Tuesday Happens

What’s happening around these parts? It’s green. Really green. The forsythia, violets, and apple blossoms have passed. The first wave of dandelions have seeded, and the daffodils are done. This is the green spot before the rest of the daisies open, our late lilac blooms, and the wild rose explodes (but only for a short week). And then the red bee balm, the orange daylillies, and the red clover will brighten all the corners.

Green. We spend so many months in a sort of grey haze – the green feels lush and wondrous. Green space feels right. Swathes of greenery – leaves, buds, grape curls, grasses, clovers – our yard has many nongrass friends; plantain, henbit, buttercups, wild strawberry, violets, pineapple weed, and errant nightshades, docks, primroses, oats, wild carrot, yarrow, cleavers – all just a sampling of what was here before we moved here.

There’s been a lot of wind this past year, so much wind but not enough water. We have ‘enough’ for now – enough to make it all green. I hope we can keep it that way until at least November. The dragonflies have hatched – they save us from mosquitos. Duende has been building bat houses – they save us from brown tail moths. And soon we will build some Owl boxes and see if we can’t dim this tick population by lessening the vole and field mice population. The insect troubles are real – so real. By Fall we will apply some nematodes to curb the rose chafers next Spring. I want to let nature just be its own nature-self but I suppose like any other party, you invite the folks that you want to congregate with, and dissuade the rest from showing up.

Monday’s Muse

Peace is supposed, imagined, divined, dreamed. Peace’s language, its sounds and rhythms, when read aloud, when read silently, should pacify breath and tongue, make ears and brain be tranquil.

The images of peace are ephemeral, The language of peace is subtle. The reasons for peace, the definitions of peace, the very idea of peace have to be invented, and invented again.

Children, everybody, here’s what to do during war: In a time of destruction, create something. A poem. A parade. A community. A school. A vow. A moral principle. One peaceful moment.

~ Maxine Hong Kingston, The Fifth Book of Peace

Thursday Recipe: Summer Food Dreams

We spend all Summer dreaming about the comfort foods of Winter (deep savory pies with aspic, vats of stews, casseroles of cheese and pasta) that when warmer weather comes we want simpler foods with less window dressing (grill foods, simple salads, fruit sorbets). But there are also those middle ground times – not just of ‘Spring’ and ‘Fall’ but of transitions in our lives, in our seasons, in our desires. It could be 90-something degrees outside and maybe you still have a hankering for mashed potatoes and gravy, who knows?! It happens.

Though most of the time, for us anyway, warmer weather provides the easy ‘out’. Toss together some Leafy Salad Greens and Sprouts with a Light Vinaigrette (for us it’s a 1/2-3/4 cup Avocado or Olive Oil with a 1/4 cup Rice Wine or Champagne Vinegar, a little Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper and a big sprig of whatever herb is growing best, maybe Tarragon or Sage, and we shake it up to emulsify inside a glass vintage salad dressing bottle where it can stay until the next batch on the shelf), maybe some local Goat Cheese, a couple crushed and toasted Pecans or Pumpkin seeds, classic staples like chunks of new Cucumbers or fresh Tomatoes and don’t forget the edible Flowers!

Not only are they so festive but they carry nutritional rainbow goodness – think Forsythia, Violets (including Pansies and Johnny Jump Ups), Lilacs, Apple, Rose, and Daisy Petals, Honeysuckle, Bee Balm (Mondarda), flowering herbs like Borage, Chamomile, Red Clover, Calendula and Marigold Petals, or field flowers like Goldenrod, Asters, Jewelweed, Yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot), Chicory, Hyssop, or out of the garden with Nasturtiums, Chive flowers, Squash, and Scarlet Runner Bean blossoms. Generally speaking, it is customary (and sometimes healthful vs dangerous) to eat only the petals of these flowers (avoiding the green stems or center reproductive kit), to only eat a few at a time, and to taste before adding – this last step is key (not more than your health, per se, but from a purely aesthetic situation) as particularly some field flowers and even Marigolds/Calendula are just not delicious. And do make sure that you are not eating sprayed flowers (do not eat from storebought flowers unless you know their origin). So try them out first but they can make a simple salad magickal, and who doesn’t need a little more magick in their lives?!

Summers for us also mean many foods cooked directly in the firepit. We like our grill, too: we have a great metal basket for grilling smaller foods/veggies and have once or twice mastered a Grill Pizza, but we are really loving the firepit cooking. We bought a couple of cast iron pots that can either hang over the fire on a tripod or that you can bank into the coals and roast directly. I have a monster Leg of Lamb that came our way this year that is begging for a Jamie Oliver treatment of roasting in the fire with Plum Tomatoes, Dried Chickpeas, Lemons, and herbs, served with a light salad and a fresh boule of Sourdough bread sounds like a late picnic intimate gathering on the hill. Or a Harissa rubbed whole Chicken with thick slices of Bell Peppers and Onions served with Flatbreads. I’m a big fan, too, of hand crushed Herby Rustic Pesto on Late Summer Veggies and White Beans. For the Pesto: in the mortar with the pestle – grab a handful of leafy mixed herbs like Parsley, Basils of many colors, Nettle, Lamb’s Quarters, a little Dandelion leaf, etc, and toss into mortar with a pinch of Coarse Sea Salt and toasted nuts/seeds like Pine Nuts or Pumpkin, Sunflower or even Hazelnut, add Olive Oil to loosen mix and help to break down mix as you grind it together, at the end add freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, any extra can be kept in a jar in the refrigerator for up to a week. For the Cannellini or Broad Beans with sizzled Eggplant or Zucchini: on the stovetop, grill, or rack over firepit, warm a cast iron or heavy bottom deep saute pan with a glug of Olive Oil. Lay slices or 2″ chunks of Eggplant/Zucchini and brown on all sides (moving the fire underneath if needed to not scorch pan, slow steady coals are best to work with, then you can pile them accordingly based on heating needs), seasoning with Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper, then add cooked/drained/rinsed Beans and a little White Wine (or Chicken/Veg Broth or even just a little water) to loosen everyone from the pan and give a little ‘gravy’. When desired thickness of the mix is achieved, add your Rustic Pesto and stir in slowly. Remove from heat and serve with a Crusty Baguette or even over thick fresh slices of Heirloom Tomatoes.

And in a nod to my roots, there isn’t much I like better than Pan-fried Trout with freshly foraged White Oyster Mushroom (or a bevy of gourmet mushrooms from a local purveyor) and if you really want to put me over the top – served with Crispy Zucchini Slices. All just sauteed in butter (flour a butterflied Fish lightly and saute on both sides until flaky, for the Mushrooms – slice and add to a Med/Hot pan with butter and turn occasionally until edges are brown – feel free to toss in a sprig or two of Thyme/Sage or Rosemary as the mushrooms give off their liquid, for the Zucchini a decadent batch requires thick slices lightly floured then dipped in a whisked egg with a teaspoon or 2 of water, then into a 1/2 & 1/2 mix of flour to cornmeal – I generally add a big pinch of Sea Salt, Garlic Powder, and a smaller pinch of Ancho Chili, then deep fry/saute in Peanut or Grapeseed Oil. I have sometimes skipped the first 2 steps and just dunked them in a little Whey/Buttermilk/or Milk and then proceeded with the Cornmeal/Flour mix and they are still delicious but a little ‘leaner’.

Is it almost time to eat outside? I’m thinking yes…and yes. Bring it on.

Duendesday, My Little Buttercup

{life with a curious and crazy almost 11 yr old}

That’s us – the three amigo’s. Watching the world unfurl in a plethora of beauty and struggle. This little one’s struggles are not so bad. Duende does think it’s the end of the world when she’s out of ice cream (which she tries to finagle for breakfast).

We’ve noticed big changes in her attitudes and behaviors lately – a lot of growing is going on! Yes, we’re getting a bit of the “tween ‘tude” but that is just a mask for all the confusion going on – she’s really quite the lovely child. She’s watching you – all of your body language, all of your tics, and listening to your words. I feel, more than before, being a good example is key (and yet possibly beyond me – ha!). She is asking thoughtful questions of others, showing compassion, and really thinking about how to help.

She’s also physically growing – losing teeth, developing angles and soft spots – her muscles are strong and she’s getting interested in defining them (she’s just ordered herself some ‘resistance bands’ and small weights to go with her yoga mat and balance ball). Her mind is sharp, too: her and Josh have started ‘competing’ on Seterra – a website built for geography quizzes and learning, she’s a whiz (ok, him, too)!

Her arrival signals new ideas for us to progress as our own little team. As we move closer through her second life cycle, I can see how much she’s grown and how she’s in a perfect place – that cusp of childhood to teenhood is a messy one but she’s building the tools to help her through. We’re so grateful to have been able to give her a place and time and attention she can navigate these changes – she gives back so much more.

Our little buttercup, sweet little buttercup…

Tuesday Happenings

One minute it’s Winteresque and feels like the snow on the North slope will never melt, and the next it is lush and on the cusp of Spring overgrowth! We mow a little less so that I can forage in certain places (non-chicken spaces) and so that magickal goodness has time to grow and flower and fruit. I just whipped up a Foraged Kimchi with loads of Daisy buds, Dandelion, Violet, Red Clover, Evening Primrose leaves, and Fiddleheads (we leave the foraging of the latter to the pros and buy them across the street from local purveyors). There are still enough Violets, Dandelion flowers, Pine Buds, and Apple Blossoms (and maybe just enough Forsythia – maybe) if I get my act together to do any wines or syrups. In another 2 weeks there will be Lilacs and Wild Rose and maybe even Honeysuckle to do more if I decide. As for other edibles on the property; the Grape leaves are unfurling, the Milkweed shoots are popping up, slender stalks of False Solomon’s Seal along with the new Asparagus shoots we planted from seed, and a great find of Yellow Morels in the Orchard. So many goodies everywhere!

Over this last weekend I signed Duende and I up for a Zoom cooking class sponsored by Cabot Cheese to make Strawberry Cheddar Hand Pies. Of course, I did not clearly read the starting time (it gave both times for West and East coast) and found it didn’t start until our wonderful guests were to arrive (Dave & Pear) so instead – 2 ‘almost 11 yr old’ gals got to do the class together – AND IT WAS ADORABLE!!! And delicious. Duende and Josh (separately but he could certainly join hers) both have their own cooking class scheduled for Thursday.

What’s on the horizon? The finishing of many projects – the new studio room (which means the front room can then get ready for its own remodel), another round of planting and finally getting the last of the garden prepared for direct seeding of many flowers, and then the big outside push for excavation. A little pond, a pergola, and a bread oven. Hopefully we will have some tree removal work done and if I’m really lucky the new kitchen floor will go in this Summer, too. There are always lots of little projects and many more plans to keep us busy.

I hope you stay busy, too – it likely keeps you out of trouble.