Duende Wednesday

{life with a curious and crazy 10 yr old}

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!!).

Another Tuesday at Rock Bottom Homestead

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.

Monday’s Muse

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.

Tuesday Sunshine Happenings

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!

Duendesday: Much to do

{life with a curious and crazy 10 yr old}

She’s an opportunist for any moment to scooter; keeping not one, but two scooters in the car just in case she can convince someone to scooter with her. When we finally made it to the Farmer’s Market (after a long Winter), Duende was less interested in the farmy bits than the paths for scootering along the river. She saw a pair of Mallard Ducks, an otter, and some old car tires (the latter she was convinced ended up by the river because someone drove their car down there rather than just threw their trash in the swamp). And though it was a small market this week (not quite in its ‘real’ season yet – but jumping in early due to the calm/bright weather) we managed to get a little something from everyone – Duende convincing us that we needed a cinnamon roll snack (mmmmm).

Duende is also excited to have all kinds of backyard games – badminton, frisbee, a ball to kick. And Josh just got her (and him) baseball gloves/ball to play catch. It’s likely we will pull out the horseshoes and bocce soon – keeps us out of trouble. Meanwhile, indoors, we’ve been playing some ‘Destination: Mars’, ‘Sushi Roll’, ‘Taco vs. Burrito’ card games, ‘The Game of Life’ (the new one does not impress me) and busting out some old favorites like ‘Battleship’ and ‘Clue’. We still have not mastered a few of our Winter Solstice games (as our regular game room/table) is packed with the things from the studio (which is being reconstructed, in fact – I think Duende is helping to mud/tape the sheetrock today) like ‘Azul’ and ‘Ticket to Ride’ but when we can find them and that room again, we will family-game-night it up!

She’s preparing sweetly for my birthday already (she’s been planning and saving her ‘odd job’ money for over a month now – my birthday still isn’t for a couple of weeks!) and then in 2 months after mine is hers. What to do, what to do…she really wants to go camping but I don’t think we are there yet (not only with traveling anywhere, of which we are not comfortable doing, but also with the homestead animals we care for…) but maybe we can find a couple adventurous hikes and drives that might interest her, and a picnic – this gal loves a picnic. I’m hoping one of these years we can splurge for a whale/puffin watch – a gift for all!

Lately she’s also been working on updating her dollhouse (repainting the walls, washing curtains, sewing blankets and rugs), climbing trees and harassing chickens, cleaning up the road frontage (where she found a poor dead Chickadee, so she made her a nice little grave) and the car, and finding opportunities everywhere.

On a Tuesday

I do love to grow things. As much as my body doesn’t always enjoy it, I like to rake and turn the earth a bit just to smell the deep musky life brewing in there. With the warm sun and things greening up, it’s a joy to be out there. Buds on trees, birds mating and chipping around. And the crazy peepers – they get so loud in the evening! And inside, the little seedlings getting stronger and taller. Everyday I make sure to plant something new, this time of year.

But I also love to forage – there is something about walking out your door and finding forgotten things to eat that appeals to me. Makes me think that the world is out there looking out for us (but sad that we choose most times not to see it) and all of its inhabitants. Right now there are daylily shoots, baby dandelion and daisy greens, emerging cleavers evening primrose leaves and bergamot buds. I will wait just a little bit longer for everyone to strengthen up before I harvest for a foraged kimchi. I like violet leaves and forsythia flowers to add to it, as well as maybe ramps and fiddleheads (though not everyone is partial to the latter 2 New England classics, they are scrumptious for pickling). Along with cultivated (or are they now naturalized as they reseed themselves and take over swathes of the garden) baby radish and then early radish seed pods.

It’s time for a Spring walk to see what we can find – may your interactions with the world be just as joyful and intimate!

Recipe Thursday: Hot Lobster Dip & Tortilla Chips

As with many of our recipes, I’m all about the ‘kitchen-sink technique’; it’s all about what we have on hand. I prefer recipes that I can easily substitute something of a like kind and that it satisfies all three of our diverse palates (harder to come by with some dishes for the kid but we manage, sometimes it’s all about ‘deconstructing’ the elements to make her happy). This dish is easy peasy. Creamy, cheesy dip with an added vegetation and optional crab, imitation crab, or lobster (this recipe celebrates Maine with lobster). This could easily stay a veg dip with spinach, baby kale artichoke, or even cooked broccoli or asparagus. And eaten with whatever it is you like to dip (you could even leave out the veg and instead use crudité to dip with…) – chips, crackers, bread, veg, etc.

This is hearty but not heavy (unless you eat too much, I suppose) and works great as a dish to bring to a gathering (y’know, when those can happen again) or for a ‘family style dinner’ – which we do often. We’re all about a dish we can all share from a center dish (no individual dishes, just utensils and napkins). I am not savvy enough to substitute the cream cheese with plant-based cheese (though I am really nerding out on plant-based cheese recipes from Pascal Baudar’s book: Wildcrafted Fermentation – more to come on that when I feel successful).

It’s funny that here in Maine, people do very little with lobster. As I’ve probably mentioned before it is mostly eaten steamed or boiled, on a roll with mayo, sometimes tails split/stuffed/roasted, and once in awhile with pasta – either simply with something like linguine or decadently with macaroni and cheese. There’s always bisque. I’m always looking for new ideas and options (why do we rarely see it flourishing atop a nice green salad?). I find this dish handy for the lobster leg meat you painstakingly pulled out and saved, or a frozen portion of imitation crab (there are healthy versions out there, why can’t they just call it what it is?), or a nice little container of crab meat.

Hot Lobster Dip
Serves 4 as a main ‘dish’

8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese, plus a little more to sprinkle on top
3/4 Mayonnaise
8-10 oz Lobster/Crab/Imitation Crab – cut into smaller bits if needed
1/2 cup Minced Green Onion/Scallions (optional)
13 oz can Artichoke Hearts – chopped into smaller bits if needed (or a big handful of fresh baby spinach/kale or 1 cup frozen greens/broccoli bits, etc)
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice or White Wine
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce (optional)
1 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Ground Mustard
1/2 tsp Ancho Chili (or any kind of Chili you like) powder
1 Tbsp Butter or Oil to prepare baking dish
Tortilla Chips or other dipping option

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a Medium to Large bowl whip or mash Cheeses with Mayonnaise with Lemon Juice. Sprinkle spices over mix, then fold in Lobster, Onions, and Artichokes. Using a rubber spatula, turn out into a buttered square baker (8×8) and sprinkle extra Parmesan on top.

Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes until heated through and the top has browned a bit.

Dip Away!

What’s Happening Tuesday

Besides one little lump in the driveway, under the construction materials due for the Transfer Station, is the last bit of snow on the front side of the property. I found myself near the Longfellow Greenhouse/Nursery yesterday and came home with a selection of delicious Pansies, and a few extra Heuchera to go with my dozen Primrose as a start of 2 new shade gardens: one along the Southeast rock wall and now one next to the Sugar Shack (on order are more Heuchera and Primrose, Bleeding Hearts, fancy Hosta – like White and Mouse Ear, Virginia Bluebells, and Hellebore) – I have been dying for a couple of years to take on this ‘shade garden’ project. I moved a nice little Rhododendron and Azalea up to the wall the year before last so now it is time to rake out and clean up errant saplings/thorny bits and add some love and interest. Josh just cleaned up the area around the Sugar Shack, opening up a nice space in front of the large Sugar Maples and began rebuilding an old rock wall there, too. A little cultivated space next to a little wild space – that’s how we roll.

Meanwhile seeds are in the sprouting room making contact with baby plant starter, on the heating mats, some under the lights, and many perennials in recycled milk jugs – after the milk, many of them hold whey for awhile, then they get cleaned and cut mostly in half/holes in the bottom and filled with enriched potting soil & perennial seeds. The cut half gets taped back together, then placed outside to stratify many seeds and naturally acclimate the seedlings. As they get bigger – and it gets warmer, remove first the cap for a few days, then the tape to flip open the jug during the day and close during the eves – to ‘harden off’, then remove the top completely when the weather and size of seedlings are established. For perennials this works great as it creates a large clump to plant, which gets disturbed less in transplanting, and quickly establishes a successful plant. Works great for my Echinacea & Rudbeckia/Forget-Me-Nots/Pansies/Canterbury Bells/Milkweed/Daisy and many herbs.

Still many big plans being developed in the Outdoor Bread Oven/extended Grape Arbor/freestanding Pergola reconstruction of La Petite Jardin. I think this will be our big push this Summer on the property as well as maintaining and solidifying the Blackberry Patch/the Medicinal & Dye Garden/and establishing Flower Gardens. I think the world needs more flowers this year!

Happy Tuesday!