17 Apr 2014

eastertide

is my very favourite time of all the year...

my fondest memories - of childhoods spent worshipping the rising Son as the day dawned over the ocean with bare feet, of elaborate egg hunts orchestrated by my dad in the bush, of youths spent doubting and wondering, of celebrating alone on a beach and leaving messages in stone on the sand, of leading reflective services by candlelight, of cradling my newborn son in the french countryside, of dyeing farm-grown eggs with three small children, of rainy autumns and sunny springs...

though we each come with different beliefs and memories... we are welcome to the table - welcome to be blessed, welcome to celebrate life, new beginnings, loving grace in Him.

and so I bake hot cross buns and fill the air with spices, pen round shapes while my child sleeps, read seasoned words like "My peace I give you, My peace I leave you", hum taize chants, decide to take a long overdue technology break to cradle warm cups of chai, knit, pack boxes, walk solitary, pray softly...

may the holiday bring much joy and tenderness to you too.

.
.

Hot Cross Buns
(unapologetically gluten free - deliciously moist and fragrant)

for the buns:
250ml warm milk
1 sachet dried yeast (7g)
3 tablespoons honey
1 egg
50g melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 1/2 cups plain gluten free flour
(I mix my own blend with 1 cup rice flour, 1 cup potato flour and 1/2 cup arrowroot flour)
1/2 cup almond meal
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup dried raisins
1/2 cup chopped candied citrus peel
__________
for the crosses:
1 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons GF flour
1/4 cup water
__________
for the glaze:
50g butter
1 tablespoon honey
generous pinch ground cinnamon

Prepare the buns by mixing yeast and honey into a small bowl with the warm milk - let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile combine flours, almond and spice in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together egg, butter and vanilla - slowly whisk in yeasty milk mixture. Pour wet mixture into flours and stir to combine with a wooden spoon - the texture should be smooth and thick but not stiff enough to knead with your hands. Grease 12-muffin tins with melted butter. Spoon mixture out evenly into tin. cover and let rise for about 30 minutes in a warm place.

Preheat oven to 200'c. Make crosses by stirring butter, flour and water together until you have a smooth and thick paste - fill a piping bag and carefully ice crosses on the top of the risen buns. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile prepare the glaze by bringing butter, honey and cinnamon to boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and brush over hot buns as soon as they come out of the oven. Enjoy warm with lashings of butter of course!

14 Apr 2014

rouge

so many things to flush the cheeks with colour and joy -

. radishes pulled from the ground - the same seeds and all different... 

. a flourish of fuchsias by the water tank... 

. pomegranates off the tree (and the stars their stems make)

. at last! a rhubarb-coloured cardigan emerging... 

. this morning the mobile butchers came to break down farm grown beef and pork. I know it may seem strange but I do find beauty in fresh meat being cut. something about it's rawness - markers in flesh and bone, in fat and marbling of a creature who has lived a free and healthy existence...

. explorations with brush and paint...

. and finally before dinner my child and I rambled through the raspberry thicket, finding gems hiding under prickly leaves. just a handful I say and stretch them out for those longing toddler hands to grab. more he asks, and answers gone, gone now...

8 Apr 2014

in ferment

Since discovering I had coeliac disease about six months ago I've been deep in research and experiment with foods that heal the gut and boost the immune system. Two books that have provided much insight and inspiration are Wild Fermtation by Sandor Katz and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Both explore the simple and healthful properties of traditional diets rich in fermented foods and beverages. Almost every traditional culture be it in Asia, Northern Europe, Middle East or Africa have recipes for preserving grains, vegetables, dairy, meats and fruits through fermentation. 

For the last couple of years I've fermented by own yoghurt, sourdough starter and milk kefir - the sourdough being my most regular practice. Many of you have seen the results of those adventures on here - but of course with my coeliac diagnosis came the sad news that my body cannot tolerate even the tiniest amount of gluten, fermented or no. So I stopped thinking about bread recipes and let my starter die a slow death undisturbed in the fridge. 

Then we moved to the countryside and began to farm. I had opportunity to ferment milk for yoghurt and ricotta from the farm's own swiss brown cow. I had cabbages ripe for picking to shred for sauerkraut - and spurred on by success and my gut's happy reaction I began brewing kombucha tea tonic and experimenting with other fermented condiments - "krauts" made from beetroot, ginger, carrots and caraway seeds, "poor man's capers" from young nasturtium pods, tangy salsa from home-grown corn, capsicums and tomatoes, peach relish and egg-rich mayonnaise. 

The mayonnaise is a revelation. It is just so simple to make - it takes about five minutes and the addition of whey and the seven hour ferment preserves it for up to five weeks in the fridge. Not that it ever lasts that long! We make a big batch every fortnight or so and serve it over steamed vegetables, baked potatoes, cool chicken salad, mixed into salad dressings and atop beef steak or eggs.  The best part I think is knowing that it is free of gluten, emulsifiers, syrups, refined vegetable or seed oils and preservatives. And it tastes damn fine. 


Purple Kraut (Beetroot + Red Cabbage + Purple Carrot Kraut)
1 large beetroot
1 red cabbage
3 large purple carrots
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 heaped tablespoons sea salt 

Choose vegetables fresh as possible as they will have a higher water content which you will need for the fermenting process. Shred cabbage finely. Grate beetroot and carrots. Fill the bottom of a large glass/ceramic bowl or crock pot with the vegetables - sprinkling the sea salt as you go. Stir through seeds.

Using a pestle (from a mortar and pestle) bash vegetables down together in the pot to release the water which the salt helps draw out. You need the vegetables to be covered with a layer of liquid for them to ferment properly and not form mould. You may need to add an extra cup of brine - but I usually don't need to if I keep pressing the mixture down with clean hands. 

Finally place a plate on top of the mixture and press down firmly till you can see liquid cover the vegetables. Keep the plate weighed down with a large jar or jug filled with water, stone or something similar. Drape a piece of cotton muslin over the crock and place it in a cool dark place for 7-10 days.

Every few days check on your kraut - the liquid may even rise up higher as the salt brings out more water. Taste the kraut after 7 days and if it's at your desired "tanginess" spoon into a sterilised glass jar with a lid and store in the fridge to enjoy at your leisure. 

(I highly recommend a visit to Sandor Katz's website for more recipes and how-tos)


Lacto-Fermented Mayonaise
-makes two and half cups -

5 free-range egg yolks
4 teaspoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons whey (easiest way is to strain the liquid that pools in a tub of yoghurt)
_________
optional seasonings: chopped fresh parsley/rosemary/thyme, dried smoked paprika,
small clove of garlic, crushed

In a bowl whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice and salt. Now using a handheld stick blender blend the eggs in an up-and-down motion as you slowly pour in olive oil from a jug. 

The mixture will thicken considerably as you add more olive oil - if the consistency is still too runny add another 1/4 cup of olive oil. Stir in honey, mustard, whey and any additional seasonings like spice or freshly chopped herbs. 

Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature for 7-12 hours. Transfer to a jar or any lidded container and store in the fridge for up to five weeks.

4 Apr 2014

birthday letter

When I was sixteen someone close to me said I probably wouldn't begin to really enjoy life until I was in my mid-twenties. He wasn't entirely right, but in someways he was... I spent so much of my adolescence and early twenties wanting to be older than I was, mapping out plans and creative scenarios in my head - desiring to be in full-swing with the things of life that develop gradually. Things that can't be rushed however hard you try. Here's what time has taught me:

to learn deeply is to never stop. It is more than attending a lecture or reading a wordy book... more than experiencing something for the first time... it is an an attitude to be honest, flexible, enquiring and interested in what's happening to our world, what's stirring in my spirit, what's testing my faculties.
...

meaningful work changes over time, it morphs and grows with you. I always wanted to have a profession that let me care for others - that was creative too. Once it was to be a florist... then a doctor, then a forensic pathologist, then a diplomat, then a teacher, then a counsellor, then an artist, then a researcher, then a writer... I never imagined when I was sixteen or nineteen or twenty three that I would pursue the vocation of farmer and cultivator but now I am walking that path with passion and peace in my heart.
...

partnership is the thrill of joining with another person with no assurance of long-years together, health, happiness even. I have in my partner a husband, a lover, a confident, a challenger, a co-creator. partnership is how we function and disfunction with the promise to be true. how we work together and how we work apart.. making sense of another's thoughts, desires, ways of seeing and learning to express my own.  partnership is being vulnerable - and loving them as they change, and they loving you.
...

motherhood grows on me like stretch marks on my belly.... gradual, unrehearsed, desired - lines that are ancient and feminine and true. the acts of growing, birthing, sustaining, struggling, learning, re-learning and celebrating a tiny person so like and unlike myself never seem to end. they come round in seasons and I am enriched because of it. 
...

in my head I imagine my dream garden - all the things I'd like to grow, flowers to pick, herbs to smell, bees about particular plants, landscaping, nooks for resting or or raising seedlings, there would be enough order and wildness I say and trees surrounded by violet leaves and strawberries. I have started many gardens now in different places, different climates. They have taught me much about making plans and letting go of them. They have helped me understand my own limitations, the uncontrollable force of nature, and blessings of watching life grow, assisting the process, stepping back, harvesting, preserving and sharing the fruits with others.
...

Perhaps I am "where" I always wished to be when I was younger - to be already a mother, a wife, a maker of things - but that's not where my satisfaction comes from. There's nothing perfect about my life. There's nothing straight and simple and effortless. It's wonderful because it's raw, it's rich because of the kinship of others, beauty of faith and the desire to keep on growing.

I am so glad to be twenty five. I feel it. It's young and it's old. And that's the way I like to be.

"I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still a part of me, and always will be... " Madeleine L'Engle

Over and out,
Emily Clare
(the young old bird)

2 Apr 2014

twenty-five

a picnic under the cork oak trees... a self-made pear and ginger cake laced with violas and a pavlova with cacao, cream and strawberries... a portrait by the violets... gifts of a mug, a Johnson Brother's tea set, handmade soap and a ball of wool, a very blue linen tablecloth... thrift-store trawling... hugs and kisses aplenty... a handful of birthday nasturtiums... pizzas made by my sister's hands... a so-needed pilates class... late night cups of tea and board-game playing... so so so many happy messages, phone calls, cards and emails from friends and kin near and far...

For this, and all twenty-five years I've circled the sun, fullness of joy and thanks be.

29 Mar 2014

dandelion

a breath of
white stars
whispers a
far-off dream

a resting place
away from here,

i'll never know
where you land
on which stone 
or blade of grass

for now it's enough
to hold you in my hands

fumble tiny seeds
breathe soft 
and blow

you are the words 
I must hear,

let go, let go, let go

25 Mar 2014

in thanks

dear friends, thank you for joining me here - recently I've felt my blog-voice wane as life became so busy and uncertain for us. I struggle still with fatigue and a flurry of thoughts to process but am at this moment overwhelmed with the kindness of friends, the healing hugs of my child, the softness of the sky on the horizon (that meets us, wherever we go). 

This morning as I cupped a bowl of steaming tea in my hands, I read:

Let thanks temper all your thoughts...


Ah, I thought, and yes... in thanks I'm present. In thanks I'm not impressing or disappointing. In thanks I'm not overlooking what's here and hard, but in a state of remembrance and rest. In thanks I'm redirecting my heart to gladness. In thanks I have peace in my spirit.

Right now -
for the brilliant purple of tibouchinas
for the fragrance of gardenias
for the season's first quinces
for the comfort of tea, warm socks, nourishing food -
for the face of my grandmother at her ninetieth birthday
for the yawn of my baby niece, 
for the health of our minds and bodies
for the land that sustains us,
for the love of my family
for the richness of community

for the certainties and the uncertainties -
thanks be.

13 Mar 2014

the classroom

Renovations are in full-swing for the pre-loved demountable classroom we'll be moving into soon - with much ceiling scraping, wall-cleaning, staple-pulling, painting, carpentry, compost-toilet-installing, concrete stumping, hole-filling and more...

There is something so fascinating about recycling a used space like this. We love discovering markers of it's history - from blue pen graffiti and sticky-tape on the windows, to the whiteboards and pin boards screwed to the walls (and the array of painted surfaces beneath them) oh and of course the sign above the door as you walk in which says "time out room"! I wonder what went on in here - what mischief was imagined, what books were read, words spoken, ideas shared.

I can't help but feel excited about this classroom - what it's been and what it will be become for us, and those afterwards. A place to grow, rest and make merry in... 

10 Mar 2014

ode to summer

dear summer,
in the morning you feel faraway, gone even
as the cool breeze bites the tops of my ears
and the back hairs of my neck stand up
but by midday
when you're streaming in the windows
drying the clothes on the line
sweating around the brow and underarms
I'm certain you're still here -

you are my least favourite season,
which is not to say
I don't love your brightness,
your blueness, and harvests -
It's just I find you exhausting
in the long long days
intensity, heat unrelenting,
busyness.

this summer, I have:
helped vegetables and fruit grow
harvested for our eating
preserved for later months
learnt to wake and sleep earlier
learnt to drive a car
lifted heavier buckets
made realistic plans
gotten lost in child's play
submitted a manuscript
burnt my shoulders
fended off three colds
watched the pasture turn brown
swam in the dam
walked in moonlight
cut sunflowers
sowed cabbage
held dying chicks in my hands
smelt the smoke from bush fires
been sad,
romanced,
tired,
enthused,
been distant, been present -


see you are always a lesson for me
to not look forward (too much)
and make the most of what you offer us -
surrender even, or just let be
summer -
thank you.