Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ornaments - our cold and humble beginning

Yesterday we were making a delivery to a rustic little shop, and passing by a basket of stuffed fabric ornaments, I reached down, picked one up, and sniffed.  Nothing.  Maryanne caught my eye, and we both chuckled ruefully as, in tandem, we remembered our very first days working together in something akin to retail.

There has been a cacophony of memories hitting recently, and as I write this, I suddenly realize why we were also hit with the need to sing the Schnitzelbank Song last night...

It all started with a class I was taking in college - PA German Studies, with C. Richard Beam, where we visited various businesses and people from the different Anabaptist sects that scatter our landscape here. The final for the semester was to choose from an offered list of local historic places and do a paper on them - how they survived, influenced the local economy, or other takes depending.  I chose Green Dragon Farmers Market - and found that it has an astoundingly rich and varied background, some of which is downright sketchy!  For instance, "the roadhouse years".  But I digress...

Upon hearing that the rental for a booth was something like $8, Maryanne and I decided that we would just have to take a booth.  Might I interject here that it was several decades before we really absorbed the fact that we don't HAVE to do something just because we CAN.
We made rustic stuffed fabric ornaments.  It was early November, we would be standing in the cold for 12 hours for a few Fridays, but we'd make a fortune.  We were young, strong, and none too bright.

We stood there watching while hoards of people picked up our ornaments and smelled them.  Then there were the folks who told us that their children had "made the SAME THING in kindergarten".  Oh the frozen smiles we acquired on those days.  And they really were frozen, by the way.  It was very cold.  I later figured out that I made about a nickel an hour.

There was a lot of fun in those days too.  We met some very interesting people, the likes of which were only superseded by our future co-merchants at the renaissance faire.  The food was wonderful, and we learned merchandising skills that stayed with us forever (#1 - when the guy in the next booth finds a wee stray kitten and feeds it chili, DO NOT allow him to put the kitten down on your table.  EVER.)  In the long run, I think getting a second "+" beside my A on the final paper made up for a lot.
So here we are 30 some years later.  Some of the ornaments remain, and I'm sure my sister has even more of them.  I just can't believe I sniffed that ornament.

Friday, November 16, 2012

It started with a stroll through the farmers market

This morning, we went to market looking for nothing in particular.  We were actually there to stop across the street to pick up some herbal products for Hurricane Sandy relief from our friend Sarah, but decided to see what was available at market.
For the first time ever, I found locally grown organic Meyer lemons.  Just sitting there as if they were nothing special.  With no plan in mind, I grabbed 6 of them.  A few booths down the aisle, one of the shopkeepers stopped us to show us the beautiful local honey, which, as it turned out is so local that it even comes from our zip code.  Again, whoosh - into the market basket it went.

Immediately upon arriving home, out came a clean mason jar, and I began to slice up a few of the lemons.  Every so often one of the delicious thin slices found its way into my mouth - rind and all.  A lovely jar of sliced lemons smothered with honey will sit in the fridge, waiting to be added to teas to soothe any cold or sore throat that the winter brings.

Eventually, my mind wandered to the lacto-fermented lemons that we made last year after attending a class at the SouthEast Women's Herbal Conference.  A lacto-fermented food that most of us are familiar with is sauerkraut, a veritable staple in our part of the country, and the benefit of this type of food is that they introduce good critters to our intestinal tract, boosting the immune system, among many other things.  The preserved lemons are easy to make, but I couldn't find the very simple instructions we used on-line, so...
Slice a few organic lemons very thinly, removing seeds as you go.
Sprinkle a tsp. of sea salt in the bottom of a mason jar, and then begin layering the lemon slices, adding salt between the layers.  In a pint jar, you'll probably use about 1/4 cup of salt.  Smoosh the lemons so that the liquid mixes with the salt, creating a brine.  When finished, the jar should be full with enough juice to cover the lemon slices.  Cover loosely with cloth or a coffee filter, and allow to ferment for several days to a week.  After that, add a lid and let it continue to ferment in the refrigerator (where it will take place much more slowly).
After a couple of months, the lemons were much too salty for me, so the jar has remained in the fridge and I haven't even checked them since.  Until today.

It seemed like perhaps mixing them with some honey would cut the salt (like honey roasted nuts) and the idea to remove a small amount and so that's what I did.  But first, I tasted them without honey, and found that a miracle had occurred.  In the last 6 months, they mellowed to a scrumptious lemon-y, zingy thing of beauty!
And then I added the honey.

Why or WHY have I never done this before?  It is wonderful!  Using approximately 3 parts fermented lemon to 1 part honey, the resulting amazingness is not too sweet, barely salty, and I could eat it by the spoonful.  Although I worried that the honey would make the lemons too sweet to be used with savory dishes, that is not the case.  It is a very versatile flavor, and I can imagine using it on almost everything - salads, fish, chicken, vegetables, rice... you get the idea.
So my advice is to get those lemon slices fermenting pronto!  You want to do this.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Going outside again, after the storm

It has been a long, gray spell here in the North East.  Hard to complain about gray when so many are cold, hungry and homeless after this storm (which, by the way you can help alleviate by visiting this registry on Amazon, ordering, and having it shipped directly to where it is needed... LINK) but after 10 days, it got to be too much.
Today we are participating with Possum Creek Herb Farm, on a blog hop that addresses the love of herbs.
 That got me out into the woods yesterday, even though it was so gloomy.  I'm so glad.  It's easy to forget how lovely everything is, and the weather mixed with slammin' business this fall have kept me from my usual autumnal rites of going into the woods often to bid adieu to the flora before it goes to sleep for the winter.  Here is a photo-tour of the walk...

I love to stand under the trees and look up to see the way the branches blend.

There is a fallen log that has grown this particular fungus for several years.  We haven't id'd it.

This is the same fungus as above, but older.  Anyone recognize it?

This well weathered, honey-combed piece of wood sat next to one of the shrooms.

Another log serves as a turkey tail nursery.  These are no bigger than a fingernail each.

The other side of the log was covered with more mature specimens.

Another (new to us) fungus.  No clue.  Anyone?  This is about the size of a cauliflower.

All over on the ground, black walnuts.

Next spring, the creek's banks will be awash with wildflowers.  G'night creek...

Goldenrod seeds cling to the plant for now.

More tree-gazing...

Rhododendron blooms unperturbed by the weather.

One last look skyward before heading inside to work.

The sun broke through today (finally) and we might have a little sun before the next storm heads up the coast. I will spend some time outside!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Just Waiting for the Sun

We got through Hurricane Sandy with very little damage.  One of the trees in the windbreak came down beside the house, but one can hardly complain about such a minor thing when so many have lost so much.  My personal challenge was to extricate my stubborn daughter from her apartment in Brooklyn ahead of the storm.  With only one or two train runs left out of the city, she was finally headed home, and after that the rest was gravy.

I'd like to post a couple of links if you're interested in helping. 
First is a listing of great links gathered by Brian Williams at Rock Center.
Additionally, Occupy is getting out there on bikes, helping to clean up as well as feeding and clothing folks.  Here is their link.

In the coming days, there will be much needed and many ways to help.  Although this is going to be a hugely expensive storm in the end, there will also be non-monetary needs.  We all have talents and skills that we can send their way along with our prayers, best wishes, and love.