Monday’s New Beginnings Musings

Just knowing that February is gone gives me hope. By the first of March I have had enough of shoveling snow, sanding icy steps, entering and leaving the schoolhouse in the dark, making treacherous pre-dawn treks down slushy county roads. I know better than to think winter is over, but a day will comin in early March in which the air carries a certain quickening softness and I whisper to myself, “The back of winter is broken.” ~ from Reeser Manley & Marjorie Peronto’s The New England Gardener’s Year

Monday’s Solstice Musings

THE WORLD

BY JENNIFER CHANG

One winter I lived north, alone
and effortless, dreaming myself
into the past. Perhaps, I thought,
words could replenish privacy.
Outside, a red bicycle froze
into form, made the world falser
in its white austerity. So much
happens after harvest: the moon
performing novelty: slaughter,
snow. One hour the same
as the next, I held my hands
or held the snow. I was like sculpture,
forgetting or, perhaps, remembering
everything. Red wings in the snow,
red thoughts ablaze in the war
I was having with myself again.
Everything I hate about the world
I hate about myself, even now
writing as if this were a law
of nature. Say there were deer
fleet in the snow, walking out
the cold, and more gingkoes
bare in the beggar’s grove. Say
I was not the only one who saw
or heard the trees, their diffidence
greater than my noise. Perhaps
the future is a tiny flame
I’ll nick from a candle. First, I’m burning.
Then, numb. Why must every winter
grow colder, and more sure?

Duendesday: new friends

{life with a curious and crazy 11 yr old}

Here’s to new friends! Especially at a time when it is particularly hard to meet new people and to have the space to get to know them. But children are brilliant at that, anyway – no expectations, no messy introductions, they just sort of jump in and figure out whether or not it’s a decent match. Seems like a lesson that adults are likely to continue to ignore but I find it inspiring. So, Duende met another little gal at the Farmer’s Market (her family are local meat farmers; beef, chicken, lamb) and they seem to hit it off – D has an extra pair of skates (the next size, from the Swap Shack!) so they were both able to skate at the park. Supercute (and look how dramatic the sky was yesterday)!

Tuesday at Rock Bottom Homestead

The ‘great tucking in’ is underway around here. The leaves are dying back or falling off (in many cases, in one fell swoop!). We’ve spent a little time trying to glean out the last of the garden – Fall Raspberries, Wonderberries, dry Vermont Cranberry Beans, Calendula, Herbs, and collecting some seeds (Echinacea, Common Milkweed, Black Hollyhock, Blue False Indigo, Evening Primrose, Calendula, Bee Balm’s, Snapdragons, Pansies, Rue, etc). I love seed saving. I didn’t get to save as much as I wanted this year but I did get some and invested in some seed packets to decorate and share over the holidays. I managed to dry some herbs and flowers this year, too, but again, not as many as the last couple of years where I sometimes have 2 full hanging drying racks, a dehydrator, and likely something on drying shelves in the garage or hanging on the porch. I managed a batch or 2 of Red Clover, Calendula, Bee Balm’s (both Wild and Scarlet), a bit of Yarrow, Mullein, and Comfrey, Raspberry Leaf, and later this week I will dry some Apple slices for teas and next week or the week after some Rose Hips for tea and bath.

The new store and business site will be up and running this week! Stone Broke Bread might be coming to your town (ok, only if the town is somewhere between here and Portland, Maine) – with a new business structure of Community Supported Bakery Shares; an innovative share model being tried out in other places, too, as a way of connecting and building both business and community together, not as economic relations but as ecological ones. Get on the list! We’re excited to roll this out and see our ‘customers’ become ‘community’.

The days and nights have certainly shifted here, with our plans and thoughts and energies, getting cozy together – celebrating the seasonal changes with folks when we can (didn’t she do a lovely job on her Bastet costume?! And though she had already decorated a few pumpkins at home – painting one a glorious rainbow, the other with a drawing of Comedy/Tragedy, she & Daddy carved a classic happy Jack on her bumpy pumpkin!), and trying to reinspire our space – all spaces to be reimagined!

Recipe Thursday: Rainbow Chard-wrapped Hake with Lemon, Parsley, & Nut Relish

I know, I’m sorry; it’s been awhile since I have put out a recipe for you. The reality is – I can’t cook lately. The sickness (Lyme) has made it hard again to function like a human being, now I just hold the couch down (hey, it could fly away!). But I was re-inspired to try and get back into the kitchen with this simple/fast and yet incredibly sexy recipe that utilized the amazing Rainbow Chard I get from my local farm (Andrews Farm out of Gardiner). I’m sure I could have grown my own but these people do it so well, I focus on the herbal additions (the parsley is home grown).

I’m sure I gush about our little swap shack at the Transfer station (it’s not all I make it out to be sometimes; it’s just a little garage at the dump where people bring things that other people might be able to use, rather than just throw them away – because we go relatively often, we do find treasures but there are some days when you wonder why on earth someone would buy these goods in the first place) but it is great for books sometimes. Not too long ago I got a really nice Maine cookbook (signed, too!), Christine Burns Rudalevige’s Green Plate Special: Sustainable and Delicious Recipes. Between that and Jamie Oliver’s book on 5 ingredients, I hope that as I heal I can get back into the kitchen with gusto!

Christine uses Hazelnuts but all I had were Macadamias so that’s what we used – they were a little too sweet, I would think that Pine Nuts could work well though. We served this with simple Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes just flavored with Olive Oil, Sea Salt & fresh ground Tri-Color Pepper. She even has a follow up recipe to use the Chard stems in an intriguing parmesan tartine. Go check it out if you get the chance (or if you are really interested, email me and I will send that out to you!). We did have more fish, so we had more Rainbow Chard leaves (you’ll need a leaf for each piece of fish, I had a couple of extra leaves so I just stuffed them in between the parcels, then butter and salted them). And she conjures a rather complicated lemon segmenting chore that I think could be covered by just hand juicing (I love my glass juicer/reamer) and leaving the pulp in. I also used plant-based butter and it came out wonderfully. If you want to cook the potatoes with them – chop into chunks, season, spread on a sheet pan and cook for 20 minutes at 375 degrees, then when your parcels are ready, raise the temp and cook the fish, leaving the potatoes in there to finish. Even my recently picky 11 yr old eater went back for seconds (because of course, I made more than this recipe called for – she’s growing!).

Rainbow Chard-wrapped flaky white fish with lemon, parsley, and hazelnut relish
Serves 4

2 whole Lemons
2 tsp Sea Salt or Kosher salt, divided
3/4 tsp Black Pepper, divided
1 tsp toasted ground Cumin
4 (5 oz – ish) portions of local flaky white fish fillet (Hake, Cod, Haddock, Pollock, etc)
2 Tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 tsp Local Honey
1/3 cup fresh Parsley
1/4 cup Scallions
1/4 cup toasted Hazelnuts (or Pine Nuts)
1 Tbsp fresh Chili Pepper (or 1/4 tsp dried red chili flakes)
3 Tbsp melted Unsalted Butter
4 Large Rainbow Chard leaves, end stalks removed
Sea Salt, optional

Preheat oven 400 degrees.

Zest both Lemons. In a small bowl combine 2 tsp of zest with 1 1/2 tsp Sea Salt, 1 1/2 Pepper, and Cumin. Divide the seasoning mixture among the pieces of fish, rubbing it in on all sides, set aside.

Cut the zested Lemons in half (the short way) and juice with a classic reamer, removing errant seeds (the more pulp, the better). In a mini-processor set to chop, add Nuts to barely blitz, pulsing as you add the Parsley, Chilis, and Scallions (it should all resemble couscous at this point). In a medium bowl, with a fork, whisk in the Lemon Juice (& pulp), EVOO, & Honey, 1/2 tsp Sea Salt & 1/2 tsp Pepper. Set aside.

Coat a baking dish with a bit of the melted butter.

To wrap the fish, lay down one chard leaf, shiny side down, on a cutting board. Use a pastry to coat with butter the leaf center where the fish will lay. Place your seasoned portion onto the center of the leaf and fold up the sides, then set the bundle seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Repeat this process, tucking the fish bundles in against each other and any extra leaves in between. Brush butter on the tops and grooves of the bundles and sprinkle with Sea Salt (it seasons and crisps up the chard).

Bake until the fish is opaque in the center of each bundle (12-14 min). Serve hot with the Lemon-Parsley Relish. Enjoy!

Duendesday: Making Good Stuffs

{life with a curious and crazy 11 yr old}

It’s been a crazy year so far. Too hot and sticky to really be out a lot this Summer, too buggy, too rainy, too icky – there has been something thwarting our deep outdoor adventures and plans this year. So, there has still been a lot of ‘making’. Making messes, making art, making new plans. Making new friends? Little Ms. Peach has a roller skating date with a new gal of her age and lifestyle, let’s hope for wonderful friendships!

Amidst our restructuring and refurbishing, D has found time to literally ‘make’ some new friends, too – like this crazy ‘gator, and her ‘flugelhorn’, and a birthday crown and clay bowl for Daddy. We managed a day down to Portland to see our lovely friend Justin off on another far nursing adventure, then we hit the East End park for some food truck Gelato and a little swinging. As much as we’re glad not to live in town anymore, we still miss the quiet neighborhoodiness of the ‘Hill.

But some lovely friends are not missing it, so they moved up here near us (yay!!)- D was super excited to have guests over for Daddy’s birthday and that it is likely we will have them as guests more often now – Happy Moving and Making a new space to stay sane, Dear Friends!

What Happens on Tuesday?

Likely the same or similar as last Tuesday with some subtle variations. Today, Josh is finishing the deconstruction of our ‘Snug’ or ‘Jimmy Jazz’ as the little additional room to the studio is called. We keep our tv and spare modular couch (with an extra foam topper for guests!) in there with a couple of little things (movies, crochet) but it’s a tiny space – which is perfect since we don’t want to spend a lot of time in there, just have it in case. But it is the last of the rooms to be rebuilt; after this, the hallways could still use a little finishing work (some teardown in the original foyer area), new flooring in Stan (the dining type/homeskool room) and the hallways/Snug, finished walls and a sanded floor in Marion (the woodstove room), and moulding/baseboard throughout. I think that ‘finishes’ the first floor (which still also includes custom built-in bookshelves in Stan, new/better electrical outlets in the Snug which also helps our bedroom upstairs and some small bits here and there. All this is just after he’s finished the kitchen (finishing the sills/doorways, flooring, and getting the new oven in!).

The upstairs is a projekt that needs to be done but it likely requires a contractor – the drop ceilings need to be removed (with their subsequent years of mouse and bat detritus) which alters the paneling in both the cape bedrooms, the floors need to be strengthened (esp the child’s, right now it feels like it’s made of rubber, it’s so frightening) and I would prefer some natural wool carpeting up there, and the dormers removed/the roof leveled (which would increase some needed space, and fix some structural leaks from the front of the house) – which would then finally allow us to get new siding and finish the insulation. Whew!

The new-new bread oven is here so we are one more step closer to Realdom! I’m ordering business cards today, the inspection should happen sometime this month (there is no rhyme or reason to bureacratic appointments, they do it when they want) and we might have a lead on our first ‘significant’ account in addition to our wonderful direct customer relations. I just hope this hiatus (which was unavoidable, again bureacratic slog) makes our lovely customers miss us, and not move on without us. I’ve partnered up with an amazing healer and maker of earthy things to offer a nice wellness line for the Fall (details coming very soon). Soaps, salves, face masks, bath balms/soaks, teas, hand knits, and homey crochet…by next year I’m hoping to add creative endeavors such as handmade papers/inks/brushes made by our in-house nature artist extraordinaire, Duende Bloo; she’s been working on her skills!

And alas, it seems the weather has finally shifted to its nearly appropriate climate – the woodstove made its fiery seasonal debut yesterday since our mornings are officially in the 40’s. Though my dahlias and cosmos outside are not giving in yet and the Fall raspberry bushes are still fruiting, there were even purple pole bean blossoms on the vines. The bees fall into cool little naps on flower faces, the ash leaves cover the coop yard and the driveway (our only 2 trees that drop leaves – all at once – where we might have to clean them up), and the sun gets a whiter brighter hue to it as it streaks across the still green grass. The garlic is in, the hanging plants have been taken up, the ceramic pots are back on the porch, the outside wooden furniture is put away.

Joshie had a birthday (and thank you to our lovely peeps for joining us for smoked ribs, picture foccacia, kale salad, and birthday cake! And picking late apples!) which was very nice – cool days with fall foliage (he got fancy beer from our peeps and a lovely handmade bowl from D to keep his guitar picks in, I got him an espresso machine and some Marty O’Reilly records that haven’t arrived yet). I am sending gift lists out for the child and shopping a little earlier than usual for Solstice stocking gifts (it might be hinky out there for the Winter, I’ll buy local and early now). And I’m finishing a painful multiple series for Bartonella treatment (a Lyme co-infection for me that has severely depleted my quality of life this year) that I will likely have to start again in a week or two. Josh is dreaming of evenings with books in front of the fire, I am dreaming of getting any kind of dissertation work done (see ‘quality of life’ issue just mentioned), and Duende is dreaming that the new neighbors on our strip have children who want to hang out with her.

Autumn dreams; what are you dreaming for?

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…