Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Sorting Moon

This week marks the beginning of the last month of Annette Hinshaw's lunar calendar, the Sorting Moon. She brings to mind the central image theme of this month - animal herds being thinned so they can be cared for with the farm's limited resources during the winter. This is the time, at the end of the year, to sort through what has been done and learned, and to cull out that which is no longer useful or can not be supported. I'll meditate on that thought more as the month progresses but something else is taking up my thinking these days.

All of a sudden it is truly autumnal in this neck of the woods. It feels like just days ago I was enjoying the Indian Summer of Michaelmas time and now it is dark, wet and even getting a little cold at night. The leaves aren't that lovely yellow they were a month ago, they are now a riot of orange, brown and gold. I remember the awe I felt when my high school biology teacher taught us about why leaves change. It was one of the first of many times I have felt that sense of awe when learning or contemplating facts about the natural world. He told us about the different types of plant pigments - chlorophyll that looks green, carotenoids that look orange or brown and the xanthophyll that is yellow - and how they are all present all year. During the growing season the chlorophyll is so prominent that the plants look green but in the fall chlorophyll production slows and eventually stops. This leaves the plants true colors, the yellows, oranges and reds, to show in a glorious blaze before the tree sheds it's leaves for the winter. The yellows and reds are always there, we just can't see them. How cool is that??

The other marker of the turning seasons is how dark and wet it has become. We had our first big rainstorms last week and I have had to start wearing my dog walk shoes and pants for our morning walks. In the summer I can get away with wearing work clothes because the ground is dry and I don't get muddy but that is just not the case in the winter. This week also marked the first time the sun was down and the sky was dark when I got off work at 6:30. I've been working hard to adjust to the new winter rhythm in my life - morning dog walks, warm dinners waiting in the crock pot, nights by the fire or radio with crochet or hand sewing - but it's hard work! I'm tired tired and frustrated. Until the sun comes up the next morning and the sky is misty, the grass dewy and the trees bronze and copper colored. I do love autumn.

Speaking of dinners in the crock pot, nothing is quite so lovely as a warm dinner waiting when you get home. This week I made chili with cornbread in the crock pot and have been eating it all week. Blessed be the crock pot that cooks my food while I work!

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Crock Pot Tamale Pie

Chili (make the night before)

1 lb ground bison or beef or turkey or whatever - I used bison
2 cans beans - I used black and kidney
1/2 onion, chopped
2, 3, 4 cloves of garlic, minced
dried chile powder and cumin - at LEAST a tbs each
other leftover veggies - I diced up two carrots fine and added a little leftover cooked corn
spicy stuff - I had some canned jalapenos, two kinds of salsa and some chipotle in adobo sauce that all got thrown in
tomato stuff - in addition to the salsa I added some tomato paste thinned to sauce consistency
liquid stuff - chicken broth or water as necessary

Fry up the ground meat with a little extra fat to keep things from sticking if necessary. When it's starting to brown add the onions, dry spices and other veggies and cook until browned and softened. Stir in the garlic and cook another minute before starting to toss tomatoey and spicy stuff in. Keep adding what you've got until the chili is a consistency a little thinner than you would like. Add a little salt if necessary and simmer until it has thickened a bit. Pour into storage containers and cool overnight.

Cornbread (Start the night before)

3/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup white or whole wheat flour
1 cup kefir or buttermilk or yogurt thinned to buttermilk consistency
2 eggs
Up to 3 tbs honey or maple syrup
Up to 1/4 cup melted butter, coconut oil or olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

Stir together the cornmeal, flour and sour dairy and let sit overnight.
In the morning, stir in everything else and mix well to combine.

Pour the cold chili into a 4 quart crock pot and pour the cornbread batter over top. Cook for 6 hours on low or until the cornbread is set and everything is hot.

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What signs of the season are you noting as the wheel turns to deep autumn? Is it frosty and cold where you are, or are the fall rains a blessing? How are you settling into your cold season rhythm? What do you like to cook on a cold, dark night?

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