Happy New Year

Today I just want to say thank you to my followers, those who have stuck with us through my erratic posting and those who have just recently joined us (welcome!). I have been working on a new post–actually a few of them–but I just can’t quite wrap them up in the way I envisioned them at the start. I will keep working and will hopefully post soon! I will be posting on thoughts on the luxury of time and some recipes for DIY body scrubs and butters (got the recipes, need some good images).

In the meantime, I have been enjoying our unexpectedly beautiful few days here in the Northwest. Short walks around the property, a bit of work in the garden. Sat on a sunny rock and listened to the birds and frogs for awhile. Played in our seasonal creek. Even saw a snake sunning itself. These two days have felt like spring, but I’ve had to rein myself in and remember that there are still two months of winter yet! Stay away from the garden center for now!! Maybe I’ll just sit down with the Territorial catalog and order my seeds.

This year I am trying to slow down and appreciate time (more on this in a later post). I am also trying to cut out the middle man,and the processing that goes with that, and make more things from scratch. Right now, I have turkey slow roasting for the cats, just finished a tropical body butter (plumeria and pikake–yum!), I’m experimenting with Slippery Elm for tummy disorders for both people and cats (so far so good), and I’m ready to try sourdough again. When you aren’t working and those checks aren’t coming in, making things from scratch generally saves money, but it also makes us slow down and appreciate things.

On a different note, I’ve always been quite a reader, but have slowed down the last few years with all the stress and problems we’ve faced. But I’m getting back into it again, this time with a series of non-fiction. Just thought I would share my list for the new year, as I’ve enjoyed them all! The first is Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley. A fascinating read and surprisingly timely for women, considering the original codex it’s based on was written about 500 AD. Next was Michael Pollan’s Cooked, which makes me want to spend the next few months in the kitchen. I’m now reading The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen, which I’ve thought about reading for years but finally found myself in the perfect frame of mind.

For those of you who enjoy our outdoor adventures–don’t give up! We’ve had a series of setbacks in the form of injuries and illness (nothing serious) but we hope to be back on the trails soon.

Hope the new year is staring out well for all of you! I promise I will be better about engaging with other bloggers this year!!!!

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Comments Concerning Cairns and the Tedious Business of Huckleberries

Last month we found ourselves in Moab, Utah, for a week of hiking and quad/dirt bike riding with friends. I had my first quad trial by fire (i.e.; ride, which was supposed to be easy, except for the hair-raising ride up and down the incredibly rocky, narrow ledge that passed as a road) but prefer the quiet moments out in nature so Jim and I did some hiking as well. Our last hike of the trip was to the Fisher Towers along the Colorado River just NE of Moab. Stunningly beautiful territory and a hike we would heartily recommend to anyone planning a trip to the area. Do watch the weather, which comes in quick (as it does here in the NW). We were keeping an eye on some thunder and rain storms that pretty much split the formation we were hiking. (The lyrics from King of the Mountain kept going through my head! “Mountain in the shadow of light, rain in the valley below”–Midnight Oil). Wind was wild in places, and really caught everyone off guard as we came around a corner to one of the popular stopping points–from perfectly calm to wind that blew the glasses right off my face and sent someone’s backpack tumbling back down the trail. I basically dropped and clung to the bare rock for fear of following my glasses over the edge. But the wind did die down and Jim was safely able to rescue both glasses and backpack. The trail ends on a similar windy, bare, exposed rock with an incredible view. I crawled up it; Jim of course stood right at the edge.

This hike, in addition to being amazing in so many ways, was also interesting in that much of the trail is marked with cairns. We usually do relatively easy day hikes here in the Olympics and the only cairns I see on a regular basis are often found along our rocky riverbeds, where the rocks practically beg to be stacked. However, I now see exactly why experienced back country hikers hate to see cairns that are made for no reason. They really do make a difference is some areas. When you are hiking across hard, bare rock, they may be the only way to mark a trail. Randomly piling up rocks can send people off in the completely wrong direction. So if you love them, make one, take a photo, and then take it down, or make them in your own yard.

On a completely different subject, we returned to huckleberry season in the NW. These are not my favorite berries to eat right off the plant, but they are wonderful in pancakes, muffins, and other such things. They are also free and in great abundance on our property. With our meagre income, who are we to turn down free food? On the flip side, free is not necessarily easy. I see why someone in the area is charging $9 for a half-pint of the berries. After several days of picking and sorting (which is way worse than the picking), I think she was undercharging! They are lots of work. But my stash in the freezer is growing and I will keep at it until they are gone for the year. We will all be glad in mid-winter! Tomorrow we tackle the mountain of green tomatoes in the kitchen.

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Garden Bounty

I know I’ve been quiet lately. It’s been a difficult summer. Not in a catastrophic way, like our last few years, but one of those where so many smaller things pile up that it suddenly becomes too much to take, especially for someone with chronic depression. I haven’t had my normal outlet of hiking for some time. Jim got a bad burn on his leg early in the summer (luckily it has completely healed–even the scar isn’t bad) and I hurt my foot last month. We have been paddling a few times–lots of fun, but not as often as I would like. Last month everything seemed to happen at once and I got to the point where I just had to hold on tight and ride out the storm. I’m finally reaching the end of this one and my saving grace has been my garden (and having the time to be out in it).

Gardening requires patience. You can’t rush it. Even when it’s exploding with produce that must be picked, you can only go so fast. This gives the mind a break from life’s chaos. The combination of being out in the elements, working in the soil, smelling the vegetation, and slowing down has a wonderful soothing effect on the soul. I have a chair near the vegetable garden and often just sit and listen to the bees. Even watering can be a relaxing routine–Jim fills the cans for me as I water (though next year we will probably look into a more efficient system!)

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I have always enjoyed gardening, but this year it’s taken on a new meaning, as we can really use the food–it helps with the grocery bill! We are making an extra effort to not be wasteful and it’s paying off with a freezer full of goodies, plus lots of fresh meals. I have only purchased lettuce once in the last several months and haven’t had to buy tomatoes since mid-July. Sunflower seeds are being roasted today, tomatillos have been roasted and frozen, zucchini grated, kale leaves packaged, salsa and sauces made and frozen. Peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers are all going strong. Fall seeds will be going in soon.

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An abundance of fresh produce can encourage a search for new recipes. We’ve tried zucchini raviolis and lasagna, using strips of zucchini in place of pasta. Both are wonderful and the raviolis make a pretty spectacular presentation, especially when topped with a sauce of fresh picked tomatoes and herbs. Our simplest go-to recipe is to take whatever has just been picked and put it in a freshly made tortilla (super easy to make!).

Growing your own food is incredibly satisfying. I’m very lucky to have room for a big garden, but even a few potted plants on a windowsill, balcony, or counter will give you a connection to nature. Many vegetables grow well in containers on a patio or deck. Tomatoes and strawberries can grow in hanging pots. Herbs can be easy to grow and have so many uses in both cooking and beauty products (I use a rosemary rinse for my hair). You can start small and still enjoy the benefits!

Happy gardening to all of you!

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