Tag Archives: progress reports

New Moon – Apple Moon Begins

Autumn is definitely on its way.
I kind of fear that my garden has been a bit of a bust this year – though we’ve got a few beans and I expect to bring in a few bouquets of chard over the next couple of months (mostly for the freezer). I’ve basically missed chokecherry season, so I didn’t make chokecherry curd this year. I feel a bit silly about that, but here we are. I’ll be harvesting apples (mostly crab apples) and trying my hand at cider and mead again this year, though.
At least my freezer is stocked with zucchini (though I’d like to get another 2-3 dozen pucks of the stuff frozen, tbh, if not more) and diced tomatoes (same – I’m doing this instead of canning them, this year, because I find I like the taste of the frozen stuff better than the taste of crushed tomatoes with sugar and vinegar in them… go figure) before the summer’s well and truly gone.
We’ve managed to acquire a new food processor, after I managed to melt the carafe on the our previous one. One of my art clients has downsized and is getting rid of some housewares, so she passed that along to us. As such, I have Grand Plans for lots of hummus, and also for (renewing my Ottawa Tool Library membership and) borrowing the pressure canner in order to put up a 4-8 liters of pumpkin soup, and a dozen pints of ready-to-go chick peas and great northern beans. I my try using their steam juicer, too, when I bring in the crab apples.
Other than that, the main thing I’ll be water-bath canning is pumpkin butter. No, my pumpkins didn’t give me any fruit (other than one half-eaten, but otherwise ripening, one low on a small vine… dammit), but I’ll be out at the grocery store buying up Porcelain Doll pumpkins – which are super meaty and don’t have a tonne of water content OR seeds – to turn into soup and pumpkin butter and, eventually, pumpkin-pie frozen yoghurt (and, um, actual pumpkin pies…).
I feel okay (…ish) about this.
I hope I still feel okay about it in November and, rather more-so, in February and April.
Fingers crossed.
 
~*~
 
Following Liz Worth’s spread for connecting with this very earthy Virgo new moon, I pulled the following cards (or, more accurately, had the following cards jump out of the deck in this order):
 
What is my body calling for? – The Star
This is a card about hope and optimism, not something I necessarily associate with “what is my body telling me I physically need”. But, as a body card, it says “Slow down. Find your center”.
Someone (Parneet on Chai Chats?) referred to meditation as “body time”. Like “Yes, mind, I see you having lots of thoughts, but it’s not time for that right now. Right now is body time”.
That said, and somewhat to my surprise, The Star allegedly has something to do with body issues like “ankles, legs, blood circulation, spasmodic complaints, nervous system“. Which is like… “I do have nerve-related issues in my legs because of my back stuff…” So that’s also relevant to attend to.
 
What is my schedule calling for? – The Page of Earth
This card, I pulled off the top of the deck when it felt right to do so. The other cards were all jumpers, so I feel like I had a bit of agency (not tonnes, but some) in choosing this. Which seems apt, given what it’s about. The Page of Earth is a card of curiosity (as opposed to anxiety) but, even more-so, it’s a card of steady, step-by-step actions: Make the time to make the things. Make the time to do the yoga. Make the time to do the offerings. Prioritize the commitments you’ve made to yourself, your art, your gods. Make the time to write the poetry and work on the phsyical, concrete projects that will get you where you want to go.
 
What is my foundation calling for? – The Page of Fire
Full disclosure? I’m not sure what “my foundation” is. When I was shuffling for this one, I sent my focus down to my roots, down to the seat of my need, but this could just as easily refer to the “Deep Self” or “Divine Self” that Starhawk and Gede Parma talk about.
Either way, the card I got was the Page of Fire, which is a card of creativity and optimism (much like the Star, actually) as well as a card of risk-taking and confidence. My foundation – whatever that is – says “Put Yourself Out There!”
 
What is my wisdom calling for? – The Three of Earth
This is the card of “know your worth”. It calls for collaboration and says “let your labour be meaningful”. It reminds me, just a little, of this post, from more than a year ago, reminding myself to make the holy every-day and to make the every-day holy. I may not need to conceptualize every single act of washing dishes and doing vacuuming as a specific thing I’m doing to honour a particular deity (Mattaer, in this case), but remembering what it will get me, what it’ll make easier or better for me, is also relevant. Vacuuming may not be meaningful in and of itself, but making the space clean and nice so that I want to roll out my yoga mat? That’s relevant. Doing the every-day labour because I’m worthy of the results.
 
What I’m picking up on:
Make your labour meaningful – imbue your work with meaning; Be brave and put your creative self out there. Know your worth and let other people see and recognize it. Your work is meaningful, so prioritize it. Make the time to do the things that are meaningful to you, that you (say you) value, that matter to you (…and that help your body deal with its physical issues).
 
~*~
 
It’s with the above in mind that I choose – because I’m choosing this one – for this waxing cycle’s tarot card meditation the Nine of Air.
Wait, what? Isn’t the nine of air about guilt and self-loathing and anxiety and despair??
Well, yes. And that’s relevant here – If all of my bits, from my Deep Self to my literal/physical self – are saying “make time to prioritize what matters to you” + “have some confidence, already”, they are also saying “Remember you are worthy. Stop selling yourself short and putting your health and your own goals and priorities last”. So, on the one hand, I’m choosing the Nine of Air as a “stop doing this specific business” reminder. It relates to my Body’s call to “find your center” as well, and to the my need to enter a slightly meditative (or at least quiet, slowed-down, non-spinning) state if I want to actually do my art with any degree of skill.
But the nines – as Melissa Cynova says in Kitchen Table Tarot – are all about maturing and awareness.
 

Wildwood Tarot – Nine of Arrows – “Dedication” – a woman in a blue gown and a red shawl plays her bow as though it were a musical instrument.


 
The Wildwood Tarot depicts, and defines, the Nine of Arrows (air, swords) in a much more positive light than most interpretations I’ve come across. In this instance, the Nine is a card of focus and dedication, of stripping away distractions. Here, as the little write-up book says, the figure directs “their arrows of inspiration by playing the bow as an instrument of summoning. The inner oath helps keep [them] on a balanced footing”.
 
I chose this card primarily for this reason. A reminder to Show Up. To do the actions (to start again, over and over, in doing them) that move me towards my goals. To dedicate myself to myself, to my art, to my gods. To do the daily practices (will I do them every day? Will I make sure of it?) that are good for my body, good for my religiosity, that will help me be open to the connections I want and miss.
 
So, with that, I’m going to work on my Collage workshop submission, see if I can write a poem, make some beeswax tea lights, and do a tiny bit of yoga.
 
~*~
 
Movement: LOTS of walking – maybe a little too much, due to Dyke March last Saturday. Moon Salutations. “Push Outs” in doorways, at the laundromat, and in the hall using the banister as support. There needs to be more dancing here, I think.
 
Attention: Watching the apple ripen, and just being very aware that autumn is pretty much on the doorstep – ye gods, but this felt like such a cool, short summer… Noticing all the queers, whose colours and finery are a little more obvious because of the recent Pride festivities. (I love us. I love our joy and how much we shine). Where I’m feeling Nerve Issues in relation to my lower back. When and whether I’m starting to spin, and how long it takes (and what it takes) to chill myself back out again.
 
Gratitude: Friends who invite me to visit, let me use their washing machines, turn up with butter and cheese after their non-vegan guests have gone home, make plans to see me and follow through with them, who send me bags of garden produce, who ask me how I’m doing. A weekend on my own. Video dates with both my partners. A fun novel to pour myself into. Poems that come fairly easily and work out pretty well in first-draft form. Three new poems in print. snuggles with my wife. Ice cream cones and successfully improvised “fancy flavours” yoghurt pops (I did crab-apple & juniper, and they were good). Letters from my girlfriend. Getting queer-spotted by another femme, and feeling Actually Seen, which was pretty great.
 
Inspiration: Trying to dig into my experiences in DC, about a month ago, to write poetry that touches a lot on spirituality. Digging out old books of Goddess Poetry for similar reasons. My chapbook is pretty-much ready to shop around – though I’d like to get four more pieces in print before I actually start that particular process – but it means that it’s time to start work on the next one, along side continuing to do my Femme Glosa Project. I’m currently thinking that maybe I’ll try writing some devotional poetry and see where that gets me, if anywhere? Seems like a good idea for now, so let’s see where it takes me. Planning to hit up an open mic tonight and (perform, but also) see if I get inspired there, too.
 
Creation: A number of poems, a couple of which is pretty good and the rest of which are… “very drafty”, let’s say. But still: Poems! Working on a knitting project that seems to be coming along much better than the last time I tried this one. Made and/or repaired a heap of earrings. The above-mentioned yoghurt-pops.

Fermentation Elation – A Productive Home Post

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

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

Summer Solstice 2018 – Elemental Tarot Spread

Happy Solstice All!
 

Left - Potato blossoms. Right - Buttercup squash blossoms.

Left – Potato blossoms.
Right – Buttercup squash blossoms.


 
My zucchini, cucumbers, and even buttercup squash are blooming! So are my tomatoes and snow peas and fava beans. So are my mustard and radishes, which means I need to regularly give them a haircut while I continue to harvest them as greens! (Don’t worry, I’m letting the radishes go to seed so they can continue to self-seed around the yard).
I set up my cucumber trellis the other day, and it hasn’t yet fallen over, so I’m counting that as a win.
Praying for LOTS of squash – cucumbers, buttercups, butternuts, and zucchini – this year. Prolific, fruitful plants and low-to-no squirrel/rodent/critter damage please. ❤
 
Summer Solstice – I did a "tell me about right now / where do I go from here" question using the Four Elements Spread from Little Red Tarot's Alternative Tarot Course and the Next World tarot deck, and here’s what I got:
 
Me Right Now: Arsenal (The Four of Pentacles)
Earth: The Fool
Water: The Team (Three of Pentacles)
Air: Temperance
Fire: The Empress

 
Me, Right Now – Where I’m at, what my situation is: Arsenal: I’ve long understood the 4 of Earth to be a card about tenuous shelter. Being afraid that nobody will have your back, being just barely able to make ends meet, having a roof over your head… for now. And part of me is feeling this. Like every summer, this is already a summer of hustling. Last year, I worked for part-time jobs at the same time. This year I’m technically working three, although one of them really only amounts to an hour/week, so I’m not sure it counts. I checked my bank balance earlier today, and it looks like I’ll have the rent in the bank before the month turns over (Hurrah! And also Thank You Gods and Ancestors and also the receptionist who frequently takes time off AND the various artists who hire me frequently because they know modeling is my main income source. Every bit helps!) AND, based on gigs already booked for July, I’ll be able to make August’s rent as well. And knowing that, fairly confidently, in advance is a BIG fucking deal.
So seeing this card as my “Me, right now” position is… not wrong.
But the Four of Earth is also Virginia Woolf’s “Room of One’s Own” to create in. It’s the home as sanctuary (both holy place and place of rest and safety) that Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha writes about so frequently. It’s a reminder of what I’m aiming for, of what makes me happiest.
 
Earth – The material, financial, bodily. Security and abundance (or it’s absense/unsteadiness): The Fool: When I drew this card, I laughed. The fool is someone who is going in a direction where they don’t know what the outcome is going to be. In the write-up for this deck specifically, Cristy C Road says that this particular Fool made the decision to walk away from the security of following the status quo, in favour of something riskier but truer to themself.
I look at this and go, “Okay, kind of?”
I told my wife that I was thinking I needed to find a one-year full time gig – just because it might be easier to find than the part-time permanent office work I’ve been looking for as an anchor income – and she got really quiet on the phone. She told me later that the thought of it make her really sad.
Because here we are, two self-employed people working in art/isan fields, trying to make a go of this. And we’re not quite making it yet. The instability of it is scary. The work is fulfilling and I’m good at it, and I don’t want to give it up.
The Fool is about taking risks, “following your bliss”, trusting the process, and doing the “foolish” thing that goes against conventional wisdom.
Okay. But, hoy, I hope it pays off in the end. O.O
 
Water – The artistic, emotive, spiritual stuff. The heart stuff. The feelings you have about your feelings: The Team: The three of Earth is a card about teamwork, but it’s also a card about making sure your work actually gets recognized. Seeing this card in the “Feelings” position is, like… It’s a combination of “Be aware that the stories you tell yourself about how your feelings (and wants, and needs) don’t matter and will never be prioritized are, y’know, bullshit. Saying what you want/need/feel is RISKY – or at least feels that way – but it’s necessary and you will be happier, by and large, if you actually do it” and “Pay attention to how much social and emtional maintenance/support work you’re doing in your various interpersonal relationships and don’t over-offer, or otherwise do all the work or (let yourself) get taking advantage of”.
 
Air – Mind, thinky thoughts, morality and values, decision-making stuff. Where’s your head at: Temperance: I mostly know this card as one about balance. But I find it interesting to see the Cristy writes her own interpretation of Temperance as being about both (a) self-care that comes with personal maturity and a willingness to listen to what’s needed, but also (b) self-forgiveness.
I think this is how I want to read this card in this position. Forgive myself my past mistakes. Forgive myself the wrongs I’ve done, or thought, and strive to keep making myself better every day. Forgive myself my failures and give myself permission to learn from them and to try again, and then again, and then again. Don’t let (don’t keep letting) my brain weasels and their stories get the better of me.
 
Fire – Drive, passion, Will, and where you’re putting your energy: The Empress: I was pretty happy to see The Empress in this position, because I am putting my energy there. But it’s also Midsummer, and I’m putting my energy into my garden as well as my art. I want to tie this card to the “where you are right now” of the Four of Pentacles, because the Empress asks: Are you treating Home Maintenance as a chore you have to slog through in order to Be A Grown Up, or are you treating it as a series of little rituals that make the everyday holy? I’m reading this as a call to (continue to) connect with sensuality, artistry, and embodied spirituality going forward. Because who doesn’t want that? 🙂
 
So there I have it. A weather report and some suggestions for where to aim next (or keep aiming – the FeelingsWitch over at Tiny Lantern Tarot says that healing works on its own timeline and tends to happen in spirals not straight lines, and… they aren’t wrong).
 
I’m off to wash dishes, tidy surfaces, and harvest rhubarb for Midsummer Pie.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Full Moon – Flower Moon Crests

The dog roses bloomed the day before the full moon (in Sag). The lilacs are out all over the place. My self-seeded radishes and crane’s bill are blooming and my columbines, sage, peonies, and even bergamot are well on their way towards bursting into flower.
Flower Moon indeed.

Close-up shot of pale pink pavement roses (dog roses, salt-spray roses) with green leaves as the blurry background. Photo by ThePantherAleo Courtesy of Wiki Media Commons

Close-up shot of pale pink pavement roses (dog roses, salt-spray roses) with green leaves as the blurry background.
Photo by ThePantherAleo
Courtesy of Wiki Media Commons


 
The Full Moon in Sag – like all full moons – relates back to the New Moon that was in the same sign, six months ago. Looking back, I see that, six months ago, I was writing the Goals post for my Empress Project and trying to get myself to Dream Big rather than over-thinking and self-sabotaging my hopes and plans.
Which is… not out of line with what’s been going on in the past 8 days or so.
 
I did a tarot reading this time last week – a three-card draw suggested by Liz Worth in a guest-post for Biddy Tarot:

1. What do I fear about myself?
2. How can I face this fear and move past it?
3. What can I accomplish as a result?

 
The answers I got were:
1) The Empress (U) – Which, given my ongoing Empress Project, I’m interpreting as “I’m afraid of my own success” (just… see below for more on that one).
 
2) The Three of Swords (R) – Grief, sure, but grief that you are allowed to let go of. Recognize that Now is not Then. You are not going to be punished for reaching past scrabbling survival or for wanting things beyond being allowed to continue existing (ish).
 
3) Temperance (U) – Feeling centered and secure, finding the right mix, achieving some balance, flourishing. (Isn’t flourishing what the Empress is all about?)
Which…
You guys, the day I did this reading, I got invited to a job interview for a part-time office job, walking distance from my house. With benefits and a (likely) starting salary that, even pro-rated to three days/week, would cover our basic living expenses reliably and consistently for the foreseeable future.
 
The interview was on Monday.
Lunar-cycle-wise, that’s an amazing time for a job interview (almost-full moon in an energetic, get-up-and-seize-the-day Fire sign, with everything else in stable, secure, resourceful Earth).
I’m hoping that helped me.
I’m hoping everything helps me.
I have no idea if, or when, I will head the results but I have been straight-up harassing my gods and ancestors and everybody else who might potentially be listening about this. I am kind of feeling (exhausted from) what Ms. Sugar calls “getting in a staring contest with the universe“.
I’ve also been having Big Feels about not “deserving” this. Impostor syndrome. The fear that, if I don’t keep myself small and scared, some nebulous Big Bad is going to come along and hurt me to make sure I “stay in my place” (which is desperate and needy and never allowed to have enough). This weird, stupid, doesn’t actually make any sense, suspicion that my wife wouldn’t be having Extra Joint Pain right now, if I hadn’t been so “greedy” as to want us to be able to reliably make ends meet and potentially make them overlap.
It’s messed up.
I want to stop feeling like this.
But, tbh, even more than that? I want an email offering me that job. I’ll deal with, and hopefully banish, the imposter syndrome once I know that our rent & groceries are for-sure going to be covered.
 
But for the moment, I’m waiting. Fighting off anxiety. Distracting myself by reading YA novels (which is great). Working in my garden – the fava beans are coming up. So is the red mustard and (maybe) blue kale and dill (only one, so far) from my friend, who held the job I just interviewed for, along with the chard I seeded, and reseeded, and then seeded again (FINALLY). My tomatoes, cukes, zukes, potatioes, and winter squash all seem to be getting their roots in well. The sorrel and lovage I planted are getting their feet in, too.
I am hoping the flourishing of my garden, the re-balancing of its soil by giving it a good feed and planting some nitrogen fixers, will work as a thinking-in-things spell to help me be open to my own success, my Empress flourishing, to invite in those things ( like this job, Universe ) that will help me do and be all of that.
 
Today’s Tarot Card Meditation draw was the Eight of Pentacles.

Eight of Bones – Collective Tarot
A ribcage with eight ribs. There is a chrysalys nested in the sternum over (or in place of) the heart. Below the ribcage, fiddlehead ferns are starting to unfurl.


 
I like this card.
The eights are all about hope. Even cards like the eight of cups, where the hope is less obvious (letting go of something, which can be painful, in order to make space for something better to come in). But this particular card is about both (a) super-relevant stuff like finding a new job, and also (b) doing the day-to-day “carry wood, fetch water” stuff of making life happen.
The above picture is from the Collective Tarot, but I did my draw from the Next World deck. Cristy C Road calls the 8 of Pentacles “Creation”. It’s a picture of two people, obviously proud of what they’ve made, standing in the foreground of stacks and stacks of paper (what looks like a self-published zine, chapbook, comic, guide, or similar).
Other versions of the Eight of Pentacles consistently touch on the honing of a craft, on diligence, on putting in the effort and attention to tend something that matters to you. The Next World rendition is very much in that vein.
But the Collective Tarot’s Eight of Bones talks about something else. The chrysalis under the rib cage. The “new normal” that’s been growing this whole time you (I?) have been breathing, learning, and baby-stepping forward. The heart that is developing, that is ready to emerge.
 
If I have a wish – beyond the very specific “let me get this job” that I’ve been praying and chanting and spell-casting for all week – for this full moon in Sagitarius, it’s this:

Let Me Thrive!

 
~*~
 
Movement: LOTS of walking. The heat has arrived (YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!) and… I have totally forgotten how to walk long distances (for a given value of “long” meaning about 5km at a time) in hot, hot, humid weather. BUT I’m walking a lot. Digging in my garden, planting seedlings, pulling unwanted plants (quack grass and dog-strangling vine, almost exclusively) and harvesting greens. Going dancing on Saturday night, too. 🙂
 
Attention: I strongly suspect that the content of this post has detailed where most of my attention has been of late. However, I’m also paying attention to what’s coming up in my garden (and what isn’t), and what it needs to thrive. I did a lousy job of taking care of it last year, and I’m hoping to do better with it this time around.
 
Gratitude: My wife, who smiles at me and tells me she loves me all the time. The people who are willing to sing my praises to a potential employer, should they call. Dandelions, grape leaves, Vietnamese garlic, garden sorrel, mustard greens, radish leaves, and other goodies that have been doing their duty as our vegetables of late. Honouraria for working a “learn to mend” night at the OTL. Connecting with other queers. Clothing swaps. People showing up for each other when someone needs support. Having a spare room in-which to temporarily house someone (er… we had a 15-year-old stay with us for a couple of days while she was between group homes). The smell of wet earth and fresh, clean rain on just-mowed dandelions in the yard. Getting that interview and it (probably?) going well. Ancestors taking care of me. Goddesses who listen. A big, gorgeous full moon to look up at. Warm, gentle nights to walk home in. Extra modeling work. New poetry in the mail. The smell of flowers – lilacs and roses and the last of the crab apples – heavy in the air. It’s a beautiful time of year.
 
Inspiration: I have new poetry to read, and I’m paging through Kitchen Table Tarot, Modern Tarot, and She Is Sitting in the Night, trying to gain some new perspectives on my numerous decks of cards. I’m also drawing inspiration from my garden, since it’s waking up and making magic of its own right now.
 
Creation: Right now, a lot of my creative efforts are being put into trying to get the Universe to give me what I want. So my activities are less about poetry and more about getting my garden in shape to keep feeding us, and getting the Wider World to, well, like me enough to get me a stable and sustainable working situation. Keep your fingers crossed for me, please. Beyond that, while I’m still working on finishing my moon-inspired poetry chapbook, I’m finding that food and plant imagery is finding its way into my work – because: garden – more and more. Hoping to get this one finished before the next New Moon, but we shall see.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2018 – End of Week Two

I have totally bought groceries this week.
Sure, some of it was the stewing beef for a meal I’m making a friend.
But a lot of it was just being too tired to cook in the evening (and so eating the lovely fried egg sandwiches my wife made for us) and then not packing the yoghurt for lunch.
 
Which has me looking at why I’m doing this challenge.
I mean, yes, the whole point is to eat through as many preserves as I can swing, and remind myself that I know how to cook Real Food from scratch, so I’m not (I’m NOT, dammit) going to beat myself up for deciding that I’m not willing to starve for this when I can drop $3 and keep me in discount muffins (which I hid in my temporary desk drawer) for the better part of a week.
But it does have me thinking about Voluntary Austerity.
Both in the sense that Ms Sugar talks about in her book about Glamour Magic – where it’s a tool for making deals with gods and a means of upping your own intensity (which gets you Noticed by humans and non-humans alike) and getting clear on your goals. (Uh. I think). And also in the sense of “doing more with less” in order to prove a point, reach a goal, or learn a new habit… which is more what this challenge was about when Erica came up with it, years ago.
 
Readers? This will come as no surprise to anybody, but: I HATE austerity.
 
Calamity Jane, over at the Apron Stringz archive, has a whole THING about austerity. I can recognize and respect the goals of using less, being less stuck on the materialistic/treat cycle, being more production-oriented than consumption-oriented. I am those things, most of the time. But I want my “use less stuff” to be pleasurable, rather than a demoralizing grind.
I want to look at my larder and say “Okay, I’m limited to what I’ve got here. Let’s make some magic” rather than “Okay, I’m limited to what I’ve got here. Ugh. This is gonna be so gross…”
 
Case in point, and part of what got me thinking about this stuff: I have a tendency to hoard food. I look at the pork shoulder in my deep freeze and go “I should save that for later, when we might not be able to get another one” rather than going “I should cook this and make a week+ of delicious stew and stir-fry dinners with the vast quantity of left-overs it’ll generate after the initial braise”.
Which means I “save” the food I want to eat, and aim to try to make stuff that I only sort-of want to eat, just to get rid of the less-tasty stuff first.
Largely because of this tendency, I made the mistake (“mistake”) of cooking whole oats (rather than, say, potatoes) early on in the week. Whole oats are great. They cook in 20 minutes (uh… in theory) and they’re chewy like short grain rice. But they’re a bulk food buy and, like buying brown rice in a big sack, sometimes there’s chaff mixed in with the grain. Either that or they take longer than 20 minutes to really cook through.
Frozen turkey, that I’d cooked and put in the freezer six months ago, cooked with oats, red lentils, carrots, pickled sunchokes, cabbage and a mix of chicken stock and white wine. The flavour was excellent. But the mouth-feel of the oats-and-lentils was AWFUL, and did not improve with time.
I ate that stuff for three days, and I am not happy about it.
 
Look. I want to be able to make delicious dishes that feature grains and beans heavily. I want to incorporate whole oats into our household diet in at least a semi-significant way, because eating Ancestrally, is both a good way to connect with your beloved dead (especially the ones far back enough that you never knew them in life), AND a good way to give your body what it needs, by eating what YOUR body would have been eating 1000 years ago and learning to get the best out of.
In my case, that means oats & barley, lots of different wild greens (nettles, dandelion, wild grape leaf, plantain, sow thistle, garlic mustard, wild mustard, wild amaranth, garden/sheep sorrel, etc), bread with oats & rye in it (I am totally sticking to wheat though, because I know how to do that reliably), lots of different bramble-berries (red & black currants, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, rose-hips, hawthorn berries, and their relatives), kale & turnips, lots of different kinds of meat (everything from fish & shellfish to cattle & pigs, to deer & elk, to rabbit & duck), and tonnes of dairy.
 
Anyway.
With that in mind (uh… ish), I’ve been cooking with wine and whey this week, as well as lots of frozen kale. Which is the other thing I’ve been reminded of, and am resolving to Do Better At this summer: Frozen greens (and fresh greens) are basically the best thing ever, and I need to be on top of growing them from scratch, and freezing batches of them on the regular.
To that end, I started 17 chard seeds (and 3 snow-pea seeds) in peat pots today. They’re old seeds, but I’m hoping they all germinate. I want to have chard starts already growing when I go out at Beltane to rake over the raised beds and dig out any further quack grass that might have tried to start in the past month.
 
This week’s menu has not included much of what I had originally planned out, but HAS included:
Home made bread
The above-mentioned turkey-lentils-and-oats casserole
The above-mentioned giant pork roast (the left-overs of which will feature in a lot of next week’s meals, I suspect, as 3/4 of it is in the fridge and ready to be treated like an ingredient)
A chick-pea stew (made, in part, for a friend who’s having a rough go) – which WAS delicious, fyi (Maybe the answer to my problem is to just stick with barley, rather than oats? I’ll try it and see, next week!), and used up a litre of crushed tomatoes.
A beef stew (made, in part, for a different friend who just got out of the hospital) – it was also delicious, albeit a lot spicier than I personally like (My wife was like “This is how food should be!” to-which I responded “My lips are tingling, this is not a good time!”) My friend, however, makes her own hot sauce from carolina reaper peppers (which I gather make Scotch Bonnets look like Jimmy Nardellos), so she’ll probably enjoy it, even if she finds it a little tame. It used up a litre of salsa, too, which was a help.
AND
Home-made yoghurt – I mentioned trying out my instant-pot last week, and the yoghurt function does, indeed, make yoghurt. Very mild yoghurt, with a lot of whey, at the default setting,but still tasty. Will try to culture it for 10 hours instead of 8 next time, but for now I have almost-drinkable yoghurt that, if I think it out with some berry juice (from thawing frozen berries), I basically get “yop”, and it’s lovely. No sweetener required.
 
We’ll see how next week goes. For now, I think I need to bake a thing – probably a double-batch of rhubarb muffins – so I can bring some to my friend, along with that beef stew and a loaf of bread.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2018 – End of Week One

So. Week One has come and gone, largely without a hitch.
Which is a good thing, because Week One is the easiest week of the challenge and should go without any hitches at all, especially given that I’m doing this challenge on “easy mode”. However it’s also a not-so-good thing because there was, in fact, a hitch.
I got an unexpected extra half-day of temp work this past week (YAY!!!), and duly packed myself a lunch for the hour-long commute between my morning modeling job and my afternoon office job (inter-provincial busing is, uh… special), woke up to an inch of sleet on the streets and, in the rush to get out the door to catch a substantially earlier bus? Big surprise, I forgot my lunch at home.
So I bought my lunch on Wednesday.
Bit of a disappointing beginning there.
BUT!
Beyond that, things have been going fine.
 
My pre-planned meal ideas are working and proving to be at least a little bit versatile.
There’s now enough room in the freezer (thanks to the litre of frozen sunchokes that I thawed out and started fermenting – see below) for me to stock-pile an extra loaf of bread, which means we’ve been eating home-made all week, and nothing has gone moldy (yet), which is fantastic. I’ve made five loaves of bread (we’ve eaten three of them, the other two were made yesterday, along with pancakes and cupcakes).
The previously-frozen sunchokes are fermenting nicely. At least that what it looks like. I’ll start using them in cooking… probably around about Week Three.
The reconstituted mushrooms… don’t seem to be bubbling all that much, but nothing smells weird, so I’m holding off judgement for another little while. I did take the opportunity, once the sunchokes started bubbling, to add a little more of the sunchoke brine to the mushrooms, in the hopes that it’ll help it to take off. We’ll see what happens on that front, but hopefully this time next week, I’ll be telling you that my mushrooms have started to bubble.
The slight up-tick in vegetarian-adjacent dishes (I say “adjacent” because the stews and similar aren’t really vegetarian. I’m still using animal fat and bone stock to cook this stuff, even if the protein is coming from beans and grains) isn’t hurting us any, even if they do leave me feeling a tad hungrier than the same dish with a little bit of tuna or diced pork thrown in would do[1].
I’ve made chocolate chocolate-chip cupcakes and filled them with choke-cherry curd. This didn’t work out quite like I expected – it’s not like putting a dollop of cheesecake batter in the middle of a cupcake, and the curd just kind of got absorbed by the rest of the cake. But it was delicious, none-the-less, and I have no regrets.
I’m remembering to reach for pearl barley, polished rice, and whole oats (oat groats) rather than pasta, as my current go-to carbs, but will need to start pre-soaking great northern and/or black turtle beans soon-ish because, while I’ve got plenty of jarred chick peas and a a few meals worth of Spare Lentils[3], I’m going to run out of those pretty quickly.
 
Which brings me to: I have an instant pot.
Yes, really. A while back, an absolute sweetheart of a friend straight-up bought me an Instant Pot because I mentioned that I wanted to try making yoghurt in one, and they decided they wanted to do something nice for me.
(You guys. My friends are fucking amazing. Did I mention? Holy moly!)
You want to know what an instant pot can do, aside from make yoghurt? It can “pressure soak” beans. Basically, this is the same as bringing dry beans to a boil and then letting them sit, covered, for an hour, before rinsing them and cooking them in new water for the standard cook time. It just takes a lot less time. Which, if you’re staring down a chili dinner, and the tin of beans you thought you had turns out to have been used last week… Is a gods-send.
 
Today, however, I’m using it to make yoghurt. First time out of the box (finally).
Seriously. I’ve tried making yoghurt at home in my parents’ 43-year-old yoghurt maker and… it doesn’t work. Possibly because it’s just a very, very old heat-sleeve that goes on the fritz a bit. Or possibly for Arcane Reasons that I can’t figure out. But the yoghurt I’ve managed to make has been desperately watery unless I add a thickener, like extra powdered milk, and that messes with both the flavour and the texture. Good for cooking, but not very great for breakfast[4].
Fingers crossed that it lives up to its reputation, because I’ve got lots of frozen fruit available, and I’d love to bring pints of fruit yoghurt for lunch on at least a couple of days during this coming week of temp work.
 
Anyway.
Meals for this week have included:
– Braised pork chops with root veggies (carrots, onions, sunchokes), red lentils, cabbage, and dried cranberries
– Pasta with tuna, frozen peas, and cheese sauce (this is a regular at our house, and will continue to be so)
– Turkey stew with pickled root veggies, whole oats, green lentils, and crushed tomatoes
AND
– Chickpea stew with green lentils, pearl barley, crushed tomatoes, dried cranberries, cinnamon and curry powder
 
Meals Ideas for the coming week include, but may not result in:
– Veggie Stew 2 ft a significant amount of vegan (bean-based) sage pesto and, therefore, probably frozen squash, frozen cranberries, and some pre-soaked great northern beans, along with maybe pot barley or, if I have any left, some wild rice (unlikely). This one will probably also have a splish of either white wine or cider vinegar thrown in.
– Pumpkin/Cauliflower “curry” (jar of chick peas, fried onions, frozen pumpkin OR frozen cauliflower florets, quinoa, frozen greens… maybe some coconut milk, and curry powder).
– Stir Fry of onions, reconstituted (non-pickled) mushrooms, shredded cabbage, and marinated firm tofu fried and added to a mix of white basmati rice, red lentils, and frozen greens. This will probably also involve some grocery store hoisin sauce and/or Terrifying Hot Sauce, since I’ve got it.
– Some sort of black bean veggie chili, of which I’ll be making 2-4 extra servings for a friend who’s just got out of the hospital. Some of my frozen winter squash is going to end up in here, along with a couple of pints of crushed tomatoes.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I really don’t understand how the addition of 1C or less of meat to a generous four serving meal (which works out to a maximum of two ounces of meat per serving) lets me feel sated and keeps me from feeling dizzy or hollow when the same meal, minus that 2oz of animal protein, leaves me hungry enough to get stomach cramps, even when I’m deliberately mixing beans, grains, and fats to make sure that the vegetable amino acids are bio-accessible to my non-herbivore digestive system[2]. It’s weird, especially since other folks do BETTER on a beans-and-grains heavy diet, rather than getting sick more easily under those circumstances. But that’s my body for me.
 
[2] Although my non-herbivorousness has more to do with not having a stomach that can get protein from grass & leaves than it does with needing to remember to add fat to anything (whether that’s beans+grains / nuts & seeds, OR extremely-lean meat like rabbit) to be able to get protein from PROTEIN.
 
[3] One of the ways I up both the amino acids and the fibre content of a stew, braise, or other pot dish is to do 1/3 quick-cooking (no soaking needed) lentils to 2/3 grain of a similar cooking time –> So 2/3 C pot barley or long-grain brown rice to 1/3C beluga black lentils, or 1/4 C red or green lentils to 1/2 C pearl barley, oat groats, quinoa, or white basmati rice.
 
[4] Having grown up on yoghurt made in the above-mentioned 1970s-era yoghurt-maker, I’m aware that it will be grainier, and a little bit thinner, than the stuff I get as my live culture starter from the grocery store. That’s not what I’m talking about.

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2018 – Kickoff (beginning of Week 1): A Productive Home Post

So, normally (for a given value of “normally”), I’d hold off posting anything more about Eat From the Larder Month until the end of Week One. BUT I’ve been doing a bunch of “productive home” stuff today, and I wanted to talk about it in the context of starting this challenge off.
 
It being only April 2nd, and yesterday having been Easter Dinner at my mom’s place, we aren’t exactly noticing anything yet on the “I’m not buying groceries” front. So this is more about planning and routine maintenance than anything else.
 
I spent a small chunk of the other day – while at the laundromat, no less – writing up meal plans (or at least “meal ideas”) based on what I thought I had on hand. Of course, to the shock of nobody what-so-ever, there are things I thought I had that I don’t have, and things I thought I was very nearly out of that are highly available. For example, I have NO frozen broccoli, but a LOT of frozen peas, to work with in the freezer. I have more tinned soup than expected, but a significant margin, but pretty much no ground meat (so I can cross “meatloaf” off my meal ideas list).
One of things I have that I wasn’t expecting is, as it happens, soup bones. I thought I’d used them all up, last batch, but NOPE. Turns out there’s a whole other bag of them in the freezer. Which is good, since the batch of stock I made the other day is… on the watery side, and I’d like to be able to boil it down a bit more without having feeling like I should be hoarding it instead. It’s nice to have the option of making more.
 
I made notes about which nights I need to cook something quickly that can also stretch to feed four people – I’ve got seven days of temp work coming up (thank you all the gods!), and know myself just well enough to know that pre-planning those meals, at least a bit, will make my life a LOT easier when I’m frazzled from working multiple back-to-back days of 9-5 (which is not how I usually do).
 
Thanks to a small heap of slow-but-steady spring cleaning that my wife and I have been doing, my kitchen is a lot more functional than it has been. Which feels pretty great, I have to tell you.
Consequently, I’ve got three loaves of bread (not to mention a trifle – which is an easy way to use up the last of a very, VERY stale cake I had lying around) just out of the oven and have been taking care of the ferments this morning:
 
I decanted the kombucha and set up a new batch (and put some of the older kombucha mothers in the compost, because it was getting so that there was more SCOBY than beverage in my fermentation jar, tbh). I’m kind of wondering if I can make vinegar (like, say, red wine vinegar or something) using a kombucha mother. I mean, vinegar is a zillion times less expensive than the alcohol it’s made from (probably because the wine or brandy or whatever you start with doesn’t actually have to taste good, it just has to be fermented enough to function) but I’d kind of like to try making it anyway. Maybe if I ever make cider from wild-harvested apples (six months away at the most unreasonably optimistic of possible attempt-dates), part of it can be re-fermented into vinegar, just to see if it works.
 
Transferred the last of the pickled as’kebwan’/sunchokes to a 2C mason jar in the fridge, and re-filled the fermentation jar with big chunks of blanched-and-frozen (still frozen) sunchokes from the freezer. I have SO MANY, you guys. We’ve been going easy on them, for Tummy Reasons, but it means I have something like 8+ litres of frozen sunchokes on hand and I just… I’m not sure how to get through them all. So I’m trying to ferment them (I used the old brine from the original raw ferment, so it should be inoculated with the right bacteria already, even though the veggies themselves have been killed off by the blanching), just because it will help deal with the inulin and make them easier to digest when added to stews, braises, and pot-roasts. I really hope this works out, you guys. O.O
 
I set up another fermentation experiment. Specifically, I’m trying to do lacto-fermented mushrooms. The main purpose for this is to make adding mushrooms to dinners quick and easy while relying on the dried shiitakes (or, well… something kind of like shiitakes) that I pick up by the Huge Bag every couple of years from the Chinese grocery store up the street. I find, if I just reconstitute them, they don’t always work so well, so I thought I’d try lacto-fermenting about a dozen of them (reconstituted, rinsed, and well-drained) with some thyme, just to see if they work well when added to savoury dishes. Seriously, this is why I lacto-ferment stuff, most of the time. It’s to get “annoying to prep” stuff – like beets, which are kind of messy when you peel them – into a state where I will reliably use them in stuff instead of just avoiding them because they’re messy/dirty/tough or whatever. I’m considering pre-slicing a bunch of carrots and just storing them in a big Tupperware of water in the fridge, for exactly that reason.
 
The plan for tonight is to make a turkey stew using already-cooked turkey from the freezer, plus a bunch of root veggies (some fermented, some not), some crushed tomatoes, and a splish of shiraz. Between that, the trifle, and the bread (I’ve eaten my way through half a loaf already, tbh) we should have a good dinner.
 
But First: I’m having a hot bath. It’s been too long, and I want the heat to soak back into my bones.
 
 
TTFN,
Melaid the Birch Maiden.