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Tag Archives: subsistence
We’ve had almost no rain for a month.
My front yard, with its pink bee balm, purple bellflower, and orange day lilies, is crispy as fuck because I barely water it.
My back yard is doing better, because there’s a hose back there. But we’re not doing super well on the food-production front.
I think I’ll be digging up some of those bell flowers – along with the various sunchokes/as’kebwan’ that Danger Squirrel et familia have re-planted in my raised beds, which I suspect I’ll just ferment from the get-go in multiple jars – to help us save on groceries, because my zucchini and cukes are not really producing (or, if they are, they’re being eaten by the squirrels).
In theory, my potatoes (yukon gold) are getting close to harvest-ready, though I’ll probably let them get a bit bigger, if I can swing it. I’m not sure how to cure potatoes, so I’ll have to look that up.
The fava beans that I grew entirely as a nitrogen-fixing crop are producing beans, so I can harvest those as well, and we can have fava beans on toast or something.
Basically, Ontario’s Yummy Season has arrived. And also my garden isn’t doing a whole lot, beyond giving us some amazing herbs and trying not to die in what I’m pretty sure is actually a drought.
This is where I really, REALLY notice the difference between the perennial plants and the annuals. The perennials – even the crispy-fried flowers out front – are still actually growing, getting bigger, managing to do more than survive out here. The annuals, on the other hands, are straight-up suffering, and they’re getting watered once, usually twice, a day (in the cool of the morning, and again at twilight).
It’s also dawning on me just WHY my neighbour, who gardens very intensively and very successfully (I am in awe of her, tbh), brings in 20+ bags of top soil and manure compost every year.
I’m well aware that my soil is very depleted and, while I did top it up with some manure compost early in the growing season (which helped significantly), it’s not helping enough. My compost heap, itself, is cooking along quite nicely (and is now receiving human hair and toilet paper tubes along with the more typical kitchen waste, because I’d rather feed the ground that’s feeding me than send this stuff to a landfill or even a recycling depot), but it’s not enough to feed the whole garden. Not as it stands right now.
Our garden has mostly given us leafy greens, so far. And many of those have been “weed” greens – dandelion, crow garlic, sow thistle, purslane, lambs’ quarters, and other related plants. This is fine – I let those plants go to seed in our yard on purpose, because they are food plants – but the goal remains to get enough cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and winter squash (along with, maybe, some root crops) from our garden to not have to buy groceries as much as we currently do. And, frankly, we are not making enough big, healthy leafy greens to freeze for winter alongside what we eat day to day with our meals.
You can take a look at this post for a run-down of the various mostly-fermentation-related kitchen things I’ve been up to. I’d originally planned on walking through all of them here, but it was eating a LOT of space, so I made them their own post.
I recently spent a lovely evening out with a friend in Gatineau Park, nattering about all sorts of things, and I wound up lending her Starhawk’s Earth Path and chatting with her about earth based spirituality stuff, and I’m excited for that kind of shop-talk to continue.
I like shop-talk about religious stuff. Especially with other people who tend to be a bit DIY about it. I love chatting about land-connection and animism – figuring out How To Animism, when you were raised in a religion that didn’t have a lot of immanence going on; figuring out how to navigate recognizing the personhood of your food, or the made objects around your house; figuring out how to recognize the overlapping physical and not-so-physical worlds without (a) totally reinventing the wheel, OR (b) appropriating practices from cultures whose traditional animism is considerably more recently-interrupted (or uninterrupted) than your own. All that stuff.
So it was nice to get to do with someone in person. 🙂
Tarot Card Meditation:
It’s Cancer Season, as-you-know-bob, and there was a partial solar eclipse yesterday evening. I have to tell you, we’ve been having a stressful couple of weeks here at House Of Goat, and I was a little nervous about what I was going to pull for my meditation card today.
So it was kind of fantastic to have this card literally leap out of the deck for me.
Maya is card eight-and-a-half, one of the Silicon Dawn’s bonus/weirdo cards. Egypt’s write-up says that this card is the “bastard child of The Devil and the High Priestess”. All the things you’re afraid to meet in the underworld (or your own unconscious mind). All the things you want but aren’t supposed to. What are you trying to tell yourself? What would be fulfilling, pleasurable, connecting right now?
I seriously feel like this was basically “Oh my gawd! Don’t be so gloomy all the time! It’s the weekend! It’s summer! You’re going on a road trip and know how to make your own booze! Have a fucking party for once!”
This message dovetails pretty nicely with Chani’s horoscope for Scorpio right now, with its reminder to choose that which stirs my soul, lifts my spirits, and gives me a reason to keep pushing through the hard parts.
And they – Chani and Maya, both – are right. Freaking out isn’t going to solve any problems. And I am going on a road trip (or, well, a day-trip, but still). Heart palpitations about money, and emails to send to the minister of education, will still be there on Monday. I get to have fun, spend some time with my wife, visit my friends and my in-town-for-48-hours brother, eat ice cream and drink home-made wine.
Let this weekend be something beautiful, restorative, and good.
Thanks, tarot cards. ❤
Movement: Lots of walking, and a small amount of yard-work in someone else’s yard, but that’s about it.
Attention: I have to admit, a LOT of my attention is on the sky right now. Will it rain? At last? Will it not? :-\ Fingers crossed!
Gratitude: Grateful for reprieves. For a break in the heat (a bit). For the hope of rain, even if it hasn’t fallen yet. For friends who send money, treat us to meals out, drop off spare food, pass on hand-me-downs and boots-to-good-homes, or otherwise help us make ends meet, and make life feel like it can still be something more than austerity-all-the-time, when things are hard. For friends who listen and help us keep some focus when we’re freaking out, too. Grateful for pink and purple and blue and orange and yellow flowers. For bumble bees in the morning sun. For coffee with my wife on the steps. For a borrowed car and the chance to get out of the city for a day. For summer warmth and sunshine. For new library books. For reminders to pay attention to the pleasurable, the holy, and the joyful.
Inspiration: Resilient weedy greens. Flowers that bloom despite the sun that’s kind of frying them to a crisp. (I know. They’re blooming all the harder for it, and I know why. Don’t spoil my happy though, ‘kay?) Also finding inspiration on other people’s blogs, folks who are canning, fermenting, making salsa and wine out of excess rhubarb, or dying fibre using red cabbage, onion skins, hibiscus flowers, and the soaking water from black beans… and also using koolade and vinegar, because that works, too.
Creation: A little bit of knitting. Some clothing repairs. Writing a few thousand words on my “spite fic” of an attempt at a YA novel. A couple of new poems. Nothing huge, but things are in the works. 😉
So. Spring Equinox has come and gone (and it’s clearly past time for me to change up my Seasonal Decorations…). Meltwater Moon is only days away from full. I’m cautiously starting to think that maybe Spring Has Sprung (barring, y’know, an April dump of snow, which usually happens even if it generally gets gone in short order again) and I’m eyeing Preserves.
I have something close to two dozen pints of crushed tomatoes, put up last September, that I have yet to use.
I’ve also got sweet preserves (goblin fruit jam, chokecherry curd) and a LOT of frozen veggies – especially sunchokes, which my wife’s been having trouble with this year – still to eat through.
As such, I think it’s time for another round of the Eat From the Larder Challenge.
As you may recall, the Eat From the Larder Challenge was invented by Erica, over at NWEdible, as a way to clear out some pantry space (and also prove that it could be done) before the impending influx of garden produce that, for a chick living in Seattle, was already starting in April and would only take off further once May hit.
I’m not in Seattle.
My growing/foraging season starts a solid 3-4 weeks later than hers does. But the challenge, itself, is a good way to remind me that actually, yeah, I know how to cook.
Which I haven’t been feeling, of late.
Honestly, I’ve been feeling like a crap home-maker lately – the place is a mess and I think I’ve made bread all of twice in the past six weeks when I’m used to thinking of it as a thing I do every week. I’m hoping that throwing a bit of a creative challenge my own way will – in addition to clearing out some freezer/cupboard space – get me excited about, AND back in the habit of, cooking from scratch in ways that go beyond boiling rice or roasting a chicken.
Right now, I’ve got a new batch of soup stock on the stove. Usually, when I make stock, it’s bones and maybe a few herbs and water. This time I’ve added a couple of branches of garden sage (dried), the better part of a jar of crushed tomatoes, a cup or so of white wine, some dried mushrooms, and a couple of handfuls of papery dried onion skins. I’m hoping to get at least 12 pints of stock out of this, ideally closer to 16, and I don’t think I have nearly enough bones to make a good, thick, “meat jello” stock in that quantity. So I’m adding extra stuff that will bulk up the umami factor (tomatoes, dried mushrooms) and otherwise add some flavour to what might end up being really watery. It’s not ideal but, having drawn up 30 dinner plans using what I (am pretty sure I) have in the cupboards and the freezer, I know a solid six (minimum) of those meals will be tastier (by our standards) if I cook the grain and legumes in meat stock.
Anyway. Rules for this year’s challenge:
1) Focus on using up the meat and frozen veggies hiding in the deep freeze, where I consistently forget about them now that I’ve got bags of beets and onions crowding the top (aka: the door) of the freezer.
2) Try to include lentils or other legumes in as many dishes as possible because (a) fibre, and (b) stretching the meat components of the meals that much farther while still making filling, delicious dishes.
3) I am allowed to buy milk/cream, eggs, wine, and Ethical Coffee (though I miiiiiiiiiiiiiight not need the coffee) during the month of April, though I should still try to limit these items (like: don’t make every dinner a quiche, right?). I can stock up on cheese ONCE, if (and only if) it’s on hella discount. I can also buy Ethical Chocolate, but not more than one bar per week. Restaurants/coffee-shops for socializing are allowed, but really REALLY need to not be relied upon.
4) Focus on making sweets at home! I have tonnes of flour and a lot of different sweeteners, including the above-mentioned sweet preserves. Oatmeal mixed-berry muffins, fruit-curd pies with shortbread crusts, peanut-butter & chocolate-chip cookies, rhubarb-cranberry crumbles/crisps/etc!
My April is looking pretty lean in terms of modeling work right now. That’s normal, and I’m lucky to have a week+ of temp work lined up to help make up the income I need. But it means I’ll have lots of time to get creative in the kitchen.
I’ll need it, but I’m also looking forward to it.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
I planted Motherwort in my garden this morning. 😀 A friend of mine gave me three dug-up plants from her garden, and I gave her some culinary sage from mine. It’s been gentle-raining, off and on, all day, which should do it some good. My hyacinths bloomed this year, and my tulips are looking like they might manage a bloom or two as well. My Crane’s Bill (Wild Geranium) and Violas are about to flower, maybe the Lamia, too. The Lungwort, of course, has been going great gangbusters for weeks.
Things I would like to add to the front yard: mugwort, lily of the valley (the friend who gave me the motherwort has some she’s willing to part with, once the blooms are done), blood root, Siberian scilla/squills, grape hiacinths, blue crocuses, dark purple tulips (think Queen of the Night), sweet william, bee balm, Russian sage, more bergamot, and more columbines.
In the back, my peas are (just barely) coming up, and the self-seeded cilantro is too. I have self-seeded mustard greens coming up all over the place – which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand: Greens! On the other hand: No root space for my rainbow chard to take over, and I want LOTS of rainbow chard this year! I have a new raspberry plant – a gift from another friend, who contributed roughly half of my front yard garden plants last year – in the perennial bed, too, and need to start harvesting my rhubarb. Time to make some pies!
What would I like to add to my perennial bed? Sorrel (which I’ve seeded, but which may or may not come up this year), chives, and maybe a red currant bush.
In the neighbourhood, the service berries have started blooming, and the apples, pears, cherries and, y’know, lilacs aren’t too far behind (give it another week, probably). The maple and birch trees are in flower. The leaves are bursting forth all over the place.
Hilariously, or not, I’m back to sewing dog harnesses. All that job and money stuff that the recent New Moon touched upon? Well, I got an easy-out in terms of dealing with them – at least for the time being.
I needed to find a part-time job to make sure I had some reliable income, and the gal who runs the dog harness company lost 2/3 of her brand new staff inside of the first week, so I said I could go in and do what I’d been doing before, and we worked out a deal. As of the Full Moon, I’ve been getting paid to sew dog harnesses (YAY!) plus, while I’m still going to need to take the bus into work, at least some – probably most – of the time, I’ve worked out with a co-worker that she’ll give me a lift home on the days that I’m in. I’ve offered her preserves and/or garden produce as a thank-you for this because food? I always have enough food to share. ❤
Anyway, with regards to the actual moon phase… Ha. Unsurprisingly, I'm writing this about three days late, and the full moon in Scorpio is actually waning through Sagittarius and into Capricorn. Still, I'm working from the perspective that the astrological house that the Moon is in at Full and at New have a certain amount of sway over, well, things I might want to be paying attention to at the time, if you will. (A bit like writing prompts for you brain/life?)
So here we are:
The Hoodwitch (who also offers some suggestions for herbs & stones to work with at this time) tells us that: one can use the energy of a Scoprio Full Moon to get to the heart of, and excise (hello, waning moon!), intense stuff around guilt, lust, and obsession.
Chani Nicholas reminds us that “Power must be claimed” and suggests that the current full moon energy can be used to tap into the intense, transformative power that comes from actually checking in with your feelings and sorting them out.
Mystic Mama points out that Scorpio Full Moon is a time when we can get a good, long look at what we really want, and who we really are – both the stuff we like, and could be proud of if we’d only let it out, and the stuff we don’t like and try to pretend isn’t really there. She asks us to check in with ourselves about whether our goals are really OUR goals, or if we’re wanting things that we think we’re supposed to want due to what we were taught to value in our families of origin, what we think we need to “want” (or present as wanting) in order to get our (secret, unspoken – Scorpio Time is the time to take a look at those) needs met, or just due to swimming in the societal kool-ade our whole lives.
Sarah Gottesdiener over at Little Red Tarot offers wisdom from Liz Migliorelli, saying that “noticing is not enough”, not only are we called to tune into our deepest, most intense emotions and intuitions, not only are we called to step up and do the hard mental, emotional, and physical work of transformation, we’re also called to release and let go, to “let the old dreams die, let the wrong ones go” so that we can let the right ones in. She asks “How can we ease our physical tension around true embodiment of our full range of emotion?”
Tarot-wise, Scorpio Full Moon is a High Priestess kind of time, but also a Moon kind of time. A diving deep and surfacing kind of time. A feeling ALL the feelings time. A hard-look-in-the-mirror time. It’s a time to heal ourselves. A time to rise from the ashes of whatever Tower needed to be burned.
It’s a good time to do rituals and/or exercises to help heal your sexual/reproductive organs and – Scorpio being the sign of Go Deep or Go Home – to heal your emotional Stuff around same. So, Scorpio Full Moon energy is good to harness around things like getting over the ex who broke your heart, easing the heartache of infertility or the hurt, rage, and confusion of sexual trauma, as well as for untangling the internal knots that keep you shame-spiraling around wanting, needing, or feeling things in a big way. It’s good energy, too, to harness if you want to get your second chakra (Pluto) AND/OR your third chakra (Mars) spinning on good bearings.
This is a time to get to the roots of what needs to re-balance, within yourself, in terms of:
– Money Feels
– Sex Feels
– Guilt or Shame around the concept/accusation of “selfishness”;
– Where (and why, and how much) you’re offering your energy versus what’s coming back to refill that well;
– Creativity Feels;
– Sorting out where you are really being victimized or taken advantage of, versus where you are martyring yourself, or shooting yourself in the foot, by hiding your desires, down-playing your needs and waiting for others to guess and provide
– Guilt or Shame around taking time for art, pleasure, beauty, and other stuff that gets dismissed as “frivolous”;
– Blocks around your sense of Self;
– Blocks around creating change in your habits and behaviours
– Feelings around your Personal power (Do you give it away in order to secure something you fear being without? Do you practice building the courage to be direct about asking for what you want?)
Questions you can ask yourself during Scorpio Full Moon and its waning period:
What can I let go of and allow to pass on as the moon wanes through determined Capricorn, stubborn but open-minded Aquarius, and sensitive, cathartic Pisces?
What can I compost into something new and fertile in the roiling cauldron of the coming dark/balsamic moon (one that will be characterized by a bold and sensual energy that matches Scorpio’s own intensity)?
What am I working to let go of? Scarcity-Thinking. Resentment. Anxiety around my ex (ha, see above…) who will be moving back to town in less than two months. The assumptions I make about what I surely must want in terms of personal interactions and expectations. The heaviness of my metaphorical foot on the brakes when it comes to opening up to pleasure and desire (yes, even still, even after all the progress I’ve already made, this continues to be A Journey).
What about you?
Movement: Tonnes of walking. A lot of time on my feet, too, which is less great. Modeling work. Digging (and squatting, and bending) in the garden!
Attention: I am trying to Science my way through decoding my own Relationship Assumptions, and notice (but it’s not enough to just notice) the points where I’m defaulting to a rote reaction (the irritation I feel when I think I’m being ignored or punished; the frisson of fear that shows up when a crush talks about relationship developments with other folks) rather than checking in with how I actually feel (See both Chani’s and Hoodwitch’s Scorpio horoscopes for this week – linked above) and/or where that feeling might be coming from. I am also paying a TONNE of attention to my garden right now. It’s so exciting to watch things sprouting, greening, growing, and coming back to life! Ditto the numerous (more have been planted since last year!) neighbourhood service berries and my favourite alley-way cherry tree as they bloom and – hopefully, eventually, fruit!
Gratitude: Thankful for fresh greens in the garden (they are dandelions, but I am A-Okay with that!) and for my seeds germinating and pushing up through the ground. Thankful for a gentle walk with my wife this morning, and also for the guts to ask a cafe-worker if they ever have tarot readers working at their shop (I now have an email address to ask about coming in and doing for-pay readings once a month. Fingers crossed!) Grateful for friends who bring me plants and food. Grateful for a part-time job with co-workers who are game for ride-sharing. Grateful for plant trades and fermentation-supply trades and a broad community of people who share what we have.
Inspiration: Lots of Femme Poetry coming in the mail, and in through the library, too. All the green and growing things giving me hope.
Creation: Planting in the garden, but also thinning and weeding, putting a little more effort into “curating” the garden and making those spaces grow what I want to grow. Still working on the stocking extensions, but I’m on the last push and will, with any luck, have a finished pair of stockings by this time net week! Taking myself on writing dates (sometimes with other people, sometimes solo) and working on my Lip Gloss manuscript. Pushing for a focus on femme inter-reliance and also on magic and witchcraft, as there are SO MANY witchy femmes out there, and I want to touch on what we do and how we do it.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
Thunder Moon was the wrong name. I said, a mo(o)nth and a half ago, that the minor drought conditions seemed to be lifting.
I was wrong.
It’s been weeks and weeks of oppresive, heat and almost zero rain. Things have been so dry that one of my tomato plants tastes like… the tomatoes taste like salt and bananas, if you can believe it.
I’m pretty sure part of why I’m writing this today, after weeks of no updates, is because (yes, it’s Full Moon today, BUT) the heat broke, just a little bit. It rained over night, and I don’t feel nearly so exhausted.
I cut down most of my mustard greens today. They’re a cold weather crop that bolts much faster than I expected. Between the tiny leaves on the bolted stalks and the general heat-wilt, we just haven’t been eating them. Late August is coming, and I am hoping to plant out some rainbow chard (again – I have about two rainbow chard plants, and they are struggling. The rest never even jerminated, that I can tell) for an autumn harvest. Considering using a totally-threadbare tank top, stretched over a dollar-store trellis, as a sun-shade so that the seeds will jerminate, instead of cook, this time ’round. (I have a LOT to learn, folks. You should see my neighbour’s crops. They’re all doing just dandy!)
I have bought zucchini and curly (Scotch?) kale at the market. My plan is to process that stuff for frozen veggies over winter today. That and, hopefully, drag my ass out to harvest choke cherries.
I feel like “nothing is getting done”, even though that’s not really true.
I started my Life Coaching sessions (just barely), about 10 days ago, and did a lot of soul-searching / psyche-digging (more psyche-digging) to answer my coach’s initial questions (more on that in another post).
I went to Queer in the Kitchen and learned how to make sour kraut (which is now sitting, doing its Fermentation Thing, and should (in theory) be ready to eat around Labour Day Weekend) and offered to do a water-bath-canning class for them (we’ll see if that actually happens, but I’m excited at the possibility)
I’ve gone dancing a bunch of times, and started chatting about tarot cards with someone who DJ’d one of those dances and then went to the sour kraut workshop.
I’ve written more poetry for “How to Cook a Heart” and (finally) did a little bit more work on The Novel (yesterday).
And yet… I feel like all I do is make dog harnesses and eat ice cream while wilting in the heat. The thought of turning the oven on is enough to make me want to Never Cook Again (or at least not until we get our usual cold snap in early September). I feel like buying vegetables from the market, when they are the same kind of vegetables I planted (zucchini, cooking greens, eggplants), is cheating. Like we should just live off of grocery store root veggies + the roma tomatoes I was planning to buy and can anyway this winter, rather than giving us some minor variety in our diet by paying for things I was expecting to successfully grow myself. The house is a constant mess, and I don’t even know where to start with it.
When I look at where I was, this time last year, I was so hopeful. And what I feel now is tired. Like a waste. Like “why do I bother” and “why am I here”. When did I stop being hopeful and start feeling like I needed to justify my continued existence?
…And yet, when I cut the cards on my new tarot deck (the Mary El one), the card I pulled is the Queen of Cups, cancer’s crab – all feelings, all the time – climbing from her heart to her throat.
The questions my life coach asked me, two weeks ago, were to get a handle on what I want to accomplish through the coaching. Unsurprisingly, the single word we boiled things down to is Receptivity. Maybe I could have gone with “worthiness”, but – like my coach’s preliminary suggestion of “self-sufficiency”, it’s too easy to turn that into something that will hurt me rather than help me. Too easy to turn that into the “shame dance” of trying to prove to someone else that I’m worthy (of love, of care, of anything other than a kick or a curse), rather than teaching myself not to brush off kindness like it’s something I shouldn’t need.
I read – or tried to read – my most recent tarotscope (via Siobhan’s Mirror, ‘scope itself done by Marianne at Two Sides Tarot), which said… I don’t actually know what it said. Because I read this bit:
Before we get into that, though, can you take a moment to recognize just how capable and skilled and creative and worthy you are?
…And just stopped. Like: Nope. Can’t do that right now. Can’t do that at all. Why are you lying to me, horoscope-person? I can’t deal with this crap.
Like, if I say that I’m worthy, and mean it; if I say that I’m capable and skilled and creative… then why have I not done more than this? Why am I not pumping out poetry – good, well-crafted poetry that only needs some polishing to make it worth publishing – every day? Why am I just sad and tired all the damn, stupid time? Why is my novel still languishing in it’s half-finished state? Why is my house so filthy and over-stuffed? Why is my larder so full of things I bought, instead of things I made?
I’ve been reading Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey (a book of very short poems and lots of doodles), and she has one that says “How you love yourself is // how you teach others // to love you”.
And I don’t love myself.
If I did, I would probably treat myself better, not brush off someone’s “how are you” as a formality, not beat myself up so much.
I don’t have a clue were my self-inflicted nastiness came from. I guess… some part of me thinks that being worth caring for is entirely bound up with how much abuse I’m willing to take?
I don’t know. It’s dumb, and I need to cut it out.
I don’t love myself, and I need to learn how.
Life Coach is showing me The Plan for this on Wednesday.
I hope I can make it work.
I am so sick of feeling like this.
Motion: A lot of walking. A lot of dancing. One really, really long bike ride (2 weeks ago, 27 km round trip – with 7 hours of harness-making in the middle) followed by barely being able to take a single (long, fairly big, but still) hill on my normal bike the next day. Getting back on the bike on Wednesday, but I don’t think I’ll be riding to work again any time soon.
Attention: Paying attention to ripe tomatoes, chokecherries ready for harvest. The water levels in my garden. The sky, praying for more rain.
Gratitude: Thankful for multiple modeling jobs this week and into the next; for the way my wife smiles at me in the morning (adn the fact that she wears crop tops…); for hanging on a corner in the Market, watching fireworks, with a bunch of random strangers (and being able to tell them why they were happening, because I am apparently a know-it-all…); for getting some work done on my novel; for the half-cracked pear tree branch that has falling over our yard, sitting on top of my neghbour’s trellis, and the tree-owner telling me to harvest as many as I could reach… just to wait until early September so that they’ll actually be ripe. (So, guess who’s making pear butter this year!). There are good things in my life, and I need to rmeember that.
Inspiration: Read Juliet Takes a Breath the other day. Between that and watching queer kids (ages 12-15) get excited about drawing at Manga Camp (I was their model. They thought I looked like Harley Quinn. I’ll take it. 😉 ) I am chock full of “Yay, Adorable Babies!” which feels pretty great.
Creation: Was able to dive into my own novel (finally, again) to do some re-structuring. That felt really good. I still have to finish the damn thing, but it’s something.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 Actually, it’s totally not for another week. Woops. >.>
This is getting filed under the “cheese” tag, even though Kefir isn’t technically a cheese but is more like a yoghurt that you drink. Still it’s a fermented dairy product, so I’m tagging it “cheese” and running with it.
I’ve been reading about mesophilic yoghurt-like cultured dairy products and decided to try making kefir because (a) I drink, like, two litres of that stuff a week, when I have the chance, and (b) the local Indie Hippy Food Mart had dairy-kefir starters (but nothing for matsoni or filmjolk or other thicker mesophilic cultures). Er… Mesophilic means that it cultures/ferments at room temperature rather than at somewhat-warmer-than-room-temperature, meaning that I can set it up in a warm corner of the kitchen and just let it do it’s thing for a couple of days and then strain it through a mash bag, and voila! I’ve got a drinkable yoghurt-substitute that I can use in baking (the same way as I use the milk that, ah, “wild-ferments” in the fridge with distressing frequency) but that I’m also comfortable using as a breakfast drink.
I’m pretty happy with the results, so far. I mean, it’s my first attempt. It’s setting up really nicely, strained well and, while I definitely want something firmer than kefir is ever going to get, the taste of the stuff is pretty good. I want to let it ferment for another day or so – I like my yoghurt sharp, and this stuff still tastes a bit of the mild sweetness of milk left to warm on a counter top.
That said, some of it is going to get baked into muffins tonight (my lovely wife has asked me to make them on the regular because they make a good lunch substitute that can be spread out over the course of a long day in the shop which… is fantastic, but is also (I confess) incentive for me to get myself some whole wheat pastry flour and cut more of the sugar out of the coffee-cake-based recipe I’ve been adapting already). More of it will be sampled tomorrow morning – possibly sweetened & flavoured with some of last summer’s vanilla-nectarine preserves that I can (hopefully) whisk in before serving it up.
I could potentially use some of it to dress tonight Fabulous (if not very fancy) Friday Dinner – basa baked with tomato-peach salsa and rice, but I will probably go with store-bought yoghurt – which has the consistency I want, and which I have hanging out in the fridge right now – instead.
I’m using a kefir starter – a powder that you stir into the milk and let do it’s thing – rather than kefir grains (which, as I understand it, are SCOBY-like lumps that live in the bottom of your fermentation jar and that you save and re-use over and over again to keep making new batches of kefir). So I’m not exactly fermenting things “for real” just yet. But it’s a nice way to start, and I’m really excited about the results and the potential used for what I’ve made.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 As a mesophilic ferment, that also includes thermophilic beasties, it CAN be used as the bacteria in various cheese-making adventures. This may or may not happen at a later date.
 Speaking of which, the Unknown Cheese that I made by accident in early January? I let it keep doing it’s thing and… Okay. While I wasn’t brave enough to try eating it, the result when I (urgh…) threw it out was actually… It had a consistency that was just slightly firmer than cream cheese or chevre, smelled somewhere between double-cream brie and blue cheese (meaning: stinky as fuck, but in a recognizable way), and was turning a fairly uniform pale orange.
Part of me wishes I’d hung onto it a little bit longer, just to see what developed. You never know. It might have been something good.
 I’m imagining a mix that includes extra eggs (AKA: the called-for number of eggs, rather than half of them) plus a couple of tablespoons of pumpkinseed- or peanut-butter, at least some whole wheat flour (probably half-and-half), and maybe some cooked amaranth mixed in with the cocoa, dried cranberries, pumpkin butter, chocolate chips (hell, yeah), and crumbled pecans.
Okay. So I started volunteering at a local Food Centre just last week, because I like to cook/bake, and I like to feed people, and because I like the way this place has a “waste not, want not; use what you’ve got” attitude, and is totally comfortable with people (me) experimenting with their largely-donated larder in order to make things work.
One thing that I’m learning is how to cook in Very Large Batches, because they make stuff like granola, soup, and chili by the vat.
Today I made (up) a muffin recipe that resulted in about six dozen average-size muffins and was stuffed full of fruits, veggies, and seeds. It started out as a morning glory muffins recipe, but I didn’t know where the raw carrots were (yet), so I went hunting in the freezer for apples blueberries and stuff, and wound up finding a bag of frozen, pre-cooked, diced beets. There was cocoa in the cupboard. It just sort of (re-) wrote itself from there.
Red Velvet Morning Glory Muffins (makes ~6 dozen)
5C mashed, cooked beets
4C grated carrots
2C mashed, frozen bananas (alternatives: 2C fruit butter; 2C mashed, steamed pumpkin – though they won’t be as sweet if you use pumpkin in place of banana)
1C apple sauce
3 C oil
½ C molasses
½ C maple syrup
¼ C vanilla extract (I use the fake stuff)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
8 C flour (I used polished wheat / all-purpose, but whole-wheat-pastry, or your favourite 1:1 GF mix would presumably work just fine, too)
2 C rolled oats (or rolled quinoa, or maybe even corn meal or cooked amaranth)
4 C brown sugar
1 C cocoa
2 tbsp each: ginger, cinnamon, cloves
3 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 ½ C shredded coconut (untested alternatives: shredded hazelnuts, possibly Himalayan Balsam seeds, too)
2 C pumpkin seeds
2 C dried cranberries (or raisins, or dried cherries, you get the idea)
Preheat the oven to 350F
Blend the wet ingredients together in an absolutely massive bowl
Add the dry ingredients
Add the dried fruit and seeds and such
Mix everything together until well-blended
Spoon into VERY well-greased muffin pans (I was using that spray-on-oil stuff with non-stick pans, but usually I use paper muffin liners and don’t worry about greasing things at all)
Bake at 350 for ~35 minutes. Use your nose and the fork test starting at the half-hour mark, or earlier if need be
Let the muffins stand for a minute or two to cool (slightly) and get set
Pop them out of their trays, one at a time (or not), and let them stand on a wire rack (you will need 2 very, VERY big wire racks for this) until they cool completely.
Serve and enjoy.
So there you go.
This recipe is, handily, vegan and takes about 2 hours to mix and bake the entire batch. It can definitely be halved, or even quartered, if the amounts are really daunting, but if you have an event – whether that’s a bakesale, a large planning meeting, or a pot-luck breakfast – where you need a LOT of baked goods that taste good and can still at least pass for “healthy”? This is the way to go.
I haven’t tried freezing them but, as far as I can tell, muffins tend to do pretty well if you freeze them for long-term storage, so if you wanted to (and have the space), you could throw this together of a quiet morning and have a breakfast go-to that you could pull out, half-a-dozen at a time, for ages.
Give them a shot, if you’re so inclined.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 I baked most of these at the same time, in the same oven, so the top rack’s muffins were “just done” when the bottom rack’s muffins were definitely starting to get crispy. Nobody will be mad at you if you bake them 2-dozen at a time, rather than all at once, and you stand a better chance of not burning things, so.
Okay. So, as recently mentioned, a friend of mine and I spent the afternoon canning tomatoes. In the interests of avoiding (a) a lot of extra work, but also (b) a lot of drippy, scalding-hot mess and burnt fingers, I re-jigged my usual tomato recipes so that they involved the Very Easy Crushed Tomatoes recipe which goes as follows (NOTE: You’re going to need 2-3 very large, like 9L+, pots to get all three recipes cooked and canned in the alotted time):
Very Easy Crushed Tomtoes
Wash, core, and rough-chop your tomatoes (also cut out any bad bits, clearly)
Puree the chopped tomatoes in a food processor, in batches and pour them into the biggest pot you have
For every gallon of tomato puree add:
0.5C granulated sugar
1 tbsp salt
Stir the mixture until all is well-incorporated
Cook down, with the lid off-centre to allow the water to evaporate more quickly, until the mixture is darker and quite a bit thicker, but isn’t nearly thick enough to be called “sauce” just yet
Pour/ladel into sterlized glass jars (we sterilized our jars in the oven today, at 225F for 20 minutes – works like a charm, but you still have to boil the lids and rings)
Cap, and process for 15-20 minutes in a boiling water bath
And that’s the Very Easy Crushed Tomatoes recipe.
From here, you can choose your own adventure.
Either (a) Roasted-garlic tomato sauce, or (b) Tomato-peach salsa.
Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce
Start with ~4L Very Easy Crushed Tomatoes
Dice 1 large, red onion and 3 BULBS of garlic, drizzle with oil, and broil on a cookie sheet for about half an hour (or until they smell done).
Put the onion and garlic mixture into a food processor
Add: 2 tbsp dried rosemary, 2 tbsp dried oregano, 2 tbsp dried savoury, and a grind or five of black pepper and blend until smooth
Add the garlic mixture to the crushed tomatoes and stir until reasonably well incorporated
Cook down until things start to thicken up nicely
Using an imersion (stick) blender puree the sauce until it is very fine indeed
Allow the sauce to cook down further until it’s reasonably thick, but not too much
Sterilize some jars of appropriate size (ours went into 1L jars today, but whatever works)
Into each jar include 1tbsp vinegar and 0.5tbsp granulated sugar per 500mL (1pint) of volume
Pour/ladel sauce into sterilized jars
Cap, and process for 15-20 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Start with ~4L Very Easy Crushed Tomatoes
Dice 1 large, red onion and mince 1 BULB of garlic
Peel, pit, and dice your ripe peaches until you have 2L diced peaches (I would guess this is about 1.5lb peaches to start with)
Using scissors, snip 6 mild dried chili peppers (I used dried New Mexico chilies, but you could also dice up 6-10 fresh jalapenos if you wanted to)
Add the peaches, onion, garlic, and dried chilies to the crushed tomatoes and mix until well incorporated
Add to the mixture: 3 tbsp dried cilantro, 3 tbsp dried basil, and 1 tbsp dried red chili flakes
Cook down (over low heat, otherwise it will totally scorch to the bottom of the pot… ask me how I know >.>) until the mixture has thickened up nicely.
While the salsa thickens, sterilize some jars.
Into each pint jar, add: 1 tbsp vinegar, 1 dried very-hot chili pepper (I used dried Arbol chilies, but you could use fresh Thai/Bird chilies if you wanted to).
Pour/ladel salsa into hot, sterilized jars
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 15-20 minutes
So there you have it.
Five hours. Three types of tomato preserves in large quantities (well, if you’re me…).
Tomorrow it do most if it again in order to make (a) moar crushed tomatoes, and (b) moar (and thicker!) tomato sauce.
Wish me luck, folks!
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 Full disclosure:I actually prefer my tomato sauce to be a fairly thick mix, and today’s results are more liquid than I like. We canned them when we did because my friend had to leave to pick up her kids. Otherwise, we might have let them lose another litre of water-content before canning them.
 Because we’re starting with tomato purree, and also because of time constraints, we didn’t make as chunky a salsa as I typically go for. I’m thinking of this as more of a sauce for cooking things in – like pouring it over fish or beans, for example – than as a sauce for dipping tortilla chips into as a snack. YMMV.