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Archive for the ‘traditions’ Category

High school reunions, homecoming, Veterans Day. A time to honor the past, and our lost ones.

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Last week I (Alexandra), attended my high school reunion. Since it was a weekend for remembering, I finished the trip at the beautiful graveyard near the house where I grew up. Some people had many remembering them, but some were waiting for me to acknowledge with a pebble that the departed ones are worth remembering, even by strangers.

many

one***

I (Sincerely, Emily) am remembering my Dad. He would have been 83 this past week.

Dad

Dad

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On days like this I wonder why we greet the first day of spring with such glee, yet dismiss fall’s first day as just the awful downturn into winter. The spring equinox is muddy, cold, and grey and the trees have no leaves; fall is brighter and warmer, green and gold and full of food and life. It is the second harvest (the first is Lammas in early August) and the promise of a healthy winter. At Spring the stores are low, at Autumn they are bursting– I’m running out of shelf space.

By common law tradition, the autumn equinox is a “quarter day”– Michaelmas or the feast of the angels, a time for fairs, marriages and pay day.

I sit here writing this at approximately the moment of Equinox (and by the way, when did we start thinking of the Equinox as a “moment”), looking at the astonishing blue of the sky and the clarity of the light. There is nothing like the clear intensity of light on a cool autumn day.

I run my hands through the beans drying on the counter, loving the gentle music they make. The rattling of beans on the vine is one of those sure signs of autumn. Every year I face the dilemma– mix all the varieties together, or separate them? This year I’ll separate by color only- reds in one jar, whites in another. I grew Christmas Limas for seed for Peterson Garden Project; they’re all supposed to go to next year’s garden, but I think I’m going to need to siphon off a half cup to cook (for science, ahem). Plus 25 to grow in my own garden. The rest will go back into the project (pinky swear).

It was such a Sconeday– crisp and still– so I made scones– a rolled raspberry version made with half white and half oat flour. It seemed appropriate to use the last of summer’s raspberries, frozen since July, for the first day of autumn. I flavored them for the memory of summer-with orange zest, orange extract and coriander, and glazed with a little bit of peach preserve left over from the peach syrup I made a few weeks ago.

The afternoon will be spent transplanting two small caryopteris bushes to a sunnier spot in a friend’s yard, where I think they’ll thrive better than in the shady spots they inhabit here. She’ll get some divided white iris and phlox as well. I’ve run out room to divide in my own yard, and can’t bear to just toss them. The weather is slated to warm up later in the week, the perfect transplanting formula.

I’ll walk to the lake, as always, towards the end of the day, to honor the horizon and to hear the sound of angels’ wings that is the waves rolling onto the beach.

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I went to my first swap this past April. I had heard of swaps but didn’t find one in my area until a friend found this one on a MeetUp page and told me about it.

Swap July 2013

Swap July 2013

The organizer set up a few guidelines and the rest is history. She holds it once a month.

There were a few guidelines to follow:

  • No money was allowed – this is all about the trade and bartering with what you have for what you want/need.
  • Items should be sustainably-minded. Something you have grown in your garden, something you conned/cooked/brewed/baked/preserved/dried, etc. Something your animals made (goat milk, hen eggs, lamb wool, etc.) Something you sewed/knitted/re-purposed, etc. Items to do with sustainable interests are also good (Mother Earth News magazines, cookbooks, cooking/camping gear, etc)
  • The items you should leave at home: this is not a garage sale, items should be about sustainability. Leave the knick-knacks at home.

Once we set up, we were allowed 15 minutes to walk around and check out the items other people brought so we could see what we were interested in.

Lemon pickles, Dill pickles, Homemade Teriyaki sauce

Lemon pickles, Dill pickles, Homemade Teriyaki sauce

Each month I have been posting about the swap over on my personal blog. About a month ago I realized that I hadn’t posted about the July swap and I thought it would be a good topic to post here. I have known the swap and barter system is out there and alive, and I realize that there may be others out there that are interested, but don’t know were to look or even how to get started.

Here are the other swap posts I have done”

Here are a few places to look to find swaps in your area: Note: I will add additional information to this post as I find it or as people comment. (updated 19 Sept 2013)

Would you go to a swap if you had one in your area?
Are you participating in a swap in your area?

Please use the comments to let others know about how to find a swap. If you out there participating in a swap, please comment with the general area you are in and add a link to the swap information.

Sincerely, Emily

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My mother died when I was 22.

Not an auspicious start to a post, is it. But I promise not to be depressing. I’m just back to the fallible parent theme.

My mother was a wonderful cook, and a much better baker than I’ll ever be. But there are standard family dishes that I make much better than she did.

She’ll never know of course, so no sheepish “sorry, Mom, your Shepherd’s Pie is dry.”

Now my mother-in-law, this is something different. She’s very much alive, and teaching me how to cook Chinese. Last fall she came over and showed me how to make Luo Bok Gao (turnip cakes– you may have had these if you’ve had dim sum). She brought three different kinds of rice flour (on this week’s theme) and we used daikons from the local grocery, but it just didn’t taste right, and they were very gluey.

Then, last year, I found seeds from Kitazawa seed company, which specializes in Asian vegetables, for actual luo bok, called Korean Turnip on the label. These are, essentially, 2 pound radishes, with a consistency somewhere between radish and turnip. So I pulled my mother-in-law’s recipe, and a recipe pulled off the internet, and landed somewhere in between.

Result? Restaurant quality luo bok gao, way better than mom’s

Awkward.

Homemade Luo Bok Gao

Ingredients:
2 ½ lbs     (1 lb)     Chinese turnip
1 ½ cup     (¾ c)    gluten-free rice flour
3 Tsp     (1 ¼)     corn starch
2 tsp     (¾ tsp)    salt
2 tsp     (¾ tsp)    sugar
½ tsp     (¼ tsp)    white pepper
1 ½      (1)    Chinese sausage, chopped to small pieces and fried (if you don’t have this sweet, dense sausage available, a cheap, mild salami is a good substitute– the fattier the better)
2    (1)    small dried shitake mushroom, soaked in water for 1 hour, then cut off stem and diced
1    (1)    green onion sliced
¼ cup    (¼ cump)    shrimp, diced
1 ½ cup    (¾ cup)    water (approx.)

1. Peel and grate the turnips into a pot; add a small amount of water. Bring it to a boil and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, add more water if needed.
2. Grate the mixture with an immersible blender and then add the Chinese sausage, green onion, shitake mushroom, shrimp, and carrot into the pot.
3. Add salt, sugar, pepper, turn to low heat, and continue to stir.
4. Gradually add the rice flour to the mixture. Do not add it all at once.
5. Add some water and the corn starch, continue to stir. Mixture should not be runny or solid. Add the meat and vegetables.
6. Grease a non stick cake pan (about 8 inches) or casserole dish, pour mixture into pan to a one-knuckle depth, and steam for 40 minutes. To steam: use a large steamer or a wok, add water to the bottom and support the pan with a small rack. After 40 minutes, insert a toothpick in the centre, if it comes out clean, the Turnip Cake is ready.
7. Let cool. To serve, slice and pan fry until golden brown. An 8″ cake yields about 9 small slices. Serve with any traditional sauce.

This recipe makes two 8″ cakes.

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Family photos

When I was growing up, in the 50s and 60s, middle class families always had a camera.

Just one.

In my later childhood, as the consumer revolution started kicking into gear, simple cheap cameras started being available to the kids as well. But most families had just one camera, and a designated photographer, in our case, my supremely unartistic father.

Why take pictures? To preserve a moment. To document an event. To record something important or amusing. To remember. To admire. To create beauty or art. Do you take them for yourself, or for the ones who come after so that they remember, admire and see the art or the moment that the photographer valued.

We put these pictures in massive albums; several years ago I created a private blog of our family album, using it to help me remember the childhood memories that were lost with my mother’s death when I was 22. People don’t make albums anymore, and there’s little need to edit. We had to choose, though; out of a film roll of 36 shots no more than 10 would ever be worth saving. There was no infinite Flickr with unlimited uploads. Just albums with 50 pages, 6 to 8 shots per page.

My father supposed that he was great photographer. I can’t remember my mother ever so much as holding a camera (this can’t be– there are pictures of me, my brother and my father in circumstances where the only possible photographer would have been my mother). He had a nice, but not a great camera– for one thing it was a viewfinder not an SLR, and he had only one lens. No zoom, no wide. And the worst indictment: that his photographs, even the ones that are interesting for other reasons, are just not very good. They have no focal point, or understanding of scale or composition.

There is a photo of my father as young man, perhaps 22, confronting the photographer– see me! I am important, and I know what I know, better than you ever will! And we all bought it. My father was the family photographer, ipso facto he was good at it. Yet it patently wasn’t true– he wasn’t very good at it. But the force of his belief in this was so strong that we all took it as gospel.

It is a terrible thing to grow up and learn how fallible your parents are.

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Lammas, hmmm. I didn’t know much about it until Alexandra suggested it for one of our Sunday Photos themes.

As I think about Lammas, I think about growing up in a small town in Wisconsin with all the farms nearby. I think about how important the harvests were and how, not that long ago, neighbors and families would get together to help each other with the harvests.

Look! ZucchiniI think back to how things were done just one hundred years ago, here in the U.S. and even centuries ago in Europe and other areas. Things where very different. People just didn’t drive into town to buy everything they needed; they were growing it. Whether it was wheat or corn, or something else, it was very important for survival. With these harvests came traditions, like Lammas

While many things are really getting crispy in the garden (ahhh dead!) I can still honor the things that I am harvesting right now, and give thanks to the grain in my cupboards that I use to make bread and other things. I can think about the harvest and Lammas, as I mix up a loaf of bread.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am also be thankful for the things I am harvesting and putting into our meals every day. Peppers, Kale, Okra. Cucumber. I can also preserve some things to grace our table another time. I will save seeds for another planting and look forward to another harvest. Traditions continue. Plans are made.

Are there any organized Lammas celebrations happening in your area?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

 

 

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Lammas, the first harvest of the year, is the “loaf mass” because it marks the wheat harvest. The festival’s counterpart, Beltane at the beginning of summer, the planting of the crops and the marriage of the god and goddess, is full of promise and joy. Lammas is bounty and joy, but melancholy too, as the god begins to prepare for his yearly sacrifice and death, and the goddess begins to remember her anger over the loss of her daughters.

In modern patriarchal theology we think of lightning as a phallic manifestation, but I like to think of August storms as the fury and despair of the goddess who cannot save the earth her daughters from their imminent death, year after year after year. She brings us daily bounty, more than we can use, as both fruited gift and fruitless bribe. It means the downward slope towards the frozen midwinter is beginning.

Lammas Salad
10 Golden beets, blanched and sliced thin
3 small beets, blanched and sliced thin
1 cucumber, seeded and sliced
1 green pepper, sliced very thin
1-2 ears of corn, nibletted and blanched
3 apricots, diced
1 mildly hot pepper, seeded and diced (this year I used Beaver Dams, but I’ve also used Shishito)

Macerate (i.e. soak) the cucumber in a couple tablespoons of honey and salt for 1-2 hours. Macerate the apricots and shishito peppers in cider vinegar for 1-2 hours. Drain and rinse just before mixing up the salad. To blanch the beets, trim the roots and stems (peeling optional), and drop them into actively boiling water for no more than 5 minutes. Allow to cool, then slice. To blanch the corn, slice the niblets from the cob, and drop them into actively boiling water; leave until the color deepens (a couple/few minutes at most).

Mix everything together with a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise. (Make it yourself.)

I like this as a side with crab cakes.

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Lammas, or August 1, is the first of the harvest festivals. You’re probably picking more than you can eat all at once starting now.

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For me (Alexandra), Lammas marks the moment when the gardener is forcibly reminded that she is not actually in control. Plants go wild, as if they know (and I suppose they do), that summer is coming to an end, and they better get all their growing done!

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When ever I (Sincerely, Emily) visit my parents up in Minnesota this time of year, I am always amazed at the lush, full, green garden. In our area we are starting to plan our fall planting. I cut back my tomato plants a few weeks ago and they are growing, but I don’t seem to be harvesting much or anything. The Armenian cucumbers are still growing well and the okra is starting to produce. Just patiently waiting for some cooler temps so the pepper plants will start flowering again.

Star of David okra

Star of David okra

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What are you harvesting?

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I’ll be reposting Jen’s wonderful series on monthly chores and tasks throughout the year. Here’s January, originally posted on January 7, 2011 by Unearthing This Life.

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we here at NDiN wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule depending on your region.

Now that Winter is officially here most of us will be spending a lot more time indoors. For those in the more Southern regions, outdoor work is manageable on warmer days. It’s a good time to focus on the indoors, keeping warm, and getting a jump on this year’s activities.

Indoors:

  • Take down and store holiday ornaments and decorations.
  • Update your address book from holiday cards and gift envelopes if you’ve saved them.
  • Clean out your files in preparation for tax time. Rid yourself of out-of-date warranty cards (update if necessary) and manuals. Schedule service appointments for extended warranties.
  • Clean out dryer vents with a wire hanger and vacuum cleaner. Wash mesh filters with soap and a scrub brush to allow for better air flow.
  • When finding new homes for holiday gifts, clean out unused items and donate those in great shape to your favorite charity.
  • It’s also a great time to photograph your belongings, room by room, for insurance purposes.
  • Start planning your spring garden. Look at gardening catalogs, websites, and blogs (like us!) to get ideas for what to do this year and when. Purchase seeds by March to guarantee delivery and stock.
  • Research and prepare for any animal purchases for the year.
  • Keep a tray of water and spray bottle near indoor plants to adjust humidity levels, especially if you have central air. Running the heater can dry them out quickly and cover leaves with dust.

Outdoors/Garden/Wildlife:

  • Keep fresh water available and free of ice for birds and wildlife.
  • If you’ve already begun to put out birdseed continue to do so. They’re now relying on you as a food source.
  • If you live in a climate with mild winters, this month may be a good time to dig new beds. You may also want to repair or build new composting bins to be prepared for this year’s cleanup.
  • Keep driveways and walks free of snow and ice. Have shovels, plows, and salt/brine accessible and stocked.

Animal Husbandry:

  • Early birthing will begin late next month for some of you. Make any preparations necessary to help mammas and babies along.
  • Keep barns and other animal shelters clean to help prevent illness and discourage wild critters from nesting. Change hay often, keep tools cleaned up, and be sure to keep water free of ice.
  • Put a light out for an extra two hours in the evening for your chickens. It will help keep their coop warm on colder evenings and promote more egg laying.

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Eat sensibly

Buy one item from Eileen Fisher (and only one, as it eats up the clothing budget through 2023)

Local beer

Local whisky

Do every household project that costs under $50, seriously

Get out of town

Watch everything on the Netflix queue

Speak a foreign language to a native

Get over it

Homemade pasta (that’s for you, Susy!)

Find a nice girl for my son (any takers?)

Call my father

Write to Congress

What are your resolutions?

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