Tag Archives: preserves

I’m Almost Forty – A (not so) “Productive Home” Post

If you’re wondering why I picked that title, it’s because I’m turning 38 this Tuesday. Now You Know.
 
Anyway.
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.
 
As you may have noticed (or not) I haven’t done one of these since, oh, mid-July. I haven’t been hugely productive on the home-front in the intervening almost-four months.
I put my kefir grains in the fridge, in a pint jar of cream, to slow them down because I finally admitted to myself that I don’t love my home-made dairy kefir and, while it’s good when it’s thick enough to use as a sour-cream substitute in baking, it’s mostly a lot runnier and I just wasn’t going through a litre of the stuff every 4-7 days so… I’ve put it into hibernation mode and am hoping that the slower pace will let me keep feeding it (rather than letting it get over-fermented, moldy, or infested with fruit-flies… all of which have happened over the past summer) without getting “overwhelmed”.
I haven’t made bread (or much other baking) from scratch in a long time, either. I think I made cookies a couple of times, and that’s about it.
I… oh, heaven and earth, I think it’s actually snowing outside. O.O
 
Okay.
So you wanna know what I have done?
I pulled in as many green tomatoes as I could swing (a couple of weeks ago, when frost started threatening), and TODAY I dug up my jerusalem artichokes (as’kebwan’), which are now sitting in a full (if small-sized – ~2 gallons) recycling bin on my kitchen counter, waiting to be washed, blanched and frozen (that’s tomorrow’s job).
 
I put up something like 2 dozen pints of crushed tomatoes (Labour Day weekend, or there-abouts). Made choke-cherry curd, choke-cherry relish, and goblin fruit jam (also heavy on the choke cherries, big surprise).
 
I packed all the Supplies from Unholy Harvest into rubbermaid bins (which my wife then moved to the basement – hurrah, I have my main floor back and it feels so good), which was a good thing because our basement got 5″ of water in it during a big rainstorm earlier this week. (It’s fine. It’s a concrete floor on top of limestone, so the water just seeps in, no sewer contamination involved, thank goodness. And my lovely wife got the sump pump running in short order, so everything’s dried out pretty well).
 
I spent a canning day with a friend in Gatineau, making strawberry-rhubarb jam (last weekend, or maybe the weekend before?) while also pressure-canning eight pints of chick peas (my first time using a pressure canner, and I suspect I’m hooked. Looking into a membership at the Ottawa Tool Library so I can borrow the one they have on the shelves and do this multiple times per year).
 
I started a couple of new knitting projects this week as well. The first is a “safety shawl” (neon pink and pale turquoise stripes, the turquoise is going to have glow-in-the-dark beads looped into it) for walking after dark in Winter. The goal is to speedy-knit this using big needles and twisted (double-wrapped) stitches, so that I can have it done before next New Moon. The second is a cotton tank top. Which starts out looking like a really skinny cotton scarf and gets built upon from there. That one’s not the priority project, but I’m still excited about it.
 
Beyond that? Lighting my altars, making offerings at Samhain (and finally freaking switching the wreath on my door to “autumn leaves” instead of “tulips and lilacs”…), working on glamour magic stuff, getting a bit back into the swing of doing Fabulous Friday Dinners. Checking in with a lot of people. Re-homing furniture and small appliances to people setting up new places. Having breakfast with my mom. All sorts of stuff.
 
Anyway. My lovely wife is home, so it’s time to throw some dinner (left-over braised chicken thighs with root veggies, dried cranberries, and garden kale) in the oven to heat up, so off I go. 🙂
 
 
– TTFN,
– Meliad the Birch Maiden.

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Full Moon – Frost Moon Crests (Samhain)

Tonight, the full moon is in Taurus – aptly I think) my wife and I are going to have a cozy evening at home, making and mending stuff with the altars lit. My birthday is next week. I’m about to turn 38.
It’s funny (or not). The thing about Scorpio Season is that it’s deep-dive time, it the period where you dredge up stuff that you’ve been hiding from yourself or avoiding looking at and… I always expect that Stuff to be Bad. Stuff that has to be fixed or purged or navigated or mitigated or solved.
I don’t expect it to be something good.
And yet.
Here I am, and the messages I’ve been getting since the sun moved into Scorpio a couple of weeks ago… they’ve all been stuff like “Oh, hey, did we mention that you’re worthy?” or “Maybe it’s actually okay for you to want things, and not just things that you know other people want you to want. Did you consider that?” or “There are actually people in this world who will want to give you the things you want to receive, and who will want to offer you the things you want to access”.
Which is amazing.
And I’m kind of going, like, okay but… what’s the catch. Because there’s gotta be a catch.
And probably there is one.
Like, I’ll have to Let Go of an unhealthy thing that’s part of my core identity (likely), or something like that.
Urgh.
Which is hard, even when the thing you’re letting go of suuuuucks and is bad for you.
Still, it’s nice to think think that maybe the Big Secret I’ve been keeping from myself is actually a positive one. 🙂
 
Samhain came and went. We lit up the altars, made offerings of white wine and Sortilege (and chocolate). We even had NINE trick-or-treaters (which is unheard of in our chunk of the neighbourhood). It made me really happy to ask the kids about their costumes, a lot of-which were cobbled together rather than bought off the rack, which was kind of awesome. (Best one was the zombie-apocalypse survivor in the air filter mask). 🙂
 
In less-woo news: I used a pressure-canner for the first time last weekend! I got to hang out with Lovely People and put up some food that I would normally buy already-in-cans! (We also made strawberry-rhubarb jam with a bit of apple and grated ginger thrown in). I’m excited. Turns out there’s a pressure-canner at the Ottawa Tool Library, too! Am serioulsy considering the benefits of pressure-canning bone stock, long-soaking beans, and maybe curried pumpkin soup (with red lentils, garlic, amaranth, dairy cream or coconut milk, and bone stock – meaning you can make it from field/jack-o-lantern pumpkins as well as pie pumpkins) a couple of times per year. I know that having pints of stock on hand last winter was incredibly helpful when it came to throwing together 20-minute easy meals (AKA: lentil soup, french-onion soup, and other things ending in”soup” that didn’t take a lot of creativity to make happen), but having litres of stock on hand and shelf-stable means a lot more space in the fridge, without losing the fast-and-flexible, bio-accessible goodness that is bone stock. (I’m a bit of a fan).
 
The weather’s cooling down (appropriately, given that we’re in Root Time now), and it’s nice to be cooking slow-braised meals again. I’ve got chicken thighs and late-harvest veggies (potatoes, carrots, kale, onions, garlic) roasting in my iron pot in the oven. I think I’ll maybe bake some apples along-side them in a pie plate for dessert.
I’m starting to work on heavier knitting projects again, too. Still finishing up my second stocking-extension (which I’ve been doing for most of the past year. >.>) but I’ve started up a bulkier, warmer (ish) piece as well, and I’m looking forward to putting some hours in on that one.
 
All in all, November’s kicking off pretty nicely so far. Here’s hoping it continues in this vein. 🙂
 
~*~
 
Movement: Lots of walking the past two weeks, plus one night out dancing. I’ve got some garden-digging to do in the next 48 hours (weather permitting) to get as’kebwan’/sunchokes in, and that will be… tiring, but good for my arms. 😉
 
Attention: Heh. I’m paying attention to who’s flirting with me, tbh. I second-guess it a lot, but it’s still nice to think people (plural) actually are. 😉
 
Gratitude: Friends who trust me and talk to me when they’re having a hard time. Friends who listen to me when I’m flailing. Friends who bring me food. My lovey, snugly wife who’s been waking up happen this past little while and who makes me breakfast and keeps my leather in good shape. Hardy garden greens still offering up mountains of kale and chard (and sage, and dandelions, and winter savoury, and sorrel) even as the temperature drops. Neighbours who are completely chill about my messy, open-air compost heap. Shop keepers who are patient with my crappy French and ask me what I’m knitting. Schools who call me looking for last-minute (and not-so-last-minute) models, and folks who want me to come in and cover their reception desks more often than expected. Young people who are happy to talk poetry, magic, bdsm, and other fun stuff with me. A relationship with my mom that has vastly improved over the past 10 years. People who blush ever so slightly when they talk to me. Useful poetry critiques on works-in-progress. Easy access to low-scent shampoo (on sale, no less!) and cute treats like violet lipstick and neon pink yarn in my price-range. Having my house back (Harvest Stuff returned to the basement, and held-furniture sent off to its various new homes!) and my dining table accessible again! Witchy femmes (always). ❤
 
Inspiration: Friends who knit. Friends who preserve food in various ways. Poets. Young people full of enthusiasm and wonder. ❤ (Old people full of enthusiasm and wonder, too, though I don't get to see that as often). The nights that are getting longer and coming earlier.
 
Creation: I’m making a Safety Shawl for my next(started this morning) knitting project. Neon pink for brightness and pale turquoise for reflective-throw (if I can find shiny plastic beads or a big spool of reflective-tape ribbon, I will incorporate those as well), because if I’m going to be working in an industrial park this winter (which… is a maybe at this point, rather than a definite) I want some high-visibility thing I can wear so that I don’t get hit by a car while shivering my way to the bus stop. Doing twisted stitches and using thick (ish) yarn so I can get this big blanket-scarf of a thing made by the next New Moon (coming at us juuuust before Sagittarius Season kicks off). Also re-jigging a poem and telling stories with my tarot decks. It’s a good time. 🙂

New Moon – Frost Moon Begins (Scorpio Season)

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

Full Moon – Tomato Moon Crests (Full Moon in Pisces)

On Monday, I put up 14 pints of crushed tomatoes. I’ve got another 20 pounds of tomatoes (probably another 14+ pints of sauce) on the go as I’m writing this. 🙂
As planned, I’ve included garlic (from my next-door neighbour) and winter savoury (from my own garden) in the mix, plus a handful of rosemary (dried, from a shop) just because it fits nicely with both the flavours and the intentions I’m blending into this batch.
Technically I’ve been getting ripe tomatoes (cherry tomatoes) for the better part of a month now, but these days I can go out and harvest a mix of beefsteak, cherry, and roma every 3-4 days. (Which didn’t stopped me from buying 40lbs of roma tomatoes from the farmer’s market last weekend, I don’t mind pointing out. Our garden tomatoes are almost all for fresh-eating – right up until the frost hits and I need to make a mammoth batch of chutney, at any rate…)
 
Sarah Gottesdiener, over at Little Red Tarot, has some insightful stuff to say about Full Moon Energy:

When the Moon is full it is reflecting the maximum amount of the Sun’s light. Something within us is stirred. For some, this glare from our subconscious is too strong—we shirk, spiral into shame, are overcome by emotion. Our energy sapped by disillusionment, bottle set adrift in the ocean with no message for the finder.
For others who know what they want, who are clear about their purpose and core, this time is excellent for further illumination. Now can be the time to come back inside, away from the noise and distractions. Any messages or inspired illuminations spark the fodder for later external manifestation. Write down, dance out, paint any and all inspirations that come through around this time.

 
A good time to do a tarot reading, radiomancy, dream interpretation, or any other divination you’re inclined to use, then? Yes, probably[1], in my case with regards to working through the rituals and experiments in Miss Sugar’s Glamour Magic.
Hoodwitch has some suggestions on The Point of It All:

Full Moons mark the end of an emotional cycle, and this cycle has been a biggie for most people personally, and most certainly for the world as a whole.
So let’s get spiritual! Wanna know what the point of life is? It’s really simple. It’s love.
Wanna know what it’s biggest enemy is? It’s fear, in all its crappy forms.

 
Their horoscope for me says: “Your freedom is hinging on your willingness to yield it, Scorpio. Making use of your choices can be a radical act when your anxieties, situation, or relationships tell you to be less intense or more OK with something” … than you actually are. Femme wisdom if ever there was some.
 
Chani suggests: “This week marks the beginning of a six week journey of getting more familiar with your potential to influence your peers, your community and future collaborators.” With a side-note of, basically, “write your damn book”. I’m working on it, okay? Okay.
 
On a related note, Liz Worth encourages us all to “Write in your journal, hang out at an art gallery, or do something that will help you to soak up some inspiration” …and offers a tarot spread on the subject of spirituality and intuition, as a way of connecting to all the Pisces energy.
 
Over in my little world, I’m about to spend a week+ on my own. Trying to arrange a few hang-outs and meet-ups with people, so I don’t go squirrely while my lovely wife is out of town. (It’s her birthday today, fyi. I have fancy potatoes to bake before she gets home, and a charcuterie platter to set out).
 
~*~
 
Movement: Ha. Lots of standing and chopping, what with all the tomato sauce. A little bit of walking, but not tonnes. Will be throwing knives with a friend this weekend, though. 🙂
 
Attention: Paying attention to anxiety levels (and what seems to stir me up, and what seems to calm me back down), and also to… just how people respond to me when I’m out and about. I have Very Gay Buttons on my purse now, and I’m curious to see if that changes how I’m received in any way.
 
Gratitude: 40 lbs of tomatoes and a food processor(!!!). The farmers’ market vendor who remembered me from last year. My wife thinking I’m a babe and also being patient with my weirdo, emotional brain. Seeing my wife wearing cute dresses! 😀 A garden full of chard, tomatoes, rhubarb, kale, and herbs. Femme poets who ask me about my femme poetry project. A shop up the street where I can get ethical animal products that are semi-cheap ($3 for liver mousse counts as cheap for me, though $3 for crackers does not) and where I can try the odd free sample of wine-cured beef or guancale. Cheese merchants who let me try every cheese in the shop, after telling other people that “I can’t do any more free samples today” (I think it helped that I walked in waving money around). New tarot cards AND a new novel coming in the mail. A variety of different kinds of paid work, so that I have an income quilt rather than all my eggs in a single basket. Reality checks that are gently given and seriously needed. Survivor music. Friends & beloveds who lend me their ears. ❤
 
Inspiration: All the poetry. So much poetry arriving in the mail. 😀 Also: Kesha’s new album.
 
Creation: I am managing to write 1-2 poems per week, which I’m happy about. Some of them aren’t great (yet), but they’re written. Drafts still count. 😉
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] As a side note, I finally got myself a copy of the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn. It hasn’t arrived yet, but it’s due to do so in the next 24 hours. Silicon Dawn is… not a traditional deck. I’m not talking about the art, either. I mean that there are 99 cards in this deck, rather than 78, there are duplicate cards, “99 of X” minor arcana cards, and “void cards” for every suit. Now that I’m more familiar with traditional (…ish) meanings for the cards, I’m looking forward to exploring this one and having some fun with it.

New Year New You 2016 (…and 17): Week 19 – Concrete Things

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!
 
It’s been a little over eight months. I never, strictly speaking, finished my 2016 New Year New You practice, my Queen of Cups Project remains on-going. None the less, and even though a project like this is more likely to last years than to be easily wrapped up in one turn of the seasons, I still feel a bit like I’ve left a loose end flapping.
So here we are.
It’s been a whirl-wind of an almost-year. Body Time, to link back to the last post I made about this project, remains a work-in-progress BUT I keep getting better at it. I’ve pushed through tears and overwhelm and… actually been able to engage my body and FEEL THINGS, physically speaking, that I’ve been having trouble with for years. So that’s a big plus. 😀 Got a better handle (ish) on where my boundaries are and what I can do to feel like I’m taking care of myself, staying in control of a situation (not “driving off a cliff”, so to speak), and not just willfully setting myself up to get hurt.
Go me. 🙂
 
Instructions: This week’s prompt, over-due as it is, asks what (concrete) thing I can do to make my life better.
 
Tarot Card: I’m inclined to lean towards the six of fire, partly for its success connotations, for the boost of a (relatively) easy win, but mostly for its sense of abundance.
 
See, what I’m doing this week – this weekend, as it happens – is putting up 40 lbs of tomatoes for the winter. I’m just doing crushed tomatoes this year, nothing fancy, though I miiiiiight throw in some winter savoury from the garden (passion, sensuality, and sex, if you were wondering) and minced garlic (hella protection + more passionate, sexual stuff… I’m noticing a theme here). Assuming I boil off 10lbs worth of water, this should net me a little over 18 pints of crushed tomatoes, though it might be more than that. I admit, I hope so. The closer I can get this to $1/pint, the better. 😉
Canning tomatoes won’t change my life. I’ve done it too many years in a row for this to be earth-shaking. But it will make my life easier and happier in concrete ways – both right now (I like canning – shocking, I know), and over the next 12 months or so when a couple of days worth of effort (thank the gods for my food processor…) back in September will make the vegetables portion of our meals that much easier.
So that’s what I’m doing.
Wish me luck!
 
 
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.

May Long Weekend in the Garden – 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 sprouting and there has been planting! Of both seeds and starts! And there has also been (a tiny bit of) harvesting! Because perennial food crops are fantastic!
 
PLANTED:
I picked up some starts from the local Home Hardware (I’m not choosy). Purple basil, peppermint (I seriously managed to kill my peppermint last year – possibly due to drought, or possibly due to poor management – so I’m trying again), Lebanese cucumber, yellow bell pepper, and yellow cherry tomato. I got them in the ground early this afternoon, along with planting some golden zucchini seeds. We’ll see if they come up.
 
I’ve got scarlet runner beans and butternut squash, along with a “perimeter fence” of daikon radish (I’m hoping the long, thick tap-roots that develop will help keep water in, and invasive runner roots out, of the in-ground bed where I grow my cucurbitas and all my nightshades) planted as seeds, and have some probably-butternut squash coming up from compost-seeds already, which is nice. My rainbow chard is popping up all over, and I spent part of this afternoon transplanting it into more orderly rows (yeah, I’m doing rows… ish. I want my chard to have lots of room to get big and gorgeous and start thriving). My kale – which is, in theory, the Tuscan Black variety (Cavalo Nero) – seems to have sprouted, too, which is nice. I’ve been thinning out the self-seeded mustard greens a LOT in order to give the chard and kale some room to grow. Mustard, I’ve decided, makes a lovely “baby green” for salads, but isn’t something I love as a cooking green, partly because it bolts so darned quickly. It makes for decent sprouting broccoli when it bolts, though, so I’ll have to leave some to mature. 😉
 
The as’kebwan’ (sunchokes) are starting to sprout (again – I dug up a bunch earlier, as I needed to get the last of last year’s harvest out of the ground, once it had thawed – they’re great, by the way, and finding their way into a lot of stew and “potato” salad).
I have no idea if my (new to me) raspberry bush is going to flower this year. Or any year. But fingers crossed?
 
READY TO HARVEST / HARVESTED:
I have tonnes of rhubarb (and sage, and winter savoury) ready to harvest. Along with some frozen rhubarb left over from last year. Uhm. So, as I’ve previously mentioned, I need to make some pies. Or at least a Rhubarb Cafloutis or a crumble or shortcake or something. It makes a great coffee cake (I use the recipe in Company’s Coming “Muffins and More” for cranberry coffee cake, and just use diced rhubarb in lieu of cranberries) and, now that I have eggs in the fridge again, I may just go that route as it packs easily for lunches.
 
The sage has been getting picked and chucked into braises, fairly frequently, but I haven’t been doing a whole lot with the savoury. The dandelion greens and Vietnamese garlic (the tops, not the roots) have been getting added to pastas every so often, but (weirdly?) I’m concerned about using them up too quickly (or at least before the garlic starts to scape).
 
OTHER:
I turned the compost (first time!) and edged the in-ground beds (front and back). I’m happy with how the compost is doing. I put stuff like pizza boxes and newspapers in the compost heap in order to add carbon to a pretty “green stuff” heavy heap (at least I think it’s heavy on the green stuff, as it’s mostly spent coffee grounds, old tea bags, egg shells, and veggie ends) and its rotting into oblivion along with everything else, which I assume is a good sign.
Also, there are wriggly worms in the compost (and even in the raised beds!) and the soil in the back yard’s in-ground bed (which, until Wednesday, the compost heap was sitting directly on top of) is dark a relatively easy to turn – unlike the dirt in the rest of the yard, which is pretty compacted and mostly supports stuff with deep tap-roots, like dandelions.
 
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been baking and fermenting!
 
FERMENTS:
I’m drinking a LOT of kombucha lately. Partly because I’ve been home, sick, this past week, and drinking Lots Of Fluids has been a significant part of the bill, and partly just because it’s hot out now, or reasonably so, and I’m wanting cool bevvies, rather than hot ones (at least when I’m not hacking up a lung. Appetizing, I know). So I’ve been topping up my kombucha bottle a lot more frequently. NOTE: This makes for a less sharp kombucha which, with my love of the sour stuff, isn’t really what I’m going for. It’s still good, it’s just “lighter” than I like. I continue to cut it with a cup or two of lightly sweetened, long-steeped hibiscus (raspberry/pomegranate/etc) tea, as I like how that works out.
 
I’m continuing to make dairy kefir. My wife won’t touch it in terms of using it as a yoghurt substitute, but she likes it fine in baked goods, so I’m using it a lot in pancakes and coffee cake and similar. Even in bread (see below). I’m making Very Small Batches, and hoping I can get back to the stuff I was making in winter, where it would separate really evenly into curds and whey, and I could get super-thick “kefir cheese” (more like yoghurt or sour cream) that way, while using the whey in things like bechemel sauce or briases. Today, I made chocolate popsicles using (1) chocolate chips, (2) coconut milk, and (3) kefir. They probably won’t be solid until tomorrow, but they should be VERY delicious (and not overly sweet, which is a help when you want something refreshing on a hot day) if the liquid mixture is anything to go on.
 
I (finally) drained my sour kraut crock and packed the fermented cabbage (which is crunchy and done, but also salty AF, holy moly…) into some big mason jars and put it in the fridge. Time to start using this stuff on sandwiches. (Conveniently, I have some beet-and-bean spread sitting in the fridge that will work really nicely with this).
 
Speaking of sandwiches… I tried making a sour dough starter. It.. was not that? successful?
I separated out into Kinda Brown Water on top, and sludge on the bottom. Except, when I drained off the water, it was actually pretty bubbly and fermented-looking. So… It sort of worked? Maybe?
Basically, I poured the entire ferment into my most recent batch of bread, along with 2tsp of dry yeast, so while it was doing its thing, I don’t actually know if it was lively enough to lift a whole new batch of dough.
Yeah.
I’m learning to make sour dough from books like Michael Pollan’s Cooked, and I’m not too quick on the uptake. I don’t usually (yet) start making my bread dough the night before I actually want to bake it, and I’m realizing that if I want to do sour dough, that’s how it’s going to go. Or else I’m going to be starting the chef – like maybe making a chef from equal parts kefir and flour and water, which I’ve done, but am not entirely sure about (my wife liked it. I wasn’t too keen on the texture, which was a lot denser than I’m used to, but it was flavourful and made an acceptable sandwich, so it did the job) – at breakfast, and baking the bread after dinner. This is, by the looks of things, a bit of a slower process than the “only takes 2 hours” version using dry yeast woken up in sweetened warm water. So we’ll see. I’d like to keep this up, just because it would be nice to not need the dry yeast, eventually. But, for now, I’m really glad I have some on hand.
 
BAKING:
The entirety of this week’s baking has been the above-mentioned bread and rhubarb coffee cake. There are a couple of chicken legs baking in the oven right now – although that’s more like a “confit de poulet” than a “baked goods” kind of thing. It’ll be dinner along with some left-over potato salad (not made with sunchokes, or even at home, but left over from a catered lunch at a place where I was temping) and some wilted greens (as in: dandelions and garlic greens. I want that sorrel to successfully germinate even more now… Hm… a little lovage wouldn’t hurt, either…). Big Plans for this weekend include a new batch of bread (made with dry yeast, I have zero doubt), a further rhubarb Thing (maybe muffins), and cookies or cornbread. Probably not both.
 
 
GENERAL HOUSEHOLD STUFF:
Put together a care-package for someone who helped do the C-16 rally on Parliament Hill the other day. (Pasta, crushed tomatoes, salsa, tinned tuna, tinned soup, and 2L of pumpkin-coconut-lentil stew that I made with the stuff I had lying around).
I haven’t been gleaning a lot yet this year. I’ve got dandelions growing in my raised beds, so we’re just harvesting them like any other intentional crop. The the local fruit trees (my favourite cherry, plus tonnes of serviceberries) will be fruiting in about six weeks, and so will the red currants, and I’ve been watching their progress with GREAT interest. (The alley raspberries are about to flower, though they’ll take a little bit longer to fruit). I’m hoping the garden will keep us happily in greens all summer (and fall, and into the early winter…) with lots to spare for the freezer, so I’m not worrying too much about foraging for wild greens right now.
Went grocery shopping! I’ve been on “milk and eggs only” for 3-4 weeks, after a fairly lean winter. We’ve run out of a few things that I’ve been putting off replacing. It’s really nice to have cooking oil, mustard, mayonnaise, chocolate chips, and a bunch of other “not 100% necessary” things again. Plus I bought chicken. 7 chicken legs for $10. I have no idea if that’s a good price or not, but I’m really happy to have 3 meals for two + a chicken leg for some evening when I’m on my own over here, sorted as the greens start to come in. There’s still a lot of dry-goods to replace (particularly flour, but also honey and some basic baking things), and I want to re-stock on chicken and fish in one big go, though I suspect that will happen at Costco or similar, rather than ordering another half a pig. (Yet. We’re still finishing our first one). We’ve got a gallon of maple syrup due to arrive some time this coming week, which I’m looking forward to. I want to try using it more frequently in my baking.
As per usual, I’ve been offering the first slice of every new batch of bread to my gods and ancestors + Anybody local who wants to partake. Now that I’ve got the compost turned (and regularly watered – thanks to the neighbours who are okay with me using their hose), I can use it as an offering place for more stuff, should I happen to have it. The compost heap makes a great offering altar, just because it’s got All The Things in it – heat and wetness, earth and air, and movement, and change, all going on at once. If I manage to successfully make mead (hello, summer fermenting project), some of it will be going in there.
We turned the heat off. (Technically this happened a week ago, but close enough). It’s been wonderful to sleep with the windows open again!
I moved the fig tree outside. My landlord’s husband and I stood outside, drinking coffee and chatting about gardening. He said the fig tree needs a bigger pot (again), and that going around the edges with a big knife will help keep it from becoming root-bound. Which, admittedly, it might already be. But… we’ll see. It’s not technically ours, we’ve just been babysitting it for two years.
 
ANYWAY. That’s the state of the garden and the rest of the household for the moment.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.