Sunday, April 15, 2012

Another Incredible Weekend

Our lives are always busy, but I never really thought about how busy until one of the neighbors stopped, as she was driving by, and said, "you are always up to something."  I believe it is imperative to continue traveling this MooseBoots path as much as time permits.  This weekend was another fabulous example.

Saturday began as most do ... we dragged the girls to dance class, hit the grocery store and the farm, and came home to put everything away and eat brunch.  That is where the weekend picked up its pace.  While Wendy was heating things up to eat, I decided to start harvesting the Jerusalem Artichoke that grew last year.  The area is only about 12 square feet (50 centimeters by 200 centimeters).  But, after all of the digging and sifting, I picked 24 pounds (just over 10 kg) for the lovely tubers.  Because I was just slightly late, some of them had started to sprout.

After munching, Wendy and I went for our now weekly foraging walk.  For the past two weeks, we have not harvested anything because it is early.  This week, however, we started to pick.  I filled a basket full of tender Stinging Nettle leaves.  I thanked them profusely while I picked them.  I even sang to them.  I turns out that I had picked enough for one meal, sauteed in butter and garlic, with a bunch left over to dry for tea.  While I was there, I also picked several of last years stalks to make some more cordage.

Wendy, went off to check on the Japanese Knotweed.  Last week, the carefully cleared around the plants to open them up to the sun.  Her efforts paid off in the form of 0.5 pound (1 kilogram) of beautiful stalks.  These were steamed and provided enough for one meal.  Finally, she wandered around and harvest some Dandelion flowers.  These will be battered and fried into fritters.

After we rounded up the girls, we came home and smoked a chicken to go with our foraged bounty.  While waiting for the bird to cook, Precious and I cleaned some of the Jerusalem Artichokes, while  Wendy sliced some up for drying and loaded the dehydrator.  Little Fire Faerie, Precious, and I also replanted the Jerusalem Artichoke bed for another crop next year.

Throughout the day, Wendy and I had discussed using up the berries we had frozen last year.  We decided to try something new ... Freezer Berry wine.  So, without any kind of recipe, we boiled the berries in a pan of water.  The plan was simple ... berries, sugar, yeast , and water.  The boiling down, the pan needed to cool, so we left it overnight.

This morning, Wendy and I started right in on finishing up the Freezer Berry Wine.  We removed the bags fully of berry pulp, added more water and sugar, added the yeast, and put it into the carboy to ferment.  Wendy decided to try to use the pulp to make fruit leathers.  Of course, we made more liquid than the carboy could hold, so we also boiled it down into black raspberry jelly ... yum!  This then inspired Wendy to make scones, which she has been wanting to try.  All in all, it was fantastic!  Sorry ... the scones did not last long enough to get a picture.  The wine is happily bubbling away, right next to the mead.

After breakfast, I cleaned the rest of the Jerusalem Artichokes and spread them in the sun to dry.  Then I began raking up the mulch, and removing the grapevine, along the fence that needs to be replaced.  Wendy, was busy cleaning out garden beds and wanted the mulch.  So, we spend a few hours mulching, cleaning, and planting.  Somewhere along the way, don't ask me when, Wendy also made yogurt.

For dinner, we had hamburgers and hotdogs with ... fried Jerusalem Artichoke chips.  They are simply delicious.  After dinner, Wendy had work to do, so I played around a bit.  During our walk yesterday, I picked up a couple of rocks to use for grinding flour and such.  First, I tried crushing the dried Jerusalem Artichokes with a mortar and pestle.  It works, but take a long time ... I needed for surface area.  So, after cleaning them, out came the rocks.  They are much quicker and it satisfied my need to work with natures tools.  Of course, I still have a lot more to grind to flour, but I was able to figure out how to do it and show Wendy, who, I guess, was pleased with the fine powdery flour.

All of this does make me wonder how much I could learn and do if I didn't have to work to pay the mortgage.  Regardless, if I didn't need to tread the mundane path of our society at large, I might not fully appreciate the things I find walking following this MooseBoots journey.  I am so grateful to find myself in this beautiful place, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Thank you!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Farewell - Yoo Hoo, My Friend

Wendy and I met her over 15 years ago.  She was an energetic fur ball with a unique personality.  She immediately became part of our family, travelling in the car with us from Texas to Maine as we left behind everything she knew.  She grew with our family ... playing the role of nanny, friend, protector, and farm hand.

Recently, she has started showing her age.  She had difficulty getting up and moving around.  She stopped eating.  And yet, even in the last days, she showed that she was still in command of her faculties and the other pets.  She told the beagle when it was time for him to eat, or get affection.  But, we've known.  We wanted her, at home, when she died.

She is gone.  We arrived home tonight, after dance class, to find her dead.  She is in a much better place, without pain, in whatever form she choses.  I hope she can find the time to continue to guide us in spirit.

Thank you, Yoo Hoo Kae for being a friend, companion, and family member.  You are amazing!  In your honor, I would like to share some photos of you as we remember you.

Yoo Hoo, you are not a cat!

Snow Dog

Healthy Grieving

A Hole In Our Lives
I think we, as a culture, try to sweep death under the carpet.  I feel like it should be a celebration of life, and growth. 

Sleep Well, Girl.  I love you!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Spring Ahead?

I awoke this morning thinking it was nearly 08:00 a.m.  It is unusual for me to sleep so late, but I didn't think anything of it.  As I walked into the kitchen to feed the animals, I realized that my alarm clock was wrong.  Perhaps, it had adjusted for daylight savings according to the pre-Bush rules.  It was really just before 07:00 a.m.  Looking back on the weekend, it seems a fitting analogy for my MooseBoots endeavors.

A month or so ago, Wendy was speaking with her Mom about some books that had been sent to us. Several of the titles were written by Wendy's Aunt, Connie Krochmal, who it turns out was a fairly prolific writer back in the 70s.  She wrote "A Field Guide To Medicinal Plants", which I gave away last month, and many more.  Among the stacks received was a copy of "A naturalist's guide to cooking with wild plants."  When Wendy realized it was there, she got very excited about expanding our foraging efforts using the book as a guide.  I have really wanted to step up our efforts and, so, heartily agreed.  Who knows, this summer's fun may be the basis for Wendy's next book.

On Saturday, we made some time to wander through the woods behind the house.  We took a basket and some scissors hoping that there might be some spring edibles to gather.  And while we came home with an empty basket and a full day's worth of fire wood, the entirety of we found was incredible.  It was so amazing that I ran the camera out of battery power.  I took 46 picture of all of the new growth after initially thinking that it would be a bust.

It began while entering the field, I noticed the green shoots of grass peeking up through last years dead stalks.  These are the same stalks that I used last year to make a rope to carry the bundle of stinging nettles back to the house.  Of course, showing the new growth tends to be difficult with a camera, so I had to think of it from a different angle.  Here is the result.

We were really hoping to catch the knotweed shoots and dandelion greens to eat.  It turns out it is still little early for these things.  I was, however, in for a big surprise when I got to the area where we had harvested the knotweed roots and stalks last year.  The stand sits adjacent to the patch of stinging nettles we identified last year.  Here is what I found.

All of the green is, you guessed it, Stinging Nettles.  I called Wendy over, excited to share my discovery, while she was, just as enthusiastically, beckoning for me to come see what she had found (deer nibbles on young staghorn sumac bushes).  There is so much happening in this wonderful place this early in the season.  We wandered the field looking at all of the green shoots, identifying plants that we knew, and discussing those we were unsure of.  In all, we found about 18 different species of we knew during our hour long stroll.  And, we found another equally large sized patch of stinging nettles to gather from.

And so, for the analogy, it was not as late as we thought, but it is early enough to really appreciate the changes happening all around us.  The woods still offer us an abundance of things that we need, including a huge pile of firewood foraged during a second visit today.  I am so grateful to have been blessed with this growing awareness to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me, and to have the opportunity to work with nature to heal some small piece of this planet, and myself, in the process.