Tag Archives: hearth

Punk-Domestic Chatelainery – Some Thoughts on Language and Meaning

So Erica, from NorthWest Edible Life, posted the following picture to Twitter and asked folks “What is Homesteading To You?”
 

Picture of a rural log-based house (with a big front porch) in early Winter, ft a hazy mountain in the background. Over it all is written:
“Homesteading Is: // being self-sufficient // Living simple // getting back to our roots // breaking away from commercialism // growing your own food”


 
So. “Homesteading”… It’s convenient. It’s good shorthand for what most of us tend to be doing which, I suspect, falls roughly in line with what’s on the list in that picture: D-I-Y rather than B-U-Y, embracing frugality for a whole slew of reasons, reconnecting with the daily-living skills of our ancestors to a greater or lesser degree, actively taking part in the rhythms of the land that sustains us. But, if you’re a white person (which, by the looks of things, many of us self-identified homesteaders – urban or otherwise – are) living pretty-much anywhere other than Europe, but particularly in North America, the term “homesteading” has a pretty fraught history. If you’re Canadian, some of the stuff our ancestors did (and which is still going on – so maybe try writing your MP about the need for reparations and a good, hard look into the MMIW situation?), directly or indirectly, was genocide. Here. Where we’re growing our own food and taking great joy in planting the Three Sisters together in our gardens.
 
So as much as I find the word useful (my twitter bio says “I live in 1821”, among other things) in terms of how it manages to imply wood stoves, fibre arts, cast iron cookware, home-grown veggies, pre-electric machinery, wild-crafting/forraging, seasonal rhythms, cozy-warm candle-light, and making cheese from scratch… it’s also a bit of a problem.
 
So I have to ask: Is there another word I could be using? Something that takes the rural implications (and Quiver-Full-reminiscent family isolation) out of “back to the lander” while hanging onto the seasonal rhythms and self-sufficiency? Something that pushes “DIY” to a more extreme and broad-spectrum conclusion than stenciling “Riot Don’t Diet” onto a hacked-up t-shirt? Something that takes the term “Productive” out of the assembly line and the cubical farm and plants it firmly in the rich, creative soil of an anti-consumerist, pro-interdependence It-Takes-a-Village home and community?
 
I’ve seen “Green Living” tossed around. “Voluntary Simplicity” (although that just doesn’t fit our stuff-intensive house or people-intensive home-lives) has popped up a few times, too. I rather like “Punk Domestic” and “Radical Homemaker”, in significant part becuase they invoke the activism and, frankly, broke-ass necessity, of some of my personal Do-It-Yourself Skills. My wife and I, as part of our Power Dynamic, use the language of fealty to describe What We Do. As such, the language of the Chatelaine also seems appropriate: The whole idea of the “Keeper of the Keys” deciding who – and in this case what – is and isn’t allowed entry into the Keep (be that BPA, Monsanto, & CAFO-raised critter-flesh, vs thrifted clothes, home-grown veggies, & eight million mason jars… or whatever your personal dichotomies are), maintaining the stores, spending a heap of time on fibre arts[1] and home-preserving in an eminantly social, but also practical and necessary, way. Even the notion of a whole village turning out to handle the bulk of the harvest together (although heaven and earth know that this is hardly an out-of-date way of doing things).
 
Anyway. If all of the above gives you an idea of what I mean when I say “(Urban) Homesteading”, if you have any suggestions, please let me know.
 
 
– TTFN,
– Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] In my case, this is for fun. In the case of actual Medieval Ladies of the Manor? It was because the work was basically never-ending. The silver lining, when there was one, was that most of it was automatic-pilot enough that, by the time you hit puberty (and had been doing this stuff for 10+ years) you could at least hang with your ladies-in-waiting/relatives/room-mates and be social while getting all of it done.

Eat Down the Larder 2015 – Pre-Game Post

So it’s the last day of March. Full moon is coming up in a just a few days. The snow is melting (and, occasionally, falling again, but mostly it’s melting) and there are early, early flower stalks poking their noses above the muck. Spring is springing, as it’s supposed to do.
Which means that it’s Eat Down the Larder Month again.
 
This is a Challenge put on by Erica over at NorthWest Edible Life, which I participated in last year with much flailing and whining and gnashing of teeth, but which I think is a good idea and a good habit to be in when it comes to not having your dry goods turning to dust in the cupboards year after year.
The idea is that you eat ONLY what you already have on hand, as of April First, in an effort to empty your preserves jars, clear out your freezer, and institute some turn-over in your dry-goods and non-perishables.
In my case, I cheat a little: I know going into this that I’ll be buying coffee (though I may not have to – it’s on my “no stocking up beforehand” grocery list – along with eggs, marmite, and white vinegar for Cleaning Supplies – anyway, so if I get that done today it won’t “count”), earl grey tea, and milk (I go through 3-4 gallons of the stuff every month) as needed. But as far as vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese, carbs, fats, pulses, and seasonings go… No. We’ll make do with what we’ve got.
Which is a fair bit, to be honest.
 
In addition to being gifted the Queering Power Party leftovers – we have a dozen or so clementines, a bowl of grape-tomatoes, two chunks of Fancy Cheese, half a litre of half-and-half cream, a couple of tubs of hummus, and a few other goodies, courtesy of the QP Organizers who know that buying groceries isn’t always an option for us, even when we’re NOT playing a voluntary austerity game – we’ve actually got heaps of food lying around.
800g of old cheddar (“cooking cheddar”, not the Good Stuff) that I picked up a few weeks ago when they were on for ~$1.25/100g; 3lbs of butter (same situation). A jar of pre-grated parmasan cheese. A litre of 3% milk. 1kg of plain yoghurt.
An unopened litre of sunflower oil plus some olive oil, sesame oil, plus a tin or two of coconut milk and a couple of pucks of lard still in the freezer.
We have half a dozen tins of tuna that we do need to start going through in short order.
Two big bags of rotini plus frozen perogies and half a jar of tube pasta. Probably have a heap of whole-wheat couscous hiding about the place, too.
2lb of cooking onions, a bulb and a bit of garlic, half a celeriac, half a dozen carrots, 4-5 beets, a 3lb bag of boiling potatoes, and a 3lb bag of cortland apples.
Copeous frozen veggies (beans, broccoli, edamame, eggplant, ruby chard, possibly kale) and fruit (berries of various kinds, mixed and single-variety)
A freezer bin containing: 1lb pork sausage (maybe more than that?), 2-3 packages of bacon. 1 whole roasting rabbit, a little bit of fish, 1 beef heart, 2 pork kidneys, a package (iirc) of smoked salmon or similar, and possible (I’ll have to check) a package of two turkey wings (or possibly drumsticks, not sure).
A bag of Great Northern dry white beans, 1L red lentils, 1C+ black lentils, 1L+ brown rice, a cup or two of wild rice, 1C+ pot barley, 2L red quinoa, 1L pearl barley, and maybe some whole amaranth. Not sure what else I have hiding about in the form of dry beans and grains, though
3-4 tins of beans
1 jar of peanut butter
5Kg white wheat flour, 2.5Kg whole wheat flour, ~500g fine corn meal
A jar of yeast for bread-making + plenty of salt, baking powder, baking soda, herbs, and spices
2Kg granulated sugar, 250mL honey, 4+ tins of maple syrup + 250g maple sugar, an unknown but present amount of brown sugar, and LOTS of half-cup jars of jam, jelly, fruit-butter. Also: Chocolate chips. Also: half a pint of rhubarb syrup still in the fridge (makes a very nice cocktail when mixed with vanilla vodka, fyi)
1L cider vinegar + a little balsamic + 500mL red wine vinegar
6+ pints of pickled cucumbers (I’m open to suggestions for how to incorproate this into meals as a vegetable option rather than a garnish, fyi), 1 cup of diced tomatoes, 4-8 half-cups of tomato sauce, 2-3 cups of tomato-peach salsa
Dried peaches, dried mushrooms (I got a pound of them the other day, and put some in a chili, but there’s tonnes of them left… dried mushrooms don’t weigh very much), dried peppers (one hot variety, one mild variety) and dried cranberries.
8+ pints of bone stock already in the fridge, plus 3-4 bags of actual bones that can be used to make more stock as needed.
 
That isn’t even all of it, I don’t think.
But it’s most of it.
 
So. With all that (all that!) available, here are a couple of meal possibilities:
 
Combine 1 tin of chick peas + reconstituted dried mushrooms + reconstituted dried mild peppers + 1 diced onion and some sesame oil in a frying pan and sautee like fuck. Make a sauce using peanut butter, a little more sesame oil, some cider vinegar, maple syrup, prepared mustard and red chili flakes. Combine the sauce with the sauteed mixture. Add in some cooked couscous (or cooked quinoa) and serve.
 
Make bread and use some of the dough as a home-made pizza crust. Top with apricot butter (instead of tomato sauce), left-over roast rabbit OR left-over roast turkey OR cooked pork sausage rounds, minced onion (possibly fried already), thawed frozen chard, and grated cheddar cheese.
 
Make cornmeal crepes. Spread with mayo and mustard. Top with tinned lemon-pepper tuna, tomato-peach salsa, frozen edamole (I have one bag left in the freezer), and plain yoghurt.
 
Fry some onions in butter in the bottom of a big pot. Add some grated carrot. Add a half-cup jar of tomato sauce, a pint of stock, 3C water, Half a cup of pearl barley, half a cup of red lentils, a dozen dried mushrooms (broken up into chunks and rinsed before adding), and 2 pucks of frozen diced eggplant. Season with a little soya sauce and a little ginger.
 
Fry some onions in butter in the bottom of a big pot. Add some grated carrot. Add a tin of coconut milk + 1-2 tbsp curry powder. Add 2-3 pucks of frozen diced eggplant + 2-3 pucks of frozen chard + a handfull of fresh grape tomatoes. Add 1C water + half a cup of red lentils. Serve over couscous or cooked brown rice. Mix in a little plain yoghurt if you want to.
 
Brine a beef heart for two days. Slice into thin strips. Combine some of it with reconstituted dried mushrooms, thinly sliced pork kidney, minced onions, grated carrots OR grated beets, diced potatoes, a pinch each of salt and rosemary, and a dusting of flour. Stove-top cook (or oven-braise) in beer, wine or stock. Serve with savoury biscuits.
Combine the rest of the heart with pot barley, black lentils, stock, water, tomato sauce, dried mushrooms, diced potato, celeriac, and frozen ruby chard stems. Cook on LOW in the slow-cooker for up to 48 hours (you may need to top up the liquid a little bit here).
 
Salad Nicoise ft fresh (or jarred) tomatoes, boiled potatoes, thawed frozen beans, boiled beets, hard-cooked egg (just one, diced fine), diced cucumber pickle, and a dusting of parmasan cheese.
 
Cook pasta. Top with home-made alfredo sauce (or tomato sauce) and frozen veggies of some sort. OR Cook perogies. Top with same + maybe a little plain yoghurt and fried onions. Sandwiches on home-made bread: roast-rabbit with apple, mustard, diced onion, mayo, & crab apple jelly; grilled cheese with spicy tuna (and probably a pickle on the side, because: pickles) and mayo; Bacon-tomato-and-cream-cheese (or yoghurt-cheese); peanutbutter and jam (of course); hummus and tomato (possibly with left-over edamole).
 
Pancakes, coffee cakes, brownies, and similar made with fruit butter and/or jam in lieu of some/all of the sugar and eggs. Yoghurt with frozen fruit, crumbled walnuts, and maple syrup.
 
Lots of options.
Lots of otions.
Just keep telling yourself that. 😉
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Where Has The Nail Polish Remover Gone? – Pagan Experience 2015

Okay.
So we have People.
Every so often, something – usually from my wife’s workshop (becaus eshe has a lot of cool stuff, but maybe also because a lot of said stuff is ancient technology), but sometimes from elsewhere – will randomly go missing. For an hour. Sometimes for a couple of days. And then it’ll be back, right where we’d last seen it, right where we’d check however-often in the interveining span of time during-which it was resolutely Not There.
 
I’ve heard people talking about how the fairies, or the houseweights, or some other subsection of the house-spirit population, stole their keys or otherwise messed with their stuff, so it’s not really shocking that this would happen to us, as well.
 
I guess what I’m wondering is “Why do they want this stuff?” And why, perhaps more to the point, do I think it makes sense for them to want some of the stuff – hand tools, for example – but not other stuff, like the titular nail polish remover. Is it just because it’s pretty? Blue? A weird set of chemicals to experiment with? Is it becasue I use it fairly regularly, and they wanted to check it out? Is it because they want me to notice them?
 
I have no freaking idea. O.O
 
In chatting with my wife about this, we’ve concluded that (a) it’s really great that at least everything always comes back, and also (b) that nothing additional comes back with it. Because that would be even weirder and more disconcerting.
 
Anyone reading this have similar experiences? Does asking for the swift return of items get them back any faster? Thoughts? Suggestions?
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Making Things From Scratch – A Work In (Constant) Progress

We are babysitting the pet cockatiel of one of my wife’s other partners. We are also babysitting her car. How conveeeeeeeeenient, as the saying goes.
To that end, we made a trip to a grocery store yesterday evening and dropped over $75, more than 1/5 of which was spent on a big bag of walnut halves (which should do us for a year, even if they were grown in California), and another 1/5 of which was literally spent on flour. Just flour. I now have a 10kg bag of all-purpose polished (white) wheat flour sitting in a plastic storage bin in my kitchen (well, most of it is sitting in there – some of it has been moved to the flour canister in the cupboard, and some of it will, in a few minutes, be moved to a batch of bread dough. The Plan, on that score, is to do another single loaf of bread (or maybe two, if I can get the ratios right) plus a dozen rolls for nibbling with chilies and similar over the course of the week. I’ll make cookies this evening – probably a variation on the peanutbutter kitchen sink cookies I made on Friday night, since those went over well – and maybe some other snacky thing (cranberry-cornmeal muffins?) if I’m feeling ambitious.
I’m trying to get back into the swing of things. Making the bread as-needed, rather than relying on the convenience store ($3.25 for a single loaf isn’t that unusual around here, so we’re not talking Food Desert prices, but it’s a bit ridiculous to buy the stuff when I know I’ve got the time and the skills to make something sturdier, tastier, and more flavourful for $1 or less per loaf). I put a bag of bones into the slow-cooker yesterday, along with water, a single whole mushroom, and a few different herbs, and this morning I decanted just shy of 8 cups of stock[1]. I’ve got a couple of cups of lard (and various other “pork dripping” stuff – like bacon fat and sausage grease) melting very, very slowly on the “keep warm” setting in the slow-cooker right now. I may not quite be at the point where I know what to do with tripe and tongue (and don’t pull a face at the thought of (knowingly[2]) eating them… I mean, really… I eat the rest… still: squeemish, of all the silly things), but I don’t want to waste what I do have on hand. (Besides, so much of a cheap cut of pork is fat and bone. Best to use it all, kiddies). The rendered lard’ll go into a silicone muffin tray (set on top of a metal cookie sheet) and I’ll let it all solidify in the fridge before transferring it to a bag or a box in the deep freeze and using it up, one puck at a time, in mirpoix and veggie-fried rice and similar.
Right now, I’m trying to use up the veggies in the fridge (in spite of yesterday having picked up a bag of not-even-slightly-local granny smiths – at my wife’s request – plus a pound of pre-sliced mushrooms and a big red cabbage, both from much closer to home), and generally give the thing a good clean before I buy up 20lbs of Product Of Canada root veggies & McIntosh apples next time I’m in the Glebe.
Anyway. I need to get that bread started, so I’m going to leave you with my (theoretical – it could change at any time) menu “plan” for this week’s dinners. Be inspired. Scoff. Do as you will.
 
Dinner tonight: Leftover three-bean chili from the weekend, served with home-made buns.
Tuesday: Apple-red-wine sausages + rotini + frozen broccoli + alfredo sauce… (most likely)
Wednesday: White beans fried with onion, ruby chard stems (diced & frozen last fall), the non-local baby bok choi I bought last week, and maybe some shredded carrot or diced winter squash, served over brown rice (I have so much brown rice, it’s a bit ridiculous… I don’t even LIKE brown rice).
Thursday: Red cabbage[3], black beans, onions, and apples “hot salad” with red quinoa and some kind of creamy dressing (probably yoghurt and mustard, because who are we kidding? This is me we’re talking about here).
Friday: Some kind of animal- probably another Turkey breast – roasted over a heap of veggies (in this case, that means red cabbage, onions, carrots, and potatoes, though I’d love to have some beets to throw in there as well) and possibly served on a bed of mixed pot barley and black lentils[4].
Saturday and Sunday are, usually, comfort-food and/or junk-food nights around here. So we’ll have steamed dumplings from a freezer-package, grilled cheese sandwiches + tomato soup-from-a-tin, fried eggs on toast, or some other thing that quick and easy to deal with.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I saved the big bones, I admit, even though I’ve got something like three other bags of them in the freezer already. My plan is to use them, plus a ribcage, a glug of red wine vinegar, some chard stems, a lot of bay leaves, and some onion skins, and see if I can’t make a second batch in a week or so – I figure, if we’re eating more beans-and-grains based dishes, I’m going to go through stock a whole lot faster, and I’ll be accumulating bones a bit more slowly, so… Waste not want not, and all that jazz.
 
[2] Okay, so here’s a thing. Someone posted a picture on Facebook detailing what went into the average hotdog. And it was all the “waste” bits – eyelids, tails, entrails, organs, snouts, you know the drill. And all I could think was “Dude, I eat half that stuff on purpose. Oxtail Soup is a thing. So’re liver pate and steak-and-kidney pie. Don’t be such a prude.
And yet, I also get that my eating those things on purpose, knowing what I’m picking up from the butcher-case at the grocery store, isn’t the same as “I can afford these, and I just won’t think about what’s in them” or “Hotdogs! Made from 100% beef!” and glossing over which parts of the actual beeves are going into them. Know what you’re getting into (and what’s getting into you) and all that. Pink Slime is gross, as far as I understand it, because people have been walking through it as much as because it’s made from all the Random Bits that don’t make it into the cellophane packaging. But I’ve made thrice-boiled-chicken-and-duck sandwiches using the boiled-white meat from making stock without totally denuding the bones first, minced up and combined with mayo and chopped onion and grainy mutard and… they’ve been good.
 
[3] Which, if I’m VERY clever, I’ll dice and then boil, hard but briefly, so that I can save the water and, with the addition of a salt-water mordent (and maybe some cream-of-tartar, since I’ve got some in the cupboard), use it to experiment with home-dying a white cotton tank-top I picked up for just such an experiment. Wish me luck on that one. O.O
 
[4] I think that’s my favourite “bulk up the non-meat protein” dish, right now. They cook in the same amount of time, are visually interesting (in so far as beans-and-grains are visually interesting on their own), and are chewy enough that it doesn’t feel like you’re eating baby food or something when you chew it.

Personal Practice – Pagan Experience 2015

So my personal practice is somewhat lacadaisical at best.
I have an altar/shrine in my living room that I (ostensibly) light candles at every Friday – a practice that developed partially in conjunction with setting aside time to write three years worth of PBP posts, but also because it gave me an opportunity to almost-meditatively focus on My Hearth and the holiness there-in[1]. I do New Moon Pizza (more or less – I admit the past four months have NOT involved me making pizza dough in ANY way) that features home preserves plus whatever left-over critter (frequently pork shoulder roast, sometimes rabbit or chicken or some kind of cured meat) I have in the fridge and any veggies I can haul out of the garden/freezer/fridge/etc at the time. I do little magics – enchanted baths & makeup, candle spells and honey pots, sigils (lately, at least), and Writing Things Into Being (which works surprisingly… at all, really. Go me?). I try to practice Good Witching in the Terry Pratchett sense of the word – activities that are more in line with grassroots activism than with religious ritual per se, but which still fall under the heading of “village witch” when your village has rainbow flags and homeless kids all over it.
 
In spite of that, I think within my worldview pretty consistently. I’m not a “holy days pagan” in that particular regard, even if my rituals and devotions don’t look like much. I get to know The Neighbours – the non-human (and human) people in the neighbourhood where I live. Learning which local plants I can eat (and where I can harvest them so that I’m not also eating a heap of lead – this is key), which ones make a good dye, and which ones are good for which magics. It also means paying attention to who gets my attention (like how naturalized Catnip kept calling to my sight all last spring and summer, until I went and found out what it was) and trying to figure out why this or that plant is calling to me. It means eating what grows here and growing – now that I have the opportunity to do so – at least some of what we eat. It means greeting the bees, the crows, the spiers, the pigeons, and whoever else happens to be around (like the homeless people, the nieghbourhood friends, and the folks I used to share a building with… just as a for-instance).
 
So that’s a start for what my particular practice looks like. Next week, I’ll (re-)introduce my particular pantheon and talk a little about some of the specific Spirits in my life.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I do a thing called Fabulous Friday Dinner that, in significant part, is meant to signal The Weekend to my work-from-hom brain, but which is also a way to nicely usher it in for my works-two-jobs wife AND a means for me to learn how to cook leftovers-producing pot-dishes that will keep us fed for 2-3 meals in a row (not counting extras for lunches, which is part for the course). But this is also a time to water the house plants, do a little home-maintenance, make the bread for the following week, read (or listen) up on other Pagan Stuff via the interwebs, and generally give myself a day to study and focus when the rest of thew eek needs to be focuses somewhat elsewhere (like on my erswhile novel, or on hustling for modeling gigs).

Full Moon – Long Nights Moon Crests

We watched the moon come up on Saturday night.
That was when the moon was full, this time ’round. (Long Nights Moon will be nearly gone by the time Solstice rolls around – a long, dark night, indeed).
 
I’m having a lot of trouble finding my Get Up And Go. All I want to do is (a) sleep – because the bed is warm and cozy and nest-like, (b) watch Laura Jane Grace videos on youtube, and (c) eat store-bought lasagna & other stuff that I didn’t have to cook myself.
 
I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that I am Just Not going to get the baby blanket, let alone the baby blanket AND a coordinating scarf-for-daddy AND the knitted bats (for my wife) done in any kind of a timely manner. The baby blanket doesn’t matter so much, since the sprog isn’t due for another 3 months or so. BUT it would have been nice to get the rest done.
I’m at the point where I’m hunting through 2nd hand book stores to find appropriate gifts for Various People and, while books make great gifts, I’m feeling a bit like I’m betraying my Make All The Things mentality quite a bit by doing so.
 
It’s a struggle to just make dinner. Let a lone make bread, candles, breakfast muffins; let alone the kind of seasonal stuff that turns up on top of that (shortbread, ginger snaps, truffles, cranberry curd… plus knitwear and jewelry and other goodies that can be handed around to people as need arises).
I feel like I’ve been looking at my kitchen counter – which continues in its usual “we have no space to work because every surface is covered with dirty dishes” state – and feeling demoralized and defeated for months. Like the 6 weeks during-which we moved from one place to another and, particularly, the three weeks that overlapped the move and during-which I was working full-time, I feel like I had an excuse to be exhausted and miserable and escapist at that point, but by now – five weeks after completing the move – I should (a) have all the boxes unpacked, and (b) be back into my routine of cooking everything from scratch (in a timely fashion), making a lot of household supplies on my own, doing regular yoga, writing 1000 words every day (rain or shine!), and reliably lighting my altars every Friday.
 
I told my wife I’d make bread today. And breakfast muffins. If I do dishes, then mix up bread dough, then make muffins, then knead & proof bread dough, then bake bread & do more dishes while its baking… I can have this dealt with before 5pm, when I need to start the wild rice (stove-top) and the buttercup squash (oven) so that everything can be ready for 6:30 when my girl gets home.
 
I applied for a half-time, work-from-home job yesterday. I hope I get an interview. I hope I get the job. (And, yes, I can – maybe even will – dress and burn an ensorselled candle to that effect, since today’s the closing date and they’ll be going through the resumes starting tomorrow). It would open a lot of doors for us, and maybe give me a chance to feel a lot less useless about myself. Heh. My We’Moon horroscope has suggested that 2015 is my year to “learn how money works” which… I kind of feel like I’m starting from Zero on that front, so how hard can it be to make some progress there?
 
Anyway. That a whole lot of personal stuff, and not a lot about the time of year. The snow is sticking around now – even though we’ve had a few melty days – and we’re due to get a whole lot more before Friday. The days feel really short – I mean, they are really short, but when dusk starts falling a little, and the light’s already slanting towards night at 3:35 in the afternoon… It’s hard to get things done.
 
I think I need to break out the sweet orange essential oil, breathe in the scent of it, and stir up a little bit of joy.

W is for Winter – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Wow… We’re really getting down to the bottom of the alphabet, aren’t we?
I figured that “Winter” was a good one to go with, seeing as we’re getting our first Snow That Stays (most likely – it’s a wet snow, but it’s piling up with the apparent intention of sticking around) today, and there has been ice on the puddles the past couple of nights.
So. Winter.
 
I’ve talked a little bit about how my particular path seems to have strains of land-guardianship built into it. What does that mean, when the ground is frozen solid, when it’s asleep? What does it mean when you live in a house that burns fossil fuels to keep warm?
 
It means things like sawdust or sand instead of salt on the front steps to cut the ice; suplementary-heating with beeswax and terracotta/cast-iron rather than by turning up the thermostat. It means knowing how and when to turn the compost so that it steams all through the winter, and hanging bird feeders of seeds and suet for the sparrows and crows (and squirrels – I know).
I’m sure you can imagine just how hypocritical I feel having written that, only to learn that my lovely wife has brought us home a box of rock salt for the front steps. Yes, we’re using it. So it goes.
 
The nights are getting longer (approaching longest quite quickly, really), and the temperatures, for all that they’re still fluctuating, are staying below freezing for longer.
Good Witching comes into play with regards to things like donating warm socks, winter boots, mitts, coats, hats, scarves, and other items to drop-ins and things like the Snow Suit Fund, as well as filling the food banks’ pantries with hearty, protein-rich foods that can be cooked in one pot on a hot plate (think: tinned pre-fab stew, but also mixes of rice & red lentils – or pot-barley and black lentils, or “grains and beans” dry soup mixes – along with tinned tomatoes, cartons of pre-grated parmesan cheese, tinned fruit, and herb/spice mixes).
 
Now is an excellent time to avoid going outside invite broke friends over for casual meals, so that they don’t have to worry so much about feeding themselves now that they’ve got heating bills coming due (it’s a good way to start incorporating your Summer/Autumn preserves into meals, too[1]). Likewise, inviting lonely/stressed friends over for some no-pressure company and hot tea can offer comfort on multiple levels.
 
Winter is, for many people, a time to pick up knitting projects – I admit I’m at the point where I’ll knit through the summer, too, but this is a new development for me – and getting people together to work on crafty projects (with or without charitable-donation intentions) is a lovely way to pass the time, look up from your phone once in a while, and connect with people you care about.
 
Happy Winter. Happy Witching.
 
 
TTFN,
Amazon.
 
 
[1] For example, I put an entire 1-cup jar of chunky asparagus relish into a stir-fry along with some left-over braised pork (the last of last week’s Fabulous Friday Dinner), a small head of nappa, half a red onion, three cloves of garlic, and some diced carrots. We had it over fusilli pasta, and it was delish. Gave just the right kick of sour-bright to the meal.

V is for Veil (and Victuals) – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So I’m writing this a good half-hour into a “house warming party” to-which I’m fairly certain nobody corporeal is going to be coming.
We’ve had five seven trick-or-treaters (more chocolate for us, from my perspective) – one of-whom asked me why I’m so tall (I told her that I come by it naturally and that all my ancestors are tall – not 100% true, but close enough for an answer); and the gods – as they do – have taken their due. I’m nursing a burn on my right arm from the oven, where I burned it taking the beef braise out of the oven.
Braised beef + various veggies + a little blue cheese for garnish (and also because my Dad loves that stuff – he died almost 15 years ago, so I got it for the ancestor plate).
 
Ah, yes, the ancestor plate.
I spent two hours carving pumpkins – three faces, a half-pumpkin dish (one of the pumpkins was going pretty soft-rotten, unfortunately, so it was just cut and cleaned and used as a dish – holding a hurricane cup of Dragon’s Blood incense – instead of being carved), a fouth featured a carved candle for the beloved dead (with a heart on one side, and skull on the other), and the last carved with the message “Welcome Home”. I think they work.
I burned mhyrr on my altar and lit all the candles, as well (first time I lit all the candles in the house, so: Timely). And I made an ancestor plate.
It’s just a little saucer with some of tonight’s dinner on it, a (tiny) glass of the red wine beside it, and a tea-light as well. I’ll be adding chocolate to the plate later (Hallowe’en candly – pity it isn’t Neilson’s, but they own Cadbury at this point, so it works out a little bit), in part for dessert and in part for my Gram (who was a chocolate fiend) and in part for my Neilson ancestors because: clearly. 🙂
 
While I was getting the dinner going, I could hear my Papa (life-long dairy farmer) talking about “keeping the soy bean men in business” by buying margarine as well as butter. My Dad slid into my dreams last night, just briefly, and he’s not been the only one. I know a few folks who’ve lost family/phamily/tribe in the past 24 hours. The veil, as they say, is thin.
 
I spent a good chunk of this morning finishing up business at the old apartment – and it is, indeed, Past Tense at this point. Finishing Business included the usual laundry and vacuuming and making sure we hadn’t left anything in a closet somewhere, but it also included walking through the place, burning a cone of “purification” incense (a blend of some sort – it does the trck), calling back all the good things that we’d filled our then-home with, and quietly chanting “Out with the old, In with the new” as I went.
It worked.
 
I would have liked to have filled our new house with chatty friends, laughter, and somewhat boisterous celebration tonight – got in about $200 worth of food & drink (mostly food, just to be clear) with that in mind, in fact – but I admit to being a little grateful for the peace, for the quiet and the chance to sit in the calm semi-darkness, altar blazing, seasonally-appropriate music playing (everything from SJ Tucker’s “Come to the Labyrinth”, Heather Dale’s “Call the Names”, and Tori Amos’s “Happy Phantom”; to The Tea Party’s “Requiem”, The Flirtations’ “The Ancestors’ Breath”, and Type O Negative’s “All Hallow’s Eve”; to Florence and the Machine’s “Only if for a Night”, Loreena McKennit’s “All Soul’s Night”, and Leonard Cohen’s “Who By Fire”), while I write this post and my lovely wife sews horse blankets in the other room.
 
Eventually, we’ll open a bottle of champagne and toast our new home formally, but for now I’m enjoying the quiet. Maybe I’ll get the Brie out next.
 
Here’s to my ancestors, and hers. Here’s to our gods – big and small, familiar and well-known and dear. Here’s to the kids on our doorstep – non-“rainbow-family” kids who got to see a cis girl and a trans girl married and being “normal” in their neighbourhood – and the pumpkins, too, which are part of the harvest and one of-which I carved to have eyes that smile like mine and my dad’s do.
Here’s to being fully moved into the House of Goat – Gods, Ancestors, and All.

Carpathian Onion Soup (Recipe)

So I came up with this soup a few weeks ago, and tonight I find myself turning to it again. It’s a variation on the theme of “French Onion Soup” but features a few twists that I’ve decided to call “Carpathian” purely because of the garlic factor. I’ll probably tweak it a bit tonight – bacon, instead of sausage, a little bit of nappa thrown in, and maybe some roasted garlic hummus on the toast (in lieu of the cheese) for our one non-dairy-eating guest. 🙂

~*~

INGREDIENTS
For the sauté
3 red onions
1 medium-sized carrot
6-10 medium-sized cloves of garlic
¼ C lard (or sausage drippings, or bacon grease… you get the idea – though for a vegetarian version, using butter or sesame oil would work fine)
1 pre-cooked, mildly spicy sausage (leave out if you want this to be veg-friendly)
1 tsp each: tomato ketchup, grainy mustard

For the broth
½ C + 2-3 C water
1 tbsp each: soy sauce, granulated sugar, white wine vinegar (balsamic could also be lovely)
1 tbsp each: dried tarragon, dried (winter) savoury
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp dried rosemary

For the toasts
3 slices of bread (cook’s choice – I’ve made this with everything from home-made whole wheat to store-bought wonder-fluff, and it works with whatever)
Havarti cheese, sliced thinly or grated (you can use the cheap, grocery-store blocks for this if you like, they work just fine) enough to cover all the slices of bread

DIRECTIONS
1. In a cast iron frying pan, melt the fat over low heat
2. Grate ¾ of the carrot and slice the rest into paper-thin rounds
3. Peel the onions, cut them in half, then slice the halves into paper-thin rounds
4. Peel the garlic and mince in a garlic press
5. Slice the sausage in half length-wise, then slice into thin rounds
6. Combine the above in the frying pan and sauté, covered, on low heat until the onions are translucent and everything smells amazing
7. Add the ketchup and the mustard and stir in until well-combined
8. Allow to continue simmering on very low heat
9. In a sauce pan, combine the herbs, paprika, vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar with the half-cup of water and whisk together until a smooth “slurry” forms (you can use a fork)
10. Add the rest of the water and bring to a boil
11. Carefully add the onion mixture to the broth mixture and lower the heat
12. Allow to simmer while you make the toasts
13. For the toast, set your three pieces of bread on a wire rack, on a cookie sheet
14. Cover each slice of bread with cheese (not too thick, but don’t be stingy, either)
15. With your oven-rack on its LOWEST point (below the middle of the oven), place the cookie sheet in the oven and BROIL the bread and cheese for about two minutes (long enough for the oven to reach broiling temperature – you will need to keep an eye on things to make sure nothing burns)
16. Turn off the oven
17. Ladle the soup into three bowls
18. Take the toasts out of the oven and set one, cheese-side-up, on the surface of each serving of soup
19. Serve and enjoy

Full Moon (and New Moon) – Blood Moon Crests (and Begins)

So I never posted an entry for Blood Moon’s new moon. Woops. Things have been a little busy around here.
At the moment, we’re about (probably just shy of, really) half-way through the move. We’ve got a little bit of furniture left to bring over, but most of the stuff that’s left is stuff that has to be sorted and weeded and Dealt With in a time-consuming manner.
We’re already living at the new house, which is WONDERFUL. The difference, just in terms of my general well-being, between the beginning of Blood Moon and NOW has been imense. Two weeks ago, I was in the middle of a full-time temp contract, trying to get the hang of running a busy front desk during the day, and trying to cook in a desperately pared-down kitchen – most of-which was in bags on my living room floor – as soon as I got home, whilst packing and moving stuff as quickly as two exhasuted and frazzled people are capable of moving it, once the dishes were done. Now, I’m finished my contract and, while things are still on the hectic side (we’re going out of town, the day after tomorrow, for An Unholy Harvest – I’m quite looking forward to the ritual workshops that I’ll be attending, for example – so there’s a lot to get done in terms of packing and prep on that front) at least we’re in a roach-free house (knock on wood…) and I’m cooking in a kitchen where I’ve got all of my equipment and most of my food supply (we haven’t transferred the contents of the fridge/freezer unit yet, since we still have to give the new-fridge shelves a good, thorough wash before installing them) and that makes a hell of a difference, even if my studio (I get a studio!) and half the kitchen are still full of boxes and bags that have yet to be unpacked.
Things are going far more smoothly, and its showing in our tempers, which is wonderful.
Today I bought (a) daylight-spectrum 1450-lumin CFLs (“100 watt” if we’re talking incandescents, but only 23 watts in this case) to put in my studio, the living room, and the kitchen, as well as flower bulbs (two kinds of purple-themed tulips (one solid, dark purple and one white with purple stripes), some blue hyacinthes, and some kind of tiny, super-pale-blue (almost-but-not-quite white) flower that should come up around the same time as the snow-drops, chionadoxa, and scilla do (still need to get scilla, for sure). I also bought Quebec cranberries plus Ontario pears (I was so worried that I’d completely missed the season, but Nicastro’s still has them, so YAY!), garlic, and tomatoes for making cranberry curd, pear butter, and roasted-garlic-balsamic tomato sauce, respectively. I’ll be picking up a few pie-pumpkins some time late next week for pumpkin butter (and jack-o-lanterns!), too, but I can hold off on that for a little while yet. I’m already planning the garden that we’ll put in once May rolls around – a 2×8 perennial bed (rhubarb, sea berries, sun chokes (provided I like them – I’m about to give them a go, so we’ll see), red currants or raspberries, ground cherries (an annual, but they self-seed) peppermint, lovage, sage and thyme, and a common mallow if I can swing it) plus three or four 2×8 annual beds complete with arching trelisses between them for climbing crops like squash and pole beans, and hanging baskets for vining tomatoes plus chard and kale (to keep the slugs from getting all of it).
 
Blood Moon (Harvest Moon, Ancestor Moon) is the moon of the Last Harvest, the moon of Slaughter, the time when we make the switch from shoots-and-fruits to Root Time. With the count-down on for getting out of the old apartment, I’m feeling the anxiety that comes – the squirrels are feeling it, too, I’m sure – with shorter, colder days and the very real need to get everything Done, get everything In before the ice is on the puddles in the mornings and even the kale is keeling over (although, realistically, we’ve got another two months for the kale, which grows into early December here, before the cold and the dark say “Time’s Up”).
For the rest of us, though, Time is definitely running out. The leaves of my neighbour’s asian fuzzy squash plants are wilted and brown, and our own hardy plants (jade, philodendron, hens-and-chicks) are coming in off the porch this evening, lest the frost take them in the night.
I have offerings to make the the land, before it goes to sleep for the winter, an altar or three to set up, an apartment to leave behind (and a lot to move before then), and a squash-heavy feast to plan before this lunar cycle is done.
 
Wish me luck!