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Pickling Green Beans

September 13, 2009

I’ve embarked on Adventures in Fermentation Episode 3, and decided to pickle some green beans. I used the basic brine pickle recipe from Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation, but my seasonings included bay leaves, green peppercorns, and cumin as well as the standard garlic, dill, black pepper, and mustard seeds. I started them three days ago and they’re already tasting pretty good; I’ll keep you updated.


Sneaking back

September 13, 2009

It’s amazing how much clarity of perspective can come to one when camping, waking with the birds and spending all day focused on taking care of one’s physical and spiritual needs. It’s also amazing how fast it can fly out the window as soon as one has spent a couple days back in one’s regular work routine. Especially as that routine double-times into the busiest season of the year for a synagogue employee. I’ve been stressed enough lately that I’ve actually woken up with the shakes, a couple of mornings in a row last week. And when I’m honest with myself, this has far more to do with attitude than with the actual work load, which is just manageable. Truth is, I’m tired of what I’m doing and I want to do something that’s meaningful to me.

I spent a good amount of time this trip clarifying my values. I identified four major areas of my life that I really value and want to deepen. These four are calm, ecological sustainability, intimacy, and flow.

Calm is deliberately vague. I called it that to separate it from “peace”, which could refer to geopolitical peace as much as an inner sense of quiet well-being. I certainly intend to work for peace in the world, but right now I feel a greater need to work for calm in my life. This is about my values now, not as I might like them to be sometime in the future.

Ecological sustainability is specific, but complex. I wrote down “mutually beneficial interactions among humans and environment”, and looking back I think I meant “non-human life and natural resources” by “environment”. That means first, do no harm, but more than that, do good. Every living thing has a role to play that contributes positively. We humans cannot settle for just standing aside.
Right now it sometimes seems that even just standing aside and doing no harm is impossible, but I think that’s because we’ve been thinking about it as standing aside and doing no harm, rather than finding a positive contribution to make with everything we do. I think it’s actually more possible to do the latter than to have no impact. Of course we must have an impact; we exist in an embodied world, a physical world, and we are physical beings in it. I think permaculture is about making that impact a positive one rather than a negative one.

Intimacy refers to the deep emotional and intellectual connections I form with my friends. This value can easily go haywire—I’ve often tried to meet it by having dinner out with people far too often, and I’m no longer interested in spending so much of my money that way. I can more efficiently support this value with deep conversation over tea or walking in the park or cooking and eating a meal together at home.

Flow refers to a sense of creative absorption and total engagement with the task at hand, with minimal or no emotional resistance to the task, so that all one’s energy goes into getting the work done and very little into wrestling one’s fleeing thoughts into submission in order to make oneself do it. It is joy in work—effortless focus, even though the task itself can be very challenging. I’ve noticed I find flow when I’m doing creative work—design, writing, or big-picture planning.

My job doesn’t serve these values very much these days. I’ve begun actively exploring several avenues to get where I’ve decided I want to go with my skills and interests. I want to design life-changing educational encounters between people and the natural world, particularly in parks, nature centers, botanical gardens, and teaching farms. To this end I’ve begun job searching, but also making plans to go back to school half-time. It’s helped me feel more hopeful as I do the work that’s before me now. It’s also helping me take charge of my life, which is something I’ve been having difficulty with since admitting to myself that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my museum degree.

On Vacation

August 24, 2009

I’ll be camping for a week, something I’ve very much been needing. I’ll return next Monday, hopefully with good things to report.

Two Quick Notes

August 19, 2009

To help me Get (Weird) Things Done, I’ve taken to using The Big Picture. This is a task management online service that provides a friendly visual interface for projects, tasks, and subtasks. It’s not perfect yet by any stretch of the imagination, but it has been useful.

Also… I found someone nearby with Egyptian walking onion starts! Hopefully I’ll pick those up tomorrow morning.

Salad Dressing with Nasturtium Capers

August 19, 2009

I have used the nasturtium capers in a pasta and a potato salad, but didn’t get around to posting about them. Here’s how I used them in a salad dressing:

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup sour cream

1/2 t dried oregano

1/2 t dried parsley

1 t fresh chopped chives

1 clove garlic pressed and minced, and the juice thereof

2 T lime juice

2 T nasturtium capers

1/4 t or to taste cracked green peppercorns (which I picked because I thought they’d make a nice pairing with the nasturtium capers, but your favorite pepper blend will do)

I combined the buttermilk and sour cream with a whisk, then added the lime juice. I pressed the garlic clove over the mixture and then minced the remains as finely as I could and stirred them in, but you could probably food process it if you have one of those. Then I added the spices and whisked those in, and finally the capers. The order doesn’t matter much but that’s how I did it.

This is a tasty variation on a ranch dressing theme that can be used as a dip or spread too. It can be thinned with water or lime juice or thickened with a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise depending on your application. This was tasty on a green salad, even better in pasta salad with veggies. The nasturtium capers provide little bursts of salty, peppery crunch.

Small house living

August 17, 2009

I’ve been absent from Kerrplunk for a couple of weeks, partly because I’ve been moving to a new home. I have moved from a fairly large two-story flat I shared with three other people to a backyard cottage semi-studio (more on that in a moment) attached to a regular house in which two other people live. I haven’t actually given up total space—in fact, I’ve gained a bathroom, a larger kitchen, and even a supplemental outdoor “kitchen” (more on that in a moment) and some gardening space. But the size of my bedroom has approximately halved, much of the remaining space taken up by furniture that came with the new place. So my long-standing interest in the tiny house movement is serving me in good stead.

The rest of this evening, in fact, should be spent organizing and putting stuff away. I’m a stuff-lover in recovery. I unloaded a tremendous amount of stuff before my move. Still, I have an enormous pile of sentimental objects, old papers, and might-be-useful-somedays that somehow made the cut to put away in sensible places, something I’m not, as a rule, very good at.

So what’s the space like? Read more…

Back. Not away.

July 26, 2009

I think it’s a common experience for people with blogs that if you go any length of time without blogging it gets much harder to sit down and write a post. So I’ll do a quick update and hopefully get things rolling again for more regular posting.

For the last few weeks I’ve been busy moving. Actually, I’ve been busy thinking about getting ready to plan to start the process of moving. I gave myself a month overlap in order that I wouldn’t have to move all at once, which has led to putting off working on moving until the last couple of weeks, which will lead to moving all at once, no doubt. I’ve been downsizing, but not as quickly as I’d like.

I’ve been keeping an eye on my pickles, and they are done. I can report that the grape leaf in the jar does help keep them crisp, even in the awful fluctuating weather we’ve been having—and the attic room I’m still inhabiting is definitely not the place to maintain an even, cool temperature for pickling. So any crispness at all is a positive sign. The jar without the grape leaf is not in particularly good shape. On the other hand, the pickles themselves are far too salty to eat straight, owing to my brine measurement mishap. They could use a good soaking in plain ice water for about three hours before eating. Ice water will help keep them from going soggy while the excess salt is being soaked out. I did get some mold at the top of the jar after two weeks, but nothing in the brine or on the pickles themselves.