Grackle & Sun

Morning Meditation: Life As It Should Be

It really can be this simple.

Satisfaction.  Contentment.  Fulfilment.  Happiness.

And the measure of this?

All to be found in watching a flock of sheep graze in a green pasture.

In the light filtering through dogwood blossoms.

In the song of a red-shouldered hawk hiding in the canopy of great oak trees.

In the hum of bees in pear blossoms.

In the soft green of leaves unfurling.

In the warmth of the sun’s good medicine.

In belonging where you are.

Wait for It….

I missed the lunar eclipse. Would not really have been able to see it from here anyway. So I slept.

And then I woke up, and during the course of my day, saw all these other wonderful things instead!

Overnight, all the violets in the world bloomed.

The woods behind my house full of Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica.

A miniature field of grape hyacinths, which smell absolutely divine–from a close distance.

Always happy to see these sunny little lions.

Chickweed, Stellaria media. Of course, not a weed at all, but a medicinal soother.

May…

Apples…

Un…

Furling.

Maybe this year I’ll get to taste one…

A nibble-on Trillium.

Native American fishing net plummets. Who knew? I did not.

Thank you, local Conservation Center!

And, my friends, for the best part of the day.  I took a lovely afternoon drive–windows down, Bjork blasting her quirky Icelandic heart out on my speakers.  A drive which led to my knitting buddy’s alpaca farm. I feel that should be in all caps.

ALPACA FARM FIELD TRIP!

Aw, yeah. That’s right. All the fun enhappenated.

Oh, the squishy, springy, lustrous wonderfulness. I touched a lot of alpaca today.

 I got kissed by an alpaca. No joke. It’s how they say hi, things are cool. They have very soft noses. This is not the alpaca I bumped noses with. It’s hard to take a picture of an alpaca when her face is in your face, so Sweetums remains unseen.

They will be shorn next week. Ready for the heat of a Missouri summer. Their teeth will be filed (as the photo above shows, it’s time) and their toes trimmed. All in 8 minutes per animal, so I’m told. Professional shearers know their stuff, hunh?

Look at that coat! Practically begging to be spun. I’ve never wanted a wheel as much as I did today. I’ve got to start spinning.

The biggest surprise to me was how stout alpaca are. They are muscley little things under all that gorgeous, sproingy wool.

They are also very curious and personable. Really delightful souls.

Alpaca. Best field trip ever.

Morning Meditation: Atheist Prayer

I am an atheist. And I pray.

I recognized some time ago, long after I’d finally admitted out loud to the world that I neither believe in the existence of nor worship any personal Supreme Beings of any sort, that the one thing I missed about my religious upbringing was prayer. Why? I’ve struggled with this for a long time. It is too bound up in the usage and meanings of others. I’ve had to pick this thing apart piece by piece, knowing that if I could first identify and articulate what I meant by prayer, maybe then I would understand why I, an atheist, need it.

A significant part of this journey was reconciling, in both my inner and outer worlds, that I believe in things that may not fit most people’s definition of atheist. I am an animatheist. Animist and atheist. Some might call this an atheopagan. Same circles. Suffice it to say that while I don’t worship any gods, I am deeply steeped in the spirit, and my life reflects that. We can get into this some other time. Preferably around a fire with a good hard cider. We will talk about strange phenomena, lucid dreaming, plant energy, daoist witchcraft, folk magic, hylozoism, Marcus Aurelius and Epicurus, and the delightful and dark world of the subconscious. I promise, it will be fun.

And so here we are at the point where I tell you what prayer is to me. Prayer is a sort of meditation, one that works for people, like me, whose monkey minds cannot abide staring at walls with their eyes half closed, silent and still. The words of a prayer recited or chanted calm the monkey and unlock the stillness within. Prayer is a key. Prayer is also a gateway. By using an external mechanism, a symbol, such as prayer beads, in conjunction with the often poetic or heartfelt language of the prayer, the conscious is bypassed and the subconscious is tapped. Through prayer, we tuck our rational, linear conscious mind into our back pocket for a while and allow the subconscious to take over and to guide us, to speak freely from the deepest parts of ourselves. Prayer is a lens. It allows us to focus our intention and will. Through prayer we identify problems and ask our deeper selves for solutions. Prayer is a ritual reminder to be mindful, to be thankful, to be good, to be aware, to be better. Prayer is an acceptance of our humble state in this universe. Through prayer we acknowledge that we are not in control of all the things, and at the same time we acknowledge our connection to all the things and our responsibility to do what we can. Through prayer we practice and reinforce learning how to ease up and go with the flow. Finally, prayer is the yin to the yang of Action. Prayer is reflective and restorative. It allows us to still our thoughts, heal our spirits, focus our intentions, and gather our potential energy so that we may then go into the world and act with wisdom and kindness and understanding. Prayer helps us get our heads on straight, to get right with ourselves. So, even though I do not pray to any gods, I pray for these reasons.

I wanted to make prayer beads specifically because I wanted something to hold in my hands—not only to help me focus, but also as a reminder that Prayer and Action go together. That the same hands that pray for something must then go make it so. And so I made what I very tongue-in-cheek call my “witch’s rosary”.  In reality, as witch is not exactly a title I claim, it is simply my chantstrand.The beadwork was set to a prayer of sorts that I’d written a long time ago and is not symmetrical. It is made of handpicked white Job’s Tears and polished copper ore on red thread. There are more in the works, by request and also to be set to other prayers and chants. I think writing one’s own prayers can be very liberating and healing and can bring a great deal of clarity and solidity to one’s practice.

Many blessings to you all as you find your spiritual center. Remember that you can carve that out for yourself.

Knit|tinK: Sweet Little Shawl

All that ranting and moaning about not being able to knit apparently unblocked my mojo. I decided the next day that I needed to cast on a quick little project for a gift I had promised a friend months ago. I found the perfect pattern in Susan Galbraith’s Sumptuous Stripes Shawlette.

The shawl is a gift for a teenage girl, and so I decided that making it easy to wash would be the kind thing to do. I used two skeins of my go-to favourite “I’m making this for a kid” yarn, which is Lion Brand Wool-Ease in worsted weight heathered solids. We all have our guilty knitting pleasures, and Wool-Ease is mine. It wears well, and you can chuck it into the washer and dryer many, many, many times, and it comes out looking like new. The natural-coloured Romney wool snob in me is stamping her foot in the corner. I am ignoring her.

This took all of two days to finish. I had fun learning how to knit on an edging, which somehow I had never done before. Susan was super helpful in answering my questions when I couldn’t quite visualize where I was in space and time. It all came together without a hitch. Well, almost. The Universe had a hand in this project, of course. See, the funny part about the whole thing is that in order to get the drape I was looking for, I had to go up in needles size. To size 11. So, two projects going on size 11s at the same time. Ha! That’s what I get for bitching.

The only other size 11 needles I had in the house were a pair of old aluminum straights. Not even all that straight–one has a bend in it either from use or maybe from being sat on… I was NOT going to buy another pair of circs in a size I abhor, and so I used the straights. I crammed all 199 stitches onto those cold, chubby, metal sticks, and I made it happen.

Turned out pretty cute.  Thanks to awesome teenage daughter who modeled for my “knit cred”.

I have a thing for knitting stripes. In part, it is due to my “stripe amnesia”–that’s what it’s called when you forget how horrible it is to weave in a millionty ends. BUT, this pattern had no end weaving whatsoever due to the very clever, yet simple, way the colours are carried and changed. I also love the way the edging took care of binding off the live stitches and helped the stockinette to lay down nice and flat. Lovely. Especially since the downfall of Wool-Ease is its lack of blockability.

There we go. Knitting success. Mojo unblocked. Needles flying like the wind.

Aaaaaand… I’m back to the afghan. :D

As always, tinks on me.

Knit|tinK: Squirrels

It’s been a minute since I posted a knitting project. This is true for one incredibly simple reason. I’m knitting an afghan.

It was supposed to be a wedding gift. Ha! I thumb my nose at deadlines. But if I’m very, very lucky, it can be an anniversary gift instead. I’m so not even joking. I’ve been knitting this thing since June, and I’m only, like, 8 inches into it. And that’s on size 11s! Knitting with size 11 needles is like coloring with chubby crayons. It’s like building with Duplo blocks instead of Lego.The whole process is all ham-fisted and unwieldy and weird. My one salvation is the sweet, sweet comfort of feather + fan.  Blessed be the four row repeat.

This kind of knitting is mindless. Is boring. Is the kind of knitting that requires discipline, self control, and the ability to stay the course. To not get distracted. Did you see the seed catalog peeking out from the basket? That is not helping. I sat down to knit the other night and instead wrote up my entire seed order. I try to knit on this monster beast and suddenly I’ve got the brain capacity of a rabid squirrel on a merry-go-round. Today, I did the dishes instead of knitting. I vacuumed.

I’M WRITING A BLOG POST ABOUT KNITTING THE AFGHAN INSTEAD OF KNITTING THE AFGHAN.

What is the problem? I don’t know. Usually knitting time is a gift. But for some reason, right now I just can’t sit still that long. I am restless. I am weak. I am undisciplined. I am… Look, shells! These are shells I found on the beaches in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Yes, Delaware actually does exist. I have been there and know it is true. I love the ocean. I am also afraid of it. And shells are pretty fantastic.

I love the devil’s purse. I wonder who first gave it that name? Did you know that these are the egg cases of sharks and skates? Some awesome little baby sea creature hatched out of this crazy collagen pod. Some mama sea creature MADE this crazy collagen pod with her body. How wild is that?

And all this sunlight saying everything is ok. Urging me to look, and then look again. To think of beauty and far off places. Of stories and adventures. Of possibilities.

Aaaaand… still no knitting. But I did get hungry what with all this cleaning and contemplation. So, I made myself a green smoothie. Can I just say that my smoothies, although quite delicious, never ever ever ever ever look like they do in health food magazines or celebrity cookbooks. My smoothies look like this.

Mmmmm, yum. Lol. Let’s be real here. That is one super healthy smoothie–burgeoning with ripe (albeit, frozen) cherries, masses of fresh kale, coconut oil, heaping tablespoons of omega-laden flax meal, super duper grain-free plant-based protein powder, and powerhouse antioxidant camu camu. It’s healthy, but it is not sexy. That is one fugly smoothie. I bring it up simply to point out that the good stuff rarely looks like it does in photos. And I think this derails a lot of people, keeps them from sticking to their good, healthy intentions. We get so hung up on the image that we lose sight of the content. It doesn’t look perfect so we messed up, right? What’s the point? Then we spend all our precious energy on trying to make things look right instead of spending it on making sure we’re doing it right. Or doing it at all.

So, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah. Me not knitting an afghan.

:P

As always, tinks are on me.

Mookies and the New Year

I hope you have all had a very happy Elevensies and that the New Year brings you much happiness, many blessings, and every good thing. Since we recently moved a couple hours away from most of our friends, we realized that we would not be able to celebrate Togetherness (aka, EmpanadaFest) in the way that we used to do–with a big open house and mountains of empanadillas–what with the distance and drive time in poor weather. So instead we had a low-key four-of-us New Year’s Eve and Togetherness Day today. In addition to beating pots and pans and sweeping out the old year and lighting incense for the Ancestors, it may have involved watching The Big Lebowski. It also involved food.

I never thought I’d have a recipe on my blog, lol, but here goes. As part of that celebration, I made a recipe that I’ve been working on for a little bit now. It’s a delicious paleo take on a cookie-muffin hybrid love child. I basically modelled it after a traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe, but substituted paleo ingredients, and lo, it worked. Yes, it’s just that easy! Fool’s luck and all that. The muffin tin is key for achieving maximum brownage. Just like the corner pieces are the best part of brownies, the perfectly browned exterior is the best part of a cookie. Caramelized sugars are a gift. But first, dude, can I just say that food photography is wicked hard. My hat is off to all of you brilliant bloggers who take beautiful food photos. That shit takes skill.

World, I present to you…

Mookies!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour*
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • roughly 1 tsp of baking soda or baking powder**
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened***
  • 1/2 cup honey****
  • generous splash of vanilla extract (I use 2-3 tsp, because it’s mas deliciouser)
  • 3 eggs******
  • one bag gluten, dairy, and soy-free chocolate chips (ie, Enjoy Life chocolate chunks or mini-chips)

Quick Asterisked Asides:

  • *Raw almond meal works, too, but is not as elegantly foo-foo.
  • **Technically, you should use baking soda because pH. However, I suffer the misfortune of being able to taste baking soda in baked goods (it’s a distractingly gross metallic taste that makes me want to wipe my tongue clean with a sponge, and doesn’t that sound fun?), so I always and only use baking powder in recipes. Some would have you believe that interchanging these does not work, but I have yet to experience any baking FAILS due to this exchange.
  • ***Since this is a Paleo recipe, I am obligated by law to tell you that this butter should be grassfed if you’ve the dosh for it.
  • ****Supporting your local bee population and local apiarist(s) by purchasing local honey is an honourable deed.
  • ******I love my chickens!

Instrucciones:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease a mini-muffin pan with butter or coconut oil or some other culinary unguent of your choice.
  3. In a large bowl, beat wet ingredients until you feel comfortable that you’ve done a pretty good job at mixing it all together. Some of you may perform this step with a hand-mixer or a posh standing mixer. That’s cool. I’m sure it’ll work just fine. I use a fork. It’s a special magical fork that came into my life when I met my dear husband (of now 18 years!). It was, and I do not joke, his only fork when he was a hip young bachelor living in a studio apartment at Uni. Lol. Anyway, it is known as The Fork, and it is mine now, mwah-ha-ha-ha, and I use it to mix everything. If I can’t mix it with The Fork, I don’t make it. And I’ve made angel food with this fork, so… One does not need fancy equipment to make deliciousness. That’s all I’m sayin’. Here is a picture of the fork to inspire you:
  4. In case you are unsure, the wet ingredients are the Butter, Eggs, Honey, and Vanilla. Which could be a recipe on its own, right? Om nom nom. But don’t stop there…
  5. Add dry ingredients (flours, salt, leavening) to wet ingredients. Beat until well incorporated.
  6. Your dough should be slightly loose, but not at all runny.
  7. Add chocolate chips and fold in with a rubber/silicon spatula.
  8. Use a spoon or something to fill the mini-muffin pan bits with the dough.
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes depending on your oven. It’s 13 minutes to heaven in my oven. ;)
  10. Cool for a few minutes before trying to remove the mookies from the muffin pan. Cool completely on rack.

Mookies cooling. Be patient.

Two quick alternatives for you:

Alternative #1–I’ve made this recipe with 2 eggs instead of 3. It makes for a drier, more cookie-like crumb. Don’t overbake.

Alternative #2–Leave out the chocolate chips and make thumbprint mookies instead! After spooning the dough into the mini-muffin pan, use a spoon (or your thumb, for authenticity) to make divots in the center of each mookie. Fill with jam of your choice and then bake. Super delicious, like, whoa. Great with tea.

Enjoy!

Thanks and More Thanks

Synchronicitous (it has precedent) with Thanksgiving, Knitty Nerdy and Natural nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award. Very kind, and I am very grateful. Thank you!

So, here is how the game is played:

  1. Thank and link back to the person who nominated you.
  2. List the rules and display the award.
  3. Include seven delightful facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers and let them know about the award.
  5. Follow the blogger who nominated you.

Numbers 1, 2, and 5 are complete. Now for number 3…

Seven Completely Random Facts About Me:

  1. I am the seventh of eight children.
  2. I am a very good swimmer.  I am terrible at jumping, though. Really. I’m talking a couple inches off the ground, max. I’m convinced that maybe I have extra gravity or something.
  3. After reading a lot of serious non-fiction, I like to take a brain-break by binging on romance novels.
  4. In addition to reading everything I can get my hands on about herbal medicines and making tinctures and tonics and such, am researching how to make my own digestive bitters.  More on that later.
  5. Lately I’ve been dreaming about South Africa. Literally dreaming about South Africa. Why?
  6. I hate getting wet in the rain.  Actually, to be more specific, I hate being in wet clothes. For any reason.
  7. My 3 favorite food textures are chewy, creamy, and gritty. I can handle slimy, like okra or oysters, but am completely undone by soggy.  Soggy is terrible.

And finally, for the best part, number 4–nominating other blogs that I find wonderful and lovely. I do hope that you will go check them out. They are each unique and interesting for many reasons and very deserving of a visit or a follow.

  1. The Procrastinator Dyer’s Diary  Elena does marvelous work with natural dyeing and eco-printing. I always learn something new when I read her posts.
  2. Amaryllis Log Cathe is a brilliant photographer and crafter and has a keen eye for detail and design.  Her posts are always thoughtful and a delight for the eye.
  3. Astitchmatism is a riot wrapped in knitting, dyeing, sewing, and home renovation. Just go read about veggie weenies. And the weird shit found behind radiators. :D
  4. The Course of Our Seasons Kathleen is a fellow Missouri Ozark dweller, and while her photos show familiar landscapes, her poetry reminds me to slow down and look at the world around me with an open heart.
  5. Hotel Vast Horizon Aidan is awesome. I love the artistry and skill of his metalwork and very much love reading his thoughts on dirt, sorcery, and being.
  6. Plantfolk Apothecary Kate Clearlight has her toes planted firmly in the ground and her heart open to the magic of plants. Inspiring infusions, elixirs, and tonics abound here.
  7. Shamana Flora Darcey Blue is a plant poet. I love her heartfelt honesty and desert plant wisdom. Her Pinyon Pine Resin Salve is on my plant medicine wishlist.
  8. Textileshed Swantje makes beautiful patchwork pieces, has mad knitting skillz (check out her Celtica!) and makes screenprinting look like a total blast.
  9. Shroomworks Ann creates dyepot magic with things like hydnellum aurantiacum and sarcodon fuscoindicus. In other words, fungi. Unbelievable colours. This is something I would love to learn, and this blog is inspiring.
  10. Threadborne Wendy is an accomplished fiber artist and teacher, and I greatly admire her work. I am fascinated by her eco-printed books. And her kale garden.
  11. Woollenflower Julia takes absolutely gorgeous photos of all good things–plants, crafts, dyework, and journeys in interesting places. Truly beautiful posts.
  12. Old Ways Herbal Juliette writes about making and using plant medicines. Her posts are very grounded and fantastically informative, and they instill enthusiasm and confidence in walking the herbalist path.
  13. Trembling Inside the Cocoon Julie is badass. She weaves, knits, sews, spins & dyes with tremendous skill. I am always in awe of her projects.
  14. Woolwinding Kate of the Welsh hills has the one and only blog where, depending on the day, you can read about coloured sheep, archeology, nanny tea (don’t ask), 80’s knit fashions, or the evils of toecovers. Enjoy.
  15. Big House, Little Prairie My friend, Laura, has an uncanny knack for uncovering the heart of things.  She writes with great thoughtfulness and eloquence about homesteading, crafting, family, and life.

Big thanks to all of my blog-friends and followers.  I  love the wonderful conversations that take place in our little corner of this digital world. And though we are spread out all around the world (which is pretty cool, I think), I appreciate the community that is created when we get together and share our stories. Thank you.

 

Favorite Fall Forest Fruit & other words that begin with F

When the frost nips and the trees are bare, a peek into the woods reveals a marvelous treat. Step a little closer…

Closer still…

Persimmons can be found all around the world, from Asia and India to Europe, Mexico, and North America. While similar, they all have their own unique qualities botanically, culinarily, medicinally, and even in folklore.  I will now refer you to a surprisingly comprehensive and thoroughly interesting Wikipedia page on persimmons. I’ll wait here while you read… Go on. It’ll only take a minute.

Fascinating, yes? Diospyros virginiana are the variety that grow here in Missouri and much of the Eastern United States. They differ in several key ways from the Asian persimmons often seen in grocery stores or fancy markets–mainly in signs of ripeness and number of seeds. Unlike Asian persimmons, this humble woodland variety is pretty seedy and not so pretty when ripe.

They look delicious, don’t they? But don’t be fooled by the gorgeousness. When they look like this–all lovely and plump and orange–they are total pucker-suckers. Seriously. I’m surprised dentists don’t use unripe persimmons to dry up saliva while they do dental work. They could retire “Mr. Thirsty” the spit vacuum entirely. The tannins in unripe persimmons are impressively effective.  It is really, really fun to give someone an unripe persimmon. But only if they deserve it.

So when are persimmons ready? I’ll show you.

1. Not even close. Feast your eyes and nothing else.

2. Now they are starting to soften up. Just a little. Just enough to encourage patience.

3. So close.

4. Perfect.

The cold frost has worked its magic, and now this wrinkly, darkening fruit is ready to eat. A quick shake of the tree will send ripe fruits plummeting to the earth where they can be gathered and taken back to the kitchen for making jams, wines, and breads. Or you can do like I do and stand under the tree and gorge your face with all the persimmons your belleh can hold. You know, either way.

I love the softness of the flavour, the way it is fruity without being overly sweet. I love that it is a source of wild fruit hanging ready and waiting when everything else is dying or going dormant for winter. I love that these trees grow wild wherever they please in our woods. As a child, when we first moved to the farm, I was always giddy and not a little bit in awe that this wonderful fruit was just there, in the woods, for the eating. No driving to the supermarket, no toiling in a garden or orchard. Just part of the woods. An invitation to also be part of the woods.  The most wonderful gift of the persimmon.

There Has Been

Traveling to northerly places (and giant orange asterisks)…

Leaves leaving…

Restless snappers chasing reflections…

Giant squashes waiting to roast in my oven…

Much needed rain and rain and rain…

Mysterious nightshades and their thousand lanterns…

Ordinary, not ever ordinary…

Okra…

Things to remind me of childhood…

The Mighty Mississippi…

Furious weaving everywhere…

Oars Paddles in the water…

Long walks in the woods with my best buddy…

Making friends with the genius loci by making apologies for trashy people…

Bunches and bunches of marigolds…

And settling in to autumn.

Lay in the grass, bask in the sun, work hard, remember to play, dream vividly, wake happily, eat lots of soup–even for breakfast. And if you’re lucky, knit a row or two. ;)

 

Knit|tinK: It’s a Tiny, Functional Thing

That’s why I love knitting for babies: it’s quick, satisfying, and yet still a functional, full-size garment. That just happens to be tiny. I love it. 

It’s easy, right? Liberate some Mission Falls 1824 Cotton from the stash, find an awesome pattern on Ravelry, cast on in a blink, knit for a minute, bust out some fancy entrelac-y skillz on the solid coloured button band, deliberately make mismatched sleeves to prove it wasn’t bought at Target, bind off, toss on some snaps, and BAM! Baby cardie done! Easy.

But then… well, then it had to be soaked and blocked, didn’t it?

And despite using cold water and the mildest soaking soap, the dye just couldn’t stay put.

And all that pretty navy blue bled right into those crisp white stripes.

And resoaking with colour-catchers didn’t help.

Begging and pleading didn’t help.

Yelling at the sweater that THE BABY WAS ABOUT TO BE BORN FOR PETE’S SAKE!!! didn’t help. 

Ballz.

Tinking would have been a waste, so there was nothing for it but to redye the whole piece. That’s what I did. Got some navy blue Rit dye and dip dyed the whole shebang. Worked alright. Now the crisp white stripes are lovely soft blue stripes and I can pretend the whole episode never, ever, ever happened. 

:D  Now keep your fingers crossed that it fits the little dude (who was born, by the way). I have Post Office FAIL, and have yet to mail it. Tsk, tsk. Babies grow slow, right… ? Lolz.

 

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