Nurturing Hope

 

Keeping On Keeping On And On

This morning I was struggling as usual with seasonal blues and political angst when my almost-four year old granddaughter arrived a few hours before her usual time. Seven hours later, my mood has shifted into the green, out of the pit and back to the world of living, growing people. Back to replenishment and renewal. Truth be told, seven hour stints with a kidlet or two more commonly leave me feeling frazzled, but today, youth worked its healing magic on the grumpy old granny. Hallmark moment? Not exactly, but there’s no denying that a dip into the realm of enchantment is, well, enchanting. It probably helped that we were one-on-one for most of the day, and that she can immerse herself in imaginative play for long stretches.

Her gentle burble formed a cheerful background to our projects, which ranged from knitting a ridiculous scarf of incredibly soft, incredibly tacky pale pink, fluffy yarn (me) to baking bread (us) and decorating our little fake tree with (unbreakable) glittery ornaments (her). Before long, she got caught up in making nests of tinsel garlands for the bird ornaments, who then got into complicated games with the knitted gnomes and trolls. The argumentative ones got won over by the promise of treats for good behavior and they ended up having a big picnic with a fleet of unicorn and dragons. Now they’re all nesting in the little tree, waiting hopefully for the return of a playful child.

There’s Hope & There’s Hope

A friend recently spoke about two kinds of hope; one is the anticipatory hope of looking forward to an awaited, presumably joyful event. That tickle of coming pleasure is as tasty as sugar, sweetening our days and soothing our nights. The other kind of hope is more like salt mixed with pepper, bringing us out of the daily trance with a jolt. This hope is not a soporific but a wake up call. Red alert! It’s an imperative cry for action, a klieg light shining in the dimness of dailiness, revealing what’s been disguised, overlooked, or ignored. This kind of hope inspires a willingness to live a changed life, leaving unquestioning comfort behind. We may not immediately recognize the impulse as hopeful but it is. When despair drags us down into the dark, hope pushes us up to the light, where we can see what’s happening and decide what we’re going to do about it.

That’s the part that has me wondering lately; what am I going to do about the it of the day? I’m very happy with my scaled down life, exchanging a very large house on acreage for a very modest renovated mobile home. I’m thrilled with our relatively small power bills, delighted to be driving an average of 12 miles a week instead of closer to 100. We can and do walk to most of our usual haunts. We don’t have bucket lists and we don’t travel anymore (something we’ve both been very glad to let go of, so no big merit points here). We’re largely ovo-lacto vegetarians with some fish and fowl (ok, and maybe a pound of bacon and a few pepperoni pizzas a year). All these reductions and changes have been voluntary and are practically and philosophically pleasing to us both.

That’s Nice, But

So where’s the effort, the hardship, the extra mile? I definitely don’t want to be one of the tediously moral high ground claiming people who make everyone else feel like crap, but should doing my bit really be this easy? Why am I so awkwardly aware that virtue signaling is a reflexive white privilege response to the universal challenge to “get active”? Who, me? How can I possibly do more than I do when I’m already being so GOOD? Personally, I’m finding clearer direction, inspiration and hope from teens all over the world.

The most obvious are stellar girls like Greta Thunberg, and Autumn Peltier, a 13 year old water protector from the Wikwemikong First Nation in northern Ontario who called out world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in March. Her big question was the same as mine: what are you going to do about it? Pretty sure she was talking to me as well as to the international delegates. Closer to home, Kai Joseph, a Kitsap seventh-grader, collected bins of shoes for kids in foster care because the foster care kids her family cares for arrived with funky hand-me-downs that didn’t fit. I do walk local beaches, picking up trash every few weeks; could do that more often. I’m happy to donate shoes to foster kids and knit warm scarves and hats and fingerless gloves for homeless kids. Could do that more as well. I guess my real question is, how much is enough? Do we give until it hurts?

Hurting Doesn’t Help

Is giving supposed to hurt? Is it more virtuous if it hurts? I’m thinking no. I’ve been noticing how horrible I feel after reading or listening to the news, how helpless and depressed I am when those narratives run my life. There’s just so much gut wrenching news blasting at us every single day. I’m certainly not the only one who get overwhelmed and flees to the garden, or starts knitting hats and scarves, or makes too much bread and soup. It’s interesting that when I do retreat from the barrage for long enough to regain my balance, that’s when an activating hope bubbles up. That’s when I get renewed, energized, hopeful.

So of course we keep on voting, and exercising our rights as citizens by requiring our elected officials to act in our names and according to our will: Abolish ICE! Set the captive immigrant families free! Reunite those families and make reparation! Get the unfairly imprisoned out of jail-for-profit institutions and help them find their feet. Stop the increasing ecological abuses of all kinds NOW! We can call again and again and we must, for only by letting our representatives hear from us daily, over and over and over, can we expect them to act in our interests, not corporate interests.

Now For The Hard Part

And above all, we can all be kind, generous, quick to offer a hand when a need is made known. Stress can make us crabby, that’s for damn sure, but let’s make a pact to stay kind. And happy. I used to think that the pursuit of happiness was selfish, shallow, and frivolous. The older I get, the greater the value I see in happiness for everyone. For one thing, happy people don’t covet other people’s land. Happy people don’t need to fill an inner black hole with stuff. Happy people don’t create competitive hierarchies or play win-lose games with people, places, or things. Happy people don’t make war, don’t steal (legally or otherwise), don’t develop addictions. As the Buddha famously pointed out, happy people don’t need anything and they like to help. So now, I’m trying my best to be a happy person. It’s definitely NOT the easiest work I’ve ever done. Wait, what? So maybe this IS the hard part? Hmmm….

Posted in Health & Wellbeing, Sustainable Living | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Rosemary And Rue

Light at the end of the tunnel

Thanksgiving and TDOR (Huh?)

This is a complicated time of year for many people, with traditionally jolly food-and-family holidays piling up and darkness growing every day. I’ve been grieving deeply for three years now, but my own downhill slide gets a push at Halloween, when my husband died, then picks up speed a few weeks later (both my parents died two days after my November birthday, though twelve years apart). Next stop, Thanksgiving; as we watch the current regime deliberately destroy Native America sacred sites and give the pass to pipelines that were guaranteed to leak into sacred waters, the old Thanksgiving story definitely gets a re-write. These days, we begin our low key celebration by honoring the Suquamish people, the original inhabitants of the land we live on. I’m glad that their tribal lands are slowly being recaptured as their culture is strengthened, though clearly so much was/is lost to white greed and privilege.

As the winter holidays loom, I can still feel intensely thankful for the loving people in my life and the fruitful opportunities for service and enjoyment I’m still offered. I’m beyond grateful to have a sweet little home for my daughter to share, and grateful that we can afford to live in the community we both love. It’s still fun to share holidays with my grandkids, who enjoy making decorations and doing craft projects, but the thought of obligatory gaiety and gifts leaves me soul sick. I’m finding excess sickening for many reasons, from climate change to greed and willful cultural ignorance, but also because Thanksgiving follows so closely after TDOR. What’s that?

Speak Their Names

Transgender Day Of Remembrance commemorates the Transgender people who were murdered in the past year. Counts of known murders are kept from November 20 of one year to the next and published internationally. Many communities in many countries honor these victims of violent hate crimes by speaking their names and giving a few facts about them; usually all that’s known is where, when and how they died. Sometimes not even that. This year, every one of them were people of color. Most were murdered in South and Central America, but those are only the ones we know about. We know that many more transgender people were killed in India, in Russia, in China, and on and on, but we get little or no information from those countries.

I came away from our local TDOR ceremony with a handful of cards which I took to church. I invited people to take one home and speak the name, and all my cards were gone in a few minutes. I kept one card, that of Amma Hajjani, who was beaten to death in Sindh, Pakistan on March 26, 2019. I’ve got her card sitting next to me as I work, and I carry it with me through the day. We set a place for her at mealtimes, and put her card on the plate, along with a candle and a sprig of rosemary for remembrance. If you would like to honor any of this years 317 murder victims, here’s a link to this year’s lost:

Memorializing 2019

Heartwarming Tea & Cake

When I am sad and discouraged, the right cup of tea can bring my heart back to wholeness. This bracing blend combines the gentle spiciness of turmeric with brisk rosemary, sweet orange zest and juice, and the warmth of honey. It’s great for discouraging colds and flu and it’s very comforting on cold, dark days, especially with a warm piece of rosemary tea cake.

Rosemary Orange Turmeric Tea

1 organic orange, juiced, zest freshly grated
1 tablespoon freshly grated turmeric root
1/4 teaspoon chopped rosemary
4 cups simmering water
1-2 teaspoons honey

In a tea pot, combine the orange zest, turmeric and rosemary and add the hot water. Cover and let steep for 5-15 minutes, depending on taste. Strain into cups and add orange juice and honey to taste. Makes about 4-1/2 cups.

Rosemary Tea Cake

Rich with nuts and fragrant with fresh rosemary, this not-too-sweet tea cake is delicious on a chilly afternoon.

Rosemary Winter Tea Cake

1 cup organic all purpose flour
2/3 cup coarsely ground raw almonds or walnuts
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup cane sugar
zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup avocado or vegetable oil
1 cup raspberry or any jam OR lemon curd

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a heavy 9 x 2 inch round cake pan and set it aside. In a small bowl, stir together flour, ground nuts, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a large bowl, combine sugar, lemon zest, and rosemary, rubbing between your fingers until fragrant and well blended. Add the yogurt, eggs, and vanilla and blend well. Stir in dry ingredients, then gently fold in the oil with a rubber spatula (batter will be pretty thick). Scrape it into your buttered pan and tap the pan lightly. Bake at 350 F until set and golden-edged (35-40 minutes). Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, invert onto a flat plate then flip back onto the rack to cool completely. When cool, slice cake in half horizontally and spread middle with jam or lemon curd. Serves at least one; refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 days.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

When Tradition Meets Trend

Treasuring A Heritage Crop

I recently took part in an ongoing if slightly weird community discussion about kale. It all started with a social media post asking if anyone actually liked kale. Yikes! The floodgates opened and hundreds of people spoke up. I found it fascinating that some folks seemed resentful of kale’s popularity, scornfully calling it “so last year” and accusing high profile chefs of tricking them into eating something fit only for animal fodder. Others protested that kale can be wonderful, usually citing favorite restaurant dishes and recipes. Of the hundreds of responses, mine was the only one (that I saw, anyway) that discussed kale as a heritage crop, grown from the Mediterranean basin into Asia Minor through Europe and into the UK by the Middle Ages. Response? Crickets….

I guess I’m a little odd, but I’m always intrigued by the ways in which foods migrate around the world, becoming firmly traditional in some countries and fading from popularity in others. Brassica oleracea, the progenitor of kale, cabbage, broccoli etc., was a common food in Greek and Roman cultures by around 2000 BC. Thanks in part to various invasions, ancestral forms of kale and cabbage made their way across Europe to find an especially warm welcome in what’s now Scotland, where a heritage Shetland kale is still grown, a landrace whose origins are said to date back to around 600 BC when Celtic travelers wandered the known world. Scotland kale and its cole kin were farmhouse staples for hundreds of years, if not longer. Well into the twentieth century, Scots called any kitchen garden a kale yard, and ‘come to kale’ was a traditional invitation to a meal.

The World In A Kale Yard

These days, kale comes in many colors, textures, and even flavors, from peppery to mild and slightly sweet. As a dedicated kale lover, I’m thrilled to be able to grow kale in astonishing variety, from intensely ruffled Siberian Blue to frilly, crimson Chidori, which tastes sweetest when touched by frost. Deep magenta Redbor has curly-edged leaves that look and taste terrific in raw salads and cook in just a few minutes. White Russian kale has lacy foliage with white veining and is also most delicious after a light frost. Red Russian, deep green with pink and red edging, adds a tender crunch to salads. Vivid, electric green Prizm has won several awards, since its curly, almost stemless, cut-and-come-again leaves are excellent raw or cooked.

Crinkled and slender, Black Tuscan kale is a mild yet flavorful cross between kale and cabbage that my grandkids love, especially when we call it Dragonskin. Oregon-bred Dazzling Blue is another lacinato-type beauty, with blue-green foliage and hot pink ribs and a mellow flavor that’s lovely raw or cooked. I’m enchanted by Biera, an heirloom Portugese Sea Kale; it’s very tasty and the large leaves, jade green ribbed in ivory, look just like the charming pottery cabbage plates my mother collected in Portugal. Their thick ribs are as crisp as celery, while the leaves, sliced into chiffonade, are delicious in soups and stir fries. My whole family is wild about Kosmic Kale, a perennial Dutch tree kale that we harvest from every day of the year. My grandkids love to harvest the tender, blue-green foliage tipped and streaked with cream, and we enjoy it raw in sandwiches and salads as well as in almost any savory dish we make.

Kale In The Kitchen

If kale isn’t part of your usual repertoire, try adding chopped kale to casseroles, lasagna, and soups for extra color and texture. For extra crunch and a mild bite, add finely shredded kale or cabbage to tacos or hummus wraps. Need a quick side? Saute kale with olive oil and garlic, then spritz with lemon juice or drizzle with garlic-infused olive oil and toasted walnuts. Here are a few of our daily dishes, good warm or cold as sides or cooked salads, and leftovers make great omelet stuffing.

Three Vegans And A Fish

Bright and beautiful, this hearty side can become an entree with the addition of sliced sausages such as field roast or spicy Italian. The vinegar gives it an appealingly autumnal tang; try it with raspberry or blueberry vinegar as well as apple or pear cider vinegar.

Tangy Kale With Apples And Peppers

1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 medium Honey Bee or any apple, diced
1 cup chopped sweet or spicy red pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
4-6 cups chopped kale, stems finely chopped
2 cups red or purple cabbage, chopped
2-4 tablespoons cider or fruity vinegar

Combine oil, onion, apple, peppers and salt over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes. Add kale, cabbage and 2 tablespoons vinegar, cover pan and cook until tender (15-20 minutes). Adjust vinegar to taste and serve. Serves 4-6.

Lively with curry spices and fresh lime juice, this savory salad makes a satisfying vegetarian/vegan entree.

Black Kale Salad With Curry Dressing

3 cups Black Magic kale, stemmed and cut in ribbons
3 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 cup chopped sweet peppers
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 Cara Cara orange, sectioned, peeled and chopped
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 cup Curry Dressing (see below)

In a bowl, combine all ingredients and gently toss. Serves 4-6.

Curry Dressing

2-3 tablespoons avocado or any oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
1 organic lime, rind grated, juiced

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, starting with small amounts of curry powder, salt and lime juice and adjusting seasoning to taste. Makes about 1/3 cup.

Quick Kale Crisps

Kids love these tasty tidbits for snacks or as a mealtime side dish. Nutritional yeast has a nutty, cheese-like flavor and packs a powerful amount of protein.

1 large bunch kale (any kind)
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim tough stems from kale and save for soup. Chop the foliage into inch-wide ribbons. Pour oil into a rimmed baking sheet, add kale and toss gently with your hands to coat. Sprinkle with salt and nutritional yeast (if using) and bake at 400 until crisp (12-15 minutes). Serve immediately. Makes about 2 cups.

Poached Salmon with Kale and Oranges

1 pound skinless salmon fillet, cut in four strips
2 organic oranges, rind grated
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chopped Kosmic Kale (or any)
4 green onions, thinly sliced

In a large pan, arrange salmon and sprinkle with half the orange zest, salt, and pepper. Juice one orange and add juice to pan with 1/4 cup water. Cut peel from remaining orange, section and chop, set aside. Cover pan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until fish is opaque (136 degrees F., about 10 minutes per inch of fillet thickness). Remove fish to serving plates. Add kale, oranges, and remaining zest, salt and pepper, cover pan and cook until barely tender (3-4 minutes). Serve with fish, garnished with green onions. Serves four.

 

Posted in fall/winter crops, Gardening With Children, Recipes, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living, Vegan Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Following The Light As Days Grow Dim

Lifework is like a tree with branches going everywhere

Standing For Kindness (And Fabulous Soup)

Foggy mornings give November mornings a ghostly quality, like fading old photographic images. Misty nights capture waxing moonlight in silvery nets, spangling plants with tiny moondrops. Both effects are beautiful and sad, dimming the pale sunlight and matching my mood. There’s no denying that these are desperately dark times for our country and the world. I wake up in the middle of the night, weeping for our suffering planet, for water, for trees, for air. I’m soul sick and grieving over the environmental destruction and the human meanness we’re faced with every single day. I’m painfully aware that neither is anything new; both conditions are as old as humanity. But both are so painful because I have a different dream for the planet and its people.

History teaches us that the degrading, heartless backward swings we’re experiencing usually follow and are followed by forward swings. Ruth Bader Ginsberg has reminded of this several times and she’s not wrong. But. There have never been so many of us before, and we’ve never been able to wreak as much and as lasting harm so quickly before. I wobble between panic and despair, perhaps especially because I recognize that’s the intent behind the malicious nastiness of the current regime. Like alcoholics and addicts, they use a choking smog of smoke and mirrors to knock us off balance, providing a relentless stream of aggressive destruction that’s deliberately designed to make ordinary people collapse in despair. The despair of good people is the goal of evil people.

The Power To Change

My dream is of a peaceful, plentiful world, where we humans all have access to good health care, can control our reproduction rate, can feed and house and clothe and educate ourselves and our children, can build cooperative and productive societies that hold the health and wellbeing of the planet and all its wild inhabitants as dear as humanity. That’s what I want with all my being, but getting there isn’t easy. If few of us are given the opportunity and power to change the world for the better, it’s worth noting that some people don’t wait for those tools, but dive straight in where they are with what they have. If Greta Thunberg, a young teenager on the Aspie spectrum, can shift the thoughts and actions of the world simply by showing up, persisting and speaking clear, simple truths, perhaps we are all capable of more than we imagine.

It helps to have clear goals; with so much happening, it’s easy to get scattered, spending dwindling energy on a multitude of issues. I’ve made myself crazy more than a few times trying to respond to every cause that appeals. I end up making myself sick, less capable than ever of doing any good. Instead, I keep coming back to my lifelong focus; healthy gardening. Fortunately it’s a huge tree of a topic, with many side branches; healing soil, growing food without toxic chemicals, getting young people engaged in gardening, finding regionally appropriate plants, planting trees, making pollinator gardens, bird and butterfly friendly gardens, on and on. What’s more, I can pursue it every day, in almost any setting, public or private, formal or spontaneous. Even before I was (mostly) retired, I found numerous places and ways to share my knowledge and skills widely, accepting payment in the form of satisfaction and joy.

Finding Light

Even with an endless supply of worthy work I love, it’s still too easy to sink into the sticky pit of dark despair. To keep my balance, I have to actively notice every positive action, every kindness, every joyful effusion, every moment of sweetness that comes my way. For years, I’ve kept file cards in purse or pocket so I can make notes about goodness. When I start to slide, I bump up my practice, making sure that I acknowledge at least ten positive things every hour, light in the darkness, all day long. This takes work, and sometimes means I need to get out of my house and walk in the rain to see raindrops spangling a trembling leaf, a bird calling from a bending branch, a sudden shaft of sunlight, a smile exchanged with a passersby. I also count hugs from my grandkids, my cat purring on my lap, the smell of baking bread, the fun of knitting unicorns or making up patterns for doll’s socks.

There’s also satisfaction to be had from calling my elected officials, from local school board and parks district to senators and congress people. It’s especially pleasant to hear cheerful thanks from their aides, no matter how often I call. In fact, they are often grateful to hear my requests because the current regime pays people on every level to pretend to be grassroots activists and they are calling every day too. Believe it. Elected officials are supposed to be responsive to their constituency, and some very unpleasant people are calling for very unpleasant actions, from bathroom bills to cutting off aid for people of color to locking more kids in cages to allowing extractive adn toxic-producing industries to rape and pillage unchecked. I particularly like the five calls app (5calls.org), because they provide a script you can alter, especially helpful when I start crying as I try to make my plea for help and action.

Making Comfort Food

Everyone has some favorite comfort foods, but sadly, a lot of them aren’t really ideal for daily indulging. That’s truly sad, since every day has demanded comfort for the past three years (ok, and before that too). These days, some of my most comforting food is coming from my indoor garden, where my little lemon tree is ripening an impressive batch of fruit. My whole family loves Greek Avgolemono soup, a gorgeously flavorful concoction that combines tart lemons and eggs, rice and broth. I like to lean into the lemon, adding grated rind and lots of pepper, but some folks find a softer, less assertive flavor more pleasing. My second treat is a lemon pie that is a tremendous crowd pleaser. Again, I make mine more intensely lemony than usual, so definitely suit yourself if you prefer milder, sweeter versions.

Avgolemono Soup

6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup cooked short grain brown rice (or any)
2-3 organic lemons, juiced, rind grated
(1/3-1/2 cup lemon juice)
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flat Italian parsley, stemmed

In a soup pot, bring broth to a simmer over medium high heat. Add rice, lemon zest and salt and simmer for five minutes. Whisk lemon juice into eggs, then add a little hot broth to temper the mixture so it doesn’t curdle. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the hot broth while stirring constantly over lowest heat. Add more salt and pepper to taste and serve, garnished with parsley. Serves 4.

The Most Lemony Pie Ever

This pie filling is seriously tart, so adjust the flavor at the end of the cooking while the filling is still hot; just add sugar and/or butter to taste, but don’t eat it all, unless you really need to. Then it’s fine. The crust can be graham cracker, toasted nut crust, gluten free or regular dough or you may prefer the filling as a pudding, with roasted pistachios, toasted coconut, or candied ginger for garnish.

(Very) Lively Lemon Pie

1-1/2 cups cane sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup fresh lemon juice (3-4 large lemons)
1 cup water
3-4 tablespoons grated lemon zest
4 large egg yolks, well beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 baked pie crust
1/4 cup spearmint leaves

Sift together 1-1/4 cup sugar, the cornstarch and salt into a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Stir in the lemon juice, water, and lemon zest, then add egg yolks and blend well. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently (especially pan edges). When mixture thickens, stir constantly for a minute, then remove from heat and stir in butter until completely incorporated. Taste and add more sugar if needed, stirring until dissolved. Stir in vanilla and pour filing into the baked pie crust. Let cool for an hour, then sprinkle top with spearmint leaves. Serves at least one.

 

Posted in Gardening With Children, Health & Wellbeing, Recipes, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living | Tagged , | 9 Comments