Friday, January 30, 2009

New Fasting Moon Photo

The new fasting moon with venus, and the tower of the Oregon Convention Center. Not a half bad photo for a crap little camera :)

I have had a fascination with the moon for a number of years now. For almost a full year I watched the moon every night and learned how the phases work, and how the moon rise and set times vary across the moon cycle. To this day it is one of the few "scientific facts" I learned through observation and not through reading. A rare gift in this day and age.

During that time when I was watching the moon closely I came to love the first sighting of the new moon. It was like opening a present that had been sitting under the tree for weeks, or seeing dawn after a long, long night. It's kind of a fun contest - you know it's coming so every night you watch the western horizon as the sun is setting. If you are lucky you might see just the barest hint of a new moon one day, the next night you see the little crescent after the sun has gone down. That is my favorite night. You often see it when there is still light in the sky, and sometimes you can see the "earthshine" - the old moon in the new moon's arms.

I have this moon tattooed on me. It's an image I drew during my moon study time and it is tattooed, like a badge, on my right arm. It is the new moon with earthshine setting above a silhouette of pines on a ridge with Venus directly above the moon. I've never seen the moon and Venus like that since and I love the symbolism. The new moon, Venus and a pine tree - all wonderful totems to claim and have tattooed on my body. Happy new moon!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Fasting Moon is New

Today is the first day of the Fasting Moon in Annette Hinshaw's calendar. She describes this as the time in very early spring when the winter's stores were depleted but the spring greens not yet coming up. She talks of a time when people would engage in fasting, either ritualized or forced on them, in order to stretch their provisions until the first herbs could be gathered.

Fasting is an important part of many religions including the Muslim fast of Ramadan and the Christian Lenten season. Lent encompasses the 40 days between Ash Wednesday (right after Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday) and Easter Sunday. My family never celebrated Lent, and hardly celebrated Easter, but in college I had a number of experiences that led me to a great appreciation of this season. First was reading Waverley Fitzgerald's article on Pagan Lent from her School of the Seasons newsletter. After the ground had be laid for my appreciation through this article I took an art history class that included medieval art. I remember learning about the story of Jesus' return to Jerusalem and of the stations of the cross. Whether by design or accident that unit of the class coincided with the lenten season and I felt a real connection to that story of suffering and rejoicing. For years now I have marked the season, even if I don't actually "fast" for the duration.

In Waverly's article she describes the pagan roots of spring fasting, and the alignment of these fasts with the seasonal changes taking place. Fasting can be like spring cleaning for your life and is often part of the purification process for an initiation, such as those for a mystery cult or when going on a vision quest. Waverly notes that "When the world is being made anew, we wish to make ourselves new. Yet any change is fraught with danger and difficulty."

Change. Danger. Difficulty. I am going through a very difficult and dangerous change right now. I am ending a relationship that has been a major focus of my life for the last year and one who's ending I have mixed feelings about. We had so many good times, but the bad started out outweigh the good and we both agreed that it was time to move on. I've been thinking hard over the last five days or so about how to bring the energies of the Fasting Moon to my aid in dealing with this change.

Brooke Medicine Eagle writes that through fasting you can create a vacuum for the Spirit to fill. How can your cup be filled unless you empty it? Brook describes fasting a joyful way to open oneself to the universe so it can fill your life with what you need. Last night I was talking to a friend and noted that this break up is like giving up eating a good hamburger so that you have room to go to the best restaurant in town later. The hard part is, I don't have a reservation, or even a date for that restaurant. I just have to have faith that it will all show up, and give it room to manifest in my life.

What I need. I need some more of that. As this season turns into spring I need to reconnect with my friends. I need to reconnect with the spirit. I need to fast.

P.S. Last night I had my first sighting of the new moon. I didn't take this picture but it looked similar to this brilliant photo by Kev n Chris. A number of years ago I learned how the moon went through her phases by observing it for months on end. It's possibly one of the only "science" concepts or facts I have actually learned through observation. I always awaited the first sighting of the new moon; it's joyous like dawn, or Easter. Seeing the new baby moon is still something I wait for and find so promising. Last night I needed her, and there she was.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Follow Up to Something Completely Different

I said I was going to post a second entry about eating traditional foods. Well, instead of doing that I decided to start a whole new blog. The other blog will be dedicated to foody stuff. I'll still have recipes and such on this blog, but it won't get sidetracked like that last post :)
My new blog can be found at:
I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

I know this blog is supposed to be about following the wheel of the year and the monthly lunar cycles, but I've been asked to write about my other passion - traditional, nourishing foods. Eating traditional foods means eating foods the way humans have eaten for thousands of years, eating foods that were around before foods were made in factories or heavily refined. It means eating healthy, natural animal and vegetable products, eating animal fats and bone broths, eating fermented vegetables, focusing on sourdough breads and generally eating real food. It's really not weird, but it is a little outside the mainstream in many American households.

Anne Marie of is hosting a Real Food Wednesday Blog Carnival and so I decided to write a bit about how to eat traditional foods on a budget. When most people first decide to eat real food they run into one major problem: real food is expensive! We quickly realize that eating a healthy, traditional diet rich in animal fats, properly treating grains and a variety of cooked, raw and fermented vegetables goes a long way towards making your family more productive, happy and generally healthy but man, what a price tag! You can buy Hamburger Helper and Campbell's soup for pennies, especially with coupons and in store specials. Grassfed meat, raw dairy and organic produce are rarely part of a blue light special and always come at a premium price. A good diet lowers long term medical costs, increases your energy and ability to do the work and play you want to, and can increase children’s learning and future abilities.

How to get this magical diet on a budget (and we all have a budget) is the key to making the lifestyle change stick. Here is my collection of ideas for transitioning to a more traditional diet and for doing traditional foods on the cheap. This post will explore a couple of ideas to get yourself ready to transition into a traditional diet. My next post will be list of hands in the dishwater, feet on the ground how-to tips on making your kitchen healthier and your wallet a bit happier.

First and foremost: Educate yourself. There are lots of free resources for information out there to help you learn about traditional diets and their benefits. Check out books like Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, Jessica Prentice’s Full Moon Feast, Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation and Nina Planck’s Real Food: What to Eat and Why from your local library. If they don’t have them ask about interlibrary loan.
Read articles on websites like the Weston A Price Foundation site, the Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation website, and Nourishing Our Children.
You can also join online communities focused on traditional diets. The yahoogroup Discussing Nourishing Traditions and the forums at Cooking Traditional Foods are some great ones but there are LOTS more out there.

When you are ready to start making a real change in your kitchen, then make two lists. One of things you already do “traditional food style” in your kitchen and one of things you really want to do better. The first list may include things like “We like butter”, or “I make a point of shopping at farmers markets” or “We choose low sugar foods whenever possible.” Little things make the biggest difference.

Make the second list no more than one page, or maybe 30 items long to start with. Once you have brainstormed the list then prioritize it. This will become your roadmap for converting your kitchen. You can’t do everything at once so you need to focus on some aspects of a traditional diet before you can focus on everything else.

For example, some families have prioritized access to and consumption of raw milk. They make a point of joining a herdshare or a raw milk car pool. They learn to make yogurt and kefir and drink lots of raw milk. Other families, due to finances, health, or just preference, prioritize soaking all grains or learning to make their own fermented vegetables or beverages. Your first priority may simply be learning a couple simple, from scratch meals and scheduling family dinners. You can’t do it all so choose your battles. You’ll enjoy your new foods more if you aren’t feeling overwhelmed by everything else you haven’t done yet.

In the next post I'll lay out my in the kitchen tips for making real food work in your budget.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nourishing Self as Well as Others

This weekend was the full moon in Annette Hinshaw's Milk Moon. One of the major themes of the milk moon is knowing when to nourish others and when to encourage independence so you can nourish yourself. The moon was also in Cancer over the full moon weekend bringing with it the energies of love, compassion and a "reality check" around issues of the heart.

A reality check certainly came to my house this weekend. My boyfriend and I came to the conclusion that it was time to end our relationship of one year. We don't not love each other anymore, we just realize that not being together will be better in the end.

My friend Riana of These Days in French Life writes of this moon:

"Full Moon in Cancer will help us heighten our creativity and compassion by focusing on realizing possibilities. It’s compassionate and caring and taking our relationships to the next level, is a super powerful moon to help make our dreams come true."

Dave and I have had a wonderful time together but realize that things can be better. Moving apart, though painful now, will allow room for greater things to bloom. Possibly even greater things in our own relationship.

Lisa Dale Miller of says that the planetary alignments this weekend allowed for loving others through hard times, and also for risking it all to try make a new commitment that has been a long time coming. I know this is true because I lived it this weekend. We spent a lot of time holding each other, knowing that it was time to end the old and start the new. Much sadness, but much hope as well.

These next few months will be a time of nourishing myself and nuturing my own independence. A time to grow, and a time to plant seeds for the future. I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Milk Moon

Last week was the new moon of what Annette Hinshaw calls the Milk Moon. Usually the Milk Moon begins later in January and the earth would be reflecting the first struggles of a new baby to grow and thrive. This year the Milk Moon began just before the new year and though we recently had 10 inches of snow melt overnight the earth is still deeply in the grip of winter. For a minute it felt like a false spring because of the green emerging from beneath the snow. False it was, though, seeing as nothing is growing and everything is still flattened by the ice and snow.

Right on the heels of solstice and Christmas comes another winter holiday that fell in the Milk Moon this year - New Years! Our New Years Day, celebrated in deep winter, is more a Roman custom than a Northern European pagan custom, but it's a rowdy fun holiday none the less. As is usual for Americans I went out with friends, enjoyed more than my fair share of alcoholic drinks and spend the first day of 2009 sleeping it all off. Happy New Year!

There are lots of traditions that are supposed to bring luck for the new year. All of my favorite, of course, include food. Hoppin' John is a traditional New Year's dish of black eyed peas or field peas and rice cooked with various pork products. It is indigenous to the African American cuisine of the southern U.S, the Carribean, Central America and Northern South America; everywhere Africans were brought as slaves to the New World.

Beans are a traditional New Year's food in Europe as well as America. The Italians eat lentils and both cultures claim that the little round beans look like money. Eat a bowl of beans on New Years Day and your coffers will be full all year. In the American South greens like collards accentuate the magic - a big pile of green is welcome all year round :) On New Year's day I made an easy stovetop version of Hoppin' John and a big pile of curly kale. It was easy, delicious and pleasantly warming on a cold, rainy night.

Stovetop Hoppin' John
Serves 3 or 4
*1/3 cup diced ham1 slice of bacon, diced
*1/2 onion, diced
*2 cloves garlic, pressed
*1 1/2 cups long grained rice
*3 cups liquid - water and/or chicken stock
*1 can of black eyed peas
*salt, pepper, dried thyme
Satuee the ham, bacon and onions together in a 2 or 3 quart pan with a lid until the bacon has rendered it's fat and the onion is soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic and thyme and sautee a minute more. Add the rice to the pot and sautee until the edges of the rice turn transluscent, or just a minute or two.
If the bottom of your pan is quite dark with carmelizing pork add just a little of the liquid at a time and scrape the browned bits off the pot. Otherwise, add the liquid, stir to combine and bring the whole thing to a boil. Add a little salt (be careful, both the ham and the bacon are salty) and black pepper then cover and turn heat to low.
When the rice is mostly cooked, in about 10 or 15 minutes, gently stir the peas into the rice mixture. Canned black eyed peas are quite soft so I had to literally fold them in. Taste and adjust salt then put the lid back on and let the rice heat up the beans. Make your greens while this is happening. Enjoy with some hot sauce or more black pepper.

Steam-Sauteed Hearty Greens
*1 bunch of curly kale or collards or mustard greens
*2 cloves garlic, sliced
*1 tbs bacon grease plus a little olive oil
*a shake of red pepper flakes
*a pinch of salt
*a dash of red wine vinegar
Clean the kale and remove the leaves from the stem. Chop or tear the leaves into fork sized pieces. Heat a couple inches of water in a pan big enough to hold all of the kale. When it is boiling add the greens, stir a bit with a wooden spoon or tongs and cover. Let the kale steam a minute up to five then drain in a colander. While the kale is draining and drying a bit heat the fat in a sautee pan or wok. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook until the garlic is starting to brown a bit. Add the kale and toss and turn with tongs. Cook until the kale is fully incorporated with the flavored oil. Sprinkle with salt and then finish with vinegar.

The time right after New Year's Day is a time for reflecting and thinking about plans for the upcoming year. 2008 was a great year. I have had wonderful times and learned so much. 2009 will just get better :)

What did you do to ring in the New Year? How is 2009 going to shape up for you? What's your favorite way to cook greens? :) Happy New Year and may we all have our bowls overflowing and our greens piled up in 2009!