Winter is Closing In

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Over the last few days I found myself listening to ‘winter music.’  It is interesting to me how as I get older and have more time to focus on myself,  I notice rhythms in my being that mirror those of nature. Upon reflection I think I can honestly say that these rhythms have always been with me, even as a young child, I just didn’t take the time to notice them. I believe that my experience with this world is grounded in nature and that it is part of my purpose in life to find and share the joy found in the forest, the oceans and lakes, the flora and fauna of the earth. So, as autumn winds down and winter begins to gradually creep in, I find myself welcoming the unhurried pace.

My rhythm these days can only be described as slow and contemplative. I like to listen to music whose muse is nature, winter and spiritual in nature.  Ancient classical music, chant or Loreena McKennit’s winter songs seem to fit my introspective mood right now.  When I go out for a walk or sit on the patio with my coffee in the early morning I notice that nature is also not rushing.  The last of the winter apples seem to be content clinging to the frozen branches and there are still some soggy, straggling leaves draped over the branches.   The moss has crept and covered much of  fallen logs and rocks in the forest and is resting with satisfaction in its varying hues of green.  Some of the moss hanging from the trees forms a filmy curtain , as if its job is to create a sanctuary for the forest and its creatures to rest in for the winter.

As winter approaches I am taking more time to be creative and honour the reprieve given to me this year, as I find myself voluntarily unemployed.  For instance, yesterday I spent most of the day working on refinishing a piece of furniture we have been storing and lugging around with us for the better part of a year.  I also got to the apples that I picked over three weeks ago and produced some delicious organic apple juice.  I look forward to the mulled wine and apple cider as well as apple butter that I will create from the golden nectar.  It was doubly satisfying making the juice because not only did the apples come from our own tree, but the juicer was a 50th birthday gift from my kids, so it felt great to use it knowing that they thought of how much pleasure and use the device would bring me when they purchased it.

winter apples

winter apples

the finished product

the finished product

Today I will use some of the remaining  apples and attempt to replicate the most delicious mincemeat ever made.  It comes from Murchies and although I have not been able to indulge in one of their mince tarts for several years now, I always find myself hankering after them as Christmas approaches. I will let you know how that goes.  The timing is perfect because Friday I spent the day with my Mom helping her make Christmas Cake, which I have never made. Mom was looking forward to me coming and did not want to find herself short of any ingredients so in her zeal to make sure she had everything she went a bit overboard.  I was able to come home with plenty of extra dried and candied fruit and so I thought what better to do with it than mix it with the apples I have and try to make Murchies Mincemeat.

I also plan to begin another knitting project today to add to the gift cupboard.  It is my intent to use some of the fibre I have to make presents for everyone this year.  As I said, I am a little short on cash but long on time so handmade gifts are both a luxury and necessity this year. I will also add the finishing touches to the sideboard I refinished yesterday and perhaps gather a few ‘morsels’ from nature to display on its smooth, worn surface.

All these plans could be interpreted as a contradiction of my opening statement, that I have slowed down to mimic the quiet and plodding pace of nature. However, I don’t feel hurried or frenzied to get these projects completed  and although nature appears still, she is no where near stagnant or dead, nor am I.  I like to think that my production at this time of year is of a calm, dreamy nature or an indulgence that I would otherwise not take the time for, were it not for the fact that winter is closing in.

Time to get busy

unnamedAn oak leaf hydrangea gives inspiration for all kinds of creations.

Today is a grey day and I am recuperating from a weekend with my daughters.  We met in Victoria and spent the weekend, walking, shopping, dining out and visiting, laughing and even crying.  I feel a little drained today but started the day with a gym workout at 6:30am  so I am ready to get back to a state of calm and creativity.

In the last few weeks and months I have been gathering and foraging along with cleaning up the yard and gardens.  I have a big blister on my hand from all the raking.  There are still a few mushrooms out in the forest but they are waning and although I am tempted by the challenge I have enough mushrooms for the winter so no need to take more than I need. I picked the apples two weeks ago, the hazelnuts have dried and I have a load of moose meat that my daughter and her boyfriend generously gave me when I saw them this past weekend.  I am also working on making Christmas gifts and items for the house.  Last week it was rag rugs and a knitted headband and now I am starting the second of a set of oven mitts.  I pulled out the November and December British Country LIving Magazines to provide me with comfort and inspiration so this week I shall try to inspire you with my epicurean creations and utilitarian crafts.

RAG WEAVING

unnamed What do you do with old clothes and scrap material piling up in boxes?  Why weave rugs of course.

These are the one inch strips of torn material that will provide the weft.

unnamed The warp uses a linen/cotton blend.  Turned out to be too stretchy but I got creative and fixed that after I completed the weaving.

photoThe weft is strips of torn material.  Here I used an old blouse, ticking and the lining of an old coat.

unnamed This one is for the bathroom.

unnamedThe larger of the two made with funky vintage cotton, old curtains and ticking. Great for in front of the sink.

Abundance in November

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Heading up the main path from the river

After a soggy Saturday, yesterday was a glorious sunny day.  It was also the fall back time change so we had an extra hour in our day.  Craving some outdoor time and some sunshine we headed out bright and early for an adventure to hike the Canyon Trail in Campbell River area. We hiked along the river, past a hydro power plant and then I found a trail straight up the bank into a wonderful 2nd growth forest.

The path through the forest was very well maintained and the scenery was phenomenal.  We got in about two and a half hours of good hiking and witnessed the aliveness of the forest, even in November.  The forest floor is so green with moss, ferns and Salal right now.  It is strange how a dark place exudes life in its lush greenness.

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view of part of the canyon

Of course among all the moss, twigs and ferns mushrooms abound.  I could not help myself and just happened to have a bag in my pack to store my foraged finds.  I am not familiar with mushrooms except for Chanterelles and so with my eyes peeled to the ground it wasn’t long before they started appearing.  Sometimes I would be alerted of their whereabouts by the one lone Chanterelle on the edge of the path.  From there I would look for a vein of them and usually was successful in finding one or two more.  As we walked deeper into the forest I found myself stepping off the path when we were on a mossy slope with plenty of Douglas Fir trees around.

It was again like a forest treasure hunt for me.  I got my partner involved eventually and the addictiveness of mushroom picking bit him and soon we were calling to each other with enthusiasm as we discovered little patches of the buttery morsels.  We picked enough to sauté with our moose roast dinner and some to make a batch of Mushroom Rosemary Soup.  Last night we feasted on the mushrooms sautéed in butter and garlic and served with roast moose, roasted carrots and potato wedges accompanied by Pear Lavender Preserve and Pear Brown Sugar Cardamom Preserve. Delicious.

pear lavender preserve from late summer pear harvest

pear lavender preserve from late summer pear harvest

Today after cleaning the rest of the Chanterelles I am going to make another of my favourite recipes from John Bishop, Oyster Mushroom with Rosemary Soup.  I will be substituting Chanterelles for Oyster mushrooms.  Along with the soup we will be having green salad with four kinds of lettuce, pomegranate and pears as well as some delicious looking  Feta Chive Scones that I can’t resist trying from Joy the Baker.  You can find the recipes by using the links or going to my recipe page.

Time to get cooking.

What you get by…

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. ”
” Thoreau

     Well, I did it.  If you hadn’t noticed by yesterday’s post I am completely new to blogging  It is something that I have been interested in for a while and finally decided that it was time to dive in.  In today’s post I will introduce myself a little more thoroughly and fill you in on what has led me to blogging.

     As I mentioned yesterday, I am now living in Comox.  I loved the Okanagan but left a job teaching Middle School there for the time being.  I am fortunate enough to be able to go back to the job next year but for now I am in Comox, BC. Family circumstances caused me to make this move and I was optimistic about finding On Call teaching here.  My optimism is fading somewhat and after my initial panic I am acting on the advice and sage wisdom of caring friends and prominent authors and intellects.  The advice can be summed up by the following sentences.  “You either have time or money but not usually both, so while you have time use it to do what you have always wanted to do.  When you are old you will not be wishing for more money but you will want more time so don’t squander it worrying about a temporary lack of employment.”

     So, here I am.  As, stated in my About Me page, I am a teacher among many other roles.  I love the craft of teaching but I also love learning.  One of the things I am known for in my circle of family and friends is being able to create and produce amazing food from good fresh ingredients.  I can whip up a great meal out of anything and since I am somewhat addicted to cookbooks I have no problem finding inspiration.  In this blog I would like to share some of my favourite recipes and cookbooks with you as well as stories that make each meal or recipe special.  

     One of the main reasons I wanted to start this blog was self-centered I will admit.  I have been keen to begin documenting what a year in my life looks like for some time now.  It has become apparent to me that I am a creature of habit as much as I am someone who loves change and creating.  I started noticing that my kids were recognizing rhythms that tied to the seasons.  So, for instance sometime in late February or early March one of them would say, “oh look Mom, the rhubarb is starting to come up. I can’t wait for the first rhubarb pie of the season.”  Or they would watch me light the first fire in early October and say, “oh I can’t wait to cozy up on the couch and have one of our indoor picnics.”  At about the same time I was speaking with a friend whose parents are German born Canadians.  They came to Canada with nothing and through hard work and self-sufficiency created a beautiful life for themselves and their family.  We started talking about everything they do and thought that it might be a good idea to take a year off work and just follow them each day for a year to document and learn about all the things they do that allow them to live a rich and beautiful life on sometimes very limited income.  We never did do that but  as my grown children began calling me and asking about how to make some of their favourite meals, or a loaf of bread or pesto I began rethinking this idea.  What if I could record what I do for my children?  Originally I thought I would write a cookbook for them but it  become apparent that there are so many stories involved in what I do each day that a cookbook would not be a suitable medium.  I wanted to be able to tell them my stories and so a journal seemed more appropriate. As I got more adept at researching while doing my Master Degree I realized that I really liked blogs.  The beauty of the blog is that it is so interactive and has the potential to become a much larger community and body of knowledge than I could ever compile. So, yesterday I decided to take the time I have this year and begin the documentation of a year of living well, closely connected to the earth and the rhythms of each season, beginning with Fall.  

     I look forward to telling my stories, sharing recipes, books, weaving, knitting, felting projects and any other information I find interesting.  I anticipate much sharing, learning and discussion and can’t wait to hear your comments.  Please be patient as I and weave and bob my way through blogsphere and improve the appearance of my site.

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Picking on the West Coast

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Fresh Chanterelle Mushroom Saute

   It is exciting for me to be back on the West Coast after spending the last four years in the Okanagan. I loved the Okanagan but come Fall I  long to be back in the dark, damp rain forest looking for Chanterelles.  The first time I picked Chanterelles I had no idea what to do with them so I pulled out one of my favourite cookbooks, Cooking at My House, by John Bishop.  Sure enough there was a recipe for fresh Chanterelles.  The recipe was preceded by a short vignette that caused me to go out and buy a bottle of Sherry in order to serve the Sautéed Chanterelles exactly as John does. 

     At my house this dish is only served once or twice in the Fall, depending on the mushroom harvest and who is around to share it with.  I make creamy garlic mashed potatoes, John Bishop’s Fresh Chanterelle Mushrooms Sautéed with Thyme and Sherry and serve a generous glass of Sherry on the side.  That’s it.  This is a meal meant to showcase the Chanterelles and nothing else.  

     This year I was able to tag along a very experienced mushroom picker and friend and so finding these illusive fungi was fairly easy.  It also happens to be very good weather for mushrooms this Fall and so I was able to pick enough for our meal, which we shared with our neighbour and dry some for the winter ahead.  As usual, this meal was delicious and the company was also mighty fine.  Image