Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Independence Days Week #19

I have four full jars of plums and honey sitting on my counter above which, two big bunches of fennel leaves and mint are drying. The herbs were a gift from a garden neighbour. She's unbelievably generous with her produce. I've also received arm loads of chard and dandelion from her.

I used a bit of fennel to flavour deviled eggs (local, free range and organic of course!) Some of the fresh mint went into the stuffed grape leaves I made using this recipe. The tomatoes, grape leaves and oregano came from my garden. The rice cooked in the sun oven.

I served these dishes to friends I had invited to a harvest garden party at my plot. I also served a fresh tomato and basil salad. The guests picked the tomatoes and basil themselves. We snacked on fermented pickles while eying the cucumber plants they came from. We drank iced tea that had infused in the sun. For desert we savoured an apple cheese cake from the farmer's market and hunks of crusty bread with butter and home canned jam. Light jazz and classical music played quietly from the wind up radio. Some people met for the first time. By the end of the party they were friends exchanging contact information.

After the last guests left, the ADGMD and I lay under the cherry tree soaking up the late afternoon sun before washing up the dishes, gathering the cloth napkins and composting some cardboard and food scraps. There was very little waste. We packed up everything else on our bikes. For the ride home I tuned in to the oldies radio station and strapped the radio securely to the front basket. We held hands and sang along as we biked down the tree lined streets, green and golden in the falling light.

These rich days of early autumn are fulsome. I am surrounded by abundance. Each moment is filled with countless gifts. I am provided for. A basket and wooden rolling pin for a quarter at a garage sale. Free curbside finds including a hallow e'en mask to hang up in the pole beans to try and deter birds and thieves, a hose attachment that now lets me water my kohl rabi patch with ease, a picture frame and a cooler bag that fits perfectly into my front basket. With a couple of freezer packs, the cooler bag kept my food fresh for the party. From now on, I'll use it this way for my harvests. Friends gift me with their saved jars and bottles. One friend passed on empty jars for salves, lotions and balms. What a treasure!

The best gift of all: worm poo. A friend who lives in an apartment has a vermicomposter, but with no garden and not sure what to do with the compost, she asked me for advice. "I'll take it!", I said. She scooped up the poop into plastic tubs and brought it to the garden. Forget fancy bling and bric-a-brac, compost is this girl's best friend, and I couldn't be more touched by my friend's thoughtfulness and effort.

There have been losses too. Life's not perfect after all. Sadly, many gardeners, friends and neighbours included, have been victims of theft and vandalism. Whole crops of garlic, beans and tomatoes disappeared. Sun shades slashed. I saw a row of sunflowers lopped off at their stalks or ripped right out of the ground. Two rows of storage sheds burnt to cinder and ashes. My shed was damaged by the fire but left standing. We lost a blanket and my sun hat. My baskets and the handles of our tools are charred, tempered by the flames, and I like to think they are stronger now for it.

These things add bitter to the sweet. It's discouraging but not defeating. If anything it only serves to firm my resolve to live this way and make these choices. Now I talk to every gardener I pass. I share information, spread the advice given to us by the community police officer. I introduce myself and make the effort to meet others, to create community and raise awareness. I take nothing for granted and I am grateful for everything. I am especially grateful for the people in my life, those not so well known and those as familiar as family. Thank you for you and thank you for letting me share this with you.

Harvest something:
- violets, nettle, grape leaves, cucumbers, tomatoes, chard, chamomile, basil, chard, oregano, parsley

Preserve something:
- plums in brandy, currant jelly
- egg shells in ACV, nettles in ACV
- nettles, pineapple sage and apple mint infusing in honey
- another batch of fermented pickles
- froze another jar of tomato sauce
- drying herbs

Waste not:

- used sun oven for rice, eggplant, black beans
- made sun tea
- lots of biking

Want not:
- received chard, fennel, canning jars, containers for balms, salves etc.
- worm poop!!
- salvaged picture frame, hose, cooler bag, anti bird and garden thieves hallow e'en mask to hang up in the pole beans
- garage sale harvest basket and rolling pin

Preparation and Storage:
- ADGMD added dehydrated food to emergency pantry

Build community food systems:
- attended garden meeting to address theft and vandalism at the allotments
- local food from farmer's market
- attended Transition Ottawa meeting
- hosted harvest garden party

Eat the food:
- stuffed grape leaves
- pickles
- bread with jam
- tomato, basil salad
- cucumber salad
- sun tea
- pasta with tomato sauce
- chard stir fry


Seraphim said...

I'm really totally jealous of your life!

It must be wonderful to be building up a community as you are, of people with similar or complimentary interests.

Did you find that when you started out on this path in your life, with your 'buy nothing' year, that you felt alone in it? Or did you always have people supporting you?

Just being nosy here ;)

Amber said...

Hi Sera,

Life is good these days and I'm thoroughly enjoying myself. But as with everything, there are ups and downs.

There aren't enough hours in my day to do everything that I would like to do. My house is a tornado of organised chaos. Most chores get pushed to the next day and the next in favour of time in the garden or wildcrafting. I have herbal oils waiting to be decanted and dried plants that should have gone into containers long ago.

This whole gardening, harvesting and preserving of food and medicinal herbs is very time sensitive and time consuming. I have to work on nature's schedule. This can be stressful sometimes. Some days I fall into bed exhausted. I'm probably more content than I've ever been, but exhausted no less.

And it does effect my relationships. My life before unstuffing and homesteading was much more social than it is now. The thought of spending a Friday night at home alone used to depress me. Now it's something I relish. I look forward to 'early to bed and early to rise.' The parties 'till 3 or 4 in the morning happen with much less frequently than they used to.

I am blessed with many supportive people and wonderful friends. But it's not always easy and there are some friends that I have drifted away from in the last year and a half. In fact, I would say some of the biggest changes in my life recently have had to do with my relationships.

I don't think of this as a bad thing, but it is different and takes some adjusting to.

Nowadays I feel comfortable with where I'm at, how I spend my time and the people in my life. I know who my friends are and I love them. And occasions and events that bring me together with them are special times that I look forward to!

Thanks for being nosy!

Take care,

risa said...

Outstanding IDC performance. Good on ya! That's a good neighbor. I bring veggies in to work to distribute, and others do similarly. We had very few plums this year, but others did better, so I bring in zukes, eggplant and tomatoes, and take plums home. win/win!

Amber said...

Hi Risa,

Thank you. I'm still new to all of this, especially the gardening bit, so I'm nowhere near your level of productivity, but it's fun and I love it!

I enjoy your blog so much. It's such an inspiration. I'm honoured that you stopped by.