The Paradox of Seasonal Living

 

You can count on it as sure as the sun rises in the morning and sets at night.  September 1 means pumpkin spice everything.  Facebook will be flooded with advertisements and recipes for pumpkin spice candles, coffee, cupcakes, tea, candies.  And then as dependable as the tide, along comes December 1 and a wave of icy peppermint-flavored confections.  As March approaches, we’re so over peppermint and in its stead, the earliest of spring berries.  They call it seasonal eating.  I call it marketing wizardry.  We have a very narrow, very romantic idea of what it is to live seasonally.  Yes, it involves our palate but the immediacy and the sensuality are pure American distortion.  The paradox of seasonal living is that while your feet are in one season, your eyes and mind are on the next.  Real, true seasonal living is to cling the living hope that the next season WILL arrive, in its order and in its time, just as it always has.

Right now, it’s early August here in Central Ohio, the height of our growing season, but our focus isn’t on the summer garden.  Of course, there are veggies to can and herbs to dry and that will all be attended to, but our focus now is on stacking firewood, airing quilts, thinning the turnips we’ll harvest in November and beginning Christmas gifts.  When December arrives with its all things peppermint and the last-minute scramble to buy the perfect gifts, we’ll be gathered around the fire, snuggled under fresh, warm quilts perusing the seed catalogs that arrive mid-month and dreaming of those first red buds on the Maple trees that mean spring is close.  January and February, we’ll spend our month planting hearty greens in their little starter trays, in anticipation of the March or April thaw.  In March, we plant our tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, because the heat of July will be here soon.  As I said, it’s a strange paradox.

There’s a rhythm and a hope that accompanies seasonal living that goes well beyond the immediate gratification of pumpkin spice coffee in September.  Our bodies crave that rhythm, just as they crave sleep when they’re tired and food when they’re hungry.  Our bodies crave the light, sweetness of spring berries, the cool crisp of summer greens, the starchy warmth of fall pumpkins. We crave seasons of rest, seasons of refreshment, seasons of growth…but it’s the hope of that next season that sustains us.    Til next time, with hope…

Filling The Pantry

We’re in the height of food production season here in central Ohio and already the pantry in my old farmhouse is beginning to fill and fill quickly.  We’ve finished with pickles and jams for the year, and green beans and tomatoes are just beginning to pick up.  Within the next 2-3 weeks, my kitchen will be filled with the constant humming, splashing, clattering, hissing and pinging of full-scale food preservation and I must tell you—I rarely feel more productive than I do during that time span!  There is nothing more satisfying to me than to see my grandmother’s old Mason jars filled with fruits and veggies that will nourish my children through the long, gray winter.  You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy Mason jars—and that’s almost the same thing!

In a normal year, I put up an average of 500-600 quarts of food and in an exceptional year, 800-1000.  It will vary greatly based on what’s left in the pantry from the previous year, which crops my garden grows in abundance and whether I’m able to trade, barter or buy with other local gardeners and farmers.  But that hasn’t always been the case.  I remember very clearly my first pantry; I was 20, living in my little second story apartment and I canned strawberry preserves.  I was never so proud of a dozen Mason jars in my life!  Now with a husband and 2 tweens in the house, those dozen Mason jars of jam wouldn’t last us more than a few weeks, but it set me on a path of planning ahead and using what was available during one season to supply the rest of the year.

And that’s all it comes down to, friends; planning.

There’s exactly one generation between me and family members who survived World War II, the Great Depression, coal miner’s strikes, joblessness, devastating weather…and they survived by planning ahead and practicing common-sense preparedness.  Blessedly, we don’t have to worry about those things so much now.  Now we wonder about rioting, hacking that can wipe out bank accounts, contaminated food and nation-wide recalls.  Having a full pantry of local or homegrown food provides a necessary layer of security in what was, is, and will always be, a topsy-turvy world.  And practicality aside, our grandmothers understood the value of taking a raw ingredient and turning it into a quality, wholesome product that nourished both body and spirit.  We’ve lost that understanding, but we can learn it again!

If you’re new to the ideas of gardening and food preservation and you’re considering taking the plunge in 2018, let me give you a word of advice:  Start thinking about it NOW.

Look at your eating and spending habits and determine where you could make the biggest impact.  Are tomatoes a staple in your home?  Jams?  Pickles?  Does your family eat green beans 3X/week?  Those are excellent places to start your food preservation adventure.  But don’t stop there.  Do you LOVE specialty salsas?  Make your own.  Are food allergies a concern in your home?  Make your own products and eat with confidence!  Do you love giving handmade gifts during the holidays?  No one is going to refuse a jar of your homemade apple butter!  (I once traded homemade apple butter for a treadle sewing machine, but that’s a different story!)

This is also prime time to consider the necessary equipment and education.  There’s a yard sale on every corner this time of the year and Mason jars can be found for little to nothing.  (I pay no more than $3/dozen and frequently far less.)  Farm stores such as Rural King and Tractor Supply will be clearancing their canning supplies to make room for holiday items, so take advantage of those discounts!  Local extension offices and farm stands frequently offer food preservation classes at low cost -or free- and this is also a perfect opportunity to visit your local farmer’s markets to get to know the people growing food around you.  Check the discard bins at your local library for inexpensive canning books.  Order online catalogs to familiarize yourself with the various types of tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers and herbs.  And if you’re going to try your hand at gardening, begin preparing your garden spot by killing off the grass and enriching the soil with compost.  This is no time to be idle, my sweet friends!

I know this may seem like daunting first steps to those who have no experience in gardening and food preservation, but we’re going to take this one little bite at a time.  In the coming weeks, we’ll break each of those bullet points down so you can confidently look ahead to the 2018 growing/canning season.  Til next time!

Hello, You Big, Beautiful World!

Welcome to Learn The Legacy, a place to rediscover the skills that would have made Ma Ingalls proud!  My name is Andrea and I’m on a mission to teach traditional, time-honored, heirloom skills to a new generation.  I’ve always had a passion for the timeless arts practiced by my grandparents but I began refining those skills in earnest in 2004 when I left the work force to become a full-time, stay-at-home mom.  A little 10X20 garden became my contribution to our household economy and as many things do, it snowballed.  Gardening led to freezing, canning and dehydrating, to foraging, maple-sugaring, beekeeping, seed-saving, fiber arts and a myriad of other traditional skills that kept my hands busy while the children were napping.  But a funny thing happened along the way: my mommy friends began to ask me to teach them what I knew.  They wanted to know how to can jam, crochet a hat, cane a chair, grow tomatoes, make soap.  Skills that had been the backdrop of my life were totally foreign to them.

“My people are ruined for lack of knowledge…” Hos 4:6

Somewhere in the past century, we’ve stopped passing down practical wisdom.  Somewhere, our priorities changed and a legacy of invaluable knowledge was lost.  As a result, we have generations of people who don’t know the first step to growing food, creating a warm home, providing shelter and hospitality. (This is in no way a bash on the individual but an indictment on an entire self-absorbed society.)  It’s time to change that, my friends and it’s my desire to show you the way!

My goal is simple:  to pass on to you what has taken me a lifetime to learn!   At Learn The Legacy, you’ll find practical ideas for the home, garden, kitchen, family and craft room.  No pretentious, superfluous projects that require a Masters to accomplish; but wholesome, simple, nourishing, worthwhile skills that our grandparents and great-grandparents would have recognized and approved of.  We’ll talk food preservation in all forms from the basic to advanced, simple DIY, gardening from seed to seed, crochet, cooking and baking from scratch, eating on a budget, self-sufficiency, and whatever other topics happen to trip our collective triggers.  Most importantly, I hope to show you that “it’s no bad thing to celebrate a simple life” – Tolkien

Til next time, my friends!

Andrea

 

 

 

 

Detox For The New Year

 

 

Happy New Year to you!  I hope you had a safe and warm holiday last night and that you’re as excited for the new year as I am.  I feel like 2018 has some great things in store for my family and I’m eager to see it begin!

Anyway, I have to confess something to you:  I’ve eaten really, really badly the last few weeks.  Really.  As a rule, my diet is low carb and sugar/grain free, but man alive!, that wasn’t the case this season!  I played pretty fast and loose with holiday meals, indulged in a little too much of my Sweet Petunia’s delicious baklava and by Christmas Day, I was feeling it.  I didn’t gain weight, but I just felt MEH.  Sluggish.  Bloated.  Grumpy.  Frumpy.  Undisciplined.  Unsatisfied.   Does anyone else know that feeling or is it just me?   If that’s your experience too, don’t feel ashamed about it.  It’s so stinking easy to get into that cycle of anticipation and indulgence that it takes real effort to throw the brakes on that cycle!

So here’s my solution:  detox soup.  Now understand me, I’m using the word detox a little differently than others.  I don’t think there’s anything magical about this pot of soup.  It’s absolutely nutritious, full of vitamin-rich veggies, beneficial fats and lean proteins, but it’s just soup.  You may lose a pound or two, may feel a bit less sluggish, but it’s not going to undo months of bad eating overnight.  That said, there’s a reason our Grannies made soup when we were sick, down, overwhelmed or needed comfort.  What I find is that a big pot of simple, hearty soup in the lull between Christmas and New Year’s resets my mind and taste buds and readies me for the return to normalcy.   It detoxifies my mind of constant indulgent food thoughts, reminds my taste buds what plain, home-style food tastes like, and helps to regulate blood sugar, satiety and digestion after the wild ride that was Beggar’s Night/Thanksgiving/Christmas.

The great thing about this recipe is that the variations are endless.  I prefer this version because it’s low in carbs and full of satisfying ingredients that we generally always have on hand…but you can mix it up any way you like:

  • Don’t like collards?  Try kale, cabbage or spinach.
  • Prefer vegetarian?  Skip the meat entirely and substitute veggie broth.
  • If you enjoy grains or beans, throw in a handful of barley or a cup of Great Northern beans.
  • Swap out the Italian herbs for bay leaves for an “earthy” flavor.
  • If you love carb-rich veggies, throw in some carrots or a couple red skin potatoes.
  • If you’re iffy on the sun-dried tomatoes, use a fresh tomato or eliminate them entirely and replace with roasted red peppers, chipotles in adobo sauce or dried Ancho peppers.
  • Top it how you like!  I love a few dashes of green Tabasco sauce, but a dab of pesto, chopped avocado or a few shreds of parmesan cheese would also taste amazing!

Ingredients for Detox Soup

  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 8-12 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • 4 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped
  • 2 cups yellow squash or zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 cups chopped greens (I prefer collards as they hold up to cooking without becoming mush)
  • 2 Tbsp red/white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried basil/oregano/Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large soup pot, cook the bacon and olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the onions, garlic, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Pour in the chicken stock, then add the cauliflower, collards and chicken. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the squash, green beans, basil and pepper flakes and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the vinegar and season to taste.

These cooking times are a bare minimum to get the veggies tender and the chicken warmed through, but if you want flavors that you recall from Grandma’s cooking, don’t neglect a long, slow simmer! I prepare this soup in my big red Dutch Oven and after the initial cooking time, I set it on the woodstove for the afternoon.  The slow, even heat melds the flavors and creates a rich broth that is so satisfying.  If you don’t have a woodstove, the same results can be achieved in an Instant Pot set to warm or on a back burner turned very, very low.

When I’m detoxing from holiday eating, I enjoy 2 big, hot bowls of this soup each day, along with a fat/protein-rich breakfast and snack.  I also try to eliminate all dairy and my favorite sweets and treats (berries, flavored coffee and pecans, for example).  After several days of eating in this manner, I feel like “me” again.  Instead of craving baklava, chocolate and carb-heavy dishes, my body and spirit are satisfied with simple flavors and healthy treats (like homemade yogurt topped with pecans) .

How do you readjust your body, mind and spirit after the indulgences of the holiday season?