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Archive for the ‘eating local’ Category

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All homemade, local and/or organic. Also vegan! Potato, leek, and fennel soup, baked acorn squash, and steamed Brussels sprouts over couscous.

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I love working in my kitchen.  When I’m there, I feel close to Brighid, my patroness and guardian of the hearth.  Over the years, I’ve turned into a real foodie.  I love making my own food.  If I can grow it, that’s even better!  The kitchen is a great place to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.  Although we’re not perfect, Weretoad and I have been making considerable efforts!

I was really, really pleased to get a food dehydrator as a holiday gift from my parents.  Drying is one of the oldest forms of food preservation.  I’ve been doing a bit myself the old fashioned way – mostly with herbs and chili peppers from my garden.  This new dehydrator will allow me to dry larger quantities of food quickly and using very little energy.  Last night we dried two bunches of mini bananas that were on their way out and dirt cheap at the grocery store.  Sure they’re not local.  They weren’t organic either.  But using old bananas that would have been thrown out anyway is very sustainable!  They are so delicious too.  They aren’t like the typical banana chips bought in stores, which are usually fried before drying.  These are chewy like a gummy candy!

 

 

 

As I write this, I’m making tonight’s dinner – stew and dumplings thanks to my father’s dumpling recipe.  A few years ago, I was more likely to make some sort of vegetarian hamburger helper type meal – something from a package.  To a busy gal more focused on literature than food, they seemed healthy.  As I’ve grown, I’ve become more interested in what is on my plate.  Where did it come from?  What’s in it?  Is it really good for me?  Again, we’re not perfect, but we’ve made huge strides in making a majority of our meals from scratch or from local/organic products.  Making food in the traditional way, I feel, brings me closer to the Kindreds.  Working in the kitchen, as I said, strengthens my relationship to Brighid of the hearth.  Using better ingredients brings me closer to the Nature Spirits.  Preparing meals from scratch rather than from a box and becoming more and more familiar with traditional methods brings me closer to my ancestors.

We don’t feel that we’re perfect (we have lazy moments) and our journey towards better sustainability continues.  It is a very Druidic journey, in my opinion.  Witches and Druids who strive for a closeness with the Earth should take such a journey.  Some of you may disagree with me, but it’s something I believe very strongly.

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It was always easy for me to connect with The Nature Spirits.  Upon reflection, I must confess that it was the Nature Spirits who originally helped me decide to turn to Paganism.  I’ve always been an environmentalist.  At a very early age, I started to learn about animals, ecosystems, and the huge amount of damage humans were inflicting upon the Earth Mother and her children.  At the age of five, I was making “Save the Rainforest” posters with crayons and construction paper.  I hung these at the local ice cream and candy shop.  At the age of eight, I became a “beady-eyed vegetarian” and only ate white meat.  At seventeen, I became a full-fledged vegetarian and am still one to this day for environmental reasons.

My parents raised me to care about nature to some degree or another.  My mother taught me compassion for all living things.  I was warned to never to step on an ant because, one day, I might be that ant.  I learned very quickly that animals do have a soul and emotions.
Even now I can’t help but put myself in their place and imagine how they feel.  My father taught me how to grow gardens full of vegetables. Out of his interest in camping, he taught me simple survival techniques such as fishing, boating, and how to make fires.  He always did so with reverence.  He was a volunteer fireman and taught me that nature, like fire, was to be honored and respected because, just as it could give life, it could also take it away.

I took the teachings of my parents to the next level and came to the conclusion that nature was worthy of worship.  I discovered Paganism around the same time I was becoming a full-fledged vegetarian.  I was amazed that there were contemporary religions in existence that not only honored but worshiped the Earth Mother and her creatures.  I felt like I had come home. This went along well with my maturing environmentalism and vegetarianism.  While I will be the first to say that Pagans aren’t required to be vegetarians (nor should all vegetarians be Pagan!), I do think that environmentalism and, therefore, conscious eating, should be a requirement.  This also isn’t to say that all environmentalists must give up eating meat – simply that it’s important for us to consider where our food comes from.  This train of thinking carried me to vegetarianism, but if it carries others to hunt for or raise their own meat, I believe that those are also conscious, eco-friendly approaches to eating.

Eating local vegetables and fruits has also become important to me.  While it’s harder to do so in the winter, I do my best to purchase organic food to avoid chemicals. My goal is to one day eat locally and within season.  Some environmentally-minded friends and I are going to learn how to can and preserve food this autumn so that we can eat local food in the winter.  In the meantime, I’m working on a small vegetable garden.  Working with the soil, water, and sun to bring life out of little seeds has helped me to connect to the life cycles of nature.  Politically, I’ve started to write letters concerning agriculture and the environment to my representatives, and I am currently working on a letter to send to a local Pagan Pride event in regards to the food offered.

I feel lucky to have grown up in a largely rural area.  While I’m certainly not a scholar on the local flora and fauna, I’m always surprised when Pagan authors suggest that a good way to start forming a relationship with the Earth is to learn about such things as what type of birds live in one’s area, what the first flowers to appear in the spring are, and what plants you can eat.  I sometimes take it for granted that I was able to observe these things first hand or learn about them from knowledgeable adults.  I’ve always been a student of nature but I still have much to learn.  I have an interest in sustainable living and thus I would like to learn about the many edible plants in my own yard.  I’ve purchased some books and have gone to some workshops, resulting in some interesting experimental salads!

In addition to healthy, conscious eating habits, my fiancé and I are also trying to be conscious consumers.  We do our best to recycle, research products, and find eco-friendly merchandise.  I’ve switched to eco-friendly deodorants, shampoos, makeup, and toothpaste.  We are also trying to switch to eco-friendly cleaning products.  At the same time, we know it’s important not to waste and so we continue to use those products that we already own.  We have also made an effort to reduce the number of plastic bags we use by limiting how much we purchase, carrying products without a bag, or using reusable canvas bags.  As far as cars are concerned, we share my little Saturn and get 30-35 mpg. We try to carpool or walk to as many places as possible.  It’s difficult where work is concerned, but I believe that every little bit helps and that even baby steps are a step in the right direction.

I said that I still have much to learn.  Some of my latest lessons in nature have come from the city.  My fiancé lives in the city of Utica and I spend a lot of time at his apartment.  These past few years have presented new lessons – lessons about the flora and fauna of the city. I’m now learning that people in the city aren’t as cut off from nature as I once believed.  In fact I think that urban Pagans who are able to find a connection in a city are probably more appreciative than those of us who live in the country.  The more time I spend in the city, the more I’ve come to appreciate the value of my parents’ forested backyard.  I’ve started to consciously look for examples of nature within the city so that I can maintain my connection.  I pay attention to what the trees are doing, I notice and praise the dandelions poking through the sidewalk, and I smile when I see a skunk ambling across the street at night.  Nature spirits are everywhere and one need only look.

My practical experiences are very spiritual.  When I first started to read about ancient Pagans, I remember reading about how they didn’t categorize activities as either spiritual or mundane – they were all spiritual in some way.  I feel myself entering that frame of mind.  When I am in my garden watering the seedlings, I am engaging in an age-old ritual and connecting to the spirits of the land.  When it rains, I thank the rain because it is helping everything to grow.  When it snows, I pray that the snow spirits will be kind to me.  I think that, while I’ve always had animistic tendencies, Druidry has helped me to develop them to the point where I really do feel that everything has some sort of soul or energy.  I feel intertwined with it all and it makes me even more aware of the delicate balance that exists on Earth.  My conscious efforts to be an eco-minded consumer are ways of affirming my connection and devotion to the Earth Mother and her children.

Of course I also feel happiness simply existing in nature.  I love to go for walks in the forest behind my home.  I have a little shrine set up by a tree – a boundary marker, really.  I feel that it is the true entrance into the forest.  I make offerings there from time to time and visit often to feel the presence of the unseen world around me.  I love to meditate outside, to feel the wind through my hair, to make offerings to the fairies. I feel more alive in the forests, mountains, and lakes. In many ways, the Nature Spirits are my first love and it only makes sense for me to dedicate my life to them as a priestess.  However, without the acts of conscious eating and consuming, the offerings and nature walks would be little more than empty gestures.  ADF has helped me to see that my life’s work is, above all else, to honor, worship, and serve the spirits of Earth.

 

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A couple years ago I was attending a Wicca 101 class lead by my good friend Katrina. At this time I had already left Wicca for Druidism, but I felt the desire to attend her class for various reasons: friendship, a hope to learn something different, a new perspective, and an excuse to practice my meditation skills. One of the biggest things I got out of the class was a newfound understanding of the Wheel of the Year and its connection to the land and agriculture. Intellectually I realized that certain foods were connected with the seasons and were therefore symbolic of the holidays. It wasn’t until her discussion on food and the High Days that it dawned on me – eating, especially to someone on an Earth-centered path, is an incredibly spiritual act!

That lesson, combined with my desire to be more sustainable and ecologically responsible, has lead me to seek out different ways of eating and cooking. My husband and I have cut out most of the HFC in our diet. We’re now trying to limit the amount of corn we have. Basically, if we don’t expect corn to be in the product but it shows up on the list, we don’t buy it. This means no more Kraft Mac and Cheese or Smuckers jam! In other words, we’re attempting to avoid processed foods while simultaneously starting to boycott big business farms/monocultures . We still buy veggie burgers but we don’t eat them often and I’m moving more towards making my own out of lentil, nuts, and bread crumbs. We’ve been religiously buying organic, naturally sweetened cereals. Our snacks are pickled veggies, fruit, nuts, and dries berries from the Mennonites and Amish. (I like to keep a dish full of nuts on the coffee table for snack attacks.) Trying to wean myself off the Veggie Bootie… I loves it… I may make it a weekend treat. Hubby still likes his chocolate syrup too… Baby steps, right?

Anyway, I was thinking more about our desire to be more supportive of our local farmers’ market and how that means, for the most part, eating within season. What’s available at the market right now? Eggs, preserves, onions, squash, and potatoes, potatoes, potatoes! We already have tons from a future in-law.

So eating in the winter means eating potatoes. Who ate a lot of potatoes? My Irish ancestors, of course! In fact, our rotund starchy friends have been a staple of the British Isles as a whole for decades. It only makes sense to look to them for inspiration. During my lunch break today I started to collect different potato recipes – Irish, British, and “Newish.”

Tonight I’m trying my hand at Cornish pasties. I remember loving them when in Penzance. I only had a couple, but I’ve always meant to try making them myself. My first batch isn’t really anything spectacular, but if I continue to practice I’m sure I’ll get better at the construction. Next on the list is vegetarian shepherds pie.

Oh, and my hubby makes some pretty mean homemade French fries.

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I don’t know if it’s the moon, the season, my hormones, or my lifestyle (it’s probably a combination!), but I have been one tired Pagan as of late. It seems that I want nothing more than to sit on my bum and vegetate after work. I’m sorry to say that our home is not as tidy as it could be. If someone came to visit, I would feel terribly torn between my desire to be hospitable and my embarrassment. One of our cats made it worse when she stole an unfinished doll leg from my studio. There are tiny clumps of stuffing here and there.

I’ve tried to do things on my to-do list. My sewing has fallen behind which is unfortunate. However I’ve been kind of productive on the Druid front. I wrote an article for Oak Leaves that I have to send in. I’ve also been editing another person’s article. I recorded a couple submissions for Tribeways. I need to give those another listen and send them in. I also need to finish my mentoring questionnaire… I should do that next…

In other news, my husband and I found a wonderful little shop in the town of Pamelia, NY (near Evans Mills if you know where that is…). It’s called Doxtater’s Farmers Market and it’s wonderful. We found organic, cruelty free eggs there as well as local fruits and veggies (in season!), local peanut and almond butter, maple syrup, jam, soaps, lotion, and breads. There’s a gorgeous brick oven that the baker uses right in the shop. He also makes delicious pizza. Oh, and for any of you meat eaters looking to support local, organic farmers rather than the nasty factory farms, Doxtater’s also sells local, organic, pasture-fed beef, chicken, and sheep. I’m very excited about the shop and its proximity to my home.

I’ve also located a local farmer who sells milk (unpasteurized) but I need to find a good container. I saw some large glass jars at the local Mennonite shop. One of those would probably do the trick.

Happy a happy Friday!

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