Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tck Tck Tck!

I left the Unstuffed Homestead on Saturday and headed to the Hill for the 350 International Day of Climate Action.
Here are some pics I took.

The rain didn't stop tons of people from filling the hill.

The Power Shift youth performed a really fun choreographed chant. "Oooh, it's getting hot in here. There's too much carbon in the atmosphere! Take action, take action and get some satisfaction!"

Hearing Paul Hogarth speaking about cycling across Canada with his family to raise awareness for climate change was really inspirational.

There's lots more pics here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Independence Days Week #26

I've had half a bottle of VQA wine tonight, just 'cause. I've been drinking a fair bit of wine lately. Oh it's much less than I used to before I went all certified yogini, now just a glass or two (or half a bottle) here and there, but certainly more than I'm used to these days. This whole herbal obsession has got me thinking it's medicinal so I'll mull it over and add a splash of elderberry syrup and call it flu prevention. Still, it's an expensive habit and has a high water footprint.

Why am I telling you this? Possibly because I am tipsy and my self-censoring is low or maybe I feel the need to air my dirty laundry, confess my little peccadilloes and own up to my faux pas, if only to show how totally not even remotely close to perfect I am and yet I carry on, try my damnedest to do better and still have the nerve to identify myself as a passionate and devoted environmentalist/homesteader/simple living/frugalish type person.

Dear God, let these things and the occasional glass of wine be not mutually exclusive.

Last week the ADGMD and I went out to dinner to make our lives easier so we could get to an important talk on how to address peak oil and climate change. We didn't think ahead, and as usual ordered more food than we could eat and ended up with a whack load of styrofoam and plastic to take home. I made him hide the evidence in his bag before we showed up to the talk.

We went to the movies on Friday night (a live scored viewing of F.W. Murnau's Faust which was most awesome) and the ADGMD remembered to bring a container for his popcorn, so that's something.

And so now with a slightly guilty, mostly pleasurable buzz at 10pm on a Monday night I share with you...

Plant something:

- red clover sprouts
- horseradish (The damn squirrels dug up my evening primrose and mint that I planted last week. They tried again this week with the horseradish. One small root crown lay on top of the dirt. Thank goodness for pungency, even if it did make me think I might never be able to open my eyes again last week while grating the horseradish.)

Harvest something:
- rosemary
- sprouts

Preserve something:

- pear butter
- drying rosemary and sage
- sage honey

Waste not:

- made bread

Want not:

- medium size pyrex bowl, plate that fits my stone crock and an abridged copy of The Golden Bough from St. Vincent de Paul
- two dresses, one top, face cloths, bowl with a spout and utensils from Value Village

Preparation and storage:
- decanted infused oils, vinegars and tinctures started in the summer
- yoga three times, biking, walked to movies and back

Build community food systems:

- farmer's markets
- donated local delicata squash to food bank

Eat the food:
- ate some pickled beets and the last of my fermented pickles straight out of the jar, at the counter, for dinner one night. Good! (Note to self: Plant way more cucumbers next year. Make waaaaay more fermented pickles with said cukes.)
- beet greens and chard with pasta
- apple mint honey over oats, raisins and yogurt

Take the medicine:
- creeping charlie vinegar
- nettle vinegar
- wild carrot tincture
- sage tea
- elderberry syrup

Monday, October 19, 2009

Independence Days Week #25

Plant something:
- Evening Primrose, mint, Solomon's Seal
- sprouted red clover

Harvest something:
- 2lb 4oz cabbage
- 7oz beet greens
- 5oz chard
- horseradish

Preserve something:

- started new batch of sauerkraut
- made and froze pumpkin puree
- froze fresh, local cranberries
- drying rosemary and sage
- made horseradish honey, vinegar, brandy tincture
- rosemary vinegar

Waste not:
- bought natural soap with no packaging
- made bread
- roasted pumpkin seeds
- reused bags for food storage
- cooked lentils in sun oven

Want not:

- arranged to trade tinctures with a fellow herb student (I'm getting daisy in exchange for lemon balm and motherwort!)

Preparation and storage:
- added canned fruit and bulk raisins to pantry
Physical exercise: yoga three times, walked to library, got lots of biking in

Build community food systems:
- farmer's market

Eat the food:
- beet greens and chard in soup
- pickles and sprouts on a cheese sandwhich

Take the medicine:
- garlic honey
- eggshell vinegar and nettle honey oxymel as mineral supplement
- catnip tea and tincture for gut pain
- plantain tea for chest congestion
- violet leaf salve externally
- comfrey oil externally

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Urban Homestead Series: The History of a Tool

"Have thy tools ready. God will find thee work."
~Charles Kingsley

Take a look at this beauty. Check out those smooth curves and that solid bottom. I think I'm in love.

This, my friends, is the beginning of something special. After only the first time I can tell already. Oh yeah, I'm in it for the long haul. This is a relationship that is going to last. It already started more than a generation ago. There's history here, history that will carry on and grow over the years, gradually worn smooth by time and use, until we are both old. I will grow old with this object of my affection, and the thought of that makes me ridiculously happy.

You just can't say that about an iPhone.

Years ago, my Oma asked my Opa for a favour. She needed a good, sturdy sauerkraut pounder (Yes, such a thing really does exist). It needed to be heavy enough to bruise the shredded cabbage to release the juices, but not so heavy that it was difficult to wield. It needed to be long enough that she wouldn't hit her wrists on the crock. And it needed to be sturdy to hold up to my Oma's strong, capable hands and arms.

My Opa, a woodworker by trade, from a long line of furniture makers back in Germany, had a workshop set up in the garage where all his tools were kept neat, tidy and in order. He chose his wood. Two pieces were needed to achieve the length my Oma asked for, though you have to look oh so closely at the pounder to tell where they were joined. With a few simple turns of his lathe, the magic of joinery and some sanding, Opa presented the sauerkraut pounder to my Oma. It was exactly what she wanted.

When my Oma learned that I had started to make my own sauerkraut, she searched the house, and like an archaeologist, pulled forth from the past, the long unused pounder. She sent it home with my mother one day, and last weekend I finally held the pounder in my hands. I caressed the handle, feeling the grain of the wood, the curves and grooves my Opa had crafted with skill, attention and love. More so than a piece of jewelery or some other family trinket, this piece, this practical, utilitarian tool represents a part of my heritage and creates a familial bond that is inexpressible in words. I can't even begin to tell you what this object means to me.

My Opa hasn't worked with wood in years. I don't know the last time he went out to his tool shed. He kidneys have been in slow failure for a long time now. He refused dialysis years ago, and it's long past the point where he could make use of it, even if he wanted to.

My Oma has had two hip replacements. She stills feel a lot of pain and has lost quite a bit of mobility. Much of her days revolve around looking after my Opa and keeping their small house. She still bakes and makes jam, but the days of the sauerkraut crock in the basement are over.

My heart feels full when I think of this handcrafted tool that has been passed down to me. And a tool it is. This is no museum piece to be set on display or worse, packed away and forgotten as the trapping of an irrelevant era. This tool was made to do a job and you can bet your life that I will put it to work. In fact I used it yesterday. I finally got around to making kraut out of the cabbage that I harvested weeks ago.

My god, what a difference the right tool makes. A while back, I had picked up one of those wooden meat tenderizer thingies at thrift store. Though second hand, it had never been used, and I figured it would do for pounding cabbage. Well, it worked ok, but the handle wasn't long enough, so I had to be careful or else I would bang my wrist on the crock. And the base wasn't very heavy, so I had to work really hard to bruise the cabbage, and even then it was difficult to get the juice out, meaning I often had to add salted water to the crock.

With my Oma's pounder I can easily bruise the cabbage and get the juices flowing almost immediately. This thing practically pounds itself. I love the handle and so do my wrists! I pounded away merrily with a big grin on my face, falling into a simple, meditative rhythm. I was done in no time. I was almost sad that I didn't have more cabbage to pound! But then I realised, me and my sauerkraut pounder have the whole rest of our lives to work together, in tandem, connected by history, united by love. Yep, this relationship is solid. It's got roots. It's going to last.

And you just can't say that about an iPhone.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Independence Days Week #24

Plant something:
- started new batch of sprouts

- sprouts
- elderberries (A fellow Transition Ottawa member knew of my interest in herbal medicine and of my elderberry preparations. He let me know that the cohousing community he lives in had an elder tree in the backyard that no one was harvesting. He offered the berries to me and I was only too happy and grateful to take him up on the offer!)
- Another wonderful gift, my mom harvested some Solomon's seal for me
- basil, parsley and sage
- carrots, beets, chard and more sage from my mom's garden

Preserve something:

- delicious elderberry syrup!
- tinctured basil, sage and Solomon's seal
- put parsley into vinegar

Waste not:
- I store my emergency water supplies by reusing the plastic jugs my white vinegar comes in (and other 2 and 4L jugs I find). Because I don't want to store water long term in plastic I change the water every 4-6 months. I did that last week, but of course I didn't waste the old water by pouring it down the drain. It went into the washing machine for a load of laundry.
- traveled by bus to mom's place for Thanksgiving weekend
- used carrot top and beet greens

Want not:

- the ADGMD was kind enough to pick up two second hand yoga blocks for me, from a seller on UsedOttawa
- my Oma handed down to me her kraut pounder that my Opa made for her many years ago (In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, I will be gushing about this heirloom in an upcoming post.)

Preparation and Storage:
- refilled my emerg. water supplies and added 6L to it
- Physical exercise: I only did yoga once last week. Yikes! Normally I do yoga at least 3 times a week, often 5. However I did a fair amount of biking and walking. Still, I definitely need to spend more time on the mat.

Build Community Food Systems:
- this week the local food came from the Barrie Farmer's market where my mom, the ADGMD and I picked up some yummy local treats for Thanksgiving

Eat the food:
- sprout and sauerkraut salad
- shredded carrot and beet salad
- sautéed chard, carrot top and beet greens
- honey and butter glazed carrots

Use the Medicine:

- I was definitely fighting something off last week, because by Wednesday I was feeling very rundown, achy and had no energy. I got home from work that day, made a beeline for the couch and dozed off almost immediately. I pretty much stayed there for the rest of the evening. I used my elderflower tincture, elderberry syrup, mallow flower syrup, made a hot drink with my garlic infused honey and cayenne pepper, got lots of fluids into me and called it an early night. Thankfully whatever was going on never developed into a full blown illness and I was able to enjoy the weekend feeling healthy and well.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Independence Days Week #23

The weather was cold and rainy all week long. The forecast for the weekend called for more of the same and that's certainly how Saturday dawned, but by the time I got to the farmer's market around mid-morning, it was quite mild and the sun was making a strong effort to push through the clouds. As soon as I got home and dropped off my purchases I headed right back out again to the garden.

Biking along my usual route, noticing the fall colours, the sky, the sun and shadow, I felt touched by grace and filled with joy. It was a real gift of a day. I hadn't realised that my long absence from the garden because of the weather had left me somewhat aimless and wanting. Until that moment I hadn't realised how much meaning and purpose I derive from my small and humble efforts to work with the earth. I was struck by a deep sense of privilege to be able to do so and wished for everyone a similar experience. We should all have the honour to be more connected and responsible for the source of our food. And for all the people in the world who are burdened and toiling under back breaking effort to produce food, may my meager actions go some small way toward creating a more balanced and just world.

Plant something:
- mung bean sprouts
- garlic (My plan was to plant garlic later this month, but it worked out that I had the opportunity to plant some on the weekend. I hope to plant more in a few weeks.)

Harvest something:
- mung bean sprouts (Growing sprouts is so rewarding. You can 'plant' and 'harvest' them in mere days!)
- 5lbs of foraged acorns (The ADGMD found these acorns for me and spent about a half an hour collecting them. He's such an awesome dude! Sadly, I'm afraid I won't be able to use them. They were collected from a traffic island, surrounded by very busy roads- no doubt why there were so many as no sane squirrel would cross that death trap. The island itself is below street level and I can imagine all the years of pollutants and heavy metals washing into the green space, being taken up by the trees and into the acorns. I'm sad. I really wanted to make acorn flour.)
- 7oz of chard
- dandelions

Preserve something:
- wanted to start another batch of sauerkraut, but it'll have to wait 'till this week

Waste not:
- made flax bread from scratch
- drying corn silk
- returned milk bottles and egg cartons for reuse

Want not:

- movies and book from the library
- 2nd hand canning jars, pot holders, sweater, ointment/salve pots
- salvaged vase from the ADGMD

Preparation and Storage:

- replenished bulk rice, mung beans, popcorn
- reading The Herbal Medicine-Maker's Handbook
- did yoga 3 times last week (I'm going to start including a health and well being component to the prep and store category from now on. I think taking responsibility for one's health and wellness is an essential aspect of preparing for a post-peak oil, climate changed, financially unstable world. Also, I've been slacking off on my yoga practice lately and am slightly less active as I slow down for fall and winter and I'm hoping that this will help keep me on track.)

Build community food systems:
- the usual local food from the farmer's market

Eat the food:
- mung bean sprout and cucumber salad with oil and cilantro vinegar
- tatsoi sauteed with garlic and onions
- pickles and tomato garnish for local veg burgers
- pasta with tatsoi and chard, tomato sauce

I'm adding a sub-category here: Use the medicine
- I was feeling a little under the weather last week with a thick feeling in my throat and a heaviness in my chest so I made myself a cup of hot red wine with two tablespoons of my my elderberry in brandy tincture and a tablespoon of my mallow flower honey. I curled up under a wool blanket on the couch. Within minutes I was toasty warm from head to toe and feeling rather pleasant. The next morning all symptoms were gone, but for good measure I repeated the treatment again the next night. I took a few tablespoons of my mallow flower syrup as well. When medicine tastes and feels so good, it only makes sense!

(Follow all the other people doing the challenge over at Casaubon's Book.)