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Archive for April, 2009

The sun has come out and my shoulders and back are even a touch sunburned.  We spent the weekend outdoors building and mending and attempting to bring this land back from disrepair.  The weather has warmed significantly and so the garden is our first priority.  We have decided only to fence for rabbits and to keep the chickens out as we have never seen even one deer down in the valley.  A fence then requires a gate.  One of the few good things about living on a piece of land that the previous owners used as a home and a dump is all of the things you can scavenge to build with.  I searched the land and found all of these goodies and built two fabulous garden gates.

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and…

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Of course the view is slightly impaired by the hulking metal monstrosity behind it.  That beautiful “shop” came with the house and is awaiting demolition to be sold as scrap.  It is huge and we do not need a wood mill.  Ironically, most people that have visited our land seem more excited about the shed then the mountains.  People have pleaded with us not to dismantle it but despite all of the wonderful ideas of uses including a dance hall, an indoor basketball court, my stained glass studio, and my personal favorite-using it to store other people’s crap in,  we are going to remove it.  Anyhow, hopefully in future shots you will see nothing but the trees that surround the creek.

Last week I made another meal out of our bounty of wild elk meat and included some wild crafted jelly I made last fall.  The recipe follows

Elk Tenderloin Steaks with Elderberry Pan Sauce

  • 2 lbs Elk Tenderloin, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • Salt and Pepper

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup Sliced Mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp Capers
  • 2 tsp Mustard
  • 1tsp Finely Chopped Rosemary
  • 2 tbsp Elderbery Jelly
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • Juices reserved from resting steaks

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high heat.  After the steaks are sliced, tenderize them a bit with a mallet to make them a bit larger.  Crush garlic and rub steaks with garlic and salt and pepper. Pan fry with a little oil about 3 minutes on each side until medium rare.  Set steaks aside and cover, they will continue cooking to medium.

Add more oil to skillet and saute mushrooms until soft.  Add capers, jelly, mustard, rosemary and juices from the steaks or a little water if the sauce is too thick.  Finish sauce by stirring butter into to sauce and serve immediately over steak.

We loved this recipe,  I ended up cooking  the elk this way simply because the tenderloin was in all sorts of weird pieces and this was the only way I could think to save it.  It ended up being incredibly tender and my favorite way to eat tenderloin now.  The wild bite of the sauce was a perfect accompaniment to the wild meat.

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Outside it is raining, the rain falls gently as it does in the PNW.  We had many days of sun and small leaves are finally beginning to show themselves on some of the trees.  Easter was spent camping on the East side in a canyon outside Wenatchee.  I brought two dozen eggs from the hens and attempted some natural dying,  and ended up witheggs colored slate from elderberries, brown from rosehips, yellow-green from usnea lichen and grass, and orange from onion skins and oregon grape root.  Rewilded Easter colors I guess.  img_0097We munched on the fresh green shoots of cattails and dug the corms of the purslane family flower Western Spring Beauty.  img_0096Vesla’s dog was is heaven after finding and burying four different deer legs.

Saturday evening we were startled by a herd of 20 or so deer that sneeked up near our camp and in the night I woke to the sound of hoof after hoof making its way to the waterhole near our tent.  My happiness at living in this part of the world is constantly reinforced when I take weekend trips.  It is amazing how much diversity in ecosystems there are within this small state.  On just a short weekend trip I can travel the lush rainforesty coastal side and then go through high dessert forests,  down to dry river canyons with big horn sheep and rolling sagebrush hills. img_0079 The draw that I’ve always felt to New Mexico is easily quelled by a short trip to the dry side of the mountains.  And despite the range of beautiful things I see around the area my heart is always eased as I recross the pass and waterfalls cascade all around and green is the only color you see.  When ever I come home Iam reminded how the these mountains really could only be called the Cascades.

The baby kicks inside of me and there is much work to be done around the homestead,  I am grateful the kitties are as sleepy as I am and I watch  as spring comes, slowly.

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While many of you  may have already had your fill of nettles this year, up here at my little magical end of the Stillaguamish river valley, the bounty has just begun.  There are little pockets of emerald rosettes emerging from all around the creeks edges and blanketing the ground beneath the fir forests.  They come up out of the ground looking like plump, puckered red lips.  Little spring kisses from the earth.

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I am now entering my 17th week of pregnancy,  my tummy is beginning to protrude and so much of the first trimesters ailments have happily passed.  I have opted not to take pre-natal vitamins, for many reasons that I won’t list here, but I know I need to supplement my diet to ensure that I get all the nutrition I need.  Its funny because in this case its me I need to worry about,  this little baby will get all it needs and then leave whatever is left to me, so to make sure I fair well good nutrition is very important.

Of course Nettle’s nutritional and medicinal qualities are well known to many but I thought  I would detail a bit of what it can do specifically for the pregnant woman. Nettles contain large amounts of calcium, iron,sulphur, phosphorus, and potassium as well as vitamins A, C, D, and K.  Taken as an infusion throughout pregnancy, nettle can help reduce or eliminate leg cramps and muscle spasms and ease the pain during and after child birth.  It is high in absorb-able mineral salts, including calcium which helps with leg  and uterine pains.

It is famous as a tonic for the urinary tract, and while many women suffer from infections of the urinary tract while pregnant a stiff decoction can help flush out the marauding painful bacteria.  A pregnant woman also has 50% more blood circulating through her body than she did before pregnancy and therefor her kidneys are working 50% harder.  Nettle’s help in keeping the the kidneys healthy is a boon to any pregnant women.

In a hospital birth vitamin K shots are often given to newborns to prevent internal bleeding, drinking or eating large amounts of nettles in the last month of pregnancy can help ensure that there is already ample vitamin K in the blood stream eliminating the need for supplementation and the fear of bleeding.

I drink an infusion almost daily and supplement my meals with the fresh plant to help get all the nourishment I can from these beautiful plants.  Last night I made a feast of stewed lamb with nettle and peaches with a side of nettle yogurt dip.  The recipe is as follows but be sure to improvise to your own tastes as I do.  Enjoy the bounty and eat your weeds!

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Stewed Spiced Lamb with Nettles and Peaches

  • 2 lbs lamb shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • brown rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seed
  • 4 cloves garlic smashed
  • 1 Tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 2 cups sliced peaches
  • 1 1/2 cup finely chopped nettle( I pulsed mine in the food processor)

In large heavy duty dutch oven heat 3 tbsp olive oil, put lamb into pot and brown on all sides.  Once browned add onions and cook until slightly wilted.  Crush spices in mortar and pestle and add to pot along with cinnamon, garlic, ginger and pepper.  Cook 2 minutes.  Deglaze the pot with vinegar and cover with water one inch above the meat.  Bring to boil, cover, cook for one hour, add peaches and nettles and cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until the water has mostly evaporated, serve with yogurt sauce and fresh vegtables.

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Nettle Dip

  • 2 cups finely chopped nettles (pulsed in food processor for best results)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 6 green olives
  • 2 anchovy filets
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 3/4 cups yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1/3 cup jicima finely diced (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Lightly brown garlic in a heated skillet with 1 tbsp olive oil, once browned add nettles and 1/4 cup of water and sautee until well cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temp.  In a food processor add all ingerdients and pulse until thouroughly mixed.  Remove from food processor and stir in jicima, chill and serve as a sauce for meats, a dip, or a delicious salad dressing.

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Oh what weather we have been having.  days of glorious sun, warmth, spring emerging.

To take advantage of the weather, Dylan and I decided to cook outside over the fire.  We sipped lemonade and I satisfied my pregnancy related need for steak.

One of my favorite things to do when cooking over a fire is to cook vegetables directly in the coals, not wrapped in tinfoil or a leaf,  but just dropped right in the mix of the flame.

We have only begun to be able to work the outside area of the land and have not built our permanent fire pit yet so we made a fire in a metal fire pit someone gave us when we still lived in the city.

The first thing to do is to build a base that will provide you with alot of coals and still keep the fire going.  Move aside a pile of coals near the flames but big enough that the vegetables can lay flat and get good contact with the heat.

I’m not sure that every vegetable would be appropriate for this sort of cooking, I used an eggplant, zucchini, a red pepper and two jalapenos.  The skin is going to get very charred so it would be best to use vegetables that have some sort of outer covering that can be scraped off.

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Lay the veg directly on the coal and turn as each side is charred,  make sure it is pitch colored before removing it.  Place the veg under a bowl and let it cool there to help cook it all the way through.

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With a pairing knife begin peeling or scraping blackened skin off the vegetable.  You will not be able to get every little fleck so don’t try. 

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 I then chopped them up and added fresh rosemary, a little butter and olive oil and a touch of yogurt and salt.   Voila, we had our smokey side to accompany our steaks.   I used the leftovers in a hummus I made the next day for lunch and in the past I have added the roasted vegetables to soups.  Mmmmmm!

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Wandering Mahonia

We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been – a place half-remembered and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.

 

 

“Oregon Grape is the long road home, not a short-cut to bliss.” 

 

Yesterday I harvested Oregon Grape for the first time.  Though I have seen the plant for  years, and knew of it many uses I never felt drawn to it.  But yesterday with a small group of other women I did it.  The experience was overwhelming,  Where should I start?

I have a long standing bad habit of jumping out of the present and analyzing my every word and interaction, especially with people I am just getting to know.  I tend to batter myself if I don’t say exactly what I mean, or if I am misunderstood a small part of me panics.  This is not an overwhelming habit but a subtle and useless one nonetheless.  Surprisingly, that part of me was silenced yesterday and something entirely different took me.

 
When we first began focusing on the plant yesterday,  I didn’t feel the plant saying “no” to me but more of a push back, a fear perhaps, like the force between two like sided magnets.  I began harvesting and singing to her, which is odd in itself,  I sing constantly but not within earshot of other people.  But there was a melancholy note,  I felt softened, as though the props I hold myself up with were removed and I wanted to bury myself in the ground.  It was something akin to sadness I almost thought I felt lonely, but that word didn’t fit.  It was emptiness I felt, and emotion stemmed from a place of emptiness.
 
I waded through the emotion and later while scraping the herb I had a heightened sense of presence, I couldn’t seem to breath deep enough, I felt exhausted.  Afterwards I got in my car and began weeping, but I wasn’t ‘sad’ necessarily.  No one had wronged me or hurt me,  I wasn’t even thinking of the shit with my parents, I just felt sad.
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I came home and continued to feel bad so I walked a length barefoot to the river and sat  with that feeling, pulling in all of the healing energy I could from the earth.  At some point it became very clear, like a road sign made of a big arrow with the destinations name on it, what I was working with.  It showed me the two opposing desires and natural  parts of my disposition that try to work together but merely cancel each other out.  The inborn strong leader personality, not meant to lead necessarily , but which surely can’t follow.  The overwhelming fire, the opinionated, intelligent, decisive side that overwhelms.  That side is pitted against the childlike need of mine to be loved, accepted, and approved of.  The side that doesn’t want to hurt others or call them out, the empath.  In the years since adolescence I have in vain sought some medium ground of perfection, some “balance” between all that I am and I now find myself paralyzed in certain situations.   Not wielding my powers,  and impeding the empath.  By not owning either of these sides fully, and accepting the consequences and outcomes, and realizing that I can’t possibly have everyone like me nor do I really want to them too, they merely weaken me and the my interactions with the world.  I was aware of this issue but not really addressing it.  I then looked up from my hidden cliff by the creek where it enters the river and surrounding my head was cascading bushes of Oregon Grape.
 
I must add though that this experience didn’t solve anything,  it merely showed me where I needed to go.  The cliff side of mahonia behind me didn’t bring me joy or elation but trepidation and a feeling of resistance, I felt scared, afraid to look at it fully.  This morning I am thinking otherwise. Perhaps, this plant is not to be avoided and perhaps it is graciously offering me its prickly hand as help up the steep path ahead.
 
I woke this morning after a difficult night, with the most vivid and terrifying dream where the hens were laying blackened, soft, undersized, deformed, and cracked eggs,  where I was sitting in a room with Carrie and my older sister and an overwhelming high pitched noise took over my hearing and I lost  my baby, it was clearly metaphor, not a warning of impending danger to the baby.   I woke in a state of panic, with an immediate feeling that Oregon Grape had something to do with it.
 
It seems quite clear to me now,  I feel amazingly blessed with the serendipity these events,  and the opportunity this plant has presented.  It seems it has been shouting the direction I needed to go, but the road seemed so foreign and dark and so, so steep that I tried to ignore it.  I know that the path to healing is never easy or likely complete,  it seems to be more of a journey than a destination.  It has been some time since I have had such and incredible experience with the plants.  I am overfilled with gratitude toward them as teachers, I seemed to have found a little bit of the magic I had beat out of me last year.  The earth is overrun with gifts
I guess I will not avoid this plant but engage it, welcome it, and thank it for its many blessings. 

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