in celebration of curvilinear shapes

Because, why not?

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I didn’t realize when we’d planted “cylindra” beets that they would actually grow into a cylindrical shape rather than a sphere. I had been wondering what was wrong with them until C reminded me of the name. Oooohhhhhh, right. Of course. Ahem.

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The anthers on this thing are unbelievable.*

btw, that beet is the farthest I got with kitchen photos, so no blog hop for me. I thought our schedule was nuts last week, but just getting dinner on the table every night this week could be interpreted as divine intervention. Amazing things happened even though I was exhausted and didn’t bother to plan..the sorts of delicious, serendipitous Throwing Together of Things that I couldn’t repeat if I tried, and if I made an attempt to record a recipe, no one would believe me, anyway. I will just say this: beautiful things can happen with the Chevre That Wasn’t.

*How often do you get to say that?

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the deep well

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This is the well-worn path between our house and our neighbor’s house. And still, sometimes I forget that I am part of a community. Sometimes, I forget that I am loved unconditionally by my family. Sometimes, I forget that our small trials are not the end of all things. Sometimes, I forget that I have something to offer in this world that can be such a damned overwhelming place to live in.

The forgetting is usually fleeting, but there have been a few times I’ve fallen in the well. I haven’t stayed terribly long there, compared to some, but I know its darkness, and the trip to the bottom comes without warning. In the well, you don’t see the hands reaching down, and you don’t hear the faint, distant voices that float down to you from the top. In the pitch-black at the bottom of the well, you are utterly alone, and there is no hope for a way out.

I had written a looooong post about how my stone cold sober, always and forever unintentionally Straight Edge self could also get sucked into the abyss, repeatedly since I was a teenager, and how it’s terrifying until you don’t even care that the dark is scary, and how shitty I think it is to use words like “selfish” when describing victims of suicide (victims, yes…and if you use the word “selfish” or “cowardly,” please read this), and about how I once did my art thesis on depression and eating disorders and no one commented but to say “nice work” except for one of my instructors who opened up about his wife and her similar experiences because people are afraid to look the Darkness in the eye and to really talk about it. But, I erased it.

Instead, I’ll just say that I only wish that every time it happened to me, I came through with a “fear-proof exoskeleton”:sad5alt4

From: Hyperbole and a Half, Adventures in Depression

I’d like to think it’s not a sugar high, and that perhaps I could encourage exoskeletal growth with goat kefir smoothies and time spent in the garden.

Peace.

This Week in My Kitchen :: Blog Hop

Another awkward summer week of limited childcare, evening shifts, and general overwhelm, so I really have to give myself (and C, for his part) a small pat on the back for somehow managing to keep us all fed (and photographed to join Heather for This Week in My Kitchen blog hop):

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Smoothies are the staple around here, especially in the warmer months. We have so much kefir now that I have to keep up on the culture every day, and prefer to dress it up rather than drink it straight. I keep it simple, and just throw bananas, berries (still using up frozen from last year’s picking!), and sometimes nut butter, coconut oil, and/or flax. The extra gets poured into popsicle molds for cool probiotic treats anytime.

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So, the oven is broken. Again. It needs a new, expensive part, so I’m not sure how long it will be, but if I can get my hands on a cast iron pizza pan, then my whole world will change. Because, really, my first thought was…but pie season has only just begun! As long as the grill holds out, we may make it through just fine. With pie.

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No kitchen post would be complete without sharing whatever wound up in a jar this week. Our lemon balm patch is diminishing…weird, I know, but there it is. I was only able to harvest just enough for one batch of our new (since last year) family favorite, Honey Lemon Balm Jelly, but no more for drying. Although Heather says this “isn’t really the kind of jelly one would slather between two slices of bread with some peanut butter,” that is our preferred way to use it! Of course, it’s wonderful with soft cheese on crackers, especially a tangy chevre, but for school lunches and on-the-go snacks, cheeses never fare well (for us). If you make this, please do give it a try with nut butter, also! The sweetness is subtle and the herbal bouquet soothing. It’s like delicious tea that you can spread. I’m encouraged now to try it with other teas, like earl grey…anything that wouldn’t be too weird with lemon juice.

What’s happening in your kitchen?

the things that are okay. good, even.

The last several weeks have brought many challenging and painful moments, from the usual blah blah financial hardships blah blah to the extremes of loss and all the dark and deep contemplation that accompanies death and moving on. I’m tired. But, I am alive, and I am healthy, as are those who are closest to my heart. I am simply exhausted of the many reminders this year that every moment we find ourselves to be alive and healthy is a moment to be celebrated and treasured. I know this, but it’s easy to forget amongst the daily grind, and the forgetting is often met, eventually, with a hard slap to the heart. So, you know, time to (wo)man up and just fucking celebrate or, at the very least, acknowledge. Here are some good things immediately in front of me:

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  • There’s enough garlic hanging from my porch rafters to get us through until next year’s harvest.
  • Onion greens are soft and silky and so much less a beast to braid than hardneck garlic. Our onions may be small, but we weren’t able to grow them at all last year, so it’s a step forward.

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  • I’m attempting a fall crop of shelling peas. I have no idea if it will work, as it depends on when Jack Frost brings the icy hammer down, but just getting them in the ground felt pretty good. I have faith that the odds are in my favor.
  • The boy is suddenly reading. And, I mean really reading. The kind of reading where we have to ask him about fifty times to please put the book down and come to the dinner table. That kind. I find it hard to be exasperated because I think it’s awesome.

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  • This was supposed to be a garden post, hence a photo of my weed-ridden cabbage patch. The good thing here is that I’m not beating myself up for not keeping a pristine garden with our busy schedules. At least I can see the cabbage plants.
  • I actually wanted to spin this week, after not touching my wheel for months. I haven’t sat down to it yet, but the feeling was there, which is a damn good thing seeing as how I’m teaching at Fiber College next month and was feeling less-than-inspired to create samples and a new template for my class. I’m getting excited about it again. Phew.

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  • Some of my basil looks like this, but some of it doesn’t. I feel okay about this for at least two reasons. I already made a ton of garlic scape pesto, so whatever I manage with the basil is a bonus. And secondly, tomatoes aren’t near ready yet.
  • I think it may be possible to woo our baby girl goat with raisins.

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  • C is taking down a barn in a neighboring town and bringing it to our place. I want to paint it the color of these cherry tomatoes.
  • We thought we lost one of our ducks, but then discovered she was nesting under our bedroom window. No super-sleuthing skills required. She made her whereabouts known by demanding to be fed at 5:30am with loud outbursts of quacking. Under our bedroom window. This will continue for the next four weeks, if she’s lucky enough to survive outside the coop for that long. Odds are sketchy around here, but we deserve a lucky break. DUCKLINGS ARE GOOD THINGS.

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  • I have managed to grow two healthy axolotls from eggs. They make me smile every day and will require their own post at some point.
  • I’m hosting a batt sale, and also a giveaway on my Facebook page, so stay tuned for a chance to win a fiber prize.

And now, I’m tired. So, good night Ezra, Molly, and Michael. You touched my heart, and I’ll hold you there. May peace come to all those who feel the pain of your passing, and may all of us left behind celebrate daily the good things in our life.

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And good night to Granola, a sweet little lass we were hoping to have here on our wee farm for a long time.

  • One more very good thing of note: our neighbors. Such a blessing to live where we do. When my fingers wouldn’t work to untangle her little body from the fence netting, where she’d wrapped herself too fatally tight in a panic, helping hands came to take care of the unpleasant business. And yet more helping hands came to bandage another of our goats who was wounded during whatever goat-crazy happened while I was away from home. We take care of each other here, and that is a very good thing, indeed.

What are you grateful for today?

Summertime, she rolled right in…

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…sweetly and gently, with a few days of high 70s and clear skies. The only thing to do, really, was to celebrate with our first fire pit meal of the season. While the kids ran around and C got the fire started, I whipped up an all-ages frothy cool beverage to enjoy, and it was too damn good not to share. Even if you’re not brewing your own kombucha at home, you should probably try this, anyway, with a store-bought ginger or plain kombucha.

Ingredients:

-1 quart kombucha (first ferment, or a gingered second ferment, or store-bought plain or ginger)
-2 cups frozen strawberries
-1/4 cup lemon juice
-1/2 cup maple syrup

A lot depends on the sweetness of your strawberries (and even your kombucha). You may want to adjust the lemon juice and maple syrup amounts. I’m only guessing, anyway, since I just glugged them both in.

So, whirr it all around in the high-powered blending instrument of your choice and enjoy the effervescent sweet-tartness! A sprig of chocolate mint makes just about everything better, in case you were wondering about the green stuff in my glass.

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We roasted whatever we could put on a stick, including dessert. For a while, I avoided s’mores entirely as I don’t know of any marshmallows available that are made without corn syrup, but since discovering the world of making my own maple marshmallows, I wouldn’t want to go back, anyway. They take only about 15 minutes to make, and as long as you have a candy thermometer, it’s easy-peasy.

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The first recipe I tried, a few years back, made for a mess when roasting, but I had my first go-round with this recipe from The Urban Poser, and not only is the ingredient ratio spot-on, but even without letting them sit to dry out, as suggested, my mallows were perfect roasters, even just hours after cooking up the goo, behaving almost exactly like the Kraft marshmallows I grew up with.

Only maple syrup, gelatin (we use the same grass-fed gelatin as suggested in the recipe), water, and vanilla. Simple and perfect.

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Until you add cinnamon to the marshmallow goo before it sets. Then, you go beyond perfection and achieve marshmallow Nirvana.

Some wildlife wanted to get in on the action, including fireflies galore, and a visiting snapping turtle. An evening bursting with growth and life and early summer magic. At least I was able to enjoy it before the most cruel and unusual head cold from Hell knocked me on my ass for 36 hours. I was the one pampered on Father’s Day. Oh, well. Regularly scheduled programming back tomorrow!

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Taproot Gathering, Taproot Giveaway, and 500 Something or Other

I wish I could share the Everything of my experience at the Taproot Gathering with each and every one of you, but in the words of Inigo Montoya:

“No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

Really, too much. I must extend my most sincere gratitude to the Taproot and Squam Art Workshops lovelies, especially Elizabeth, Kaitlyn, Amanda and Jason for putting together such a deeply meaningful event, full of creativity, connection, inspiration, and beauty. And amazing food. We were nourished in every way possible.

The sum up:
I arrived at the Rockywold-Deephaven Camps late in the evening, and when I had unpacked from my car into the cabin, the sky, which had been lightening-lit the whole of my drive, finally released a torrent of rain. So, I missed the opening ceremony, affording myself the opportunity to explore the indoors and settle in quietly. I’m a nester like that, so it worked out well.

I hadn’t stalked my roommate ahead of time, so I knew nothing about the person who would be sleeping in the bed one foot away from mine in our cozy little room. It turns out she’s pretty awesome, has excellent taste in chocolate, and doesn’t mind giggling until 2am. She also creates sweet house portraits.

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Oh, that? Eh, just my walk to class in the morning.

I took Forage and Ferment, a natural dye workshop with Rachel Bingham. We used powdered natural dyes and then explored in the woods for various materials to experiment with.

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cochineal

Above is from a cochineal dyebath, and below is the pot I pushed for: black eyed susan. These flowers weren’t exactly in the wild, but the landscaping needed a little tidying and so I dead-headed the bushes, clipping only the flowers on their way out. The mordant used was alum and the result is a the loveliest sage green. I have a feeling the susies in my yard will find their way into a dyepot, too, since the frost will take them soon, anyway.

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Another favorite was goldenrod, and I’ll share the results once I spin the fiber. It’s nearly exactly my Biohazard blend, but with plant dye. Oh, and there is so very much in the way of goldenrod lurking all about my world right now.

I’m overwhelmed, so I will tell you about day 2 tomorrow. I’m still processing all the emotional Whoa, reigning it all in and absorbing it as I settle back into a daily grind which is different than the one I left behind.

In other news, this funny thing happened. At some point during the Sparkle Stories tutorial posting frenzy, I passed the 500th post mark. Is this significant? Not really, but I thought it might be worth mentioning, and that it’s a nice excuse for a giveaway.

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I happen to have an extra copy of the current issue of Taproot (#7: Gather). I also happen to have a piece included in its pages, so if you want to make my Blueberry Pie Sauerkraut, you’d best get your hot little hands on it. How about I send it to you?

How about I also sweeten the deal by sending the winner a skein of my handspun merino, dyed up with cochineal during the class I took at the Taproot Gathering? It’s bulky and squishy and delicious and is pictured above (the skein on the left), dripping with blood beautiful dye.

Leave a comment between now and Sunday, September 22nd, and tell me one of your favorite recipes or crafts that gets you feeling all Autumnal, and a winner will be chosen at random.

Good luck!

It would be so easy…

It really would.

It would be so easy to just tear myself a new one because I’ve missed weeks upon weeks of self-imposed personal deadlines.

Or…I could just let myself off the hook. It’s okay to say that our family has had very little time to spend together lately, even just enjoying each other, let alone recording it for posterity. O practically runs in terror from the camera these days, shy now and conscious that I am sharing bits about our life with unknown eyes on the other side of the glowing screen. He asks me not to, and I must listen and accept that. It’s okay to say that I haven’t been taking very good care of myself, and needed to spend some time laying low, building up my blood to stave off dizziness and fatigue. It’s okay to say that I took on too much at a time when I really should have been leaving more room on my plate. It’s okay to say that the timing of my taking an unpaid internship has been difficult for all three of us, for so many reasons. I’m growing, in all of this chaos, in all of these late nights…certainly, I am learning my limitations.

And what do I do with them, exactly? These limitations? Are they stop signs or are they an obstacle to be overcome? I cannot claim to know what is best for myself in this moment. I do know that I am missing out on a lot of living by wallowing in a mess of unreasonable expectations.

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There is a flip-side to this, though. I have been more productive this summer than at any three-month period in my life. Articles have been submitted and published, weekend workshops photographed, patterns written, ideas gelled, my own workshops created, praise received for a job well done, inspired bursts of creativity sparked, and all the while I have managed to keep everyone fed, at least, if not consistently in clean clothes and tidy surroundings.

Obviously, leaving self-care out of the equation was insensible. Is it possible to carve out the time I so desperately need for myself and keep up such a fulfilling, productive pace? I committed myself to the concept of Make It Happen. I ruminate on this now and I feel sure that the brutality of my summer schedule will not complete without bearing fruit. I won’t allow it to simply fade away as does the warmth and the long days. I just don’t know what the fruit looks like or how it will taste. Is it fuzzy? Acidic? Nice with goat cheese?

More than several have told me I should go get a massage or take a hot tub, maybe a yoga class. I’m sure that would help. But, how do I explain that for all the 60+ hours of work I put in every week, I am receiving almost zero monetary compensation? That the concept of having the cash on hand for a drop-in yoga class is laughable while I struggle to cover the bare minimum of our necessities? The shame in that question is forcing me to acknowledge my accomplishments so as to salve the sting. Some days I feel we have less than nothing, and then I ask myself to count my blessings and find that we have so much.

I may not be able to take a yoga class right now, but I can prepare a gallon of nettle tea and sip on it all day. I can watch the sun rise over the ridge while I stretch out on the deck. I can weed the garden, stack wood, pick blackberries and drench them in milk from my neighbor’s goat.

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And it’s okay.

In fact, it’s better than that.

Time to embrace the k.i.s.s. and get on with things.