Setting the year ablaze

For the last few years, I’ve chosen a word for the year – something to mull over, to set intention, to facilitate ongoing inner growth…

For a few years there, the word was ‘No’, as in learning to say no, to be assertive, to DISCERN what was and wasn’t important to me…

Last year’s word was SHAMELESS, read about it HERE and HERE. See my SHAMELESS Pinterest board HERE. It was somewhat successful, although I did slide down into several shame spirals over various things – I think shame is in my DNA, maybe it is for all women, given the culture we live in.

Since the solstice, I have been mulling over a word for this year…all words of a gentle, nurturing nature were not doing it for me…I wanted something with an edge, with big metaphoric possibilities, with high-energy. Energy is what I hope for for this year. I’ve had a few ‘damp’ years, fallow years, resting years, compost years – and I accept them as part of a life passage, part of an organic process.

‘There are years that ask questions and years that answer them.’

-Zora Neale Hurston

Some credit to this year’s word must go to my friend EMMA – as part of my Christmas present she gave me a box of fancy matches which have the saying ‘The inner fire is the most important thing’ on the box, as I unwrapped it she said: ‘Well, you are a pyromaniac.’

It’s true. I love a good bonfire and often have a big burn in the backyard. I love candles, and incense. I use matches rather than a lighter because I get a small thrill from striking a match.

In yoga-teaching, we talk about ‘igniting the inner-fire’ – meaning both physically, as the core warms up, an internal heaters starts to fire, deepening the breath and warming the body…and metaphorically – the inner-fire being our drive, energy, prana, shakti!

So my word for the year is FIRE.

See my Fire Pinterest board HERE.

Like The Pixies I’m DIGGING FOR FIRE.  Hoping that this is a year that answers questions, and hoping to light a match to all my desires… watch them turn into the biggest bonfire on the most beautiful beach under the fullest moon.

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Backyard hobo bonfire in a rubbish tin.

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Plant fire – calendula in my vege garden…

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Winter solstice celebration from some years back…

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Fire sky, Queenstown 

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Growing my fire and eating my fire… 

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Backyard fire at a friend’s place…

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn…”

-Jack Kerouac

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Rosy cheeks

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I got a horrible cold last weekend. One of those ones where your bones ache and your eyes run and you fill a bag with tissues in a few hours and you go hot then cold then hot then cold…for a couple of days I drank only miso soup and honey/lemon/ginger drinks, and felt pretty low…

I’m getting better  & there’s nothing like a bout of illness to make me GRATEFUL for my usual good health. My aim now is to boost my immunity and get strong for the long winter ahead.

I’ve been enjoying this new NZ-based healthy food blog, Wild&Good. To be honest so far I have just enjoyed the notion of the lovely recipes and pretty photographs and am yet to MAKE anything off the site….but this cold has motivated me to give my nutrition-intake a bit of an overhaul, and I’m sure this inspiring blog will help. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by being the food-provider for my family…and as I am the only vegetarian I think I let my own nutrition slip sometimes…putting the energy into whatever I cook for the family. It’s challenging to make things that children will eat AND things which are maximum nutrition AND which appeal to me, also.

Anyway, that’s a bit of a tangent….I meant to post about APPLES! We’ve been eating apples off the trees for a couple of weeks now, but suddenly they all just looked very ready and the blackbirds were starting to eat them, so I picked what I could from ground level, and then I sent Fraser up a ladder to get the higher ones.

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Then last night I ‘graded’ them into eaters and cookers. (Eaters = good-looking apples, cookers = ones with marks, bruises or blackbird pecks.)

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(In the basket you can see the two varieties we have, one is a Braeburn (I think!) – yellow & red stripy skin with sweet,  light, juicy flesh; the other variety, I’m not sure what it’s called but it has green and red skin with sour, very dense flesh.)

With the cookers I made a giant pot of cinnamon apples sauce. (Cooked the peeled, chopped apples with cinnamon, sugar and water until apples were soft, then blended it with a quick-stick). Apple sauce with very fresh apples is THE BEST. It goes very fluffy and velvety. I love having it warmed up for winter breakfasts, by itself or on porridge.

Now the freezer is full of apple sauce and we will chomp our way through the rest. I’m happy to have conquered the Codlin Moth which had afflicted the main apple tree, by planting peppermint geranium thickly around the base, a handy hint which a blog reader told me about.

Autumn is my favourite time of year.

 

 

 

fresh inspiration

When is an ‘inspiration wall’ not an inspiration wall?

When it’s been up for almost two years and you’ve stopped seeing it anymore…

I have a creative room out in my backyard. Our garage was converted to a sleepout by previous owners and now we’ve set it up so half of it is guest-room (well, guest-nook) and half is my creative space.

The wall beside my desk I put up a montage of inspirational images. It was overdue for a freshen up, so for a couple of months I slipped anything that caught my eye into a folder (magazine cuttings, mail my friends sent me, vintage book pages etc etc) until I had enough material to redo the wall.

Here is the old inspiration wall:

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& Here is the new:

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Do you think I am the only 41 year old still sticking photographs of pop stars on her wall? Ha ha.

i’ve always thought Calendula would make a great girl’s name

It’s like Colleen, Angela, the ‘len’ of Lena, the ‘ula’ of Tallullah all in one word, and it’s the name of a brilliant herb flower.

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While the vegetable garden is a sea of wintery green, the one bright spot is the border of calendula which is flowering in overdrive right now. I always grow calendula around the edges of my vegetable beds, partly because they are supposed to be a great companion plant to vegetables, and partly because they’re so pretty. Apart from eating them in salads and using them to decorate cakes….(this is a cake I made for a celebration of my yoga teacher, Nat)

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…I haven’t ever made anything with them.

Then I read these two articles on the excellent ‘homesteading’ blog, Root Simple.

How to harvest and dry calendula.

How to make a calendula infused oil. 

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And then I bought some sticks of beeswax at a market on a whim, just because they were inexpensive and smelled so great.

So now I’m planning to make myself some calendula salve using oil infusion made from my calendula flowers and the beeswax, but first I need to dry a heap of blooms. The great thing about calendula flowers is, the more you pick them, the more they flower.

(Speaking of beeswax, August is BEE AWARE MONTH in New Zealand. A month to highlight the current plight of the world’s bees. Read the BEE AWARE page for some tips of how to help bees in your backyard.)

I think it’s one of the prettier harvests I’ve had. The flowerheads are now drying in my hot water cupboard.

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I’ve always wanted to make my own lotions and potions and have read that a basic salve or lip-balm is a great entry level thing to try. I’m excited to see how it all turns out.

fun with blackboard paint

Thanks if you supported Rob (last post) – his Pozible campaign is nearly there – he only needs $130ish to meet his goal! I’m so excited for him.

I bought some blackboard paint when we moved into this house but never got around to using it….then I re-found it when looking for something else in the laundry cupboard and thought I should finally DO IT.

I decided to paint a board on the door, rather than painting the whole door black. Here’s how it ended up:

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Now I can write quotations on the wall to remind me to be a better person.

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him belly full, but him hungry…

…a hungry man, is an angry man!

I’ve taken to listening to a local Reggae-all-the-time radio station instead of National Radio. The mix of hardcore left politics, quirky christian imagery and a zen-like focus on simple pleasures (food, weather, love) is comforting to me. More comforting than the news, which, lets face it, is always bad.

(Also, I can instantly tell if it’s 80s reggae because of the inclusion of a saxophone. The saxophone to the 80s is like the ukulele to…whatever this decade is called.)

Around 5pm each day, I ‘shop the garden’ and whatever I can scrounge out there goes into dinner. It’s often an odd mix.

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I grew banana chillies for the first time this year. They grow big! As big as teaspoons. They are mild and child-friendly…like a slightly hot capsicum. I will grow them again.

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From my summer garden this year I learned:

-I don’t like to eat artichokes

-tomatoes thrive without coddling (I was away at peak growth time & came home to a tangled tomato forest which fruited abundantly.)

-despite a record hot long summer, it is not hot enough in the Manawatu to grow watermelons. FAIL.

-Cape Gooseberries are little orbs of time-travel.

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This is a clock. A clock of summer.

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At the start of summer, I thread a bead and a bell onto some embroidery floss and as the chillies grow I impale them and hang in the kitchen where they dry. There were many other chillies which got eaten along the way, or given away to friends…but some made it on to the chilli string so that we can have their heat all through the winter. A dried chilli is not an attractive thing, but looks aren’t everything.

There are manifold ways to measure time. There are lots of ways to be hungry. There are immeasurable ways to make a living – the best is to Live a Making.

harvest time

I was talking to a friend on the phone is early-January and she said: ‘I bet your vege garden is going for it right now’ and I said ‘Actually, no, we are only really getting salad greens and herbs – everything is still growing.”

How quickly this changes! A couple of weeks after that, we started eating our corn and ate it every single day for three weeks solid! You would think that we might get sick of it, but I didn’t. It is such a wonderful summer treat. It seems like no time it all that the corn went from seed to tall, rustling plants to plate.

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Last weekend, I harvested all the remaining corn –  including all the straggly little ones which hadn’t thrived – they became a treat for the chickens. Chickens love corn. I blanched the cobs in boiling water, then cut the kernels off and froze them. They will make nice additions to bean succotash and soups through the colder months.

I had noticed that the birds were starting to eat the apples, so Fraser and the boys got up on ladders and chairs and we stripped the apple tree. They filled a large bin with apples and on Saturday night I spent many hours peeling apples and made 12 litres of spiced apple sauce (delicous on porridge or in desserts)  for the freezer and six litres of apple cordial with the water the apples cooked in (I just added more sugar and boiled the liquid until it went thick.) The next day I had a big bruise on the finger which held the peeler and I wore the skin off….but it was worth it!

Finally, after what seems like an endless wait, the tomatoes are going for it too – but I haven’t preserved any so far – we are just enjoying eating them for dinner. We have had sauteed onion, zucchini and tomatoes for many nights in a row, too and I AM wearying of zucchini a little.

There’s a Manawatu saying “You can’t give away a zucchini in February” and it’s pretty much true – they grow so well and voraciously here – everyone trying to give them away at the same time. “Would you like some zuchinnis?” is usually met with “Oh bugger, I was just going to say that to you.”

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I also picked, cooked and ate my sole artichoke for the season – I love the plants so much, but I am not yet a convert for eating them! I think I need a more experienced friend to make me a delicious artichoke dish – I stoically chewed it down, but to be honest found it kind of fibrous and the smell and flavour bought to mind, well, urine. Not what you want to be reminded of when you are eating. I’m going to keep growing them, however, because the plants are so gorgeous.

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The mornings are getting colder, the days a little shorter so I’m enjoying this time of garden abundance and cleansing heat while it lasts!

You can find another lovely post about garden harvest time HERE on WHOLE LARDER LOVE.