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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.

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!

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. 

Edie was buried today

     

Edie RobisonEdie Robison, 86, died peacefully on February 18, 2009. Edie was an Air Force widow, a Navy Veteran, and active in several Veterans Groups in Austin including the VFW Auxiliary Post 3377, the DAV Post 219, and the American Legion Post 83. She was also active in Central Texas Carvers, the Texas Woodcarvers Association, music, tatting and knitting. She went back to college at St. Edwards where she finished her B.A. and M.A. and later she attended the LAMP program at UT. She had many friends in Austin and around the world. She is survived by her daughter, Patti; and her grandsons, Robert, Harry and James. She will be buried in Arlington Cemetery on March 19, 2009 and a memorial service will be held in Austin at the VFW in April. In lieu of flowers please make donations in memory of Edie to your favorite charity or to one of her favorite charities the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge 17552 FM, Tyler, TX 75706. For further information please contact the Joseph Nardone Funeral Home at 914-737-1363.

 

Edie was one of the best friends I ever had.  She was a true wild woman, who lived all over the world.  She said to me soon after we first met “You’re a character aren’t you? Like me,  I only like characters,  whats the point in being boring.”

People like us need each other it didn’t matter that we were nearly  60 years apart in age.  Those of us who can’t keep our mouths quiet,  or dampen our views because they don’t fit with the general public,  those of us who never “fit in” but never tried, we need each other. 

Once I went with her on a weekend trip to a dulcimer jam,  she drove and blared bluegrass music,  we got pulled over by a cop because she was speeding.  The cop came to the window and she yelled “Dear god!  You scared the hell out me! We were just listening to bluegrass I didn’t even notice you!”  She proceeded to charm herself out of a ticket as this Officer laughed at her honest talk and his face lit up.   Have you ever seen an 80 year old woman do that,  I can’t even get out of tickets anymore and I am only 29.  At the dulcimer jam,  I ended up sleeping in the bathroom because Edie snored so loud.  The first night she came straight into the bathroom, not knowing I was there and scolded me for sleeping on the bathroom floor.  I tried to explain to her that she was snoring,  but she didn’t buy it. 🙂  She shamelessly kept inviting this lecherous old dulcimer player to dine with us.  He flirted with me in an uncomfortable way but bought our meals, Edie teased me for being our meal ticket.  I loved her.

She loved Art Bell and sometimes she would talk about the aliens and various other conspiracies the government was involved with.  Her energy was so enlivened,  not dark or foreboding.  She believed in aliens because it was exciting not because she was scared.  I never ceased to leave her house without a smile on my face.  I brought her flowers at times and she was so appreciative but then she’d send them home with me because she didn’t want to have to worry about watering them.

She was generous,  she offered me whatever she had.  When I was going through a particularly hard time in my life I spent many days of many weeks just watching television with her in her living room and eating at Art’s Rib House in south Austin.  Once she defiantly started saying she was going to ask her doctor for some marijuana for her pain,  she was talking loud and had glimmer in her eye,  I doubt she had ever smoked pot in her life,  but she liked to show that she was no old lady.  A young Austin hippie followed us out and told Edie he’d overheard her and would be happy to give her some of his stash if she thought it would help.  He wasn’t trying to sell it to her,  he just was so moved by her spirit he wanted to give it to her.  She refused,  but she was just that sort of person.  Besides I don’t think she would have liked it  she was too active.

Edie was buried today,  in Arlington,  I think that would have made her very proud.  I would love to attend her funeral in Austin,  I am sure there will be a great many characters there that all loved her equally and felt just as lucky as me to have found and become  friends with this wild woman.  Her daughter Patti asked me to write a little something for the funeral.  Here it is,  I was just trying to show what she meant to me.

When I was 17 I bought a dulcimer,  I didn’t know how to play it but thought I could surely find a teacher in Austin.  I was eating lunch at Kirby Lane one day and saw a note card pinned to the bulletin board that was handwritten and said “”Dulcimer Lessons.”  I jotted down the number and called it when  got home. Edie answered the phone.  She was easy to talk to and had a wry sort of laughed that I loved.  She asked me if my last name was Swedish and I told her I was Norwegian and she snickered as she said, “good, I married a damn Swede.” 
I arrived at her house sometime a few days later, I was a teenager with a dulcimer entering the house of a 73 year  old woman who would later become one of my dearest friends. At the end of my lesson she refused to take the 15 dollars she was charging and said I should just come back every week and play with her. Our visits became quite frequent, even as I grew and came into my 20’s when most young adults were at parties or with friends their own age,  I was often with Edie.
 
From first meeting her I was so taken with the spirit of this woman who at 73 was more active than many people my age.  She was so engaged in learning.  She had  many instruments she was learning; recorders, ukuleles, dulcimers, auto harps, then there was knitting and tatting, and later woodcarving.  It was an incredible lesson to me about the importance of learning.  Some of the activities she engaged in she had no intention of mastering, it seemed it was the mere act of trying that kept her going.  I think that was one of the many things that set her apart,  it was the thing that made her such a strong and alive person.  In her eighties, with a troubled heart and constant pain in her back she was still on the move, going to guild meetings and weekend music jams, refusing to take the pain killers the doctors prescribed for her back because they made her sedentary and unable to drive.  
 
She was also so willing to share her opinion, a trait I wondered if she developed in her later years or one she had her whole life.  She scared one of my first boyfriends sternly telling him that he should be in college.  And coddled the man who became my husband,  I think mostly because she could beat him at cribbage.  People liked to think of her as my adopted grandmother, but she was more than that, she was one of my best friends.  Our age was irrelevant in our affection for each other.  I count my blessings that I was able to spend so much of my young adult years with Edie,  I know she will be missed by not only me, but by so many of the other people who were moved and entertained by this character of a woman.  And as my life progresses I can only hope that I can follow the example set by Edie about how to really live,  how to use every available day,  and how to bravely speak my mind.
I love you Edie,  thank you for so much!

I’m am back with a cell card attached to the laptop. As it turned out there were no viable internet options for our house, so it took some time to work out an option that would work.

There is much to tell,  over the last couple of monthes that I have been absent.  We have moved officially onto our land and into our house although there are still many small projects on the inside that are waiting to be done.  The Pacific Northwest has experienced its 7th snowiest winter in recorded history.  The mayor of this small town who has lived here since the 30’s said she had never seen so much snow.  For the last three weeks I have been taunted with receding snow patches that reveal the grass and warm days followed by days of light snow that reblanket the ground with white.  Then the snow begins to melt away and the weather warms, and the again more snow.  Its only hard because I am so anxious to begin work on the outside of the house.  There is an acre of blackberry bushes to remove.  Piles of trash hidden amongst them from the previous owners to be discarded and a goat paddock to fence and goats to buy. 

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Dylan spent a brave day out in the most strange and varied weather yesterday repairing and rebuilding the rotted chicken coop on the land.  It hailed, snowed, sleeted, shone, and blew gusty winds on him.  But he insured that the four pretty ladies that we have brought into our family would have a nice warm and safe place to stay and lay.  For a man who has little experience working with tools or building the last few monthes have really given him a step up and he pieced together that coop with no problems at all.  I was very proud.

The biggest news of course is that I am pregnant for the first time.  I am now just about 13 weeks into it and grateful to be out of that first trimester.  I wasn’t plagued by throwing up but I sure felt awful, sick, nauseous, depressed, you name it.  My energy levels have started returning and I am noticing the first signs of a protruding belly.  I had written a blog post noting that I was hoping to conceive a new energy and a new head space on the solstice.  It seems that I took that literally and on our first “try” found myself gleefully pregnant. 

My sister spent the whole weekend with and it was so wonderful to get so much time with her.  We did lots of house work and she did more then her fair share of chores for me, which was so nice.  On Saturday we engaged our roots of Indian cooking and made an Indian feast of Cauliflower Kofta  with a tomato/piima sauce, whole wheat chapatis and cilantro/coconut/almond/yogurt chutney.  It was a process but it was sooo worth it.  We did a bit of spinning and troubleshooting with our wheels, went for walk up the Sauk river even though it rained/snowed on us and had fresh egg omelets from our new hens it the morning.  It was a wonderful weekend.

Still no internet

I’ll be back soon, I promise.

OMG! This is pretty amazing!

Its 18 minutes but so worth the time, if this sort of thing interests you.  Thanks to my incredible Aunt Nancy for passing it on to me!

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html