Tag Archives: progress reports

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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New Year New You 2016 (…and 17): Week 22 and Week 23 – Last Push / Reflection

I’m doing finishing up Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation (again) because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. You should try it!
 
Instructions:Push harder than you ever have this week. Push harder than you ever thought you could and then just a little bit more” + “please take some time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve learned, and where you’re going to go from here“.
 
Tarot Cards: The Moon. Because healing happens in spirals, because this whole project has been bringing up All The Feelings around meta-naratives that have been part of my (very unhealthy, generally mean-to-me) personal cosmology for a very, very long time. Like 3/4 of my life levels of “long”. And also the Seven of Stones… for much the same reason. All of the sevens are linked to both The Chariot’s get-up-and-go action orientation and to The Star’s call to find your own True North and set a course for it, but this particular seven is also about healing, about patience, about recognizing how much I’ve accomplished but also about realizing that the project I set for myself is going to take some time.
 
It’s not a “last push” kind of project.
 
2016 was a hard year, and the ‘hard’ extended well into the first third of 2017. The pep-talk I gave myself way, waaaay back in November of 2015, when this project was barely an embryo? That was challenged on a couple of fronts. I spent a lot of time wrapped up in – and trying to climb out of – some pretty deep hurts and resentments, trying – with help and on my own – to figure out Boundaries 301 (which is still a work in progress, but I have a better idea about it now).
 
 
Things I Have Learned
 
Being open and receptive to what’s being offered also requires (somewhat counter-intuitively) having enough personal boundaries in place that I don’t over-offer in return but can meet people where they are.
This is hard, and I’m very much in the part of this where I have to hash everything out really explicitely from the get-go:
– Yes, I can do X, but only under Y circumstances.
– I can’t do QRS without unwanted results in this situation, but I can do MNO just fine.
– DEF isn’t happening, so it’s not right/safe/appropriate for me to offer GHI yet, or maybe ever.
It’s exhausting, but it’s also relevant, necessary, and worth it.
 
I have got one hell of a skewed view of what is and is not okay to want from/with other people. Like, it’s pretty messed up and I’ve got a lot of… sorting out… to do on that particular front. Worth it to look back on the exercises I did during my life-coaching sessions and try to move further in this regard.
 
I can’t actually “open up and be receptive” to something that isn’t there. It takes two to tango (or whatever it is I’m trying to do with someone) and if words and actions aren’t matching up, I need to look at the actions and re-adjust (a) expectations, but more to the point (b) availability/openness accordingly.
 
The tarot study that I did right along-side this project? I have a bad tendency to read cards in ways that (a) give me news I don’t want to hear, but – at the same time – conveeeeeniently also line up with the meta-narratives that tell me I will be punished for wanting things or that I’m never going to get what I want. Easy example: I tend to read the 6 of Cups as “wishful thinking” or “you need to get a reality check” rather than the equally likely “get it, girl / claim what’s yours” or “you are surrounded by blessings / opportunities for play and ease” reads.
Opening myself to new possibilities means making space in my head for those possibilities to be options. I think my next step here is to do a “best case scenario” reading alongside my default read of any given spread. Doesn’t mean that the best case will happen, and I hope I won’t end up wishful-thinking my way through stuff I might be better off facing head-on, but… it can’t hurt to try this, right? Right.
 
 
Where Do We Go From Here?
 
My Queen of Cups project is going to continue. I’m far enough in that I can see that more needs doing (I can even see what some small parts of it are!), so… onwards we go.
It’ll probably inform how I work through the exercises in Miss Sugar’s new book, Glamour Magic, which I’m quite enjoying reading already.
 
Wish me luck, kittens.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Mid-July: In Which Everything Goes To Hell – A “Productive Home” Post

So! Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing, and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity. It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
IN THE GARDEN there has been some planting, a tiny bit of harvesting, and a little bit of… building?
 
I rescued three cucumber plants and a zucchini from Certain Death in a neglected loblaws garden center… about a week ago. I transplanted them, plus one of my pre-existing but too-heavily-shaded-by-beans-and-radishes cucumbers and a couple of my probably-pumpkin plants to:
A new in-ground bed that I put together by piling up bolted mustard stems, overlaying them with some newspaper, and then emptying a bag of soil on top of everything.
They seem to be… mostly not dying? Which is sort of what I was going for. One of the (very small…) cucumbers is flowering, as is the probably-a-pumpkin (you can see both below). The zucchini occasionally tosses out a male blossom as well. I’m hoping that, by August, they will be blooming with the lady-flowers and starting to hint at bearing fruit.
 

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

My raspberry bush is fruiting!


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

First Weekend in June – A “Productive Home” Post

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

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.

New Year New You 2016: Week 18 – Body Time + Taking Stock

I’m doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation (again) because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. You should try it!
 
Instructions: “Do I think you need to know how to quiet your mind and focus to do magic? Yes!” So, take a minute to empty the “old crap” out of your brain, so there’s “room to let new crap in”.
 
Tarot Card: For this prompt, I’m strongly inclined to go with Temperence, given its connotations of balance, of pause and reflect, of integration. But I could have just as easily gone with The Hanged Man with its connotations of edges, of new perspectives, even night vision (king of insight…), the clarity that can come from taking a minute to look at things from all angles, to wait and see. Likewise, the Seven of Earth – the suit of embodiment, its number linked to both hope (the Star) and action (the Chariot) – that urges us to look at what we’ve accomplished while reminding us that change takes time would also be an appropriate choice.
 
So someone (Parneet from Chai Chats, iirc) once very effectively explained meditation as “This is not Mind Time. This is Body Time”. Like, rather than focusing on Emptying Your Mind, the whole point of meditation (sitting quietly style meditation) is to check in with your body and connect with yourself physically. That’s what the whole “focus on your breath” thing is about.
Me? I spend a HUGE amount of my life in Mind Time. Hours and hours spent sifting through thoughts and cognitive patterns, dealing with a lymbic system that is sometimes No Help At All and trying to forge new habits and pathways by rote and force of Will… But Brene says “We move what we know from our heads to our hearts through our hands” and so Body Time is a needed thing, as well.
 
Body Time is hours spent making thumbprint shortbread cookies and vegan ginger snaps. It’s the repetitive work of chopping food for large-batch cooking and canning, and the over-under-around-and-through of knitting a shrug worth of garter stitch, the back-and-forth of weaving, the twist-and-fling of spinning on a drop spindle. All those “stimming” things that keep me level and calm and focused when anxiety and ambient noise are threatening to carry me away.
Body Time is pausing to feel my feet, set my roots down into the ground, it’s taking a minute to breath extra deep, into the spots in my hips that aren’t always there, all the way down into my shins, to feel with my whole body. It’s doing a little shoulder-focused dance to help my spine straighten and my stiff, aching lower-back muscles loosen up.
Body Time is letting myself enjoy a kiss, lean into a touch, feel everything all the way down rather than shying away from sensation. It’s paying attention to sensation, to wants and desires that show up physically, adding new techniques to the tool kit of Things That Help Me Stay and then actually using them when I need them.
 
Body Time is, to be honest, still a work in progress, but it’s getting easier. Some days, the part of my brain that insists that experiencing desire is, in and of itself, monstrous, something to be ashamed of, something that it’s abusive and wrong to even voice… some days, that part of me still does the driving. Although I’m getting a little better at wrestling the keys back and feeling my way into my own frame again.
I have made progress on this front.
I am having an easier time recognizing that I’m loved and cared for. I’m having an easier time holding two hard, sad things in my hands at once while still continuing to actually move forward. My year-at-a-glance horoscope for 2017 includes the phrase “happiness is an inside job” which… on the one hand: Duh. On the other hand: This suggests that I’ll be working on “How to get to Happy” for a little while longer. But there’s been movement. I feel like I’m part-way up the mountain and, while I’m not there yet, if I stop for a minute and take a damn breath, I can look behind me and see that I’ve actually gone a fair ways so far. This is good. I’m not quite at the Queen of Cups “end goal” of my project, more like a conscious embodiment of the Page of Cups while still trying to navigate the Knight of Cups‘ characteristics in a way that includes good boundaries and self-compassionate caution instead of EITHER “flinging myself off a cliff” (the eyes-wide-shut Relentless Hope that is sometimes part of the Three of Fire) in the name of “earning” the love and belonging one craves OR the kind of walled-up paranoia that can lead one to freezing everybody out and being lonely and hungry all the time (the emotional equivalent of the Four of Earth).
Fingers crossed that I can pull this off. ❤

Full Moon – Long Nights Moon Crests

So… People – like alive-human people and non-human/non-corporial people, have been looking out for me.
 
I’m saying “me” rather than “us” because my lovely wife’s Big Client is still a bit up in the air with setbacks and deliveries that aren’t delivered yet, and we will basically have two weeks or less to make 600 units all by hand (I fear I will need wrist braces by January 1st as a result of this, send halp), provided all the components arrive by Saturday. Which is… not guaranteed. :-\ Me, on the other hand? I went from having three bookings in December to having a couple of weeks (cumulatively, not all in one go) of work. Hallelujah! People have been feeding me – bringing little boxes of hors d’oeuvres to the house, or calling me up to let me know about the restaurant nearby who is giving away boxes of frozen smoked-chicken bones for stock-making, or dropping off a bottle of wine “for you and the missus” or a giant plate of free lunch + dessert at the desk where I’m temping for the day – all week. It’s been a lovely reminder of “You’re taken care of”. (Thanks, Everybody).
 
There is a crow who has started hanging out a little more directly in our back yard (compost offerings – because I actually did get off my ass and build a compost heap a week or two ago – for the win, basically). We are thinking of doing marinated chicken hearts on skewers – think balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and a little oil – and leaving one out for the People as an offering. I suspect it will go over well.
 
I have sorted out how to get the kefir to do what I Want (stir well, once a day, for 3 days, then seal and let sit overnight. Voila! Well-separated kefir curds and whey). I’ve been draining off the whey and using it to make cakes and pancakes and similar, and have been straining the curds through a plastic strainer and using it in place of chevre (it’s a little less crumbly / more spreadable than chevre, but that’s a feature, not a bug, from my perspective). I’ve stirred it into borscht (my poor wife – she can smell the ferment, but the taste is all “milk gone off” to her palate) and will be blending a bunch with some salt, rosemary, and oregano, to offer as “cheese spread” at our Winter Solstice shindig this year. The sour kraut is still waaaay (ha! “whey”) more salty than sour, but the sunchoke/as’kebwan’ pickles… seem to be doing… something appropriate (we’ll try them again in a week).
 
I said, in my previous Lunar Cycles post, that my goals for this cycle included:
 

Be patient with myself, but don’t stop making progress;
Practice being kind to myself, while recognizing that “being kind” is a very different thing from “being an enabler” (Be My Own Mommy, as I once said to a friend who needed a fresh set of eyes on a tarot spread she’d done for herself);
Do the things that make me happy: knit/weave/sew, cook/preserve/ferment/bake, keep writing poetry, take baths and read novels and light my altars on the regular, spend time with the people I care about… You know, all the good stuff.

 
…And, while I’ve managed to make myself feed myself well – lentil soup is kind of a life-saver for that. It takes 20 minutes, and it’s Real Food TM, and comfort food on top of that – it occurred to me, this morning, that I am maybe not being all that kind to myself. All that horoscope stuff, from a couple of weeks back, about reaching out for support when I need it was kind of brought home today.
I’d asked a friend if she was okay listening to me talk (again) about stuff that’s eating my brain (again) and whether or not she might want a break from that, and I didn’t hear from her for a couple of days, and I was all set to send an apology note saying Never Mind, basically, and she phoned me and told me that I can always talk to her about anything, and that she loves me a whole bunch, and seriously… I was sitting on my couch, just about in tears, because I’d thought I’d been asking too much and I hadn’t been at all. O.O It brought me right back to all that stuff I said about “notions of whether or not I ‘deserve’ help/kindness/rest/pleasure/care in the first place”.
It’s mind-boggling, when I actually think about it, how much my own version of “self care” looks more like the kind of “tough love” that’s enforced with a hammer.
 
I have a weird relationship to my own desire. This is something I should probably expand upon in a post on Syrens (I’ll write it, eventually), but the short version is that, while on some level I do understand that it’s okay to want things, to want people, to say what I want, etc, etc, there’s a significant part of my brain – one that has easy access to the proverbial car keys, so to speak – that is very, VERY convinced that none of that is okay at all and… I’m not sure what to do about that. Especially when so much of what I try to do about that falls the fuck apart when it bumps up against someone else’s triggers or traumas (we are all the walking wounded on this bus, basically. By and large, I think that’s a feature, because we’re actually willing to talk about that stuff, but, holy moly, can we ever hurt each other by accident…)
My not-so-secret secrets are sending me a million “are you sure about this” messages. My heart hurts and don’t even know what the Right Thing to do actually is.
 
I stepped outside, just for a minute, last night to look at that big, bright full moon, the one I made promises on, 50 weeks ago, a year ago. I’m still not done all of the writing prompts and, at this point, it’s going to extend into 2017. I can live with that. It feels like there’s still a long way to go.
 
 
~*~
 
Motion: I have not been doing a lot of motion these days. It’s winter, and on top of that, I’m broke. Going to a dance or to the swimming pool, is… slightly more expensive than I can handle right now. $5 is slightly more than I can handle right now. I’ve been walking to temp bookings, and friend-dates, for a significant chunk of the past two weeks, and that’s been great. I haven’t had to take the bus (I will be, tomorrow), and I’ve been getting 40-60 minutes of walking time in, most days. I had a tiny dance party (to this) in my kitchen. But I have mostly been hunkering down in my bed/bath/chair and trying not to go outside if I don’t have to. That said? I am also noticing that I am getting physically stronger – more upper-body strength and more arm-strength and that, at least, is pretty great. 🙂
 
Attention: I have been digging through my own brain. Again. Trying to sort through some reoccurring feelings. They’re still there. I’m not sure what to do with them. They’re not surprising(and that’s kind of a piss-off), but at least the cycle of working through them is taking a couple of days,rather than a couple of week s(or a couple of months). I’m sort of hoping that this bodes well for getting to the point where, when Those Feelings come up for me, I can be like “Oh, hey, Those Feelings. I see you’re back. It’s okay that you’re back. Although I need to point out This Thing and This Other Thing. Remember those? Those are still relevant and also true. remember? Yes? Okay, great. Good talk, everybody” in… a couple of hours or, even better, couple of minutes or seconds. That would be really, really great. Getting there? I think I’m getting there.
 
Gratitude: All the free food I’ve been given this week. For the onions that a friend, who has too many onions, is willing to off-load into my fridge (and who also had a word with me about how Lefty People who train themselves to be aware of privilege often pull towards “It could be SO much , worse” to avoid acknowledging that the situation they – or, in this case, I – are in? Still really, legitimately sucks). For the salmon hors d’oeuvres from another friend, which will grace my Winter Solstice table. For the two friends who, separately, made sure I knew that the cafe up the street was giving away soup bones for free. For the friend who bought me a sandwich and spent an hour catching up with me. For the friend who treated me to sushi and an hour of her company, yacking about writing. For the friend who asked if I’d proof-read the magical elements of their book manuscript (long distance, this time) for realism. For the wife (of four years, next week!) who slow-danced with me to our wedding song in the living room. For the twitter conversation about “stimming” and autism coping mechanisms that made me wonder (again) about the make-up of my own brain. For the friend who told me that I deserve happiness and to love myself. For the friend who called me, early on Wednesday morning, to tell me formally that I can talk to her about anything, that she loves me, that it’s not “too much” to ask for support. (Seriously, I just about cried).
 
Inspiration: Well, there’s this. Also, I’ve been given Book Recommendations for YA novels, and I’m looking forard to hunting those up. 🙂 Whee! 😀
 
Creation: I made a really cute toy owl for my nephew! Their name is Twilight, and they are various shades of blue with pink accents! The nephew in question is going to be two in April, and will be becoming a Big Sibling in mid-February, and I was thinking that it was probably a good time to introduce a nocturnal buddy who likes to hear about dreams (and scary things, and things you don’t think you can talk about with your parents). I’m really pleased with Twilight. 😀 My wife is suggesting that I make similar stuffed toys to look like our three birds. It might happen. Probably not this year, though. 😉