Entirely Too Soon for Winter

Yesterday was bad enough, but today was brutal. 18 degrees when I went to walk, with a positively bone freezing western wind (thank you, lake effect).  the sun was peeking through the clouds; occasionally it would come out entirely and there’d be some pretty (but frigid) blue sky, but largely, it was partly sunny.

Despite the frigidity, the woodland path was glorious to walk over. I love to see all of the little paw prints in the snow – unsurprisingly, no deer tracks; we’re two days into gun hunting season and they’ve all found a safe hidey hole where they can try to ride it out. The bunnies and squirrels, and yes, walked dogs, are still very active and doing their thing, so a lot of bunny and squirrel tracks.

Sunset tonight was a typical soft pastel sunset, with heavy cloud cover moving in from the North. It’s supposed to get down to 6 degrees tonight, so the cloud cover is welcomed.

I’m going to bottle bitters tonight to send off to friends and give to a few local friends here. I need to get more bottles though – I have a lot of bitters in mason jars downstairs. I was hoping to get through all my herbal ‘manufacture’ today, but was interrupted in the middle of making cat food for Tuppence. He was not pleased that I was interrupted and kept figure-eighting around and crying for some of the yummy tasty bird mix on the stove. I’m putting him on a very high protein diet in an attempt to get more weight on his bones. He’s entering that phase of an old cat’s life where he loses flesh and start feeling like petting a skeleton.  He was certainly eager and willing to scarf it down, so hopefully with the higher protein, the magic powder and the herbal supplementation we’ll eke a few more years out of him.

I also need to get the herbal cough drops done. Not that I have a need (now) but one never knows, and it’s good to have them done.  The infusion is ready, I have reduced the volume to the correct amount and now all I need to do is cook them up and, well, everything else.

Also, the spiced pickled cranberries are on my list. I have 2 1/2 pounds of local, organic Michigan cranberries to cook up. My recipe is based on a recipe I first experienced at Prairie, in Chicago.  It features a ton of spices, plus sugar, vinegar and of course, cranberries! I’ve changed the recipe to use apple cider vinegar rather than malt vinegar, and I increase the amount of spice. I have yet to figure out how to dump the corn syrup (SO bad for you!!!) but I am sure that will come. Cranberries are so wonderfully healthy – packed full of antioxidants and other good stuff.  Today listening to Dr. Tom O’Bryan talking about how to reduce inflammation in the body, he said a cup of blueberries a day will help to reduce inflammation throughout the body. I don’t like raw blueberries, so I do wonder if I could use my cranberry recipe to make them more palatable. This may be worth the try!


So really, Winter, Already?!?

A seriously brisk 24 degrees and an even more serious windchill factor as that howling west wind made itself known. We’re expecting somewhere between 0-5″ of snow – oh happy joy.

Out in the woods, it was a lot warmer just because the wind was blocked by the trees. The path is frozen (not solid but hard) although the turf is still soft and spongy. The trees all had this dusting of powder sugar like snow over them which made them look so pretty. I’m really trying to keep to my exercise schedule so  I can train for this 5K in April. It was so cold out there today though, I will definitely need long johns to try to do that.

So, I learned over the weekend that I just really Do Not Like Elderberry anything. I made Elderberry syrup and Elderberry immune drops…they smelt horrid decocting and they taste worse. The Elderberry drops were unrescuable – I made them per a recioe from an herbal class I took earlier this year and they tasted bad, had way too much sugar, and had a god awful horrid mouth feel AND to add insult to injury…when I poured them out on the prepared pan…they looked like coagulated blood. It was quite disgusting. The Elderberry syrup I rescued by virtue of adding a Lemon, 3″ of fresh Ginger, and a couple of Cinnamon sticks.  That made it somewhat less horrid. Oddly, I love St. Germaine. But Elderberries…not so much.  Maybe fresh Elderberries taste different. I’ll try to pick some next summer and see.

My November Herbal Studies homework is largely completed. I am deeply grateful for that. I just have to finish my case studies and get it in themail on Friday.  I’ve already picked up and started December’s efforts. It seems less complicated than this month’s, largely perhaps because skin & hair are things everyone in my family are concerned about, whereas the reproductive system, we’re far less so.

The Digestion Series continues to be really amazing. I was pretty concerned about GMO food before, and now I am even more so after listening to some of the speakers. I’m not terribly alarmist, but it makes no sense to me that GMO food could ever be good for us. We weren’t co-engineered along with it – not I’m sure, because Monsanto didn’t try, but largely because non-engineered humans eating engineered food means more bucks in the pockets of big Pharma when the system breaks down. Thanks, guys.

I feel like it is more and more challenging to find things to eat that won’t kill you slowly and with great pain and loss of dignity. We went out to dinner and I ordered what should have been a simple and straightforward meal of grilled chicken, salad and rice pilaf. The salad came with a hearty helping of ‘lovely’ Florida winter tomatoes and some sort of questionable ‘cheese food shred’. They both got picked out and move to one side. The chicken was bad. I took one bite and sent it back immediately. I ordered a potato in the end but it just all left a bad taste in my mouth. In the meantime, there’s some luscious, sugar-laden GMO wheat rolls sitting there in front of me; the manager offered to buy us dessert for my trauma but it was like, oh, can I please have some toxins after my chicken experience? Thanks, but no.

I can see myself increasingly refusing to eat out. The caloric intake coupled with the questionable food quality made with heavily processed foods is just offputting. All around me overweight to outright obese people were shoveling it in. I don’t want to be like that. so, guess I’ll skip the eating out. :/


Just Frigging Cold With Dainty Frills of Snow

What a Friday – 33 degrees, cold and gray. It never went above 33 degrees on this blustery November 14th, and to add injury to insult, there was a fairly brisk West wind plus occasional scattering ultra fine snow flakes. Very pretty (the snow flakes) but no fun to be out in.  I passed an older couple out doing their morning constitutional and I said “We are insane, don’t you think.” and she gasped out, “We just walk faster.”

I took that advice to heart and stepped faster myself.

The wetlands are totally brown now, except for the deep rich ruby of the Sumac berries.  This time of year you can really see why it is also called Staghorn, because the base stems are so thick and soft with velvety hair, not unlike a buck’s horns in velvet. Of course, by now the bucks have beaten the velvet off their horns and are ready to do battle with one another for the favors of all the lady deer out there.  Hunting season (with guns) starts tomorrow (the 15th), so the deer are nervier than usual.

My Coursera courses are all really great resources. What Plants Know is pretty intense although this week was easier because it delved more into the biochemistry of how plants exchange information. Which for me is always good. I also managed to sneak in under the wire for the ‘effect of chemicals on our bodies’ course, even tho technically it’s done, I made the registration so I still have access to the class. It is also quite good.

Today I worked more on the JERF/Hippocratean aspect of Herbalism and made some things with of course, real foods.  I made some Fig/Olive tapenade using a recipe from epicurious, a reasonably ok gluten-free Walnut cracker from  Elana’s Pantry, and a roasted Fall vegetable salad from myfitness.  I wouldn’t remake the salad – it sounds awesome (what’s not to like about roasted Fall vegetables?) but it rather failed in the end for the amount of prep and time it takes to make.  I’d rather have just roasted the beets, sprinkled some chevre on it and called it a day.  The crackers used oil to bring it together and I think I might opt for butter or Coconut oil next time and add some other seeds such as sesame. I would also make it with black walnuts and grind them finer, into more of a flour.  The tapenade was unfortunately very good. I say unfortunately because it was decidedly not a low cal option. I’ll be adding some mileage to make up for the unfortunate consequences to my D&E.

Three more weeks of Gardener class to go. I have four additional sections I need to read. I also need to identify a garden where I can find a plot to practice what I preach.  I like the class but of course, it’s that annoying homestretch of the class – I think everyone is glad there will be a break for Thanksgiving. I’m starting to design a couple of garden plots. One for the Herbal Studies Course and one for my soon-to-be plot.

I’ve been knitting whilst listening to the Digestion Series. I have the back of a sweater completed and half of the front.  It’s a great way to multi-task I find.  By the time the series is done, I’ll have acquired a ton of new knowledge, AND I’ll have an awesome new sweater.