Jul 30, 2011

Farmers Market Saturday - Leftovers and Lughnassadh

Last Saturday I bought some mullberries and piled them on ice cream and in smoothies and snacked away whenever I wandered by the bowl of that pretty purple fruit.  But by mid-week I was tired of eating them 'as-is' and worried that they wouldn't keep much longer.

The only downside to farmers market buying is that you are often at the mercy of the seller's portions.  Things like berries are too delicate to be massed into large boxes and then scooped out and weighed according to the purchaser's desired amount.

So, a girl on her own like me finds that a large basket of berries is sometimes too much to eat quickly, before they spoil.  Not one to let anything go to waste, I made a quick jam of these mullberries when I realized I wouldn't be able to keep them whole and fresh much longer.

Refrigerator jams are super-quick and easy (exactly how I like to cook!)  You simply place your fruit in a saucepan, add sugar, cook until you get a nice boil and the fruit thickens, then remove from heat, pour into jars and cool.  Use on toast or if your jam is a bit thin, you can use it syrup-style on pancakes. 

For the mullberries (which aren't a super sweet berry) I used 2 cups of berries and just under 1/2 cup of sugar.  It's very simple to put a teaspoon of your mixture on a plate, let it cool a bit and taste - then add more sugar if you need to.

Today, in lieu of the market, I spent the morning in the garden and then made some bread (in the magickal breadmaker) for Lughnanssadh.  I hope your First Harvest is abundant and blessed!

(picture linked to provider site)

Jul 24, 2011

Farmers Market Saturday - Ingredients for Sunday Dinner!

The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.  ~Galileo

Yesterday's finds at the farmers market have inspired tonight's dinner of bruschetta, a fun salad mix and mullberries over ice cream for dessert - yum!

Look at these lovely heirloom tomatoes!

Pretty purple mullberries.

The first apricots - one of my favourite fruits! 

I bought this funky salad mix, which includes some nasturtiums, mixed greens, multicoloured carrots, baby beets and some herbs.

And today, on a stroll with a friend and her sweet daughters, I had a little taste of wild raspberries.  Nature is just showing off this time of year - and I love it!

Something to think about if you don't have the time or ability to get out to a farmers market near you, is Community Supported Agriculture.  These programs pair consumers with local farms that offer boxes of in-season produce.  Usually the consumer picks up the box at a designated location every week, or every other week, but home delivery is sometimes available.  The boxes are filled with an assortment of fresh produce grown in your area and are reasonably priced.

Local Harvest has a page that helps you find a CSA program near you (if you are in the USA.)  You can also search online for programs in your area.  We have a program here in the Valley, and there are many across Canada.

See - there's no excuse for not eating local! 

Jul 20, 2011

Sunshine and School Supplies

The sun has returned to the Valley just in time to help us over the mid-week hump and carry us through to the weekend!  Although I'm a fan of the cooler weather, I couldn't help but be happy to see the sun return to help the local fruit along.  Some of the wineries are starting to get worried that their crops won't ripen before the Autumn.  I predict an Indian Summer though - temps here always stay fairly high (in the daytime at least) right through September.

Speaking of September, I was grabbing a few things at the store this afternoon and noticed that the school supplies are out!  Always a sucker for some pretty pens and fancy notebooks, I drooled over the aisles of bright markers, pencils and Post-Its. 

Then, wandering into the magazine aisle, I spotted this:

The first Fall magazine cover!  (Click the cover to visit the Country Sampler webite and see what's inside this issue.)

Yes, I hear some of you groaning!  Sorry Summer kids, but this kind of thing gets me all excited!

So, while I'm eager for the sunshine to grow the corn that is so late stretching up in the field that I drive by each day, and to plump the peaches I long to eat from the market, there is still a little kid in me that can't wait for Fall to arrive!

On a more serious note, my heart goes out to those farmers in Texas who have endured the worst drought in 40-50 years and have lost entire wheat and corn crops.  We tend to forget in the Valley, while some are whining about too much rain, others would give everything for a drop of moisture.  Hoping the government will be swift with aid, and the rain gods will be more merciful next season.

Jul 18, 2011

Summer Storms & Sunflowers

This is a picture of the general state of our skies this past weekend...and currently.  We seem to be getting some good July rain this year, which is great to keep forest fires down, but not so great for the fruit crops that are running about three weeks late here in the Valley.

I wasn't up to putting on my galoshes for the farmers market on Saturday, so my veggie drawer in my fridge is sadly lacking this week.  Luckily the garden is giving baby carrots, beet greens, self-sowed lettuce that just popped up out of the blue and a purple pepper.  I'm hardly suffering.

I am however, mourning the loss of my yearly sowing of sunflowers.  I didn't put any in this year, and I couldn't seem to sneek any seeds into my mom's garden without her hawk eyes seeing the seedlings and pulling them out.  So they take over the whole bed, leave a mess of seeds and giant root balls behind...what's not to love?

In my search for sunflower love online, I came across a couple towns that have festivals named after the pretty yellow plants.  So this is your (belated) farmers market/festival advice for this week:

If you are in or around Mayville, MI this weekend, stop and see some of the great events at their Mayville Sunflower Festival!

Picture from Mayville Sunflower Festival website (linked) 

 Also - planning ahead - if you are in the La Porte, IN area in September, check out their 13th Annual Sunflower Fair on September 17th.

I'm a big fan of any kind of festival that supports your local businesses, charities and agriculture!

And hopefully with a bit of sunshine and some perseverance (with a good dose of invisibility potion) my mother won't notice that one little sunflower seedling I've hid away in the back of her acorn squash bed!

Jul 15, 2011

July Giveaway Winner and Happy Full Moon!

Just a little peek at the full moon rising in my Valley last night.  More cloud cover today, so I imagine I won't be seeing much of her at my meditation circle at the lake tonight.  Hope you've all been enjoying this full moon energy!

Congratulations go out to Suzie over at Cat in the Moon who's name was pulled for my July giveaway!  I left a comment on your last post Suzie, so pop me an email with your address and I'll get your book, teas & goodies out to you!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!  Don't forget to get out to your local farmers market, farm stand, or u-pick orchard and bring in that luscious harvest!

Jul 13, 2011

This Week In The (Wild) Garden

I took a walk up in the hills last weekend with a couple friends.  One of my friends was looking for plants to sketch in order to make her own plant oracle cards.  I was on the lookout for plants to use in some of my herbal creations.  I used my cellphone, so please forgive the shabby pics - but I wanted to show you some of the wonderful things we spotted.  Some of the above yarrow came home with me to be used in a salve I was making.

Yarrow can be applied on wounds, used for treating eczema, used in tea form to alleviate a fever, weak stomach and intestinal distress.  Unfortunately, being a cousin of chamomile which is itself a cousin to ragweed, it is common to have an allergy to yarrow if you are allergic to ragweed.  If you can drink chamomile tea without incident though, you should be happy with yarrow.

Below is a photo of some Indian paintbrush that was scattered over the hills.  These flowers are similar to pointsettias in that their bright red 'blossoms' are actually foliage and not flower petals. 

This funny blue flower is self-heal.  Also known as heal-all or allheal, this lovely plant is known for having an anti-bacterial effect.  Used in wound and skin healing it is also supposed to be very good for digestive issues and high blood pressure.  Use these flowers & leaves in teas or in poultices and salves.  You can also eat the leaves as you would dandelion leaves - as a slightly bitter additive to salads.

One of my favourite healing plants is red clover.  Full of natural estrogens, red clover is a wonderful tea herb for women who are going through menopause.  I use it as a tea when I'm on my moontime for balancing my system.  It is reported to be a blood purifier, good for skin healing and asthma and bronchitis.  Red clover is also being researched as a cancer treatment.

This picture was not taken on our walk, but snapped yesterday when I was out for more girl-time with my friends.  We were walking into a restaurant when we spotted this beauty on a bush.

Hope you all have been getting plenty of time outdoors this month.  Don't forget to look around in your area - you never know what kind of wonderful healing plants are right under your nose!

Jul 10, 2011

Farmers Market Saturday

While some farmers markets are quaint affairs featuring the farmer down the block, other markets are a full-day destination.  Detroit's Eastern Farmer Market spans an impressive 6 blocks and boasts over 250 vendors - take a look! 

Fair warning to all vegetarians:  there is some serious BBQ in this video:

Jul 5, 2011

July Giveaway!

Since I've started off July by talking about my path, I thought I'd use that theme for the monthly giveaway too.  One person's path is very different from another, but from all the comments on the post "Witch Path" - I've noticed that regardless of what we call our faith/beliefs/path most of us follow the seasons of the year and mark those changes and transitions as the wheel turns.

This book by Bronwynn Forrest Torgerson is an illustration of one person's path, following the yearly cycle and the seasons of life.  This book gives each month of the year it's own chapter and theme.  There are stores, rituals, spells and songs to give you ideas on how you might celebrate the seasons, months and transitions of life.

Also included in the giveaway will be a package of my "Bliss Bath Tea" that I make with organic herbs and rose petals.  Using my own garden herbs and plants and wildcrafting locally is part of my path.  I'm very thankful to live in an area conducive to growing and that has such wonderful, healing wild plants!

Some other goodies that pertain to my path will definitely make it into the package too!  I will announce the winner on the Full Moon - July 15th - so you have 10 days to get your entry in.

As always, simply leave a comment here and let me know how we are aquainted.  Do you follow the blog, Facebook, Twitter, or RSS feed?  Please ensure that there is a way for me to contact you if you win!

Jul 2, 2011

Farmers Market Saturday - Farm Stand Tour

I know I've spoken of farm stands before, but I'm going to sing their praises again!  Today, instead of hitting the farmers market, I took my younger niece to the next valley to check out the farm stands.  The great thing about a farm stand trip (besides the obvious goodies) is the drive in the country.  This time of year, with everything in bloom, the warm sunshine and the scent of cut hay in the fields, is the perfect time to take a scenic drive out to the farm stands.

The small town I drive out to has about a dozen stands along the roadside.  You have to hit at least three of them each time you go, just to see what's in season and what specialties they offer.  In season now:  cherries!

And tomatoes!  Although these are a bit unripe for me.

One must-stop stand for me is the place that sells fresh Samosas.  I treat myself to one or two of these amazing Indian delights whenever I'm in the area.

My niece liked them too.

On the way out of town we spotted this funky frog welcoming visitors to an antique store.

A perfect day.

Take a drive this Summer and see if you can spot a farm stand in your area.  Support your local farmers and take home some wonderful produce!

Jul 1, 2011

Witch Path?

There has been alot of talk in the past several months about defining Paganism, who is a 'real' witch and what constitutes "faith."  I had hoped to get a post out for Pax's Pagan Values Blogging Month in June, but time got away on me and I feel as though most of what I wanted to say had already been said, and so much more elequently.

Still, I felt like I needed to put my little fingerprint on this subject, so this in a nutshell, is what I want to say about being a Pagan, a witch and my path of faith:

This is my path:

This is my path:

This is my path:

This is my path:

This is my path:

It's not flashy or grand.  It's not bright and shiny and perfect.  I struggle with being true to my beliefs in a family and community that doesn't understand or agree with them.  I struggle with my daily practice when I've suddenly become a full time mother to neices who's own mother is too ill to take care of them.  I struggle with balance when trying to keep the garden growing, the cats happy and healthy, while working my office job and lending a hand to my parents whenever there is heavy lifting or gardening to be done at their house.

My path is like everyone else's.  Full of life and concerns and work and laughter.

I observe the seasons and cycles of the earth.  I grow food and medicine and magical ingredients.  I care for children and animals and the world around me.  And although I don't always take as much time as I should to care for myself, I make an effort to put my spirituality on the top of my to-do list. So I have the drive (if not the energy) to continue the journey tomorrow.

This is my path.