Beans, the Magical Fruit

We live in a primarily vegetarian household, which often puts protein on my mind. Humans need complex carbohydrates to live well, but a certain lesser amount of quality protein is vital for tissue growth, immune system support, and hormone synthesis required for the body's countless chemical reactions. There are several ways to include plenty of protein in the diet without meat products, but my favorite by far is with beans. Beans eaten with about twice as much grain is an appropriate and delicious way to ensure you're getting a complete protein easiest for the body to use.

Combining grain and beans with varied seasonal vegetables and fruits provides a high-fiber, nutrient-dense diet linked with much improved digestive, cardiovascular, and immune system health. There is one caveat with increased bean consumption when moving from a diet with a majority of refined and processed foods to a diet consisting of whole foods, including beans: flatulence! When a body has become used to a lack of fiber, as in most western diets, it can have a healing reaction when high-fiber foods are introduced. My recommendation is to start small, increasing your consumption gradually, making sure to soak beans overnight and to include the seaweed kombu in small amounts to increase the digestibility of your non-pressure-cooked bean meal!

I am now very happy to share my three very favorite bean and grain meals! These meals are almost always accompanied in our home by several condiments the value of which cannot be underestimated in my opinion. These include: Ume Plum Vinegar, a salty delight; Jalapeño Vinegar, a mild spicy vinegar that I make by pouring apple cider vinegar over a jar of jalapeños and let sit for as long as it takes to get a little hot, then decant into a separate jar: an added benefit to this process is the preservation of the jalapenos which I pick out to use in two of the following recipes; Nutritional Yeast containing b-complex vitamins that tastes a little like popcorn or butter; Dulce flakes, a slightly salty seaweed packed with protein, and lastly hormone- and antibiotic-free (often found only as organic) sour cream. It just kinda blends the flavors sweetly.

On to the food! My southern influence shines through in my love of cornbread, tex-mex, and creole-style flavors. Oh, and butter! To best enjoy these meals, be sure to soak beans overnight to reduce gas and cooking time and simmer with a chopped up piece of kombu.

Black-Eyed Peas and Corn Bread

-Preheat oven to 350 for the corn bread and start on peas.

-In a medium sized pot, put peas on to heat and cover with water. Bring to a gentle boil, skim the surface foam and reduce to a simmer with lid on.

Chop or dice:

1 onion

several cloves of garlic

1 jalapeño

2-3 stalks of celery

2-3 carrots (optional)

½-1 bell pepper (optional)

1 6-in piece of kombu in pieces

-Add carrot, celery, and kombu to pot with peas.

-In olive or unrefined sesame oil, sauté onions until translucent, add garlic, jalapeño, and bell pepper if desired and cook until onions begin to brown. Add all to pea pot.

-Spices can be included at this point, but not much is required. I often add cayenne made from chipotle peppers, but wait until peas are almost done to add salt and pepper. Black-eyed peas are done in about 20 minutes, but can stand 5 or 10 more to blend flavors.


All right! Now for the corn bread.

-Place 6 TBS of butter in a deep baking pan or cast-iron skillet and stick it in the oven until it melts.

In a bowl, combine:

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup unbleached or whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

a pinch of cinnamon

In another, combine:

¼ C maple syrup (sugar may be substituted, just add to dry ingredients)

1 C milk, yogurt or water

1 or 2 beaten eggs

-When butter is melted, remove pan from oven. Combine wet and dry ingredients, stir well, and then add the melted butter. Stir until pretty well incorporated and dump the whole thing back into the baking pan or skillet, which should be pretty well lubricated from the melted butter.

-Bake 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the edges pull away from the sides of the pan.

Red Beans and Rice

-Prepare rice by bringing to a boil twice as much water as rice, then add rice, allow to return to a boil, then reduce the heat as low as possible on your stove. Will be done when you smell the rice – a cup of brown rice will cook in about 40 minutes, a cup of white will be ready in about 20 minutes. To be sure, remove lid close to time and gently tilt pot forward – if there is still water in the pot, cover and allow to cook until water is completely absorbed.

-While rice cooks, add red beans to pot and cover with water. Allow to come to a gentle boil, skim surface foam, cover with lid and reduce to a simmer.

Similar to black-eyed peas, chop or dice:

1 onion

several cloves of garlic

1-2 carrots

2-3 stalks of celery

1-2 bell peppers

1 jalapeño (optional)

1 6-in piece kombu

-Just like with black-eyed peas, saute onions in olive or unrefined sesame oil until translucent, add garlic, bell peppers, and jalapeño and cook until onion begins to brown, then add to pot with beans. Add carrots, kombu and celery. Spice with about ½ tsp dried oregano. Stir occasionally – usually done shortly after brown rice has finished if started before the beans.

-Be sure to taste test beans to make sure they're cooked through. Add salt to taste. This is definitely a meal that tastes best with sour cream!

Black Beans and Quinoa

-Add black beans to pot and cover with water. Bring to a gentle boil, skim surface foam, reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid. Allow black beans to cook for a half-hour or so before continuing. They generally take longer than most other beans.

As with most beans, chop or dice:

1 onion

several cloves of garlic

1-2 carrots

2-3 stalks of celery

1 6-in piece of kombu

-Saute onions until translucent, then add garlic and cook until onion begins to brown. Add this to bean pot along with carrots, celery and kombu. Spice with roughly ½ tsp oregano, ½ tsp cumin seed and ½ tsp coriander seed. Ready when beans are cooked through, make sure to taste test several to make sure.

-As beans finish, bring to a boil twice as much water as quinoa, add quinoa, cover with a lid and reduce heat to a simmer. Should be finished in about 15 or 20 minutes.

I especially like this last one as it has a sort of pineapple flavor that I find inexplicable and incredibly delightful. The best part about beans is their ability to absorb the flavors of surrounding vegetables and spices. It's hard to mess them up, and they are always hearty and filling. Just make sure they're cooked, or you'll pay for it at the table and in your gut!

With love,



Mother Elder!

Elder (Sambucus nigra) is one of my favorite plants for its plethora of delightful uses, for its incredible beauty in flower and fruit, and for its helpful and healthful relationship with garden plants in general, it "teaches them where to go and what to do." It's a tree of magic in european lore, being a guardian tree along with the Rowan. We chose to plant our Elder shrubs somewhat away from the fence to avoid it traveling and coming up in the fence, next to the drainage from the gutter. A few days later I noticed a shrub totally out of line with the staggered row we planted. This new elder was naturally occuring and coming up inside the fence - our neighbor whacked the part on his side and it started to grow lightning fast out in five directions toward our yard!

All parts of elder can be used for medicine or play. The older stems and branches can be cut and hollowed to make flutes and pea-chutes. Young Elder leaves can be dried and infused in oil to be made into salve that lightens freckles, brightens skin tone, acts as a moisturizer for chapped and cracked skin by helping the cells to bind, and is used for sprains and bruising. Elder flowers can be used as tea or tincture to encourage sweating at the beginning of colds and flus. This action of the hot tea with flowers or hot bath with tincture is effective if you get right under blankets. It causes viral infections to be eliminated directly through the pores, calms the nerves and brings up congestion. The most delicious ways to eat Elder berries are in wine left to age an entire year, jelly, and syrup - you can also dry the berries (they're tiny and can be dried in the sun) to enjoy throughout the winter sauteed with a little water and sugar and eaten over pancakes or baked right into muffins and cookies.

You can't go wrong using at least the fruit from this especially abundant lady plant. They're packed with procyanidins, flavonoids known to inhibit abnormal cell growth like cancer, to increase immune response, and to strengthen cell membranes against viral attacks. They are also potent sources of vitamin A and C, particularly important for long winters without fresh fruits and vegetables.

"... the tree itself is 'sambuca' - the pipe of Pan - and it is his spirit blowing through this most sacred tree that enters the world (and the sick body) to heal and teach humankind. In fact, elder is viewed in all ancient texts as a panacea, a cure-all. Pan is the sacred power of forest and animal, the Lord of the Hunt, Guardian of Forest and Animal. The exact meaning of panacea is 'to be healed or cured by Pan, the deepest sacred power of forest.' When the tree is used for medicine the sacred power of Pan is evoked through this, his most sacred healing plant. It has been set down in all ancient oral traditions that those who truly use the power of the elder for their medicine shall all grow old, becoming in their turn an elder, that, in fact, it will cure all ills that humankind encounters if one calls on its power properly." -- Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, Stephen Harrod Buhner

OK, so now you're so psyched about the amazing medicinal powers of Elder that you want to make something to preserve and use the Elder Mother throughout the late summer and all winter long. Awesome! First step, go find some! This can be tricky at first without some knowledge of the plant's look - make sure you correctly identify her by looking at photos and comparing the leaves and bark to them. Fortunately, once you know what she looks like, you'll spot Elder all over the place! Elder grows in poor soils (avoid roadsides up to 6 ft and ditches along them), along edges and in areas where water flows. The berries hang down in sometimes HUGE clusters that begin green, then become purple, and at peak ripeness are basically black. Clip the clusters, fill a few bags or a bucket, de-stem the berries (this year I watched the series Heroes for 4 hours and cultivated my inner hero healer while de-stemming), and you'll end up with a bunch of beautiful berries and purple fingers. The next step is to wash the berries by putting small amounts in water and skim off the floating stuff until they're all clean. From here you can either press the berries with a potato masher and strain for raw juice or smash and simmer for 10 minutes to soften them and make it a little easier to express the juice. You can also do this with purchased dried berries, allowing them to rehydrate in cool water and then simmering.

At this point, you have something so intense in color that you'll feel really good about all this effort and you might start to think about the incredible thing you're doing by taking part in keeping yourself well, and by limiting the cost of what you spend on cough syrups and time out of work this winter. You just might start pondering color and its ability to indicate density of nutrition from bright yellows and oranges to deep reds and purples, and maybe you'll imagine the healing photons entering your body through this medicinal concoction you're making for yourself and those you love. Maybe you'll feel, as I often do while making medicine, a deep and profound reverence for all the lives that will be assisted through this process, for the life of the plant and the earth who is ally to all these lives.

All right! Feeling good now, you'll want to decide what you want to make with this juice. We had a huge harvest this year (Fox Bridge Rd, northeast side of Bunn Park, untreated and up away from the road), so along with what I've put up in the freezer, I made jelly and syrup. Jelly is made with the addition of sugar and pectin, to varying degrees - I've seen recipes including half apples or crab-apples for pectin, and also sumac flowers to cut down the cloying sweetness of the finished elder product. For now, let's think about syrup because it can be made with honey if kept below 110 degrees F. First simmer the juice without a lid until it's reduced by half. Meanwhile, gather honey and clean jars for bottling and canning (if necessary). You'll need twice as much honey as juice by volume, preferably from bees several miles from GMO crops and never heated above 110 as this denatures the honey. If you've got 2 cups of juice, you'll need 4 cups of honey. Once the juice is reduced, add the honey and stir continuously over a low flame until the whole batch is dissolved and mixed. Ladle the syrup into jars, wipe tops, screw on sealing mason lids and process in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes (or more at higher elevations). The canning part is unneccesary if stored in a refrigerator.

That's it! Now you have a incredibly special addition to pancakes, waffles, ice cream, or anything that requires a subtle flavor and a dose of sweetness. Send thanks to the Elder every time you and your loved ones enjoy this medicinal delight! Also enjoy the photos of the process by clicking on the photos at right!




:insert cowgirl galloping into town to save the day tune here:

So, hey. How's it goin'? Good, I'm imagining, and hopefully you're sitting in a stream of sunshine as well. Things here are going pretty well, we're about ready to fix up the bathroom, and initial kitchen imaginings are forming as well. Not the most important news, but for me these things take one of my main mental stages. Another is occupied by the yard, which is looking fine indeed!

A couple of weeks ago we went to a native tree sale and picked up a couple of persimmons, an american plum (later reading they are not the best thing to plant... pfft), a witchhazel that Eli ate and I hope will one day return to us, a chokeberry, a serviceberry, and a river birch (betula nigra, hopefully this will produce those delicioso twigs). Also, for the land we picked up a couple of hazelnut shrubs, a weeping willow and a bald cyprus. In addition, we've put in a row of Elder where our gutters flow out, several peonies to distract from the little A/C unit, and our friends helped put in some raspberries from that lady Carey who is one of our lifetime allies and beautiful buddies. and! Yesterday I was cutting the hackberry and mulberry from our fenceline (too bad they haven't yet started growing In the yard where I could leave them!), and I found big thornless blackberry canes from our neighbors on the side of our garage that was nearly impossible to get to before the my hacking, and a wild grape vine with lovely new leaves growing up the fence on the alley side.

Yeah, the yard. It's nice-ish. It's a lot nicer now that I planted up the first Actual garden bed with broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, two kinds of motherwort and wild dagga for smoking mixes and bitter tinctures, some bronze fennel for beneficial insects, and garlic chives around the edges. I'm stoked to get to the next bed! Unfortunately I exhausted our supply of broken up concrete, so I may have to start lining the beds with artfully stacked red bricks. Should be interesting! I'm thinking of planting a lot of my little hopi red dye amaranths pretty much directly into the ground around the yard, hopefully causing it to self-seed and return FOREVER!! Ha HA! Food, beauty, grace, carbon, and dyestuff. Life is giving.

OK, so that's the yard update, the land is less clear. M thinks he could make a little house on our piece of property, but I'm afraid. I'm OK with the idea of a little house facing the woods, but unfortunately Springfield isn't the abundant forest of a place that I imagine in my fancy thinking. Plus, doing things to city code is laaaame. We'll see how that goes, we're in a slight transition mode at the moment, while attempting to maintain our foothold here. Nothing unusual.

Time for beets and eggs from the ladies!

with a body full of love, as usual,


new photos and spring is here!

Spring is in full effect, except that the trees are JUST on the virge of blooming. It's delightful every day to see something new flowering and leafing out. M and I have been cleaning/clearing for some time now, always more to do, but we're getting O, so close to getting most of what is least useful out of our house and garage previously packed to the gills with "antiques." I think we're hitting a stable point, though, now that most of the garbage is out. Our yard only very vaguely reminds me of a garbage dump at this point. :D

Our new additions, the araucana hens, are doing splendidly. Eli still wants to eat them sometimes, but he's coming around. It's hard to name them because they don't currently respond to a whole lot. I might just continue to call them by whistles and clucks. They're laying pretty regular, now, 2 or 3 eggs each day. It's the easiest of chores to collect them and care for the ladies. There's a good reason everyone used to keep at least a few. We're getting together a chicken tractor, or a moveable pen to keep them in with a raised laying box that we can just reach into. The idea is put the hens on one spot of earth for a month or more while adding straw (carbon to balance the nitrogen in their poop/fertilizer), or to wheel the whole structure to a new spot each day for them to essentially mow down new growth and lay richer eggs than they can on feed alone. M's particularly interested in raising bugs for hen food. :) If we can get enough worm production going on in the basement, I suspect we could feed them those little red wigglers pretty regularly.

M got himself a Hammond organ a week or so ago that plays beautifully, and he is highly enthusiastic about it. He likes to break it down in the garage. Now that the garage is a little clear, there's plenty of room for it, but I suspect it's going down to the basement sometime in the near future. I wonder what the neighbors think, and I think it's enriching the neighborhood.

We went on a nice prairie hike at the Sugar Grove in Funk's Grove yesterday to make our trip to buy maple syrup more worthwhile. I think it's a large preserve with a bid sanctuary and lots of ... prairie, but also lots of trees. The forests were filled with ramps, which are sort of like green onions crossed with garlic. Delicious! We didn't have digging knives with us to cut through the black, wet, clayey earth, but maybe we'll find some in the woods near our land. We did collect a couple cups of beautiful new purple and deep green stinging nettles, which I put into a rice and goat cheese casserole today YUM. They are incredibly sturdy and strengthening plants and one of the best herbs for eating. I read this morning they used to be tithed because of their multitude of uses from every part of the plant.

Well, that's about all for now!
love, Abby



I've been thankful that the bus goes up and down 13th and 15th Sts and not mine, in the middle. I'm thankful today because I've come to realize that my neighborhood is ALIVE and vibrant, filled with people and pretty delightful. It's spring, and I'm starting to understand an experience I had upon my very first temperate spring. I moved in with my brother on Cape Cod one summer when I was 17 and had my first winter there. That's also when I walked up my first hill, acutely feeling it the backs of my legs. That first snowy winter I learned some things, like how great it is to watch movies at night and that you cannot expect much from an umbrella in a snow storm. In the spring I moved in with a boy who had grown up in Houston and Phoenix, and we had our first Grand Thaw together. The strangest thing happened that spring- in March, everyone had sour looks and many layers of warm clothes, but in April, one day, all of a sudden, EVERYone was outside in t-shirts. It was weird.

A few years have passed, and I've experienced springs in a few more places, after a few more winters. I'm reminded today of my bewilderment at the extreme and sudden change that first spring because today is that extreme and sudden day in my neighborhood. Sure, yesterday was pretty warm, and I bet a lot of folks were outside, but today it is almost 5pm and above 50F. It's Spring. :) I also saw a bunny hopping around in the field across from the house, just hopping, like it was frisky. The cherries and pears are beginning to make colorful buds, and M is getting worked up about co-op business ventures. The sap is on the move.

with love,


holding a feeling

I'm pretty much a mega-fan of making plans and deviating at the first branch. Looking at some of my choices, it looks a little like I might be obsessed with changing the plan. I love and fear and hate the plan, it makes me feel safe, but I fear the possibility of stagnancy and spiritual degradation and hate the feeling of being stuck. My charts are filled with water. :) Within Mayan astrology the boy and I have multiple hands in our charts. The hand is the sign of magic, it is the manipulator, the ability to give form and shape to ideas and elements. It's the holy damn spirit with a thumb. I consider myself different forms of water, a lot of times I feel like the middle of the oceans with the moon overhead. I can readily identify with the sky goddess Nut or Nuit, fantastically blue and covered in stars, stretching everywhere. I feel dark and wet and expansive, very kaphic.

So I need a little earth sometimes, and this is that, far away from the ocean or the mountain streams and close to the ground. It's something I've been afraid of committing to, but it's better to deal with the feelings that come up from all this - I feel like whatever and everything I do here in Springfield will make future endeavors richer. Gardening, building soil, being immersed in normal, everyday, repeating cycles, these are what nourish me. They make me feel delight and joy and the heart-like pulse of living beings. This is the feeling of home, and I carry it with me, but it has unfolded exponentially inside this new house where M and I live together.

OK, enough about that, happy birthday to me! A quarter-century tomorrow! Thanks mom, glad I came out easy and early on you! I'm afraid this means you're getting old, though. :D I'm going to have a french pastry and remember the story of the day I was born as told by my sister who ate ice cream with my brothers and dad and loves to tell the tale. I've always associated my birthday with my mom's because hers is in 2 days and my grandpa always bought a cake for us to share. To Abby(/ie) and Patty. :)

love, as always and usual,


overjoyed! how I came to know beauty,

and the spiritually progressive struggle to live with her in Springfield. :)

So! I'm really excited to share some photos of the house, which should become available shortly through the flickr page linked on the side there. -->
There should be more as soon as the sun comes back out, haven't seen it in 4 or 5 days. :/

I've mentioned my obsession with the new house, here in Springfield, with M and Eli, to a few friends. However, I need to let everyone know how thoroughly engrossed I am with this house. My compartmentalizing and always working brain knows most corners in and out. It's interesting that before I fell asleep in St Pete, (after we'd been through the house for about 25 minutes or so and looked around and put in the offer and went on down to Florida) I would run through everything I remembered of the house. Anyway, that's my house story for the moment. We have successfully gotten everything off the walls, the million knick-knacks the 97-yr old lady who lived here left us, changed the kitchen faucet, added a fancy under-counter water filter, and pulled up the carpets to find the beautiful, almost perfect oak hardwood floors. It feels so much cleaner with the old carpet up. It appeared on first glance to be beige, and then I pulled up a sill-plate or something and saw the color it was at installation. It surely was beige, but it was clearly gray where previously it had appeared beige. Ew. :)

I'm increasingly excited about a) getting out my books, b) setting up the kitchen in the basement, and c) cooking more and more. Lately we've had plenty of soup, something I have previously made infrequently, but something about hearing my brother-in-law's mama made soup all the time in the old country spurred me on this economical soup frenzy. It's brilliant- you add some potatoes and carrots and onion and celery (how the hell else do you use celery?) and What Ever else, and it's soup! I've been adding a handful or two or quinoa, and it gets stew-y, it's delightful. Miso is also a staple of late, have a ton of mung bean sprouts to throw in tomorrow. I feel relieved when I don't have to think too much about cooking, and soup is just so... immediate and warming and delicious. Thanks mama!

Thinking a lot about friends, life partners, family, after the trip south to my family and the return to friends and a couple of life partners. Keeping relationships in general fruitful and useful seems like a very delicate balancing act, connecting, reconnecting, and disconnecting. all three seem ultimately necessary and appropriate at different times. This seems clear to me at most times, but really, it is delicate, like hollow glass chess pieces on a marble board, maybe. I really think about it within the context of the garden, where each plant is a hugely complex and inter-connected being, where you decide which little beings you wish to assist to thrive, where the grass is also a million living beings, and the weeds (which are often such nourishing and sometimes potent medicine) also have to be thinned and/or removed- but! Everything in the garden is composted, which is returned to the garden to help all the other plants thrive! So these things are very mixed up in my brain, which I like.

with love, and more soon,