Wednesday, July 22, 2009

'Gardening By The Moon Calendar' and living with a Cancer

Because of the eclipse in the new moon in Cancer yesterday, I opted not to replant the garden areas that were harvested a few days ago. Friday the waxing moon will be in Virgo (an earth sign). I'll do it then.. I have learned not to plant when the moon is in a fire or air sign. It just doesnt work. When I first started gardening I couldnt figure out why some things grew effortlessly and some things never made it out of the ground. Then a talk with my 90 year old grandmother, who spent her entire life farming, brought to light the need to plant and cultivate by the moon. She sent me my first farmers almanac with planting dates and I ran with it. This year my local nursury carried a grand addition to any household living the artisan life. 'Gardening By The Moon Calendar'. This thing is great. It gives you the phase and sign of the moon daily and times for ingress (start times). It also makes suggestions for what to plant and when to fertilize and prune and so forth. Extra perks include knowing what days Double Cancer Jimmy is going to be moody,difficult or delightful. Of all the signs Cancer is most influenced by the phases of the moon. So even if you dont garden... if you are a cancer or if you live with one I recommend this calendar for your sanity. Since Cancers wax and wane with the moon.... This gives you a tool to stay on top of what is coming for the day.From the new moon til the full moon Cancers tend to be a little more upbeat,positive and productive. From the Full moon to dark phase they gradually loose energy. Most cancers spend the last three days before the new moon doing nothing. If they are forced to do somthing like say... go to work, they can get awfully cranky about it. This info applies to most Cancers... unless there are mitigating signatures in their personal chart. I'm going to try to put this great lunar calendar under recommended reading for those who might need it. Its a great help for non-Cancers who need to get things done. Basic Rule: Start new projects on the new moon. From the Full moon to the dark, finish up old projects and get rid of things that don't work. I discovered this little trick on my own about ten years ago and it sure helps alleviate a lot of frustrations when you time your life to natural rythyms.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Haunted Garden photos

I took some photos of the garden yesterday... before I pulled up the beets. take a look at the tomatoe bed photos. Even ghosts like fresh vegetables! I zoomed in on the creepy face so you can get a better look at him.

Tis the season for making wine! Here's the family recipe!

Wine making .......I come from a long line of bootleggers,ridgerunners and blockade runners. One of my great uncles was killed by gubment 'revenuers' in the 1930's while tending/defending his still. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I was born with the booze-making gene. Been doing it since Dad deemed me ready for initiation into the wonders of alcohol production at the tender age of 16. Just a little back history here....... When I was a teenager, my father and I couldnt be in a room together for more than 10 minutes without all hell breaking loose. (some say its because we are too much alike). Until the night he needed my assist with the family tradition.... something clicked between us that night and we found a common ground. Dont get me wrong. The fighting still raged on until I left home, but now there were these productive breaks of mutually agreed cease-fire,where we almost liked each other. Years later Dad and I are great friends and we still work together to produce some truly amazing beverages! (and it looks like my son got the gene).
Onward and forward... there is a reason for this post. Its THE SEASON, In a couple of more weeks the first fruit of the year will begin showing up. The eternal question "what do we do with all these plums/apples/cherries/blackberries etc" will arise. After all you can only make so many pies and so much jam before you have too much. But in my experience you can never have too much wine. With that in mind I have opted to share the family recipe with you. Its a basic,simple,organic starting point. The original is written in fading ink on a piece of torn brown paper grocery bag that I have laminated to preserve. The steps are not in order on the original so I took the time to put them in coherent step by step form for you. Keep in mind, some of you will read this and know exactly what to do. You will immediatley understand the alchemical process involved. Others will read this and re-read it and never really get it. If you are one of those who gets it .... you have the gene. If you are one of those who don't get it.... Its ok, someone has to be a jam maker!
So without further ado here is a gift from me to you!

Make your own wine.
To do this you will need:
1 five gallon plastic bucket with lid
1 five gallon glass water jug (called a carboy)
1 plastic airlock
1 cork for carboy with whole bored for airlock to fit
Large stew pot
Potato masher
Sterile siphon hose
Cheese clothe or old Pillow case
2 oz ‘s of pectic enzyme
1 lemon
10 pounds of sugar
1 small packet of wine yeast
10 pounds of fruit (plum is the easiest to start with)
1 packet campden tablets
All items on this list can be purchased either online or at your local brew store
Step 1. Sterilize all equipment
2. Pit ( no need to peal) and cut up fruit and put in plastic bucket.
3. In a large stew pot put 2 ½ gallons of water, juice of half a lemon, 5 pounds of sugar and 2 oz of pectic enzyme. Heat to just under boiling, making sure all the sugar is dissolved.
4. Pour sugar solution over fruit in five gallon bucket.
5. Wait one hour or until solution and fruit have cooled to room temperature and then add the packet of yeast and stir lightly.
6. Put lid on bucket and let sit over night
7. Each day for 7 days , remove lid and mash fruit with a potato masher.
8 .Day Seven , strain juice from fruit through cheese cloth
9. Put juice into Five gallon carboy
10 Put 2 gallons of water in stew pot and heat to just under boiling
11. Put remaining 5 pounds of sugar in hot water and dissolve thoroughly
12. Wait until sugar water cools to room temperature and add to juice in carboy
13. Slide airlock into bored cork and place in opening of carboy
14. Add 1 campden tablet to airlock and 2 tablespoons of water
15. It is wise at this point to seal cork with wax from a candle
16. Put carboy in a warm place and walk away for 1 month
17. At the end of one month you will notice a heavy sediment on the bottom of the carboy….siphon the now ‘working ‘wine back into the sterilized plastic bucket leaving the sediment behind.
18. Pour sediment down drain and clean carboy well
19. Put wine back into carboy and re-seal as before
20. Repeat siphoning process (called racking) every couple of months or so until no sediment forms on bottom
21. When sediment ceases to form, your wine is done and ready to bottle
22. The fermenting process could take from 6 months to a year but it is well worth the wait!
Don’t forget to treat yourself to a glass every time you rack the wine…….. You will be able to taste the changes as nature makes its bounty.

Just a few notes. Wine made with this recipe will be higher in alcohol content than commercially produced. There are no sulphites in this wine. You should get 2 1/2 cases of wine per carboy (give or take). Bottles fished out of recycleing, de-labeled and sterilized will keep costs down. Try to use real cork when it is available and never never never use a screw cap for homemade wine. Once you have made a batch of this wine you can add specific herbs to make it medicinal. When winter weather arrives I will post a mulling recipe that will make the holidays oh-so-much easier to tolerate!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Todays Plan

Gardening is at the top of the list. The first of the beets are ready to come up and be pickled. Actually pickled with the yummy spices grandma recommends which are clove,cinnamon,mustard seed and bay leaf. Just a tiny pinch per jar. An apple cider vinegar/water/suger/salt mix with turbinado instead of refined white sugar. I use a ratio of 1/2 vinegar, 1/2 water... sugar and salt to taste. Last year we tried to do 30 lbs of beets in one day. Never again.... It took all day and the whole kitchen was fuschia when we were done. So from now on we are only doing 10 lbs at a time. While Ida Baily Allen says they need to cure for 6 weeks... We have found that they rech maximum flavor in about 14 weeks.
Also going to cut herbs for drying today. I love herb day!.. It makes the whole house smell delicious. By this evening we should have sage,oregano, rosemary, tarragon and parsely hanging from the drying shelf.
Special Thanks goes out to my friend with the magic hands. She gave me 2 cases of canning jars from the 20's and 30's ... with glass lids. They are beautiful jars that have turned green, blue and purple over the last 80 some years. They are perfect for storing our dried herbs!
Speaking of herbs. From our own herbs I made a mixture of sage, tarragon, garlic , Olive oil, apple cider vinegar (with the mother) and a bit of sea salt, Put it all in the morter bowl and pestled it to mush then slathered it all over a small pork roast, then threw the pork roast on the grill. I dont think pig has ever tasted better!. To complete our meal, we dug up a couple of fist sized potatoes from the garden and grilled those as well next to Jimmys snow peas. Yep, there is something satisfying on a primal level when eating food grown and prepped with your own hands. Thank God for the garden..... with the economy tanking and work slowing down ...Its the one thing that seems to calm Jimmy down. Not sure what I'm going to do with him after the fall harvest. I'm trying to talk him into doing some hydroponic gardening in the garage this winter. I cant let him just play Halo all winter... cuz first- person shooter games make him too cranky to live with!
From the skinny well- fed people in my house to the plump, not quite full , people in your house,
Best diet ever…. For free…… no consultation fees, no hardback , overpriced book. No self discipline needed. Eat till your full. This diet will make you look and feel great. Follow these rules and with a little bit of exercise the weight will come off without even trying.

GOLDEN RULE: If its not real, don’t eat it.

1.Eat no corporate food. This is a simple rule, simply refuse to eat anything produced by a corporation . I would give you a sample list but I don’t want to get sued, But it includes fast food, ’family’ restaurants, and processed foods in the grocery store. If you are reading this I’m guessing you are smart enough to figure it out on your own.
2. Do all your shopping on the outside of the aisles (This puts meat, produce , dairy and the bakery in your basket first.
3.No processed foods (I.e. easy cheese, hamburger helper, soup from a can, )
4. If it says low-fat, diet, low carb, sugar free, lite, light, or any version of a modified real product designed for fat people only….TREAT IT LIKE POISON……cuz it is.
5. 3 meals a day, Good breakfast, with eggs, bacon (yes you can have a slice or two of bacon on this diet and jam on your toast) If you are a cereal person (keep it to real oatmeal, malto meal or shredded wheat)….include fruit with your breakfast and some juice. Try to make your big meal of the day lunch and then have a light supper.
6. Cut your meat portions in half. Double or even triple your vegetable portions.
7. Substitute carrots, squash, turnips, etc 3 or 4 times a week for rice, potatoes and pasta . (you don’t have to give up R,P,P….just vary things a little)
8 Throw out the margarine and butter substitutes…….
9 Get yourself some real butter and Olive oil. SEE GOLDEN RULE ABOVE
10. Add some sort of pickled foods to your diet…beats, cucumbers, peppers etc (just a few bites of these help to process the fatty foods better)
11.Stay away from the chip and soda aisle …..except for parties and special events ( lets be reasonable here)
12 Add red wine to your evening meal…. It helps the digestion, kills any stray bugs that might have survived the preparation process and helps you get a good nights sleep.
13. If it wasn’t available to your great-great-great grandmother……don’t eat it.
14. Be reasonable and use your critical thinking skills….mayonnaise and mustard are ok…..Fat free ranch dressing is not . Dried pasta is ok….. Pasta in a can …is not. If it is microwaveable or ready to eat…..its not ok. Cheese is good……. Unless it says K#@*t. You are smart….You get the point….I don’t need to drive it home and beat you over the head with endless lists!
The above 13 are the basic rules and now here are some suggestions…. If you can reasonably fit them into your lifestyle……
1. If you can make it yourself….do….vinegar, bread, wine, jams, pickles, Anything you can make yourself is healthier than commercially produced….. Anytime. If you have a backyard you can throw a couple of chickens into …do . Your own chickens will produce a much more nutritious egg.
2. Don’t overcook your veggies.
3. Put in a small vegetable garden with lettuce, ‘other’ greens and onions. (you can put in other stuff as well but lettuce onions and ‘other’ greens will grow most of the year and they are easy…requiring nothing more than throwing some seeds in the dirt. You will always have a salad handy (no aging, wilting lettuce in the fridge) and gardening is good exercise and can be very Zen. Oh yeah and in the season when everyone else is paying extortionist prices for ‘fresh’ greens ……you are saving money and getting a better nutritional product..
4. Try to make at least one meal a day a relaxed , enjoyable experience…….(if once a day doesn’t work…… try at least once a week)
5. Try a French dinner once in a while ( wine bread, cheese, salami, sliced fruit and a raw vegetable with a small bowl of balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping)……..A great ‘supper’ and very romantic if eaten in front of the fire with your favorite squeeze. Its gastrointestinaley gentle should you choose a lustful conclusion to your evening .
6. Once you make the initial change over to this healthy and fulfilling diet (it will take about 30 days)……STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR DIET! Quit thinking of food as your enemy. If you eat real food….it will be your friend….
7. Bake, broil, grill, sauté’ roast, steam as much of your food as you can…Try to limit the fried foods. No need to eliminate them…..just control them. (My friends and family love chicken-fried-steak Sunday)
8. If a recipe calls for “add a can of cream of mushroom soup” Toss the recipe.
9. If you can find a cook book by Ida Bailey Allen……….This woman should have a statue erected in her honor. Her paragraph on how commercial preservatives are poison ( written in 1924)is a priceless read!
10.Get out of the house….Go for a walk, go bowling…Hang out on the corner and talk to friends but ……get out of the house!.
12. Turn off the TV and computer
13. Get involved in your community………..Local theater, jam night at the local pub, game night at the rec center or something ,maybe, noble like raising funds for a food bank or homeless shelter.
14. I realize this next one is a Herculean and possibly Sisyphean task…….But ….try to limit your exposure to advertising…….. Commercials bombard us with constant criticism….They tell you , you are fat, ugly, smelly, sick, have bad hair, bad skin, bad taste, bad breath, bad social habits, and the list goes on……. If we lived with a spouse, friend, parent or anyone else that made us feel this bad about ourselves or said so many nasty things about us in one day or tried to force us to do everything their way….. …..We would run away screaming or kill them or ourselves. So why passively allow this crap into our lives. If for some reason you can’t limit your exposure….at least make a point to become aware of when they are doing it. And then try to become defensive. Boycott any product that makes you feel in the tiniest bit lacking. ( you will find that when images of food aren’t in your face all day ….the urge to graze will just go away naturally)
15. Get a hobby……. doesn’t matter what it is…….just start doing something you enjoy………
16. Realize that you are the only one you can control…and leave everyone else to their own devices……Yes this includes your family. And don’t let them control you. (This rule should be heavily modified if you have teens in the house…..and if you have teens in the house……God…..I’m so sorry!)
17. Get angry about what has been done to you by corporate food producers and fight back by NOT giving them your money.
18. For the exercise part of this diet……It doesn’t mean joining a health club. A walk after dinner, parking at the back of the parking lot…..gardening, a hobby…..anything where you are moving around will do. (my great grandmother sat in a rocking chair every evening…..When she died at almost a hundred she had legs that a Hollywood starlet would kill for and an almost flat belly.) A bicycle ride or bowling or softball or archery or yoga or some other form of classic exercise will indeed take any excess weight off faster….. But if you are not the ‘sporty’ type….don’t worry about it. Especially if you have a labor intensive day job.

So….There ya go…..Basic rules…some added suggestions and a little psych advice and some common sense. No hype to sell a book or specialty foods……. just a really good diet that gets healthy results. Bon appetite!

Artisan Lifestyle

ar·ti·san (Websters definiton)
Pronunciation: \ˈär-tə-zən, -sən, chiefly British ˌär-tə-ˈzan\ Function: noun Etymology: Middle French, from northern Italian dialect form of Tuscan artigiano, from arte art, from Latin art-, ars Date: 1538
1 : a worker who practices a trade or handicraft : craftsperson 2 : one that produces something (as cheese or wine) in limited quantities often using traditional methods

— ar·ti·san·al \-zə-nəl, -sə-, -ˈza-\ adjective
— ar·ti·san·ship \-ˌship\ noun

We are Artisan. Typically artisans practice traditional artistic pursuits as well…..painters, sculptors, potters, dancers, musicians, actors …and the list goes on. We don’t really live by modern consumerist rules. Our homes are usually filled with the fruits of our own creativity. When friends drop by to chat they are entertained by the art on the walls while being served homemade wine and bread baked in our own ovens.. Our homes smell of linseed oil, sawdust and cinnamon.. We wear hand knitted sweaters and keep warm under quilts made of old blue jeans. We are determinist in our thinking, our awareness of cause and effect higher than that of the average person. We know that what we do makes a difference in the world. We reuse recycle and repurpose without being told. We are functional . We are patient. We know that what we produce with our own hands is far more valuable than that which is mass produced. We drive 8 year old cars because our self worth is tied to what we produce not what we drive. We understand technology and adapt it to suit our lifestyle, not the other way around. We are Artisan.