In addition to the siren call of the season, the time constraints of my upcoming bike tour has gently persuaded me to more thoroughly plan out my food preservation for the year. The result: nearly twenty jars of various produce, now fashioned into delectable pickles, sauces and jams.
The first canning session focused on early summer treats – bean and cucumber pickles and a spontaneous batch of raspberry rhubarb ginger jam.
Yesterday’s preservation was all about tomatoes. Around 25 lbs of in season, perfectly ripe ruby orbs to boil into submission as salsa and sauce.
First the blanching, to remove the skins and squeeze out the seeds.
Then blending, to hasten the sauce creation. My relief at having my housemate’s Ninja blender to aid this process was boundless.
Then, after additions of onions, garlic, jalepenos and basil for the salsa and Italian sauce respectively, the mixtures were jarred, preserved in a hot water bath, and finally set to cool and admire on the dining room table.
It may not feed a community house of six for a whole winter, but it will certainly feel like summer’s latent Christmas when we crack one of these jars on a dark and snowy January evening.
Last week, I started seeing a therapist. It’s been a decade since I last had therapy as part of my life, and considering my current chronically overscheduled self, not to mention my divorce (among other things), it was high time I started going again. Yesterday was only session two, but I already have homework: intentional self care. No screens, no friends, no multi-tasking, no direction. Just a half hour minimum per day of doing something aimless for myself.
Much easier said than done. While going on a walk, sitting by the river, or drinking a cup of tea are all things I do with some frequency, they are rarely alone and never aimless. I go on a walk to a store with a friend, sit by the river or drink a cup of tea while reading a book (that I probably have some mild amount of guilt for reading if it’s fiction, because shouldn’t I always be reading things to expand my mind and better myself?). Always, always, always multi-tasking. Which is why the idea of relaxing for the sake of relaxing is unbearably difficult for me.
So today was day 1 of my new, prescribed, hopefully someday to be a routine, self care. I went on what ended up being a 40 minute walk around the neighborhood a few moments of which I found myself able to relax, breathe, and be. Sure I spent the first five minutes talking myself out of needing to plan a route in advance. Certainly I spent a good portion of the middle of my time planning the photo walk I am leading for work this evening. But for at least a few moments I lost myself in myself, the sunshine, lovely gardens, and woodpecker drilling on a nearby tree enough to return me to the drifting contemplative revelry I have found on walks in years past.
So here’s to finding new practices that, no matter how difficult despite seeming simplicity, I will commit to in hopes of living a deep life of both joy and peace.
I am very much in favor of perpetual anything (my kombucha crock on the counter being a prime example), so this suggestion for perpetual pickles from the latest Farmer’s Almanac enews in my inbox sounds just divine. It does help that I found dill sprouting up voluntarily in my garden this year!
Create a “perpetual pickles” crock for summer snacking. Partially fill a large jar or small crock with half water and half vinegar, a few peeled garlic cloves, a few sprigs of fresh dillweed, and pickling salt to taste. Add new vegetables every day or two.
I’m keeping up Namaste House, which involves cooking and gardening and cleaning and arranging and making space that is pleasant. I’m also coordinating our online bill pay for electric and gas, and will be making a house calendar to keep track of what’s going on with everyone. I enjoy organizing these things, and creative problem solving, but get stressed when things seem unnecessarily complicated, especially when they involve money, which is something I wish I didn’t have to care about at all. Maintaining the garden and planting new vegetables for this year is one of my very favorite things to do around the house, as is cooking. I like both providing for myself and the rest of my housemates, as well as the challenge of DIY. I feel compelled to do as much locally, sustainably, and without buying new things as I possibly can.
I’m also finding that I love having people over and cooking for them, to share conversation and good food and not have a particular agenda. Our monthly potlucks are fun and worthwhile but sometimes exhausting by the end of the night, whereas having a couple of friends over for dinner is a fabulous and energizing experience.