Kitchen / Garden / Sanctuary - Urban Homesteading to Nourish Body + Spirit

Month: October 2010

Philosophy Friday: All That Glitters Is Not Gold

If we were to look at our lives on paper, they might well glitter — at least by societal standards. Looking at our resumes, we’re proud of the outward things we’ve accomplished: the jobs we’ve mastered, the roles we’re been valued for, the amount of money we bring in each month.

But we must also consider the reality of our hearts. We may look pretty accomplished on paper, but what’s the feeling behind all that? Is it true joy? Did you love doing all that stuff? Do you love what you’re doing now? Or was it stuff you did because of the influence of someone or something outside yourself? Or maybe the feelings are mixed.

I’ve found that what makes life worth living, for me at least, boils down to two things:

Being with people or pets that I have a strong heart connection with (for me this is a very small circle), and doing things that my heart loves to do. I always know what my heart loves because those are the things that give me energy, uplift me, and excite me. What drains me and depletes me has nothing to do with my heart.

In this urban reality of high rent, high food costs, and expensive healthcare, sometimes we must do what drains and depletes us temporarily, at least until we can make the transition to live more in line with what our hearts ache for. And F. and I are in that boat together right now…temporarily doing what drains and depletes us, in the form of our rat-race jobs, in favor of earning and saving money so that we may then buy land for homesteading and living a more heart-centered, self-sufficient existence.

What makes the situation trickier is that “in this economy” (are you as tired of that expression as I am?) we feel lucky to have jobs. It’s hard to think of quitting glittering-good jobs that provide steady income, health insurance, and paid vacation. It’s also hard to think of staying at these jobs because of the way they drain every last ounce of our energy…and how we come home angry and stressed from the day, too tired to even do the footwork involved with transitioning into a life closer to the land. Those same impressive jobs that decorate our resumes are precisely what’s preventing us from doing what’s most important in the whole entire world — devoting time to who we love and what we love.

It’s hard to know what to do. It’s hard to know when it’s the right time to give your two weeks’ notice and go for your dreams, especially when there are some very practical considerations to be made like rent, food, and health insurance. The health insurance, especially right now for me, is important. And I’m so not into western medicine or health insurance…but that’s a whole other topic. I’m very split — appreciating my insurance, benefits, and steady income…while at the same time aching like never before for some land and a slower, quieter, more soulful life. I don’t know the answer, so I’m waiting as patiently as I can until things become clearer.

Are you in a transition like this too? Is it as hard for you as it is for me?!

An Autumn Road Trip!

Last weekend (Oct 8-11) we went on the most wonderful little road trip through our beautiful state of Colorado! It was a spur-of-the-moment decision; we didn’t have a plan, or even a map! We just got up and went.

Thursday night Hubby came home talking about a trip to the mountains to see the fall colors, and by Friday afternoon we had rented a car and were on the road. Although we had originally planned to camp, we decided not to when we got up to Breckenridge and there were snowflakes in the air! The aspen leaves are done, and winter has arrived up there; it was awfully cold! We needed to go south if we were going to see any fall colors. And so Saturday was a beautiful drive down through the Arkansas river valley past Buena Vista and onto Gunnison where we stayed the night. We were up early Sunday morning and on the road by 8am, stopping for breakfast and tea at a little coffee shop in town, which is something we never do normally, so it really felt like vacation. And being on vacation always makes me re-appreciate hot tea! I normally drink multiple cups of tea throughout the day whenever I want — but on vacation, hot tea becomes a commodity because it’s not readily available. It’s nice when you gain a whole new appreciation for something in your everyday life, isn’t it!

Anyway, Sunday we drove to Ouray in the southwestern area of the state – stopping many times along the way to take pictures and absorb the beauty and the fall colors. There’s such a variety of landforms in that area; I had no idea! The huge and jagged San Juan mountains were an incredible sight. And Ouray! What a place! It’s a sweet little historic town from the late 1800s, dwarfed by steep canyon walls all around. It’s aptly called the Switzerland of America, and even has a Matterhorn look-alike peak. If you find yourself in Colorado sometime, go to Ouray! Even if you live in Colorado, it’s a great destination. I had no idea how beautiful that part of our state is!

While looking for a place to stay the night in Ouray, we stumbled upon the Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa and asked to see a few of their rooms. They were a little out of the price range we wanted to spend, but upon seeing the little cabin on the hill with screen door and wood burning stove, we had to have it. At $200 a night, it was somewhat overpriced we thought — a definite splurge — but the experience was great. I dream of one day living in a place like that, and it was so fun to “play house” in it, even for just one night. Staying in that little cabin in nature, my heart got a taste of what it loves…and it was very hard to leave and drive back home. Very hard; tears were shed!

One’s heart does not lie; when you’re doing something against your heart’s will, it hurts. F. and I long to quit our rat-race jobs, buy property, and live closer to the earth. It’s been getting pretty difficult lately to get up and go to work each morning since it’s really not what my heart loves (he’s in the same situation with his job too)…but earning and saving money for a homestead is our priority right now. We yearn for a piece of land where we can have chickens, goats, gardens, fruit trees, and a creek for fishing; a slower pace, closer to nature. The desire is screaming louder and louder. It’s hard when you know you’re moving toward something you want, but you’re not close enough yet to see how it’s all going to work out.

Anyway, that’s a topic for another day. Here are some pictures from our much-needed getaway!

Breckenridge from our balcony

Highway 285 south of Fairplay

Lunch on the road: Garden tomato, Comte cheese, avocado, sourdough bread, salt & pepper.

Highway art! An artificial Christmas tree branch, flattened and spontaneously shaped into a sculpture by car tires.

Poncha Springs area

Summit of Monarch Pass

Dillon Pinnacles

Near Ridgway, CO

Ouray, CO

Wiesbaden Hot Springs Hill House

Inside the Hill House cabin

Rustic candlelight dinner in the cabin: grilled sausage, boiled potatoes with butter, sauteed onions. Tea lights in a sierra cup. A bouquet of autumn leaves. Our kind of romance! 🙂

Baby deer with Mom and another female, right next to our cabin!

This deer came within a foot of my outstretched hand!

Apple Harvest Time!

Happy Harvest!

Boy, it sure is that time of the year. Packed & stacked refrigerator and freezer, bags of beautiful, just-picked organic fruit on the counters, busy-busy-busyness getting it all put up for the winter. It’s a rush against nature’s unforgiving timeline…trying to eat, freeze — and occasionally can — the bounty before it begins its process of ‘going back into the earth’ right there on the refrigerator shelf. Busy, yes, but I love this time of the year!

The weather here has been glorious, and on Friday I had a lovely time picking apples from my parents’ Red Delicious tree in their backyard. Between the squirrels and the coddling moths, there weren’t many apples left for us, but I found a clutch of nearly perfect ones hanging over the porch roof. With each impossibly juicy, crunchy bite, I remember how grateful I am that I can grow my own food. It’s a good, satisfying feeling. I think that’s the way we’re meant to feel about the food we eat — filled with pride and appreciation that can only come from watching your food progress from seed to blossom to bearing.

And did you know that apple seeds taste like little bitter almonds? I’ve never eaten the seeds before, but they’re really quite a taste sensation. But this would make sense, since they’re in the same family (Rose) as almonds. Try them sometime!

And here’s something else to try sometime. I dreamt up this snack over the weekend to use up some of our beautiful apples, and WOW! Yum.

Autumn Apple Salad

Apples, diced

Chevre (goat cheese), crumbled

Dried cranberries

Toasted pecans (or walnuts)

What have you been harvesting lately?

Wilted Cucumbers? Bake Them!

Ever wonder what to do with cucumbers that have begun to wilt and lose their crunch? Obviously the first thing you’d think of is to make a Loch Ness monster like the one below, right?

The Loch Ness Cucumber

I thought so.

And although that’s fun — yes — the thing that really uses up those cukes is to bake them. This was originally a Julia Child recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I’ve tweaked it somewhat to be simpler, with bolder flavors. I never thought to bake a cucumber until my mom made them last year; delicious! And a real bonus is that they freeze pretty well after baking. Thawed, they’re a little softer than the original out-of-the-oven ones, but that doesn’t bother you, right?

Try them out…I think they’re absolutely delicious! They have kind of a pickle-y flavor, yet gentle and buttery. This recipe makes a fair amount, but they do cook down to about half their original volume; and of course, feel free to cut the recipe in half.

Baked Cucumbers

3 lbs cucumbers

1/2 cup finely minced onion

1/4 – 1/3 cup wine vinegar (to your liking)

1/4 tsp sugar

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 Tbsp dry basil

1 Tbsp dry dill weed

4 Tbsp butter, melted

1/4 cup minced parsley (optional, for serving)

Preheat oven to 375*. Peel cucumbers if the skin is bitter. Cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut into lengthwise strips 1/4″ to 1/2″ wide. Cut the strips into pieces that are 2″ long.

Mix all ingredients together, stirring well to evenly coat the cucumber pieces. Divide into two baking pans (I use two 9″x13″ glass pans) and bake, uncovered, for about an hour, tossing every 20-30 minutes. They should be tender, but still have a little crunch. Sprinkle with minced parsley (if desired), and serve. Mmmm!

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