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp nutmeg
1 tbsp ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
20 grinds of black pepper
 
 
DIRECTIONS
Put everything in the slow-cooker and set it on “low”. Let it do it’s thing for 24 hours and see where everything is at. If it smells tangy and zippy and tastes good, turn up the heat ’til it’s bubbling. Sterilize some 1C jars, can and process in a boiling water-bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cool (listen for the “plunk” that tells you the jars have sealed properly). Let sit for at least a month before opening to allow everything to get even more flavourfully mixed.
Enjoy!
 
I have no idea how many jars of chutney this will make, but I’m guessing about 6-8. Fingers crossed!
 
I’m glad I got around to doing this. Green-tomato chutney is a really great way to get tasty, edible veggies into your system over winter, it adds a lovely tangy flavour to pork, turkey, cheese, and even tuna sandwiches,and it lets me get a second harvest from my cherry tomatoes (some of which are sitting in a bowl, with an apple, ripening indoors) after the season is well and truly done.
Green tomatoes from the garden + onions & apples (both pretty inexpensive, if you buy them, and apples can often be found on urban trees either growing wild, or planted so long ago that the current owners don’t know what to do with all the food that’s suddenly available) make for an inexpensive preserve that let’s you use free bounty and “hard luck harvests” to make something delicious.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Wild Rice Pilaf + Sage Pesto Recipes

So, for the pervy-queer Thanksgiving Potluck, I roasted a turkey (also: my gravy brings all the pervs to the yard, I’m just saying) and made the following vegan dish that is (a) delicious, and (b) does not contain gluten or soy or nuts (though adding walnuts or pecans or even toasted Himalayan Balsam seeds would be an excellent addition) but DOES (c) contain white beans, so it’s definitely not Paleo, but can be made so very, very easily (drop the beans and add a bunch of nuts and/or extra seeds, basically).
 
Wild Rice Pilaf
 
INGREDIENTS:
1 C raw wild rice
4 C water
Pinch salt
+
2 C cooked white kidney beans or other white beans such as Great Northern (I just used 1 tin of same, drained & very well rinsed, but feel free to cook your own)
1/2 C cider vinegar
+
3 C diced butternut squash (I used pre-diced stuff from the store, but you do you)
2-3 sprigs fresh sage, shredded (or used the dried stuff, as you will)
+
2 apples (Cortland recommended, but I used McIntosh and it was just dandy)
1/4 C dried cranberries (sweetened)
1/4 C pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp prepared grainy mustard
1 tsp ground nutmeg (note: if you are going for Super Local, and have these available, you can use dried, ground spice berries in place of the nutmeg. The flavour (in theory – I haven’t tried this yet) is a combination of nutmeg and black pepper and should work well in this dish).
 
 
DIRECTIONS:
 
1) In the bottom of a double boiler combine the wild rice, water, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Allow to cook for upwards of an hour.
 
2) In the top of the double boiler, while the wild rice is cooking, combine the diced squash and the sage. Allow to steam for 20-30 minutes. Squash should be easily pierced with a fork, but not straight-up falling apart.
 
3) While the squash is steaming and the wild rice is cooking, in a large (1 gallon would make this very easy) bowl or casserole dish combine the cooked white beans and the cider vinegar.
 
4) Core and dice the apples and add to the bean mixture
 
5) Add the dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds and toss it all together like a salad
 
6) Add the cooked squash and sage, as well as the mustard and nutmeg. Toss again then cover with a plate or the lid of the casserole dish.
 
7) When the wild rice is done, add it to the mixture in the large bowl and toss until well-combined. The whole thing should smell gloriously of nutmeg and mustard and apples and all the other good things that are in it.
 
8) Serve hot (ideally) OR chilled.
 
This dish works as both a main and a side.
It goes well with chokecherry chutney and sage pesto (below), too. 😉
 
NOTE: If you want to fancy it up a little:
Leave the squash out (I do still recommend cooking the fresh sage, though) and, instead, bake delecata, sweet-baby, or other miniature squash halves in the oven for an hour while the wild rice is cooking. (When I do this, I splosh a quarter-cup of apple juice into each of the squash cavities so that the flesh is tender and easy to scoop when they’re done). Stuff the squash halves with the wild rice mixture and serve garnished with sprigs of fresh sage. If you wanted to do this as a fancy center-piece dish, I would suggest using something like a cupcake tower to display the stuffed squash halves before plating them at the table.
 
 
Sage Pesto
 
INGREDIENTS:
4C fresh sage
1 C pumpkin seeds
4 cloves garlic
¼ C nutritional yeast
½ C cooked white kidney beans OR cooked green lentils
¼ C apple cider vinegar
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch salt
Grind black pepper
¼ C oil
 
 
DIRECTIONS:
 
1) Pulse the pumpkin seeds in a food processor until they are grainy but well-smashed (this takes waaaaaay less time than making pumpkinseed butter, fyi)
 
2) Add the sage, cooked lentils, garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper
 
3) Blend until well-combined
 
4) With the motor running, drizzle in the oil
 
5) Spoon into ice-cube trays for freezing (works great) and/or pop some into a half-cup jar for fridge storage (I don’t know how long this will stay fresh, as I keep mine in the freezer to use as-needed, but if you want to serve it with stuffed squash, for example, within a day or two, this is an easy way to do it).
 
This stuff is lovely-and-delicious as the “sauce” for a pasta dish, mixed into scrambled eggs, spread (lightly) onto a chicken/turkey/roast-pork sandwich, blended into a bean dip/spread, stirred into root-veggies blender soups (rutabaga-cauliflower or carrot-apple would both be amazing with this), or, y’know, used as a condiment/topping/garnish for baked miniature winter squash stuffed with wild rice pilaf.

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.

Full Moon – Apple Moon Crests (and Wains) PLUS Autumn Equinox

There’s a nip in the air that wasn’t there a week ago. The sun is still warm, even hot, when it hits you directly, but the mornings are chilly and, while we haven’t needed to turn the heat on yet, I know it’s not going to be long before that becomes a necessity again.
People with gardens are harvesting hardcore, bringing in the green tomatoes before they get hit by the frost that’s threatening to arrive any day, putting up the last of the rhubarb jam. I did a second round of tomato-canning last weekend, while that big, gorgeous harvest moon rose in the sky, and my wife spent the weekend with her GF.
I’m teaching a water-bath canning workshop next weekend. (It’s a go! Woot!) We’ll be using neighbourhood-harvested chokecherries + farmers’ market plums and a slew of other goodies to make Chokecherry Chutney (which, technically, is a relish given how I’ve done the seasonings. I’m keeping the “chutney” for the aliteration of it all. 😉 )
The chokecherries have been sitting in my freezer, already strained into a purree, for over a month. Even though there’s at least one tree in the neighbourhood that’s still got berries on it, I didn’t want to risk not having any available for this workshop, so into the freezer they all went. I suspect my October is going to be full of canning – a nicer time to do it, since the weather will be cooler and a hot, steamy kitchen will hold more appeal than it does in August. Chokecherry curd, GoblinFruit jam (chokecherries, black currants, raspberries, vanilla, and whatever else I can throw in there), rhubarbicue sauce, and lots of pumpkin butter. I tried harvesting apples from a local tree, but most of them were out of reach, so… we’ll see what we can add to my three apples + a couple of crab apples. They may end up in a green-tomato chutney (ft mustard and black pepper for heat), or else just baked into some kind of freezer-friendly cake recipe.
 
I’m feeling the need to rush, right now. Like I should be harvesting bouquets of grape leaves and dandelion greens and chard (my chard is finally starting to take off, can you believe it. Autumn plantings for the win, I guess?) and putting them up in the freezer so that we’ll have plenty of greens frozen for over winter when the imported stuff is soooo expensive. Like I should be buying as much yellow zucchini as I can get my hands on and putting it up in pucks so that we have something other than root veggies to draw on in January and February. Like I should be making (more) vegan sage pesto for the freezer and drying basil and Greek oregano in the dehydrator. And I should. I should be outside with a bowl, right now, cutting rhubarb stalks and yellow chard fronds and ripe, skinny eggplants off the gorgeous plant that finally started heavy-producing when the drought broke (I have a blowl of ripe baby-tomatoes and purple beans sitting on the counter already). I could do a nightshade heavy meal with added white beans and some of last year’s salsa on top of the left-over beefheart and quinoa slow-cooked dinner I made on Thursday,and it would feed the four (we have guests this weekend) of us quite nicely.
 
My wife, her GF, and our two guests are off canoing this afternoon. I begged off because I’m down with a head-cold and the idea of spending a windy, chilly autumn day on the water seemed like a less-than-wise way to go. So I’m home, writing about seasonal changes and plotting what to do with my garden’s bounty before the frost knocks it all down for another year.
 
The cross-over into Root Time is only a few weeks away at this point. The days are noticeably shorter than they were not that long ago and, now that the Equinox has (just barely) come and gone, they are shorter (only just) than the days are. I’m aware of all the Personal Growth I’ve been doing over the past six months, wondering how much of it would stick if I found myself trying to open my heart again to another unknown quantity.
I read a blog post the other day that asked “What are you afraid of being”, and the answer is: I’m afraid of being crazy.
I’m afraid of being in that space of spiraling anxiety and hyper-arousal and constant doubt where self-soothing, for all that I do it as hard as I can, also feels like I’m gas-lighting myself, telling myself pretty lies that only make it easier for someone else to be careless with me.
 
I’ve spent most of 2016 trying to tease out the strands of what I can manage and control in terms of anxiety and boundaries versus what I can’t (other people’s feelings and behaviour) and how to tell when to pull the plug on something that isn’t feeding me. There is still so much I don’t understand, and I am afraid of being crazy if I try this again.
Miss Sugar recently talked about “the dark part of the forest“, the dark side of one’s own Glamour, and how her Glam is equal parts Glenda and Elphaba. Equal parts the charming femme escort who works the tropes of femininity so hard they break (to paraphrase Kathryn Payne) and the fierce, terrifying, single-minded “belle dame sans merci” – the femme who is written off as mad/insane because she’s sick of playing by the rules that say “want less and you will always have enough“.
Carrie’s post for this moonth’s Scorpio tarotscope, over at Siobhan’s Mirror, says “The door of your transformation has been cracked open, and it cannot be closed again“.
Has it? How do I trust that what my gut is telling me is true? That it’s neither wishful thinking & relentless hope nor the awful stories my anxiety, fear of abandonment, and generalized self-loathing want me to believe are true?
 
The Autumn wreath is on my door. I have a couple of butternut squashes (hallelujah!) ripening in the garden, more rhubarb than I know what to do with (no, actually, I totally know what to do with it), and some shorter-than-expected but hopefully proliffic jerusalem artichokes that I won’t need to harvest until my birthday roles around, shortly after Hallowe’en.
From now until the snow flies and the killing cold comes on the heels of the longest night, we’re in the season of the witch.
Time to tincture, time to brew.
What’s brewing for me?
Time (and my intuition) will tell.

~*~

Motion: Not nearly enough, but Plank every day is still happening, which is something.
 
Attention: Paying attention to the way I watch people’s body language, check-in a LOT when they look stressed/uncomfortable/distant, noticing how often this happens with masc folks in particular, and wondering how much of my over-performance of emotional labour relates to the genderedness of emotional labour (which is heavily fem(me)inized) and whether or not my fretful/soothing (freeze & please, mend & tend) reaction to someone else effectively Doing “Resting Bitch Face” While Masc is entirely a case of hyper-awareness around other people Being Displeased (which is, of course, my responsibility to manage…) or if it’s actually a reaction to someone “failing” to smiiiiiiiile or otherwise perform “everything’s great, and I’m engaged in the proceedings”… It’s a weird thought-process to follow, but at least I’m noticing it now.
 
Gratitude: Grateful for ripening squash. For a new-found urban fruit tree near my wife’s workplace (ish) that is ready for harvest (it miiiiight be plums?). For the chance to see Against Me perform in Montreal. For old acquaintances blossoming into friends who want to come for weekend visits, and for new friends making the time to get to know me. For the chance to share knowledge and canning techniques and recipes with people who want to learn. Grateful for the slow return of body responsiveness, too.
 
Inspiration: Necessity, in many cases. What do I do with a dozen ripe and over-ripe pears? What do I do with four stale cherry-chocolate-chip muffins? How do I stretch this grocery budget farther than I did last month? (Answer: Make a lot of cheap eggs-flour-milk desserts like pear upside-down cake and chocolate-custard bread pudding with pears, plus Add Beans to Everything). Beyond that? I’m reading Bill Pfeiffer’s Wild Earth, Wild Soul which… has some good stuff, I think, but which is also getting my White Hippie Side-Eye going pretty hard in a couple of places. His “Wild Earth Intensives” are a neat idea, but I’d like to see what I can do to rejig some of the techniques for a decidely urban landscape.
 
Creation: I’ve mostly been creating in the kitchen these days, cobling together recipes for sage pesto, pickled pie cherries, and a slasa that involves more dried fruit than last year’s did. Today, I’m finishing off a sweater (minus the trim, which I’ll get done over the next few weeks). Poetry Critique Group is approaching again, so I need to get on that with some new pieces.

Tomato-Peach (Nectarine & Apricot, Actually) Salsa 2016

Hey!
 
So today I started my tomato-canning extravaganza. Last year I tried to do it all in one go, and it was an awesome marathon that I did with an awesome friend. This year, I’m doing things a little bit more lightly (and late enough in the tomato year that I can get 20lbs of romas for $10 at the market – woohoo!) and processing one 20lb box per weekend.
 
Today, I did a little over 2L salsa (with another 4L(?) crushed tomatoes cooking down on the stove as we speak). I used last year’s Very Easy Crushed Tomatoes starting point and adapted the salsa recipe for what I had available.

Tomato-Peach Salsa

Start with ~2L Very Easy Crushed Tomatoes (or what I had in my 1-gallon pot after I’d cooked everything down to the point where it was thick, but not too-much-so).
Dice 1 small-medium yellow cooking onion and rough-chop 4 large cloves of garlic.
Pit and dice six ripe nectarines (you end up with about 3C of diced fruit – I went with nectarines because leaving the skin is much less bother).
Using scissors, snip 3 mild dried chili peppers (I used dried New Mexico chilies, but you could also dice up ~4 fresh jalapenos if you wanted to)
Crush up half a cup of dried tomatoes (which I had left-over from last year, and which will help to make the salsa nice and chunky)
Dice 8 dried apricots so that they’re nice and small (if you have LOTS of nectarines, feel free to skip this and add another cup of fresh fruit, but I wanted to keep some for fresh-eating + see above re: adding dried stuff will help things to thicken and be Nice And Chunky)
Add everything to the crushed tomatoes and mix until well incorporated
Add to the mixture: 1.5 tbsp dried cilantro, 1.5 tbsp dried basil, and 0.5 tbsp dried red chili flakes
Cook down (over low heat, otherwise it will totally scorch to the bottom of the pot) until the mixture has thickened up nicely
While the salsa thickens, sterilize some pint jars. I used a water-bath this year
Into each pint jar, add: 1 tbsp vinegar, 1 dried very-hot chili pepper (I used dried Arbol chilies, but you could use fresh Thai/Bird chilies if you wanted to)
Pour/ladel salsa into hot, sterilized jars
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 15-20 minutes
Pull the jars out of the bath and let them cool (listen for the that tells you they’ve sealed properly)
 
Makes 4.5 PINTS or a little over 2L. I probably could have stretched this to 5 pints if I’d added another diced nectarine, another half-cup of crumbled dried tomatoes, and another (small) onion, but c’est la vie.
 
 
~*~
 
And there you have it.
I use my salsa for dipping chips (duh), but I also use it in place of diced tomatoes when I want to do a nice, thick ragu – add some curry powder & cinnamon/nutmeg + left-over meat and/or tinned beans and serve it over rice.
 
Enjoy!

New Moon – Apple Moon Begins

I harvested pears today.
 
My over-the-fence neighbour has a big pear tree in their back yard. The kind of thing they might have planted 40-odd years ago, as newlyweds. This year – probably due to the drought conditions – a big branch broke part-way, and ended up hanging low over the fence into the yard I share with my heavily-gardening neighbour (the branch, I though, was semi-supported by her enormous squash-trellis, though that may not have been the case after all).
 
Anyway. I talked to the pear-tree neighbour, and then I talked to the squash-trellis neighbour, and then my wife got her ladder back from a friend, and today I picked as many pears as I could reach (not actually that many – maybe 6-7 dozen?) and, after dropping 2 dozen off with the squash-trellis neighbour (the pear-tree neighbour had assured me that they had more than enough on their side of the fence and happily invited me to harvest what I could reach), I chopped up most of the rest and put them through the food processor.
 
2/3 of the puree are bubbling away in my slow-cooker, and the remaining third will be doing the same thing, this time tomorrow. It’s all being made into pear butter (with a little bit of nutmeg, some balsamic vinegar, and some maple sugar thrown in). I don’t know if I’ll get any apples for making apple butter, so having this on hand is pretty great. YAY for free food!
 
Also in the realm of opportunisit harvesting, I’ve got a lot of choke cherries (and choke-cherry purree) in my freezer, which will be used to make at-home preserves, but may also be incorporated into a chokecherry-chutney-based canning workshop that I might (fingers crossed) get to run for local queers. I hope so. (If not: more chokecherry preserves for me. I don’t mind).
Likewise, I’ve got half a dozen one-cup jars of crab-apple jelly in the cupboard, after picking crab apples across from the laundromat last week. I’m inclined to make another batch but stick a dried chili into each jar, because I think that would taste pretty swell.
 
So! New Moon! Solar Eclipse! Mercury in Retrograde (again…)!
Chani says that now is a big time for Scorpio-me and my friendships – some of them are growing, some of them are kick-starting, some of them are coming out of the woodwork (and some of them aren’t), and tells me (here, and in my Cancer-Rising) that I need to honour the in-between and “trust the ebb and flow of connections” which… that’s pretty accurate, actually. I’ve been having a wonderful spate of connections-with-new-friends and reconnections-with-pre-existing-friends, and I am loving it. I feel “popular”, if you can believe it. Which is weird, and I kind of don’t want to jinx it? I’m hoping I can keep building these relationships because…
 
…Because I have a weird (or, y’know, not weird…?) habit of self-isolating and thinking that I’m less likely to get hurt if I’m “on my own” and I’m noticing that, hey, just because I’m not frantically chasing after an emotionally unavailable partner or spending hours of my time trying to work out what their unspoken rules are just so I can maintain a relationship with them… that doesn’t mean I’m “on my own”. Quite the opposite.
What it does mean is that I’m not exhausting myself and have space and time to build and strengthen relationships that are based on mutuality and that are with people whose interests and passions and values overlap my own to a noticeable degree.
 
It’s pretty fucking great.
 
Which is not to say I don’t still spiral and spin my wheels when a new friends unexpectedly drops off the map. All of that “honour the in-between” stuff is something I have a hell of a time doing. My Life Coach is fore-warning me that Step Three is probably going to be All About the Boundaries[1], and managing All The Feelings around those abbs and flows and uncertainties is very much on my “things to learn” list because I’m very, very bad at.
So, yeah. Chani’s Scorpio scope is feeling pretty spot-on right now.
 
Corina, over at Autostraddle, asks me (and all you other Scorpios) which secrets it’s time to share, and points out that “what you decide to share can help you feel lighter, freer, and much closer to the ones you share them with”. (See also: Brené Brown’s whole “shame thrives in secrecy” stuff). I’m digging into my brain and trying to root out the stuff I want to let go of. Easier said than done.
 
So many of my friends have been commenting that they can feel Autumn in the air. Autumn is the season of cups. Even if we’re not there yet – still in the slightly manic sprint of canning all the things, and slightly giddy with the abundance all those gleaming jars and packed freezer-bags imply/display – the nights are getting longer and cooler and I can smell the Gathering In on its way. We may be in Fruit Time right now (and I am trying to get out dancing as often as possible while I still can!), but Root Time – with its introspection and icy roads – is coming. What kind of stuff is going to come bubbling to the surface of my internal swamp as the temperatures drop?
 
I’ve had three (or more) weeks off from my wife’s workshop – an unexpected vacation that is about to come to an end Big Time – and I’ve been socializing and going to writers’ groups and all sorts of things. It’s been wonderful. I hope I can keep it up once I’m back to making harnesses a couple of days a week (you’ve got to wonder about my time-management skills, if two days of work per week puts such a crimp in my creative output, social life, and home-making projects…). Fingers crossed.
 
This year’s tomato-canning marathon will probably be chopped into 2-3 weekends, rather than doing a 2-3 day sprint all at once. Salsa, crushed tomatoes, and sauce, with an emphasis on the first two. Maybe some pickled cherries while I’m at it. I’m excited – of all things – to do the repetitive tasks involved with a heavy run of canning. Keeping my hands busy (knitting does the same thing, so does prepping harness webbing) frequently results in a poem or two percolating away at the same time, and I’ve got high hopes for the next chunk of “How to Cook a Heart”.
 
Harvest season is very much upon us. My house smells like pears and nutmeg and maple sugar. I have books to read and people to geek out with about them. My wife and I have new bedsheets (among other things). Life is pretty amazing.
 
 
~*~
 
Motion: There has been a LOT of walking lately (my hips and feet are sore as a result). Also body-scan exercises that, while not exactly “motion” in the sense that I was thinking when I started writing these prompts, are definitely meant to get me into my body. So far, so good? I think?
 
Attention: Trying to spot my spirals before they start (or at least before they start getting out of hand). Reading She is Sitting in the Night (Oliver Pickle, Metonym Press), which is a Little Book that offers a reinterpretation of Thea’s Tarot – the whole idea is that this piece of actively queer tarot (that is a product of its time) is being re-understood by someone a generation later (this second interpretation is also a product of its time). It’s neat to read a Little Book for a tarot deck I don’t have. It’s one more angle on the cards, one more scrap to add to my mental collage of what each of the cards means.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for scary-but-necessary conversations with my wife (and ensuing changes that are working out quite nicely, thanks). Thankful for awesome people who want to hang out with me (who knew?). Thankful for folks who return emails/messages/etc quickly, because I find that very validating. 😉 Thankful for free pears from the neighbour. Thankful for free fruit on city trees. Thankful for a poetry-critique group that had suggestions for how to fix my poems (YAY!). Thankful for slightly cooler temperatures and LOTS of overnight rain falling (and the four butternut squashes that are just, juuuuust starting to develope-as-fruits on my squash vine).
 
Inspiration: Using (or continuing to use) the suit of Earth as a skeletal structure for poetry. I’ve been diving deep into tarot meanings, trying to get my head around how the fours (or the sevens, or the nines) work together and complement each other (and related to the corresponding cards in the MA).
 
Creation: See above. Poetry comes. Not easily, necessarily, but the struture is helping. So is having a critique group to go to every three weeks – it means I need to come up with two new poems (and polish them) every three weeks, and it helps to have the deadline.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Boundaries 101 = Where I start and You have to stop. Boundaries 201 = Where YOU start and I have to stop. Boundaries 301 = How to handle it (gracefully and ideally with as little grief as possible) when there is a gap between where I stop and where You stop, and I want to close the gap and You don’t and how do I stop offering you every damn thing when you are not stepping up and matching me? Yeah… Boundaries 301 is not something I’m good at, at all

Eat From the Larder 2016 – Week Four (+ Month-End) Wrap-Up

Happy Beltane!
Unlike in previous years, I haven’t been celebrating by going out and stocking up on dry goods and not-so-dry goods from the grocery store just yet. Why? Because we still have tonnes of food. As such, I’m trying to hold off on the restock until I’m ready to do the Big Shop wherein I also buy half a dozen bags of soil from the grocery store garden centre (I’ll be getting thingd delivered anyway, so why not get a LOT of groceries at the same time?)
 
As I alluded to in my Week Three post, there wasn’t a whole lot of Eating from the Larder happening during Week Four. I bought popsicles. I bought a burito. My wife and one of her other partners and I went out for pizza and gelato because it was sunny out. I also used on-hand root veggies, the last of the winter squash (which I bought in October, y’all – Butternuts are AMAZING keepers), a variety of frozen veggies, a few tins of beans, a little dried fruit, and some home-jarred tomato products to make dinners on other evenings. Stew featuring a mix of meat and legumes + a mix of veggies and occasional fruits (and anything I can add to impart a smokey flavour – NOM!) will continue to be a Thing in our household. I used left-over pork ragu mixed with leftover burrito filling and some extra pre-cooked black beans + rice to make a super-fast, marvelously tasty stew last night (technically May, I realize).
 
One thing I’ve noticed (or haven’t noticed) this year is that, unlike last year, there’s not a significant rise in bank savings over the course of the month. Part of that is that I’ve been temping for three months (and covering 100% of the rent for a significant portion of that – though not for May) so the money levels are different from what I’m used to looking at. The other reason, though, is that we’ve been eating from the larder, in a fairly significant way (though not as big a way as during April) for most of the past year. Either getting the majority of our veggies from the garden (the rhubarb and Vietnamese garlic are up alrady, fyi, with the strawberries and sage coming along on their heels) during Summer and autumn, or else using home-jarred and home-frozen stuff over the winter. Our meat (aka: Francis the Pig) arrived, for the most part, a year ago and, even though I’ve also bought turkey, beef, duck, fish, and chicken occasionally through the past year, our groceries were paid for “up-front” in a way that they never had been before. Given how tight our budget has been since last Summer, when my lovely wife started up the Ottawa Leather Works and stopped (for the most part) working outside of her own business, I have to say a big Halleluiah for that one, since I know our usual grocery bill, pre-garden, would have been around $200/month and, instead, we’ve been able to put that towards heating bills and similar.
 
Take-aways from this year’s Challenge:
1) Praise the garden (and the forethought that goes into all that canning)!
2) Variety remains the spice of life
3) Make more salsa[1]
4) Baking bread in triple-batches and freezing 2/3 might be a good practice to get into. A lot of the bread went moldy (this is a common problem), and I’d like to avoid that happening in future, but also it’s a big help to have pre-made bread on hand when you run out and (a) the kitchen is a filthy mess with no counter-space, and/or (b) you are sick and trying to avoid spending effort on anything but getting well again.
5) Ditto for freezing stuff like waffles[2], pancakes, muffins, savoury scones, and other snacky baked goods.
6) We are still eating about a pound of cooking cheddar per week. I don’t see that changing any time soon.
 
So there you have it. The Eat from the Larder Challenge is over for 2016. Sit tight, as the garden-garden-garden posts will be starting up in short order.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maide
 
 
[1] Strictly speaking, I make limitted amounts of this due to there being someone in the family with allergies to peppers and pepper-derived spices, BUT said person lives in Toronto at this point, and so isn’t around as often as she used to be. Next summer, I will (probably) make more tomato-peach salsa and (slightly) fewer jars of herb-infused crushed tomatoes (plain crushed tomatoes, on the other hand, remain a major staple).
 
[2] I love waffles, but our waffle-iron has a teflon coating, and that will kill our little birds very quickly if it gets too hot. I would really like to replace our waffle iron with one that has real, cast-iron plates. (Or, y’know, just replace the plates on the one we’ve already got. That would be even better!)