Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cutting Calendula.

I believe I counted 96 calendula seedlings planted this summer?  A couple of them are still blooming, under two snows, in the garden.  Many of them are valiantly surviving the cold in their pots on the porch steps.  I was afraid I would loose them all at the first sign of frost.  I didn’t'.

Most of the ones from the garden I pulled up last week, and out of time, let sit on the kitchen counter – a giant pile of plants.  Between the freeze and the undignified heap they sat in for a few days, I lost a bunch of the leaves...  but I still managed to dry a quart Ziploc bagful from them.  I grow calendula for the flowers, because they are beautiful and because they are healing.  Bonus: they attract aphids away from other things you are growing.  But I also harvest the leaves.  They're edible, did you know?  Calendula is the classic "potherb."  My leaves though, are dried and sent with instructions on poulticing and plastering to my father – he with the varicose veins the size of golf balls in his legs.  They're good for that, the leaves.  I hope he actually uses them.

I think I must have a love affiare going on with my herbs.  Affaires are mutual things, you see.  I love them.  And I think that efficacious herbs, the healing ones, must have a truly deep love for humanity.  They could have evolved in so many other ways.  The amount of phyto-chemicals and trace nutrients and good energy that healing herbs put into their herbal parts is astounding.  When you think that all of that energy could have evolved to have been directed towards something else... or towards the same plant parts, without creating the effective herbal medicines...  There is so much love right there.  Calendula has been giving me flowers ALL SUMMER LONG.  Now she gives me her leaves.  And in exchange, I save her seeds.  I've got some collected already, from seedheads accidentally collected before their time.  From some recent seed heads, fully mature.  The seed head its self will appear dried and ready to harvest long before it really is.  It is not until the vital energy has withdrawn from the stem, leaving it brittle and brown, rather than strong and lush and green, that the seeds have absorbed all the procreative energy they can hold. 

I'm leaving the seed heads on the plant, on the porch, out in the cold, even after harvesting another giant basket of leaves.  I want to see if next years plants will remember the cold.  Will they grow more fiercely in the early season?  More vibrantly?  Be even less susceptible to frost in the fall?  How does evolution happen anyway?  There is an intelligence in seeds.  In plants.  I feel we all too often vastly underrate that intelligence.  If I contemplate the possibility that our human DNA carries with it some load of karma from our ancestors, why should I not entertain the possibility that the prana (life force) at work in seeds can remember the cold, and tell next year's plant to prepare for it?  How else do we get cold-hardy varietals??

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chilly Mornings

I do love me a husky-ball

A Crockpot Simmers : Weekday Kitchen Living.

When I teach yoga after work, or take a class – which of late is almost every night of the week, we do not get home till 8 o clock or later.  To be able to come home to dinner already made, is gift, a blessing, a revolution. 

Anyone without a garage plugs in their car overnight in winter in Fairbanks.  The energy-thrifty among us buy this lovely little mechanical timer which functions similarly to an egg timer (rather than a complex digital system) and is the conduit between plug and socket.  This allows you to choose the hours the socket, and its electricity, is active.  I recently came to the brilliant notion of using this with our crockpot.  Long slow cooking is the name of the game of course, but not every vegetable stew needs upwards of 12 hours of cooking.  4 or 6 usually suffices.  It is marvelous.  

Today we came home to potato leek soup – the leeks courtesy of the CSA, the potatoes happened to be courtesy of our own garden, though we are overrun with potatoes from the CSA as well.  A couple of long-frozen (a year or more of languishing in the freezer) pork chops had been marinating in the freezer and were quickly braised in cast iron.  With red wine and an episode of a trashy historical tv series?  Delightful Monday night.

Tomorrow, we have dal for dinner.  The same crockpot holds more of this weekend's chicken stock, red lentils, brown rice, carrots and leeks.  Seasoned with curry, garam masala, cumin, coriander and a hint of basil and oregano, I expect it to warm our bellies after class tomorrow night.

It takes a bit of discipline, thinking a day – or two – ahead this way.  But the reward of arriving home to an evocative aroma and a warm filling meal, make the somewhat exhausted late-the-night-before stew prep so very very much worth it. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gratitude: A living practice

Today is Thursday, so I'm writing this post today.  But gratitude and I have been very intimate this week.

I am astoundingly grateful right now.  Earlier this week, in the middle of my work day at the office, I went into the bathroom for a bit, just to cry and laugh, and thank divinity and experience the uprushing of excitement mixed with humility that is the sensation of gratitude.  There are 12 people registered for my workshop series, and more who are interested.  On the one hand I'm grateful for the abundance that will bring me in the form of a happy bank account, and I'm grateful to be in a place where I really feel that my teaching is worth that.  On the other hand, I am so profoundly grateful to be able to share the practice, to share the healing that is available through the practice.  To share this with others who need it, with others who themselves work for healing.  We can only truly serve others when our own wells are full. 

I'm grateful for snow melt that will allow me to spend time on the forest floor, picking berries before winter.

I am grateful for last harvest from the garden, for flowers that withstand frost and snow. 

I am grateful for love.

I am grateful for the full moon tonight, for the inner harvest reaping it brings.

I am grateful for fish and moose and veggies in the freezer to feed me through the coming cold.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Snow means Stitching!

This morning I stepped out onto my porch to see giant fluffy crystals of snow softly falling from the sky.  The snow is harsher in town.

It is sad to see the warm days gone.  And sadder still to know that the glorious days of golden gold color on the trees are likely not going to last.  The husky is already growing in a thick winter coat.  But we have a second woodstove now (we just need to install it) and stacks and stacks of cordwood.

With winter coming, it means that my heart and my mind turn towards my studio.  Towards art.

How fortuitous that I found the Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap announcement sitting unread in my backlog of emails this morning!

The swap is so much fun!

I did this last year, and just signed up for this year.  Deadline to sign up is September 25th.  The wonderful ladies who organize it all, give us each a partner from somewhere in the world, and by October 16th we all mail each other a stitched postcard.  Postcard-sized, using any medium, incorporating stitch.

The theme this year is CELEBRATION.

Would you like to join me?

If you live near, we can spend a Saturday in my full-to-overflowing-with-fabric-and-paper-and-yarn-stash studio and create together!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

THankful on a Thursday

Today I am grateful for a gift of time.  For the dropped-in-my-lap chance to take my own teachings to heart.

I am grateful for a husband who will let my over-tired, under-rested, rather anxious self lecture him ad infinitum about tropes and character types in historical romance novels ... and still look me in the eye and tell me I'm amazing and he loves me.

I am grateful for the best sort of friends...  both far and near.

I'm so grateful.  so overwhelmingly, full-of-awe, grateful for the manifesting of a vision I've been holding for a long time. 

I'm grateful for dreams.

Kitchen Living: Stock Scraps

I'm writing this in front of the first fire of the season.  We had an anniversary bonfire the other night.  But the parts for the woodstove arrived : a new cast-iron top to replace the one that cracked last winter, a new baffle – interestingly made of some sort of pearlite crazy wonderfulness-, and a new layer of internal insulation.  So we have our first fire in the woodstove, and my back basks in the gorgeous heat.  We've had a  frost that killed the squash, but the calendula and peas are still strong, the potatoes thriving despite frost-bitten upper leaves.  This fire feels like the harbinger of the inward-turning time of the year.  The time of the year that is about pulling out of the freezer and pantry, rather than manically filling them.  The time of year when warmth, and the fire that makes it, becomes the most important thing, that which life revolves around.  We are considering replaceing the propane with a wood cookstove – one which as a hot water reservoir in addition to an oven. 

Which brings me to the kitchen.  And my love for themed blog post "series."  As the CSA winds down, so will CSA Cooking.  Homestead Eating will likely come back, but I find myself drawn to a new one as well.  I notice, increasingly that this blog is primarily about food, interspersed with life and occasionally art.  (Speaking of which!  My loom is dressed again!)  In this reflection, i realize just how much of my life is lived in the kitchen.  And so I give you, Kitchen Living.

For me the kitchen is a living space.  It is about more than the (ever-expanding) corner of the kitchen holding various crocks and jars of fermenting kraut, pickles, kefir and kombucha.  It is about the way that meal flows to meal, the way that habits support habits, and the way that food is rarely wasted.  It means tailoring meals to what happens to be in the fridge (massive amounts of cheese?  I'm all about it!).

Today I was chopping up the parsley from the CSA for tomorrow's tabouleh making, while the bulgur simmered on the stove.  I took the parsley stems –something others might toss – and tucked them into a very special gallon Ziploc in the freezer.  There it met celery leaves, carrot ends, and other herb stems.  And the next time I make stock, I'll empty the bag on top of my chicken carcass.  This way, stock is something that truly evolves out of the daily doings in the kitchen.  It is flavored with the memory of meals past.  And none of the precious vitamin and nutrient wealth of the scraps goes to waste.  It is a habit that takes barely any longer than it would to toss the scraps.  All it requires is the mindfulness.  The appreciation.  The love.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Brie and Potatoes? I call it dinner.

Its been a while since I've spent time here, but loyal readers will be pleased to know that thoughts are once more swirling in my head...

Its been a crazy couple of weeks, and I'm just now beginning to feel landed again, after a whirlwind week of hosting an all-out romance novel themed Bridalette party (the bunting!  the tea! the cookies!), writing a wedding ceremony, officiating at said ceremony, and crafting decorations and event-managing the potluck reception.  So much joy.  So much love.  I'll post about it all in the not-too-very-distant future.

In the meanwhile, the late-season shares keep rolling in from the CSA, and I keep cooking soups, vegetable saut├ęs, and freezing as much as I can manage to blanch.  This week we got carrots, getting sweeter with the falling temperatures. a cauliflower twice the size of my head, braising greens, zucchini, turnips, portugese kale, onions, parsley and the first potatoes of the season.

I've dug maybe a third of my potatoes already, and eaten them in borschts.  Today for dinner we had boiled potatoes (quicker than baking and just as tender!) with butter – a little-, brie – a lot -, and salt and pepper.  And the portugese kale, also sweet with the coming frosts, in balsamic.  The brie demanded a bit of red wine to go with it, and then there was Silver Gulch root beer for dessert. 

Brie and potatoes.  Brie baked potatoes?  Potato gratin with brie?  I say yes.  The combination is divine.  And when you have an abundance of brie, left over from festivities, that demands to be eaten...  well, one must eat it!


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wedded Tree

The Wedded Tree

Four years ago today, I married the love of my life.  A day or two later, we came home to find a little twinned birch sapling on our driveway.  A gift from a dear friend.  Our wedded tree.  We planted the wedded tree, two young sapling trunks twining around one another, in the clay-y silt above the alternately soupy and frozen ground that once was permafrost in the muskeg at the cabin.  Despite the odds, despite the cold cold roots, despite the lack of soil, the tree survived, and even grew.  Doubled?

A few years passed, and we moved onto the homestead.  We dug up the now-very-large sapling, drove it 20 miles, the upper branches brushing against telephone wires, and planted it on the lower slope at the homestead.

 As more years pass, with learning and growing and loving and so much joy, these two trunks will grow ever more entwined, coming to share one circumference.  

Here's to four more years, and then to forty, to four and forty, and then four more.  I love you, Darlin'Man.

twinned birch sapling