Celebration

20181110-DSC_977820181110-DSC_977020181110-DSC_9819

Few things are more of a pleasure than celebrating birthdays and holidays with my family.

Our birthday traditions have been pretty well cemented since my kids were small. Yet time continues to catch me by surprise as our need for the candle spiral and birthday buntings seem to grow closer together year after year.

What is the saying when our children are small? “The days are long but the years are short.” And each year they grow shorted still.

This weekend it was Lupine’s turn to celebrate as we marked her twelfth trip around the sun.

In lieu of a friend party, she had requested that we go as a family to a trampoline park an hour or so from home. It was a ridiculous amount of fun for all of us, and a quiet follow-up day on her actual birthday was just the ticket to rebalance that crazy energy. (And rest our collective sore muscles!)

Have you been to a trampoline park with the people you adore the most? It’s madness, I assure you. And totally not our day-to-day jam. But honestly, I can’t recommend it enough. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard, or jumped so high.

Her desires for her birthday itself were simple: a quiet day at home spent eating favorite meals, wearing PJs, and playing board games together. (Yes, please on all counts!)

She pulled out her favorite games, and we whiled away the day drawing one box after another off the heap. I think we got halfway through the stash below before the day was done.

IMG-2583

In the evening as we set out candles and dessert, I found the birthday crown that my sister and I made for her when Lupine turned 2.

It was buried at the bottom of the birthday bin where we keep the buntings, candle spiral, and other celebration necessities. She hasn’t worn it since she was small, having preferred a newer, less juvenile crown that I made her when she was five, or – more recently – none at all.

I jokingly offered the bluebird crown to her last night, and, surprising even herself, she enthusiastically agreed.

I gave her mittens for her birthday the first year she wore this crown. Carefully snipped and sewn from an old cashmere sweater, she adored them. Yesterday, a decade later and with her crown again in place, we repeated that storyline.

New mittens, a beaming smile, and a birthday story by candlelight.

Life changes, children grow, and childhood is fleeting. Yet there are things that – if only through magic – remain poetically the same.

Hang onto your hearts, parents of wee ones. You’re in for a beautiful ride.

6a010535f3a090970c0134878c7fd1970c

20181110-DSC_9804

Postscript: If you’re curious about our family’s longstanding birthday traditions, there are a zillion posts in the archives if you search “birthday Lupine” or “birthday Sage”.

I also wrote a two part series some eight years ago about our favorite traditions. You can find them here and here. Many of the customs I outline (from the spiral to the story) are still in joyful use. And my free bunting tutorial is here, and my birthday crown pattern is up in my Etsy shop.

 

 

Annual ice cream bribe

It’s hard sometimes to believe that we’ve been doing this for the past 16 years.

Pressing pause and pulling these old jackets out of the hall closet for our annual photographs (AKA: bribing our kids with ice cream in exchange for a picture).

As homeschoolers, we don’t have annual school pictures to help us mark time. So some 16 years ago, we made up our own tradition.

On the suggestion of a friend, we chose an adult-sized piece of clothing for each of our kids to wear for an annual photograph. Each year we would stage the same picture until someday (in the far distant future), the clothing would fit.

Deeply sentimental at heart, I loved the idea immediately.

6a010535f3a090970c01b8d2b71765970c-450wi

One picture a year? We could manage that.

So we chose Pete’s old leather jacket for Sage and my Grandmother’s for Lupine, propped them up and took a few snaps.

We fell in love with this tradition immediately and we’ve done it every autumn since.

6a010535f3a090970c0120a69244bc970b

And from a beginning as seated, chubby, pink one-year-olds draped in heavy coats, we’ve moved on. They’ve grown up.

And today, both coats nearly fit.

When they were small we bribed them with ice cream, to sit still long enough for a photo. It was the one thing I did just for me, the one time I bribed them with refined sugar all year.

And it was always worth it.

6a010535f3a090970c017d3e765651970c

We still make a habit of the ice cream (how could we not?) but somehow–after more than a decade–it has stopped feeling like a bribe, and now feels like more of a celebration.

A celebration of autumn, of childhood, of growing, of becoming.

Yesterday we set off for the creek and captured this year’s edition of the jacket pictures.

20181029-DSC_912820181029-DSC_908820181029-DSC_900320181029-DSC_917420181029-DSC_920420181029-DSC_9241.jpg20181029-DSC_9149

Sitting here, with sixteen years worth of photographs spread out in my lap, I am thumbing through time as it unrelentingly spools out before me. Time is a marvelous and disorienting thing.

Hang onto your heart, parents.

This growing up before your eyes business is no joke. It’s humbling, inspiring, and so much more than most of us imagined when we decided to have “a baby”. Because it’s not a baby we had after all.

It was adults we were raising, from the start.

 

It’s Book Day!

Today is the day that my shiny new (and first ever) book, Herbal Adventures, takes flight out into the world. I’m a bit awe-struck by the whole process, from being asked to write it, to spending an entire summer season experimenting, photographing, and writing about herbs.

And just like that, it’s a real thing that I can hold in my hands.

And – as it turns out – so can you! So many of you have already emailed to tell me that your copy already arrived, and you are already curling up with cups of tea and eager kids to read and explore.

The idea that your kids will grow up knowing more at a young age about herbs than I did as a kid? Well, that makes my heart glad.

If you haven’t yet picked up a copy, there’s still time. I stocked them in my own shop, and you can find them in plenty of local bookstores. (When you order directly for me, be sure to add the code “DOUBLE HERB BOUNS” for a couple of happy extras as well.) And if you share any public posts about the book or your family’s creations, add #herbaladventuresbook so that I might see it, too.

44662647_10156434546846210_5439974975471616000_n.jpg

What more is there to say? Except: happy tea-brewing, poultice-chewing, balm-making, oil-infusing, and syrup-crafting, dear ones!

I can’t wait to see all that you and your family create.

 

And then… snow

Our first frost had only come two days before, killing back the pumpkins, tomatoes, and cucumber vines. And then, surprising us even more than the blanket of frost: snow!

20181014-DSC_827520181014-DSC_827820181014-DSC_828120181014-DSC_8307

Pete and Sage were away when it began (driving through a snowstorm of their own in Minnesota), so it was just Lupine and I who raced to find our mittens and winter hats, then set off for the creek.

20181014-DSC_831020181014-DSC_829720181014-DSC_832820181014-DSC_834920181014-DSC_8347

And desipte ourselves, we delighted in the magic of it all.

Perhaps “despite ourselves” is the wrong sentiment. Because the first snow always brings out our unbridled joy. I guess in saying that I meant: it’s only October! And I did some quick math and realized we had only a 178 day summer break between snowstorms. That’s less than 6 months! Mid-April and mid-October snowstorms this year. I don’t recall another season quite like it.

20181014-DSC_8304

But honestly… who could argue with a little magic like this? Even if it is still two weeks until Halloween.

Harvest Parade

We have lived in this community for twelve years. And for the past nine, our little town has celebrated the return of the harvest season with a magical day of community, art, and autumn.

It’s a highlight of the year, as we all come together to laugh, march, and play.

20181013-DSC_7929-2.jpg20181013-DSC_787520181013-DSC_795220181013-DSC_7984-220181013-DSC_7969

Being in a community for this many years, you are a witness to the passage of time. Photographing this year’s event, I noticed young adults whom I first photographed as adorable costumed kids, not so many years ago.

Lupine was not yet four the first time she marched. This year she’s almost 12.

Oh, time.

20181013-DSC_7797.jpg

Our community comes out in force for the Harvest Parade each year, and together we celebrate autumn and the spirit of this special little town with giant puppets marching down Main Street, alongside unicycles, stilt walkers and our local marching band.

It’s one more layer of this magical place we call home.

And for a town of this size (4,600), I’d say it’s pretty fabulous.

Each year as I watch the parade go by I am reminded of why we moved here. And I smile until my teeth are dry and my cheeks are sore.

20181013-DSC_7997-220181013-DSC_8075

Post parade we gather in our town’s favorite park beneath the oak trees for music, conversation, fire dancing, and food.

And every year I sit back, smiling, and soak it all in. And I think to myself: this place. This place is home.

20181013-DSC_8259

20181013-DSC_8261

Morel

No place is perfect. Every community and every geographic location has it’s own set of drawbacks.

But this town?

It’s about as close to perfect as you can get.

 

A special thanks to all of the volunteers who make this annual celebration possible! Learn more about the parade (including more photos from past parades) here.

If you’d like to see past parades, I’ve written about the parade in 2010, 20112012, 2013, and 2017.

Bonus Herbal Adventures recipes

DSC_9667

In less than two weeks, Herbal Adventures will begin shipping out to all of you who pre-ordered your copies. I’m so excited to share this book with each of you! It was honestly an absolute joy to create.

Since it’s been a long wait for some of you, I thought it would be fun to send out some bonus recipes now, to tide you over until the book arrives.

These bonus recipes are not included in the book, and are only available to those who pre-order.

To receive your free recipes, simply pre-order your book, then sign up through the form below or click here for more details about what’s included.

I’ll send you access to the extras right away!

20171119-DSC_3258Thanks again for supporting me along this delightful path.

Warmly,
Rachel

Digging roots

It had been raining on and off for more than a week. Sometimes a cold, driving rain, others a depressing and meek but soak-you-through-anyway drizzle. I had planned to dig roots, but nothing about an unseasonably wet, windy October was calling me out to take on the task.

Finally, the clouds broke, the sun peeked out, and the roots (and leaves, and flowers) called.

We went for it.

20181003-DSC_7642aster20181002-DSC_753920181002-DSC_754920181002-DSC_755320181002-DSC_7561

From New England asters and mountain mint to one last abundant round of nettles, to roots of burdock, dandelion, chicory and yellow dock, there was so much to harvest–it was hard to know when to call it a day.

Finally Sage’s voice drifted down to the stand of asters where I was crouched, slowly picking, down in the creek bottom. “Mama, dinner’s ready!” (My kids each cook one dinner per week. This was his night, affording me the time to slip off and forage, since he’s self-contained in the kitchen.)

It was music to my ears. I picked a few more sprigs and headed home through the marsh.

20181003-DSC_764020181003-DSC_760120181003-DSC_762820181003-DSC_763320181003-DSC_7634tableBack in the kitchen, Sage’s meal enjoyed and the dishes done, processing time began. We scrubbed roots, chopped leaves, filled the dehydrator, and jarred up fresh tinctures and oxymels and elixers.

Lupine’s gigantic burdock root (pictured in her hands above) was the crown jewel of the day, and she carefully scrubbed away the soil, then tucked it into the fridge, researching recipes for her bounty. She’s considering giving it to Sage to use in his next batch of root beer, or perhaps making sweet-and-sour gobo, pickled (live-fermented) burdock root, or chopping and drying for tea. She’ll decide soon, then we’ll work on it together.

And today, I expect, we’ll set out again–this time to the garden for elecampane, marshmallow, and horseradish roots. Destined for homemade elecampane cough syrup, dried marshmallow root for winter colds and tummy aches, and horseradish to add to our fire tonic.

Oh, I do adore this time of year.

What’s happening in your kitchen, garden, or forest this week?

20180919-DSC_7262

P.S. For those of you who pre-ordered my book, Herbal Adventures, they’re shipping soon! (Squee!)

Be sure to tag me on any social media posts when your book arrives with #herbaladventuresbook, and let me know which recipes your family is excited to try first.

To the ridge top

20180930-DSC_7521It’s not always easy- to leave the comforts of fireside and head out into autumn: wind, drizzle, and all. To feel the weather on our skin without the buffer of walls, roof, and wood stove.

But Lupine and I have begun to make a habit of it: heading outside for nature medicine and movement therapy. (I think some just call it “going for a hike”.)

I’ve needed it lately, my heart heavy with the happenings of the day.

So we head to the top of the goat prairie above our house, cleared only last winter of invading honeysuckle and junipers. It might be our favorite perch, with a view of the valley for miles around.

The farm dog (Grandpa) followed. Though he’s old, he can navigate this hill with more grace than I, and we let him lead the way.

20180928-DSC_7382

As we headed up the hill, a barred owl in the forest beyond the creek had much to say, and we listened with rapt attention. We felt the thrum in our chests as a flock of sparrows – moving as though with one mind – danced and wove beyond our reach. They’re thinking of autumn, too.

Barely audible, the creek whispered her song to rock and tree. And maybe to us as well.

And I exhaled.

Near the top, I found a cluster of a plant whose identity has eluded me all summer long.

20180806-DSC_5045

Despite multiple attempts, I failed at keying it out in books or online. I only took photographs however; never picking a sprig to get to know her subtleties.

Finally, last night (the flowers long since faded) I paused again to wonder at this plant. Who are you? I crushed a leaf between my fingers and inhaled her scent. Normally my first instinct when getting to know a new plant, I had missed this simple, often vital step, and missed the trait that would hint to who this plant might be.

With this fragrance still on my fingers, I found her name after just a moment’s search. Narrow leaf mountain mint – Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. It grows in abundance in our prairie and pasture and the scent is reminiscent of bee balm and oregano. Full of the medicinal components that make thyme such a potent ally during times of cough and cold, we decided to taste for our selves.

The kettle boiled, and I filled our cups.

As night fell on the hillside above us, we sat by the fire (the first of the year), our mugs full of fragrant tea of Mountain Mint. Brewed from the sprig that I brought home, it tasted of summer’s end, of monarda, and of thyme.

It tasted of healing, of autumn, and of home.

20180930-DSC_7411

Back home beside the fire again, this wild tea in my cup, I am changed.

My fingers smell of mountain mint, bee balm, and wormwood; my shoulders have softened; the furrow between my eyes has gone. There’s medicine waiting out there – outside – beneath the cloudy sky.

And each time I hike this ridge I leave a heaviness behind, and bring home magic in its place.

20180930-DSC_7449

In my kitchen

20180917-DSC_722320180922-DSC_731420180922-DSC_7312Here in Wisconsin, the seasonal shift from summer into fall is taking hold.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Where last week there were cucumber-mint fizzy waters, and burgers and zucchini on the grill, today there are cups of hot tea and a simmering pot of chicken stock. My old  canner is rattling away on the stove as we slowly fill the pantry shelves with the last of summer’s bounty.

Below are five of the things that are making my heart (and tastebuds!) happy in the kitchen this season.

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 11.37.27 AM

Pesto

We had a bumper crop of basil this year and I set to work making a ridiculous amount of pesto. So much so that we’ll have to work at using it up before next July! We enjoy homemade pesto on eggs, our weekly homemade pizzas, veggie sautés, and pastas.

I don’t know how most folks store their pesto for use later in the year, but here’s my simple, handy method:

Make your pesto with whatever recipe you love (mine is your basic basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and salt).

Run through the food processor until you’re happy with the texture, then drop onto a cookie sheet (closely spaced) using the smallest ice cream scoop you can find. (Mine is something elvish like 2 tablespoons, and sold as a ‘cookie scoop’.)

Place the tray in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours, then remove pesto from sheet with a thin spatula.

Store in zip bags or mason jars in the freezer. Thaw those cute little buggers in any quantity you’d like throughout the year.

Easy! Convenient! Less waste!

20180924-DSC_7336

Roasted Red Peppers

Some years back, Pete and I were panini-crazed. Eggs, sharp cheddar, sausage, spinach, and roasted red peppers, all on sourdough bread, were our standard.

Since bread became a treat (rather than a staple) around here, we’ve mostly outgrown our panini habit, but we still love to have them once or twice a year for old time’s sake. Back when these were a weekly affair, I started canning our own lemony, garlicy, roasted red peppers. And we absolutely love having them on hand! These days they are often destined for salads, pizzas, and egg bakes.

My recipe comes from my favorite canning book, Canning for a New Generation (afflink). I. Love. This. Book. Her recipes tend to be small, though, so I always double or quadruple.

Buy that book. It’s fabulous.

20180922-DSC_731920180922-DSC_7328

Fermented Sriracha

We’re swimming in hot peppers over here. (I mean that figuratively, because: ouch.)  I bought some from my friend Mary last week and ended up with quite a few more than I was expecting.

Backstory: I’ve introduced you to Mary in the past. She’s an herbalist, an organic farmer, and a wickedly funny Amish mother of seven boys. (“Wickedly” is probably the wrong word here. You get the idea.)

One year I ordered organic calendula from her for LüSa. I told her I could take (and I quote): “a ton of it”. 

She politely smiled and nodded. (Some of you already see where this is going.)

When I came to pick the calendula up three months later, she said in a very serious voice, “Now back when I went to school a ton was 2,000 lbs.” She looked at me over the top of her wire rim glasses. “And you did order a ton of calendula this spring…”

My eyes widened.

She couldn’t restrain herself anymore, and broke up with laughter, along with her husband and adult children. I blushed, and breathed a sigh of relief. Oh, how we laughed!

There was a similar vibe when I picked up hot peppers last week. I told her the week prior that I would take “loads”, but carefully corrected myself and added, “Though not a ton.” More laughter.

Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 12.54.19 PM.png

I know know that a “load”, in Amish Farmer Speak is something close to a bushel.

Because that was what was waiting for me when I came back for my veggies. I took the abundant hot peppers gratefully.

But honestly, a bushel is a lot of hot peppers (nearly a ton, in my estimation). What to do with so many?

Most went straight into the freezer for future salsas and hot sauces; but three pounds worth were trimmed and brined with garlic for a future batch of fermented sriracha.

I’ll share a recipe after I’ve taken this project through to completion, but for now you can find my canned sriracha recipe here.

20180924-DSC_7349

An autumn-inspired shrub

Since I gave up my evening glass of red wine nearly a year ago, I’ve taken up a new (and arguably healthier) habit: shrub. A probiotic and alcohol-free beverage, I make a batch every week or two from seasonal fruits and herbs. (Some of you saw my shrub recipes in Taproot 27: BLOOM.)

This one is based off of that same vinegar-honey-fruit-spice blend that I outlined in Taproot, and is beautifully balanced with ripe, local pears; spicy fresh ginger root; and fragrant cardamom. Quite possibly my new favorite evening sip.

20180924-DSC_7347Screen Shot 2018-09-24 at 11.39.27 AM20180924-DSC_7338

Einkorn sourdough bread

And last but not least, sourdough bread. Einkorn sourdough, to be precise.

A year or so ago some of you tipped me off to einkorn as an easier to digest wheat and we gave it a try. (We had been on-and-off gluten-free for years and were just starting to dabble in wheat again at the time.) It turns out you were right! We find einkorn easier to digest then other wheat.

We still don’t do a lot of it, but we do love to bake and when we do, this is our go-to now.

The book we picked up is this one (afflink) and includes everything you need to know, including instructions on nurturing a wild sourdough starter (mine is pictured above).

Bread is a treat indeed, and this version is our hands-down favorite.

What’s happening in your kitchen these days? Share your favorite recipes, projects, or links below! 

 

Look what just arrived!

When Pete checked the mail this weekend, he brought inside a large padded envelope. Handing it to me he asked, “Are you expecting a package?”

My heart leapt.

The advance copy of my book!

Lupine squealed, found a pair of scissors, and stood beside me (literally jumping up and down) while I opened the envelope.

And there it was. My book! In my hands, for the very first time.

And it was every bit as thrilling as I thought it would be.

20180919-DSC_726820180919-DSC_723820180919-DSC_726220180919-DSC_7290

If I’m being honest I would admit to being a bit terrified as well. (What if it didn’t live up to my expectations on some level – the book, my work, or this long-awaited experience?)

But all of that fretting was for naught.

The book is big, beautiful, fun, and inspiring. It blew away more best expectations with how lovely it is! And to see my photos (and our friends!) glowing out at us from every page, well, my heart was in my hands.

Lupine and I curled up together on the couch, and slowly flipped through all 170-plus pages, drinking in the experience of holding our copy for the first time.

We laughed at some of the goofier photos of her, remembered many of the captured moments, and gushed over how lovely it all looked and felt.

My very own book. At long last!

To each of you who has encouraged me along this path, I want to express my profound thanks. To have found my niche and my voice and to bring together my love of herbs, my passion for writing, and my background as an educator–well, it’s a feeling that is difficult to describe.

And you helped me do that, by coming here and reading my words, by attending retreats and summer camps, and by otherwise connecting and encouraging me along. So… thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

20180919-DSC_7227

As an aside, for those of you who were waiting to pick up your own copy (or copies for gifts this holiday season), there is a wild and crazy sale running right now on Amazon. The book is just $16, but I’m not sure for how much longer. (If you pre-ordered already, don’t despair! Your price will drop to this one as well.)

You can find that deal right here.

If you’d prefer to pre-order your copy from your local bookshop (yay, you!) you can find one who carries it here by clicking on the red “I” icon next to US, or the appropriate link for your country if you’re not in the States.

Wishing you each Herbal Adventures of the most delightful sort.