Just Plain Living…

Stories from our gentle Home…

Kissing Summer Goodbye… September 24, 2009

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Long Days. Warmth. Light.  It is fading fast. Although the fall has already begun, it still feels a bit like summer. Underneath it though, I feel the strong pull of the darkness. The time to go to the light within. IT is calling in a whisper as it does this time of year. IT is giving cooler nights and wind in the trees. IT is signaling to the animals to prepare…and IT is just beginning to paint the trees. On my silent walk this morning, IT told me to give my kids one more day out in the water…one more day at the lake before the kiss goodbye.  

Reluctantly, I gave in. You see, once we actually start back to school, I get in a pretty solid rhythm. This is a part of every fall for our family-even though we school at home. Not that we ever really get too busy…but, the lazy days of summer slowly transition to the productive days of the fall. When watching the animals, you can see them do this as well. They are so busy-and full of intention, preparing for the season of cold. It is really beautiful to watch. To imitate. And we all imitate it…whether or not we are aware of it…or present for it.

What I love the most is how summer flows…we are busy when it begins, finishing up school, etc…and then we get into this wonderful S-L-O-W groove…then, almost without even noticing, the Harvest time arrives. This creates a smooth transition for us.  We are busy with the Harvest and do not have all of the time-like in mid-summer-to really notice the change. And then Viola! Summer is just a memory. No time to mourn the loss. It is just gone and we must move forward.  

So I am writing in praise of the gift that the summer gave to us this year…and it is the last kiss goodbye to the warmth….we are so blessed…

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I love this…it is from

A Child’s Seasonal Treasury

by Betty Jones:

Brother Wind howls, blowing the leaves from the trees. Father Sun’s warmth and light are subsiding. The world appears to be slipping into the cold promise of winter, and all prepare for the darkness that enfolds the world.  Yet inside each of us sparks the light and warmth of the human spirit. We kindle our light within as winter approaches.

 

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Preserving the Harvest September 17, 2009

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    The Harvest is here! I can not  believe the Earth  is already beginning the tilt into the Fall. Summer has flown by and I have been a bit lazy with my blogging habits. This is because summer is the time for discovering  beauty and awe in each other, in ourselves, and in the fascinating world around us….no time to blog!  As the sun wraps its warm arms about us, we celebrate with a delightful combination of revelry and reverence for all that is, for all that we are (thanks to Jubilee! for that). We have mad many amazing moments of wonder in the past few months and I send out gratitude from my heart for the memories. With Mabon approaching on the 22nd, I feel it necessary to post about storing up for the winter. When I stop and stare out the window, or when I am sitting in the woods…JUST watching…(sometimes for a bit too long!), I am starting to see that nature is getting ready too. Mother Earth is silently calling, signaling for us to get ready, winter is coming. Well, I love winter. It is my favorite season…so naturally, I hear her call and am working diligently to preserve the harvest to ensure plenty of hibernating time in the midst of winter. OK, I am starting to dream of winter a bit too much now…it will be here soon enough I suppose.  Must get through fall first.

Last week we went apple picking. We picked a bushel and a half…roughly 60 pounds of apples. I had planned to preserve all of them in different ways. We made and canned applesauce, apple pie filling , apple butter and dried as many slices as would fit in the dehydrator.  The aroma in the house is amazing right now. Here are some of the highlights:

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And the tree was happy.

 

Lavender Lemonade July 4, 2009

Yum. Lavender. Lavandula Angustifolia. It is one of my favorite plants. Not just because of it’s beauty or scent…but because it is one of those herbs that works for almost everything.  Did you know that in WWI,  the essential oil was used to disinfect the floors and walls of the hospitals!?  It is also anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. In our home, lavender is good for any boo-boo or bad mood, bug bite or bath soak…but it doesn’t stop there. At the height of summer, there is nothing more refreshing than an ice cold glass of Lavender Lemonade.  In years past (before my big kids got so big), we had an old window-you know…one with really beautiful glass and chipping (lead) paint…I painted the reverse side of the glass with the words “Lavender Lemonade” and that was their “sign”-for the lemonade stand. They would set up at the end of the driveway and would sell out within an hour or two. Yesterday, the kids and I made a batch and it reminded me that I should share this recipe…it is just too delicious to keep to myself!

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Lavender Lemonade

Ingredients:

Lots of lemons (20 or 25)

Lots of Sugar (get a big bag)

Lavender Flowers (2-3T)

Good clean water

First, you will make the “concentrate”. Do this by putting a half gallon of filtered water to boil. Remove it from the heat and add 2-3 tablespoons of Lavender flowers (I like dried). Put the lid on the pan and let it sit for 20 minutes. Next, juice the lemons until you have about a liter of lemon juice…(this takes a lot of lemons-probably 20!).  Then, strain the lavender flowers out of the water and compost them. Combine the lavender water and lemon juice (this is your concentrate). Now…from here it is all about your taste preference…how tart do you like it…how sweet do you like it?  I like to add the sugar (because I only use real sugar-that other stuff will kill you!) when it is still warm…so, go ahead and add…but…do it a little bit at a time…and remember, you still have to add water to the mix. What I do is get out my 2 quart pitcher, fill it about halfway with the concentrate…then add about a half a cup of sugar…fill it up with water…stir well and taste. If it is not sweet enough, I add more sugar…or if it is not strong enough, I add a bit more concentrate. You must decide for yourself! I store the rest of the concentrate in the fridge until I am ready to mix it. Whatever way you do it…be sure to have fun…!

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The Sacred Duty of Homemade Bread May 28, 2009

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Yum. I can still smell the aroma from the Sunflower Oatmeal bread we baked last night. We make a batch of bread at least once a week. It is part of our school “work”-and it is my belief that the process of baking bread is as nourishing to the soul as eating it is for your body. I am going to share the recipe below. Although this particular bread did not come from a book, if you are new to bread making, I recommend this great book called “Whole Foods for Whole People”. It teaches the process in a gentle way.  I do not use the book so much for the recipes anymore (they are in my brain) but, I completely love to read and re-read the the text portions, focused on nutrition and menu planning. And I LOVE love love the simple art work on the cover and inside. This is one (of many) that I consider to be a  ‘must have’  on your shelf. Here is a quick excerpt… (now, before you read…PLEASE know that this is a tiny bit old-fashioned…considering that it only mentions bread making as a sacred duty for females…I strongly disagree with this…in a non-feminist way-if that is possible. Simply put…my belief is that it is a sacred duty for all PEOPLE. So, here it is…of course I am typing it like it is in the book…just substitute for yourself to keep happy)…

“It is a sacred duty for every girl and woman to learn to make good, light bread from unrefined flour. Mothers should take their daughters into the kitchen with them, when very young, and teach them the art of cooking. She should instruct them patiently, lovingly, and make the work as agreeable as she can, by her cheerful countenance and encouraging words. If a love for cooking and other necessary domestic duties is once implanted, it will never be lost! It will also prove a real safeguard from idle moments during the restless teens and will help prepare a young woman for a happy home of her own. Today much worthless information is passed on to youth in the name of “education”, while the earnest duties of life are passed over, with hardly a mention. Good cooking is one of the most essential branches of education, especially for young women”

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I think the second to last sentence there might just be why we homeschool!! Ok…I am a bit pressed for time this morning so instead of my usual rambling, I am going to post the recipe and get outside…we have sunny skies this morning and our bodies are in much need of moving in the light! Feel free to post a question, I will answer as quickly as I can.

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 Ingredients: (you will also need a good cooking thermometer and a flour sifter- I think these are the only two things that might not by lying around)

1 1/2 T dry yeast

1 Cup warm water (my yeast packets suggest “warm” to be 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit-if you are dissolving the yeast in the water like in this recipe-work fast to get the yeast in the water and keep it in a warm place so it holds the temperature for a bit.)

1 T honey (please use your local honey-more on that topic another day!)

1 stick of room temperature butter (do not melt it…just leave it out for a bit before you begin making it-or give it to your toddler to “play with” for a bit…it’ll warm right up)

3-4 T honey (Plus a little more to brush on top at the end)

1 T salt (Celtic sea salt is my favorite…)

3 cups warm milk (or water) (either one you choose, stick to the same temperature “rules” that you did for dissolving the yeast-I have ruined one too many loaves of bread by killing the yeast (too hot) or not growing the yeast (too cool).

4-5 Cups Spelt Flour (you will need 5 cups -maybe more- but, leave one of the cups aside)

4-5 Cups Whole Wheat Flour (you will need 5 cups -maybe more-but, leave one of the cups aside)

Sunflower seeds (about 1 cup plus a little more for the top)

Oatmeal (Quaker is fine-I like whole oats in bread-makes it more crunchy)( 1/2 to 1 cup…plus a little more for the top)

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir the 1T of honey in the cup of warm water. Then, pour the yeast in. Don’t stir it (tempting, I know). Set it aside for 10 minutes in a warm place and let it get foamy. Meanwhile, put the butter, the rest of the honey and salt in a large (save yourself time now…go for the big one) bowl. Warm the milk (or water) and pour it over the ingredients in the bowl. Add the yeast mixture. Add the 4 cups of Spelt flour and the 4 cups of Whole Wheat flour and the oatmeal and sunflower seeds. Stir it with a wooden spoon or you can mix it with your hands. Just combine the ingredients for now…don’t over work it.  Cover the bowl with a cloth and place it in a warm place to rise for 10-15 minutes.  Once this time has passed, uncover it and add the remainder of the flours (1 cup of each) and flour the counter top and your hands well. Your dough needs to be “knead-able”-if it is too sticky, add more flour-just keep the balance of the two flours). This is where the recipe literally needs your intuition…you must just “know” when the dough is the right consistency and texture…you cannot take out flour once you add it…so, a just add a little at a time. Once it is workable, knead it for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic-not too sticky.  Divide the dough in half- (I think next time I will divide it into thirds so my cooking time is shorter). Grease whatever you are cooking it in well. Once it is ready to bake, brush the top with honey and sprinkle it with oats and sunflower seeds. Cook one pan at a time-the rest can just sit on the counter and rise some more.

A couple of options…you can make rolls or loaves or whatever! I can not give you an exact cooking time…I use stoneware to bake in-so, my cooking time is always longer (50 minutes or so for a loaf-half of the dough). Rolls cook nicely in about 18-20 minutes. Really- bread is a lot intuition. Don’t assume your bread is cooked through in the beginning…cut into it and see if it is “doughy”-it is a real learning process and it will take a few times to get it down. Once you “get it”, you will not forget it! Write it down each time and make note of what you did differently and what worked or didn’t. I am constantly making changes in my recipe!  I have no idea where this particular recipe came from…but I have it written down and would give credit if I could! I will say that I have altered it a bit and tweaked it so that it works for me…it was one of the first recipes I tried it was way too vague for me and I messed it up a bunch of times before I got it right!

Off to soak up the sun…Peace!

 

Bloodroot Blooms April 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — justplainlivin @ 2:55 am

The weather in the mountains of North Carolina in early spring is quite inconsistent…that is about all I can say for sure. One day it is quite warm. Sunny. Warm. Then, in the blink of an eye…windy…cold…snow. Cold. Snow. The past 3 days have been filled with thunderstorms. Thunder. Lightning. There is nothing like a thunderstorm in the mountains. When the thunder makes its sound…which is amazing if you think about it…the echo then repeats it…louder and louder and on and on. Truly, it is amazing. What would be a quick note elsewhere is a short symphony here.  Definitely something to make sure to experience in life. That along with standing out in the storm…right in it.

Just a few days back (on the 9th)………………

It was a perfect time for strange weather…with the Full Pink Moon rising just that night,  and while  in search of undisturbed Chickweed (for my spring batch of ‘ApotheCarey’s All Healing Salve’) to infuse in oil…under a full moon being the best time to begin that two-week process (of course), I came across the early blooms of the Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). 

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Bloodroot’s name comes from the fact that the root exudes a red juice similar to the color of human blood. Other common names are Indian Paint, Tetterwort, Red Puccoon, Red Root, Coon Root, Snakebite, Sweet Slumber. Many native tribes used the juice of the root to decoratively paint their skin for ceremony. A bachelor of the Ponca tribe would use Bloodroot as a love charm by rubbing the root on the palm of his hand, shake hands with the woman he desired to marry, and if the charm was successful, after five or six days she would then be willing to marry him. The juice was also used to dye cloth and baskets. Bloodroot is of the Poppy family and contains Protopine, an alkaloid also found in Opium, thus giving it mild narcotic effects (don’t you remember the wicked witch using Poppies to put Dorothy and co. to “sleep” to delay their arrival at the Emerald Castle?…ahhh, it all makes since now…). Don’t try this at home-you can go so wrong with medicinal herbs, and this herb is in fact listed as poisonous!!!

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 Sanguinaria canadensis received its latin name from the word sanguine which means: consisting of or relating to blood. Sanguinarine, the predominate alkaloid which is considered poisonous, can cause slight central nervous system depression and narcosis if taken internally.  However, it has been found to have an incredible list of medicinal properties such as: antimicrobial, anesthetic and anticancer. It is also an expectorant.  It is antispasmodic and is also an emmenagogue (YOU go to herb school and learn what those mean!). This incredible lady plant is not commonly used by herbalists today-likely because of it’s potential toxic side effects. You will however see it  used as an escharotic salve for skin and breast cancers. It is also found in mouthrinses and toothpastes as a  plague deterrent.

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Where I live, this time of year all you need to do to view this plant in bloom is walk into the woodland forest. She is abundant. You can just feel her power. I dare not harvest for she is a tricky plant to know…I simply admire, respect and keep moving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahhh…check us out…absorbing the Vitamin D…during the strange window of sunny weather before one of the storms…kids?…what kids?

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Embrace the LIGHT! April 5, 2009

With rain, rain and more rain this week…I am feeling super grateful that the sun is shining brightly through the windows of our Just Plain home this morning. When I let the dog out the door, I had to just stand there in the light for a moment and embrace it. Ahhh. It is so refreshing. We have plans to get out into it as soon as we are all fully awake and thinking more clearly. Yes…we just woke up a bit ago. For some reason each year at this same time, we get on this habit of staying up way too late and sleeping in just the same. It is so dark at 7 in the morning and just barely light at 8 so, it just feels more natural to sleep…and enjoy the daylight hours that are now into the evening. Our winter time hibernation is clearly coming to an end though…as new  blossoms are emerging each day and letting us know spring is here! I think the sleeping in is one last attempt to drag the hibernation out a bit. Next week, we will go back to more “normal” (yeah, I used the ‘N’ word…whatever it means) hours.

Despite the presence of the rain this week, we still managed to stay busy (remember busy for us is different than hustle and bustle busy). The theme for the week for Taige’s nature based learning guide was “Plants and Growing”. It was great fun to jump into this! We started the week with a watercolor painting session…

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We are still loving our new Stockmar watercolor paints. We used all three colors this week again and were able to create this lovely scene of a flower. We had talked about what a seed needs in order to grow just prior to painting so we made sure to include those things in the photo. Sunlight, nutrients from the soil and water. Well…you just have to imagine the water….and the soil…well, it’s under the grass. Taige’s painting is on the left and mine on the right. I led the painting this week since we used all three colors again and had an image we wanted to create. Yellow went on first…for the sun. Then, it went all over the bottom with little blades sticking up as well as a stem and any leaves. Next came blue…for the sky first…all over the top half…careful not to touch the sun…as she likes to stay yellow…not green. Next, blue decided to play with the yellow on the bottom half to make our grass…green. Then, we went to red…but the tiniest amount ever…we could hardly see it…had to squint! And we then barely touched blue in the sky where we wanted our flower(s) to go…and Viola! Purple! And the damp paper (we did wet-on-wet watercolor) took the purple and let it run. It is so beautiful to watch. We often become captivated. After purple was finished playing, we dried our paintbrushes and made an outline for the flower-at Taige’s request. Not something I would normally do…the idea is to let the colors  blend and run and play. But, outline he wanted and outline he got. I did help a bit with the outline…and I used a wet paintbrush for mine…(on the right) and the water wanted to play with the blue. It was fun and I enjoyed the peaceful painting time with Taige…

Once they dried…the next day, we added the “seeds” with glue…and the “roots” (hemp) and we each picked the verse that we liked the best from the week. Both of these are actually fingerplays and are really cute when acted out. Here are the finished pieces…

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In keeping with the theme for the week…and with Easter coming up…although celebrated quite alternatively in our home…we decided to sprout easter grass in our baskets! We went to the Co-Op  and purchased some winter wheat berries and then made a stop at Home Depot for a bag of potting soil. We made a stop out back of our house…at our shed…and dug for the box labeled “Easter”.  We gathered all of our supplies and set up in the front yard-during the only point of the day that it was not raining…and began! We lined the baskets with a plastic grocery bag…then, added some soil…then, the seeds. Since we are sprouting them, there is no need to cover the seeds with soil…but, they do  need to be kept in a warm environment. So, we set up our grow lights…which needed to be set up anyway for the garden seedlings and covered each basket with plastic wrap (creating the greenhouse effect). They are still there as I type and have already sprouted! It took less than 24 hours! I did soak the seeds in water for 24 hours prior to planting them to “help” them on their way.  Here is the process in photos…

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And, last but not least…

Remember the beeswax sheets we bought last week? Well, even though this did not totally tie into our theme for the week…it was great fun and served as our modeling day. We typically have one day of modeling a week…either playdough…or pure beeswax. So late in the week, here is the modeling that we did…april-2009-060

Heat with the hairdryer…insert wick…roll, roll… roll, roll…heat, connect another piece…roll, roll…heat to seal! Then, with the modeling beeswax, I created this embellishment for one of the candles…

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This is the modeling beeswax I use. It is heavenly and can be shaped into anything. You just have to work it a bit to get it to soften.  april-2009-068

 These are the finished candles. I generally wrap the exterior with the paper that the sheets come on just to protect the candles. They pick up dust and can easily be dented if left unwrapped. They smell so great and are so easy to make. Taige mentioned that he wants to sell them when we set up our Etsy shop. I have been meaning to do that for a while now but just have not had the time. Soon maybe! april-2009-066

 We had a great week…