Tag Archives: wild food

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.

Full Moon – Leaf Moon Crests

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.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Warming Herbs for Winter

Hey there!
So Snow Moon began not too long ago (not that I’ve done my blog post about it or anything, but… bear with me), and the snows have come in force, bringing a lot of ice and a lot of quite cold (-23C, so seasonal, but not horrific if you’ve got somewhere warm to be) temperatures.
When I think of “warming herbs” – meaning herbs (and spices) that will produce heat in the body to help you sweat out illness and similar – I tend to think of things like ginger and cinnamon. These days, I also think of garlic and mustard (Woohoo!), but I was wondering – thanks to this post over at Little Red Tarot – what else I might be able to draw on, in terms of locally grow-able flowers, leaves, and roots, that will help someone (like, say, ME – I got a bad bronchial+sinus infection, quite a few years ago now, and it’s left me pretty susceptible to getting more of them) deal with Winter illnesses at home, without having to book an appointment with my over-stretched GP.
 
Labador Tea (Ledum glandulous) – good for calming coughs. Also good – when the dried roots & leaves are ground and added to an ointment – for helping to relieve chapped lips and hands.
 
Lavender – I use the essential oil to help heal badly chapped lips and knuckles when the cold, dry air makes them split. NOTE: Lavender is a common allergen, so be careful with this one. Topically, it’s good for helping to heal burns. It’s a powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal (so, for example, good to use on your feet if they are getting gross after weeks of heavy socks).
 
German Chamomile (Roman Chamomile works too, but German is hardier for the garden) – Steep the flowers into a tea to help gently warm you up. If it’s anything like Ox-Eye Daisies, it will help to increase circulation, but… meh?
 
Burdock Root – Like chamomile. Make a tea of the roots (you can also tincture them)
 
Mullein (Verbascum thrapsis) – One of the primary herbs for any lung problem, including whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis and chest colds. Allegedly, the leaves were smoked to relieve lung problems. I wonder if you could use them in a hot water inhalation (the way we use eucalyptus essential oil).
 
Angelica ROOT – including (hard to find, apparently) Ontario native species Purple Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea) – will help “cut through obstruction” and make you sweat. This one is easy to grow from seed and needs lots of space in the garden. It’s a carrot-family plant, and should be harvested in the fall (late October, early November) of its first growing season. Use the leaves to make a chest compress to relieve inflamation.
In TCM, this root is called Dong Quai, and is used for menstrual stuff like relieving PMS symptoms & menstrual cramps, or helping to encourage a late period to get started. It’s also good for upset stomachs (think gas, bloating, digestive difficulties… but also (apparently?) IBS and colitis?)
As a Winter Herb, though, it’s particularly good – steeped as a tea, or made into a tincture – for helping to increase your circulation, reduce mild fevers (don’t use it for bad fevers), and help you to loosen up thick, gummy phlegm that’s making it hard to breathe.
NOTE: If you are a pasty, white person like me? This can make you more sensitive to sunlight. Also it’s not wise to take this one while you’re pregnant or lactating (it’s bad for fetuses and kids under three).
Allegedly, the taste is somewhere between celery and… juniper? I have no idea how that works, but people candy it and say that angelica root tea tastes good rather than, like, barely tolerable, so… maybe it’s one to look into?
 
Peppermint – The leaves make a good tea for coughs. Essential oil is cooling (topically) and anti-microbial (see: “mint”) so, when accessed through the leaves, can help get rid of coughs and colds that way.
 
Basil, Thyme, and Rosemary – Like mint, these herbs make a tea (or an addition to savory dishes) that acts as a digestive aid and can help push through light-weight phlegm. Good for when you have a frog in your throat, not so useful for something heavy like walking pneumonia.
 
Fennel – Simmer the seeds to make a tea – which you can drink as-is, or else thicken into a syrup for use in calming coughs and shortness of breath as well as loosening up congestion. Apparently you can’t use this stuff in high doses as it can cause spasms and hallucinations (I don’t know what constitutes “high doses”, though, so that’s not very helpful).
 
Yarrow – Use the leaves and flowers to make a tea, or add them to a bath, to help you sweat out a fever. (Drink lots of water with this stuff. Also, avoid this one if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant). The tea encourages circulation and combines well with peppermint to help one conquer a cold or fever. (Also lowers blood pressure? Maybe, if you have low-enough-to-worry-about blood pressure, this is one to avoid?)
 
Anise Hyssop – Use the leaves to make a tea to help with colds and with chest pain brought on by coughing. You can use them in a hot bath or inhalation to help you sweat.
 
Garlic – This is a fairly powerful antibacterial and antiviral (eating whole cloves of it raw will also make you – or at least ME – throw it right back up, though, so make sure to mix it with something easier to swallow). It’s also improves circulation, which will help warm you up.
 
Cedar (leaves/fronds) – Cedar has antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. A tea – or a hot bath – made with the tips of the leaves, is good for coughs and colds. The essential oil can be used, topically, in an ointment like vix to help relieve congestion (don’t take cedar essential oil internally, generally speaking). I think (I think) you can use this, much the same way you’d use eucalyptus essential oil in a steam inhalation.
 
Mustard – Use the seeds of the mustard plant (like: the one you would use as cooking greens) to make a VERY HOT poultice. From what I hear, this is super uncomfortable and shouldn’t be put directly on skin BUT if you spread it on a scrap of cloth, and put the cloth on the chest of someone with pneumonia or otherwise really bad chest congestion,it will have an effect similar to a eucalyptus rub (but NOT soothing – this stuff can cause blisters if you put it directly on your skin).

New Year New You 2016: Week Eleven – Casting Out Doubt

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: “[…]Use a method of your own choosing to banish the negative energy” or otherwise communicate with your own Jerk Brain to get it to give you a break.
 
Tarot Card(s): Page of Water, Queen of Earth (and, yes, my Mary-El deck arrived a few weeks ago, thense the links to images from that deck for this post). Neither of these cards explicitely have to do with Casting Out Doubt. But they’re relevant for a couple of reasons, one being that I did a two-card pull that relates to my Queen of Cups Project (and various points there-within such as my life-coaching sessions and the Plan that is to Get My Groove Back, so to speak) and I didn’t even pull these two cards, they just popped right out of the deck, like: Here’s your answer, kiddo. (This deck is proving very accurate on the jumpers front, so far, I’m just saying…).
Anyway, so there’s that. I’ll get into that a little more later, mind you. The other reason why these are relevant to the “casting out doubt” prompt is that the first one – being a Page card – is about approaching things (feeeeelings) with curiosity, rather than fear, while the second one is very much about being rooted and steady (rather than riddled with anxiety). the combination is basically a case of “Here’s something you can do instead of assuming the worst and spinning about it all the time”.
Useful? I think so.
 
ANYWAY.
 
So, as-you-know-bob, I am a BIG fan of ritual/magical baths as a form of spell-casting and Creating Change At Will. unsurprisingly, my method of casting out doubt involved (a) having a giant, scrubby shower (and, yeah, some Stuff came up during the shower, and I was just, like, “Don’t be mean to yourself. Let all that stuff just sluff off and let it go”. Which… we’ll see if that bit sticks, honestly, but I gave it a go), and (b) taking a sensual-glamourous bath after the fact to soak in (and soak up) something better to fill that vacuum left when I got rid of all the EUGH[1].
So.
The other day, I went out and gathered a whole wack of “second chakra associated” flowers and leaves. I picked bergamot petals, geranium blossoms, rose petals, rose leaves, and motherwort[2] tops (mostly leaves). All sorts of pinks and reds. I wound up explaining to a newly-arrived-home couple just what, exactly, they had growing under their tree (Motherwort – see footnote[2]). They’d asked if they had “something special”, since I was obviously investigating the weedy patch they’d (woohoo) missed with the mower.
 
I wound up waiting a solid 48 hours or more before I actually took my bath, though.
I kind of think that’s telling, seeing as the whole idea was to open up my centre of drive, passion, confidence, and sex… and I was consistently putting it on the back-burner while I got other stuff done. :-\
Hm.
 
But I took my bath: all the petals plus dried bay leaves, sea salt & epsom salts (to draw out any residual gunk), and essential oils of rosemary, clary sage, ylang ylang, and sweet orange.
Soaked and floated in the hot water. Did Child’s Pose to open my hips, and breathed in the smell of all those oils and flower petals.
 
Got interrupted towards the end, a young woman (possibly from Korea, going by the alphabet her phone was using) who’d taken a wrong turn trying to find her airBnB. This is most likely Just A Fluke, but I’m choosing to read it as any of the following:
Sometimes people turn up in your life when you’re not expecting them and/or when it’s not entirely convenient. Just go with it.
Things are not always going to go according to your internal scrips. See above and just go with it.
See also: Have a sense of humour about it, for fuck’s sake.
 
I can still smell rosemary on my skin.
I hope this is one more thing that will help me open myself up without seeing every damn thing as a threat. Which… I guess I can use as a handy segue?
 
About that tarot reading!
It was a “who” and a “how” card to answer the question: “Who and how do I need to be in order to open myself up the way I want and need to?”
The page of water and the queen of earth, respectively, fell out of the deck almost as soon as I started shuffling.
So that’s apt.
WHO: The Page of Cups says “be in the moment”. It says “learn to trust” and “trust the learning”. The Page of Cups is very much me on a lot of levels, just figuring this heart stuff out (after nine years of working my ass off for it, still just figuring stuff out) but also being neck-deep in it all the time. It’s very much what my Life Coach is trying to help me do, with regards to approaching pleasure and relationships with curiosity rather than trepidation. It says be loyal, be devoted, be compassionate and supportive of yourself as well as others. Be emotionally vulnerable.
BUT
HOW: The Queen of Earth says “don’t fling yourself off a cliff to do it”. Offer that loyalty, devotion, compassion wisely. Make sure you have an oxygen mask of your own, rather than hoping someone else will pass you one in the event of an emergency. Explore, see where things go, walk into this stuff with joy and hope. For sure. But also make sure that you can stand solid on your own. Be aware of what you value, what you want and what you need, as you go out exploring. You can be emotionally vulnerable, you can let your heart be curious, because you can pull back and prioritize yourself when you need to. (Which is also part of the Life Coaching stuff, as it turns out).
 
The Queen of Earth, in the Mary-El deck, is weaping diamonds. It makes me think of this post I wrote just before C ended our relationship. In this context, I read it as “there is value is showing your emotions” and also “experiencing your bodiliness, letting your feelings come through your body, isn’t weak. Quite the opposite”. There are a million ways to interpret a given tarot card but this seems like a relevant way to read this one today.
 
So. That was how I went about Casting Out Doubt. It’s been helping. Every time I pass a rose bush (which are still quite fragrant in these parts, even as the flowers are fading), I catch the scent and breathe in love and gratitude. It’s a nice reminder and it helps me stop spinning my self-doubt wheels.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] That’s a thing to keep in mind. If you banish something, it can be a good idea to fill the void the banishment leaves with something you actually WANT (either by putting it there, or by ritually inviting it to take up residence), so that you don’t end up with either (a) the same damn shit again, OR (b) just any old thing that happened to be in the area filling in the available psychic/physical/emotional space. A bit like my tarot-pull being all “Here’s what to do INSTEAD of the disfunctional thing you’ve always done”.
 
[2] Motherwort calms the heart (it makes a good anti-anxiety tincture, similar to skullcap in that regard, but much muuuuuuch easier to get ahold of in urban areas as it grows quite happily in disturbed ground like construction sites), builds self-trust and confidence, bolsters libido, and attracts joy, success, & a sense of purpose. It encourages listening/discerning one’s heart’s desires and has associations with Venus, Freja, and Ogun (er… apparently). It can come and live in my garden any time.

Common Motherwort (Leonurus Cardiaca)

Full Moon – Leaf Moon Crests

So, in theory, this full moon is going to teach me something about Relationships. I’m not even sure where I got that, but it might have something to do with what Chani Nicholas has to say about this week. Or it might have to do with dinner + a possible drive to Montreal with my wife and my ex (aka: her partner) tomorrow night and just how that’s gonna go, given it’s the last time I’m going to see said ex for, well, a very long time. (They’re moving to Alberta in six weeks). I’m trying not to over-think it or get all worked up about it, or whatever.
 
ANYWAY.
 
I feel kind of like I had a penny-drop moment the other night, which was kind of a big deal and is something I’m hoping I can build on. The plan to see more people and do more social stuff (in a sustainable way) seems to be working out so far. I mean, it’s only been two weeks, but I’m still getting to socialize and also have down-time, so that’s a good thing. Dancing at Morning Jam last weekend was great (and I met a couple of people who remembered me and my poetry(!) from the Reading Out Loud show I took part in last year – awesome bonus!). I have Plans in the works for how to promote my chapbooks around town, and a birthday party to attend on Sunday.
 
I finally (FINALLY) made candles – beeswax ones, no less – for the altar (which – sorry, Gods – has been sorely neglected of late), and got a package in the mail, the contents of which will be put to use in various magical fashions. I’ve been poking at the tarot course I’m taking (slowly, but surely), thinking a lot about the 2 and 3 of cups, but also the Queen of Swords (of all things) – she has more to do with Death (both the Major Arcana card and its meanings, and the literal thing) than I was expecting. Who knew?
 
The seeds I planted (er – literal seeds in this case) in the Cold Weather Bed are starting to come up, and I’ve transplanted some self-seeded greens (mustard or rappini, not sure) into that bed as well. I’ve harvested sage and vietnamese garlic greens (and rhubarb) from the perenial/self-seeding bed and have a vase (well, jam-jar) of water on the kitchen counter, full of dandelion greens for dinner tomorrow. The plan is to spend a significant chunk of this weekend setting up the Squash Bed (which will have cherry-tomato plants and maaaaaaaaaybe eggplants and/or ground cherries in addition to cucumber, yellow zucchini/crookneck, Musquee de Provence or Sugar-Pie pumpkin, and Butternut squash) and maybe, if I can swing it, adding some showy-but-cheap annual flowers (and some Spiderwort and/or spearmint, if I can find them) to the front flower bed.
 
~*~
 
MOTION: Walking all over town. Still haven’t made it to a pool, but have started working one day per week (soon to be two days) at my wife’s shop, which involves a lot of being on my feet. Learning how to do that without screwing up my back/hip/knee… face?? (No, seriously, I’m having facial spasms again – that doctor’s appointment in early June can’t come soon enough) is… going to take a bit, but a good pair of insoles is probably a requirement. Hoping to get to another not-late-at-night dance in the next few weeks, but I have to find out when it’s happening first. (Turns out, I follow the organizer on twitter, so this shouldn’t be too hard).
 
ATTENTION: Looking for moments of sychronicity & good luck; watching the leaves opening, the (slow, due to lots of shade) flowers in my front yard start to bloom, and the cotlydons (?) poke through the soil in my vegetable beds. Trying to be an attentive wife. ❤
 
GRATITUDE: HOT WEATHER! I went out in flip-flops and only a sweater this morning, and felt great! Also, apparently wishes do come true. It may not be houndstooth, but I am now the delighted owner of a rich purple straight-skirt (not quite a pencil skirt, but close enough) that I got for free when my Mom cleaned out her closet (thanks, Mom). Also, tremendously grateful for realizing what That Feeling was, the other day, and being able to stay emotionally open in a situation where I might otherwise have shut down. Definitely a win, and one I hope to repeat. 😀
 
INSPIRATION: My wife, who is riding about 150km/week on her bicycle! Also: The Two of Cups, in its various incarnations.
 
CREATION: Right now, it’s all about the garden. Well, that, and writing Glosas. I’m slowly working through a bunch of self-sellected poetry excerpts by various femme poets and glossing all of them. It’s a bit of a break-up album, so far, but the plan is that it will eventually be chapbook #3, which will be awesome.

Tarag? Skyr? – Adventures in Cheese-Making Part Four!

So I usually buy milk, by the gallon jug, at the local convenience store. It’s close by, I can return the jugs for a deposite (way better than throwing them out, in my books, plus that $0.25 is not to be sneezed at, especially when I go through this stuff like I do), and – provided that trans-pacific trade agreement doesn’t come into effect as-written (uh… not holding my breath, but I reeeeeeeeeeally don’t like what it would do to Canadian farmers) – the milk in said jugs is super-local, even if it’s not organic by any stretch of the imagination.
 
Usually this does me just fine, because I drink enough heavily-adulterated tea and coffee, plus make enough alfredo sauce, pancakes, and other milk-friendly foods, that I can go through a gallon of the stuff in about 10 days. But the minute I get a cold/cough/sore-throat, work a few full-days at a temp job (or a slew of modeling gigs with early starts), or get a visit from my cows-milk-alergic sweetie, the giant jug of dairy gets shoved to the back of the fridge to make way for herbal berry teas, goat’s milk (and/or almond milk), and juice that fill the “lots of fluids” niche… and the chances of my milk going off? They go through the roof.
 
Consequently, due to a perfect storm of all of the above, I had two half-finished jugs of milk go off on me, one after the other, in December. That’s four litres (in 2L batches) of milk, with a lot of overlap, that needed to be used up during a period when my fridge and freezer are both super-stuffed with frozen veggies (having only just stopped harvesting kale and chard from the yard), raw root veggies, and numerous not-usually-in-stock goodies (like half a dozen fancy cheeses, at least one open bottle of wine, sweet cider, various kinds of paté, and chocolate bark)… meaning I couldn’t just make a quadrupal batch of waffles plus a couple of cherry-chocolate-chip quick breads, and then freeze them (not even in a bag hanging off the back doorknob, which could have worked just fine, given enough zip-locks and tupperware, if we hadn’t spent most of December with well-above-freezing temperatures on hand).
 
The first half-gallon did end up in quick breads and coffee cakes. but the second one happened right between Winter Solstice and New Years, and honestly? I just let it go. I let it sit in my fridge and curdle/clabbor/etc to its heart’s content.
 
And, today, I drained off the whey, and called it Cheese.
 
Wait, what?
I know. But bear with me.
 
I trust my food.
I trust that, in a kitchen where wine, home-made bread, and live-culture yoghurt feature heavily in the cuisine, and where kefir, kombucha, blue cheese, and chevre make their appearances, most of the bacteria in my fridge? Are bacteria my species has been cultivating relationships with for thousands of years (sans fridges,even).
I trust my food knowledge, too. I’m a home-canner. I know that anything well into the sour (NOT bitter) spectrum is not going to harbour deadly stuff like botulism, and that vinegar, hot peppers, and garlic will kill off most of the nasty stuff that causes food (particularly meat) to spoil.
I also have a pretty good idea of where most of my food came from, how it was grown/raised and (in the case of the wine and some of the diary products) how it was processed, so… I’m not too fretful about the kind of nasty stuff you get when “pink slime” is involved… because it generally isn’t.
 
Which means that when the milk in my fridge goes off? I’m willing to see where it wanders.
 
Where it wandered, this time (having been left, for over close to three weeks, to swell it’s jug all out of shape, and having had the cap taken off and screwed back on a few times over the course of its wandering), turned out to be:
Fairly solid
With lots of whey below it, and
Smelling both super-sour and faintly of something like kefir.
 
So I tasted it.
 
NOTE: The fact that my weirdo milk product both (a) was clearly fermenting, and (b) smelled more or less like something else I’d already eaten safely is WHY I was willing to taste it.
 
I tasted a curd, about half the size of my smallest fingernail.
Nothing weird happened to my tongue or lips or gums.
I swallowed it.
Still nothing.
Tried a (slightly) larger bit, then another.
Still fine.
The stuff is sour as hell, and tastes both a little bit like beer and a little bit like yoghurt, so I decided “Screw it,”, drained off the whey, and strained the curds in my mash bag (which I got from a wine-making store for the purposes of making cheese… on purpose).
 
At this point, I have a cup-and-a-half or so of home made Accidental Cheese that I’m pretty sure is the product of a little bit of free-range bread-yeast (that I use to super-slowly fridge-ferment berry iced tea into something that sparkles about a year later) and a little bit of free-range yoghurt bacteria, and that will probably work best when cooked into a quiche or a pot-pie that would benefit from some cottage cheese thrown in.
 
Whee! Experimenting!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Chokecherry Chutney (Gleaning Local Fruit to Make Preserves)

Hey there!
 
So last week, I got to pick about 3L worth of chokecherries from my friend’s front yard tree.
I stewed the fruit and strained it through a seive in order to get as much juice and pulp as possible. (I didn’t actually get as much as possible because I didn’t start off scraping the bottom of the seive at regular intervals – I probably could have got an extra cup or two of fruit puree if I’d gone that route). What I wound up with was about 1L of fruit puree. I reserved 250mL of it in the fridge (for making chokecherry curd, later today) but the rest went into making this fancy-ass preserve that I’m calling a “chutney” but that is really closer to something like a chunky, savoury jam.
 
Regardless of what you want to name it, here’s the recipe:
 
~*~
 
 
INGREDIENTS
 
10 “prune plums”, peeled and diced
½ C granulated sugar
+
3 C chokecherry puree
¾ C red wine vinegar
+
1 red onion, chopped
+
¾ C dried (sweetened) cranberries
¼ C dried currants
+
1 C granulated sugar
2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp dried mint
2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp dried basil

 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Peel the plums (if you are stewing the chokecherries at the same time, you can chuck the plum skins in with them to stew, otherwise they can be added to fruit butters or even just composted).
 
Dice the plums. Toss them in a bowl with 1/2C granulated sugar and let sit for a few hours (possibly while you stew chokecherries, or possibly while you get something else done. Wevs).
 
Combine in a broad, somewhat shallow, pot: Chokecherry puree, diced plums, red wine vinegar[1] and all other ingredients.
 
Stir periodically to prevent sticking, but mostly just bring to a boil and allow to simmer for an hour or so. If you leave the lid of the pot slightly askew, you can let the water boil off faster[2] without splattering everything everywhere[3].
 
Sterilize some jars + lids and rings. I was expecting this to make upwards of 2L worth of chutney, but only got a little over half that much, so.
 
When the chutney is bubbling and nicely thickened (and the liquidy part will sort of glob together a little before dripping off a spoon), ladle it into your sterlized jars.
 
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 10-15 minutes (using 1C jars).
 
Allow to cool, listening for the “plunk” that tells you they’ve properly sealed.
 
Makes 5C Chutney.
 
~*~
 
 
So there you have it.
 
I came up with the recipe because (a) it’s pretty easy to get your hands on free choke cherries around here, and (b) I wanted something in the same family as my usual rhubarbicue sauce (rhubarb chutney) that I didn’t make this year, since my rhubarb plants have been getting established and aren’t ready to be harvested yet.
It’s based really loosely on the “chokecherry chutney” recipe in Wild In the Kitchen – at least that’s where the fruit ratios got their start – but it departs radically from that recipe’s spicy-cherries-and-apples signature from there.
 
Chokecherries have a lot of tannin in them so, when I was considering flavour combinations, I went for things that pair well with red wine – plums and cranberries being the big ones – and that also paired well with both cherries (and plums) and with things that go well with red wine. Thus my choice to use cloves, yes, but also rosemary and mint in the mix.
 
This preserve pairs well with roast lamb, for sure, but also with pork and poultry. It makes a great spread for a ham or turkey sandwich, for example, but also works well (maybe thinned out just a little with some water or red wine) when used as a glaze for roast duck, braised pork shoulder, or barbecued spare ribs. I’m inclined to see how it would work as a (distant) alternative to tzaziki when eaten with something like sweet potato latkes or falafel.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I actually added the vinegar to the puree as I was making it, but do what you will.
 
[2] This was a fairly significant thing for me. It felt like forever before the mixture thickened up.
 
[3] There will still be some splatter, however, because we’re talking about boiling sugar and lots of chunky stuff that wants to sink to the bottom of the pan. Wear oven mitts while stirring, and maybe use the pot-lid as a shield, I’m just warning you.