Tag Archives: gardening

Rhubarb Curd 2019

It’s SUMMER!
The sun is bright, the breeze is a huge relief, and we’ve been having thunder storms!
My squash are already flowering! Woohoo!
It’s hot! It’s humid! What better time to boil 3 gallons of water at a time and make preserves? 😀
 
I know, right?
 
But I’m doing it, anyway.
As per usual, we’ve got a tonne of rhubarb and, in the interests of getting our garden to feed us just a little bit better every year, I harvested an armful of it (not reeeally an armful, but a sizeable bouquet none the less), stewed it with a little water (and no sugar – yet) with the goal of making a LOT of rhubarb curd.
Rhubarb curd being the rhubarb version of lemon curd, obviously – you use pureed rhubarb instead of lemon juice and you get a sweet-and-tangy, super-rich preserve that can be readily turned into a cream pie later on in the year, when the thought of baking things is horrifying to contemplate.
 
Anyway. This recipe is for a (relatively) large batch and, using the equipment I have in the kitchen, it takes two mixing bowls AND two pots, outside of the huge one I use as a canning bath (and/or for making crushed tomatoes and salsa). If you’ve got multiple vast, deep bowls and pots, you can do this with fewer receptacles involved, which does make things slightly easier, but if you’re like me… just make sure you separate things from the get-go rather than trying to figure out “three eggs by volume” once it dawns on you, mid-way through a dozen-and-a-half eggs, that you’re not going to be able to fit all of this in one pot.
 
And now, the recipe:
 
~*~
 
 
Rhubarb Curd 2019
 
INGREDIENTS
2C + 4C rhubarb puree, separated (this starts as about 12C raw, diced rhubarb + a little bit of water)
2C + 4C sugar, separated
1C + ½C butter, separated
+
1C + ½C sugar, separated
12 eggs + 6 eggs, separated (as in 12 whole eggs in one bowl and 6 whole eggs in another)
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Sterilize 8 pint jars (+ lids) in the biggest canning pot you have
 
In a BIG pot AND a sauce pan combine the rhubarb puree, butter, and sugar (bigger amount goes in the bigger pot, etc)
 
Start heating it (on low, so the sugar doesn’t burn), and let the butter melt, while stirring occasionally
 
In two bowls different-sized mixing bowls, blend the heck out of the eggs and sugar (bigger amount goes in bigger bowl, etc) – I use an electric hand-mixer to do this
 
Once the butter is melted in the rhubarb mixture, and everything is well-mixed:
Add the egg mixtures to their respective rhubarb mixtures, and blend on LOW with the electric mixer until things are well-incorporated
 
Increase heat to medium
 
Stir each pot occasionally, to keep the sugar from burning to the bottom, cooking until the mixture is good and thick AND the colour has changed slightly (it will look a little more opaque)
 
Pour into sterilized pint jars
 
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes
 
DONE!
Makes ~8 pints.
 
 
~*~
 
NOTE: You can replace the 6C rhubarb purree with an equal amount of choke cherry or cranberry puree if that’s what you’ve got and/or you want to make a curd that is a rich purple OR a bright pink colour. Rhubarb curd ends up being kind of beige… Which is fine, just not too fancy-looking.
 
My biggest pot will fit seven pint jars, so I sterilized seven jars and put the remaining 8th pint worth of finished curd into two clean 1C jars, which have since gone into the fridge. (The ones in the water bath have another 10 minutes or so to go).
 
The plan is to use one of those 1C jars to make yoghurt pops… once we run out of ice cream and/or when it’s time to take another loaf of bread out of the freezer to thaw. (We don’t have an ice cream maker – though that’s something we’re looking at doing fairly soon – but I’ve got a popsicle mold and I know how to use it. 😉 )
 
 
Other stuff I’m doing in the kitchen:
 
Steaming and freezing greens – specifically radish and mustard greens, so they’ll be on the bitter side, but at least I remembered to label the bags this year, which should be an effective way to remind myself to go easy on the bitter greens when I’m making stews.
 
Making rhubarb-mint simple syrup (it mostly smells minty, tbh, but we’ll see how it does) for cocktails
 
Drying raspberry leaves – and, in the near future, feverfew – for over-the-winter teas
 
Making rhubarb-mint iced tea (usually with some additional herb – anise hyssop, raspberry leaf, and creeping charlie have all made appearances) with a little honey in it, just to have on hand
 
Attempting to make “cooking wine” out of frozen “grape punch” from concentrate… It’s… okay? It’s was still a little sweet for cooking with, when I decanted it into a clean bottle and chucked it in the fridge, about two weeks ago, but hopefully what’s left of the yeast will make short work of that, and I’ll have a flat, sugar-devoid, complexly-flavoured thing that I can use in dressings and marinades and (eventually) soups and stews, without having to have shelled out for Actual Wine.
 
Trying to Eat More Vegetables – and relying on hothouse bell peppers and greenhouse tomatoes & cukes to do that, still, even though the garden is giving us heaps of herbs and I landed some field zukes from the grocery store this morning. We’ve been eating somewhat vegetarian meals around here for the past week – if only because it’s easy to cook enough chick peas and quinoa to fill a liter tupperware (respectively) and then just keep them in the fridge and add veggies and cheese to the mix. Tonight I think there’s going to be a pasta salad with tuna in it, though, because variety is a wonderful thing.
 
 
Anyway. That’s what’s up with me.
TTFN,
Meliad, the birch maiden.

In Which I Talk At Length Climate Change and (Eventually) what “Eat Less Meat” Looks Like for a Household that is Not At All Vegetarian

Okay, kids. So here’s the thing. I’m freaking the fuck out about climate change. As I said to my lovely wife, this morning, I’m scared as heck about it and, while I’m taking steps to mitigate/reduce our households personal carbon/climate impact (more on that in a minute), I’m also painfully aware of exactly how little that will actually accomplish in the grand scheme of things, and how little the people who can actually effect the kind of nation-scale sweeping changes that will Save Us All are willing to do (because it will piss off their donors and threaten their hold on political power and high salaries, basically).
And I’m freaking out.
My wife said, basically, that she thinks it’s going to go like: The shit is going to get very real, very fast (…more so than it is already?) and then there are going to be some very big changes that happen extremely quickly – like Emergency Measures Act quickly.
And… I don’t want it to go that way.
I want to to be going that way NOW, when there’s still a few years of buffer to make those big energy transitions a little less bumpy.
I want my legislators to actually fucking legislate rather than approving oil pipelines that poison the ground, destroy native territories (acknowledged and unacknowledged, you guys), and put literally everything we rely on for survival at risk.
 
I want to see building codes updated across the country so that every new suburban (or otherwise) housing or industrial development has to basically be wallpaper its roofs with photovoltaic panels, and every new high-rise (apartment, office or mixed use) has to come equipped with a load-bearing green roof planted with wind-pollinated crops – wheat, corn, barley, rye, oats, for sure, but also stuff like super-dwarf chestnut, walnut, and heart-nut trees and hazelnut/filbert bushes. I also want to see requirements for extremely efficent insulation, passive solar heating-and-cooling, and the escape from reliance on Air Condition to keep offices and apartments comfortable during the summers, because that will reduce both HFCs (used in fridges, freezers, and A/C units) and the fuel requirements for heating our homes and workplaces during the six or seven months of the year when we need to have the heat on.
I want to see oil rigs and refineries and nuclear energy phased out and wind farms and solar farms phased in, and phased in QUICKLY.
 
I want to see cities adopting biochar as a way to deal with their carbon-based waste (everything from the plastic that lines tin cans & the paper-and-plastic mix of those damned window-envelopes to polyester rags & mixed fiber clothes, to human and animal poop, to grease-saturated cardboard pizza boxes, to kitchen compost) to produce both (a) enough methane to run its own water treatment plants plus, ideally, enough extra to run every gas grill currently relying on fossil fuels[1], while also (b) sequestering a huge volume of carbon in the resulting charcoal which, (c) happens to also be usable as a hell of a good soil amendment thanks to it being made out of bones and coffee grounds and human piss and kale stems and dry leaves and grass clippings and dog strangling vine and giant hog parsnip and animal poop and a million other things besides just fucking wood chips (which… biochar made only out of wood? Is not the most useful thing on its own, and I gather it can be slightly detrimental in a situation where the soil is already pretty depleted).
 
I want the laws around agriculture in my country to require grass-feeding and grass-finishing for meat animals (like everything from small/”small” stock like turkeys, meat and laying chickens, rabbits, and cavias, to Large Black pasture-finishable pigs, to ostriches and emus, to beef cattle, sheep, goats, bison, and elk) AND for dairy-and-fiber animals (cattle, sheep and goats, but also odd critters like alpacas and llamas), and to more quickly outlaw things like battery cages (Canada is in the process of phasing these out[2]), farrowing crates, and finishing feedlots (CAFOs). I want our cattle farms – beef and dairy – to be contributing to carbon sequestration through “bio-mimicking” (rotational, “adaptive multi-paddock”) grazing[3].
 
I want to see flocks of chickens and turkeys, and even rabbits, in moveable hutches, grazing under the semi-shade of solar arrays (you can do this with sheep, too, but not goats – ’cause they like to climb – and not cattle, just because cattle are HUGE). I want to see dairy and beef cattle, Large Black pigs (and any other pasture-finishable breeds) chowing down on grassland under the graceful, if slightly noisy, dance of enormous wind turbines[4]. I want the transition of farms from single-crop to multi-crop AND (more to the point) to mixed veggies + grains + legumes + orchards + livestock + green energy harvesting, to be government-subsidized for a decade or two while people get the fucking hang of it. And I want a lot of Canadian farms to be OWNED and run by the same people who are doing the farm labour. I want to see Six Nations farmers and Jamaican expat farmers and southern-Scottish-extraction farmers (yes, I mean my relatives here), and Metis farmers. I want to see Japanese, Lebanese, and Somalian born farmers growing hothouse veggies and running mixed orchards. I want it all.
 
I want big companies like Loblaws and Canadian Tire (and whoever owns fucking Loblaws and Canadian Tire) to be FORCED to change up the packaging of their store brands so than random shoppers like me get to choose between the feel-good, actually environmentally ethical option of a 12-pack of TP packaged in flimsy cardboard sleeves (think cracker-box weight), a jar of mayo in a glass bottle, a kilogram of pasta in a non-glossy, biodegradable paper envelope and – tbh, I would legit take this, even if I’d want it to be the extreme minority option and only used for freezer-case items – polylactic acid (fermented cornstarch based) “bio-plastic” bags[5] of frozen veggies and perogies in the freezer case… or taking the petroium-plastic-packaged everything from a non-store brand. Because I think both the grocery stores AND the non-store brands would quickly find out exactly how happy random, distracted, grocery shoppers are to HAVE the option of Actually Not Horrible ready to go at their stressed-out, in-a-rush fingertips, and then everybody would get of the fucking bandwagon because they want our sweet, sweet consumer dollars and brand loyalty.
 
I want an affordable, electro-magnetic, green-energy-run bullet train that can shuttle me my place to Montreal, and then from Montreal to NYC, and then from NYC to DC, in a speedy six hours (with, okay, a one hour layover here and there, maybe, because I’d have to change trains at least once). Because even though it would take twice as long, and have a crappy effect on my back, hips, and knees, it would also take a mere one third of the time that the train currently takes, and I’d still get to see my girlfriend on the quasi-regular while having a lower carbon footprint (AND less exposure to radiation) than flying.
 
I want MASSIVE reforestation projects to happen, with an eye to both re-wilding AND sustainable logging, and I want them to be led and run by indigenous people in their returned-and-acknowledged territories. I want my country to work out something where we are actually paying indigenous people WELL for short-term logging rights in their territories and where we’re required to follow High Sustainability Practices, and hire a lot of indigenous people, when doing that logging. So that Canada, as a nation, can still have a logging industry, but it works very differently, and a whole lot BETTER, than the one we’ve got right now. Ditto any kind of mining.
 
…But you guys? I’m not holding my breath on getting any that stuff.
At least not outside of the “farmers of numerous racial and national backgrounds” part, because we already have at least some of that.
 
As this article from Forbes says, “We know what we have to do to avoid a climate catastrophe: eat a plant-rich diet, change our energy mix, electrify transport, [and] reverse deforestation.” But also: Educate girls, restore indigenous territories and land-stewardship to indigenous people (and follow their fucking lead), and capture refigerants (see above re: stop relying on air conditioning units and start using good insulation and passive solar for heating and cooling).
 
So what can I personally do?
 
As a renter, rather than a landowner? Not tonnes. I can’t switch my furnace from natural gas (fossil fuel) to a pellet-fueled wood stove with catalytic converter and a thermostat-run-hopper to feed it (still burning something carbon-based – pellets made of compressed coffee, sawdust, and other plant-based agricultural waste – but at least it’s renewable, plus the catalytic converter ups the efficiency, and lowers the particulate-based air-quality-destroying pollution of a wood stove by a very substantial margin). I can’t dig a very deep well and get some geothermal heating put in. (I’m not even sure I could do that if I owned the place, tbh). I can’t cover the roof in solar panels or return indigenous territories to their rightful stewards. As a single individual without a tonne of political power, I can’t reverse deforestation – beyond what I’m doing now, which is essentially guerilla orchardry, but which isn’t very effective over the short term – or up the availability of education for girls.
BUT.
I can – provided our income gets significantly better – switch our electricity provider to a company like Bullfrog Power which adds green energy sources to the ones supplying the power grid to offset (and, in theory, eventually replace) the not-so-green stuff that is currently the majority of our energy supply here in Canada.
 
I can continue to not have a car – Which, tbh, is not likely to be how this goes. I feel pretty conflicted about this because, on the one hand? Enormous growth in our household’s carbon footprint if we do this[6]. And I don’t want that. On the other hand? A car would give us some significant freedom of movement, buy my wife an extra 2-3 hours of personal time (time for sleep and time to interact with me and her other partners) every weekday, from November through to April, and the degree to-which that benefits her mental health, her physical health, and her relationships is pretty fucking huge. So she and one of her partners are looking at potentially buying a car together. I have no idea how to off-set this, other than through the whole “have one less kid than you were planning to” thing… given that we’re all child-free, that one’s a given. But this is definitely looking like a thing that will be part of our future, and a shared car is still a car.
 
I can continue to not have an air conditioner – though the fact that I have a chest freezer, even a small one, is also contributing HFCs to my environment. (I have not done the math on the difference in Emissions between keeping a chest freezer full of food that was locally grown and put up in season versus not having a chest freezer and buying fresh produce flown in from Argentina and New Zealand – or even just California and Florida – for six or seven months of the year, but I suspect I’m coming out smelling a little better in this, even with the HFCs taken into account). That being said I can also pay attention to what local, non-frozen veggies are available from hothouse producers here in (or very close to) town during the winter months and continue to rely predominantly on non-frozen veggies like long-keeping winter squash, beets, potatoes, cabbage, rutabaga, and parsnips over the winter, so that the freezer space I am using is being used efficiently.
 
I can Eat Local – whether that’s from the garden or the grocery store or a farm that raises pasture-finished livestock that I stuff into the above-mentioned freezer to use it efficiently. And I can grow/buy/forage fruit and veggies in season and freeze, water-bath-can, dry, and/or pressure-can them so that I don’t have to rely on imported frozen veggies from a grocery store (yep… those bags of kale and squash I was so enjoying this past winter were… mostly not from around here. Dammit), let alone the fresh-and-flown-in versions.
 
I can eat less meat – Yes, even though I don’t want to. And even though, as per the links about farming and carbon sequestration through AMP livestock grazing, a locally and humanely raised Large Black pig is a heck of a lot closer to carbon neutral than industrially raised barley and lentils trucked in from Saskatchewan, let alone almonds from California and quinoa from Bolivia, despite all that, I can still eat less meat.
 
Ugh. Okay. This is going to be a bit of rant, but bear with me.
Most of the times I read about “eat less meat” or “eat a plant based diet” it’s either people who are vegan, and want everybody to eat ZERO animal products (which… if it works for you, go to it, but I’ve been eating vegetarian food for most of this week – not even vegan, just no meat – and I’m hungry to the point of being shaky, even though I know how to combine fats, beans, and grains to get accessible complete proteins, and even though eggs don’t actually take that much thinking, so… given that this is always how vegetarian eating goes for me? Probably not the best plan for my body)… OR they’re writing to an audience of people who are so wealthy they can eat beef – like actual steaks – multiple times per week without having to think about it, because the articles in question literally say things like “Eating steak one less time per week will make a significant difference to your personal carbon footprint”.
Which… You’re not wrong. It definitely would. But I’m already eating close to ZERO beef per month, never mind per week, so what even are you talking about – looking at you, Michael Pollan – when you tell your readers to “eat less meat” because I think I’m already well over your particular bar on that one. /RANT
 
ANYWAY. Either way, the “eat less meat” people don’t seem to be talking about my lived experience or my body’s particular needs, so I get to kind of make my own way about this.
AS SUCH: What does “eat less meat” mean for me and my household:
 
It means getting half a hog all at once from one of those local, humane farmers, so that (a) most of our meat for the next two years will be coming from exactly one death, and (b) most of our meat for the next two years will be coming from within an hour’s drive of our home, and (c) most of our meat for the next two years will have had a decent life where it got be an Actually Piggy Pig and got to eat food that was good for it and didn’t spend any of its life in a shit-choked prison feeling nothing but despair.
On a related note, It means getting a couple of turkeys at Thanks Giving and relying on them for non-pork meat for most of the rest of the year. Those birds don’t get a good life. I’m not under any illusions there. But 2-4 of them in my freezer is slightly less blood and misery on my hands than a dozen+ roasting chickens, so… not less meat, exactly. But fewer lives.
 
It means making good use of those lentils and barley from Saskatchewan, but cooking them in bone stock and frying them in bacon grease, so that we get the flavour from meat[7], and – in the case of the stock, at least – some of that sweet, sweet bio-accessible protein, without relying on it for a substantial part of the meal’s calories.
It means taking a shot at growing grain amaranth in the back yard, and using that – plus those Saskatchewan red lentils and/or some milk (see below) – to provide the protein in a soup or stew, whether or not there’s bone stock and bacon grease involved.
It means buying the free run eggs even though they’re twice the price.
 
It means, since I know damn well I’m not going to stop relying on dairy, finding ways to get my milk (and cheese, and yoghurt, and ice cream, and, and, and…) from local sources, ideally ones that are humane and don’t involve completely screwing over the cows. Right now, that means I’m buying foodland ontario milk in plastic bags. But getting the organic milk in glass bottles – even though that basically means spending 4 times the money[8] – is a possibility. Most likely how this would work is I start switching from getting a gallon at a time to getting a 2L carton of “normal” homo milk at the beginning of the week, and then suplementing it with 1L glass bottles as needed. Not my favourite way to go, but definitely feasible. Once I’m (financially) used to doing it like that, I can (a) track how many glass bottles I’m getting on top of the 2L carton, and (b) start switching over to only getting the 1L bottles. This is sort of how I did it with organic fair trade coffee, so I think it would work with dairy, as well.
It means eating more organ meats and less muscle meats when we are eating meat that doesn’t come from that half a hog. This means a lot of chicken liver pâté (actually liver mousse) and marinated chicken hearts, I suspect.
 
It means making falafel patties and waldorf-esque or nicoise salads for summer dinners, and making hummus and “artichoke asiago” (or, more likely, leafy-greens-and-parmasan) dips to go along with the brie and blue cheese rather than (or in addition to, there-by allowing us to cut down on the serving sizes of) the dry sausage and liver mousse we usually have on our Wine And Cheese date nights. It means having thick-hummus-and-sour-kraut sandwiches as often as we have chicken/pork or cheese sandwiches for lunches. An “eat steak one less time per week” situation where “steak” is pork shoulder and shredded turkey.
It means eat more vegetables, meaning I need to aim for 3-4 servings of veggies per person (about 2C, cooked) per dinner, plus some pasta/whole grains/potatoes/bread… and then worry about Where We’re Getting Our Protein (which might be chickpeas, lentils, a tablespoon of parmasan cheese + 2 tablespoons of diced dry sausage, or a cup or so of shredded frozen turkey split between three+ servings of stew. Not “fewer meals ft meat” but “less meat per meal”.
 
It means, essentially, that my whole grocery bill (as opposed to just the coffee and chocolate parts of it) is going to double (but slowly – for a given value of slowly – as I have the liquid cash to actually do this) in order to lighten the burden my particular household’s food-ways place on our home. Ye gods, I am NOT looking forward to that.
But here we are.
 
Anyway. That’s my long, loooong post about Eating Less Meat and other things I can do to not wreck the planet (as much). Thanks for sticking with me.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Yes, I’m very aware that this is, in itself, not actually helping anybody’s climate change initiatives.
 
[2] We stopped manufacturing battery cages two years ago, but using them won’t actually be illegal until 2036. Dammit. Go get those free run eggs, folks!
 
[3] Yes, this kind livestock raising DOES result in more methane-due-to-animal-farts. But it also offsets 100% of that methane (apparently) through carbon-sequestration in the grasslands that are regenerated (and the root systems that get super deep because of it) through the frequent movement of the herds from one grazing area to another to another to another. You can find a blog post – with a related podcast – about it here.
 
[4] I live downtown within spitting distance of a highway on-ramp. They’re currently tearing up my nearest major intersection using a giant pneumatic hammer. Don’t @ me about the alleged health detriments of fucking wind turbines, okay?
 
[5] These aren’t ideal. Corn (or similar) used to make this stuff does contribute to the mono-cropping hegemony and, as we’re seeing with the demand for ethanol-based fuel for cars, frequently results in food-production land in The Global South being converted into fuel-production land for export… which leaves already-vulnerable and exploited populations that much worse off and more likely to face famine conditions. So, like… this is preferable to a sea of petrolium-based products, but it’s not ideal and I would rather we were able to come up with something like… I don’t know… Aluminum envelopes for frozen goods or something. I really don’t know what to do about this on an industrial scale.
 
[6] I did the math – some time last Summer, I think – and found out that, while we do have a motorcycle, which does put our footprint (as two adults) above the sustainable line per person… it doesn’t put it over that line by much. We could slide back under by replacing our last three incandescent bulbs with compact florescents, and by turning our heat down by two degrees celcius when the furnace is running. A car – even a hybrid or a fully electric one (and it’s more likely to be the former, tbh) – would squash that possibility entirely.
 
[7] My Traditional Foodways include getting a LOT of a dish’s flavour from ferments, including cured meat (such as bacon and dry sausage) and cheeses, as well as the more obvious wines, beers, ciders, vinegars, and various mustards.
 
[8] Seriously, I could get 3L organic homo milk DELIVERED to my door, in glass bottles… but it would cost me $21. Whereas a gallon of organic milk in a big plastic bag, would run me about $11 and what I’m getting right now is just shy of $6/gallon. That is a HUGE jump in price, and I’m balking at it pretty hard. Am I ready to spend $85+/month on milk alone? Because, right now, that’s more than a week of groceries. O.O

New Moon – Apple Moon Begins (New Moon in Leo, Partial Solar Eclipse)

Crab apples, Malus sp. - Photo by Jonathan Billinger - Via Wikimedia Commons

Crab apples, Malus sp. – Photo by Jonathan Billinger
Via Wikimedia Commons
Close-up of deep red crab apples, ready to be picked.


 
I may be jumping the gun a little here, but there have been ripe apples falling off the trees between here and the Redeau river for weeks, so even if the crab apples aren’t quite (quite) ready to be picked by the grocery-bag-full yet (I will be testing this theory tomorrow, while doing The Laundry across from a bunch of city trees, so we’ll see) I’m going to go ahead and call this one Apple Moon.
 
I pulled a LOT of quack grass (and some crab grass) out of the raised beds today. Also, gave the bolting mustard and icicle radishes a bit of a hair cut. I want the seeds, but I also want the volunteer cherry tomatoes and the kale (or is it collards?) and chard to have some breathing room and light access. So a lot of it is now drying (like hay? Ish?) on a bed of as-yet-unflowered new dandelion growth in the hopes that it dries down before I chuck it in my compost heap.
For my efforts, I managed to find one (1) beautifully ripe yellow cherry tomato and one (1) undersized striped zucchini. (I also harvested a very, very woody icicle radish which I slivered – along with shredding the more delicate greens – and added to my current batch of “wild” (ish) fermented veggies.
It’s a start.
 
The veggie ferment, btw, is now in the fridge. It was smelling Not Great – as in “smells like saurkraut is supposed to smell but… also with an over-layer of Ewwwwww” – and putting it in a cooler environment will help the Good Bacteria take over from the not-so-great bacteria in a timely fashion.
 
I’ve got four at-home days coming up, and my plans include doing laundry (finally!), harvesting crab apples and/or heirloom red-fleshed apples (hopefully! If successful: also making crab apple jelly and/or apple butter), setting up a new batch of yoghurt in the instant pot, and digging a lot of sunchokes out of the other raised bed (Thanks, helpful squirrels! I so appreciate the way you replanted literally ALL of those…) with an eye to pickling them in big chunks with some garlic, ginger, and mustard seeds. Maybe some bird chilies as well.
We’ll see how this actually goes though, as the week progresses. I’ve got poetry to submit, word-counts (novel) and further poetry to write, and a couple of things to mend as well, so. We’ll do what we can.
 
I’ve run into a bit of a problem with the yoghurt. I’m not sure if I’m trying to culture too much milk with only half a cup of starter, or if I’m not mixing the starter in well enough, or if I’m over-heating the milk initially, or if I’m waiting too long to transfer the yoghurt to the fridge (unlikely), but… I’m winding up with “thick milk + lumpy bits” rather than the relatively smooth, definitely cultured-all-the-way-through yoghurt that I was initially getting. I’ll take a look around the internet and see what’s what, but if anyone reading this is recognizing the problem and knows how to solve it, do feel free to leave me a comment on the subject.
 
My sourdough bread is… getting more like the kind of bread I want it to be. Which is a good sign. It’s still not as dry as I’d like it to be… I’m not sure if that means I need to cook it for longer, or let it rise in the fridge over night (my current suspicion is the latter), but things went relatively well the last time I made bread, and I didn’t use any “booster yeast” (1/2 tsp of bread yeast added to the initial sponge), so that’s a good sign.
 
My wife and I are going to visit the Twist Fiber Festival in Saint-André-Avellin next weekend. There will be demos. There will be a food tent. There will be art exhibits. There will be a “mini farm” (which… is that like a petting zoo? Or an animal expo? I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to finding out). There will also be vendors and pay-to-register workshops, which I will be avoiding because I have very little cash but a HUGE yarn stash (by my standards) AND access to youtube tutorials. But the plan is, in addition to taking a day-trip, to pick up some manure compost (and maybe some bagged mulch?) and cart it all home where it will sit and do nothing until the fall.
 
My wife and I were chatting about the garden this morning. About how the food forests that I day-dream about are honestly waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay beyond my current scope. My approach to gardening is mostly to ask “What grows here anyway?” and try to make the most of it, coupled with an attempt at planting things so heavily that the plants I want (like rainbow chard or “dazzling blue” flat-leaf kale or zucchini or winter squash or tomatoes, or, or, or…) overpower and shade out the plants I don’t (quack grass, crab grass… actually, that’s about it).
And that technique isn’t really working right now. So I’m starting (and ending up super out of breath… not a good sign) to weed my raised beds a little more intensively, in the hopes of preventing another wild-grass take-over of my food-growing spaces. Here’s hoping I manage to do some good.
 
Oh. I did, indeed, try mixing up a batch of rhubarb wine. Specifically, I took half a batch of my ginger beer, added 2C frozen diced rhubarb, and 1/2 tsp of bread yeast, plus some honey, and let it go for a couple of weeks. Just yesterday I racked it (sort of) and topped it up with a handful of chokecherries (that I mashed and pitted) plus honey, pomegranate molasses, some water, and 1/4 tsp more yeast. I figure I’ll let that sit for another week or so, and then rack it again and shove it into the back of the fridge to age (“age”) for a while. Based on the smell, I’m expecting something that tastes predominantly ginger-y but with lots of fruity undertones. Fingers crossed!
 
On the astrological front. It’s Leo Season. Everybody’s going “Look at me! Look at me!” on some level. Lammas, the first harvest, was a little over a week ago (or about two weeks ago, if you’re doing the lunar version), the nights are getting longer, though the days are still long (and hot), and Eclipse Season is in full swing.
The thing about quarter/cross-quarter days is that, because they happen roughly six weeks apart, they make for good points of reflection.
Liz Worth, who tends to talk about Eclipse Cycles – the multi-year dovetailing of eclipses that chase each other across any specific two signs at opposite points on the zodiac wheel (when the sun, and therefore the new moon, are in one sign, the full moon will be in the other) – recently brought up that Leo and Aquarius are both very creative signs, but that they’re creative in different ways. That Leo wants self-expression and the spotlight (freedom TO), but that Aquarius wants freedom FROM old habits/behaviours/rules that don’t apply or that hold them back. Maybe it’s no surprise that having eclipse energy (transformation a-go-go) in both of these signs, one of-which overlays Imbolg (a time of germination, stretching, hopefulness, and hidden/underground changes) and one that overlays Lammas (a time of reaping what you’ve sown, but also a time for sowing a second crop of short-season, cold-weather-loving seeds. In other words: Building new plans and projects in places where you’ve already seen some results), means feeling the push to make things (changes, projects, splashes) happen in your life.
 
What were you starting to work towards back in February? Now’s a good time to check in with where those projects are at. What kind of results have you been seeing? What do you need to turn under vs what do you need to tend better? What can you build from here-on-in before the Last Harvest at Samhain spins us back into the Root Time of resting and dreaming underground?
Liz suggests the intention/affirmation of “I am ready for my next step”, and offers a related tarot spread to figure out what that might be (it’s at the link, above).
 
Horoscope-wise: Jessica Lanyadoo, over at Hoodwitch, informs me that “There is strength in your willingness to move slowly and with intention, Scorpio”, and reminds me not to rush those changes unless I actually want to haul the same old garbage along with me into my next stages (which… not so much). On a related note, Chani offers this affirmation-scope: “What I am beginning now will grow over the next six months. I confidently pour my energy into what I want to bloom and become. I spend time developing the projects that most reflect my values.” Miriam, courtesy of Radical Tarot’s Tarotscopes, offers this bit of (awkwardly on-the-nose…) encouragement to Scorpios like me:

Oh Scorpio, it’s been a torrential few months. You seemed to be pulled back, dragged through the past, reminded of hurts and anger from several years removed. But even just the past few days have found you realizing that this was more a bow-and-arrow situation, necessary tension building to propel you further than ever before, quite specifically in the direction of hitting the mark where it comes to your passion. […] The magic is in your hands, and pushing past your need to pull away and be secretive will really allow all of this to spark, catch, and take blaze with truly dazzling effects!

 
Which I guess brings me to my Tarot Card Meditation:

The Lovers - Tarot of the Silicon Dawn (Egypt Urnash): Three colourful, femme sweethearts circle each other, laughing and playful together.

The Lovers – Tarot of the Silicon Dawn (Egypt Urnash)
Three colourful, femme sweethearts circle each other, laughing and playful together.


 
On top of being explicitly queer (both in the art and in the write-up), this is one of the most marvelously, deliberately polyamourous Lovers cards I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. I’m delighted to have drawn it for today’s meditation.
It is – as I’m finding a lot of these meditation random-draws are – remarkably relevant to current personal events, and also to that tarotscope from Miriam.
I pulled the card reversed – so this is about me and how I related to lovers-type situations. My relationship with my own desire. My relationship with my own sexuality. My ability to give myself permission to want, and ask for, and experience pleasure when there are other people involved.
I can’t help wondering how deeply this relates to the draw I did when Rampion Moon was full, about creatively engaging in my web of relationships by being willing to take some risks.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Hours of walking, some week-yanking (read: squating for 15 minutes at a time… urgh), but not much else. Plans for later this week to go apple picking in the neighbourhood and out near Mud Lake.
 
Attention: Totally absorbed by my friend’s recently-launched debut novel. Also paying attention to what veggies and fruits I can forage, harvest, and/or buy on-the-cheap-because-in-season. Brought home 3kg each zucchini and roma tomatoes, most-of-which will end up in the freezer, one way or another, for use in stews and pastas over winter.
 
Gratitude: Grateful for the rain that is still falling. For running water and a neighbour who lets me use her hose. Also grateful that said neighbour periodically hands us bags of snap beans or whole fuzzy melons from her much-more-prolific-than-ours garden. Grateful that I know what wild greens I can eat. Grateful for the apple trees that grow across from my laundromat. Grateful for upcoming work that has not been canceled (I had a bit of a scare last Friday but, while my next long-ish office booking has been shortened, I’m only losing two days, which is a BIG relief!). Grateful for a wife who loves me, and says so often. For a metamour who brings us corn on the cob and coconut oil and lends us her car so that her girlfriend (aka my wife) and I can go on day-trips together. Grateful for a second radish crop. For thriving rainbow chard (at last!). For my first home-grown zucchini EVAR and for the first tiny cherry tomato of my year.
 
Inspiration: The above-mentioned debut novel, and the woman who wrote it <3. A rejection letter from a paid market that was, none the less, very encouraging. My wife, who is quite the bad-ass and an astonishing wiz at fixing unfamiliar analogue machinery.
 
Creation: Making some progress on the spite-novel (aiming to make some more progress this Wednesday) and also on the knitted tank top. Made a batch of offering-candles today (beeswax + lard. We’ll see how they do). Plans to make some super-dangling rainbow earrings over the next few days as well.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad.

Fermentation Elation – A Productive Home Post

So! Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing, and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity. It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
There’s been almost no rain for the past month, which is not a great situation. The garden is looking pretty crispy, even in the back yard where I’ve been watering every day. Also, I’ve come to the conclusion that my soil is depleted enough that it needs some major-by-my-standards remediation. Meaning that – when the heat breaks, and provided I’ve got a spare $20 kicking around – I’m going to try seeding the non-garden parts of the yard with white clover in an effort to at least get some nitrogen back into the ground.
But, for now, I’m relying on my garden for herbs, greens (mostly “weed” greens), and rhubarb. Which is about as productive as it’s able to be right now.
As seen in earlier posts, I’ve been out collecting service berries (see below), as well as wild greens that don’t grow in my yard. But most of the productivity at our home is happening inside the house.
 

 
Inside the house, things are going quite well:
Earlier today, I blanched a bunch of grocery store zucchini (there are another 8 or so in the fridge yet to do) and put them in the freezer, in a silicone muffin tray. I also froze (on a cookie sheet) the last of the service berries, and transferred the latest batch of my fermented wild greens (a litre and a half!) to the fridge, in mason jars. Oh, and I re-bottled the cider that I started fermenting at Winter Solstice.
I put it back in the plastic jug, with a little more bread yeast and some maple syrup for food, to do a technically-third ferment, because it turned out VERY dry and VERY still, and I wanted something fizzier and a little bit sweeter to bring to my mom’s tonight.
Which, I guess, brings me to: I’ve been making booze.
Cider, see above, but also I started a batch of honey-wine a couple of weeks ago, just after Summer Solstice (as seems quite appropriate) and, while it’s a little more ginger-y and a lot less service-berry-y and rose-petal-y than I had been aiming for, it does smell like something I would actually want to drink. So I’m calling it a win. (Here’s hoping it still smells that good after it’s had six months to age in the back of the fridge). I also made ginger beer, which is marvelously fizzy, and which I’ve been drinking heaps of in the hopes of scaring off the sore throat I woke up with this morning. (Seriously… My body’s been kind of a weird barometer these past few months, so I’m hoping this is due to a major pressure change in the night, and not to me getting sick, and that we’re actually going to get some solid, steady rain. Which we badly need!)
I’m thinking I’m going to try making rhubarb country wine – maybe even rhubarb-chokecherry country wine – in another couple of weeks, around Lammas. My goal is to put up a bunch of tasty drinks that I can serve at my Winter Solstice party at the end of the year. 😉
 
In other fermentation news (apparently this is A Thing in my house, now): I’ve made two batches of sour dough bread. I’m still working out the slightly trial-and-error (in my case) process of figuring out how long to cook the stuff, but I’m thinking that third time will be the charm, and cooking it for about an hour and a half should result in some good, tasty, fully-cooked bread that is also easy to cut with a normal bread knife. (I over-baked it and ended up with a very thick crust which, sure, my wife thinks is great, but which I find tricky to do for stuff like sandwiches).
 
Anyway.
Right now? Right now, I’m preparing to do my first experiment in home-dyeing.
I’ve got black beans (which, in theory, will give me a nice blue) soaking on the counter and, on a shelf, I’ve got an old plastic ice cream bucket filled with a mix of water, vinegar, and shredded aluminum foil, in which I am soaking a cotton crop top that I’d like to make bluer than it currently is. (Currently, it’s a kind of faded, greenish pastel turquoise which, while okay, is not ideal).
In theory (in theory) the vinegar will leach some of the aluminum into the water and will mordant the cotton (the vinegar doesn’t really work as a colour fixative for plant fibres, though, I need to use salt for that) so that it will better take up the eventual dye, giving me both a more even AND deeper colour of blue. No idea if it’ll work, but it’s (probably) not going to hurt, so I’m giving it a go.
 
Oh. And I’m knitting a tank top. This is old news, but I’m starting to do the cabling (for shaping) and am knitting in the round and, while it doesn’t look like a shirt (or even a tube) just yet, it’s much closer to being a shirt than it was even ten days ago, so I’m happy about that.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Full Moon – Berry Moon Crests

On the left, a tall, 2L glass jar covered with a white and green striped cloth, half-full of beige glop (my sourdough starter). On the right, a blue ceramic cereal bowl full of ripe, dark blue service berries. In the background, the grain of a thick, wooden chopping board.

On the left, a tall, 2L glass jar covered with a white and green striped cloth, half-full of beige glop (my sourdough starter). On the right, a blue ceramic cereal bowl full of ripe, dark blue service berries. In the background, the grain of a thick, wooden chopping board.


 
The moon shifted into Capricorn today. My bee balm and day lilies are getting ready to bloom, the cherries are turning bright, lipstick red, and the service berries are RIPE!
I went out this morning and harvested a bunch – lots still not-quite-there, too, so (weather permitting) I’ll be able to go out again on Friday and harvest another litre or so.
Half of today’s lot (also about a litre) are in the freezer already, while the other half are pictured above in a cereal bowl next to my sourdough starter.
 
Which, also: I’m trying to do a sourdough starter again.
It’s… going better than last time, but… still kind of iffy? It smells VERY boozy, and there’s a pervasive scent of cooked broccoli that I originally thought was coming from the sourdough jar but which… might be coming from somewhere else. (Which is distressing in its own right… do I have a glob of rotting mustard greens somewhere in the kitchen that I can’t see?? Is there a dead mouse hiding somewhere out of reach? Ugh…)
Anyway. Regardless, I’m trying to do sourdough again.
Part of me is seriously going “Why? Don’t you have enough fermented stuff to look after?” Because being able to make bread in a couple of hours (as opposed to the 12+ hours it – in theory – takes to do sourdough once you’ve got a starter actually up and running[1]) is really nice. Especially for someone like me who routinely forgets to take things out of the freezer to thaw in a timely manner. >.>
BUT I’d still like to see if I can make this happen. I like the thought of having… I guess you’d almost call it a back-up plan? In case we have a tighter-than-usual month AND run out of bottled yeast at the same time.
Besides, the thought of being able to make, like, yeast-raised shortcake or yeast-raised coffee cake or whatever just kind of appeals to me. I want to give it a go. 😉
 
Anyway. As I said, I went out to pick service berries today. Chatted with a couple of old guys about them. (It’s funny, women almost NEVER ask me about them. They just notice what I’m doing and, if we make eye-contact, they give The Nod. But dudes? Every. Time). One of them told me about being born in the bush and how his parents would dig up wild horseradish and wild garlic, and said it was nice to see people still doing that stuff.
Which, y’know, was very nice to hear. I still don’t want to go visit him at his “house of the lord”, but hey. I assume he meant well by the invitation.
 
I’ve got a bit of a cucumber beetle infestation happening out on my squash crop – like ALL of them. Buttercups, zucchini, AND cucumbers. Not sure about the butternut squash, but it’s not flowering yet, so who knows. I kind of want to spray everything with soapy water, but I don’t even know if that will act as a deterrent or if I just have to go out there with a chopstick covered in something sticky and keep picking them off.
Alas, probably the latter.
I’m hoping that I still get some zukes and cukes and winter squash off my vines, though. Fingers crossed they everything gets pollinated and that the cute-but-desctructive baby squirrels stop eating the fruiting flowers!
Those motherfuckers.
 
ANYWAY. I have my first harvest of cilantro (a very few fronds) sitting in a mason jar vase in the fridge. I watered the garden today, even though it’s supposed to thunder down rain in short order (and I can see the clouds building from where I’m typing this), because they frankly needed the drink and a little bit extra isn’t going to hurt them. This is the point in the year when my micro-bio-region comes into its “yummy season”, as a friend of mine calls it. We’re still mostly eating just greens (and rhubarb, although that, too, is a leaf-stem, so…) from the garden, along with the occasional snow pea or radish root. I have no idea if any of the fruiting flowers on my squash plants have been successfully fertilized yet, so I’ll have to wait a bit and see. And/or start hanging out in the back yard around 7am with a makeup brush and doing the bees’ duty for them, which might work. But here’s hoping for a fruitful fruiting season in my back yard and beyond!
 
With that in mind, I did today’s tarot card meditation, by pulling two cards and asking myself “How can I cultivate more abundance in my life?”
 
The Chevalier of Swords and the Nine of Swords from the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn.

The Chevalier of Swords and the Nine of Swords from the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn.


 
I have to tell you, I was not expecting to pull a couple of swords out of that deck.
The suit of swords is the suit of air. Of thought processes, “old tapes”, black-and-white thinking, logic, and decision-making.
So my first reaction – or maybe second… after “Wuh??” – was “Oh. Change your thinking“.
If this is a “Who do I need to be? How do I need to be?” duo (I thiiiiiiink that’s one of Asali’s practices, but I might be mis-remembering), this is how it goes:
 
The Knight of Air is decisive. Sometimes that means she flies off the handle, sees enemies everywhere, or springs into action based on the lies in her head, rather than the truths or the facts. Other times, she’s the opposite: Witty and clever, but thoughtful enough to put her feelings on a shelf rather than letting them lead her all over the place.
If “who I need to be” to cultivate more abundance in my life is the Knight of Swords, I think I need to be the second version. I know I tend to get sucked into scarcity thinking and I routinely have to remind myself, when I’m having a hard day emotionally, that no, actually, the story in my head is WRONG and I do, in fact, have friends, have people in my life who love me and check in on me and will support me if I need it.
 
Which brings me to the Nine of Air.
This card has come up before. It’s the “Lying awake at night, can’t sleep for worrying” card. A card about betrayal. A card about “Everything is awful and I don’t know what to do”. Cristy C Road says, of this card, “Rest and grieve, but stay alert to old fears grabbing at your mind. […] Let vulnerability be your strength”.Egypt Urnash – who did the art and the write-up for the deck I drew these cards from – says “take help when it’s offered”… (there may not actually be enemies everywhere).
If “How I have to be [the knight of swords]” is the nine? I think that means I have to allow for some tenderness, some feelings. Be logical, but don’t cut yourself off from your emotions. Think things through, ask “where is this coming from”, rather than assuming that the thought you’re spiraling on is the only accurate way to look at a situation. Recognize when you need a hand (and when one’s being offered), rather than being arrogant/perfectionist about Doing It All Yourself (or having to).
 
~*~
 
Movement: Ha. Well, I spent a couple of hours walking slowly around the neighbourhood, bending fruit-heavy branches down to where I could reach them, and harvesting berries. So that’s definitely some movement going on. Beyond that, there’s been some garden-tending including putting up a trellis for the cucumbers to climb (so far, they’re barely noticing it, but I keep re-directing them and hopefully they’ll grab hold soon) and turning the compost again.
 
Attention: A lot of my attention has been focused on the living things around me. Checking the cukes and zukes for cucumber beetles (and crushing those little bastards), watching the service berries for signs that they’re ripe enough to harvest. Squinting at my sourdough starter, stirring it up, and squinting again, wondering if I’m actually seeing signs of bubbly life or not.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for a garden that feeds us. For a city that decided “Hey, these fruit-producing trees thrive on neglect! And the birds will eat the fruit, so we mostly don’t have to clean up after them, either! Yes! Let’s plant them everywhere!” and planted a lot of food trees in my neighbourhood. Thankful for long-time clients who hire me for week-long bookings that allow me to pay the rent during the summers, when work is kind of scarce. Thankful for a wife who talks me through panic. Thankful for being able to sleep for eleven hours when I needed to. Thankful for tomatoes forming on the vines, and for the friends who gave me their extra tomato plants in the first place. Thankful for the smell of roses. For the peony my friend gave me years ago, and for it finally blooming (first time ever!) a couple of days ago. Thankful for light but steady rain. Thankful for the enormous double rainbow that lit up the sky last weekend (Happy Pride, people who aren’t in Ottawa). Thankful for small birds and art and hot baths and massage bars. Thankful for friends who want to hang out. Thankful for easy strolls to the park with my wife. Thankful for the smell of dill and cilantro and garlic scapes (all recently picked in the garden) clinging to my hands.
 
Inspiration: Re-reading Cooked by Michael Pollan is definitely what inspired me to try making a sourdough starter again. Beyond that, I’ll be attending a book launch tomorrow (Thursday) evening, and feminist writers’ panel discussion on Saturday night, and I fully expect both of those to be inspiring as heck. I’ll be bringing my notebook. (And also money for poetry books).
 
Creation: Picked up my knitting again. I’ve almost got all the stitches for that cotton tank top picked up, so soon I’ll be in the wonderful spot (again) where all I have to do is Knit For Ever and I’ll eventually have a shirt. (I mean, okay, yes, there’s going to be some cabling in there and some increases that I’m hoping to make look a bit like something lacy (hahaha), and holes for something like sleeves (not actual sleeves, but… ish). ALSO! I started playing around with some ideas for a YA novel. Which is, tbh, basically “spite fic”. But it’s 4000 or so words of magical baby-queer dream-woo spite fic, already, so I’m going with it. Also, while this isn’t exactly “creation”, I have been sending out poetry submissions to various magazines – I’ve got one or two more to do in the next couple of days, mind you – and I’m proud of that. Onwards!

Full Moon – Melt-Water Moon Crests (Spring Equinox, Venus in Taurus)

I’ve been Spring Cleaning.
To some extent anyway.
I talked on twitter, the other day, about turning about turning the compost and the Ceremonial Piping On of The Manure from my childhood in New Brunswick. How doing that little bit of preliminary, seasonal garden maintenance was a sign that Spring had sprung.
I put the Solstice decorations away, that same day. Washed a lot of dishes. Noticed that the rhubarb was crowning.
Maybe it’s because Venus just moved into Taurus (the planet of material goods, sensuality, and beauty moving into the sign of Home, sensuality, tenderness, and all the pleasures life has to offer, whose ruler she is), or maybe it’s because it’s finally warm enough out to open the windows and let a breeze through the place, but my wife and I have both been feeling the call to Clean All The Things.
 
I’m relieved that the rent is in the bank, and has been since last week (good thing, too, since I didn’t have a lot of work booked for the second half of March), so I’ve been using the quiet days I’ve been given to putter around the house, slowly tidying and putting things away.
It feels like a solid week since I wrote a poem. That’s not a bad thing. Ebbs and flows are real and necessary. I feel like this is a recharging time, however brief it’s going to be.
We’re heading into Eat From the Larder Month, and getting the kitchen in order – especially with a week+ of full time work kicking off in a few more days – is a pretty high priority right now. Besides, getting the place a bit tidier – clean sheets on the bed, laundry done, lots of counter space to work from in the kitchen – is good for my brain. I’m already feeling more relaxed than I was two days ago when I started this little project.
 
It’s pretty cloudy out right now, so I can’t see much of the full moon. None the less – and even though the bath tub is still full of sheets[1] – I feel like I’m having a bit of a pause-for-breath moment right now. My wife is away for the weekend, visiting her partner who’s house-sitting for an out-of-town friend. I’m treating myself to a glass of shiraz and an indulgent read of a favourite piece of fanfic.
Tomorrow, there’ll be bread (and maybe muffins) to bake, kombucha to decant, vacuuming and sweeping up on the main floor, and an Easter dinner to get to at my mom’s place. But for now, I’m enjoying the quiet.
I’m also enjoying the different kind of creative that comes with home-keeping. The methodical rhythm of making yeast dough, cooling green and hibiscus teas for the kombucha, slow-roasting veggies in the oven, meal planning, putting books back on shelves, darning socks and knitting new garments one stitch at a time.
It’s like a reset button.
I know I can’t do this 100% of the time. Partly because constant entropy of Doing The Dishes feels more like drudgery than the in-and-out breath of a functioning kitchen. And partly because I need to make money (fingers crossed that Venus In Taurus will help me get some extra work booked for April, particularly on the Mars in Leo front, if you can believe it). But also because I need to take the gentle four-on-the-floor beat of a house’s steady heart and turn it into poetry, stories, crafting, the kind of creativity that produces something other than necessities.
 
With that in mind, maybe it’s not surprising that the card I pulled for my Tarot Card Meditation was the King of Fire.
 

The Creator (King of Wands) A bald person in flowing red robes holds a glowing energetic light between their hands

The Creator (King of Wands)
A bald person in flowing red robes holds a glowing energetic light between their hands


 
Otherwise known as the Mentor of Keys, the Visionary of Branches, and the Throne of Fire, the King of Wands is a glamourous artiste who dares to stand out and to stand by their creative work. Enthusiastic and innovative, this joyful, passionate art freak is bold enough (and vain enough) to take risks, take action, try something new, and put themself on display.
 
As someone who’s been making a point of submitting poetry to magazines for… four months now, this is pretty relevant to my interests. It’s a reminder to keep at that, keep working on my two in-progress manuscripts, and keep being brave and sending stuff out (without getting too demoralized when the rejection letters periodically come in).
The King of Wands is ALSO Venus in Sagittarius. Carefree, playful, happy to have built-in boundaries like geographical distance or time-bound scenes in place. This is also relevant to my interests, if only because my Venus is in Sagittarius (however-much I may act like my sun sign where the heart is concerned). It’s a reminder to play, to make time for dates with my wife and flirtations (that might or might not go anywhere) with new people.
 

~*~
 
Movement: The usual Walking Everywhere, a couple of modeling gigs that focused on Very Short poses (2 minutes or less, for 2+ hours… it’s like doing power yoga or something), but also the addition of Get Bendier stretches to my weekly routine. Monday mornings (usually) I do a few gravity-friendly stretches to help build core/lower-back muscle (like, more than just plank) and stretch the tendons in my legs. I’d like to try learning Areal Hooping (I picked that link because she’s tall… ish), and part of that means developing a little more flexibility in my legs than I currently have. Beyond that, I’m looking forward to going dancing a little over a week from now.
 
Attention: Generally speaking, I’ve been paying attention to the mess of my house and making an effort to un-mess it. It’s working, and I feel better because of it. Also, the fact that the rhubarb is coming up again has most-definitely not escaped my attention.
 
Gratitude: For the rhubarb crowning. For warm days walking with no mitts, my jacket open and my hair down. For discount foundation at the drug store. For a morning date with my wife before she left for her weekend away. For friends who will lend me gardening equipment that I don’t personally own. For lemon-pie flavoured yoghurt on sale at the health food store where I went to get yeast (twice, because I forgot the first time). For a strong body that can carry heavy loads home from the grocery store. For beautiful, beloved trans and cis baby queers being their wonderful, creative, resilient selves in the face of every hardship – you give me so much hope and joy. For a breeze from the open window. For clean sheets on the bed and clean dishes in the dish rack. For unexpected door prizes. For queer femme excitement and encouragement wrt my Femme Glosa Project. For a very full larder to draw on for the next month. For a patient landlord. For gig-employers who try to find extra work for me. For the rent already being in the bank. For the smell of humid, thawing earth, crocus leaves already poking through the topsoil. For quiet nights spent reading. For the chance to go dancing in big, fancy shoes. For a tiny bird, and a big lady, and a lot of friends who love me. ❤
 
Inspiration: I’m still working on femme glosas (hit 30 poems, not too long ago!) and attending VERSeFest on a night when two queer femmes – Kama La Mackerel and Rasiqra Revulva – were performing DEFINITELY helped on that front. I’m also working (still) on my moon-inspired chapbook, and trying to take honest inspiration from my own life, rather than being vague or trying to be “deep” or “shocking” about stuff.
 
Creation: See above, re: poetry. I’ve also finished the waistband of my eventual hand-knit thank-top/shell, and have started picking up the stitches for knitting in the round. I’ve got something like 400 stitches still to pick up, but I’ve technically started Part Two, and I feel good about that. I’ve also got Plans to make bread (and maybe muffins) and start a ferment of shiitake mushrooms (dried and reconstituted, to be fermented in salt water with thyme and garlic) tomorrow. It’s all creativity in some form or another. Wish me luck.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I finally got around to soaking some stained sheets in vinegar and salt water, which I’m hoping will help get them properly clean. Beyond that, I’m not sure what to do, since bleach isn’t much of an option for colourful stuff. Suggestions welcome. >.>

New Moon – Frost Moon Begins (Scorpio Season)

Hey, kittens,
 
Apple Moon crested just as Unholy Harvest was kicking off, and now it’s two weeks later and here we are. Over thanksgiving weekend, I was part of a Leather Covering Ceremony, hosted a bunch of lovely out-of-town guests, had a long heart-to-heart with a friend from south of the border, and (wait for it) baked two turkeys. One of them, I striped entirely for parts, and the other (while some pieces are now in the freezer as well) has been supplying our dinners with protein since it came out of the oven. Cash allowing, I’m going to do this again in late December, because having some pre-cooked, pre-shredded/diced critter in the freezer has saved us a LOT of trouble when everyone is hungry, including the cook, and there’s not a lot of time or brains to pull something filling together.
 
Right now, the bones of those two turkeys, plus a couple of chicken carcasses and – I think – maybe a ham bone(?), are simmering on the stove to make what I hope will be an excellent, thick stock. I’ve also got my steamer full of diced eggplant (going in the freezer) and a bowl of green tomatoes waiting to be turned into chutney. (There was a rumour that the temperature was dropping to -3C last night, so I pulled all my tomato vines down. It doesn’t look like we got a real frost, BUT I don’t mind being that much closer to having the garden put to bed, so).
 
I had a bit of a zucchini emergency. Not the kind where you have too many and need to foist them off on your friends (alas! One day!) but the kind where you (meaning I) stock up on late-season summer squash just before the house-guests descend upon you (me), and then ignore them for two weeks, having left them on a shelf in their grocery bag, rather than putting them in your (my) already over-stuffed fridge. >.>
Four zucchini rotten enough to be poured into the compost heap.
Granted, four yellow summer squash are just fine, and all of the eggplant and garlic in the same bag is salvageable. BUT that’s why I’m freezing one-cup portions of blanched, diced eggplant right now, and making pickled garlic in the next 24 hours.
 
In less great news: I did not get the job I applied for. I was apparently a strong candidate, which is good to hear, but not the best fit. I’ll live. And, with any luck, something better will come along quickly. But right now – between the supply back-up at the harness factory and the teachers’ strike at Algonquin – my employment front is looking a little bit sparse. So, fingers crossed that the phone starts ringing soon. At least I picked up a new reception client, which is helping! 🙂
 
On the more Woo end of things:
I finally picked up candles!
I stopped making beeswax candles …a while… ago, because my wax-melting pot has a teflon coating, and teflon off-gasses something that will kill birds. And we have four little birds in our house, and I want them happy and alive. So no more candle-making until I find myself a cheap and serviceable steel pot with a spout.
I’ve been filling my candle tins with oil, most recently (I’ve also used bacon grease), but find that it tends to set off the smoke alarm. SO! I got a bag of big tealights that should do the trick in the mean time, and my gods will be a little bit better fed.
 
As I said in the subject-heading for this post, it’s Scorpio Season – or will be as of Sunday (though the new moon is, itself, moving from Libra into Scorpio this coming Thursday, and both Mercury and Jupiter are dipping into it already).
Chani suggests that this lunar cycle is a good time to “shake loose from our lives what keeps us out of balance” and urges us to “stay with the desires that may have been tucked away for fear of being judged, rejected or abandoned”.
Her horoscopes for me say:
Rising: “Creativity is its own reward. It is no means to an end. It is the entire journey.”
Moon: “I take the invitation to understand myself in new ways, envisioning new possibilities for my own resilience. Envisioning a new way of understanding how to utilize all have been given. Envisioning inventive ways in which to get my needs met. Meeting myself where I am at.”
Sun: “I know that parting with the past is a process. I know that taking steps forward sometimes means I need to revisit what has held me back. I know that revelations take time to adjust to. New feelings need time to connect to. Learning what to do with what awakens within me is an ongoing practice. I’m allowed to be learning.”
 
Liz Worth suggests that we “use this New Moon to set an intention for kindness and compassion, but try to turn it on yourself first”, and offers a tarot spread on the subject of balance and honesty.
…Which I haven’t done, but which might be a good idea. That said, I HAVE been playing with my Silicon Dawn tarot, trying to get to know it a bit (it’s one of the Weird Decks that has a bunch of extra cards and has switched some of the elements around) while also trying to sort out, well, problems I’m not sure how to solve (nothing major, just… unfamiliar territory). I’m enjoying the deck.
 
~*~
 
Movement: A lot of walking. A lot of walking in heels (not even very high heels) resulting in my hip and lower back being more than a little annoyed at me. None the less, looking forward to dancing on Saturday night. Also looking into the (slim) possibility of snagging a pool membership for the local community center, so that I can hit up the hot tub on the regular and do some low-impact exercise while it’s cold.
 
Attention: Strictly speaking, I’m not paying as much attention as I should be. I’ve been cleaning out old (expired) supplies today, clearing out rotten food from the kitchen, and generally trying to get on top of the mess of my house… and it’s not going well. It seems like I’m knocking something over or otherwise getting things a bit messy every time I turn around.
 
Gratitude: The unexpected tax refund that will cover our November rent. My wife (just generally). My wife telling me she’s nuts about me and reminding me that kindness is a decision that someone makes, it’s not just something that people do auto-magically, and that she knows I make that decision consistently (which was really good to hear). Friends who bring me squash soup and home-made lasagna, or chocolate and fancy cheese from far-flung locals. Friends who tell me I make them feel welcome, or that I’m really dedicated, or that I make the world a better place. Hot baths. A functional furnace. Neighbours who bring me vegetables. The local sex shop that (re!) stocks my chapbooks. Chocolate with sea salt. Small good things every day. ❤
 
Inspiration: Right now? Not tonnes. Though I’m still using astrology, tarot, and the wheel of the year to inform my poetry. I’m looking forward to hitting up a local reading series tomorrow night, so that I can try performing my work again (first time in TWO YEARS!) and see… how people feel about it. How I feel about it. Fingers crossed my stuff goes over well!
 
Creation: Still working on my femme glosa project. Also composing non-glosa formal poems (a sonnet and ghazal, so far) with the intention of submitting them to a magazine at the end of the year. Plus all this canning that I’m doing at the moment. >.>