Feet in the creek, picking flowers for syrups and sodas, walks in the woods, getting ice cream out, playing badminton, planting new gardens, hanging in the hammock, making (and eating!) fruit popsicles, counting birds and butterflies, being 11…
What gets our juices flowing this Tuesday? Literally, juices. After putting up a stunning smelling and looking foraged Kimchi (with Daisy sprouts and buds, Dandelion leaves, heart shaped Violet Leaves, Red Clover Leaf, a little young Yellow Dock leaf, the serrated spears of Evening Primrose leaves, some ‘refound’ – or rather lost and forgotten patch- of baby Garlic and Radish leaf, and some local foraged Fiddleheads), we decided to do a batch of Dandelion wine since those sunny blossoms finally appeared (and I might do another batch, too, this week…). And then – after perusing the techniques of Pascal Baudar and Sandor Katz, we decided we wanted to try some Berry Soda so we put up a batch of Blackberry to try (so far, so good!). I think we will try some Ginger Beer and real Beer’s too.
The Violets are starting to match their leaf growth so a batch of Violet Syrup might be a consideration this week. By the end of that little endeavor, the Lilacs will likely be ready to syrup or wine-up, and then maybe the Honeysuckle. At that point, tea foraging becomes a primary focus for me – lots of Red Clover buds will be popping up to try (and maybe also make a little wine from, I tried it a few years ago and liked it very much…Goldenrod, not so much), Raspberry Leaf, Bee Balm, and as the Summer progresses my Chamomile patch will be buzzing. I love to get the drying racks up and start filling them with Calendula blossoms, Mullein leaves, Cleavers, Yarrow, and maybe this year some Wintergreen Berry, too. Amazingly I do not have a crazy patch of Mint. I have tried to start one here and there but then I generally put it somewhere I am not set on and then pile stuff on top of it, forgetting until I really want some. Though Bee Balm is in the Mint family, it doesn’t have the same cleanness to it that you want out of a Mint (but it does have a lovely well-rounded body that I enjoy). I do drink a lot of tea and hope to have enough to sell again this year.
Right now we are just excited that many of the baby Apple trees we have planted over the last couple of years are blooming. It’s an off year for the big trees but the little ones are looking pretty good despite the incessant drought and bug plague they have been struggling through. The baby plants are also looking good and can’t wait to get into the new garden – still a few finishing touches (and a fence) but we’re almost there; the coldframes are bursting! But we did finally get a first Asparagus harvest after many years since starting from seed (and the fear that the deer dug it up last year, though none of the Purple came up, perhaps they will return) – YAY!
“Lilacs on a bush are better than orchids. And dandelions and devil grass are better! Why? Because they bend you over and turn you away from all the people in the town for a little while and sweat you and get you down where you remember you got a nose again. And when you’re all to yourself that way, you’re really proud of yourself for a little while; you get to thinking things through, alone. Gardening is the handiest excuse for being a philosopher. Nobody guesses, nobody accuses, nobody knows, but there you are, Plato in the peonies, Socrates force-growing his own hemlock. A man toting a sack of blood manure across his lawn is kin to Atlas letting the world spin easy on his shoulder.” ~ Ray Bradbury,Dandelion Wine
Our lovely Godzilla has been changing at a shooting star rate these days – she is taller, smarter, stronger, sassier, and coming to grips with change. Up until now we have been following a loosey goosey Waldorf-style education (I think the only Waldorf aspect is the timing, we work on 7 year cycles for introductions of certain concepts and how to negotiate them, but we also motivate her relationship with nature and her own sense of spirituality) but as we get closer to the end of her 2nd cycle, we want to make sure she is getting the things she needs in case she wants to make educational changes (i.e. go to school or pursue classes). So there is a bit of homework that has been happening (and she dislikes it as much as any other kid does unfortunately) – reading comprehension quizzes, math worksheets, geography games. Most of her education we try and find life applications for and let her be as imaginative as we can but there are a few things that just need ‘the work’ to get through (or at least, that’s how we’ve approached).
I love middle schoolers – I did my practicum with an afterschool group in Taos, NM which fostered 1/2 academics, 1/2 creative exploration and thought I’d found my calling. It’s such a charming (and yes, hard to manage – for everyone) age – they are still children but are seeing and adopting some ‘grown up’ inklings. It was essentially my job to make sure they stayed safe in this trying time (all my students were under probation of some sort). I would have continued to do the work but when we returned to the East Coast, my outward appearance no longer made me a contender in a highly competetive field (all in all, we should have just stayed out there – we dream about it constantly).
But Josh and I love to pick out Duende’s reading books, guide her in inquiry, help her find new tools for learning. She’s not the most receptive of students as she very much likes things ‘her way’/without instruction though she might understand some of the risk involved if she doesn’t step up her game (school for sure). As she gets up to ‘academic speed’, she is always looking for ways to sidestep the process but eventually it gets done. Her review is in another month and I think she will be ready.
Until then, she also pursues outside activity: her garden is shaping up and she helped remove all of the strawberry plants from the big garden for new beds (and she did great – thank you Edwardian Farm! they are all looking good in their temporary boxes), roller skating with Dorothy at the Tuesday Farmers Market, pulling the wagon around (despite Josh jumping in!) to move things for us, going for first season Ice Cream (and running into Dorothy!), moving the chickens by hand from the coop to the tractor all the time, riding her bike on our crazy hill, and making many a mudcake. Happy warm Spring!
And just like that – it’s high Spring. Everything wants to be out in the coldframes yesterday, foraging needs to happen immanently, and yet…yet…technically still under the omen of Last Frost. Tender babies will have to wait a bit longer though my crazy Pumpkin patch has already been testing the waters of these last few nights and they are surviving. The garlics are sprouting strong and the peas are coming up nicely (despite the hack job I did on the pea trellis – channeling my inner Ananse). Josh planted the last of the Antonovka trees (we’re trying a braided tree with a few of these) making our little orchard pretty significant.
The Dandelions look like they might actually wake up in our yard (I was worried, just a couple of years we had a yellow fluffy carpet and they are much sparser this year…of course, a year I am ready to make some more Dandelion wine!), the Daffodils finally are shining (and fragrant!), and the Forsythia are still making their way towards the sun. Mr. Phoebe and his stunning nest have finally found a mate (I almost put out an advert for him – I didn’t want that fine work to go to waste!). The Plums are blooming as the Violets beneath poke their little heads out. The Azalea is making the Bumbles happy and the Bee Balm is spreading wondrously.
We had a lovely Beltane dinner with a couple of friends who like Lamb over the fire with Roasted Roots below and slapdash Blueberry/Ground Cherry Pie. Mother’s Day followed with Moroccan Djej Emshmel and a Vanilla Bundt Cake with Duende’s amazing Chocolate drip glaze (she’s becoming quite the baker). The bakery has been trying on new flavors of Red Chili Pepper Crackers (he calls them Firecrackers!), a soft slicing Whole Wheat bread, along with this week’s special of Roasted Garlic Sourdough (mmmm). We’re off to the Farmers Market today to find something delicious to go with it.
Josh has pulled down the old garden fencing, remarked the new expanded beds and begun a little light tilling (new ground and all). We moved the Hops, Rhubarb, Strawberries, a few extra garden friends to pots while we get the garden ready. We plan to finish much of that this week so that the week after next we can plant like crazy. I’m envisioning rows of flowery bursts interspersed with Cabbages and Kales, clever beds of Nightshades (Peppers, Eggplants, Tomatoes) with companion plants like Nasturtium, Marigolds, and Calendula to ward off foes and bring in friends. I can’t wait (and yet, I have to because we still have a bunch to do before we get there)! Plant well!
Goethe put it over two centuries ago . . . Life as a whole expresses itself as a force that is not to be contained within any one part. . . . The things we call the parts in every living being are so inseparable from the whole that they may be understood only in and with the whole.
There are webs of complexity that tie everything together, and they are more numerous than the stars in the night sky. At the moment of self-organization of the bacterial membrane, complex feedback loops, both interoceptive and exteroceptive, immediately formed. Information from both locations began traveling in a huge, never-ending river composed of trillions upon trillions of bytes of data to the self-organized, more-than-the-sum-of-the-parts living system that had come into being. The system began, in that instant of self-organization, to modulate both its interior and exterior worlds in order to maintain its state. It began to modulate its environment.
I spent a week or so in Tuscany a few years back, traveling for school, and tried some of the local fare; Pappardelle al cinghiale (Wild Boar Ragu pasta, which I had to try a couple of times because it was soooooo good), Panzanella (Bread Salad, see J’s version – I love it more than the Italian made I had), and healthy doses of the digestivo Limoncino (the Northern Italian version of Limoncello) and Pappa al pomodoro.
Though, to be honest, I wasn’t as thrilled with the Pappa al pomodoro as I thought I was supposed to be. Everywhere is apparently slightly different (as family styles and recipes are malleable) so I shouldn’t have given up but the opportunity did not really offer itself again. I returned, slightly sad that such a signature dish left me wanting. I think what disappointed me was likely the restaurant’s lack of time taken for this dish – though it doesn’t take a lot of time, time is still the essence of the tomato flavor (this is just a guess, the tomato soup tasted a little watery and the tomatoes unripe or uncooked a bit, but it was a desparate last minute attempt at a less than exciting establishment to make sure I had some while in Tuscany).
My best advice is to use a bit of roasted tomato to kick up the tomato flavor and make sure to simmer whatever kind of tomato you use with as little water as possible until they break down a bit, concentrating all that goodness. In the late Summer when heirloom tomatotes are gorgeous and aplenty, we buy as many as we can (every week) and use some fresh, and roast the rest sliced thick on sheet trays with Garlic/Herbs like Thyme, Marjoram, Rosemary, or Oregano/Sea Salt & fresh ground tricolored Pepper/Olive Oil until they carmelize, let cool, then throw into freezer bags for just this sort of thing – adds tomato punch to any dish – soups and stews, pasta dishes, dips, etc.
I’ve also made this with a squeeze of anchovy and lemon (I think whoever came up with smashed anchovies in a tube is a genius! but you can also just smash one or two of your own) and Winter herb oil (dried herbs like Thyme, Rosemary, or Sage simmered in oil, strained then use the oil in the soup). I would not judge you if you added chunks of oil simmered Red and Green Bell Pepper and/or Onion, as well, or a healthy dose of Red Wine or a splash of Red Wine Vinegar near the end and a handful of Parm/Reg cheese. Instead of adding water, you can also up the nutrition by using Stock of any kind, too. Can also be served with a sexy cheese and cured olives (Josh really likes the wrinkly Black olives but mixed olives work great, too – or any of your favorites).
Pappa al Pomodoro (Tomato Bread Soup) Serves 4ish
3 Large cloves of Garlic, peeled and smashed with the flat of the knife
1 lb fresh Tomatoes, (roasted in oven for 15-20 min at 350 w/ Sea Salt/Pepper/drizzle of Olive Oil, if using Summer frozen – chop roughly and treat the same), or a 24 oz can of Diced Fire-Roasted Tomatoes
24 oz of Water or Stock
1/2 cup of Olive Oil
24 oz can of Crushed Tomatoes (with Basil – sure!)
Bunch of fresh Basil, torn a bit to let the oils out, hold back a few leaves for the end
About a pound of good quality stale Bread cut or torn into big bite sized pieces(half of our classic Panem Domus is a great match here- if not stale ‘enough’, cut or tear into chunks and bake or toast a bit to dry out)
The beauty of this soup is the marrying of flavors. * To start this, I recommend a Tablespoon of the Olive Oil in a Soup/Saucepan over Medium heat. Add smashed Garlic cloves and bring to a slow sizzle (do not let them brown but move around until fragrant). * Then add can of Fire-Roasted Tomatoes, if using (if not, hold off on the fresh or frozen fresh Roasted -or fresh frozen-Tomatoes, and move to next Step). Let cook in saucepan until thickly bubbly, stirring occasionally so as not to stick to bottom of pot (about 5 minutes). * Add Crushed Tomatoes (if not using can Fire-Roasted, treat as above, letting cook in Olive Oil with Garlic for 5 minutes) and 24 oz of chosen broth liquid (I just refill the can), and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. * Season with Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper. * Add Bread chunks and torn Basil and let simmer another 5-10 minutes until preferred consistency (if I need to loosen it a bit, as I like it, this is the time I use a little Red Wine or Red Wine Vinegar, cooking after adding just a minute or two to reduce the alcohol/sharpness and bring to temperature) * Remove from heat and divide into serving bowls – adding a Tablespoon of Olive Oil to each bowl, and sprinkling with Flaky Sea Salt/freshly ground Black Pepper to taste, and the remaining torn Basil.
This little peach loves to plan/host/make goodies for parties. Duende is a hostess with the mostess. A slight sign of rain and she’s making a Thundercake (see Patricia Polacco’s book of the same name, recipe in the back). Any talk of ripe bananas and she’s whipping up banana bread. Or she’s baking biscuits, or scones, or pancakes, or cupcakes! She likes to bake. For the last year or so she’s been picking up some baking/cooking classes with the Homemade group – they are very charming and love to see her (generally the youngest by herself) showing off her goods and asking very sensible questions. Though her patience is a little thin on recipe following (she likes to be creative in baking, but maybe before she knows all the rules…hmmmm) most of her experiments are pretty good.
Duende has friends that are apparently busy little bakers, too. Pear has come up and taken an online baking class with her (remember those scrumptious strawberry and cheese triangles? I do) and she and her friend Dorothy conspired for Dorothy to make delicious little Cheese Danish for me as a birthday surprise! How amazingly wonderful! Baking faeries everywhere! Duende also made me a lovely little clay pitcher (and tried desperately to no avail to make me a pinata – ha!) and colorful paper beads – I love her creations.
Other exciting news – she’s excited to be in the front seat! She’s excited to be back outside for games and relaxation! She’s excited to be traipsing around town and country! Here’s to 11 year old excitement!
Many plans – expanding gardens, rebuilding fences, opening horizons; all sound like practical possibilities and philosophical processes at the same time. We are retooling how we go about the gardens this year. With the concern of the avian flu, and our reduced layer flock, it seems like a good time to readdress how we free range our birds (because they can be particularly destructive at times, and yet helpful, too) – so we are building the chicken run into the garden, enfolding a couple of apple trees into the fenced in space as well, and making rows instead of beds. All this goes with our bigger plan to start building an outdoor kitchen resplendent with raised herb beds, a bread oven, and a new pergola for the grapes that we will have to move (anyone want free grape canes? get them fast, they are drying up in the pile behind the garage! ha!).
Meanwhile, Harvest Party 2022 plans are being made – pencil in September 17th as a day to come and relax on our (hopefully) beautified landscape with lovely foods, good live music, and community connections. We’re nerding out this year on food themes (something classic, something foraged, something grown, something Rock Bottom made, something fermented, etc) as we try out some new fire techniques (Beltane will find us enjoying a hanging lamb leg over the flames) and set up country wines (this year I will continue to do the dependable and delicious Dandelion wine, but also will try Forsythia and Honeysuckle, maybe Lilac if I am fast enough). It will be a miracle if we get done all we aspire to but it’s a good motivator to try.
And try we will. We had a lovely day in Portland last weekend for my birthday – my lovely peoples take good care of me, we popped into a local thrift store to spend a gift certificate and across the street was a pop up Queer Craft Fair! Lucky me! I got a couple of amazing goodies there (real butterfly wing earrings and an awesome worm shirt!) and talked with some wonderfully creative folks. Then we went to the East End Park for a picnic and a little play which is always nice to sit on the hill above the water and see the view. The ‘hill was charming with bursts of blooms (both real and creative!). And to top it all off, we came home to a smashing grilled dinner and played Ticket to Ride which we love to play together, finishing with my favorite Strawberry Shortcake (the food, not the character – though I adore her, too). The next day, family came by with Sushi and Chocolate Cake and Key Lime Pie. What a lovely birthday!