{life with a curious and crazy 10 yr old}

The sass is strong with this one. She’s as imaginative and funny as she is sassy and forthright. I wouldn’t change a thing. She’s very independent – in her desires and her expressions of them, she knows who she is already and she’s not afraid to show it. I admire her every day. She is aware that she is a magickal faerie and a witch and that both things are possible at once.

For Samhain Duende was happy to get a purple velvet cape with hood (why don’t I have a picture of her in it, she loves it!) and her November book is a new comic venture called Snapdragon by Kat Leyh (we’ve been buying monthly books to help our home library grow) which is perfect for my little witch. The glorious moon was full and portentous, reviving our energies and exciting our creativity. I wish we were better at celebrating the mid-seasons with specificity – we always make sure to spend the time together directly, make a special dinner, clean, decorate, and sometimes read appropriate things – for Samhain we pay respect to our ancestors and loved ones who have passed by remembering them or telling stories by the fire – but it’s a very casual observance and one that is usually generated modestly. Sometimes I wish we made clear overtures to the celebration day and purpose; evoked the elements directly, had a specific place to honor nature, and had at least banners if not other decorations designating each festivity (I have a banner for D’s birthday, the Equinox’s, and the Scotch party but I never got around to making one for Solstice’s or mid-season’s). We have a giant blue spider and web somewhere we used to try and hang up for Samhain but to be honest, we’re really lackadaisical about specificity – there is always nature bits everywhere, we see the seasons change outside and then inside just as a regular occurrence. We go for seasonal walks to celebrate the changes but we don’t make a thing about it – we just do it. We build fires all the time, whenever we’re together, so there aren’t too many of these types of things that we do with a separate sacredness – our whole lives are relatively sacred and already in tune.

But then again, she spent the day dressing up as her extra witchy self (witch dress, cape, black pointy hat) and I cared for some dry herbs and medicines while Josh racked hard cider. I did make a ‘faerie food cake’ (angel food cake but we don’t have angels in our lives, just faerie folk) with whey caramel and thawed strawberries, we had that lovely monkfish dish (see previous post) and we loved each other, as we do. What more could I want?

Homestead Happenings

There is always an urgency when the first snow flurries make an appearance – many times they signal the change and then aren’t seen again for months. Josh and I are both familiar with it snowing on our birthdays in October and April, mid season bookends. So, it is no surprise to wake up and see a soft coating of the white stuff, the green grass still poking through, the leaves over their splendor now, seed heads offering up the last nutrition to the congregating Black-Capped Chickadee, Blue Jays, Tufted Titmouse, Nuthatches, Cardinals, Crows, etc. Our sweet chickens have started laying eggs (adorable little faerie eggs with deep orange yolks), maybe in payment for all the treats we give them (oats, our own grown strawberry popcorn – so tiny compared to regular, flax/sunflower seeds, etc). When they follow me around I feel like Snow White.

Most of the bulbs are in (ha! still some leftover alliums/croci/windflower corms) and time is running out for that sort of thing. Time to mulch over the strawberries, the garlic bed, the fruit trees, and give up on the rest of the garden plans. We have a known little hiccup coming in the late Fall where we will have to take a couple of weeks off any big projekts, and baking/delivery which will serve my dissertation well and our collective health (no little thing), but not much else. So, the urgency is to push to get a lot of goodies set aside now – like whey caramel, apple butter, hand pies, a sweet and spicy Fall kimchi, new and exciting pastas, and more preserved lemons (speaking of – I made a piccata the other night with some monkfish my mother was kind enough to pick up at Portland’s Harbor Fish Market for me; preserved lemons, parsley, and caper sauce over fregola – so simple and sexy).

We really should use our upcoming ‘Indian Summer’ to paint the chicken coop, maybe add another little pop-door for their convenience and shelter, get the Sugar Shack ready for February, rake out the garden beds and sow Fall seeds (Poppies, Echinacea, Bachelor’s Buttons, Milkweed, Rudbeckia, Gaillardia, Flax, Foxglove, Dianthus, Delphiniums, and even Calendula, and Daisy) as all do well with natural stratification (dormancy), cage all the baby fruit trees, and paint the inside of the house, too – while we can leave all the windows/doors open (though we use No VOC and Milk paint, there are still chemicals in it and drying time is reduced by airflow). One last good clean out and Fall cleaning before the nights start staying below 30 degrees and we’re in and cozy for the long Winter weather (which we need both of us – this place is crazy town!).

Oh, the urgencies – and on this day when there is a political urgency of hope (and hopefully some practicality), and with the compounding existential urgency – we, at Rock Bottom, wish you moments of deep breathing, gratitude, and a sense that all of our urgencies are worth living.

Monday’s Muse

The possible truths, hazily perceived in the world of abstraction, like those inferred from observation and experiment in the world of matter, are forced upon the profane multitudes, too busy to think for themselves, under the form of Divine revelation and scientific authority. But the same question stands open from the days of Socrates and Pilate down to our own age of wholesale negation: is there such a thing as absolute truth in the hands of any one party or man? Reason answers, “there cannot be.” There is no room for absolute truth upon any subject whatsoever, in a world as finite and conditioned as man is himself. But there are relative truths, and we have to make the best we can of them. ~ Madame Helena Blavatsky

Recipe Thursday: ‘Fast Food’

To be honest, lately we are looking at quick meals. Of course, our quick meals are probably pretty slow for many folks because we just don’t have fast easy ways to make things happen around here. Our systems aren’t set up for it. We don’t buy food that turns into anything interesting fast. And if you are like me and avoiding the grocery store, it’s all about planning and availability. But with all that is going on sometimes we realize at the end of the day that we have forgotten to consider dinner. What do we do about that around here?

Maybe the fastest sort of thing we could come up with is Rock Bottom Lentils or pre-cooked Cannellini beans heated up with garlic and kale served with a crusty baguette (if we have any of those things, which means we must’ve made the bread at some point recently – see? fast is a loose concept around here). I guess we might consider something with few steps fast – like a sheet tray of cauliflower, locally made sausage, garlic, and delicata slices (we call that Fall or Winter Broil, the Summer version usually has something like cherry tomatoes/zucchini/onions/chunks of cod or shrimp/etc, drizzled with olive oil and roasted high) or even sometimes just store bought spaghetti, sauce, and homemade meatballs (gasp – yes, it happens, happily!) or we whip up a Pasta Carbonara (Cook 1# pasta per directions/save a little pasta water, whisk 2 egg yolks and 1/2c of heavy cream in a small bowl, if we have time and inclination we might fry 1/2# bacon chopped small or saltpork lardons with garlic/drain fat – add pasta to bacon pan with bacon/garlic and/or stir in yolk/cream mix to pasta with pasta water – toss 1 minute over low heat – remove from heat, toss in 1c fresh parmesan and pinch nutmeg/S&P to taste, with extra Parmesan if needed – sometimes we add broccoli or cauliflower or shrimp or scallops to the boiling pasta and continue on the same).

Our pizza night isn’t too complicated, we usually have frozen pizza doughs that Josh has made previously and if we remember to pull them out to thaw (and have ‘pizza ingredients’), we’re in business. Duende lately prefers just a red sauce, maybe black olives, maybe pepperoni or salami if we have it, and cheese and we generally make a white pizza for the ‘adults’ with ricotta (because we seem to always have some homemade in the fridge) and whatever else we seasonally have (I think last week was spinach, the last of the fresh tomatoes from the CSA, and a bit of ham). But we have a system for that – Josh has baking stones and a peel, we use one of my brother’s amazing cutting boards to serve on, we have a rhythm down for game night – pizza done.

But we are not afraid to just have grilled cheese on sourdough with roasted broccolini either (like last Tues) or what I like to call ‘baked to sh@*t chicken‘ – where whole legs or a variety pack of chicken parts are baked on a sheet tray with a drizzle of olive oil/salt & pepper (chicken can do no wrong in my book, it’s forgiving and easy to just bake), and a side salad (we whip up a quick vinaigrette for dressing or even just eat sliced cucumbers and wedged tomatoes), if we are feeling particularly hungry we’ll throw a tray of potato slices in as ‘fries’. Or Taco night if we have enough ‘fixins’ – I’m paranoid about my grain goods (NGMO, clean and responsible source, no additives) so I was happy to find quinoa based taco shells that were delicious. We’ve still yet to find things like hot dog/hamburger buns that aren’t questionable so we get creative with those things (Josh toys with different recipes sometimes but so far they have been time consuming and not ‘quite right’) – we use our pizza dough to wrap around hot dogs (it’s awesome), or Josh makes a great ciabatta that we use for burgers, but that’s if I’ve been able to get nitrate-free hot dogs anywhere.

We’re amazingly not really Stir-Fry people, once in a while but it’s an affair – it’s rarely as quick as it should be because there are all kinds of veggies to prepare and ingredients to pull out. Same with my Indian food dishes – they may cook up simply but the preparation is more than quick or fast might do for us. Last night we took advantage of our own bounty and cooked up some frozen homemade beet gnocchi and slathered it in our pesto but we were lucky we had them. I’m not opposed to breakfast for dinner but we rarely have it. I’ve heard another amazing local blogger (with many children; anyone with more than one children can definitely do whatever they can) offering up popcorn for dinner, we’ve tried that once or twice (since our lovely kid is already more of a ‘small meals’ kind of gal, I can cater her snacks to fulfill her dietary needs). I have to say, ‘popcorn’ for dinner sounds about right tonite.

Keep it simple, keep it sane.

Happenings on Tuesday

When it rains, it pours around here – (quite literally, there was a drought all Summer and now we’re sopping wet around here, no days to put out the laundry, we’re running out of towels!), we offer up a lovely pasta week and shazamo! Everyone wants some. Who knew? How amazing. So we worked our little fingers off making glorious seasonal gnocchi (golden beet/sage and sweet potato, red beet/thyme and potato, ricotta and parmesan), and then we also got a banner bagel order (of course, some of that was due to order form confusion which caused a series of problems down the line – if your bagels are a little funky this week it’s because they are handmade and variety is dependent on many factors – like too many bagels to proof at once). Whew! We might start offering goods twice a week.

But even though the 40lbs of pasta making was crazy making, I’m already dreaming of new flavors for next month’s pasta offering (maybe butternut squash and spinach tagliatelle, ricotta and lemon farfalle?). We’re also thinking of a holiday cookie week – rosehip shortbread, blueberry Linzers, apple white chocolate oatmeal? Ideas are flying. Next week is a specialty bread week: Sourdough Parmesan loaves – oh, so yummy. Josh has been developing this over the last month or so and it is delicious (as well as the soft sourdough rye he’s been working on, keep your eyes peeled for that one!).

Meanwhile, we got a whole pig (and Josh got a smoker for his birthday – let’s hope the two come together for some intriguing treats!), the Rosehip wine is bubbling away, cheese dreams are still developing, the garden is all but put to bed (though all the bulbs need to go in tomorrow! eeek!), and space for a new pumpkin patch is being prepared. The chickens are not laying eggs quite yet (soon) but we did find that the marvelous little chicken that we saved from the meatbird harvest (it was our ‘exotic’/extra chick that they throw in, seemed a different breed – colorful, small, sweet) is a rooster that we now need to rehome. I’m a little sad – that chicken was becoming quite the pet for me.

The next week will have many changes – politically, astrologically, seasonally; may you adapt smoothly and sanely.

Autumn Duendesday

{life with a curious and crazy 10 yr old}

There’s not much more exciting than baby animals for this kid (alright, they don’t even have to be babies – she loves all animals). So, when Nana asked if Duende would like to babysit her new Maine Coon kitten, the kid’s head nearly exploded with glee. A couple of hours of kitten bliss.

We lived in Wiscasset for 2 seasons when she was a wee thing (walking, barely talking, though she used to tell me when I asked her what she wanted for a snack ‘cheese plate, please’ – my child, for sure!) and there were legends that the antique shops had Marie Antoinette treasures in them from the time she was going to hide out here in Maine. Though she never made it herself, apparently some of her furniture and goods and her cat made it to Wiscasset – perhaps siring or mixing with some local wild cat and the Maine Coon cat was born. So the story goes. Now both of Duende’s grandmothers are Maine Coon cat keepers.

Now that Duende’s own cat (Squiggy) [is a lazy monster who is not interested in much], is not a kitten, she is reinvigorated to implore for another baby animal. I’m thinking a tortoise. Ha!

Tuesday Happenings

It’s the little bits that excite me on most days – the big things don’t change very much; there is always baking and pickling to do, always garden and chicken and orchard tending, and always updating the house (built in 1820 with us being the 3rd owners, there was not a lot of updating being done – at least since the early 70’s – it needs an overhaul and apparently I need to win the lottery).

But I do like the little bits, like Rosehip Wine bubbling away in the fermenting crock, bottling cider and homemade beer, turning the front porch into a greenhouse, mending and patching worn or ‘boring’ clothes, crocheting new rugs or dishcloths, painting everything white and starting fresh and clean, updating our First Aid kit (for years we’ve relied primarily on Weleda Calendula cream and Arnica oil for scrapes and bruises/aches, Hydrogen Peroxide for cleaning out bigger cuts, Castor oil for swollen lymphs, and a comprehensive whole food daily vitamin with targeted vitamins/amino acids for specifics – I’ve had Lyme disease so there are lots of targets, with an extra D and Vit C for the Winter) and maybe adding a few more emergency supplies, and finding better organizational skills (redoing the pantry/laundry room, the studio, etc).

Right now this place looks like a homestead bomb went off – mason jars everywhere (some stacked full of jams/pickles, some empty awaiting next goods), sheetrock stacked and ready for house updates, dried herbs in various stages, Kiwi/Atlas/Tinker crates or projekts in every room, and collections of ‘nature’ on every other surface (snakeskins, birds nests, chicken and turkey feathers, rocks – my goodess, the rocks, leaves, acorns, etc). I love it but it can get a little overwhelming. I know Spring is normally the cleaning time but I think we need to do this every season – with the holiday coming up, I think a good fresh sweep is necessary.

May you find your own version of ‘clean sweeping’.

Monday and a Birthday

On a personal note – I want to make it clear who makes the worlding happen here at Rock Bottom Homestead (& Orchard) – I call him my Beautiful Tulip (as compared to my Tiny Tulip) and it is a fact, he inspires me every day. He is my muse and my accomplice in this crazy life. He helps me make the better decisions around here and yet…let us all be reminded that there is a reason I adore him. And a reason he is with me – he is crazy, too, in all the right ways. He is also a lovely human being. Poetic, funny, savvy, and always up for a challenge.

Happy Birthday, my love, my world is certainly a better place with you in it.

Tuesday Happenings

We waited as long as we could but I love when the woodstove has a fire in it. The last couple of nights (that strange 73 degree day, notwithstanding) have been around the freezing mark, the mild frosts killing the rest of the errant squash and tomato plants in the compost around the apple trees though the grass is still rich and green. Many trees are deep golds and reds or losing their leaves altogether. Sounds like a perfect time for a fire.

We pulled the carrots – huge, sweet, mostly Red Atomics and Purple, soon to be carrot jam (I love carrot jam, especially with brie or as a topping for spice cake). Our Pear tree managed to produce 3 lovely pears, they need to age before we eat them. The bees busily try to eke out the last of the flowers. The tea herbs are finalizing their drying. I picked many, many tiny rose hips – dried some for rosehip flour and boiled 4 quarts for rosehip wine. We’ve also been saving/collecting/drying seeds – Morning Glory, Parsley, Echinacea, Radish. I’m waiting for the rain to stop so we can begin collecting goods for basket weaving – bittersweet, willow, fruit tree suckers, etc. I’m very excited about this last new venture. We’ve been contemplating it for awhile.

Tuesdays are now delivery day – getting the goods together for Josh to take to Portland: Spicy Kimchi, Fresh Ricotta, Pesto, Blackberry Maple Syrup, Blueberry Jam, Carrot and Cucumber Pickles, Sourdough Boules (and Mini Boules) and Bagels (in all kinds of flavors – from Cinnamon to Everything) and Crackers (from Lavender to Sesame), Flatbreads, and then next week Fresh Pasta (Gnudi, Tagliatelle, Farfalle) and then after that Berry Hand Pies! Lots of delicious loveliness being delivered!

Happy October!