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Springtime is peeking through the stormclouds here in Sacto, leaving me a little giddy as I browse through the produce department. I’m in love, and it tastes soooo good. Leeks are the very color of spring – fresh, light, sunny green in the middle, tinged on either side with snow-white and deep black-green. They have a sweet, earthy, unmistakably springtime flavor that I can’t stop putting in my dishes. Quiche, soup, omelets, and this: an easy Spring Vegetable Pie based on MaryJane Butters’ BakeOver dish.

In a castiron pan I sauteed leeks, garlic, kale, mushrooms, and a pear in butter for about 5-7 minutes, then stirred in pre-cooked butternut squash. I sprinkled grated cheddar on top, then laid a rolled-out crust dough on top of that. Stuck it in a 425-degree oven for 20 minutes, turned out onto a cutting board and sliced in after a few minutes’ rest.

The taste was wonderful! Don’t get hung up on the pear – it was an awesome addition, but you can combine pretty much whatever you want – veggies, fruits, meats, cheeses. An easy, elegant one-dish meal.

What food says SPRING to you?


I’ve had a weekend that has been both exhausting – driving 4+ hours a day for four days – and rejuvenating – visiting with this beautiful woman and her fabulous family for a few hours here and there. We shared so many wonderful things each of us has learned about sustainable gardening and farming, traditional nutrition, natural mothering, spirituality, healing our mother wounds, and of course the occasional diatribe about poo. All in all a satisfying way to spend the weekend, and I’m so grateful!

My friend and I are both pretty avid bookworms, and as usual our conversation included lots of talk about what we’ve gleaned from recent reads. Here’s a list of books both she and I are currently contemplating for various reasons:

MaryJane’s Ideabook * Cookbook * Lifebook
I bought this over the weekend and am now looking for a free hour to read about baking, stitching and mending, and how a girl can run a farm.

Gaia’s Garden

We may landscape our tiny plot of land this summer (.09 acres!) and I’m definitely going to buy this book in preparation. As my friend said this weekend: If you can’t eat it, use it for medicine, or support your ecosystem with it, why plant it?

Nourishing  Traditions

A wonderful reference in support of real, whole foods. The author is very knowledgable and extremely passionate about her message. Some find it overwhelming, and I’ve read that this book carries the message in a kinder, gentler, but no less powerful way.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma
I have yet to read this book, but have heard so much about it and recently watched two hours of lecture and panel discussion with the author on UCTV (the University of California system’s television station). Nearby UCDavis chose this book for this year’s Campus Community Book Project – it’s basically being taught university-wide in classes of all kinds.

Hygieia: A Woman’s Herbal
My friend is a wonderful healer – and if you come down with any malady while in her care you will be well-tended! I woke up this morning with a UTI and she was all over it…she pulled down this book and this one and got to work. I’ll have to get these soon.

I work a lot at scaling down my life – Descartes and I regularly go through the house trying to figure out what we can do without. But of all my possessions, books are the hardest for me to let go of. Who knows the psychology behind that, but I generally don’t just read a book once and put it on the shelf – they are my constant companions, sources of wisdom that I can turn to again and again. This week I’m going to dig in and dream a little, about a life I wish for my future – a life with a little more land and the ability to grow more of our food, get back to sewing again and let the dogs (that I don’t have yet) run across our fields each day. I’m going to dig in and see what fresh wisdom I can find in my many paper-and-ink friends.

How could something look so right and smell so wrong??? Well folks, sadly my first experiment with making my own starter has gone rotten. Not sour, as I’d hoped, but quite beyond it. Yesterday I opened up the bowl to feed it and got confirmation from Descartes that things were not as they should be – he pinched his nose and left the house as quickly as he could, tossing over his shoulder the words I already knew – “That stuff ain’t right!”

I spent a good three hours on the internet last night trying to figure out if my starter is indeed a goner. Not only did I find that there are about a million ways to make starter, but also that there are many differing opinions about what starter should smell like. “Soury-beery” was my favorite. Alas, “it should smell sour, not bad” came up too often for me to pretend my starter was okay.

So I’m throwing it out this morning and, on the advice of many in the blogosphere, I’m going to get myself an established starter. If anyone can help me out in this arena, please let me know! Otherwise, I think I’m going to buy one of the old American starters (some have been continuously fed and distributed since the 1800’s!) and fill my house with a smell that will not drive Descartes into the yard.

In case you want to try your own, here’s the recipe for sourdough starter and bread. It’s Sally Fallon’s recipe from “Nourishing Traditions” – I so highly recommend that cookbook!

You need: rye flour (8 cups), cold filtered water (about 8 cups), cheesecloth, and two gallon-sized bowls. This recipe makes 3 quarts of starter.

Mix 2 cups rye flour and 2 cups cold filtered water in a gallon-sized bowl. Cover with cheesecloth tightly secured with a rubber band. I put a tea towel over mine, and taped it down…hope the fabric is loose enough to let the bacteria and yeast in! Place the bowl in a warm place in your kitchen or, if you live in an unpolluted area, you can try it outside although I think you want to keep it kind of warm so winter might not be the best time to do that. I’m keeping mine on top of the stove.

Every day for a week, move the starter to the other clean bowl and add 1 cup rye flour and about 1 cup cold filtered water (enough to make it soupy). Cover it up again and let it sit. By about day 3 you’ll have a bubbly, frothy soup. This is a good thing.

By the end of the week you’ll have 3 quarts of starter – 2 quarts for baking bread, and 1 quart to make another batch of starter (add a cuppa flour and a cuppa water each day for a week to get another 3 quarts). If you don’t want to use it right away, refrigerate it.

When you are ready to bake bread, use 2 quarts of starter and mix with 2 1/2 Tbsp coarse sea salt and about 1 1/2 cups cold filtered water. Mix it up, then add flour to the tune of about 13 cups. Sally Fallon says spelt flour is best, but I bet any flour you like will be fine. She also says the dough will be sort of soft and easy to work.

After the dough is mixed and kneaded for about 15 minutes, set it in loaf pans (3 big or 6 small) or shape them on a baking sheet, cut the top, cover and let rise for 4-12 hours (depends on the temperature in your kitchen). Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Voila!

(I’m kind of new on the blogosphere – please let me know if putting someone else’s recipe up is a no-no!)

I’m in a funk. Down in the depths on the ninetieth floor, to quote an old standard. What’s wrong? Nothing, exactly. Just a lot of old junk surfacing and needing acknowledgment. My poor boyfriend! (I think I’ll call him Descartes on this blog) I’m snarky and angry and easily ticked off. But I’m learning not to shy away from these feelings, because they just can’t continue to be pushed down any longer; I need to feel, express, and release them finally. It ain’t fun, but it’s real. Eckhart Tolle says that these feelings are the pain-body taking over and feeding on my misery, and that conscious observation will start to take its power away. Robert Ibrahim Jaffe, MD said in one of his talks that expressing feelings is crucial to regaining health and freeing the heart to be more loving. Hm. Have to see what works best for me now.

Descartes is a very creative cook (and an all-around very cool guy). He can take pretty much any combination of ingredients from the fridge and cupboard and make a great meal. For this I am grateful, and I may share some of his cool non-recipes here.

The bright spot in my day: I’m currently nurturing my first batch of sourdough starter. I think this is the coolest thing – harvesting bacteria and yeast in my own house to make something delicious. How weird is that??? Whoever thought of such a thing? But I’m hoping to have a big bowl of bacteria soup by the end of the week, with which to make some delicious bread. I think I’ll bring a loaf to my dear friend Pixie who we’re visiting this weekend. I know a good dose of bread and Pix will cure any funk I’m in. I’ll post the results of my starter later in the week.

What lifts you up when you’re down in the dumps?

We live in a heavily shaded neighborhood in the heart of the city. It provides me a bit of the best of both worlds – I can walk or bike most of the places I need to go in town, but live “in the forest” as my nephew used to say. I mostly enjoy the trees, although the sycamores release these nasty little pollen burrs that stick in the back of your throat, gently choking you for most of the afternoon if you forget to shield your face during yardwork. Still, the tall, mature trees break up the concrete jungle around us and remind me how well nature and civilization can comingle if each is given due respect.

As an often frustrated amateur gardener, a downside of all this shade is that it’s darn difficult to grow anything besides ferns and azaleas…so what’s a girl to do when she wants to grow some food?

Last summer I discovered a sunny patch of beauty along our driveway – it’s a long, thin strip of cement with an even thinner ribbon of earth, formerly choked with jasmine but recently cleared in preparation for house painting. I laid fresh compost and peat in, mixed it up and headed to Capital Nursery to choose the right mix of plants – a giddy pleasure of mine equal to school-supply shopping – for my edible garden.

I planted lavender and rosemary, along with alyssum in between to fill things out. The nursery also had some beautiful wine barrels that I brought home. One I filled with other herbs such as sage, basil and parsley, and the other with three varieties of heirloom tomatoes. One last pot billowing with thyme rounded out the planting.

I feel really proud of this little garden! During the summer we had beautiful fresh tomato & basil salad; autumn dealt us butternut squash with fresh sage butter, and last week I was able to have fresh herbs for homemade soup – in the middle of winter! As you can see, my kitty took to it as well.

Where have you found your little piece of edible earth?

I’m constantly intrigued and a bit surprised by my own pull toward the pleasures of nourishing old-fashioned food and down-home domesticity. I was raised in the heyday of the Women’s Lib movement, by a mother who shed her domestic life licketysplit for a high-powered advertising career, and taught me volumes about how to make it in the working world. Her advice did not go unheeded – with my own successful business and fulfilling work, I have never shied away from the challenge of making a damn good career out of what I love to do. It has always been my area of greatest comfort and experience, while the tub went uncleaned for years at a time and the fridge was stocked with Trader Joe’s packaging and takeout leftovers.

But I have heard the siren call deep in my belly to slow down and bury my hands in the the soil (and products of the soil). I remember in high school watching “Flashback” with my mother and being inexplicably, psychotically aware of a deep need to bake bread right then and there. Had I ever actually baked bread before, I would have known not to start such a project at 11:30pm (and if my mother knew this secret wisdom she should have told me). But no matter, I mixed and kneaded that bread with fervor, woke by my alarm at 2-hour intervals during the night to punch down the living cushion of dough, and rose at 6am to set my inaugural loaves to the fire. Although the initial product better served as doorstops than sandwiches, I never forgot the primal satisfaction of that experience. It has surfaced again over the years, though my drive to succeed in business has usually taken the front seat while baking, gardening, spring cleaning and homekeeping have been relegated to the trunk.

That is, until recently. Over the last year I have found myself journeying to feed this deep, primal place inside, answering the cry of Hestia, goddess of hearth and home to be expressed through me. She doesn’t want to wait any longer, and I feel the time is ripe to embody her more and more. What this looks like, I can’t be sure just yet. It does involve more bread-baking (which has improved greatly since 1989) and more…the making of traditional, whole, nourishing foods…the satisfying freshness of sun-dried bedsheets…the addition of homegrown rosemary and thyme, and in the summer, tomatoes and squash…the enjoyment of nurturing our family as it grows…the deepening of my conversations with Gaia (earth), Hestia (home), and Eileithyia (motherhood)…and probably other gifts that I can’t even imagine.

All of this, humbly submitted in posts about adventures in homemade marmalade, cat poop in the garden, and tips for how to clean way-overdue bathtub grout. I’m not at all sure how this blog of mine will turn out, but it seems like a fun way to chronicle my journey home. Thanks for witnessing and joining me.

The Author

This is a site about saying yes to life - written by a multi-passionate rock star who loves to take life between her fists and kiss it full on the mouth.

"Make my boy realize that, at the end of the everlasting why, there is a yes. And a yes and a yes!"
- Mr. Emerson,
A Room With A View