food, farming, friends and family: a meditation on chosen simplicity and (in)voluntary complications – life.

Archive for August, 2010

The Month That Was

It seems strange to talk about August in the past tense – in part because, well, it’s not actually over for another 12 hours or so. But moreso because, for most of the year, August was exploding off the calendar as 31 days chocked full of celebrations, gatherings of my favorite people, the abundance of the garden, (summer sunshine?).
And here, in the comfort of my yurt, on this windy and rainy August 31st, I can say it had all of those things and more.

August was family visits and swims in Lake Padden, ice cream cones and canning projects. It was UPicks and finding our chickens’ first eggs. August was basil and zucchini, sungold tomatoes and berries berries berries. It was parties celebrating the connections between people and the growth of families, the bonds of partnership, birthdays and babies. Community.

September promises more of the same, starting with a trip back to Michigan tomorrow that will kick off the wedding celebration for one of my oldest friends, Erica and her partner Greg. And while I can’t seem to stop wishing time would slow down just a bit, I am so very grateful for the joys – the challenges too – of each day. More pictures of August (and other) adventures here.

Cultivate Empathy

So I’ve got this theory: I think empathy could solve all of the world’s problems.

In coming to this all-too-general conclusion, I’ve decided to try to stretch and strengthen my empathetic muscles – to challenge myself to see and feel from others’ perspectives.

And guess what? It’s frickin’ difficult!

It seems particularly hard to do when I’m dealing with someone or something I really care about, an issue I’m invested in. Most times I find myself giving it the old college try and then slipping back into my own mindset (which is occasionally equipped with some harsh judgments). Because instead of trying to understand what it’s like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, it’s easier to tell her that she’s walking all wrong – or she’d do better if she just sprung for some decent footwear. Maybe, in our more philanthropic moments, we’ll offer her our shoes. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, right?

Don’t get me wrong – the Golden Rule as we know it has a lot going for it and its heart appears to be in the right place. But empathy it is not. Sorry if I’m carrying the shoe metaphor too far, but my size 12’s probably aren’t going to fit into your hand-me-downs. And vice versa.

This is where the idea of a new Golden Rule comes in. I remember when Nicole first told me about the concept years ago when we were in college, and it’s an idea that I think about often. Instead of treating others as we would like to be treated, the new Golden Rule suggests that we Treat others as they would treat themselves. And whether you’re a nation with a tendency towards imperialistic politics or someone trying to navigate her family dynamic, that is no easy task. A complicated one, too, when issues of morality are entwined – and when are they not?

It seems worthwhile though, if for no other reason than it creates an opportunity to realize how much grey area there is in a world that so many people are trying to paint black and white. If you’re not this, you’re that. It’s not that simple; it never has been. And empathy seems to be a chance to see that there are always more than two sides to every story – if we’d just stop skimming the book.

Sunday Night Rager

We here at 2726 know how to have a good time. This last Sunday was no exception, as we were up into the wee hours of Monday morning steaming up the windows, sweet smells wafting in the air …

Yep, canning really is sexy.

The object of our preservation affections this time? Carrots. We decided to pickle some carrots after 1) sampling them at the best Mexican restaurant in town (Casa Que Pasa) we discovered how delicious they are and 2) I came home from working at my friends’ farm with two huge grocery bags full of them. Every surplus is an opportunity to get creative (after getting overwhelmed, of course) and come up with something delicious. And this was no exception. 

We pickled some with dill seed, some with a sweet pickling spice blend, all with garlic. There’s a little more leeway with what you can add when you’re pickling because the acidity level is so high, but it’s always a good idea to double-check. Don’t want the botulism fairy to visit your house! We added sliced jalapenos into some jars for a spicy pickle, even threw in chopped up cauliflower into our last couple of quarts as carrot levels got low. And we canned them using a water bath canner.

Pickled Carrots
(makes 5 pints) 

4lbs Carrots*

6C water
2.5C vinegar
1/4C pickling salt

1tsp dill seed/jar
1 garlic clove/jar

*If you’re like me, you don’t know what 4 pounds of carrots looks like. What I did to figure out just how much I had on my hands was to put them in a gallon-sized bowl after I chopped them up. That held pretty true. Once the bowl was full, I had 4 quarts of carrots ready. The amount you’ll need will definitely vary depending on how tightly you fill your jars.
  1. Gather your canning materials and begin sterilizing your jars and lids. For some more comprehensive water bath canning info, go here.
  2. Wash, peel, and cut the carrots. We did some of ours in spears and some in coins about half an inch thick. Both stayed crunchy and delicious.
  3. Prepare the brine in a large pot – combine the water, vinegar and salt – and bring it to a boil on the stove. We used white vinegar, but apple cider vinegar would be tasty too. It tends to impart a little more flavor to whatever you’re pickling.
  4. Take a sterilized jar and put your garlic clove and spices in the bottom. Then pack the jar with carrots and ladle the brine over the top, leaving half-an-inch of head space.
  5. Process ten minutes in a water bath canner.

Unsealed jars (and we had two of them) are a blessing in disguise! Now you’ve got refrigerator pickles AND an early snack for those of us who like instant gratification. The flavors will meld and improve over time, but they were really good just the next day.

Let me know how they turn out!

I Spy With My Little Eye …

… something BLUE