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Sunday, February 16, 2014

There Are Many Ways To Increase Your Luck With Clover






Collecting four leaf clovers is a hobby that children and adults can take up as a pastime, and to prevent nature deficit disorder.

White clover, trifolium repens, attracts butterflies and honeybees and it used to be more prevalent and treasured than it is today. When I was a child I remember it was in every lawn from the school to home. My father who collected stamps suggested that I too needed a hobby to keep me from getting bored. He suggested that I might want to collect something. We went over ideas of different things I could collect, and when the idea of four leaf clovers came up I was excited about it because I loved the idea of collecting good luck! What could be more useful? And so I started searching for those special four leaf clovers and became quite good at finding them. I found enough to fill almost every page of my Romona the Brave book. I even found a new friend who liked to catch bees in a jar out in the clover fields. If I didn't have all that luck stored up from my childhood hobby, who knows where I would be!

Clover is an edible wild herb, supposedly eaten by the Irish in times of famine. Clover is a popular forage for turkey, rabbit, deer, woodchuck, and many other mammals. Many poems have been written to honor the clover, and there are many practical reasons to treasure clover as well. Walking barefoot through the clover is a memory shared by many, a memory made all the more clear by the sting of a honeybee.

How to find four-leaf clovers

More four-leaf clovers seem to come up in the spring. You could say that spring is the luckiest time to search for them. And if you find one four-leaf clover keep looking around in that area and you are likely to find more. the genetic code that produces four-leaf clovers is located in the rhizome and since many stems come from the same root four leaf clovers tend to appear more than one at a time and may come up in the same place in the following years.

O.k. So it's spring and you are going out to find your first four-leaf clover. Estimates are that there is about 1 four leaf clover per every 10,000 three leaf clovers, which sounds bad till you add this: there are about  10,000 clovers per 3'x4' area of clover patch! I learned this from Jim Frost's statistic blog,  http://blog.minitab.com/blog/adventures-in-statistics/adventures-in-statistics-v1. The best thing to do is sweep your eyes over such a patch, keep them moving and don't fixate on any one spot until one of those clovers stands out as being different from the rest. Brush your foot or hand over the tops of the clover to see what is underneath, but don't look at the clovers one by one. You want to scan the whole patch for that one that has a different pattern than the rest. You will develop the skill of a trained visual inspector. Plant your lawn with clover and mark the spots where you have found four-leafers and you will also build a knowledge base of locations where you are likely to find them again. Before you know it you will be the luckiest person you know.

What to do with your four-leaf clovers

Lucky people usually want to share their luck, and four-leaf clovers can be saved and shared by pressing them like flowers between the pages of a book. Once pressed there are all sorts crafty directions you can go in to make four-leaf clover gifts. A pressed clover can decorate a bookmark, become part of a home made card, it can be framed, perhaps combined with a poem. When I was young I used to find a nice smooth rock and with Elmer's glue I'd stick the clover to the rock and paint the glue as a "varnish" over the surface of the clover and the rock. More mature artists can epoxy clovers into works of art, pieces of jewelry, or whatever strikes their fancy. Using a button maker, clovers can be incorporated onto pin-on  type buttons. They can be framed in glass for a window decoration, or simply ironed between wax paper. These are just a few ideas for sharing four leaf clovers as gifts, after all, "your luck is how you treat people".

Aside from finding four-leaf clovers there are many reasons you might want to grow white clover

White clover is a member of the pea, or fabaceae, family. the Latin name for white clover, Trifolium repens, translates into: creeping three leafed plant. It's a low growing perennial good for use as a ground cover or lawn substitute. The high nectar flowers that honeybees and Beekeepers love pop like white balls to the top of low growing clover matts, each one a globular cluster of  40-100 pea shaped flowerlets. Clover reproduces by seed and also from the creeping stems which root at the nodes.

If having a low maintenance lawn that can be mowed as little as once or twice a year, and providing forage for honeybees and other pollinators, as well as other wild life including birds and mammals isn't reason enough to plant clover, just wait there's more. White clover can be used as a living mulch, giving benefits above and below ground while it grows between the rows in your vegetable garden, orchard, or vineyard. Above ground white clover prevents most other weeds and grasses from crowding your plants, just like normal mulches, clover helps retain moisture in the soil. White clover can withstand foot traffic, and all the while attracts pollinators. Below ground the clover is fixing nitrogen in the soil and improving soil tilth and friability almost immediately with its root system. The clover can also be used as a cover crop and tilled in later. To learn more about low maintenance natural farming and the idea of planting crops along with white clover read The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka, and let white clover become a part of your polyculture.

White clover also helps prevent erosion that's one of the main reasons we planted it on our land after clearing the trees where we are planning to build a house. Of course we are Beekeepers so we also did it to help our bees bring in more honey. Finding four leaf clovers at the corners of where our house will someday be also helps us feel lucky and optimistic about our project here on the land. We bought a few pounds of white clover from Northeast Organic Framers Association during their yearly bulk order sale. Territorial Seed Company also sells it. Walking all along our new gravel driveway and along any bare slopes created by the excavator we spread the clover seed with a shoulder seeder/spreader, and we did it again the following year. It is good if you can get the timing right to "frost plant" the seed by broadcasting the seed at the end of winter when it is still cold and snowy. As the temperature of the earth changes and frost heaves the seeds will fall into tiny cracks created by these changes and will germinate in those moist crevices.

Possible culinary and medicinal uses

Besides being an excellent forage crop for livestock, clover can also be a survival food for humans. White clover is high in protein and I have eaten it in salads in small amounts, and it tastes fine, but I have not been able to find a reliable source of information on culinary and medicinal uses of white clover. The leaves may have been used by Native Americans in tea for coughs, colds, and fevers. but other sources say it is non-native... The medicinal and culinary uses of white clover remain vague and an area ripe for discovery today!

The story of why four-leaf clovers are lucky

In the spring when the clover first returns all bright and fresh, that’s when beginner’s luck is at it’s best. When the young chickens lay their first little eggs in unexpected places around the yard, that’s the best time to find anomalies like the four-leaf clover at your feet. At first you may find a few small tattered ones left over from winter, then more and more beautiful fresh grown four-leaf clovers seem to float to the top in clouds of clover.

We have four leaf clovers thanks to Eve who had the quick thought to snatch a four-leaf clover on her way out of paradise, after mankind's Fall. Overcoming her hard luck in exile she has planted the rhizomes of that remembered paradise in the post-Eden world. As the old saying goes: One leaf for fame, one leaf for wealth, one leaf for a faithful lover, and one leaf to bring glorious health! Such are the boons the four leaf clover is said to bestow.

You may find clovers with even more than four leaves. When I was young I found clovers with five, six, and even seven leaves. These are even luckier and you can decide what kind of luck the extra leaves are for. They are like wild cards or aces you can use them how ever you need to at the time.

Find a good book and stash the clovers between the pages. Think of this as your good luck savings account. You may need it as you grow older, there are many challenges in life. It is helpful if you have learned to find that remembered piece of paradise from your childhood, four-leaf clovers represent this. Wherever you are, once you have the eye, you will see a bit a Eden shining through.




I found this tattered five leaf clover in our yard.





Saturday, December 28, 2013

American Beechnut


Here is a poem I've been working on, feel free to comment:



Little Brown Token


This one triangular kernel is from the spiny husk of an American Beech,

a good year has clattered down.


Fall's promise of rebirth 

is written in abundance

on the forest floor,

and I hold the seasons 

together with this nut-seed notion

clasping winter's cloak around me


In my old age as in autumn's maturity

I can have hope for rebirth, either to live 

long enough to plant another garden or

to die and be the soil nurturing new life.


In my hand a nut-seed

 

So it goes in the garden

same as in the wilderness

the seed represents the beginning

it's the first thing you think of in spring.


Something to hold on to

through winter's cake of doubt

 

The nut-seed that is ours, yes ours,

to eat or to plant, to love and admire

the people of earth need this food and are 

happy to share with fellow creatures.


 



 


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Know your local-i-tea



With wild or cultivated Vermont herbs, you can create an array of locally-grown teas.


by Alice Eckles 

www.alice-eckles.com

This article is published in a slightly different version in Vermont's Local Banquet, winter 2013


What's the secret to staying warm and healthy through a long, cold Vermont winter? Many gardeners and herbalists would agree that teas made from our local wild and garden herbs are the soothing secret to health and happiness, especially in winter. 


For centuries people have enjoyed the art of tea and the ritual of tea drinking as a spiritual practice, as a morning ritual, as a medicine, and as a compliment to social occasions. Enjoying tea on any of these occasions will always benefit the drinker holistically. What's more, the ceremony of tea is a venerable tradition, a universal way of sharing a calm and mindful space so that those present can contemplate and enjoy the moment. In the process of preparing tea, the medicine of a peaceful mind is already at work, even before the medicinal herbs reach out to support us.


We are so rich here in Vermont with wild herbs that are useful for making delicious and healthy herbal teas. There's yellow St. Johns-wort flowers, tall mullein with its its furry leaves and tall, flowered spikes, and yarrow's tiny white or pink flowers, and many other wild herbs, all of which are easily located in the Green Mountain state. This abundance of wild herbs is an inspiration to Vermont herbalists and herbal tea drinkers. 


We Vermonters also enjoy growing “garden herbs” that can be used for tea. Try starting an herb garden with a few of your favorites, perhaps little plugs of thyme, chamomile, or bee balm. Or maybe you already have an herb garden but haven't started making your own tea yet. Whether you forage, garden, make your own teas, or buy herbal teas, you can develop a closer connection with these little green friends that can teach us how to live and be happy just by how they smell. 


Two excellent books I recommend for getting to know herbs are by Vermont authors: Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal: A Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health, and Vitality, and Herbs: Partners in Life by Adele Dawson, my grandmother. Herbalism is also built through people sharing their plant knowledge and experience with each other. In Vermont and beyond, there is a strong community of herbalists, their roots networked intricately together like the plants they study. Becoming a bit of an herbalist will help you appreciate herbal teas and guide you in the art of making them. 


Growing herbs:To grow and be around herbs such as chamomile, sage, thyme, lemon balm, comfrey, calendula, and peppermint (all ideal herbs for tea) is a way to connect with nature. If you are new to herb growing, beware that herbs are hardy and vigorous and may spread further than you intended. A small plug of this or that will go a long way to starting your tea garden. To contain spreading, you can plant herbs in a bottomless basket or bucket sunk into the ground. Your herbs will grow happily in a sunny location with ordinary soil and good drainage. Winter is the time to dream, research, and plan for the garden.


Foraging for tea:Foraging for tea is an opportunity for peaceful communion with the natural world. Not only is it fun, but its free, just as nature intended all medicine to be. You can also make tea from trees. For example, I like to forage for chaga to make my morning tea. Chaga is a fungus that grows on birch trees. It looks like a rough, black chunk of charcoal growing from the side of a birch tree trunk. You can read more about this earthy medicinal mushroom in Chaga: King of the Medicinal Mushrooms by David Wolfe. The color pictures and descriptions will help you recognize it; just be sure you identify it correctly. I dry the mushroom on the woodstove, then grind it to a chunky powder with a mortar and pestle. Then I simmer this powder in water for at least thirty 30 minutes to brew. I like to have my morning cup with fresh raw milk from my neighbor's farm and raw unfiltered honey from my own beehives. It's dark, and tastes rich like coffee, but without the jittery caffeine effect. 


The thin sarsaparilla-smelling bark of the black birch also makes a nice tea, alone or mixed with other herbs. It has a sort of root beer taste and is known to be an anti-inflammatory. Whenever we are clearing saplings and I smell that black birch smell, I like to chew on a piece of the bark while harvesting some for making tea later.


Rosehip, like chaga and black birch, is not an herb, but can easily be foraged. It can often be found wild, but public gardens are another good source, if you don't take too much or can get permission. Rosehips, an excellent source of vitamin C, are bright orange and red; the seed bulb left after the rose is gone is soft when ripe. You can carefully chew off the outer skin, leaving the seeds in the middle. If it tastes good and the skin is soft enough to do this you are on the right track. If in doubt ask someone who can identify the plant, it is always a good idea to know what you are eating, though in this case I dont know of any harmful look-alikes. 


Dandelion root also makes a fine tea, and its good for the liver. I discovered dandelion when I was digging potatoes and found that there were more dandelions than potatoes. Their roots are very impressive. I made make some into a tincture and the rest I sliced and dried for tea. Dandelion tea also has an earthy coffee-like taste. 


Chaga, birch, and rosehips are just the beginning. Which herbs should you use? Use the ones you know. If you buy a commercial herbal tea, check the ingredients and see if you are already growing them! 


Last, ever notice raspberry tea on the shelves at the store, recommended for easing womens cycles? Well, if there is a raspberry bush that you need to trim back, why not dry some of the leaves and make your own tea with those? Iv'e done this and it works quite well. The tea is just as good as the store-bought kind and you can save money. Thanks to raspberries, I have a greater appreciation of what goes into a tea bag, too… it takes a lot of time to pick each leaf off the prickly raspberry branch! 


Harvesting and preparing herbs for tea:  You can buy bulk herbs from a natural foods store or co-op, or you can grow and forage your own. If you pick your herbs fresh from where they are growing, you can make tea from the fresh leaves and flowers, or dry the herbs for later use. Harvest herbs earlier in the day just after the dew has evaporated for peak freshness. You can encourage the plant to bush out by not removing more than the second set of leaves. Avoid using any herbs for tea that may have residues of pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. If you choose herbs from the wild be sure you know what you are youre picking. As a general rule, in Vermont, its best to stop harvesting herbs by mid-August, giving perennials time to build up their reserves for winter. 


To dry herbs for later use, simply cut some branches of the herb, tie the bouquet together with a string, and hang it up to dry. A warm, dark place with good ventilation is best. You can also air dry herbs on a screen. When the leaves are dry and crackly, it's time to strip the leaves off the stems and crumble them into a jar for storage. Keep your tea closeted from sunlight, and it should keep for up to a year. Label the jar with its contents and date so you will you'll know what kind of tea you are offering your guests. 


Brewing tea:Dont take water for granted; its the main ingredient in your tea. I say that because I hope there are as many advocates for clean, pure, safe drinking water as there are tea drinkers. The quality of the water in your tea is the quality of your tea. There is no need to bring the water all the way up to boiling to make tea, and some would say this kills some of the flavor of the tea and the water. Simply steep your fresh or dried herbs in steaming hot water for a few or many minutes. How many minutes? That depends on how strong you like your tea. If it is a medicinal tea you may need to steep it longer to get the maximum effect. Brewing should be at least three minutes, and at most thirty 30 minutes. You can try mixing up different herbs together for batches of mixed herb teas. For inspiration try some mixed teas made by local herbalists and farmers. 


Where to buy Vermont grown tea:Currently, Zack Woods Herb Farm is the only Vermont herbal tea producer of any significant scale. Zack Woods herbal tea comes in two varieties, Mountain Tulsi Tea and Rejuvenation Tea; these are available at Hunger Mountain Co-op, Plainfield Co-op, and Brattleboro Co-op, as well as from Zack Wood's website. The teas are grown and processed at Zack Woods Herb Farm, 278 Mead Road, in Hyde Park, Vermont, where you can also buy herbs growing in the pot to start your own tea garden. "We believe there should be an herb farm in every community," says Melanie Carpenter, co-owner of Zack Woods with her husband, Jeff. All of their herbs are certified organically grown or ethically wild-crafted. Zack Woods farm also hosts numerous educational tours and offers internships on the cultivation and preservation of medicinal plant populations. Learn more online at zackwoodsherbs.com


Gillian Kapteyn Comstock of Metta Earth Institute, located at 334 Geary Road South, in Lincoln, Vermont, has created Metta Tea, an herbal blend made from organically grown and wild-crafted herbs from the Institutes gardens and meadows. This tea can be purchased at the Metta Earth Institute farm store (downstairs, backdoor). Metta Earth also hosts regular tea ceremonies that are open to the public, usually at “tea time” from about 4 pm to 5 pm. Tea times can be found online at mettaearth.org, on the calendar page. 


For people who like a black caffeinated breakfast tea, I'm not aware that it can be grown in Vermont, but it can be grown in Charleston, South Carolina. For black tea from America's only tea garden order, or find stores on-line at charlestonteaplantation.com


Adele Dawson, (1905-1992), was an artist more than an herbalist before coming to Vermont. Once here, she found the people involved in herbs irresistible. Author Rosemary Gladstar and Adele became friends, as ties of friendship seem to permeate this field. Adele passed away at the age of 85 though she often gets credit for having lived a longer life. She was healthy and strong in her later years but died suddenly of an asthma attack. For her part, Rosemary likes to say that “Herbalism honors its elders.” You can learn about herbs from Rosemary at Sage Mountain Retreat Center in Barre, Vermont. She also offers a home study in herbology, (see sagemountain.com for details). Dream of one day owning and running your own retreat center? On her website Rosemary asks that anyone interested in such a dream contact her. Rosemary will be 65 this year and hopes to do less and be more. Sounds like a very interesting opportunity for someone with the energy and financial resources to carry on this rewarding work. 


Adele Dawson herbalist, artist, and author shares this herbal tea recipe in her book Herbs: Partners in Life: one part chamomile, one part costmary, two parts red clover, two parts stinging nettle, two parts thyme, a grating of fresh ginger and a whole nutmeg. I've found that this tasty tea really warms you up when you come in from the cold.


Adele Dawson on her porch Marshfield, Vermont.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The rocket stove: Produces less smoke and uses less wood!

This article, in a slightly different version was published by Back Home Magazine 


How we found out about the rocket stove and why we started using one:


I first learned about rocket stoves when my husband Ross Conrad and I were traveling in North Carolina to spread the gospel of organic beekeeping. Ross is the author of Natural Beekeeping now in it’s second edition. We were staying with some friends who knew about our primitive lifestyle, how we live in a yurt, off the grid, with no electricity or running water. When the conversation came around to cooking I explained that we cook over a simple campfire, a hole I had found, lined with stones, and stacked cinder blocks on either side to hold up a scavenged grill. Joe, our host was surprised we didn’t use a rocket stove, which he explained used much less wood and was less polluting. This captured our attention, especially Ross, as he is always very concerned with conserving wood and producing less pollution. I am just an out right fire lover. To me there is nothing wrong with fire, not it’s appetite for wood, nor it’s mosquito-repelling smoke. I saw no need for improvement. But I was intrigued to learn that the rocket stove was a simple technology that anyone one can put together and use to solve the problem of wood scarcity and a smoky environment. And also that several charities promote the rocket stove in Africa where these problems are serious issues for the health of people and the forests.  Apparently the rocket stove, with the help of these charities has established itself as a real winner for the kitchen both indoors and out. Why shouldn’t we be taking advantage of the same low-tech miraculous rocket stove that makes it possible to cook a meal with only a few twigs? Ross was getting excited about building one of these energy conserving, environmental rocket stoves for cooking. Immediately following that conversation we watched a few You Tube videos about how to make and use a rocket stove. 


Our rocket stove, and how we built it:


On our return home I went to our local wood stove store and bought twenty-one firebricks as specified by Ross for his new project. He leveled the ground, laid a slate slab down as a base, and stacked the firebricks to form two chimneys for a two-burner rocket stove. For structural support and thermal mass he added six cinder blocks around the outside.  We started using it immediately. There are fancier rocket stoves, some that are even quite pretty to have on the deck or in the yard, but since we are building our lives without any sort of back up infrastructure we tend to take quick easy solutions and this version of the rocket stove fit the bill. 


The benefits of using a rocket stove:


Ross loved it; because we could boil water and cook with a few sticks gathered from the woods we live in. We still had lots of extra cordwood around for the campfire pit, from clearing the woodpiles that we made while clearing the land for our house site, so I kept using the campfire and lots of logs more often than not. I just love sitting by the fire and piling the grill with skillets and kettles, letting things cook while I do other things, and stoking it up with more wood from time to time. But finally our campfire cordwood got used up and I found myself foraging in the woods for fallen branches, and scraps of birch bark. I started using the rocket stove and realizing that while it doesn’t have the ambiance of the campfire it is more efficient. Using a rocket stove saves the work of cutting down trees, drying and storing cordwood. Being able to gather enough wood, just a few fallen limbs, from the forest floor at anytime for cooking on the rocket stove is a clear benefit. Ross says that sometimes the stove makes a sound like a rocket taking off when the fire is going good. He thinks that may be why it’s called a rocket stove. I haven’t heard the sound and I’m not sure how it got its name. I suspect it’s the “L” shape of the chimney. At any rate it certainly puts out less smoke than a campfire and if we wanted to keep our outdoor cooking fires secret, without sending out smoke signals; the rocket stove would be key. 


The rocket stove was developed to aid people in poor countries where wood is scarce, or becoming scarcer because so many people are using so much wood for cooking. Currently many people living in Africa and parts of Asia use rocket stoves, to replace the open fires they previously cooked on, and these fires were usually inside the house. The practically smokeless rocket stove is much safer than an open fire in the house. Before use of the rocket stove many lives were lost to the continual inhalation of toxic smoke. There are now a number of charities operating in various countries training local people to make their own stoves from locally salvaged materials such as old food tins, clay, bricks, and rocks. This has led to a speedy proliferation of rocket stoves. The rocket stove has also spread to America and Europe as part of a developing ecological movement as they are understood to be a source of clean, sustainable, efficient heat.



The outdoor summer kitchen, and cooking on a rocket stove:


We have had to do some “reskilling”, that is learning how to do things in often old-fashioned ways. In the winter we cook on our woodstove, and in the summer we use an outdoor kitchen. Since eating is something you do everyday, three times usually, the process needs to be uncomplicated. Our outdoor kitchen consists of: Two picnic tables scavenged from an elementary school that was about to throw them away, the stone lined campfire pit with grill as described earlier, some portable outdoor chairs, the rocket stove, a metal can for rocket stove ash disposal, and a wood pile, ash shovel, and bellows kept under a tarp. 


While our yurt is too small to have more than two quests at a time comfortably, the outdoor kitchen is perfect for having larger gatherings. We also use a different set of pots and pans for cooking outside. The cookware gets very black after a few uses directly over the fire and it is easier to keep the house clean in the winter if we put the charcoal black stuff away. Occasionally if is rainy we use a Coleman camp stove under a canopy. It burns white gas that we have to buy so that is a last resort. A canopy over the rocket stove and woodpile would be an excellent addition. For a refrigerator we have a camp cooler. During the summer we exchange a defrosted ice pack from our cooler for a frozen one from a neighbor’s freezer each morning. But we have also learned that we can keep things cold by putting them in a bucket of cold water from the well. The water from the well is always ice-cold. Or sometimes I put a jar of milk in the creek to keep cold. We live close to town and shop for food often so we don’t need a big refrigerator. The rest of the kitchen stuff is inside and that does make it a bit more troublesome to cook a meal, going back and forth for ingredients. Sometimes we team up to cook, so that one person can be like the souse chef and keep bringing stove-ready ingredients out to the other person. There are many improvements we could make to our outdoor kitchen, and our to our rocket stove, and we will improve it as time goes on and keep an outdoor kitchen even after we build our cordwood house because it is fun and just seems right to cook outdoors.


To start up the rocket stove, have ready some dry sticks of wood: The largest diameter would be about 2 inches, next have some medium and very small diameter sticks and twigs. I also like to gather some birch bark as it makes getting the fire started easy, but you can also use paper for starter. In the bottom opening put your birch bark or paper down first, then the smallest sticks, with a couple of larger ones on top. Light the paper or birch bark and if everything was dry including the stove itself it should start burning nicely. Now you are ready to put your pot of what-have-you on to cook. We don’t have a trivet yet, but that would be the perfect thing to keep your pot above the flame without suffocating the fire. Instead we stack up broken pieces of slate to serve the same function. Now keeping the fire going and your stew stewing requires more attention than cooking over a campfire, because you have to keep adding more little sticks about every five or ten minutes. We have a two-burner rocket stove, but we don’t usually use both burners at once because it is too much work to keep two stoves going at the same time. Instead we use the second burner as a way to avoid cleaning out the ashes every time – just move on to the next burner. Then you have to clean them both out. You might be able to get away with not cleaning out the ashes once, but the fire won’t start well or keep burning well if the firebox is full of ashes. From these minor complaints you can see why I still use the campfire sometimes. The campfire is good for cooking more than one dish at a time and for dishes like beans that take a long time. Beans can take three hours or more to cook and I don’t want to babysit the fire for that long. I have other things to do. 


I like to use a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven over the fire because it heats slowly and evenly, which is what you want when there is no dial to turn the flame up or down. Of course you can still control the heat of the rocket stove somewhat. For boiling water you’ll want to put a lot of wood in, add some from the top too, so that flames actually hit the bottom of the pan. For sautéing all you need is some barely flaming sticks and coals in the bottom of the stove. We tend to cook simple meals on the rocket stove that work well with our simple kitchen. Mung Dal from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking is an easy red lentil soup; it only has a few ingredients so as long as you have a fresh ginger on hand and some spices it’s a simple dish to put together. When we make it we put all the ingredients in at once, then cover and simmer till done. Dal goes well with rice or potatoes. One pot cooking is what I look for in dinner ideas. 


Tempeh Rueben open face sandwiches:


These are another favorite of ours. Slice a piece of tempeh horizontally to make thinner slabs then cut into squares to fit your bread slices. Brown the tempeh in a hot oiled skillet. We use toasted sesame oil, olive oil, or coconut oil. Add a dash of hot sesame oil for extra spice and flavor. While the tempeh cooks add a dash of soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos, ume plum vinegar, and brown rice vinegar on each side. Put the tempeh aside when browned on both sides and fry up some toast in the same skillet, it’ll be flavorful and salty that way. Or you can toast the bread by conventional means if you have them. Mix up a sauce using half ketchup and half mayonnaise, about one tablespoon of each for each sandwich you make. Spread the sauce on the toast and put the tempeh on top, then add more sauce on top of the tempeh and add a thick layer of kimchi. Enjoy.


A country omelet:


Another simple dish we often cook on the rocket stove for breakfast is a “country omelet.” To make this we heat up our largest cast iron skillet with two heaping tablespoons of coconut oil, add one chopped potato, one chopped onion, a handful of chopped shiitake mushrooms, a couple cloves of minced garlic, and a chopped chunk of ginger, cook this mixture until the potatoes are browned and cooked through. If you have kale on hand chop it up and toss that into the skillet as well after the potatoes cook. Stir up some eggs with a bit of milk, a dash of salt and pepper, and some chopped fresh herbs if you have any at your doorstep. Pour the eggs over the potatoes and cover. Have slices of cheese ready. Turn the omelet over when only slightly liquid on top, place the cheese slices on, cover the pan and peek in on it every other minute to see if the cheese is melted and it is done. Good Morning!


So you see the rocket stove can be inexpensive and easy to build, efficient to use, and can complete an outdoor kitchen. In times past it was very common to have the kitchen outdoors, less chance of the house catching fire, or overheating the indoor space. There may be some wisdom in this worth going back to. If you live in the woods like we do it is pleasure to be called outdoors to a kitchen where you can cook and commune with nature at the same time.



Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mead Making Simplified

My latest brew, a small batch of sweet raspberry mead. We had an abundance of raspberries this year.


 

 

Making wine out of honey, a recipe for one of the simple joys of life

 

My mead making years began when my youngest daughter who I’ve shared many cooking adventures with wanted to make pumpkin wine, like in the Harry Potter books. It was autumn, and time for a family activity involving pumpkins. Part of our inspiration came from the last page recipe of an old cookbook called Pumpkin Happy by Erik Knud-Hansem with a forward by Pete Seeger. The recipe was for pumpkin wine or vinegar by Emilio Rodriguez Vazquez. The difference between making vinegar or wine is that for wine the fermentation MUST happen in an airtight container whereas for vinegar the container is NOT airtight.  

 

Being a creative just-do-it kind of person, who doesn’t worry about every little detail, I went straight to the local home brew store and asked what I needed to buy so I could make pumpkin wine and how to do it.

 

The first step to making anything is to gather supplies. To make my first brew I bought from my local homebrewing store: a general wine recipe pamphlet, a 5 gallon glass car boy, a fermentation water lock and stopper, a primary bucket (plastic fermenter), cheese cloth for straining any fruits added, a large food grade funnel, a hydrometer, thermometer, racking cane and tubing, GFS extract for a non-toxic sanitizer, a hand corker for corking the bottles, about 50 corks, 24 glass bottles, wine yeast. I then looked long and hard at some honey… thinking wouldn’t this whole thing be better with honey? I had just started beekeeping and didn’t have any surplus honey from my own hives just yet. A large stainless steel stockpot may also be useful for certain styles of mead. The supplies for getting started in mead making may run you $100 - $150.

 

You can enjoy creating various styles of honey wine. My first wine was not mead; it was made with sugar instead of honey. Pumpkin apparently has a lot of natural sugar of it’s own because that first wine came out very strong in alcohol content. It tasted pretty good to me though, enough to keep me trying improving and varying my batches each year: the raspberry-current wine of 2008, elderberry mead 2009, wild grape mead 2010, saffron mead 2011, and the lemon ginger mead in 2012. The pumpkin wine, my worst batch ever, was apparently quite drinkable and served to show me that wine and mead making is not that hard and can be a simple joy in life. Each year the seasons bring us something special. The honey, fruits, and flowers of the harvest are unique to their time and place, and in a bottle of mead the flavors of that particular year mature and ferment into something new, the spirits you have cultured from the place you live. It is very companionable to have a bubbling carboy of mysterious mead brewing in a corner of your home.

 

Types of mead

Mead making and wine making are basically the same process and it is just as easy to make mead as wine, in fact I would say it can be simpler with mead because you don’t have to add fruit or any kind of flavor, the honey itself gives the brew a fine flavor. I always like to try something new, so I’m always experimenting with different flavors and levels of sweetness. Traditionally wine and mead making were ways to use fruit and honey that would otherwise be wasted. If you have fruit trees or berry bushes that are giving you more than you can eat, that’s an opportunity for making melomel, a fruit mead. Mead made with grapes is called Pyment. The wild grapes I collected from the vines growing up the trees along our neighborhood road made an excellent Pyment. When mead includes spices it is called Metheglin. The saffron and the lemon ginger meads I have made are examples of this. I suppose my latest and still untried chamomile mead of 2013 would also be considered a Metheglin. Besides flavor another thing you can play around with is how sweet or dry or bubbly you want your mead to be. The more honey you add the sweeter it will be. For a five-gallon batch 10-11 lbs. of honey would be on the dry side. 12-14 lbs. of honey would be more medium, and 15-18 lbs. of honey would make a sweet mead. I’ve read a lot about how to make mead and it all sounds very complicated so instead of following any recipe I approach it the way I approach cooking generally. I read a lot of recipes, I get a general idea of the process, think about what sounds yummy and interesting, think about what I have that I can use, and then I pretty much do what I want. I’ve never made an undrinkable batch this way. In fact it seems to me my mead gets better every year. Actually the mead does get better as it ages. Be sure to save some of your bottles of mead from each year and you will be rewarded with the taste of time. Also it is fun to have a tasting with friends and family of some of the different varieties made over the years.

 

The “musts” of mead making: things you have to do and how I do them.

 

Sanitize your equipment: I don’t like bleach, which is often recommended for sanitizing, because it smells bad and is toxic. One tablespoon of regular bleach per gallon is the recommended solution for sanitizing. I have been using about 30 drops of grapefruit seed extract in five gallons of hot water to sanitize my equipment and that seems to work just fine. It is important in all stages of the process to work in a hygenic manner suitable for cooking for your family and friends. Common sense and courtesy rather than a phobia of microorganisms should be your guide, after all this is fermentation.

 

The fermentation lock: The purpose of the fermentation lock and stopper on the carboy is to keep oxygen out of the must as it ferments into mead. Some people fill the water lock with vodka, but I never have and find this unnecessary. It is very important that you at least put water in the water lock though. Failing to do this can cause extreme and definite mead failure. You also want the carboy to be filled up into the neck, not leaving too much air space. If you must clean out the water lock due to its becoming filled with sediment that has bubbled up do so at time when the mead is fermenting vigorously, so that the bubbles push out the oxygen that leaks in.

 

Temperature for your mead: Most mead making books will tell you that a consistent temperature of around seventy degrees is needed for fermentation. I have never had a place with such a consistent temperature to ferment my mead or wine, and so far my meads and wines have always come out fine. We heat with a woodstove and at night and when we are away it can get pretty cold, and sometimes in our small home a fire in the woodstove might be too much and bring the temperature up to eighty degrees. This seems not to hurt the mead. Cold temperatures will slow down or stop the fermentation, and too hot temperatures can kill the yeast or “cook” the flavor of the wine, or mead. It may be the type of wine yeasts that I choose to use allow for the variance of temperature that I have in my home 40°- 80° degrees. There are no temperature recommendations on the packages of the two types of yeast I have used:  Red Star Pasteur Champagne, and Red Star Pasteur Red. I can’t be sure how other yeasts would tolerate inconsistent temperatures.

 

Time: I put my mead together in the fall and let the must (the unfermented or fermenting blend of honey, water and other mead ingredients) ferment in the carboy until a convenient time in the summer for bottling, 6-9 months later. You can drink it at that point but it improves over time and a year later it will be even better.

 

The main ingredients: The most important and primary ingredients in your mead will be honey and water, the quality of both is very important. If your tap water tastes like chlorine you’ll want to find a source of pleasant tasting water to use for your mead. The honey you use will also give it’s own special flavor, so use honey from your own bees or pure honey from a source you trust that tastes good to you. Also I recommend NOT heating the honey. Heat destroys some of the subtle floral flavor and aroma of honey. If you must heat honey always use as low a heat as possible.

 

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My recipe for Sweet Wild Grape Pyment:

 

Pick wild grapes stems and all and wash in cold water. Pick out any rotten or dried up grapes. Next, put grapes stems and all in an enamel pot and cover with water. Bring just barely to boiling. Let cool. Use an empty wine bottle to crush the grapes in the pot. Pour off grape juice to use later. Compost the pulp left behind.

 

Sterilize the utensils you plan to use in making the mead with GSE grapefruit seed liquid concentrate.

 

Ingredients:

16-19 lbs of honey

4 gallons of water, approximately, or enough to top off the 5-gallon carboy

Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast

Wild grapes, I used a few cups of these

 

Heat 1 gallon of water in large pot. Do not boil. Turn off heat. Add half of the honey to this and stir until dissolved. Pour this mixture into the primary (the big bucket with the water lock on it you bought from your local homebrew store) Add and stir in the rest of the honey now. Now add the juice from the wild grapes and some elderberry syrup for medicinal effect if you have any. Next add and stir in 3 more gallons of room temperature water. If you plan to use a Hydrometer to measure the alcohol content of your mead later you would take a starting hydrometer reading at this point. However the use of a hydrometer is optional and due to lack of space I will not go into further detail about the hydrometer. Measure the temperature of this mixture that is now in the primary fermenter with a candy thermometer. Rehydrate the yeast by heating about a cup or two of water to about 100° F pour this water into a small bowl and add the yeast. Let sit for 15 minutes, then stir thoroughly to mix. To Pitch the yeast, make sure the primary is about 70° then give the yeast a quick stir and pour it right into the center in the fermenter. Alternatively I sometimes skip rehydrating the yeast and simply scatter the Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast into the primary and stir in to dissolve the yeast and tooxygenate the must. You’ll need a long handled spoon to stir the must. Stir vigorously for 5 minutes. Close the primary fermenter bucket and attach the water lock. Fill the water lock with water. Let must ferment in the primary for several weeks. Temperatures of 60° F top 75° F are ideal. Within days you should notice bubbling in your fermentation lock. About two to three weeks later the bubbling should slow down, now it is time forracking (the process of transferring the must from the primary fermenter to the carboy).Sanitize your empty 5-gallon carboy and its stopper, your siphon hose and racking cane. Have your carboy well below the fermenter. Attach the hose to the racking cane and fill completely with tap water. Crimp end of hose. Have a pan on the floor by the carboy to catch the tap water before the mead begins to flow. Put the cane into the full fermenter, being sure it never touches too near the bottom. Lower the hose end down to the pan on the floor next to the carboy, release the crimp in the tube end and let the water flow out into the pan until the you see mead starting to flow. Quickly crimp and move the tube end into the carboy. Now let the mead flow into the carboy. Be careful to keep the hose end below the surface of the liquid during this process. Keep the hose end well above the bottom of the fermenter to keep from siphoning up spent yeast and sediment – the idea is to leave this behind and discard, a step toward clarification. Your carboy should be filled up to the neck. If it is not you can top it off with water. Install the fermentation lock on your carboy and fill the fermentation lock with water to the fill line. About 6 to 9 months later when the bubbling has ceased you are ready to bottle. You can use the same process for bottling as you did for transferring the mead to the carboy from the primary. You can start the suction on the siphon by mouth instead of with tap water if you prefer.

 

The Complete Meadmaker by Ken Schramm is an excellent resource for getting an understanding of the mead making process. I also search online for recipes, ideas, and the experience of other mead makers. By comparing the online information I gather with my own experience and the understanding I’ve gained from The Complete Meadmaker I am able to come up with my own recipes and ways of making mead that work for me.

 

The pleasure of mead making is sharing the experience of changes in nature. Fermentation is essentially when a food goes bad yet turns out to be delicious. It’s culture, preservation, and a story about ourselves.

 

Pretty Fantastic to be a Bubble.

 

In my dream I was a bubble.

All that was me was the consciousness of the tiny bubble.

You were there too, a tiny bubble just beside me

And we were holding onto the bottom of a glass,

Our entire world.

 

We decided to let go and together we floated up

Among the floating stars of other bubbles

Glittering in the dark glass of sky.

 

We went straight up with the spirit of fermentation,

And I said to you just before we touched

The open surface of the horizon,

“We are about to be absorbed”

 

Our fun little ride was over, our identities would be no more, I knew.

We were only bubbles in a glass,

And now we would join Air,

Without borders, you and I, and the sky,

After our short ride together as little bubbles.

 

I didn’t have time to say all that and more to you,

Only that little warning,

“We are about to be absorbed.”

 

-Alice Eckles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Our transition to yurt living: Recession proof housing for the 21st century


A slightly different version of this article by Alice Eckles has been published in the most recent issue of Back Home Magazine  http://www.backhomemagazine.com/

Our transition to yurt living: Recession proof housing for the 21st century

A yurt is basically a glorified tent. Why move into a yurt with no running water, except water you have to run and go get, and no electricity to boot? Is it even possible to live year round in a yurt in a state like Vermont without freezing? Yes it is possible! We have been living in our twenty foot round yurt for two years, and though we were a little worried about making the leap from our in town apartment we have found that permanent “camping” is rewarding and not as difficult as we had imagined.

We purchased land where we plan to build our house and we wanted to stop paying rent right away. We also didn’t want to have to drive out to the house site to work on the land. Another big reason to move out onto the land and into a yurt right away: The B.P. oil spill had just happened and we, my life’s companion and I, wanted to radically change our lifestyle so that we personally would contribute much less to the environmental degradation of the planet, by not heating with fossil fuels, downsizing to one vehicle, not using a refrigerator, having a composting toilet and generally reducing our expenses as much as possible.

We bought a yurt kit from Pacific Yurts, constructed a platform for it, and managed to get it set up, and install the woodstove just as the first snowflakes were beginning to fall – with a little help from our friends. It’s a good idea to keep a list of people you can call on at key points, such as unloading the large and heavy crates from the truck when your yurt is delivered, putting on the roof, and installing the wood stove. Our woodstove is a medium sized hearthstone, with a window so we have firelight at night. A yurt is not hard to heat in the winter, with Pacific Yurt’s custom features for cold and windy locations including insulation liners ( a reflective bubble wrap type of insulation developed by NASA) and a snow and wind kit (for added structural strength). We use about three cords of wood per winter. To keep the mice from sharing our nice warm yurt, we tucked raw wool in around the edges of the platform. This serves as extra insulation and the mice just don’t like wool and seem repelled by it. I learned about this when I was learning about felting, the process of making cloth from wool.

The people at Pacific Yurts are very nice and helpful! We were not able to set up our yurt as soon as we would have liked after it was delivered to our land, and in the meantime a chipmunk got in there and ate a hole in our roof. Imagine our horror when we discovered the hole as we tried to finish setting up the yurt in November with no other shelter in the works. We called up Pacific Yurts and they were able to help us quickly to resolve the problem by using some extra roofing material included in the kit to make a patch and telling us what kind of glue to use to make it stick permanently. We haven't had any problems with this fix or with the yurt generally in these past two years.


Another critical item to set up before moving in was our composting toilet. We had been reading the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins and built a three-bin system for composting outside. Inside the yurt we made a bathroom using louvered doors and a bookshelf for walls and a curtain for the door. The actual “toilet” we found at an auction. It is a wooden armchair with a lidded hole in the seat. We installed a bucket under the hole for our bucket-system-composting-throne. Covering deposits with a scoopful of sawdust (our biofilter of choice) keeps the yurt smelling nice and our deposits composting into nutrient rich soil.

Making a yurt into a home takes some serious consideration. There is only so much stuff you can fit into a yurt. We have learned from this process what we truly need in a home. We have a storage container on the land for everything that we don’t use everyday. Before moving to the land we began shedding cumbersome possessions. Everything that had an electric plug at the end of it was now useless to us and so we sold such things at a tag sale. The storage container is like our “store”. Instead of living with our supplies, and providing a temperature-controlled environment for our extra stuff we go to our “store” when we need something. In this way we are able to live with less living space, use less firewood, and enjoy uncluttered simplicity at home. Our yurt has facilities for sleeping, cooking, eating, bathroom, getting dressed and reading. That is the sum of our circle, our living in a nutshell. Few items unrelated to those six activities reside in the yurt. We do have houseplants; we cut down on the number but were not able to part with them all. It is so nice to have these air-freshening green companions cheering the yurt, but it does require that we get a yurt-sitter to keep the plants from freezing if we decide go away for a spell in the winter.

We found many old fashioned furnishings to suit our scaled down life at auctions, in hardware stores, on craigslist.com or on the curbside: a baker’s cabinet, a commode, wash basin and pitcher, dishwashing basins, a wash basin for bathing, and some apple crates. We built a loft for our bed (using part of the shipping crate the yurt came on) and we use the space underneath for storage. This area of the yurt under the loft is more isolated from the woodstove, and we take advantage of the coolness by using it as our “cellar”.

We have a drilled well with a hand pump and everyday we go up the hill and pump a couple of five gallon buckets of water to use for washing, drinking, and cooking. We cook on the woodstove during winter and heat water for washing on it as well. Since everything is manual rather than automatic, cooking and heating water take time and we could not keep regular jobs with this and everything else we have to do from snow shoveling paths to bringing in wood, carrying in water, and maintaining our humanure system. To live this slow lifestyle without the convenience of running water, electricity and the gadgets that come with it you need to be self-employed, under employed, and able to live simply: it takes creative problem solving, time, and work.

We live a bike ride from town (six miles) which is good because our garden is not extensive yet and we are able to go to town often for food, to do laundry, use the computers at the library, and run other errands without driving too much. Of course our way of doing things shifts with the season. Instead of a refrigerator we have a cooler, the kind people use when going to the beach. In the winter at night we keep the cooler inside, and move it outside during the day to keep it cold but not freezing. In the summer we use a neighbor’s refrigerator for recharging a freezer pack daily. In the spring we have to adjust to the new realities of summer and in the fall we have to adjust to the new realities of winter. We live close to nature. The yurt is acoustically transparent. We hear the owls, coyotes, rain and stormy winds at night. We go to bed when it gets dark and wake up when the birds start singing and the sun rises.

What seemed daunting and impossible at fist is now our new normal, our comfortable slow and happy life. Sometimes the work is still daunting but the deep satisfaction that comes with living in a way that more closely reflects our values is worth the effort. Joy within difficulty is a simple truth of our life now. We are not eager to move out of the yurt, but it would be nice to have a house for guests. After we build our cordwood home the yurt will make a nice guesthouse. Living in a yurt as primitively as we do makes us realize how much we need each other to live the simple life. It would be too much work alone, and some joys must be shared.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My little Birdie




The bird was barely visible in the grass, but I happened to notice her little beak and eyes peeking out from between the blades of grass. When I put down my finger for her and she got on it I fell in love.

I said if she was still out on the same limb at the end of the day we should take her home, because it was supposed to be cold and rainy and she couldn't really fly yet - just a few inches off the ground.

She was still there at the end of the day so we took her with us. I just held her on my finger in the truck and then we went to the garden and she rode around on my shoulder while I picked basil.
 She talked up a storm the whole time tweet tweeting in my ear. I whistled back.
My little bird friend for a couple of days...

I made a cage for Birdie out of things I had around: a milk crate and the screens from the front door that I had just taken down because it is getting too cold for screen doors now that it is September. To make birdie more at home I furnished her new habitat with perching limbs, grapes and raspberries, zinnia and a seed stalk. I wanted to take good care of this tiny creature. I also put in my shirt thinking maybe Birdie would feel more secure with my scent around. Birdie seemed pretty content to ride on my shoulder, but I needed to have a safe place for her when I was cooking dinner, and sleeping, things like that.
She liked to sit in her zinnia as if it was her nest.

The problem was I had to go to work by noon the next day... I work at a childcare center. I took birdie with me and the three year olds went to visit him/her - Birdie was very chirpy and happy most the day. 

But later when he starting sleeping a a lot I started to worry a lot, and then by 5:00 when I checked on her, she was not doing well... I tried to feed her more rehydrated cat food from her dish but she was too weak and died in my hand, I cried. I didn't know I was going to fall in love with this bird and have so many hopes for her to live and fly. I tried to pull myself together for the last 1/2 hour of work. I do think she liked her cage though when not riding on my shoulder. She could fly a little. We had a good couple of days. She always sang when I came near her, even when she was half asleep. I didn't really know how to take care of a baby bird. I tried to learn fast soon after I found her. I have learned that baby birds are very fragile and hard to take care of.

I was hoping to to raise her till she was ready to fly off on her own -maybe in a way I did. Baby birds I have learned need round-the-clock care though, and we are harvesting honey right now and getting ready to go on a trip... I don't know how I would have taken care of her for a few days longer. I know I have lost a friend, but I will always have the friendship we shared. I learned a lot from that bird.Once back home I was thinking about how to bury her and decided to put her in our compost so that she would go into our garden and come up as a flower. I laid her on top with her zinnia, and covered her with hay. Every time I go out to put something in the compost I think of her and the passing of time and how that will transform her dead body into rich soil that will grow food and flowers. In that way and in my memory Birdie lives on, she flies away.
******

There are some things I learned about love, life and death from my little bird that I’m not sure I can put into words. Our bond was that she trusted me and put herself in my care and I did the best I could for her.
         On the second day, later in the afternoon she was not doing so well. I remember she was sleeping with her head under her wing, and it looked to me that some of her feathers were not looking so fresh, as if she’d been sweating. I don’t know if birds sweat, or get fevers, but it seemed to me like a sign of distress. Every time I checked on her after that it seemed she was sleeping, and that made me start to worry. Did I feed her often enough? Was she able to get her water? Was she having bad indigestion because of the kefir and bread I fed her after the bee larva was gone and before I learned from a bird expert to feed her cat food and not milk or bread?
         When she was sleeping and I came in to check on her – I was at work taking care of children – she would always give me a few soft chirps as if to reassure me that she was okay. She might have been telling me, “It’s okay for me to die. I am happy, I am loved, and I am too weak to continue. Tweet, tweet good-bye. Tweet, tweet I love you. Tweet Tweet thank you for being my friend.”
         But I was not ready to let her die. I picked her up and tried to feed her. She ate a little, perhaps only to please me. Then I tried to put her back in her cage to perch on a limb, but she was too weak and fell off wings searching for balance. and one wing got stuck in one of the openings of her cage. It wasn’t hurt I gently helped her out of the tangle. It was too stressful for her. Her legs kicked out and I knew then that she was dead. She was in my hand as she was dying and I cried for her, just feeling so sad that it was ending this way after only two days. I felt her spirit come back just for a moment as I cried. I could see then that she knew I was crying over her, grieving for her. It’s like she came back to take that last message of love from me, “ I miss you birdie, I love you, I wanted to see you grow up and fly free. And then she was gone her spirit rising into spirit.
         It is hard to say exactly what I learned from this experience but I felt that by being involved with this bird’s deep purity, pure love, and forgiveness … I felt sort of relieved from my worries about what I could have/should have done. I know from knowing her light heart that everything is o.k. the way it is. It’s how you live, not how long, and when you have a friend it is a wonderful life no matter what happens, because we are here to love.
         I’ve been dreaming of little birds ever since her death. This morning after dreaming of little birds chirping in a bush, I woke up and went outside. Standing there doing my morning stretches I saw and heard a peregrine falcon. We have seen this bird before flying to his same certain tree. This is the only time I have ever heard him making the sound of ringing sleigh bells as he flew though. I wondered if maybe he had actually had picked up some bells some place and was flying around with them. That is exactly what it sounded like, and later when he flew away he made the same bell ringing sound. My dream of little birds was ordinary but my waking experience hearing the bells of the falcon was magical like a dream.
         Another funny thing to note about this is that as I was sleeping last night at times half awake I was thinking how grateful I am that my ears are located so conveniently on my head so that I can tuck my loose hair behind them, and also for my glasses to rest on…and I thought it is so funny that I am most grateful for that when the real boon of ears is to hear with! And then in the morning my gratitude was rewarded with bells brought by falcon. He hee.
         I am reading The Plague by Albert Camus. On page 36 I came across this “the pulse becomes fluttering, dicrotic, and intermittent, and death ensues as the result of the slightest movement.” Yes, I thought, that’s how it was for my bird. Great book.