Postcard 2: history lessons

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We spent much of yesterday at the New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center and the Harriet Tubman Home, both in Auburn, NY.

We journeyed through many layers of America’s mixed past: an often brutal, sometimes triumphant, messy mix of shame and victory.

We dug into the history of slavery in the United States, and reflected on how 14 of the 21 “founding fathers” were slaveholders themselves. What does that say about our history as a country? And how does it feel as a descendent of enslaved people to see their faces on the currency in your wallet each and every day?

We explored the steps that led to abolition, and the brutal back-slide our government took with Convict Leasing, which was another iteration of slavery after its abolition at the end of the Civil War.

We dug into Jim Crow Laws, voter disenfranchisement, and gerrymandering which ensured the continuation of whites holding power throughout the 1960s and even through today.

And we explored the history of suffrage, the women’s rights movement, and the many battles for equal rights for BIPOCS and LGBTQ community.

All battles that are ongoing even today.

We were befriended by a bright, fascinating woman named Lois who was also visiting the museums yesterday. A retired physicist and historian, she described her experiences as a Freedom Rider in the 1960’s, registering voters throughout the south.

Listening to her stories, and reflecting on how recent our country’s legacy of slavery and systematic oppression really is, we reflected on how even today people of color navigate a very different world as Americans than whites do.

And we reflected on how very far we have yet to go.

I kept seeing parallels. From convict leasing to the school-to-prison pipeline. From segregation to the longterm impact of redlining. (If you don’t know what redlining is, this video lays it out clearly, and explains the ongoing, snowballing impact. My kids and I have watched it several times.) From women’s rights marches in the 1900’s to the women’s rights marches today.

We keep looping, doubling back. Demanding the same rights, fighting the same fights, walking in the footprints of our mothers, our grandmothers, our great grandmothers.

And I felt more than ever how important it is as people with privilege to have these conversations. With our parents, with our kids, with our friends and our neighbors. To talk about racism, to talk about equality, to talk about what we can each do to make this country a better place for everyone.

Because goodness knows it’s time.

The only way to dismantle oppression is to look it in the eye. To speak up in the face of injustice. To listen with an open heart to what someone else’s experience is.

“Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it is not a problem for you personally.” 

Want to learn even more? Great! Me, too. Let’s dig in.

The podcast Seeing White is a great place to peel back the layers on America and race. I’m currently listening and it’s perspective shifting.

Author Layla Saad recently published a powerful 28-day challenge that will soon be a book. White Supremacy and Me (afflink) is a must read for white people who are striving to do better and to be a force for positive change in the world.

White Fragility (afflink) is on my book list for this summer. I hope you’ll read it, too.

Grace, acceptance, release

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Yesterday I burned my journals.

Decades of stories that I no longer remember; sadness that I’ve long since healed; struggles I still work to overcome. It felt symbolic, doing this on Mother’s Day. As the pages fluttered in the flames I caught glimpses, memories. And then they were gone.

The grace and acceptance we give our children is a gift we rarely give ourselves. And these were stories I didn’t need to retell. Stories that I’m ready to thank and let go of. They shaped me, but I don’t need to carry their weight any longer. Grace. Acceptance. Release.

I also recycled a beautiful baby book with lovely prompts like “our midwife“; “our homebirth story”; and “family bed”. I had desperately wanted to pour myself into those pages as I had into my teen journals, but never did. And those mostly empty pages left me feeling a twinge of inadequacy every time I saw them for 16 years. Unlike my youthful journals, there wasn’t space on these beautiful pages for my struggles and my grief. For motherhood in all of its complexity. So it was cathartic to finally let it go.

With it went a weight of old ideas of the perfect vision I once held for what motherhood would be. Because in truth, it was harder than anything I’d ever done. Especially those early days! And I didn’t have the capacity to write down milestones when I was simply trying to keep my head above the surface.

Another release. Another long overdue Mother’s Day gift to myself.

The second baby book I released yesterday was empty as well. This one was free of guilt, because after the first I had no false expectations that I’d pen even a word. We added this one to our “cutter bin” for art projects. Transform awaits.

Today, my sense of self is not defined by who I was, or the assumptions and mistakes I’ve made along the way. My quality of motherhood is measured not in my perfection (nor in a predetermined collection of milestones lovingly penned for posterity) but in my unconditional love; in tenderness and laughter; in presence and apologies.

So here’s to embracing our own messy truths, to letting go of what no longer serves us. Here’s to grace and forgiveness and the messy magic of our own imperfections.

 

Herbal Ice Cream and Sorbet Recipes

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If you’ve been around here for a while, you know I’ve got a thing about ice cream.

Likely my favorite dessert of all time, I can think of nothing more delightful than a rich, tasty scoop of homemade ice cream, dairy-free ice cream, or sorbet.

Today, I’m thrilled to be over on LearningHerbs sharing two of my favorite herbal frozen treats: hibiscus + tulsi sorbet (with or without an ice cream maker), and chamomile and lavender ice cream (dairy-free variation included).

Find the post here, and get churning!

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Herbal Adventures Giveaway

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In the northern hemisphere, the days are growing longer, the sun is growing warmer, and plants are springing up all around us. Here in Wisconsin, the catnip, dandelion, plantain, nettle, and chickweed are just beginning to awaken from their long winter rest. All of these herbs are featured in my new book, Herbal Adventures, where you’ll find safe foraging tips, field ID, and loads of recipes for teas, snacks, balms, and treats made from these common backyard plants.
 

As a happy coincidence, my birthday (today!) coincides with “Thank an Herbalist Day”, and my book is turning six months old.

How could I resist offering a giveaway?
Enter for yourself (if you don’t already have a copy), or donate one to a friend or your local library!
 
If your copy is already in hand, now is the time to crack it open, and get cracking on a batch of nettle soup, a chickweed salad, or some dandelion fritters. Or perhaps a batch of Calm Kids Tea or chickweed salve. So many wonderful things to make starting now and going right through autumn.
 
To win a copy, simply do all of the following:
1. Subscribe to my blog email if you haven’t already (see below)
2. Leave a comment below to add your name to the drawing
3. If you’d like, share this post with a pal, and be sure to tell them why you think they’d love my book! Then leave a separate comment below telling me that you did so.
 
You can enter here, on my Facebook Page, and on my Instagram. I’ll choose a winner at the end of the week for combined entries.

Good luck, and happy herbalist day!

P.S. Several of you have asked where the best place to pick up a copy of my book is. While it is available at some big online retailers, buying it from your local bookstore is always a win.
Or snag your copy right from me, on my website. Thanks so much for all the love and support you have shown me (and my book)!
Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winner, Spencer MacLeod!

Hello again

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Well, hello there!

I’ve been scarce, I know. I haven’t been blogging lately for All of the Reasons, and wanted to reconnect, to say hello.

My excuses for being away are many, primarily my book coming out into the world. It’s been calling on more of my creative energy than I anticipated, as I plan events and promotions and classes, and make sure people are aware that it’s out there in the world. Because it’s the season! Spring and foraging and all things wild and wonderful.

Alongside that, I’m digging in on some big, exciting projects for LüSa Organics–including a menstruation welcome kit for teens/preteens, and some major sustainability efforts that I am absolutely thrilled to breathe into life.

Add to these that I’m in the midst of planning not one, but two epic trips! (A return visit to Maine, mentioned in this post, and another big trip that I’ll tell you more about soon.)

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I know. It’s madness.

But of the very best sort.

Life is full, life is rich, and I’m grateful.

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You know what else it is? It’s also this fact that my kids are  g r o w i n g  u p.

And I’ve shared that journey with you, before, but really can’t anymore. It’s not my story anymore. You understand. We’ve talked about this before.

Sage turns 17 this summer, and for me at least, I feel like I spend enough time on my laptop as it is, running a business and working on my book and homeschooling. So blogging takes the backseat again. When I do have a moment to sit down, I feel more present for my family with a book or a knitting project in hand then a screen.

I’m guessing you understand that, too.

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But the biggest factor in my non-blogging was indeed the lamest of all. It’s even a little embarrassing to admit. You see when I moved my blog to this new platform, it didn’t take me long to learn the ropes. I liked the way the new site functioned, and was rolling with uploading photos and text. But then I accidentally updated the editing software for my blog and it was awful. I had to load photographs one at a time (through some six clicks per image), and it took hours to prepare an ordinary post.

I reverted to the old editor, but it refused to work. So I threw in the towel. I just quit posting.

I know. So lame.

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But things have been happening! From fun field trips to big plans, and I’ve been sharing none of it, except slivers here and there on social media.

And then today (on an utter whim) I reached out to my blog host for help with this issue and–lo and behold!–there was a profoundly helpful technician on the other end of the line and they fixed it. They fixed it! I can blog again. (At least when time allows.)

All that to say, hello! I live and breathe. And I’ve missed you.

I’ll see what I can do to get back into the groove a bit, but let’s start with this: a simple, Sunday field trip at sunrise to a beaver pond just up the road.

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An adventure for just Lupine and I, mason jars of tulsi tea in hand and possibly still wearing our pajamas, with the sun rising behind the hills. We even saw the beavers, swimming contentedly beneath the water.

Such magic. Such simple, slow magic.

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And with that, I’m off once again. But I plan to be back so soon, with more stories and more magic from this scruffy farm in the arms of these lovely hills. Will you join me?

Love,
Rachel

Random acts of (cold weather) kindness

This week we are hitting record cold temperatures here in the midwest. As I type this, the temp is approaching -30 F (-35 C) in my neighborhood. With windchill, it’s supposed to reach around -60 F or colder. I don’t even know what that means. That will break my face.

And then a friend reminded me about all the people (like her partner, a postal carrier) who still have to get out in it. Who don’t get a snow day or an ungodly-cold-day, as it were.

Last week when the cold just began inching in, Lupine and I left a Go Macro bar in our mailbox with a note that read: “For our mail carrier–stay cozy!” It felt good to us, and I’m certain it did for her, too.

Knowing that people see your work matters. Kindness matters.

And it occurred to me that the KonMari craze and this bitter cold snap might be the happiest recipe to random acts of kindness ever. Stick with me. 

What about if–during this week of surreal cold–we become radical in our kindness? What if we do a mash-up of our shared obsession with the KonMari method along with the kindness that the world so desperately needs, and we spread all the joy and warmth we can?

It works like this—as you sort through your outerwear and winter gear, set aside the hats, mittens, and scarves that don’t spark joy. Throw them in a bag and keep them in your car if you’re out and about. Then keep an eye out for anyone outside with exposed skin, or looking miserable in this supremely cold weather. Then give those warm things away with a smile and a “stay cozy!” to the passing stranger in need.

Or go through your kitchen for travel cups and thermos jars that no longer get much love, and leave a serving of cocoa or hot herbal tea for your mail carrier or UPS driver along with a note thanking them for braving the elements for the sake of their work. We left a snack bar last week along with a note, but tomorrow… brownies and cocoa, I think.

Not everyone has the luxury of hunkering down for this intense stretch cold. Not everyone has the luxury of home.

So let’s each do our part to spread all the warmth and kindness that we can. What do you say?

Postscript: thankfully, the USPS has cancelled mail delivery for today in both Wisconsin and Minnesota. Small blessings! Than means you have today to prepare for tomorrow’s kindness. Stay warm, dear ones. 

Love,
Rachel

Lefse


* If you happen to be a family member and on my holiday gift list (for example, if you are my DAD, ahem), kindly go away and come back after Christmas.

Mom and Leah, you can stay as long as you can keep a secret.

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I’ve been thinking about my Norwegian grandmother for days. My dad’s mom, my Grandma Katie, raised her children in the same hills where I’m raising mine. I’ve thought about her a lot, actually, since we said goodbye when Sage was just a baby.

Of her nine grandchildren, I was the only one who lived close enough to swing by each week to help out with whatever needed doing as she grew older. To plant her fall bulbs, to vacuum the living room, and (lucky me!) to share an occasional Sunday supper of roasted chicken, fried potatoes, and lemon pie.

I am still grateful for this time that we shared. I got to know her more in adulthood than I did in childhood. It was a richer relationship, too. More real, more intimate. And most weeks until she died, I drove to Elroy to chat, to help out, or both.

But the visit we both looked forward to most of all was our annual lefse date.

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Every year, sometime in November, I’d drive through these hills to my grandma’s house: first alone, then pregnant, and later with a baby Sage in tow. She would pour coffee and we would gather supplies as we talked, her cheerfully cluttered kitchen packed with colorful vintage dishes, shiny canisters, and worn metal tins filled with homemade donuts and cookies.

Despite the lack of donuts in my world, (and my pantry tins holding exotic ingredients like cassava flour and chia seeds), I see her in me more with each passing year. In my mismatched vintage dishes, my cluttered countertops, my shiny metal canisters of flour, sugar, and salt. And even, on occasion, in my own reflection.

There’s no disputing my genetics. I’m all her’s.

Sipping Folger’s (or whatever was on sale this week down at the IGA), we would get to work.

I’m not sure how many times I made lefse at her side–or even when we began this annual tradition–but we did it enough for her to teach my hands what my brain still can’t comprehend.

How small the fat should be when cut adequately into the flour; how slowly to pour in the boiling water; how thin to roll each ball of dough.

In my grandma’s kitchen we used her glittery formica counter as a rolling guide: roll them thin enough to see the flecks of glitter through the dough. Here at home it’s not as easy. Mostly because she’s gone, and isn’t here to check my work, but also because my staid countertops lack bling.

We pull out an old marble board. We improvise.

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If you asked me as a child to name the more delicious food I knew–a food synonymous with family, love, and our own heritage–this would be it. Back then we made it from  bleached white flour (“I don’t want dirty lefse!”), Crisco, and copious amounts of pale butter and white sugar.

Here at home, we modify.

We use a locally milled organic white flour (unbleached, because, obviously) and pastured pork lard from a friend’s homestead that she carefully rendered on her woods stove, then generously shared. Our sugar is organic and raw as well (“dirty” by grandma’s standards) and our butter a glorious golden-color that only comes with time on pasture. And we’re drinking locally roasted, fair-trade coffee from our friends over at Kickapoo instead of Folgers.

Would Grandma approve of our upgrades? I think so. I’m sure she’s just happy we’re making lefse again.

We pull out her lefse stick, her lefse cloths, and her rolling pin, and set to work. We long ago burned out her teflon-coated griddle with overuse, so we happily set our cast iron skillet on the stove.

I’m ashamed to say this is the first time we’ve made lefse in years.

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Why did we stop making lefse? For so many reasons. Mostly because wheat fell off of our meal rotation for so very long. And unlike potato lefse, ours is all white flour. (We tried once to make it gluten-free and it was an unabashed disaster. Thick, gummy, and not at all lefse. So we quit until wheat could be on the menu once more.) And then there was GAPS. Then Paleo.

Show me the sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free lefse. It’s just not happening. So we stopped trying.

But then last week Lupine asked me what lefse was and I’m certain I hear an audible “crack!” from my heart. What is lefse? From a child who is more Norwegian than anything else? It was some sort of colossal mothering failure.

This child who can make a batch of chai with her eyes closed, who is obsessed with tofu and miso soup, who once made croissants from scratch on her own, didn’t even know her own roots. How American of us: to fall in love with delights from around the world, yet grow unfamiliar with some of our own family traditions.

What is lefse. Uffda.

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And so it was time.

Despite our overflowing Solstice calendar and a laundry basket full of unfinished gifts, lefse would dominate this weekend. Half would be earmarked as our Christmas gift to my dad (who misses his mom’s lefse so very much, but never learned to make it himself), and the remaining half would be all ours, for our Winter Solstice celebration. (Minus the package I’ll drop off at my uncles on our way out of town. I suspect he misses it, too.)

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Without Grandma Katie to call on, I had to step up, to remember all she taught. And when we pulled out her old,  yellowed recipe card last night, it was time for me to step into the role of teacher. With no backup. With no one more knowledgeable than myself to call upon with questions.

My grandma didn’t pull any punches when teaching me how to roll and cook lefse, and I attempt the same. She was quick to tell me me when I rolled them too thick or my edges were too lumpy, and I instinctively reached out to check thickness as the kids walk by on their way to the griddle. I’d call them back to roll again when theirs were too thick.

I’m not sure how I know what I know, just that I do. Rather: my hands know, though not my head.

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That’s the way with traditions; with the things we hand down mother to daughter; grandmother to grandchild. It’s there, in our hands and our hearts, rather than our heads.

And what an honor it is to be the one to carry these traditions along.

Though we didn’t “eat ourselves sick” (what my grandma always proposed she and I should do after working ourselves to exhaustion rolling, cooking, and sugaring) we did indulge in some scraps and “mistakes” yesterday.

It wouldn’t be lefse-day without a bit of sugar on our tongues, now would it?

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I’m certain these are messy, and many are a bit too thick. And the color? Well, they’re “dirty” by Grandma’s standards, on account of that unbleached flour. But that’s just how we roll (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Honestly, I’m sure my grandma would be delighted just the same, if only in the knowledge that never again will her great granddaughter ask what lefse is, and this most treasured of traditions lives on (however clumsy our efforts).

And this year at least, we’ll celebrate Christmas (and yes, Solstice) in a way that tastes just like it should.

That tastes like family, like tradition, like love.

That tastes like home.

Merry Christmas, Grandma. Thank you for the gift of lefse. I’ll take better care of it from now on. We all will.

 

We miss you so.

 

Love,
Rachel

 

A Winter Book List


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Early yesterday morning, Lupine woke with a sore throat and a queasy stomach. It quickly unraveled into something of a mild (yet, um, productive) stomach bug that kept us busy for much of the day. Poor thing. We’re just not “pukers” (if you’ll pardon the expression) and stomach bugs are a particularly nasty surprise to wake up to, especially when the lot of us so rarely throw up.

And so the homeschooling rhythm was scrapped, and a bed was made on the couch by the fire.

There was a hot water bottle filled to soothe a sore tummy, teaspoons of water dispensed, and homeopathic remedies to take.

And, of course, a pile of favorite picture books from when she was small. Because what could be more comforting than that?

Before long the wave of sickness had subsided, a tiny bowl of brothy wild rice + chicken soup was devoured (and then a second, and then a third) and we were well on our way to health once again.

I thought it would be fun to share with you a few of our childhood-long favorite winter books, in case you’ll hoping to restock your winter book basket this season. All of the photos are clickable links (afflinks).

Most of the books listed we happily own; others we check out each December from our public library.

Wishing you all wellness this season. And happy reading!

Love,

Rachel

A Winter Booklist

Around the Year, by Elsa Beskow is one of our favorite books. Though not a winter celebration, it’s a journey through the year. We can’t get enough of Elsa Beskow, or this title in particular.

Sky Sisters, by Jan Bordeau Waboose is a delightful tale of two Ojibway sisters, setting off into the darkness to see the northern lights. We adore this book.

It’s Snowing, by Olivier Dunrea is a simple, charming story about a mother and baby’s adventures in the snow. A gift for Sage when he was small, this book has a permanent spot in our bookshelf.

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, by Gloria Houston is a bittersweet tale of family, motherhood, and Christmas. A tattered paperback copy of this book found its way into our world many years ago, and it’s pulled out each December.

The Shortest Day, by Wendy Pieffer is one of the few Winter Solstice celebrating books out there! We were delighted to stumble upon the whole series at our library years ago, and continue to enjoy these seasonal books.

Children of the Forest, by Elsa Beskow is not a winter-specific tale, but a lovely journey through the year beside the charming forest children and their parents. A perennial favorite in our home since our kids were tiny.

The Big Snow, by Berta and Elmer Hader is an old-fashioned sweet story of wildlife (and people) through a blizzard. It’s charming.

We love Cicely Mary Barker’s fairy books, and the winter collection is no exception. Short poems about plants and their fairies are a simple celebration of the season.

Snipp, Snapp, Snurr, and the Yellow Sled by Maj Lindman is a tale of kindness and generosity. Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Reindeer is a lovely winter tale as well.

The Return of the Light by Carolyn McVickar Edwards is a collection of winter tales from around the world. On our library reserve list right now!

The Tomten, by Astrid Lindgren (yes, the author of Pippi) is a charming look at the mythical Tomten on the farm. There’s another title, The Tomten’s Christmas Porridge that Lupine also enjoys.

The Wild Christmas Reindeer, by Jan Brett is another wintertime favorite. If you’re familiar with Jan’s artistic style, you can expect this book to captivate you as much as her other titles. Beautiful illustrations and a sweet message.

The Mitten, by Jan Brett, is another visual feast. A charming story of childhood, wildlife, magic, and knitting. What’s not to love?

I would be remiss in not mentioning (one more time) my own book (ahem), Herbal Adventures for winter reading. What better time to get to know the plants that will spring up come April? And some (mullein and pine in particular) can even be foraged now for use this season. You can pick it up on my website as well!

And let’s end where we began, shall we? With another Elsa Beskow favorite, Ollie’s Ski Trip. Magic, innocence, and winter cheer abound in this charming classic tale.winterreadalong

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!

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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.

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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.

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