Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rhythm of a homemaker

 Sometimes as spiritual creatures on this human journey we tend to forget that the world around us though it seems like chaos has a pattern to it; a rhythm if you will. Sometimes in our daily lives we can feel it and it comforts us and other times the rhythm is not seen because it is to far away(like a weekly rhythm instead of daily.) I think that puts us off balance a bit. I do much better when the day flows. Now you may say how boring but trust me when I tell you I like to be spontaneous and would have done just fine as a traveling gypsy. Just as in nature the day unfolds itself for you if you are watching. As my husband says we have a short list of things that need to get done by a certain time but really many days the work that needs to be done reveals itself.
    Why do we want rhythm?
I love reading about monks and their daily practices... very ritual and simple. When we start to make good habits they are a positive daily ritual. They become part of who we are, where God has us planted at this moment in this season. If we have good habits they nourish us just like when He tells us to hide His word in our hearts. We have to read it over and over in order to memorize it. I didn't realize this until we had moved. At our old home I had a organized system, habits, daily routines that were comforting. You don't realize how comforting they are until they are not there. My first week here I panicked because I felt like I was on vacation but would have no where to return to. It would have been easy if all I owned was in a backpack that I could take anywhere. All in my little world would stay the same while I lived in the world around me(I purposefully do this when we go camping... par down to my most important items to function). So when we moved to such a different lifestyle the seasons now mean so much more.... the day set itself up for me with how things unroll with the day. The feeding of animals, picking of nuts or fruit, our homeschool, feeding of my family, the sweeping of the kitchen floor daily, etc.
    How do we get this rhythm?
I think I really started to see the connections when I started to garden but it then really stuck when we started eating only in season. After a few years you feel the rhythm of seasons. Then as you put some of these treasures away for winter you start to feel the rhythm of the months. Then as we remove clutter from our lives to be present in the daily doings we feel the rhythm of the day. I don't often plan menus because the food tells me what I am cooking that week. I have simple recipes that can be modified with what ingredients are on hand(I will share them in a future post). Simplifying life comes naturally and not something you have to read about in a book or on a blog. Cleaning took some work for me to make that more of a habit but my chores started to fall on certain days of the week and I went with that.
    Why do we long for simplicity(rhythm)?
Because we ARE spiritual beings in these temporary human bodies. I have found that in season foods are not just comforting but also nourishing with the right nutrients that we need for that season and that climate in which we live. If you lived in a different climate you would have different in season food that would do the same. Example: in a PA summer we have a lot of heavy water fruits in the hottest months that help us replenish what we have lost in sweating. As the seasons change our bodies adjust... like feeling more of a sense of hibernating under a warm quilt in winter or staying up later to look at the stars and fireflies in summer. Now this rhythm is not to just make our day easier for us but it also builds memories. Somewhere along the way as a young person I started to long for something and didn't know why or what until I moved in with my grandparents. They knew the value of this rhythm. We created in different seasons, planted, harvested, cooked and preserved in their right times. After years the memories were such a part of me as I will never forget them. Picking peaches and apples with my grandfather and cooking seasonal meals with my grandmother. These memories did not happen with great fanfare or with a heavy price but became something I so looked forward to each year. Warm and comforting. As I listened to stories my grandparents told about how life was for my great-grandparents it occurred to me that they didn't have modern technology or lots of books but they were taught how to do most of what they did by their parents in their daily lives without much struggle in the learning. When I see woman who live almost effortlessly with homeschooling, cleaning, gardening, canning, sewing, etc. whatever it is they are doing most times it is because they were taught by their mother or grandmother. For us these days if we weren't brought up that way it becomes harder to make these daily things a habit until we have done them for years.
    What is rhythm?
I guess it seems funny to put this last but I wanted you to think about it along the way and then I would make the statement to sum it up. Rhythm is living deliberately feeding the habits that help us to accomplish the tasks that we have before us in this season of our lives. A comfort, a inner awareness of what comes next in the day. It is good for the soul, the memories made, the children, the day.
    You will have days when God is growing you and things will feel chaotic but I promise you that these days of rhythm will help you to weather them much better.

Deuteronomy 6:7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Oh, I could go on here but I will leave you with one last thought for now.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Some sites I find fun and helpful:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Herbal Remedies

    One of my previous posts was a list of things to do for fall/winter. On that list I had that we would make our families remedies; so here are somethings we have done so far. In the background you can see Herbal Vaccine and Children's Composition cooling. In the front I have started gathering my ingredients for the Cold Kicker AKA Fire Water(no actual water in it). Just an FYI about the Cold Kicker.... make sure you use gloves! We also started some tinctures for Blackberry Leaf, Hawthorne Berry, Yellow Dock, Milk Thistle and this weekend some Black Walnut Hull. I should have started all of these in August but time just got away from me. We choose these remedies because they seem to cover many areas that we deal with over the year. You may have other issues you deal with in your family so you may be drawn to totally different remedies. Some good sources for education are Learning Herbs, More than Alive(has a wonderful free ebook), Mountain Rose Herbs blog and for a more in depth study you could sign-up for the Family Herbalist course through Vintage Remedies(where I am currently a student.) For supplies if you don't grow or forage them for yourself, go to Mountain Rose Herbs, Bulk Herb Store or More than Alive. These are the suppliers I trust for quality and price.
    As we settle in to this new home and land we will forage for more food and medicine. I will share as we learn what plants we are finding and how we are using them. We live in a valley in PA so it may be different from where you are but maybe you can gleam some info from it. We know we already have lots of stinging nettle, jewel weed and burdock. In the past they planted comfrey, grapes, horseradish, some nut trees, and raspberries. It has been fun finding out what we have here and dreaming about what we will plant. I love perennials so I plan on putting in lots of perennial plants, vegetables and fruit.

Make sure to label anything you create with the herb, alcohol or glycerine and the date you did it. 

The Cold Kicker brewing on my counter.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Accidental Canner

Vegetables from the fridge that needed to be dealt with

our new "older" chickens

Our first unbroken eggs

"Souper Mix" with beets

Becoming sauce

    So I find sometimes I feel like the accidental canner. Friends will say how do you have time to can and sometimes I really don't but when you need to prepare for winter and have all this extra produce taking up spacing and starting to go bad because we can't use it fast enough then it is time to can whether I have time or not. Canning is a commitment and sometimes you don't always feel like doing it. It is one of the most satisfying tasks I do though. Seeing all those jars lined up makes me very happy. As we perfect our recipes over the years we know they are yummy and worth waiting till winter to enjoy them. I find when I am in this situation that unloading the fridge, lining up the baskets, and spreading it all out before me is the best way to see what and how much I am dealing with. A few things we always like to can like tomato sauce and pickles get done when we have a huge amount of produce. We do have one crock pot full of sauce cooking as I write this and I may have enough to do two more pots worth. I will get maybe 9-10 quarts of sauce from that. We will do apple sauce and pie filling that way as well. At the moment there is no exhaust in my kitchen which makes canning on humid or hot days not very nice. So until we either put in an exhaust fan or make an outdoor processing kitchen(this is the way we will go in the future so we can process meat as well.)
    So this year so far we have canned 6 jars pesto, 5 jars "Souper Mix"(with beets and red peppers), 3 quarts beef stock, 6 quarts beans, and 6 quarts chopped tomatoes. Nothing to brag about but not bad for getting settled into our old farmhouse. At the moment I am waiting for the basement cement to finish curing so we can set-up our shelves for canned items and winter produce. Today we will can Onion and Maple Conserve and tomorrow Pecan Apple Conserve. These are small batch items that need only a few minutes to process.
    We are also enjoying the beautiful chickens friends have given to us this past week. They are older girls but a few are still laying. I like that they eat my kitchen scraps and produce manure for my garden.... something it is going to need a lot of next year.
    Lastly if you find yourself with way to many zucchini or summer squash this year you can puree it to use in meat loaf, zucchini bread or chocolate cup cakes. We also found this recipe is a new favorite.

Zucchini Parmesan Bake
2 lbs. ground meat (we use lamb or beef)
2 T. butter and 2T. olive oil
1 cup sliced onions
3 garlic cloves crushed
italian seasoning
1 zucchini, 1 summer squash and 2-3 potatoes all sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 c. parmesan cheese
In a skillet sauté butter, olive oil, onions and garlic till just starting to brown. Spread those out in bottom of pan. Brown ground meat in pan without cleaning it out. Then add to onion/garlic mix in baking dish, sprinkle generously with italian seasoning and mix together. Layer the sliced zucchini, potato and squash on top of meat mixture. Sprinkle top with more italian seasoning and parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes covered and 30 minutes uncovered.