Tag Archives: hearth

Not Actually A Plastic-Free Life

A while back, I wrote a some-what freaked out post about climate change and “eat less meat” and what that might look like at for decidedly omnivorous household.
The half-a-hog fund continues to grow, albeit slowly, and we have switched to milk in 1L bottles and, wow, has that made a difference in how I think about cooking grain… Not because not-organic milk in a 1L bottle is substantially more expensive than not-organic milk in a 1L carton, but because a gallon of the stuff IS more than double the price of a gallon bought, all together, in plastic bags… which means I find myself kind of …rationing? Which I don’t like doing. It’s not the end of the world – thought it might mean that I invest in some non-instant powdered whole milk to have on hand, in case I want to cook polenta in milk rather than water or bone stock – but it IS a noticeably higher cost for the amount of milk I typically go through in 7-10 days. So it’s a very different change from the one I went through when I switched from “ordinary President’s Choice 900g bags of coffee” to their Organics version (which… the difference there is about $5 a month, which is extremely manageable).
Project Eat More Vegetables is going nicely, too. Though it’s currently also resulting in a LOT of fruit flies hanging around the place, which is less fun, AND – because apparently I suck at gardening – it also means that those extra veggies are coming in from the grocery stores which…
…which brings me to my next point.

A variety of empty clear glass bottles and jars, various sizes.

A variety of empty clear glass bottles and jars, various sizes.


Folks… We’ve been finding baby cockroaches in our kitchen (mostly all in the same place, thank the gods) for a couple of weeks now. They started turning up right around when the landlords gutted the unit at the end of our row after the most recent tenants moved out (and left a LOT of stuff behind which… I thought was maybe telling?)
So, at first, we thought “Oh, maybe something has moved around and someone came into our place. Hopefully that’s the only one”.
But that didn’t last.
So.
This morning, we kind of tore the kitchen apart.
Found the nest – which, thankfully, was small and apparently contained only one adult, who is now very much dead – and started the process of Cleaning And Monitoring.
Which is to say that my kitchen is covered in diatomaceous earth (powdered sea shells, essentially) and has sticky traps in the drawers and at various points on the counter.
It’s also to say that I’ve been putting small appliances and dishtowels and similar into zip-lock bags since about noon.
 
You guys, I would love to “get off plastic”.
I’ve been bugging all my politicians (and the NDP candidate for my Riding) about how it would make a big difference in everyone’s petroleum-dependence if someone with the power to legislate this into effect would just force large scale chain store – grocery stores, in particular, but not only – to start packaging their dry goods in paper and cardboard the flour and sugar already are.
 
And I stand by that. I still want that.
 
AND… I am relieved as HECK to still have access to non-porous, fully-sealing, transparent packing materials that don’t take up a tonne of space and DO come in a fairly wide variety of sizes.
Sure, they’re super-useful for food storage – I’ve got gallon bags of whole roma tomatoes and whole nectarines in my chest freezer right now, waiting to be made into hot sauce, plus more of them on the shelf, stuffed with zucchini (destined to be blanched and frozen in a silicon muffin pan, and then chucked back into (most likely) the same bag, once they’re in single-serving-sized pucks) – BUT what I want them for the most is basically emergency pest controls.
 
Seriously. I have put things directly into a landfill-destined trash bag today that, three weeks ago – or, heck, yesterday – I would have been hanging onto “in case we can fix it” or because “someone might want it” or “there must be some way to recycle this” or even “What if something goes wrong and I can’t replace this, shouldn’t I keep it as a spare?”
 
On top of this, as critters that can (like crickets) happily survive on toilet paper tubes and water, cardboard and paper packaging makes for ideal nesting spots for the little bastards[1].
So I’m basically over here going “Fuuuuuuuck! How am I going to take care of thiiiiiis???” Because I want to keep buying my flour and sugar in bulk-sized paper envelopes. I want to use completely biodegradable dollar-store paper lunch bags to buy sunflower seeds and buckwheat flour from the bulk bins at the Herb and Spice. Heck, I want to hang onto the cardboard box, with is serrated metal strip, when I buy aluminum foil.
…And now I have to look at those things as “potential pest habitat” and get rid of them… or at least find a bug-proof way to store them.
 
Which brings me to what I spent the non-cleaning portion of my afternoon doing:
I hit up the dollarama – yes, I shop at the dollar store, you all can cope – and got half a dozen different-sized wide-mouth storage jars. Two of them – about 1L each – are going to be for fridge left-overs (I also got a couple of serving-sized, snap-on-plastic-lid glass boxes for lunch stews and similar). But the rest are going to be for holding plastic bags. Garbage bags. Freezer bags. Snack bags. Things I fully expect to treat as disposable, in and of themselves, but which I don’t want getting over-run with creepy crawlies in the mean time.
 
Beyond that, I’ve transferred most of my garden seeds to an old, pressed tin “Cookie Assortment” box, with the exception of the clover seeds, which are now in a pint jar. My beeswax tealights have been moved to a glass jar much like the one that’s now holding my sandwich bags (I had a few already, some of-which are still in use for food storage – coffee and pasta, respectively – but most-of-which were just gathering dust behind the canning pot).
I’ve moved binder clips out of various not-water-tight plastic receptacles, and I’ve got a couple of extra-large plastic tupperware that are probably going to get used to hold emergency candles, paraffin tea lights, and similar, just to get more cardboard out of the house. But, you guys, it feels SO WEIRD to be working towards a house with as little single-use-plastic as possible… and then to also be like “But we gotta get rid of the cardboard and paper! Thank goodness for zip-locks! This is a disaster waiting to happen!”
It’s bizarre.
 
Anyway. Hopefully I can make all of this work.
Right now, I need to see if I can scrounge up yet another Giant Plastic Bag – it might end up being a garbage bag, tbh – so I can rescue the gorgeous, antique, wooden cutlery tray that I inherited from my grandparents, and which The Roaches decided would make an ideal nesting place (they’re not wrong) – off the back steps, where it’s been languishing, covered in diatomaceous earth, since we evicted it (and them) this morning.
That and finish dealing with the dishes.
Wish me lucks, folks!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad, the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] So, here’s the thing. I still get that cockroaches are people. They’re family-oriented people, no-less, who are just trying to live their lives. And I have no qualms at all about murdering them with extreme prejudice and a good turn of speed, purely because I don’t EVER want to live through being room-mates with them ever, ever again. Which is an odd headspace to occupy, let me tell you…

Full Moon – Flower Moon Crests (and Wanes)

Pear blossoms in bloom. White flowers, green leaves, red brick in the background

Pear blossoms in bloom. White flowers, green leaves, red brick in the background


 
It’s drizzly again, but humid now. The temperature is higher. The tulips, daffodils, and cherries are blooming, and the crab apples and pears – as seen in the above photo – have opened up as well. The service berries have pretty-much finished their flowering. Even the rhubarb is starting to flower. We are deep in Beauty Season already.
It’s lovely out.
Even with the drizzle.
I’ve spent the day watering the garden (possibly unnecessarily) and getting the house back in order after a spending a week with my visiting girlfriend (who left me with copies of Hild – a historical novel set in 7th Century proto-England which includes some really solid research into, and depictions of, early-medieval English life with regards to food and textiles, and the work involved in making same – and Ritual Sex, which is a book of essays and stories, by various authors, about pretty-much what it says on the tin. My wheelhouses, let me show you them).
 
I finished the cotton skirt (which has a draw-string and no zipper required). I still have a dozen things to mend or alter or create from whole cloth (literally), but I’m a little bit closer to what I want my “summer wardrobe” to look like (shrugs and boleros, flowy maxi skirts, cute sun dresses, and fitted tank tops, maybe the odd shawl, as needed).
I’m thinking about glamour – as in the active practice of doing personal authenticity in a way that is also fascinating to others – and about how I want to present myself when I’m out in the world.
 
A long time ago, I was 30lbs under weight[1] due to stress, recently separated and in the midst of an actually very easy divorce, and trying to figure out how the heck I wanted to dress myself when I’d spent the last seven years working in a retail environment where we were expected to wear what we sold, and where the clientele was about 30 years my senior and employed full-time by the government. I was trying to figure out how to dress myself, yes. But I was also trying to figure out what I wanted people to see when they looked at me. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be “as a grown up”, when “grown up” had rather suddenly stopped meaning “suburban home-ownership + husband + hypothetical impending children”. I feel like I’ve been trying to sort that out for the past 12 years.
 
More recently – as in this past week – I’ve been “on vacation” living an on-going power exchange with my girlfriend in a way that’s really only possible when you’re on vacation (as in: in the same city, yeah, but more importantly: enjoying limited stress, deliberately limited distractions, tonnes of sleep, and abundant time for long walks by the river or otherwise going on dates). Under these circumstances, it’s easier to dress with clearly-defined intent, focus deeply on your Other Person, and to both plan, and follow through on, shared activities.
Whether the “vacation” in question is a once-a-season get-together with a loved one, or a once-a-year cheap fare to an all-inclusive beach locale or a saved-up-for major subcultural event, it’s a situation where glamour is easy. As Ms Sugar might put it, vacation, like Pinterest, is seductive “because everything is beautiful and nothing hurts there”.
 
So I find myself asking: How do I bring that glamour – that focused intention, that follow-through, that action of being interesting and interested – to my day-to-day life? How, too, do I invite that attention and sensuality in as well?
 
Next World Tarot - Two of Wands - A Black femme in a blue skirt and a leopard print top, with close-cut hair, holds a mace in her left hand and regards the reader through cat-eye glasses.

Next World Tarot – Two of Wands – A Black femme in a blue skirt and a leopard print top, with close-cut hair, holds a mace in her left hand and regards the reader through cat-eye glasses.


 
This conveniently relates to my Tarot Meditation card, which is a reminder that I have power here, and can make choices that will help make these things happen.
I initially drew this card from the Silicon Dawn deck, where it’s called “Will” (the two of pentacles) and is described by the artist as something like “The confidence to dance with the lightning” and the balancing of the ever-moving energies that one exists between. (Egypt Urnash also says, in her write-up of this card, “If you’re asking whether you should have some kind of tantric ceremony soon, the answer is ‘Yes'”, so… relevant to my interests, tbh).
 
I generally understand the Two of Fire – regardless of how the suit is named – as a card about “Make a Decision”. A card about setting your intention and then putting in the work – and the Will – to follow-through and go get it.
I see this reflected in the way Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha describes this card, as it appears in the Next World Tarot (the image is a portrait of a specific person), in their piece “3 crazy queens” (in Tonguebreaker”):

She stands there, asking you What is your deepest truth and desire, your deepest wound to heal? Only facing those things in a world on fire will give you what you need to live.

 
If I look at this card in the context of the “present” situation in the three-card draw I did at New Moon (and, yes, the moon is waning right now, but I’m still working with this), I have to ask myself:
In the face of infinite potential, what choices am I making that will point me towards that open-hearted future I want so much? Where can I say “Yes” more? Where can I choose the lens of curiosity and adventure over the lens of anxiety and catastrophizing?
Reader? There are definitely some situations in my life where this choice is very obviously before me, and I will try to say “Yes” and be adventurous.
Wish me luck!
 
~*~
 
Movement: Walking all over town. Moon Salutations. Weeding the garden. Modeling gigs with short poses.
 
Attention: What information is coming my way? Where can I see opportunities arising? How did those squash seedlings wind up sprouting in the compost? (Okay, I strongly suspect the squirrels for that one…)
 
Gratitude: Grateful for partners who love me and think the best of each other. For friends who show up when one of us needs help with groceries. For hot, humid weather (even if there’s not a lot of it, yet). For modeling work. For fresh bread from the oven. For squirrels who, apparently, think the compost heap is an excellent place to bury purloined squash seeds (I actually agree with them on this, thence the gratitude). For books from the library and gifted books from my sweetie. For being able to being able to be in the same room with my girlfriend for a whole week, after months of being apart. For my wife, who gave us the space to do so, and who was happy to come home to me. For my family.
 
Inspiration: Patrick Califia’s “Shiny Sharp Things” essay in Ritual Sex.
 
Creation: I’m mid-way through altering a turquoise leather jacket (the plan is to do the sewing over the weekend, as I’ll be hanging out with my lovely wife as she sews back patches and similar at the Ride For Dad after-party and will, thus, have access to her sewing machine, contact cement, and leather-compatible needles. Also wrote up a new recipe for Rhubarb-Banana muffins, which I’m testing out (they’re baking right now) today.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Let’s just say I have a pretty solid idea of what my bones and organs weigh because there really wasn’t much else left of me at that point.

New Moon – Flower Moon Begins

White grape hyacinth blooming amid green crane's bill and last year's dry leaves

White grape hyacinth blooming amid green crane’s bill and last year’s dry leaves


 
The New Moon in Taurus brought summer weather with it. Hot sun on bare skin. Magnolias opening, but a week later, it’s cold again. Drizzly. Closer to five degrees than ten. The cold-weather crops (“crops”) that I sowed a week ago are sprouting and probably loving this weather. I have chickpeas (slooooowly) sprouting in a jar on the counter, but I’m huddled over my computer as I write this, looking out at the grey day and its Scotch Mist weather.
 
I have a Pinterest board where I put pictures that make me think “glamourous”. There are a vast number of women with horns among those images. Last night a memory tugged at my mind and I put “horn dance” into the search bar, and what I found was the oldest dance in England.
So now I’m thinking about how the Horn Dance – the one done in Abbots Bromley (Northern England, about 300km south of my families historical territories in Scotland) which is a solid thousand years old at this point – happens during the same time as the actual deer are rutting in the Fall (the few weeks on either side of Autumn Equinox, roughly), and how the dance is connected to the fertility of the fields. I’m thinking of Root Time and Leaf Time, the stag king and the wolf king – and since when do I think of “kings” at all, but here we are – and how they trade places at Samhain and Beltane, at first planting and last harvest.
I’m thinking about land-waking rights and how modern, city people (AKA: people like me) tend to think of “land waking” as a thing that happens in the Spring (AKA: right now) because the perennials are coming up again, the trees are leafing out, the geese are back and the robins are singing, and there are baby squirrels tearing about all over the place. I’m thinking about how Beltane is our sex holiday, but that – from a purely conception-related stand-point[1], so do what you wanna with that one – it kind of makes sense to have something similar in the Autumn, right around when you’d be planting new apple trees (or shallots and garlic, or larkspur and scilla for that matter) and feeding them up for the long sleep to come when they’ll get their roots in good and strong before their waking in Spring.
I’m thinking about Harvest – midway between Mabon and Samhain – and how much magic and ritual happens in that fucking dungeon. I’m thinking about the horned beast that lives in me, that came out to dance during one of those rituals, how the red thread of connection from that ritual is woven into the fetish shawl that I pin together with antler tips.
 
I’m thinking all this while my altar candles burn down and I huddle in my (recently washed – I’ve spent the past two days doing laundry) fuzzy bathrobe trying to stay warm, having turned the heat off in the house at the New Moon.
I have bread to make today (yeast bread, rather than sourdough, though I’ll be feeding my starter again), dishes to do, a lot of mending to work on – fixing a couple of sweaters, finishing a project that exists somewhere between a skater skirt and a cotton slip, seeing how many zippers I have lying around and whether or not I can put one in the side of a midi-length crinkle cotton skirt, or if I even need to do so (I might be able to do buttons and loops or something at the waist-band instead…) It’s a day for hot tea and having the oven on, for hiding out under a heap of cloth and keeping cozy.
 
Next World Tarot - PAST Three of Swords, Reversed - PRESENT Magician, Uprights - FUTURE Knight of Cups, Upright

Next World Tarot – PAST Three of Swords, Reversed – PRESENT Magician, Uprights – FUTURE Knight of Cups, Upright


 
For the New Moon in Taurus, I pulled three cards from Cristy C Road’s Next World Tarot. And then I wrote poetry about them, as one does. The short version is:
A past of heartache and a future of open-heartedness and, right now, a moment of change, of leveling up, of “from this moment onward, you have agency”. A claiming of my power and my potential.
A work in progress, obviously – I mean, it’s never “one and done”, right? But, if I’m reading this right, then I’m on the right track and should keep doing what I’m doing, and changing what I’m changing.
Fingers crossed!
 
~*~
 
Movement: Walking. Moon salutations. Went to the park and attempted to do pull-ups (and failed, utterly, but that’ll get better with time and practice).
 
Attention: Watching the weather. Watching the calendar (my girlfriend will be here in a week). Paying attention to my hips and lower back and how and when they ache and what helps. Watching the leaves come out and the flowers in the front yard start blooming (just barely) and the rhubarb start to get big and the lovage, for whether or not it’s taking its transplant well (seems to be).
 
Gratitude: It being warm enough (technically) to turn the heat off. Good relationships with my metamours. Fresh greens from the garden (dandelion, sorrel, crow garlic, nettles, lovage). Cucurbit seedlings from friends. A cupboard full of fabric and yarn for me to make things with. A fridge full of food. Hangouts with My People. A new bag of (parafin…) candles for the altar. Yoga poses that consistently open my hips and de-kink my lower back. My wife’s compersion. My girlfriend’s impending visit(!!!).
 
Inspiration: The garden. Household maintenance tasks (believe it or not). My romantic relationships. Queer communities and subcultures. Thousand-year-old dances. The Next World tarot deck. My hopes for the future.
 
Creation: I’ve written six poems in the past week, and have another one (barely) started, with notes for topics to explore in a bunch more, so Go Me.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] A kiddo conceived around Mabon would be born right around Midsummer which, in these parts, is just about when the food gets really plentiful, and just a little bit before the real heat sets in and makes being heavily pregnant utter hell.

Full Moon – Squash Moon Crests (Autumn Equinox)

Huge, ripe fairy tale pumpkin - light brown skin, deep orange flesh, and lots of seeds - sitting on on a thick butcher's block cutting board. The pumpkin has a big wedge cut out of it, so you can see how thick the flesh is. Photo by me, taken last January.

Huge, ripe fairy tale pumpkin – light brown skin, deep orange flesh, and lots of seeds – sitting on on a thick butcher’s block cutting board. The pumpkin has a big wedge cut out of it, so you can see how thick the flesh is. Photo by me, taken last January.


 
There’s no threat of frost yet, but the temperatures below 10C overnight and it’s cold in the shade (and in the sun, and in the house because I try not to turn the money-devouring-furnace on until October).
The picture, above, is of a pumpkin I bought last Hallowe’en. It’s the kind they sell – dark green, blazed with orange, and very under ripe – at the grocery store as a “decorative gourd” but which is hella edible, albeit very watery. It sat on my table for a few months before it ripened to a pale, milk-chocolatey brown, and then I cut it open and baked it in wedges. It’s too watery for pie, even when baked (flavour is too diluted) but it’s a gorgeous addition diced into stews and braises.
I have zero ripe winter squash on my vines (not surprising, they usually take another month for me, and get harvested in late October) and I might not even get any, since what fruiting flowers I’ve had have been gnawed upon by the squirrels. But I chose this picture because it’s getting to be that time of year.
The Season of the Witch.
 
It’s Autumn Equinox today. Full moon in Aries tomorrow. The day and night are balance – same duration – and boy howdy, was I feeling that these past couple of days.
For those who aren’t in the area, my neck of the woods got walloped as it rarely does, with a big wind storm and a tornado that destroyed a number of people’s homes and took out power to a number of big chunks of the city, including our place (which is definitely still standing and, given that I’m typing this at all, has its power back on).
I gotta say: The limited daylight hours are very noticeable when you’re trying to wash dishes by candle light.
 
A power outage is a funny thing.
The first night is almost like a vacation. We stood outside and watched the stars (which were so much more visible with no ambient city lights), waved to the big, gibbous (then in Aquarius) moon, shared a glass of wine.
Dinner was home made bread with a fancy terrine and half a wheel of local brie. I got some knitting done and we sat on the couch and chatted.
The next day was a bit more stressful.
Wondering how long it would be before the lights came back on. Wondering how many things we can reasonably cook on a butane camp stove before (a) we run out of butane, and (b) we have to start cooking outdoors because it’s too cold to ventilate by opening up the windows. Wondering how to manage our very well-stocked (go me!) freezers and fridge when the electricity wasn’t keeping them cold anymore.
 
That was the big one, tbh.
Like, ice cream for breakfast is fun and all, but I was very, very glad I’d made that batch of yoghurt – and thus used up half of my milk – on Thursday, because yoghurt would keep for a lot longer.
Wondering how pan-fried kidneys were going to work out (probably fine, even with no garlic in the house), and whether or not I could do a slow-braised pork tongue on that little camp stove, or pan-fry more than one chicken leg at a time. Wondering how long chicken stock in unsealed jars can keep at room temperature.
Wondering whether or not I could make an adequate, pan-fried falafel-type… patty(?) using the already-cooked, whole chick peas and black beans rapidly thawing in the freezer… Would they hold together if putting them through my food mill left them kind of… chunky? Would they taste okay?
Wondering if we could rig the non-functioning, grill-free barbecue shell in the back up to be a wood-burning fire pit where we could (maybe?) use downed branches to make a longer-term cooking area, if we needed one. (Would it warp or even melt the aluminum? Could we find enough wood in the immediate area to even do this?) Could we drag Boroslava, our chimney-free, not entirely structurally sound but remarkably resilient, wood stove into the back yard and get her up and running again?
Wondering, if we did that, could I bake bread, one loaf at a time, inside our biggest cast iron pot – Dutch oven style – once our remaining loaf was used up, or if I was going to be making tortillas (thank you all the gods for still having running water) and dicing up the rillette left over from last weekend’s guest visit and turning into pasta sauce. (Wondering if I had enough pasta to do this more than twice).
Wondering how to pickle the frozen veggies (which, tbh, probably wouldn’t have been a problem. We’d just eat them before we ate the raw ones that are still good to keep fresh on the counter).
 
I’m kind of making this sound like it was a huge disaster.
It wasn’t. Not for us.
We’ve been offering hot showers and freezer space to friends whose power isn’t back on yet, and a friend of a friend needs a lot of help, so we’re waiting on the supply list and will see what-all we can send her way. But for us it was mildly inconvenient at best.
But our own Ottawa Storm experience was short and really easy.
A friend who had gas in her car came and picked us up, whisked us and our empty gas cans out to an area south of town that still had power, and we stocked up on fuel (how Mad Max of us), got cash out of a bank, and bought a few bags of groceries – tinned tuna, dry beans, short pasta, quick-cooking grains… stuff that can be cooked on the stove and doesn’t need a fridge – before going out for burgers and heading home again.
Not a big deal.
And it was still SUCH a relief when the lights came on again.
 
Like, I felt my shoulders drop and my chest unclench, just a little bit, when the fridge and freezer started humming and I could clearly see what I was doing over the sink.
It’s got me wondering “Would we have gotten used to it? Or would we have fallen apart?”
 
It’s got me thinking – again – about how having a rocket stove in the back yard – just a thin chimney of brick, topped with a steel or iron trivet, with space at the bottom for air feed and, a little further up, an equally small space for twigs and pine cones and other kindling – would make a difference in terms of what we could cook, when, and for how long, in a situation like this (or, hey, in a situation where it’s over 36C and being able to cook pasta or sausages without adding more heat to house is really appealing).
It’s got me thinking – again – about how having pressure-canned beans (like chick peas and romano beans – big legumes, as opposed to quick-cooking lentils and split peas) and meat (think chunks of brisket, pork shoulder, or uncured ham) on hand means not having to keep that meat in the freezer, and not having to worry about how long it takes a large, already-soaked bean to cook through. (A friend managed to wangle us a membership to the Ottawa Tool Library – bless her forever – and I will be borrowing their pressure canner in short order with this in mind).
It’s got me thinking – again – how useful it would be to have one of those crank-powered flashlights that doubles as radio and a tiny generator for charging phones. Even if the cell service was intermittent, it helped to be able to check in with friends and make sure people were home and safe. It’s got me thinking that having an ancient, touch-tone (or rotary dial) phone on hand would be a good idea, if only because it’s not cordless – doesn’t require a charged battery at all, and can work on the (sometimes buried, and more likely to be functional) phone lines rather than needing a cell tower – and would let us (maybe) keep in touch with people for longer.
 
Basically, I’m thinking about how under-prepared I felt, in spite of a garden and a million jars of crushed tomatoes and apple butter hanging around the place.
The sun will be DOWN (and the full moon – in Aries – will be up) in a little less than an hour and a half. And I will have light to cook by, and a stove to cook on, and I am so freaking grateful for both of those things. O.O
 
Autumn Equinox is Harvest time, time to remember what you sowed in the spring and to take stock of how those plans and projects have developed. What are you harvesting/reaping at this time?
I was doing the Eat From the Larder Challenge (hahaha… funny how that works out) and spending all of March avoiding my Empress Project.
Now I’m here and being told by Sarah Gottesdiener, over at Little Red Tarot, that “What [I’m] making is manifesting” and to “Get a plan you believe in and invest in [my]self”.
The folks at Hoodwitch that the Aries Full Moon energy is good for spell work regarding courage/bravery, overcoming obstacles and clearing the way, and for letting go of anger. I love the horoscope they provide for Scorpio:

You don’t have to know what you want; you don’t even have to know where you’re going. What you do need is to be interested in finding out the answers.

 

The Eight of Fire (Silicon Dawn) - An anthropomorphic salamander-raccoon hurls a fireball at the viewer while leveling up x3.

The Eight of Fire (Silicon Dawn) – An anthropomorphic salamander-raccoon hurls a fireball at the viewer while leveling up x3.


 
An appropriate card for the Aries Full Moon. A card that says “Shuck off all those ‘shoulds’, all those notions of what you’re allowed to be, and to want!” A card that says “Take action! Take a chance, before it passes you by!”
I am trying not to freak right out about Not Knowing The Answer.
The intention I set back at the New Moon, was “Help me be brave”.
And I have been.
I have a date lined up (for right around the New Moon in Libra), in one of those places where it’s socially appropriate to revel in my violence and possessiveness and specifically to explore some explicit, specific desires that I’ve been curious about for a few years now. This is awesome but, while I definitely like this woman – we get along well and our interests dovetail nicely and she’s cute as heck – I have no idea how our planned shenanigans are going to turn out and my tendency to catastrophize (and not even in a useful way) is strong right now. O.O
 

Eight of Arrows “Struggle” (L) and The Ancestor (R) – Wildwood Tarot – On the left, someone in a tattered cloak struggles through the snow and the windy, gathering dark, carrying a lantern. On the right, A tall woman with a deer’s head stands in the snowy woods next to a bare birch, drumming on a bodhran. Behind her the new moon sinks towards the horizon.


 
The cards I drew for this Full Moon meditation aren’t the easiest ones for me. “Struggle”, which has shown up recently, is pretty self-explanatory and The Heirophant – for all that she’s presented here as both a figure of stern guidance and someone who’s actually got your best interests at heart (as opposed to, say, any given Pope ever in history) – is still a card with the potential to lean towards “thou shalt not” and the kind of social expectations that queer, emotionally messed-up, under-employed, polyamourous me consistently fails to meet.
And yet…
What I see here is “Yes, this is hard, but you have support if you need it, you have guidance if you need it”, possibly with a side of “You have your (various – social and magical/religious) traditions to draw on here, you don’t have to do this entirely by yourself”.
 
If I were to turn this into a request to any ancestors and gods who happen to be listening, I would ask: “Help me to trust. Help me to ask out loud.”
 
~*~
 
Motion: Yard work and modeling. My lower back and hips are not thrilled about this, but I’m glad to be doing work I enjoy.
 
Attention: The weather. Paying attention to the temperature, but also to the wind and whether or not there’s rain in the forecast. But also paying attention to what I have in my freezer, what I have in my fridge, what needs to be eaten first. Yeah. The power outage is over, and I’m still watching to see if the lights are flickering.
 
Gratitude: Light. electricity. The fridge and freezer are working again and we didn’t have any food spoilage. Pretty women who think I’m cool (and cool women who think I’m pretty, tbh). A ride home from work today, with further rides for the rest of the week. Maybe getting to (finally) see a friend tomorrow, who I haven’t seen since August. Having a duvet to add to the bed now the the weather is cold enough to screw with my hips and make it hard to sleep otherwise. Spending the Equinox chatting and knitting and drinking tea with a bunch of bi nerds in my neighbourhood. Hot food on a cold day. Getting to watch the stars come out and the moon come up with my lovely wife while drinking white wine on the back steps. So many beautiful things.
 
Inspiration: Crisp nights. Leather season. Blustery, bright days. Misty mornings and rushing clouds. Autumn is beautiful.
 
Creation: Not a whole lot, tbh. Though I did decide to take part in the local Smut Slam, pretty much on the spur of the moment. Wrote a less-than-five-minutes story based on events from my own life (done as a series of vignettes draped over the frame of a confession), memorized it, and presented it over the course of about an hour. And I’m pretty pleased with myself for that one.

New Year New You 2016 (…and 17): Week 20 – Hearth Appreciation

I’m doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation (again) because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. You should try it!
 
Instructions: Do something nice for your home.
 
Tarot Card: The ten of earth, obviously. (This is one of my favourite cards in the Wildwood deck. It’s one of the ones that made me decided to get it, and it bears a certain resemblance to the “home base” of my psychic hearth, which doesn’t hurt).
 
So. This prompt. What Miss Sugar says about how it’s hard to keep all the chainsaws in the air? She’s right. And I can SO relate to the feelings of frustration, overwhelm, and unraveling that come with having a home whose mess has gone beyond my capacity to know where to even start.
I’ve spent a lot of the last year-and-a-bit doing the money-hustle (which has been going better over the past four months than most of the time previous there-to – so yay) BUT, no surprise, it’s meant that I’ve had a lot less time available to do hearth-tending than I typically like.
This past week, though, and the one coming have been blessed (uh… ish…) with less paid work than usual, meaning: yeah, less money, which is a problem, but also: MOAR TIME! I’ve been able to get out and work on my freaking poetry manuscript (thank you, gods!) AND I’ve been able to do some cleaning (beyond dishes) and canning (at all), which has me feeling a whole lot better. I’ve even managed to light my altars for the first time in MONTHS (bad pagan…) which, I gotta say, is SUCH a relief.
 
Tonight I’m cleaning my counter (dishes + a solid wipe-down of surfaces), prepping the first bunch of tomatoes for canning, lighting my altars again, and putting a bouquet of flowering apple mint out for the Ladies, because… I owe them some attention, frankly.
 
Anyway. Time to get on that. ❤
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Mid-July: In Which Everything Goes To Hell – 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.
 
IN THE GARDEN there has been some planting, a tiny bit of harvesting, and a little bit of… building?
 
I rescued three cucumber plants and a zucchini from Certain Death in a neglected loblaws garden center… about a week ago. I transplanted them, plus one of my pre-existing but too-heavily-shaded-by-beans-and-radishes cucumbers and a couple of my probably-pumpkin plants to:
A new in-ground bed that I put together by piling up bolted mustard stems, overlaying them with some newspaper, and then emptying a bag of soil on top of everything.
They seem to be… mostly not dying? Which is sort of what I was going for. One of the (very small…) cucumbers is flowering, as is the probably-a-pumpkin (you can see both below). The zucchini occasionally tosses out a male blossom as well. I’m hoping that, by August, they will be blooming with the lady-flowers and starting to hint at bearing fruit.
 

Cucumber plants plus something that is probably a pumpkin, but might be a zucchini.  You can also see the bottom of the trellis I put up over the weekend.  We'll see if it holds and/or if anything manages to climb it.

Cucumber plants plus something that is probably a pumpkin, but might be a zucchini. You can also see the bottom of the trellis I put up over the weekend. We’ll see if it holds and/or if anything manages to climb it.


 
So there’s that.
 
I’ve given my daikon-radish “fence” a major haircut, so that the beans and eggplants and everyone else in that bed can actually get some light. This is less of thing for the Ground Cherries, which can handle a bit of shade (though my particular plant is probably getting too much from the tomatoes to produce much fruit. We’ll figure it out).
My jalapeno has three little peppers starting on it.
My eggplants have, between the two of them, three fruits developing.
My yellow bell pepper is… Let’s say I’m not holding my breath on that one…
But my tomatoes!
It’s been magnificently rainy this summer, and kind of on the cool side, so pretty much everything is moving slowly. I’m used to getting my first ripe cherry tomatoes, oh, about two weeks ago, and as of now, they’re all still green.
Which is fine. They’ll get there. Even if I’m bringing them indoors in October and letting them ripen next to an apple in the kitchen.
And look! This is my first year growing beefsteak tomatoes! I have… ANY! 😀
 
Beefsteak tomatoes, at the slightly-yellowish-green phase of edging towards ripening.

Beefsteak tomatoes, at the slightly-yellowish-green phase of edging towards ripening.


 
I’m pretty sure I’ve got at least one roma tomato, too, and the Big Tomatoes are in the ground, rather than the raised beds, so they’ve actually got enough root depth and aren’t getting themselves sick with blossom-end-rot and what-not. Hurrah! 😀 (Not that I’m counting my tomatoes before they’re ripe, or anything, but I’m hopeful, y’know?)
 
In further squash news: Danger Squirrel and company have eaten most, possibly all, of the waldham butternut and golden-zucchini seeds I planted, many months ago. But this bruiser that came up in the compost heap is, I’m fairly confident, a Fairy Tale Pumpkin:
 
Fairly confident that this is a Fairy Tale Pumpkin growing out of my compost heap, as squash are wont to do.

Fairly confident that this is a Fairy Tale Pumpkin growing out of my compost heap, as squash are wont to do.


 
Fairy Tale pumpkins are great, in that they are HUGE, and they finish ripening off the vine (like: harvest it when it’s dark green, streaked faintly with orange, at Samhain, but don’t cut it open until the rind is a milk-chocolate brown, around Imbolg). BUT they are not so great on flavour. Like ponca butternut (an ancestor of waldham butternut) and any zucchini you’ve ever left too long on the vine, a lot of their size is water. So they’re not great for things like pie or baked veggie side dishes where the squash flavour is something you care about. But they’re excellent for adding to braises and stews where the extra liquid will be soaked up by barley (for example) and the otherwise mild pumpkin flavour will be augmented by whatever else you’re cooking with it.
 
In other news!
My raspberry bush is FRUITING!!!
My raspberry bush is fruiting!

My raspberry bush is fruiting!


 
The friends who gave it to me warned me that it hadn’t fruited in all the years it had been in their yard. I said I was willing to give it a shot, as they wondered if being near other raspberries – like the ones in the alley behind my house – might encourage it to fruit.
That wasn’t what did it.
What did it was a big heap of bone meal dumped around the roots of the plant. Turns out, there was fruit (ish… proto-fruit) all along, it just needed some phosphorus and calcium to help the fruit develop into something that could actually ripen. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!
😀
 
So I harvested a couple of raspberries from my own canes today. Hopefully more will follow.
Beyond that, I haven’t been harvesting a whole lot. There have been garlic scapes, the occasional bit of chard, a heap of snow peas(!!!) and the last of the radishes. Oh. And a sprig of mint for hibiscus iced tea. But that’s been it. I think there will need to be a kale salad in my near-future, though, as the Cavalo Nero is getting bigger, and could do with a trim.
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been… not a huge amount of activity, honestly. And a bunch of stuff that didn’t work.
I tried to make a sour dough starter. Which started beautifully, but died very quickly, in spite of regular feeding. I think I must have been doing it wrong. (That said, if I can make a chef from scratch every time…? That wouldn’t be the end of the world…)
 
I wound up making “by any means neccessary” bread, using 1 tsp dry yeast + a cup of kefir and… you guys, it’s not good. Like, “it makes great toast” levels of not good. It looks beautiful, and smells awesome, but it tastes like, well, like a fermented milk product (which is not what I look for in a sandwich-canvas) and tends to get soggy REALLY easily.
 
Speaking of fermented milk products… my kefir got fruit flies. In the worst way. I had to toss the entire batch, plus about 1/4 of the actual grains, because I wasn’t able to separate them from the corpses of fruit flies gone to their fermented-dairy graves.
On the plus side, the grains I was able to save are still alive and kicking and making kefir, so I can keep churning out coffee cake and scones until the heat turns up in these parts. So there’s that.
 
The Ex is coming by in two weeks to collect all the stuff they’ve been storing in our basement (among other places), so my wife and I have been moving some things around. Our antique kitchen table is now The Bird Stand (it looks good there, and it means it’s not blocking the washer and dryer… not that the washer and dryer are hooked up or anything… >.>) and we are sorting out where to store all the bird food and bird toys and such-like. It’s a work in progress.
 
Which… So is the rest of the main floor. I know this section is about what’s going on “in the kitchen”, but our front room (when we moved in, it was – briefly – my wife’s workshop, and it’s been a never-quite-defined half-storage room ever since she got her own shop) is currently the staging area for both The Ex’s stuff and a bunch of items we’re holding for a friend who’s getting divorced and will need help with furniture and other stuff when the time comes. When that’s all been taken care of, we’re going to turn everything around in there, so that my desk is facing the window and the bistro set I’ve been referring to, somewhat hopefully, as “the dining room set”, will be moved into a more accessible area, so that we can actually, y’know, dine at it.
The living room is looking better than it has in a while (hurrah!) though there are still things that need touching up. The birds are fed and watered and have had their cages cleaned (and, in Fiona’s case, some of her stuff has been moved around… though not by very much. I don’t want her to get bored…), and the vacuuming actually got done, albeit not by me.
 
The kitchen, to drag this back onto the topic at hand, is still a mess. Moving the table into the living room means I’m out about six square feet of “shelf” space, and the counter is feeling the pinch (and, consequently, I am feeling the “Augh, I don’t know where to staaaaart!” that I feel whenever there’s no clear space to put something down).
I’m continuing to use up my crushed tomatoes and my salsa (I made SO MUCH last summer), but I have a LOT of preserves still to go through. Crab apple jam, pear and pumpkin butters, chokecherry-plum relish, jalapeno jelly, a jar or two of pickled beans (they’re lovely on sandwiches, but see above re: soggy bread), and a LOT of gifted preserves (delicious gifts, mind you) from other folks. I need to do an inventory, and I need to put up shelves. This might or might not be the summer that happens, but it needs to happen. I have too many empty canning jars and nowhere for them to live. Too many (Ha! Meaning two, at the moment!) fermentation projects on the go. It’s time to add more storage to the kitchen.
 
 
Anyway, so yeah. Not a whole hell of a lot going on in terms of house-hold productivity this week, but that’s where things are at. Did I mention I had a grease fire (small, put out quickly and easily with baking soda) AND boiled a pot dry today? I did. “Productive Home”, indeed. :-\
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

First Weekend in June – 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.
 
 
IN THE GARDEN there has been a lot of planting!
 
I think I’ve got the garden pretty-much planted for the year. I mean, yes, I’d still like to get my hands on some lovage (and I may have a source!), but other than that and maybe transplanting a bunch of winter squash, I think we’re set. It’s time to grow-grow-grow!
 
Planting(s):
The beans, winter squash, and yellow zucchini seeds that I had just planted, the last time I did one of these things, are poking their heads out of the earth and starting to look like they might grow into Serious Plants.
That said, most of the winter squash… doesn’t seem to have come up? It looks like I got a package of Mostly Duds on that one. BUT a few are coming up – which I’ll need to move around slightly, as it appears Danger Squirrel has been moving things around on me – AND I’ve got some sprouting in the compost heap, where they’ll stay as they should be super happy in there. The winter squash (which I think miiiiiight be Fairy Tale Pumpkin) that sprouted early-on from compod seeds needs to be transplanted (again) so that it can get its roots inper soil than is available in my raised beds, but it seems to be growing fairly happily, which is a good sign.
I’m saying that I might actually get a real squash CROP this year, even though I know it’s way too early to be counting my pumpkins and butternuts at this point.
The daikon radish “perimeter fence” is also doing its thing – though it remains to be seen if it does its JOB, which is keeping the soil IN, and the marauding runner-roots of crab-grass and creeping charlie (which I love, and use as ground-cover in the front yard) OUT of, my vegetable patch – but they’re growing, so that’s good.
My transplanted rainbow chard seems to have recovered from being unceremoniously uprooted and moved around, which is kind of a relief. Ditto, the breakfast radishes, which had been growing all in a clump and are now much more spread out.
In addition to the seeds that are coming up, I planted a whole bunch of starts. Two ground-cherries, from a friend up the street, a jalapeno pepper and an aubergine from another couple of friends (also up the street – I live in a goooood neighbourhood), and a bundle of goodies that I bought, once I had the $20 to do it (freelancer life, I tell you…), including:
A Lebanese Cucumber (because I think my first one got frost-zapped, or close to it, and I wanted to make sure I had some cukes this year)
A Japanese(?) Eggplant – the long, skinny ones
Chives (the standard-issue onion type, that get the purple flowers)
Lemon Balm
Sorrel (we’ll see if it takes off, the way my friend’s – also up the street – has in her shady front garden)
Black Cherry baby tomatoes
Roma tomatoes (I don’t actually remember the variety off the top of my head)
Beefsteak tomatoes (for my wife, who loves them. I’m… not holding out a tonne of hope, but we’ll see)
 
The friend who gave me the ground cherries may have some “mild salsa peppers” to send my way, as well. (Their parents have a Tiny Hippie Farm in the Valley, where they raise laying hens, and they often have spare plant-starts to give away to their youngster’s garden-enabled friends).
 
In Other News: My raspberry bush has one (1) flower! But there’s a strong possibility of more, so I am starting to get hopeful for fruit in the back yard! 😀
 
Harvesting:
Lots of rhubarb.
Lots of mustard greens.
You’ll hear more about both of those, below.
Beyond that, the garden is still young, and most of my perennials are flavourful herbs, rather than early veggies, so there’s not been a lot to pull out of the ground just yet. I admit, I’m hoping for a week or two more of cool weather (although maybe not as cool as it’s been…) so that my peas and greens can stay comfortable and my radishes have a solid chance to get big enough to harvest. >.> It’s funny. I want my peas to start flowering, but I don’t want my khol crops to bolt. But those things happen at the same time! I have to remember that if I want my fruit crops to start producing, I have to let my greens go to seed as well. 😉
 
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been fermenting. And cleaning. And furniture-moving. O.O
 
Ferments:
So I treated my kefir grains to some whipping cream. As you can imagine, it’s much thicker than it has been, AND it’s delicious. Not that I’m going to switch my kefir to an all-cream-all-the-time diet, but it’s definitely something I’m doing again, and will probably try to do every now and then for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure that I could use this extra-thick kefir to make, effectively, a sour-cream “cheese cake” type custard, but… maybe? Certainly something I’d like to try!
Earlier this week, I made orange-pops, which is a recipe I got out of My First Cookbook EVAR (I think I was seven, if not slightly younger, when I was given this cookbook). Basically, you take a (small – slightly more than 1C) tin of frozen orange juice, mix in 2 cups of yoghurt, and a tablespoon of vanilla, blend with a fork (or a whisk), spoon it into freezer-cups, and freeze it over night. I used kefir instead of yoghurt. Tastes great, but it doesn’t freeze super-solid (unlike the chocolate-coconut ones), which means sometimes I pull the stick out with no popsicle attached. I wonder if adding coconut milk to this recipe would help or hinder on that front…
In other fermentation news, we have gone through about 1/3 of the sour kraut. I’m enjoying it, my wife is enjoying it, and tbh I’m also loving how quick and easy it is to add veggies to a sandwich – no washing, no chopping, because it’s all already done. TO THAT END, when I pulled a grocery-bag full of mustard greens, dandelion greens, and Vietnamese garlic greens on Wednesday (and picked some wild grape leaves, on the way home), I decided to ferment them into something like a sour kraut (except not, because these greens are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more delicate). It’s an experiment – I threw a little bit of onion, and a bunch of mustard seeds and (dried) coriander, plus a bird chili into the mix – and we’ll see how it goes. I HOPE it’s good, as it’s a good way to use up pulled greens, but… Look, honestly? Three days later, there was no bubbling going on. I added some kefir whey (I wanted to skip that step, to see if I could do a vegan ferment and also avoid the mold possibilities in letting dairy just hang out on top of the salt water like that, but oh well) and we’ll see if it helps, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m wondering if the dandelion greens have too many natural defenses (unlikey?) or if I just washed my greens a little too well? We shall see.
I have also made bread but, since it’s not sour dough, I’m not sure that it counts as “fermenting” at this point. Still! Bread! The loaves turned out small, but well. And that’ll do.
 
Other Kitchen Stuff:
One of my favourite Heathens is coming to visit for a few days (in town for a conference, and we’re conveniently located), so I’ve been tidying All The Things, prepping the guest-room, getting a spare house-key cut, checking my stocks to see what kind of vegan food I can whip up for dinner on Monday, that sort of thing. BUT I also spent a big chunk of yesterday moving in a WASHER AND DRYER (!!!) which meant my house felt really chaotic for a while.
The washer and dryer, which were given to us by some generous friends who were moving & at the same time and said we could have their old set FREE if we were able to ourselves, are currently sitting in my kitchen, where my ancient kitchen table used to be. Technically, the table is still the – we’ve just cleared it off (which took several days worth of finding homes for Things that got dumped onto the table because they didn’t have anywhere else to live) and shifted it around a bit.
I suspect the new machines won’t be hooked up for, probably, another month. the washing machine needs to be further moved into our basement (which… it may not fit through the door, but we’re willing to give it a shot) where the hook-up is – or else my ex-contractor wife will need to renovate the kitchen, which (as this is a rental) we’d rather not do – and the dryer will need to be hooked up to the vent (which IS in the kitchen) and set on top of… something… so that it’s not blocking the kitchen’s Cold Air Return. Both machines need a bit of a clean before that happens.
We’ll also need to find a new spot for that table, but an old friend (read: ex-partner), whose stuff we’ve been storing for two years, has decided to make a more permanent move to Alberta and will be collecting the rest of their things from us some time in the next month. Which means the plant stand and small cupboard we’ve been using as bird-cage stands will need to be replaced. With, for example, an antique drop-leaf table.
None of that has happened yet, but the table is tidy for the first time in a year-and-a-half, and the laundry machines are IN, and that’s a major part of the battle. I’m really happy about it. 😀
 
ANYWAY. That’s been my Productive Home week this week. Still to do: Make a vegan dessert (either chocolate Wacky Cake or a rhubarb pie), vacuum the main floor, sweep upstairs, and put clean sheets on the guest-bed. Also figure out whether or not I can hang a set of curtains today. :-\ (The walls are lath and plaster, which means stuff meant to be screwed into drywall… doesn’t work so well. But also, our guest would probably appreciate some curtains). ONWARDS!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.