On a perfect day you can usually find Duende up a tree! Most of our older apple trees are kooky with lots of crossing branches and good places to grip – she can get up into most of them (Ted still confounds her, his mid-section is still just a little too high for her to get up into). When she’s not in a tree she’s either making mud cakes or baths, or hiding like a wild puma behind clumps of grass so she can jump out and ‘attack’ the dog, or us, sometimes a wandering hen.
She loves her little creek area, which hopefully this Summer will be expanded and cleared a bit to include a little pond and a bridge or two. Her little garden is a nice spot, too – she’s mapped out 4 little square beds and we found some free small garden fencing that fits perfectly. She’s already growing her seedlings (pumpkins, eggplants, heirloom golden tomatoes) and awaiting time to sow some green beans, sunflowers, and carrots.
She was getting something out of the freezer the other day and found a Turkey, so apparently she’s roasting a Turkey today and making Mashed Potatoes and Gravy with Asparagus. I am so spoiled by this kid – ha! This goes along with her recurring baking lately (she’s trying to perfect a cake still for me but makes a marvelous Banana Bread – just perfect) and taking over of the weekly menu.
This next coming weekend for Mother’s Day we are having a small and socially distanced garden party to welcome the apple blossoms which are sure to arrive right on time (we see their little budding faces!). My little wood imp hostess will be very helpful, I’m sure. She’ll be making faerie flower crowns for everyone!
The pasta is made for this week’s specials: Gold Beet & Thyme Gnocchi, Red Beet Farfalle, and our house favorite – Classic Gnudi (cheesy little pillows of goodness).
Josh’s beautiful Sourdough Boules are cooling on the racks, while the newly popular Oat Breads are baking nicely. Bagels and Flatbreads are done. And we are wooing a new partner today with some bread.
Seedlings are growing stronger day by day on the porch/greenhouse – I have just enough time to put up a few more trays of flowers and herbs. Duende’s plants were started first (she is very excited about her new garden this year!) and is the biggest, craziest jungle tray on the porch. And our dear friend Justin’s are the second biggest, as I am setting up some plants for his return from the nursing frontlines out West (Welcome Home!!!).
As the apple trees begin to sprout buds (and maybe even a flower opening this week!), Josh has planted all the new baby trees (Beach Plums, more Pears and Apples, Willows, and the beach Rosa Rugosa) though we have some crowns and rootlings still to get in (Purple Asparagus, more Comfrey, Artemisia, Echinacea, Lavender, Bleeding Hearts, Hollyhocks, Wild Bergamot, Hops, & Phlox) and still some shade plants and more orchard companions on the way. And Duende has chucked her ‘seed bombs’ (I think this year mostly made of more Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Parsley, and Red Russian Kale seeds).
Renovations are underway – the studio room is finished and has painted walls/ceiling, a new door, and will get this week a new pine floor (VT Coatings sealed), and a sliding barn door on the other end of it. And then, new shelving units built! Exciting! And then we will put in the new kitchen Marmoleum flooring and some star-tile accents (like the oven pad and back door area).
Then outside renovations really begin, as well – we are getting a little excavator to dig up the back yard to level out and make an outdoor kitchen area with a bread oven, a grape arbor/pergola with seating, and a better play area for our glorious child. As well as a pond area we are shaping in the middle of the creek bed – Josh is building a little bridge this week and we are making wild bench plans, with cultivated spots of Ostrich Ferns and Ramps nearby.
Meat Chicks come this week – and our brooder is ready. Who doesn’t love getting chicks in the mail (hilarious – thank you Murray McMurray!) though hopefully by the time they come we will have figured out how to discourage the little Red Squirrel who has chewed holes through the lids of the bins we keep the chicken scratch/food in…
It’s a precipice kind of week. All of our jobs have either started or we have ordered supplies for them and now we just have to buckle down and get them all done. I will tell you more soon but I have an exciting lecture for a lovely Garden Lecture series for The Good Life Center scheduled later this Summer and Duende has a month before her homeschool teacher assessment and graduation to 6th grade (wow – can you believe it?!!). We’ll keep you posted! Happy Day!
I cannot tell you how it was, But this I know: it came to pass Upon a bright and sunny day When May was young; ah, pleasant May! As yet the poppies were not born Between the blades of tender corn; The last egg had not hatched as yet, Nor any bird foregone its mate.
I cannot tell you what it was, But this I know: it did but pass. It passed away with sunny May, Like all sweet things it passed away, And left me old, and cold, and gray.
My child is already dreaming of deep Summer treats like Ratatouille (Thomas Keller’s, of course – thank you Pixar) and the frozen Corn on the Cob we socked away last year is no longer exciting her. She’s ready to grill things and has also decided she wants to make meat jerky this year. I love this kid. The Lemonade pitcher is out already, and homemade popsicles are being created.
Meanwhile, Josh is also having charcuterie dreams. Not only does he like the idea of smoking and curing meats and other delicious treats, but I think lazy picnic dinners after morning/afternoons working hard on the homestead appeals to him. Some fresh-made soft Ricotta with fragrant strips of basil, yesterday’s Sourdough Baguette, an array of rainbow sliced Heirloom Tomatoes with a little Olive Oil and Truffle Salt, Pickles (of course, maybe something from the Secret Pickle Club like Dilly Beans or Fiddleheads), and a lovely Smoked Sausage of some sort…accompanied by a lovely Summer (m)cocktail or Lavender Lemonade.
And that is what we’ve come to talk about today. Mocktails/Cocktails. I feel like I missed out on a lovely pandemic ritual of Zoom cocktail hour…(one I’m going to start right now!!) where people could just show up and meet, bring your favorite beverage and just hang out. Really, how did I not think of this? And I know, some folks are burnt out on internet communications but some of us rely on them. Some of us don’t see other adults very often (before, during, and/or likely after the pandemic) and this could be a great way to relax and get to know folks from afar. I will send out a notification when this picks up – I’m sure it’s going to be a hit! Tonight is the trial run with just one far-flung friend, I’ll let you know how it goes.
What shall I drink? I have to say that I read a disconcerting article the other day about the abuses of alcohol over the pandemic (Winter, mostly) here in Maine which echoes national numbers (and likely international as all people need an escape or some relaxation, or just a treat at this time). We spent much of our Winter realizing that we needed to clean out in general (our bodies, our house, our crazy) and actually drank less. Not that we drink a lot, but we are social drinkers, for sure – and enjoy adult privileges responsibly (mostly). We found an online liquor club that delivered and so spent some time boosting our cabinet of alcoholic curiosities – so many fun accoutrements. I’m no mixologist but I enjoy a fancy drink that’s not too fussy.
When the weather shifts, I shift, too – Winter calls to me with Brandy and single knuckles of Scotch, sometimes a matching chill of a Juniper Gin & Tonic, or warming up with an Apple-y Hot Toddy (cider & whiskey, cinnamon and clove…mmmm). Josh is called by various Scotch’s, American Whiskey’s, and deep flavored beers in the Winter. But by the time June rolls around I’m wishing for a Provencal Rose by the poolside (though I have no pool, alright – for the depths of the dappled orchard), and Josh moves to clear beers (he’s still hating the IPA movement; it’s not that he doesn’t like IPA’s, he just likes other things, too – but the market is still saturated with high alcohol complicated IPA’s). For this Spring, I built up an assortment of Elderflower and Bergamot Liqueur, Icelandic Vodka (my medical practitioner recommends Vodka as a low calorie/no sugar option, especially for women’s changing bodies!), and though I don’t like the additives of most flavors that companies use I found a couple that were naturally flavored like a Grapefruit Gin and the Wild Roots distillery out of PacNW.
My standards are pretty succinct. I’m a lowbrow kind of gal. We have a Soda Stream. A typical cocktail for me is a medium glass (yes, I have a lovely assortment of vintage glasses), 2 ice cubes, a shot of alcohol (likely vodka or gin), and bubbly water. Sometimes a spoonful of liqueur as a fancy floater, or a squeeze of lime, and a sprig of herb or edible flower (right now all of my drinks have Forsythia blossoms in them, in another week or two it will be Violets, and then there is Lilac and Honeysuckle…). My child won’t even let me get out of the kitchen without a flower or sprig of herb in my drink (she makes all her mocktails with a sprig or flower, too – so fancy!). Sometimes Duende makes her delicious Lemonade (made with Organic Lemon juice and Maple Syrup or Honey) and I add a little of that, too.
I do make flower simple syrups, too (also for sale) – which are great for mocktails and cocktails alike. Lavender, Pine, and all the other flowers mentioned. I have fantasies of making my own bitters (and learning how to use them), and liqueurs. I recently got Pascal Baudar’s Wildcrafted Fermentation book which has some libations and then he has another Brewer’s book I must look into. Ashley English has some great recipes, too (as the whole Taproot magazine family does and shares). I do make my own flower wines (Dandelion, Red Clover, Rosehip all have been delicious, the last being a really deep flavor to use as a liqueur and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Goldenrod; very green – we learn if we’re lucky). And Josh makes Hard Cider (though Joe’s is better, in Josh’s defense Joe is adept at beer-making) and is starting to make some beer. Our lovely friend Justin and Dan make delicious mead (Dan makes great beer with Joe, too) which they are gracious enough to share (thank you!!).
So, apparently if you come by – we are having fantasies of picnics and fancy drinks. Bring on the warm weather!!!
I love watching her ‘work’. She’s both very intent on what she is creating and also, just doing her thing. After a wonderful week of pampering (for my birthday) from my little peach, her first ice cream of the season (promised by the Tooth Faerie – since she’s losing all her age appropriate teeth at once), and mapping out her garden (which she already has some great baby plants she seeded herself), she decided she needed to make a mask so she can go on The Masked Singer. Hilarious.
This is what she came up with – it’s brilliant! It’s likely she’ll sing something for us (like Ke$ha’s Tik Tok, or a JLo song – egads) with a full on costume soon (man, I hope we can guess who it is!!).
There comes a point when it seems as if something big is about to happen. A whiff of change on the wind, a green sprig of possibility, an opening of sorts. Spring can bring this feeling – there is an age old practice of ‘Spring Cleaning’ (though for all witches, all the celebratory times are times of cleaning out the old to make way for the new) which carries with it more than just a good sweeping. For us, this year, we are feeling the call for a more minimalist life. If you know us, you can stop laughing now.
It’s true, if you knew me (in particular), you would know that I love to look for treasure. My grandmother used to work the auction circuit when I was a kid and I would join her – traveling from one pie sale with ornamental glass to another (ha!). And she was a collector, too – it’s no wonder I have an eye for nostalgia. But it’s not just that, I also have an appreciation for things that were ‘made better when’. Of course, that is not everything (one look at how this house was stapled together as its 60’s upgrade can show you), but many things were not as mass produced out of plastic, as they are now, and so I collect them thinking that they will please me better. And most do – though I have many treasures that I harbor ‘just in case’, and that, my friends, is what drives my spouse a little crazy. With the current renovations we are doing, much of my stash is now piled in other rooms to get reorganized. Josh is hoping much of it goes back out into the world.
I have to say, I might be right there with him this year. I do love to collect things that might have been-made-better-when for some future maybe-I’ll-need-it-someday but I also need some space lately. Some thinking space, some doing space, just some space. I have so many options for so many activities that I don’t get to do any of them, and to be honest, my tomorrows are starting to be less than my yesterdays – I’m not sure I have enough time to really do most of these activities (my sewing skills are atrocious, do I really need four 1970’s sewing machines? when will I do mehndi again – I have jars of henna and plastic wide-tip hypodermic plungers? am I going to ever find a good place for a mosaic wall of all the broken dishes I keep? And what is with all the creamers?).
With all that said, this Tuesday I’m making a list of the activities I want to focus on – and everything else needs to find a new home. This Spring, some serious cleaning needs to be done. Let us not go so far as to think we will showcase any earthy clean Scandinavian lines around here – we’re not stable enough for that, but I think we can do better. I think we can find some new space around here that will renew our energies. I just had a birthday (to which my lovely child made a stunning cake and Nana brought over a Sushi buffet – yay! Thank you! And D was very happy to hit the ice cream place by the river for a first season cone!) and though we went ‘antiquing’ I was good and didn’t bring home anything that couldn’t be immediately used and enjoyed (I got us a new family popcorn bowl). Not only did I try to be good, but when I was ‘shopping’, I just didn’t feel that I needed anything. I think my brain is catching up to my lifestyle – ha!
I hope you find some easy breezy changes for the better coming your way.
Farming While Black: African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice
~ Leah Penniman (Co-director and Farm Manager of Soul Fire Farm, Grafton, NY), Keynote Speaker for 2020 Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Common Ground Country Fair
It’s no surprise that industrial agriculture is a leading driver of climate change, water withdrawals, water pollution, conversion of wildlife habitat into managed habitat and of biodiversity loss. Industrial agriculture is one of the most important factors that we need to address when we talk about continuing to live and breathe and thrive on this sacred planet earth. It’s not that we don’t know how to farm in a way that honors the earth and honors one another. Remember those seeds that were braided into our ancestors’ hair before being forced to board transatlantic slave ships? We know how to do it, but – in the name of racial capitalism, in the name of concentration of wealth and power, in the name of domination of the earth – our society has chosen a very, very dangerous path.
We see this even more exacerbated in the time of multiple pandemics. We have COVID. We have wildfire. We have police violence. We have despotism. This is highlighting the already existing cracks in the industrial food system and in racial capitalism. We are seeing disproportionate burdens of disease falling on communities who were already hungry, and on farm workers who were already struggling to get food to all of our tables. We see the disproportionate impacts on Black communities in terms of being over-policed and subject to police violence.
This is a time, I believe, of awakening. My hope is that it is not just a fad or trend to care about Black lives, to care about the earth and to care about local food systems, but it is a permanent awakening and a permanent call to action that will catalyze us into that next phase of justice and sustainability.
There is a hustle and bustle in the air – even though Last Frost isn’t until the second week for us here in mid-Maine, we can tell that the attitude of the weather has changed. I should be getting my peas in (well, really I should have put them in a couple of weeks ago but if I got them in now I would still be earlier than in some other years when there was still feet of snow on the ground). The grass is greening up, the Forsythia and Azalea is starting to bloom, and a few Daffodils (on the north side of the hill, ours come up a little slower than our south facing neighbors) are opening their sunny faces – Duende took all the flower pictures this week.
The Phoebe nest on the backside of the garage is almost finished, as is the cute little cup nest in the Alder on the trail, and someone is building something in the Rose at the Sundial garden. ‘They’ say there will be high insect populations this year so I am hoping that at least increases the lovely birdwatching abilities. We’re busy coming up with extra care for the baby fruit trees to manage another possible drought (wood chips, red clover, hemp insulation, etc.). We still have a few trees coming (shipping from Fedco) – Apples, Pears, Elderberry, White Raspberry and many shade plants and cottage garden flowers.
Josh has ‘dialed in’ his Rye Boules and the Sourdough breads (Boules and Baguettes) have benefitted from his new tips (they are so lovely). Though we are running out of ‘standard pickles’ – there are still plenty of non-cuke friends (Turnips, Yellow Squash, Spicy Carrots, Brussels, etc). I love watching him work the bread – he really loves it and it shows. His technique works well with his “loving the loaves” song that is coming from his face right now – ha! Soon, his energy will shift from the renovation of the studio to the outdoor bread oven.
And, while cleaning out the attic (which still, like our house, has many items from the previous owners) – we found this charming Mrs. Butterworth bottle with a handmade doll’s dress. Whenever I see her I exclaim, “Mrs. Butterworth – you are a vision!”. She’s my new kitchen totem.
May your hustle and bustle be manageable and enjoyable!