Thursday, September 20, 2012

End of the Garden Pickles

It's the time of year when we appreciate the bounty we have had and begin to glean the half grown squash and tomatoes and things. These wont get any bigger since the evenings are growing so cool, and that means pickles!
I usually make lots of dilly beans in the heat of summer but I have never tried fermented vegetables before. It turns out that the same bacteria that give us yogurty goodness also give us pickley goodness. I had no idea it was so easy:
1. 2 gallon glass crock (under 10 bucks from Walmart)
2. About 4lbs of small garden vegetables, washed and blossom ends removed.
3. 1 onion, sliced, 1 head of garlic, peeled, 2 seed heads of dill, intact.
4. 1 gallon of boiled water with 3/4c off kosher or pickling salt dissolved in it.
5. Grape leaves. Mine are wild in the backyard. 10 is plenty. These add crispness from tannic acid. You could use 1 tsp black tea if you have no grape leaves, but the pickles may be tea stained by that.
6. Big jar full of water. Small plate or plastic lid.

This is by far the prettiest thing I've made lately.

Wash crock and big jar and plate with hot soapy water and sanitize by pouring a kettle of boiling water over it. Place cover on crock and let steam 5 minutes.
Pack layer of grape leaf, onion rings, garlic chunks and vegetables, until jar is full 1 inch from top. End with grape leaf layer.
Place plate or plastic lid into the mouth of the crock, as big as will fit. This is called the follower and it keeps everything below the brine. Vegetables are whole. I used peppers, green zebra tomatoes, zucchini and pattypan squashes. Cukes, radishes and garlic scapes would all work great.
Put the crock into the sink.
Put the big jar on top of the follower, fill it with water so it will hold down your pickles.
Pour the still warm gallon of brine over everything until the crock is full to the top edge. It will overflow into the sink.
Now carefully put the crock on the counter at room temperature. In 2 days you will see bubbles. You may want to put it in a pan because it may overflow a little bit as the pickles age. Taste daily day 3-7. When you like the taste, remove the big jar and place the crock with its lid into the fridge!
You made pickles!
The fermenting stops in the cold fridge, you have a month or so to enjoy your pickles.
These should be ready on the Equinox for our meal. Next I want to try making sauerkraut.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The rhythm of the year

Mabon and harvest time bring the wheel of the year around for me. I've never lost that "New school year" feeling and even though early September is still the height of harvesting herbs and yard work season here in overwarm Pennsylvania I feel the urge to go out and buy a backpack and some pencils.
So, while my goal for this season is to shed and simplify by culling things from the former stages of my life- what I appear to be doing instead is making big lists of tasks that are ADDED to the already busy canning, drying and reclaiming the wild backyard tasks.
This is not simplifying. I need a better method, or a timeline. Or a professional planner. Maybe a few pencils.

Lists have taken over my coffee time and caused my photos to be all tilty! 

Monday, July 23, 2012

On Colorado and Covers

This past week the news gave us all whiplash. The tragic events in Colorado cause me to question our mental health care support systems, relive some personal grieving and ache with the urge to comfort the hurt and the damaged. The best I can do is offer up spiritual support.  In doing so I know that I am doing a lot and that no matter what I do it will not feel like enough.

We can't let that stop us from offering our blessings, though.  To give in to the feeling of being overwhelmed is to spread the damage.  Instead, let us make our offerings, practice supporting others and know that when the damage is nearer, we will be that much more ready to support then.

It is only by giving more than we receive that we know the bounty of our Goddess.

In other news, I read about the campaign to join in and support those women who chose to take the veil.  These are not the women forced to cover by an oppressive society, but women who choose to cover their hair as a symbol of faith or thanks... or for reasons which are their own personal ones. because this link does not work as it did yesterday  I include this address  to lead you to the Facebook page and see the beautiful group of proud women and their many supporters.

It isn't often that I hear about something so meaningful to me just as it happens, but the background of last week's insults to three different women wearing veils really struck me. As I was feeling helpless to support one group, I found a way to support another. As a woman who covers her hair for certain special events and as a woman in a liberated land, I am delighted to join with my sisters on September 21, 2012 and appear for the entire day wearing a hair cover of my own choice.

I was so proud when I mentioned this event at dinner to a friend on Saturday and without hesitation she replied "I'm in." before I even requested her support.

I am eager to put veils on the street and change the look of the world. I am eager for personal adornment to someday again be personal and not fodder for public judgement.

Blog share: The Secret Life of the American Working Witch: Moonday Musings: 13 Things About Me

What a refreshing post! I just read Moonday Musings at
Thoughts that run through my head and splash around on Monday mornings never seemed to be cohesive enough for public consumption. Here, though, Kallan shares just that and it streams right alongside my own! I might have to muse aloud here one day and see what I get!
Not only do I feel enriched, I feel like I'm not the only one with a river of thoughts. Thanks a bunch!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mid summer herb gathering

Spring is the time for wild cherry
bark, good for throats.
First, the Blackthorn and Hawthorn bloom, and I know its time to get into gear.  Time to begin collecting paper bags, stocking up on oil and visiting my carpenter friends for fine sawdust.  Herb collection season is long but I get a thrill every year and I want to share it with you.
I collect herbs in the sense that I go out and gather or wildcraft them from safe, unsprayed places in my Eastern Pennsylvania area.  Since I travel to camp in the 18th Century style a few times a month I try to keep my eyes peeled for alight differences in plants on the roadsides. sometimes rocky or sweeter soil makes a big difference in what I can find and bring home. I also collect herbs in the other sense of collecting: if I can trade or buy some classic herbs from an area I try to get 4oz. I use all of the herbs for folklore, spiritual and medicinal purposes.

"I need a storage system for these herbs that is beautiful, functional and easy to reference"
I find that after years of practicing, I've got quite a collection of materials for making beauty and healing products as well as healing and food teas, tonics and simples.  In addition to a good collection season this summer is dedicated to finding some kind of organisation  method that is beautiful, functional and easy to reference.

You can follow along with my attempts at developing a system for all of it. So far, I can tell that a few of the things I've begun will not be the best way to keep going.  'Easy to reference' seems to be the biggest hurdle! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A sneezing Dachshund is hilarious.

"A dog can get a tan, let me bask here and come back later, you'll see."
It's time to meet Zambonie. In our house, my husband likes to say that I bring "the Interesting" to our lives.  He especially likes to say that when I feel that my contributions by way of paycheck or housecleaning are not impressive enough.  "I bring the Paycheck, you bring the Interesting and I could never do that" is what I hear.  Totally reassuring. He is a keeper, that one.  
If I bring the Interesting, Zambonie brings the imagination and entertainment. She is never at a loss for ideas to stay busy and she will take time out for you no matter how many delicious Post-it Notes she has arranged on the floor.  If ever there is a perfect dog for me, Zambonie is it. How we got her and how much I disagree that my husband is mainly a paycheck are for other days.  Today, meet Zambonie, the piebald Dachshund. She has Spring allergies today and is mighty surprised about the sneezes.

"How can I type when those birds are landing all over our deck and ruining it for everyone!?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Imbolc Wistlepig

Tradition calls for a badger (groundhog, whistlepig), snake
or hedgehog to make an appearance on February 2.
It all depends on where you call home.

 Imbolc is here and all we have to show that Spring will arrive soon is mud!  Here in PA, the tradition of the groundhog seeing his shadow is astonishingly central to people's midwinter conversations.  I have plans for a nice celebration with others in my circle on Saturday night... a meal of milk foods and fresh breads, a fire and the making of traditional wheat crosses.  I will put a bowl of holly and ice cubes (for we are without snow) to melt and remind us that the thaw is sure to come now that the days are longer.

In this part of PA, German families have held the fort since the mid 1600's, and with them many traditions found in few other places.  Midwinter celebrations among the old wise ones of Germany included watching a badger's hole. If the day was sunny, 6 more weeks of winter, if clouds rule the day, the badger may emerge as a sign winter is at its end.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The December Dilemma

For us, the winter holidays are about all of the celebrations, not just ours.

Dear New Mamma,  I too live in an interfaith home, and I joined with my husband when my children were 2 and 4 years old. I am invited to speak every year on an interfaith panel in our area called "the December Dilemma".
In short, my choice was to build our spirituality all year, and our holiday family traditions around interior decorating choices that my husband and I discussed, but since I was doing the "work", I asked him to hold his comments until later in January when I would sit down with him and say: "so, how was that wreath for you? Did you miss anything from your childhood that we could add for our children?"
That way, he felt honored and respected and our holiday traditions could evolve. No on the spot conflict if I hung icicles and 5 pointed stars all over the dining room ceiling.
I would like to go outside and see this on my birthday!
When it came to other families- relatives or not- I fielded a lot of questions. My answer was always the same: No, my kids know what our beliefs are, seeing your practices (house, tree, egg nog, menorah) will not confuse them.
 This is no different than my birthday, which is December 23. I open presents whether they have no paper or Christmas paper or birthday paper. It doesn't change the giving. We graciously show interest and participate in anything anyone wants to invite us to or wants to share with us, we offer to share with others- the color of the paper does not measure your spirituality. In my opinion, spirituality has to do with your family's habits most of the year, little to do with the holidays.
I should note that the families I meet at the December Dilemma talk who have the worst trouble are controlling people themselves or have controlling visitors and families. the Jewish child who's Christian grandmother gives her a gold crucifix, the critical mother who gives ornaments to her non-tree raising daughter. I advise a response which is gracious, but not compromising one's beliefs as far as having a child wear jewelry not appropriate for them. I wouldn't let my daughter wear lacy lingerie as a princess dress if she were 5, no matter how pretty she though it was, but I wouldn't make a fuss at the family dinner. I would just say "How thoughtful" and put it in the car. Donate the jewelry to a convent and change your plans next year.
Hope your new family grows crookedly but happy. Be willing to do it wrong sometimes and you will have fun. the 4 year old is now 24 and she is lovely.
regards, Hawk