Saturday, November 3, 2018

fire & flower cider vinegar

Time has slipped away and I scarcely know how to begin again. But my third eye, the camera, has documented these last months so I'll just use photos as my guide.

Around Autumn Equinox I learned that apples enhance and deepen our connection to the inner realms. Soon after, apples began to present themselves. First, some wild apples in a small tree along Cherry Creek, near where I walk Talula everyday. I had never really foraged here in the city before but this particular apple tree called to me. And once I began that tiny bit of foraging, I began to notice other people doing the same. Collecting food from abandoned trees or the ground beneath, imagine that.

At the end of summer, I bought corn at the farmers' market to make and freeze creamed corn. I made and froze corn broth from the cobs, dried the husks for crafts and dried the corn silk for medicine. Corn silk, Zea mays, is a specific for the kidneys, bladder and prostrate and good to have in a home pharmacy. It is an anodyne (pain reliever), alterative (moves one toward improvement), antiseptic (antibacterial), demulcent (soothes and relieves inflammation), diuretic (removes water from the body through urination), and lithotriptic (dissolves stones). If needed, I would put a handful in a jar, cover with boiling water, and infuse overnight. I would drink a few cups of this infusion each day.

In early autumn, these colors were absolutely brilliant under the strong Colorado sun. Pastels have a tough time under our full sun, they look their best at dawn or dusk.

And then more apples -- a modest first crop from our own young apple tree in the front yard. I don't think there was a single worm in these and we didn't treat in any way. For whatever reason, the fruit crops were hugely successful here in Denver this year. 

I am still drawn toward making ancestral connections and food seems like a good way to reach I started infusing fruit, flowers and herbs in apple cider vinegar. I know it's not likely that my foremothers made this exact same concoction, but I do know they would have gathered and foraged fruit, flowers, nuts and herbs to use and preserve. This "fire & flower cider vinegar" started out with apple cider vinegar and nasturtium flowers & pods. Shortly thereafter I added tiny crab apples, also foraged from along the creek.

Every few days I added more ingredients to the vinegar as I found them -- rose hips, roses, more nasturtiums, jalapenos and ground mustard seed from lunaria seed pods.

Also, rosemary, sage and dandelion leaves.

Berries from the Oregon grape holly bushes.

All topped off with apple chunks. This vinegar is still brewing and I can't wait to taste it. I think the grandmothers nudged me along but I do have to say, with deep gratitude, Gather Victoria's Venus Vinegar was hugely inspiring.

The day before our first hard freeze, I harvested everything I could. I remember the last-harvest ritual with my mother when I was a girl....our frozen fingers, the growing dark, the scent of parsley -- flowers, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini filling bowls and baskets. The last harvest should be its own holiday -- it happens every year and although it may look different, it feels the same to me no matter my age.

The family altar. Over the last weeks, I have spent a good amount of time lighting candles and standing here. I search the photos of grandmothers and a great grandmother. And grandfathers and a great grandfather. I don't really know what I'm looking for but I think I'll feel it when I find it. I have read and believe we have more Otherworld relationships than our once-embodied familial lineages -- so I'm searching for those too because, in the end, we are all connected. Soul lineages, garden lineages, plant/medicinal lineages, handwork lineages and so on. If you have felt connections like these, I'd love to know and learn from your experiences if you would be willing to share.

A homage of baked potato to the ancestors for all the root crops over which they labored.

The little temple was filled with autumn offerings of crystals, herbs and incense. When I remembered, I smudged and chanted and sang to the plants as I collected seeds, blossoms, fruits and leaves. The garden is really a garden of spirits, me included.

The turning of leaves is always beautiful but these patterns caught my eye. I know that leaves don't actually take on new colors in the autumn -- the green simply disappears as chlorophyll breaks down, revealing the true colors of red, orange and yellow. But these are exquisite.

And here is our potted orange tree with one of her two large oranges. It takes one year for an orange to develop from flowering to ripening. I'm not sure when this plant last flowered but would guess that it was in April. So that means in April of 2019 we will have two oranges.

From my heart to yours. xo

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

late summer and sweetgrass

It's nice to always have some handwork going. Something that requires a bit of attention but not too much -- you won't lose your place by daydreaming or listening to someone or something. 

I'm not sure what a person would call this. Coloring with fabric, maybe?

Patchwork/applique stitched onto a piece of medium-weight decorator fabric. The cloth is probably heavy enough to upholster a chair seat but still easy to get a needle through. I use mostly odds and ends of thread and cloth.

I will probably color in one more flower and then make a pillow cover with it...or something easy like that.

As I plan to make a triple tincture with the flowers, seeds and roots of some Echinacea purpurea that grows along our front walkway, the echinacea altar seemed most appropriate.

The blossom and her leaves lasted for days and days.

Cilantro always bolts as soon as the heat sets in but this summer I discovered the blossoms are just as tasty as the leaves. Pretty happy about that.

I couldn't get over the colors in this juice before I stirred them together and everything turned drab brown/green.

The magician playing an ashiko drum, flowers, feather and rock placed on my ashiko drum.

Sweetgrass was braided on Lammas (Lughnasadh), the first harvest celebration on the old-time wheel of the year.

Lammas is usually a busy time for most people and it's sometimes hard to get together with friends. When that happens I try to do something special by myself.

Sweetgrass is considered to be the hair of Mother Earth. As an offering, I placed several scoops of vermicompost and an amethyst crystal in the pot.

I always thought sweetgrass was native to North America but learned recently that it is also native to Eurasia all the way from north of Switzerland right on up to the Arctic Circle. So now I find myself imagining my own ancestors harvesting long strands of the Mother's hair for medicine, basketry, flavoring and fragrance. I find it interesting that I had been looking for ways other than cooking or handwork to connect with my ancestors when out of the blue sweetgrass presented herself.

Making herbal preparations is much of what I do in late summer. Last year's red oil still smells nice and fresh but for some reason never got labeled. Suffice it to say, I will be using this oil generously over the next few months.

We had loads of black currants on one bush. They are not as tasty as red currants so I've not used them much -- however, this "cough syrup" is absolutely delicious. I prefer to call it juice from now on. I made it by simmering the berries in water, straining and adding a few tablespoons of honey.

And a liqueur seemed like a good use, as well, since I know now how much flavor those little nuggets have hidden inside.

The lavender in the front circle garden was nice this year, too.

Motherwort grows everywhere in our back yard, the bees love it and I do, too, in this honey. Motherwort is usually taken as tincture because it makes a bitter infusion, indeed.

I loved watercoloring some pages to use for my labels.

This hibiscus plant has been watercolored, too, don't you think? The Japanese beetles love her.

In the mornings lately, I have been making holy smoke with last year's remaining sweetgrass braid. I smudge myself while invoking the spirits to help me as I begin to create my day. The scent on my clothes and body is a sweet reminder.

Blessings of late summer and sweetgrass to you. xo

Sunday, June 10, 2018

all the flowers

I'm not sure why exactly, but the blooming season has been extraordinary around here these past weeks. Some say it's because we didn't have that last regular killer cold snap, others say it's because we had measurable spring snow/rain at the perfect time. Regardless, all this beauty and fragrance has been the main topic of conversation among neighbors and gardening friends...and even strangers connect over "oh-those-lilacs" (which actually happened to me recently at the grocery store). Usually it's bad weather and devastation that bring people together but here it's been all the flowers.

Dusk is the best time for lunaria and blue pansies.

Going back in time, dandelion cupcakes were made.

About 3/4 cup of dandelion petals were added to the flour/flower mix.

Finished off with a basic buttercream frosting and a few more flower petals. I don't usually bake much but Jan loved these, I took some to a get-together and there are still some in the it was worth it.

Right outside the bedroom window, the elder blossoms were breathtaking.

I filled my moonbag with enough flowers to both dry for tea and make a syrup. I made the handstitched bag with home/plant-dyed cotton and linen moon squares using a bag pattern by India Flint.

Elder flowers and Gertrude Jekyl roses drying on screens -- I left the roses intact this year as an experiment to see if they hold their color and fragrance better or worse than loose petals.

The bag's inside is pretty stitchy.

An elder flower syrup began by infusing flowers in water for several hours, then simmering the strained liquid combined with an equal amount of sugar for a half hour.

Cocktail. Two tablespoons of elder flower syrup topped with club soda. On the rocks. 

The bee yard. This new colony is expanding fast -- I've already added a second story and a third is going on soon. On the other side of the garden, the beehive in the tree trunk reached full capacity and swarmed twice (both swarms went to good homes). The colony left behind must love how roomy the tree trunk is now because it is thriving as well.

 Have you ever seen a yellowhorn tree?

A few days ago, I plucked blossoms off sage flower stalks. Since they were already past their prime, it took a lot of stalks to get enough blossoms for sage flower pesto.

A very small batch but definitely worth the effort -- just under a cup of sage blossoms, a few chive blossoms, about 1/4 cup walnuts, a clove of garlic and some nice olive oil went into the food processor. The last ingredient of 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese was stirred in.

The pesto had a subtle sage flavor and was delicious. Pretty sure I'll be making more pesto with different flowers all summer long.

I am liking learning from and connecting with flowers on a daily basis. I am trying not to complicate things by setting goals or collecting lots of recipes because then it turns into something else. I just want to go visit whoever is blooming in the garden and see what happens.

I hope you get to visit all the flowers. xo