Duendesday: a bit of this, a bit of that

{life with a curious and crazy 11 yr old}

Lately it’s been hats, cakes, jumping on the new indoor rebounder, and the Tudor Monastery Farm. Today she is planning on steaming sticks to bend into basketry of some artistic (and likely unfunctional) kind. Yesterday she carved and boiled her own wooden butter knife. We’ve had a lot of late Summer, early Autumn rains and storms so she dug out her lovely long time favorite Patricia Polacco book (I love her whole series of family tradition tales – The Bee Tree, The Keeping Quilt, Rechenka’s Eggs, etc and Thunder Cake) which has the recipe in the back of the cake the little girl and her grandmother make throughout the book (it’s a counting book, she’s had it a long long time – I love Polacco’s style of interspersing sketch drawing with watercolors, there are other books like Betty Doll which are more stark in this style). She was quite pleased with the results (though we did have to use our early Fall fresh raspberries instead of the early Summer strawberry recommended. Though she is excited to cook from the new cookbook from Angela and Uncle Cameron sent down to her. Right now she is practicing some novice magick tricks.

Last month for her studies, she focused on Renaissance fashion (so much more exciting than early Tudor farmhand), mushroom identification, and more complex multiplication. This month she is eager to extend her outdoor nature journal with some Fall birds, Renaissance art (which is almost a lack of fashion!), and a simultaneous look at early American geography.

We can’t wait for more of what this gal is going to do. She’s always doing something…

Another Tuesday: Things We’re Up To

  • We were pleased to check out the Keynotes for the Common Ground Fair this year. They were nice (though, to be honest, I was a little disappointed in the online content this year when last year was amazing! First year we got to see a lot of the events since we weren’t wandering around the fairgrounds appeasing the child) but the excitement was lacking. They drummed up little connection for folks which was a shame since Stacy Brenner had such a new perspective for land ownership and dedication to worker’s rights. Many of us thought that last year was the little fair that “didn’t” but it was really this year…
  • But we are tickled to sign up for the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens tour ‘Maine Days’ (for residents) to see Thomas Dambo’s giant wooden troll sculptures: The Guardians of the Seeds! We’ve only been once to the Gardens (Josh was so sweet to buy us a family membership for our anniversary the year before last, we managed to go to the Winter light show and then it was the pandemic, so our membership ran out and it’s been too sketchy to go – it might even be too sketchy to go now but we are crossing our fingers, it’s a long trek out there to just turn around and come back if it doesn’t look safe).
  • We have lovely friends moving up to our neck of the woods (alright, it’s not really ‘ours’ but near us, which is nice). They are much more social folks than we are but maybe we will be lucky and they will still want to see us – ha! Congratulations on your new home!
  • In the middle of this month is my lovely Tulip’s birthday (that would be Josh). I hope all of his dreams come true! He already knows I bought him a new Marty O’Reilly record and an espresso machine. Ha!
  • And then to round out this month is a holiday – likely attached to others’ version with a Jack ‘o lantern carving party. Our Samhain, this year, will be a big one – ritual cleansings, connections to our ancestors, new energies; a real wytch’s Sabat.

May your Autumn unfold with clarity and peace.

Recipe Thursday: White Bean Chicken Chili

Harvest Time, Freezer Camp, On Permanent Holiday, the One Bad Day; whatever you like to call the end of the food security experiments of raising chickens for meat is always an interesting day. The first year, we did it ourselves (with gracious and more experienced friends to help) because y’know, if you can and you think it’s important, you should, at least once. It was terrible – of course it was! But mostly because our process wasn’t as efficient as it could have been, it took forever to harvest a dozen birds. In our defense, we’ve never done it before (I was around it a lot as a child, but did not participate), it’s hard work, the first year we also raised Cornish, which are not birds for small farmers or homesteads (or really anyone, they are bred for CAFO’s and it shows – they grow too fast for their legs resulting in breakage, and if that doesn’t happen they still get so lazy that they can die of heat stroke because they are 3ft away from the water, and thus – more fatty and not as healthy. If the animals aren’t happy and healthy, and yes those things are related, then the food won’t make us happy or healthy), and we likely were just unprepared. Then we found out our town is one of maybe 3 authorized processing facilities, family-owned. When we took our 20-25 Rangers the next year (and ever after), the process was so quick and friendly, efficient and affordable – it was marvelous.

So, this year, Josh took the birds (we could only get NH Reds and they needed longer than we had so they were a bit smaller) early at 6am. We have special crates that make them sit so they stay calm, he packs them into our little car and hops over to the place, loads them up at one end of the building, then by the time he is done paying, they are boxed up and ready to go. He brings them home where we weigh them, bag and label them, cool them in the refrigerator and then freeze them. This year, however, as he was getting them out of the crates into the hopper, one rooster leapt out, ran around across the parking lot and poof* into the woods!! Good luck guy – you deserve your chance! Josh tried to find him but he was gone. So he packed up the others, came home, we bagged & tagged, and took a couple of fresh harvested birds camping to cook over the fire – we spatchcocked them and they were delicious. The next day we added their leftovers to the Stone Soup (which came out more like a pilaf with tons of goodness shared with and by all at our multi-family camping trip).

We wanted to try the spatchcock/butterfly technique again but put it in the Smoker over Applewood. It was beautiful, golden, and juicy (the skin was a little chewy but protected the meat wonderfully). We picked it clean (bones and skin for a big pot with my frozen bag of food ends – onions, carrots, celery, garlic, ginger, kale stems, etc to make some serious broth), adding the smoked chicken to soaked white beans and roasted green chilis (that Josh helped a local farm out by smoking 200lbs of New Mexico chilis for them). We served it with tortilla chips and a little extra hot sauce (local Resurgam rocks my world). Add Sea Salt to taste (and I generally quick soak my beans by boiling for a few minutes with a hunk of seaweed/konbu, then soaking for a couple of hours, then rinse and finish cooking with broth and bay leaf). Really, sort of, three ingredients! Ha!

Happy Autumn!

Quick Recipe for White Bean Chicken Chili
Serves 4-6

1 Roasted or Smoked Whole (4lb) Chicken, picked
1 cup dry White Beans (soaked overnight, or quick soaked, see above), or 2-3 cans of precooked rinsed beans
1 cup or so chopped New Mexican Green Roasted Chili (Hatch is a brand of canned chili)
4-8 cups of Chicken or Veggie Broth (depending on if the beans are precooked or not)
Hot Sauce and Sea Salt to taste
Tortilla chips, soft flour tortillas, sopapilla, or bread to serve.

If using dry beans, soak overnight or quick soak for a couple of hours, rinse then add back to the pot with enough broth or water to cover 2 inches over beans. Bring to a low boil and simmer, adding the chicken after an hour, and then peppers after another half hour. Cook until the beans are tender (if canned beans, maybe 30min for everything added all at once, if dry beans then 2-3 hours as above). If you like a thicker soup, mash beans a bit with a potato masher or leave whole for serving with hot sauce, tortilla chips or whatever you desire. Enjoy!

Tuesday Happens

We feel the changes in the weather in a subtle manner around here. Not that the temperatures haven’t dropped (rather drastically), they have – but the humidity has not, so it isn’t more pleasant, yet. But my tomato plants are still green and standing (well – they are weighed a bit down with all their little cherry goodness), the bean leaves are not wilty and the Fall raspberries are still ripening. We are emotionally ready to tuck in this year. Physically – we still have things to do like plant Fall bulbs (and put away the tubers!) and garlic, cage the apple trees, mulch the garden, trim out all Browntail Moth nests, and much foraging. I say this as my garden Cosmos and the Sunchokes in the back field are still blooming and swaying tall and gracefully – that’s how ready we are to focus on less right now.

It was a nice Seasonal change though – a few lovely friends came to celebrate (and eat a Roasted Pig’s Head with Sourdough Flatbreads/various Pickles/Deviled Eggs/Mess o’ Greens/Watermelon/Homestead Peach Crisp) and listen to Josh’s apparently rare musical talents (can you tell his family wished it were not so rare?!). We had a good apple harvest (though we might have left more than we gathered this year), and a surprisingly good grape harvest. We got our first little 2-handed harvest of hazelnuts and I harvested a late season Red Clover batch yesterday, along with some Boneset, Comfrey, Calendula, and Juniper berries. The garden is still producing copious amounts of Pole Beans (like magickal green and purple curtains), Cherry Tomatoes, Ground Cherries, Basil, and we’re still waiting on the ripening of Purple Tomatillos and Wonderberries.

There have been some lovely days, too: forays to the Farmer’s Market and downtown Hallowell to get (D’s first) gelato and sit by the river. There have been nice breezy days for kite flying and harvesting/foraging/picking. May you have a marvelous Autumn~

Monday’s Mabon Musing

Embrace this time the change of light,
with shorter days and longer nights.
The wheel has turned, the time will change,
the darker side of the earth remains.
There is magick in the lunar light,
with intuition at its height.
The alchemy of Mother Earth,
from birth to death, will come rebirth.
Rejoice in this season, may it fill you with peace,
and may the blessings of nature, for you, never cease.

Duendesday: Summer’s End

{life with a curious and crazy 11 yr old}

So, a couple of weeks ago we managed to squeeze a camping trip into our crazy schedule which was good for all of us, even though we left a little early due to the rain, we got to meet up with a solid bunch of lovely monkey friends. We love this camping spot (The Grafton Notch Campground, Newry, ME). The owner (Maureen/Mo) keeps these campsites raked, quiet, and with occasional random flowers. She’s super sweet and the spot is accessible to all kinds of family friendly hikes/trails/covered bridge/waterfalls (like Step, and Screw Auger), etc. And it’s right next to Bethel which is super cute. Our other favorite bit is the ‘honor pie stand’ on the way – she makes really delicous Wild Blueberry Pie and Jam, rich Whoopie Pies and Maple Cream Cookies. The kid managed to get a hike in (up Step Falls), and a stunning little rock bowl of fresh water to swim in with her friends. They all skipped rocks, played tag, catch, & chase in the woods, hung around the fire roasting marshmallows. It was nice, I wish we could do it more often (Duende definitely agrees). D lost a tooth, we did a Stone Soup with our folks (turned out to be a delicious rice dish with the leftover fresh harvested spatchcocked chicken on the grill from the first night camping, yummy sausages, and a great variety of garden goodies from our friends who always have a great garden with a 2 layer dessert of apple and nectarine crisp!), and our friend told terrible stories around the fire (hilarious!). 5 family camping – our best mates. Duende dyed a pink streak in her hair which matched great with her friend’s bleached tips and the other little gal’s excellent half-shaved bob (and the little guy who was working his magic on all the ladies, his almost 5 yr old self is super adorable). They were ridiculously big and cute and charming. Because we left early (and my poor girl was crushed) we treated her to a whopper of an ice cream as we drove out of town – ice cream cures all.

Say yes to camping. Bring friends. Relax, share food, space, fire. Air.

Tuesday Happens

We used to have this lovely large patch of Common Milkweed in the upper back field – I based an entire garden around it, separating it into large wedges with picket fencing (which my marvelous man made out of pallets) and dreaming of a classic or at least interesting sundial in the center. Something happened to the milkweed – the last couple of years it has been waning little by little and now there is little left. I think next year I will have to rake in some seeds in the early Spring (if I can, or maybe I should do it this Fall) and hopefully it will return. Instead, I have a small scraggly patch around the well-cap (a ubiquitous sight here in Mid-Maine, ugly well-caps across lawns everywhere!) and a few here and there (in La Petite Jardin, in the yard, a few in the garden) where I have been lucky enough to spy little stripey Monarch caterpillars munching away (we may still bring one in to cocoon indoors and then set him free – the child likes that process very much, and since we’ve been missing the yearly Bug Fair, it’s a nice connection).

I’ve been pretty ill since early Spring (a lovely cascade of Lyme resurgences in many terrible ways) so it is a struggle to get where we need to be. Josh is so amazing in his ability to prioritize and get the important facets taken care of – new business licensing, inspections, improvements, equipment, sales capabilities, and of course, the most important part – the bakes! D has been watching her few false starts of pumpkin growing come to possible fruition (the meat chicks ate the first couple but there seem to be a couple that defied them and are now 6-8 inches and will hopefully grow to full size – she’s very excited.

And so we continue to harvest what we can – the grapes failed and we neglected the blackberries this year but we’re getting tons of pole beans/bush beans, husk cherries, and cherry tomatoes. The apples are coming in – too many for us to know what to do with but not enough yet to start something big. We’ve been gathering many herbs and foraged tea material, juniper berries (with a little snake friend!). The Purple Tomatillos are still growing well, along with the Turkish Eggplants, and Wonderberries. We downsized the garden because we have such great local organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares and Farmer’s Markets and ‘honor’ farmstands that we can focus on the rarer ingredients we prefer or can’t find and by next year, flowers. We shall see – we aren’t in planning stages yet, we’re still enjoying the work around here that needs to get done but we have inklings.

Inklings abound. May you be inspired to have inklings of your own.

Tuesday on the Homestead

There is a moment when our cultivation feels positive – a flush of growth – flowers, beans, herbs, and nightshades: tomatoes, tomatillos, husk cherries, wonderberries, peppers, eggplants (no potatoes this year, can you believe it? I love growing potatoes but couldn’t do it this year), grapes, blackberries, and apples. Despite the weather (so dry in the Spring this year, then so hot and heavy and humid with occasional showers – it’s terrible), and despite the chickens (this year they have been incredibly destructive), there have been beautiful moments. We had a couple of lovelies come up and pick blackberries and do some woodland foraging – mushrooms abound, winterberry, sweet fern – an amazing little bounty.

May you find amazing bountiful moments to focus on.

Musing on a Monday

The Apple Orchard

Come let us watch the sun go down
and walk in twilight through the orchard’s green.
Does it not seem as if we had for long
collected, saved and harbored within us
old memories? To find releases and seek
new hopes, remembering half-forgotten joys,
mingled with darkness coming from within,
as we randomly voice our thoughts aloud
wandering beneath these harvest-laden trees
reminiscent of Durer woodcuts, branches

which, bent under the fully ripened fruit,
wait patiently, trying to outlast, to
serve another season’s hundred days of toil,
straining, uncomplaining, by not breaking
but succeeding, even though the burden
should at times seem almost past endurance.
Not to falter! Not to be found wanting!

Thus must it be, when willingly you strive
throughout a long and uncomplaining life,

committed to one goal: to give yourself!
And silently to grow and to bear fruit.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke