Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Preserving as an act of creativity!!

Preserving = Creativity

Recently I have been focusing much of my time and energy on "preserving the harvest". To me this is a very creative process, where I spend hours searching for recipes, hours picking, pulling and otherwise gleaning produce that I have grown or someone else has grown, then I get down to the process of preserving food.  I feel such a sense of pride when something turns out good and my family and friends enjoy my creations. It really is a beautiful thing to put a seed or start into the ground, spend time watering and caring then gleaning the bounty of the harvest.  I would not say that this is exactly easy to do, at least not when caring for two smallish girls and attempting to keep the house somewhat in order and everyone somewhat happy.  I find it so rewarding when the process is complete that I am full of joy for doing it.
I have become very focused in recent years on the importance of supporting the local economy as much as possible. For my family this has become something that we spend much of our time and energy on.  I feel for the earth every time I see an item that has been shipped across the ocean or across the continent to be on my dinner table that I put much effort into preventing that.  We do eat bananas and citrus that isn't grown in Montana, they are so good it is hard to give them up...
Eventually I would like to glean 90%+ of our food from our regional area.  We are not there yet, at least not during the winter and early spring months.  This is where canning/preserving comes into the picture.  Last year I focused on things like fermenting and dry storage, which by the way did not work out well. We had about 50 pounds of potatoes and 30 pounds of onions rot in our dry storage area because it was so warm in the late fall last year.  This year I have one five gallon bucket full of potatoes and my plan is to get a plastic bin, fill it with sand and put the potatoes in there for the fall and early winter.  Our onions did not grow well this year so we will be getting those from a farm that we purchase a CSA (community support agriculture) from outside of Dixon {County Rail Farm: } I would like to encourage you to look into a CSA in your area if you are not able to grow much produce, it is a great way to support the local economy and farmers while getting quality produce throughout late spring, summer and fall.
This year we have seven smallish organic gardens that we have produced everything from tomatoes, eggplants, tomatillos, zucchini, potatoes, onions, basil, peas, and many other items.  I love gardening and sometime hopefully in the near future we will have a larger space where I can focus my energy on developing into a real hobby farm. I have this reocurring vision during meditations where I am in a field of flowers, vegetables, and herbs and I am standing there with this feeling of peace and joy. It really is a beautiful vision that I know will happen.  Onto how preserving equals creativity for me.
I love to be creative in many ways including sewing, painting, singing, knitting and crochetting, as well as in food art.  The food art is really where I feel a sense of peace, creating dishes that others love and that I love brings about a sense of joy beyond explanation.  When I started preserving food about five years ago, my Husband Alex was the one who really wanted me to get into it.  He grew up in Bulgaria and spend much of his childhood summers helping his fanily preserve the harvest that they grew on their plot of land.  He would often reminise about helping his grandma cook tomato sauce in a cauldron like pot over open flame and how they would preserve hundreds of jars for the family.  I couldn't even imagine this but was excited to begin experimenting.  I was terrified that any wrong move would result in the death or illness of those I loved so was always arguing with Alex about the need to follow all of the directions and make sure all our food was boiled nearly to death... This was before I discovered the art of fermentation and the beauty of new recipes that do not require extensive boiling in the water bath canner. 
The first two years were terribly nerve wracking and not enjoyable.  At that point I decided that I needed to relax a little bit and let go of the terror about preserving.  This is when the real fun began.  I started checking out books from the library and talking to my experienced friends about preserving.  I realized that it is not that difficult it requires a few very important steps like cleanliness and heat, at least where canning is concerned.  I also learned that if something doesn't work out there is no need to freak just throw it out and move along to the next thing...
Last year we decided to try our hand at garlic farming, and I must say it is one of the easiest things to grow that there is, just put it in the soil cover with straw or some other mulch in November, leave it there until high summer, pull it out, hang to dry, and actually hang it to dry do not lay it in your shed to rot... then cut the ends off and put in baskets or some other bags or you could braid it too, then enjoy garlic, which is outrageously expensive like eight dollars a pound or something, for the next six to eight months.
Last year we had a great time with some friends who had an abundance of apples, we rented an apple press a few times and made loads of apple juice to turn into wine and to process for juice.  I also made apple butter, pear butter and some apple sauce too.  I love the apple press it is really great fun and produces the best product you have ever tasted.  Raw apple cider is truly a great pleasure from the earth. I wouldn't recommend drinking a half gallon it will cause a serious belly ache, you have been warned...
This year I have processed about fifteen jars of salsa, twenty jars of cardamom plum jelly/jam, five jars of ketchup, I attempted fermented saurekraut, fermented pickles, and froze about twenty pounds of tomatillos in salsa and raw. I currently have corn to freeze, ten pounds of strawberries to put up, around fifteen pounds of produce for more salsa, basil to turn into pesto, herbs to dry, some apples and pears to be put up in one way or another. 
The ways to utilize fresh produce are varied and really dependent on personal choice.  I think that if you do not know how and have the desire to learn then look into a really great book called Canning for the New Generation by Liana Krissoff, the recipes in there are excellent and there are many varied ways to utilize the fruits of the earth.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Relationships: the value of obedience vs. congruence


The value of obedience vs healthy loving communication


Recently the value of obedience versus healthy loving communication has been firmly rooted in my thinking and thought processess surrounding the girls and my relationship.  Many in my life are convinced that children need to have this instant obedience to pretty much all adults and especially parents.  I have struggled with this line of thinking pretty much continuously for the past almost five years.  This is actually a continuous point of disagreement between Alex and I.  However, for the past couple months I have been focusing my energy on getting the girls to basically do what I tell them the first time I tell them.  This has brought about some incongruence in myself and in our relationship. After a battle tonight over a minor issue I realized that this is not working for us, again  I want to duscuss the idea that parents are smarter and do not make mistakes therefore children should do as they are told :)
I like to encourage the girls to think for themselves. This can be tedious and tiring in the day to day living.  For example tonight, Iz, was taking a bath and I told her there was enough water in the bath and she wanted more.  We had a big blowout and now a few hours after they have fallen asleep and I have talked with a friend and thought about it myself I came to the realization that I was putting the value of following my orders over the value of having a healthy relationship with her tonight again.  As an adult I attempt to stay away from telling others what to do and how to do it.  As an adult I find it very frustrating when others try to tell me what to do and how to do it, and I am constantly striving to encourage other adults to think for themselves and do what work for them.  At least this is what I tell myself...
 I find it very interesting how viewpoints can sway throughout parenting.  I didn't even realize this was an issue before I was a parent. Now it is something I wonder/worry with pretty much every day, sometimes more than once a day.  I really want to focus on having a healthy and strong relationship with my daughters and most of the time I am.  Then there are those days where I forget what I am attempting to do and I think that following orders and obeying me is what is most important.  Its all about love, love for yourself, love for your partner, the love for your children.  This is what I want to focus on love, in all aspects of my life.  
As a child I didn't question whether my parents loved me, I have a very loving and openly affectionate family.  I didnt' realize it might be considered strange to kiss my family on the mouth until I was well into my twenties.  I think this is a blessing, I always knew I was loved and that I was loved unconditionally.  My family is very unusual in many ways.  I guess what I am working with is having a healthy loving relationship with my girls while encouraging them to follow my lead in behavior and do what I "want" them to do. 
This is not a new parenting idea, many of my parent friends talk about this dynamic. The reality I wonder upon is what if what I want them to do and what they want to do is dramatically different, how do we solve that? How does that work out to create a relationship that is loving and accepting and that works for all of us.  In the day to day, that really is what is most important to me, what works for all of us.  I know it doesnt' work for them to have to follow orders all day and not express their free will and desire.  I also know it doesn't work for me to spend all day picking up clothes and putting shoes away, setting the table and listening to yelling and yelling back. This brings us to the minute by minute of whether to put more water into the bathtub and how long is an appropriate amount of time to be taking a bath anyways...