Monday’s Flower Muses

Spring in New England is a lovely thing – the anticipation of color back into our lives keeps our visual acuity sharp in any subtle changes. The tiniest of buds, the unfolding of leaves, the precociousness of blooms…in the woods, they hide – facing down, or shadowy amongst curled leaflets and grey-brown litter, in the orchard the croci and miniscule muscari are the first to wake up, while in the front yard (front and center) the lion’s teeth pop like kernels of corn sunshine. Though we are technically halfway through Spring, it is just now that we see a few daffodils (we are always a little late on the ‘northside), some self-seeding johnny jump-up’s, hyacinth’s, and the forsythia – other little characters spring here and there – keep your eye for them, they signal life, in all its glory and beauty.

Intriguing is the folklore of pansies, the mythologies of daffodils, and the medicine of the dandelion –

Enjoy your Spring!

Thursday Recipe: Black Beans & Plantains

I freaking love plantains. All of them, in any way, any time. However, I really only make them one or two ways; either a mofungo or sweet-ripe & smashed fried (yes, that’s one thing). The thing about plantains is – they are a pain when they are green (like for mofungo) – peeling is a hassle, mashing is a b*#@h, and the whole dish takes a little time (though my mom makes some amazing pasteles, too). But for sweet-ripe & smashed, it’s just about patience for them to get really ripe. I mean, really ripe. And then they have a whole new purpose that is sticky and sweet and savory all at the same time.

I remember the first time I tried a plantain. I was a teenager and my friend and I were totally gung-ho to try new things so we bought one at the store, peeled a chunk and ate it – green and raw. It was terrible but we were not deterred. We could tell it had ‘potential’, and we knew millions of people ate them so we took it home and baked it. It was better so we knew we were on the right track. A few years later my Mom was involved with a Puerto Rican gentleman (for years) and my eyes were opened and my plantain tastebuds educated.

When it comes to black beans, in my opinion, many make it harder or more complicated than it needs to be. Black beans have such a lovely flavor, they don’t need much to bring it out. I use dry beans here, boiled and soaked for a couple of hours (they don’t usually need an overnight soak but that might depend on their age and size, mine are from last year’s garden and mine also run a little small). And plantains need to be almost all black, it’s worth asking the grocery store clerk if they have any ripe ones out back to get the ball rolling, takes another week or so beyond there, though they might ripen faster in a paper bag).

Black Beans and Fried Plantains

Serves 4

For the Beans: 
2 cups dried Black Beans (bring to a boil, then soak for 2 hrs) or 4 cups cooked (can or box), rinsed
just enough water to cover
2 cloves smashed Garlic
2 Bay Leaves
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
2 tsp ground Cumin
1/4 cup Fresh Culantro or Cilantro (or a mix of both), minced

In a Medium pot, add beans, garlic, bay, cumin, and some salt (or adobo) with just enough water to cover. Cook until beans are tender and liquid is thick like you like it (if your beans cook fast – as with fresh or small beans – but you still have a lot of liquid, you can drain a bit, or mash soft beans with a potato masher, coarsely so some are left whole). Remove Bay Leaf (if left in bowls, the lucky winner gets to make a wish!). S & P to taste, add fresh herbs to serve.

* Variations include adding tomatoes, chili for spice, or broth for more body.

For the Plantains:
2 ripe/blackened Plantains, peeled and sliced into thick coins, 1/2″
Sea Salt
Favorite frying oil (I like organic Peanut Oil)

In a cast iron fry pan, add 1/2″ oil and heat until shimmering but not spattering. Carefully place plantain slices in hot oil (2 plantains fit perfectly in my cast iron pan). Cook until edges are yellow and softening (2 min or so), flip and cook other side another 2 min. Plantains should be dark golden. Remove to a paper towel or rack for a minute. Using an eating fork smash plantains gently once or twice (like the tops of peanut butter cookies) and put back into pan to cook for one more minute on each side. (Yes, sometimes they are extra gooey and sticky, and sometimes they behave. Do your best, it’s not you – it’s just deliciousness doing its thing, I sometimes scrape them with a metal spatula and the fork together back into the pan). Again and remove to paper towel or rack and sprinkle with Sea Salt.

* Variations include sprinkling with ground ginger or chili, too.

Serve beans in bowls with a couple of plantains on the side, sprinkle all with fresh herbs! Sometimes we get gratuitous and add sliced avocado and/or sour cream, and/or eat it with chips or corn bread or rice! Enjoy!


Duendesday in 9

{a day to check in with a 9 yr old’s doings}

  •   Congratulations to Ms. Duende Bloo! She passed her qualifying review for the homeskool portfolio! YAY!! I didn’t know if she was into it, but she seems to be kind of excited to be considered a 5th grader (really? 5th?! unbelievable). Her teacher (who she’s been reviewed by since the beginning and who runs the homeskool trips) is great with her – she has 3 of her own ‘freeschooled’ girls and so knows the tricks. Though this year was a different scenario doing the review on Zoom instead of hauling our cookies all the way down to the Gorham library.
  •   What are the interests this week? Carving tiny effigies of witches with hats and cauldrons out of dry thick bark. She’s really getting into her ‘witchy’ persona. She gathered all kinds of dry ‘hay’ from the sundial garden, straightened it, bound it, and made a broom for herself. Plenty of witch pictures being drawn lately.
  •   There’s also been some domino toppling designs, a return to lincoln logs and rainbow block cities (with appropriate corralled lifestock figures and herding dogs) but also fortresses with boobytraps (there are always boobytraps in her designs).
  •   The mining of rocks – she’s picked a deep corner at the back of the garage to dig and collect rocks she is interested in – she got a little lesson from JB (who I believe has a degree in Geology) the other day on different kinds, we’ll have to bust out the Rocks & Minerals guide for her so they can have a real conversation one of these days. She’s very jazzed about the iron, the slate, and especially the quartz she finds (she’s convinced we’ll be rich someday from all the quartz).
  •   Josh was cleaning out the garage the other day and organized all the garden supplies. She found the bin of tubes and connectors for the little bed greenhouses and started putting them together all crazy – like a life size erector set. I never thought of them that way, what a brilliant idea! ha!
  •   She’s designed events for such things as ‘the christening of the new laundry line’ with carved talisman, a swinging hay bale, and ceremony. And a court scenario when Josh threw out some of her crafts and didn’t see – she made me be the judge and we had a trial (I deemed the whole thing accidental).
  •   Duende has been planning a birthday surprise for me for months. Saved up her own money doing chores, did some sly questioning and research on things I like to collect/have/want, decided where to purchase (the potter neighbor across the street) and saw different designs/negotiated a price, and bought me the loveliest creamer (I do love creamers!) – isn’t she the sweetest? What a peach, I think we should keep her.
  •   She’s also been drawing mazes (which are hilarious), little love notes to us, and reading her Bink & Gollie, and Dog Man comics…
  •   What’s in store for her this week? The magick of weeding – yes, the strawberry beds need some serious weeding and our gal does not like to be directed. I’m sure this will be a painful process but there’s nothing like weeding as a chore to set you against parental authority – ha! But she can also dig up and plan out her own little garden this year – I can’t wait to see what she’ll grow!

Happy Duendesday!


Happenings and Thinking Links

Sometimes it’s the little things that keep us going, giving us considered pause and dare I say hope- like mini care packages and handmade postcards, and long waited for squash shoots (I had given up on them!) and spring bulbs popping up, like cleaning out the garage and working on new garden beds. Is it wrong that I am a little excited about the semester being over so I can Spring clean? Beltane is upon us, also as Workers Day – ever so important to acknowledge this year. The former as a pact of humans and nature to work together (look how much healing has been happening without us, who at this point is not convinced that as a species we are doing more harm than good – we can do better), the latter as a realization of how important ‘essential’ workers are and how they need better protection and care.

Meanwhile, it’s still the little things that get us through like saving my banana peels for the tomato garden, watching my little gal grow like a sunflower, hearing the peepers reach cacophony by the evening, seeing beautiful Spring birds return. And pickling seasonal goodies like asparagus, dandelion buds, and setting up spicy and seasonal kimchi. We are working toward a ‘foraged’ line of flavors and foods – we’re not interested in being necessarily ‘competitive’ with other great makers/growers/bakers but to add to the variety and magick that is already out there. And to shrink the locality of things New England just does as well (if not better) than many of the places our ‘normal’ grocery stores get product from – I remember last year seeing dandelion greens from far away in the produce department, as if we didn’t/couldn’t grow them abundantly here! I am not saying I don’t appreciate the ability to get exotic foods but we should do better about our choices, keep food sovereignty and enjoy food from other places responsibly. For more information on the impact of monocultures, globalized food systems, and earth integrity – see Vandana Shiva and Dave Chapman (The Real Organic Project).

Back to some other little things around here – like attention to ‘doing the work’, getting up every day with the desire to make good choices, make art and creative decisions, make love not war, and whatever better slogans you can come up with to get up in the morning and function as a changing magnificent being. Thinking is the key – making the connections that keep us open to thinking and to each other, as really connected (not distracted by another zoom meeting or newsfeed). Check in with each other, kindly and often. Be safe, sane, and healthy.


Birthday Dinner: Tuna Shish Kabob

There’s a birthday at Rock Bottom Homestead today! Mine!! Yay Me!

What is planned? Well, it’s a lovely (though cool) day – we have more peas to get in (they’ve already been soaked in coffee so they need to go in pronto) and the planting onions are in the fridge so they need to go in ASAP, too. I’m busy planning who they will bed with to make the most of everyone’s growth. I am a nerd for companion planting – so, in they will go to the carrot and tomato bed, some in the chamomile and cabbage bed and if I still have some left they can line the corn patch (but they will stay away from the beans, peas, and potatoes). The new peas that have to go in will go by the heat pump cover and then snow peas by the new kitchen garden. Then the new clothesline can go up!

Along with this will be a lovely sunshine walk, and I hear maple cake and ahi shish kabobs on the grill (the ‘shish, not the cake) for later! The morning started with french toast (my favorite) on homemade honey bread and bacon and VT coffee…maybe a silly movie tonite (I’m thinking of torturing Joshua with the 1980’s classic ‘Cat People’ on VHS – ha! Though with shish kabobs, I wish we had ‘Edward Scissorhands’).

I’m in love with Rob Brezsny’s horoscopes, news, and other observations/writings/poetry. If you haven’t checked him out, please do –, he’s a fellow Goddard alum. His workbook ‘Pronoia’ is amazing – I highly recommend it for the kooky and magickally minded, especially in this time of uncertainty and new world building. And I love his ‘scopes for birthday support, too, as I get older better, he is encouraging and inspiring.

Everything here is optional and ‘substitutable’ – use what you like, but make sure they are cut approximately all the same size.

Ahi Shish Kabobs

Serves plenty for 4-6

Skewers (a good guesstimate at how many you want, if wooden, soak for a few hours in a sheet pan of water and a splash of lemon juice)

1.5 pounds Ahi Tuna steaks (if frozen, thaw beforehand), cut into 1 – 2″ chunks depending on thickness  of tuna
2-3 Lg onions, cut into quarters
2-3 Mixed Bell Peppers, seeded cut into 1/2 – 1″ chunks
1 pound Crimini or Button Mushrooms, cut big ones in half
3 Small to Medium Summer Squash, cut into 1/2 – 1″ chunks

Marinade & Dressing:
2/3 cup Olive Oil
1/3 cup Rice Wine Vinegar (or Lemon juice, if you prefer)
1 tsp Dried Thyme, (or fresh herb), crushed between fingers to bring out flavor/oil
pinch of dried Saffron, crushed between fingers
Sea Salt & Black Pepper

If on the grill, prepare grill. If in oven, preheat broiler and use ‘broil pan’.

Meanwhile, mix marinade/dressing – shake/blend vigorously until emulsified (we use a mason jar), Salt & Pepper to taste. Then mix with chopped veg and tuna. Let sit for at least 10-20 min. Skewer tuna and veg in whatever lovely order you prefer, saving marinade for basting. However, packing the skewers a little tight might help the tuna cook at the same rate as the veg, or if you are able to cut the tuna a little bigger.

These don’t cook long – keep an eye on them. Maybe 10 min or so – you want a little char on the outside but the veggies cooked. The ahi will cook faster so plan accordingly (and depends on how you like it, we like a little char on the outside and pink but warm on the inside), feel free to baste at least once during and then once more right before the end (but not after cooking if you are concerned about the raw fish in the marinade).

Serve with jasmine rice (we’ll have the rice cooker on before we start the marinade and the chopping). And let’s pretend we are all sitting outside together eating this at a picnic table under the apple trees in the sunshine!! Slainte!




{a day to check in with a 9 yr old’s doings}

When in doubt, try a different perspective.

These days, you can find my child up in a tree. She’s a climber. She’s always loved to climb rocks, hills, snow banks, and trees. She’s dreaming of a treehouse this year for her birthday in June. Right now she has 3 favorite trees to climb – Clarke and Jimmy, both apple trees and the arbor vitae next to the house. Though you can find her in the crook of the silver maple pretty often, too. She probably gets all this crazy climbing from her Dad. When I was little there weren’t too many climbing trees in my yard (though I was surrounded by woods) – I had a metal slide fitted into a pine tree that you could climb the ladder up one side and slide down the other through the tree, and at my Grandmother’s there was an old crabapple in the front yard that was split in two. The two big arms stretched out away from each other (and were held together at the base by a big metal chain) and I (and my mother before me) would climb up there to read in the elbow of one of the trunks. But that’s not really climbing.

I’m not a big physical risk taker – with my body, no skydiving or skiing for me. I’m not a fan of heights and get motion sickness in boats/cars/rides. I like my feet on the ground (my head in the clouds). But Josh loves all the crazy stuff – hot air balloon rides, whitewater rafting: he’d probably jump out of a perfectly good airplane. He loves carnival rides and would probably do para-sailing and dreams of a parallel life where he’s a monumental rock climber or surfer. One of his favorite things as a child was running up VT rivers on the rocks, up into the hills.

We both love to hike though we haven’t really hiked in years. We go for walks in the woods but it’s not nearly the same. We thought for sure we were going to hike the A.T. by the time we were 40 but then we got derailed by the child. We still fantasize about it – it’s still possible (though not recommended for her until she’s 12 or so) – maybe when it’s reopened.

Until then, she can practice on trees and in the woods. She keeps a sure footing – and that’s the key for all of us. Just putting one foot in front of the other, feeling as secure as we can before we take the next step.

the Haps

Somehow Tuesday feels like a good day to check in with what’s going on around here – Monday is too aggressive about it, and Wednesday is already the halfway point to other plans, Tuesday is the sweet spot. It’s encouraging – the week is progressing, things are getting done, and there is even a bit of time to wonder about the possibilities…

Here we have some homestead dreams cooking – obviously many of them hinge on a different world than our current one. Hopefully this world will be better than it is now and better than it was, we do not necessarily hope for a return to whatever some consider ‘normal’ because it wasn’t normal for everyone – we could do better. This is sort of the way we live our life here – there is no best or higher ideal, just that when obstacles come up, we find creative ways to deal with them and we continually question, is this the best way to do this? the kindest? the healthiest? the fairest?

What do some of our dreams look like? Well, we have immediate dreams like expanding the garden for a couple of dry bean beds and oats for chicks, a new chicken coop, an herb garden, and espaliered grapes, expanding delivery service and goods to sell…but we also have bigger but doable dreams like an outdoor ‘kitchen’ area with a bread oven and smoker shed and mushroom growing, a farmstand…and then we have a couple of grand ideas that are technically doable but not for awhile and require some solid planning, like a communal residency for artists and writers, with a barn for community talks or classes on wildcrafting, eco-philosophy, whatever and a community market where we either consign or buy local goods from homesteaders and provide them in a market setting so that small batch growers and makers can make a buck or two and the local population can share in their bounty.

Somedays I’m lucky to drink a cup of coffee before it gets cold or even remember this blog – this is the first year that we put the peas in this early (I’ve been traveling with my college program for the last 3 years during this time, I’ve missed the apple blossoms these last 3 years, too) and the potato bed is ready for when they appear (normally we would pick them up from Fedco at the tree sale – where I nearly lose my mind in potato heaven, but this year they will be shipped…sometime…).

As I sit here, I am watching crackers being made (new experimental flavors! like sesame and maybe lavender), bagels (waiting for feedback on the new cinnamon flavor), and the ‘putting up’ of bread (the building, proofing, and shaping) for baking tomorrow, and I hear maybe some cookies – just for me….mmmm, cookies…(and then I get a special cake on Thursday – yay me!!).

Enjoy your Tuesday – may you have as many working dreams as you do fantasies…