Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Real Story of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Day 2 of being home sick. It's never fun. Yesterday was a blur. Bed and fever do that to us. Today fever persists but at least I'm up and ready to eat some soup. I knew that the chicken noodle soup of my youth was what I needed. So into the freezer I went. No chicken. Well, not what we might call traditional chicken. Only chicken feet and necks. Let me begin the story there.

A few months ago a friend got her chicken back from the butcher and she was going to toss the feet and necks. "Who on Earth would want these?" she said to me. More people than you think was my thought. So I told her I'd buy them from her. They've been in my freezer ever since. So into a soup pot they went. I'm not going to lie and tell you they looked appetizing while they were cooking, on the contrary. It was rather unsettling seeing chicken toes among boiling water, carrots, and onions. But I continued. Before bed the pot went into our much cooler mud room so I could skim the top. But come morning I found the entire pot was rather congealed. Keep going, I thought. As I separated out the chicken I found myself doing something I don't usually do when making soup. I found myself giving thanks. Thanks to those chickens who were about to make me feel better. Why did I do that? Was it because I was so intimately involved with those critters? Was it because it was still very obvious what I was cooking? It was unlike the feelings we may have when putting a plastic wrapped, prepackaged chicken breast or thigh into a soup pot. And then it hit me. This is what we as a culture are missing. We are missing that connectedness to our food and our food preparation. How else could we blindly allow the continuation of such horrific meat lots? I knew this, I really did. But this allowed me to really feel it. I felt blessed.

After it was separated and just the broth remained, I added leeks, carrots, celery, garlic,parsley, and basil. All were from my garden. Chard and kale came from our local, and much loved CSA. Ginger and mushrooms came from the local grocery store. As I was chopping I remembered how beautiful the sage out in the garden looks and how I needed that in the soup too. Sage is a wonderful medicine, well at least it is for me. So out to get sage I went. It was a beautiful day. The sun felt good. It's been two weeks since I stood in the sun in my garden. And I realized that maybe that's why I was sick. I've become disconnected from the food that feeds me. The sun, the garden, the food grown in the garden. While getting my weekly CSA is a great thing and I'm so happy for it, I have come to believe that there is nothing like the spiritual connectedness we have from gardening and growing food and medicine in our own yards. This is what we need to feel wholly connected to our place, our planet, ourselves.

Take this winter to think about what you can grow in your back, side, or front yard. Even if it's just a container or two. I bet you will be so glad you did.

May we all feel peace from growing our own food,

Friday, July 3, 2015

My Life Like a Garden

Chamomile in the garlic,
lettuce in the onions,
dill in the beets,

and garlic scattered everything. That's what I found outside this morning in my garden. After being away for almost two weeks at a writing workshop, I was finally able to meander through my gardens, coffee cup in hand and check out the state of affairs. Picking garlic scapes I noticed all the sunflowers in the upper garden were nothing but sticks. I guess when you lose your dogs over the winter the deer realize they now have the upper hand of all things edible. Looking at the "where the strawberries should have been" patch I'm reminded that my husband accidentally mowed them, thinking he was helping me with my weeding. As I walked and weeded I thought about those strawberries and how I need to go strawberry picking before the season ends. I wondered, "Is the season over yet?" That's how out of touch I am this year.

Quickly realizing that the entire garden needed weeding I decided to focus on the onion bed. It was still in the shade of the raspberries so I got down on my knees and gave it a go. Two little house wrens didn't like my closeness to an obvious nest so decided to sing to me while I worked. Making mental notes to myself of all the "out of place" items that needed to be pulled I realized that I make that same mental note every year and I never do it. I always continue to let that lettuce grow in the onions and the garlic and chamomile to self sow everywhere. I guess the garden is a reflection of ourselves. Like the thoughts popping in my head the chamomile and calendula just pop up and look pleasing right where they are so there they stay.

Happy 4th of July. It's going to be a beautiful Maine weekend.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How a Garden Teaches Us to be Open

Under an Umbrella in the Pouring Rain Looking at the Tomatoes and Garlic

Rain. Rain does more than replenish the gardens of much needed water or the wells we often take our water from. In the midst of a busy gardening season rain replenishes our souls. The 2015 garden season began extremely late and has been very slow to start. With an incredibly busy and stressful school year the gardens didn't get put in until after school got out. This is a first that the garden is in so late. It wasn't until June 18th that planting began! With that said, some greens, onions, and root crops did manage to get put in early in May. But when school got out on June 16th and I finally had the time and energy to begin planting I turned right around and went back inside after I took one look at what lay ahead of me. A garden totally overgrown with weeds (and raspberries!) and near empty Remay tunnels where rows of lush greens should have been.

I posted on Face Book that I wasn't going to garden this year. It was just to much. Too overwhelming. In my 30+ years of gardening I never felt like that before. So maybe I really did need a year off. I could join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and/or shop at the local farmers markets after all. But like the kids I teach who shut down completely when a new task seems overwhelming I just stepped back and gave it time. I gave myself permission to not do it. And then, son of a gun, two days later I went out again and pulled a weed near a spinach plant. (Yes, it really did take two days to go out again!). With that small action the 2015 garden season began. And I'm so glad it did.

Gardening teaches us so much about life. It teaches us that things never go as you expect but that in the unexpected, joyful and wonderful things can happen. It teaches us that patience is a magnificent. When we are patient, the opportunities we thought couldn't be, blossom. Gardening teaches us to gently nourish the small weak ones because in that nourishment great things can grown. Never give up. Gardening teaches us that too. When we don't give up, something good happens. It may not be what we thought, but if we're open for the possibilities, it may be something new and marvelous; and gardening teaches us that be open to the unexpected.

So, for the past five days a whirlwind of planting and weeding has occurred and in the "openness" that this year's garden is encouraging in me I"m trying a few new things. I'm not planting corn. Instead I'm playing with mulching with leaves from our maple trees. In the spot where corn should have gone is a very thick layer of leaves from last fall. I want to see how well they suppress weeds and if they allow moisture to penetrate when they aren't shredded. Will worms and microbes thrive? Tomatoes are also in another area of thick leaf cover. I just pushed some leaves aside and planted tomatoes. I didn't even put cutworm collars around them. Will they grow? Potatoes weren't planted until June 20th which was the day after FEDCO Seeds posted a question on their FaceBook page that asked, "Do your potato plants have flowers yet?" Holy cow! Mine were't even in yet. When I cut them to prepare for planting many had black edges so I only planted half of what I expected. I am reminding myself to allow the unexpected. Something great may come from this. Maybe I'll get to know my local farmers better as I begin to support them more.

So, Rain. It nourishes the soul. It gave me time today to stop, reflect, and come to these conclusions that feel so much better than the initial feelings of defeat. So go ahead, grab your umbrella and walk in this rain through your garden and then just stop. Stop and look; listen and feel. That is what soul nourishment feels like, at least to me.

Nourish the tiny sage seedlings

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When to Harvest

Just when I was about to give up hope on my eggplants I found this.

As we shift from planting/mulching to harvesting/tending the question of when to harvest comes up a lot. It was nice to find this link that gives simple tips on how to tell when a variety of foods are ready for harvest:

Something else that made me smile:
I've planted quite a few of these around my gardens over the years never to get one to bloom or come back the following year. Until now. First beautiful bloom of cardinal flower. Lovely.

I tried to take photos of the bee filled sunflowers but with a breeze it was hard to do. So I'll post one I took the other day at our school garden. I just think it's the prettiest picture.

May your harvests be plenty and delicious,

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What's For Dinner?

As I was working in our school pumpkin patch today with a friend I got a text from my husband wondering what I wanted for dinner. He was planning on BBQing pork chops that we had gotten from a local farm. Years ago I gave up eating meat. As my children got older they really wanted meat on the dinner menu. So we began to eat it again. Then I watched a movie. I don't remember the title exactly, maybe Food Inc or something like that. It ended, or at least I stopped watching, at the most inhumane death scene of a cow. That was the first time I had heard of factory farming and saw the slaughter houses that follow. I know this may sound silly but I cried like a baby as I watched that. I couldn't believe we, in this country, could, would, treat another living thing like that. So I began researching factory farming and that was when I stopped eating meat again. It took a while to get my family to stop purchasing meat that lived a life of absolute torture but it happened when local meat became available. The local foods movement has made local, grass fed, humanely raised and butchered meat available again. So our family made the switch. At first my husband said how expensive it was. Then we began to raise hens for eggs. We became acutely aware that the local meat wasn't in fact expensive. The problem was the grocery store meat was cheap. And the only way to get such cheap meat was to raise the animals it comes from in cramped quarters eating extremely unhealthy food. The local meat is in fact the true price of meat. Believe it or not this story does lead to, "What's for dinner?"

So I thought about what I wanted for dinner. I didn't have a clue. When I got home I went out into the garden to see if there was something for dinner. I knew there were still lots of greens. But I wanted more than sautéed greens over rice. A basket of greens and the contents of the above basket is what I came in with. Dinner. Isn't it great to walk out back and go grocery shopping!

May your garden baskets be full! Bon Appetit!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Herb Butter

My family loves to use herb butter in place of butter for some cooking and eating. A favorite is for radish sandwiches. Simply butter rye bread with herb butter and pile on thick slices of radishes to form a sandwich.
We also like herb butter on toast, when frying eggs, and to use when making grilled cheese sandwiches.

It's so simple to do:
Gather a nice sized bunch of culinary herbs. I use what is on hand. A favorite combination includes french tarragon, common sage, rosemary, basil, dill, thyme, lavender, parsley, lemon balm, garlic chives, and chives. But you can use whatever herbs you enjoy.

Remove unwanted debris including stems

Chop fine

Mix with room temperature butter. Real butter. Made from local, grass fed animals is best.


Bee Swell - Free Bee Poster

We need bees to pollinate the food plants we grow. Without pollinators we lose a lot of food choice. Did you know that 53% of plants sold at major retailers tested positive for bee-killing neonicotinoids? Ask before you buy! Learn more and download a beautiful bee poster for free! Another reason to buy plants from small, local greenhouses and farms.