Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On nights like tonight...

On nights like tonight -
full moon and crickets singing
louder than I've heard in a long time,
I wish that all the lights could all go out
just for a moment.

Computer, TV, Cell phone, off - never ending distractions.

Just long enough for people to stand outside together
and look to the sky -
to the billions of stars that hang above us.
Long enough to stop and remember
their place in this universe.
to remember their dreams...
their neighbors...
their voice...
their families...
to remember whatever they have forgotten.

The city is a great place to live,
but as it wraps around us and lulls us to sleep,
with this constant light and motion,
we forget that just above us

The moon is always full
the sun is always shining
the stars are an uncountable,
Never changing, constant.

When I am feeling closed in,
I remember the Vermont or Kansas sky at night.
The vast space, the endless possibilities,
the smallness of self in the big scheme of things,
and I stop taking myself so seriously,

As I listen to the night singing under the full moon,
I am sure that with enough time,
a song will come to me and bring the familiar
comfort of childhood when I heard music everywhere.

~Michele Couture

Monday, August 12, 2013

Vacationing at Home: Day 7

Day 7:  Sunday

Today was a perfect day. Woke up and brewed some delicious coffee, sat outside and caught up with some reading I have wanted to do. The screen house is helpful during the day with the amount of insects flying from plant to plant, flower to flower.

The Sunchokes and Marigolds are blooming, much later than last year. Morning Glories and Moon flowers appear and disappear each day. The most prolific flowering plant is the buckwheat we spread around. It attracts the largest variety of insects.

This week off has seemed like a month to me. Paying attention to each day - enough to be sure not to miss it, but not caught up in over planning each moment - has really made each day stretch out and I feel very relaxed. When I return to the work I do at my Mon- Fri job, I have a different perspective now. It's just one of the important things I do and no matter what happens or how long it lasts, I feel really good about my contributions there and in the rest of my life. Keeping a balance is what will keep me from being stressed out again.

During the Permaculture class I took - one of the things said is that we all really need to be able to do at least five things, because the way we work is changing, the way we are employed is changing. It may very well be that many of us will work more than one part time job. Or maybe we'll learn to do what our grandparents did? Grow our own food, spend Sundays with family, babysit for each other and live nearby so we can build a stronger community?

The world is changing and it's an exciting time to live in - we have access to more information than ever before and can learn as much as we choose.  My interests and possible jobs would be: permaculture design, gardening, food security, writing, music, cooking, teaching and advertising as long as I have to.  I have heard figures that say 1 in 3 children in this city, where I live,  are not sure where there next meal will come from. Hundreds in the school system are homeless. That doesn't include the adults or the elderly. This is something I would like to help find a solution for.

So my week off was amazing - a week of great food and friends, relaxation and reflection and a start in a new direction, if only internally right now. Every change starts with a decision and that is made.

What tomorrow brings remains to be seen.

Sunchoke flower (Jerusalem Artichoke)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Vacationing at Home: Day 6

Day 6: Saturday

Today was a great day to sleep in, hang around the house and garden and talk with neighbors. Spent a fun day relaxing, watched a couple of movies, and had some friends over tonight for gaming. I, of course, play a Druid in D&D and it's lots of fun to play and write a story with our friends.

I finished my project and uploaded my final for the Permaculture class. Now I would like to find another challenge, another place to design and work toward teaching abundance, food security, and sustainability. I look forward to where this new perspective on everything will take me.

For house projects today, I gathered together laundry and washed, dried, hung up and folded everything I could find in this house that needed to be cleaned. With everything for the week ready to go, tomorrow I work on the next project - gathering all paperwork, books and magazines to the basement to sort, trash, donate and shred where appropriate.

One project a day seems to work well - nice days on outdoor projects, and rainy days on indoor projects. The difference this time, is that when these bigger indoor projects are done - I won't have to do them again. There won't be a junk drawer or closet left untouched and when I'm done, there will only be what is necessary and needed.

For today's pictures - veggies and fruit from the garden. The perennials are growing: trees, vines, berries, nuts, and other plants.  The raised beds change day to day. We dug up the red potatoes and canned 27 pint jars for winter. The other beds have a variety of plants - we keep trying a few different things in each to find what will grow best for us.  The squashes are thriving this year and I am looking forward to a pumpkin harvest in the autumn.  Our cherry tomatoes are just starting to flower and the canning tomatoes just might make it.

Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke) 

Sugar Pumpkins

Gala Apples

Cherry Tomatoes finally starting to flower

Hot peppers!

Small Red beans for drying
Carrots growing, growing, growing

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Vacationing at Home: Day 5

Day 5: Friday

The day dawned gray and cloudy and within an hour, we knew that it was going to be a day of much rain. The garden was watered, the rain barrels filled, and we planned out our day.

First we relaxed and I finished my project - all but the final pictures I would be taking on Saturday for the "before and after" shots of the garden.  Around noon we defrosted some delicious Turkey soup from the Mass Local food coop and had a light lunch. We called a cab and went to Higgin's Armory   and spent a couple of hours looking around at weapons and armor. It's bitter sweet knowing that this amazing place has been in Worcester my whole life and I just now am going for the first time. And even more disappointing is that it will be closing its doors in December. Thankfully the Art Museum will keep much of the collection, but it will not be able to replicate the love and attention to detail that this museum has carried for so many years.  The pictures are not the greatest, but they captured some of the amazing treasures and the vision of a great man.

After Higgins Armory we went to the Boynton for delicious dinner - I had their amazing Gluten Free pizza which is my new favorite and I often get when we go there.  After the Boynton, the monsoon let up long enough for us to run across the street to the Wine Vine for their wine tasting. I love this shop and learning about different wines from all over the world.

After we picked up our favorite wine, we got a cab home, changed into p.j.'s and had a mini marathon of Game of Thrones - drank wine and ate popcorn and had a fun night.

I would encourage anyone who thinks where they live has "nothing to do" or is boring - to take a walk or a cab, start looking at the city you live in as a tourist would. The places on brochures were often built by the people who founded, supported and often still are benefactors of the place you live. Then I would encourage you to ask what will be left when you are old? Will you begin something that will leave a legacy? A place to visit ? Will you do something that will create a lasting memory for you, your family and friends, and community? 

Forget what you know and go out seeking what you don't know. There is so much more of life to live and so much more to see! 


The old display hall - before everything was put into cases







Friday, August 9, 2013

Vacationing at Home: Day 4

Day 4 - Thursday

It was a rainy and quiet morning, so we slept in. Rob went to see his Dad and I worked on cleaning up the house. This paring down of excess takes awhile. The nature of what we are trying to do with our garden, and becoming as sustainable as possible, requires some pretty specialized equipment for canning and food storage. I have no problem keeping the tools and equipment we need - what I still am figuring out is the massive amount of paperwork, mail, magazines, etc. that four adults generate. If I am honest about it - quite a bit of it is mine. I'm letting all but one of the magazines expire. I really enjoy Countryside, and have read it for years, and reread them - so those I'm keeping.

I spent some time hanging out with my daughter when she got home from work, which is always enjoyable, and then I worked for hours on the Powerpoint and drawings for my Permaculture final project. Working on this project for a design to make our property sustainable reveals some things to me personally. I feel overcrowded with many of the things around me. Clothing, books, paperwork, etc. I have been spending time thinking about my habits, hobbies, and day to day living and the effect it has on the world around me - and if my personal lifestyle is sustainable. Where I buy my clothes from, where our food comes from, all of the the other things we buy or throw away and how it effects the environment. We have found a place to buy local meat, cheese, eggs, etc. through Mass Local Food and next I want to find a way to buy clothing local. I'm just starting the research on this.

When Rob got home - he suggested we go to Rosalina's for dinner. It's so great to have such an amazing place to eat that we can walk a couple of blocks to. Dinner was delicious and I have almost 1/2 of my steak left - so tomorrow it's going to become a topping when I make my first gluten free (rice crust) pizza!

It was a slower paced day - but I find that I get more done when I can work on a project, then take a break and walk around or sit in the yard - and then get back to the project. Smaller bursts of work have a longer lasting effect on the progress I make.

One project was to clear off, organize (and get rid of) a bunch of useless things on the counter downstairs in our basement kitchen. So, I cleaned everything up to make a nice area for baking (and storing baking supplies) as well as a bigger space for canning and processing veggies from the garden. The cabinets are for food storage - for what doesn't fit in the couple of cabinets we have upstairs. Most of the baking supplies need to stay in a cooler place, so this is perfect. Also - with the space ready to use like this - I will be more likely to whip up some delicious meal or treat.  During the summer, when we don't use the wood stove for heating - we do our cooking downstairs in the gas stove.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Vacationing at Home: Day 3

Day 3

Today we woke up early and went to breakfast at Shaker's. Delicious, delicious eggs, bacon and potatoes. It was a beautiful early morning walk there and back to the house. Again, something right near home offers such an amazingly satisfying experience.

During the day there was much relaxing and I worked on my project for awhile. Then we did some weeding of the garden beds and planted some lettuce in the spaces where nothing is growing, checked the carrots and decided they need to wait a bit before they are ready to can.

Tonight I tried the first of the gluten free recipes:  Rice Flour Muffins (Sue's Rice Flour Muffins - it's on the package, so I figured a safe place to start.)

2 Eggs
1 Cup Liquid (water, fruit juice, milk)
I used Coconut Milk (yum)
4 Tablespoons Sugar
4 Tablespoons Canola Oil ( I used Olive oil)
2 Cups Bob's Red Mill White Rice Flour
4 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
4 Tablespoons finely chopped pecan halves or
1/4 cup Dried Blueberries (I used 1/2 cup fresh delicious organic blueberries)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease 12 Muffin tin
(I used brown paper muffin tin liners)
In a mixing bowl, place all ingredients, mix well.
Pour into prepared muffin tin.
Bake for 17-20 minutes.

Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing from tin.
Yield: 12 Large muffins.

I can't be sure of the exact time it took for the muffins because I brought them downstairs, put them into the oven and heard a huge crash, and then a pop and air coming out of a tire.

Someone was (as per usual) screaming up our street above the speed limit and hit a parked car belonging to the friend of our neighbors. Fortunately, no one was out playing at that time and everyone in the car that crashed was ok. With the ambulances, firetruck and police cars, it could have been a much worse situation.

As I'm sitting here now, I can hear cars rushing by above the speed limit and were it not for our new, amazing windows, I'm sure they would be rattling...

The muffins are delicious, the inconsiderate selfish nature of people and the violent reaction to poor choices of others - makes me desire a home in the woods away from the rushing speed that people feel they need to live at!

Don't miss it, people. Get out that mixing bowl, and make these delicious treats, mixing slowly by hand and eating slowly, one bite at a time. You will know they are ready because they look ready and are firm to the touch. I stuck a knife into one, and it came out clean. They probably could have used a couple more minutes if you want to brown them, but I didn't want to dry them out too much. I think the next batch will have chocolate chips.

Don't miss it! Treasure this life because so many are taking it for granted and not paying attention. It makes no sense to me because there's no reason to hurry...

Tonight we watched a movie called Babette's Feast - a charming movie about love and food.
Quote from wikipedia:  "Although the other celebrants refuse to comment on the earthly pleasures of their meal, Babette's gifts breaks down their distrust and superstitions, elevating them physically and spiritually. Old wrongs are forgotten, ancient loves are rekindled, and a mystical redemption of the human spirit settles over the table."

If only every meal shared could be such a meal, and if only I could be such a chef !
A perfect way to end the day. Good-night.

Vacationing at home: Day 2

Yesterday we woke up early, and as Rob took Pippin for his yearly check up and shots, I took my quiz for the on-line Permaculture course I am taking.

Pippin is healthy and happy to be back home. He isn't really fond of vet visits...

And I passed my quiz. All that is left now, is to finish the design I am working on for our home, yard, & garden and turn it in.

We also went down to the True Value Hardware on Hamilton Street to find some jars to store the new flours we ordered. We bought some great canning jars that are 1/2 gallon size - perfect for storing flours and grains! I have all the supplies I need now to start mixing and experimenting with the different gluten-free flours.

All of the flours, Xantham Gum, and Coconut oil

Awesome and very useful jars
Tapioca pearls, Coconut flour, Tapioca Flour, White Rice Flour, Buckwheat
Xanthan Gum, and Coconut Oil

While we were watering the veggie beds, we pulled out one of the Purple Dragon Carrots to see how they are doing... and they are almost ready to can - although I have read that they turn a really interesting shade of brown when they are canned. I guess we'll use those in stews  =)

Purple Carrots have the same anti-oxidants that are in blueberries and are delicious!


Monday, August 5, 2013

Vacationing at home: Day 1

Day 1:

Having this week off from working at my job, and the free time it creates - gives me much time to relax. I slept in over the weekend and really rested, and today, when I woke up I found that the projects I wanted to get done are slowly getting started.

The end of Summer creates a long list of things to do to get ready for the winter.  Well, let's be honest about it - I always have a list of projects I am working on. Today all of the different flours I ordered arrived - so the rest of this week will include some new gluten free baking.I also have the measuring tools, etc. that I ordered to work on my Permaculture final of designing our house and land to be sustainable. Once that is done and uploaded, I will be certified in Permaculture.

Today, we took a little vacation trip in Worcester. We went down the hill and caught the bus up to Lincoln Plaza. It's truly a beautiful (almost autumn-like) day and after we got off the bus we browsed around Target, but didn't find anything we needed. We went to Barnes and noble and got a double espresso, bought a movie on sale and a book called Vegetable Literacy that groups plants together by family for growing and cooking.

After the bookstore, we walked over to the grocery store and I found a bread to try with gluten-free ingredients. I want to try the bread so I know if the flavor is something I really want to duplicate by figuring out recipes for gluten-free breads.  We picked up a couple of other things at the grocery store and headed back home on the bus.

What I realized is that when there is no hurry, time slows down so much. Waking up is just waking up, brewing coffee is brewing coffee and it's all enjoyable because time has slowed down. Being rested is the most noticeable difference - oh, and the stress level is non-existent.

When we got home, we relaxed for awhile, and then set up a Bagster to get rid of some broken lamps and an old bed, etc. Nothing that can be salvaged or donated.  The shed is almost empty now, and ready for the firewood we will have delivered for winter. This has been on my mind because it is only August and already heading into the 50's. Autumn seems pretty close right now! We set up the screenhouse to sit in while we are home this week.

After a dinner of delicious leftovers from dinner last night - I planted a new Sage plant and we watered the garden, and it's only 7:00. My natural flow of interests now moves to write, study the Permaculture course and work on my final design.

There is also more than enough time to wash the few dishes we use and do a load of laundry while I study. Time spreads out and is more than enough for everything. If I change my mind and decide to pay guitar or clean the basement - it doesn't matter. When there is time, everything gets done.

It feels like a vacation to wander in bookstores unbridled by any time constraint and let creativity flow in a natural way. By the end of this week the stack of projects - that sit in the back of my mind during a work week - will be done in a relaxed and fun way.

Bagster bag full