Christmas Cookie Party

I know, I know, it’s May. I’ve been chasing after a baby recently. Better late than never……

Rolling the dough

 

When I was growing up there were a lot of family traditions around the holidays. One of my favorites every year was making Christmas cookies with my mom, brother, and cousins. We would get together to make dozens and dozens of what I consider to this day to be the quintessential Christmas cookie, basic sugar cookie dough with a basic powdered sugar icing. There were tons of cookie cutters in all kinds of fun shapes and the decorating potentials were unlimited.

Although my holidays now as an adult with a new family of my own are quite

Many hands

different from when I was a child, this is a tradition I have carried with me into adulthood. This was the second year I have had this annual party at Earthaven and it was a huge success. The day was cool and rainy, perfect for hot drinks, hanging out, a little Christmas music , and cookies, cookies, cookies! Kids and adults of all ages came together in the Village Terraces kitchen to cut, bake, decorate, and eat. How can sugar and flour mean so much to me? It’s yet another way to bring people together.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Uses for a Gateway Sheep

A new lamb with protective mom looking on.

1-Aesthetics: Let’s face it. Little baby lambs are cute. There is nothing quite like walking by a big beautiful pasture full of lush green grass and mama sheep with tiny new lambs.

2-Wool: The Gateway sheep are sheared twice a year, in the spring and fall, and the wool is available for sale to Earthaven residents and friends. Just imagine wearing a hat knit by one friend from yarn spun by another friend with wool that was grown right in your own back yard!

3-Pasture Fertilization/Integrated System: Gateway is one of several farms at Earthaven and the sheep are one piece of a farm system working towards sustainability (while realizing that we have a long way to go.) Sheep, chickens, turkeys, winter storage vegetables, bio-fuel, house building, solar energy and human connection are some of the many pieces involved. Poop makes great fertilizer.

4-Education and Radical Responsibility: Two Earthaveners slaughtered one of the Gateway lambs to serve for the Thanksgiving dinner served in the Council Hall. One had experience with animal slaughter and the other was excited to learn. Both were taking radical responsibility for their food by being a part of the death that gives them life.

5-Meat: The lamb meat was roasted in the oven at the Village Terraces common kitchen while we listened to food songs on WNCW, drank wine, and prepared stuffing and gallons of gravy. The meal was a sort of pre-arranged potluck and folks could choose to purchase (at cost) turkey and/or lamb. YUM!

6-Haggis: “Made from all the parts of the sheep the English won’t eat” read the sign in front of this dish that many of us have only heard about in old stories. This version was made by one of our Dutch members using the organs to create a surprisingly (to me) tasty treat.

7-Head Cheese: No it’s not cheese, and Yes it is made from the head. A molded gelatinous ring making good use of even more parts of this animal that would often be discarded.

8-Fiddle Strings: A friend heard that a sheep was being slaughters on the land and called to ask if he could have the intestines to make fiddle strings. The request was of course honored and perhaps he will honor us with some of his music in the future.

9-Testicles/Stretching Our Comfort Zone: The testicles, batter dipped and fried, were served as an appetizer before our incredible dinner. My mind was a bit squeamish (ok, repulsed) at the thought of eating testicles, but I certainly wasn’t going to pass up this rare opportunity. I pushed through the discomfort and was rewarded with a superior taste sensation. I mean really, batter dipped and fried? You can’t go wrong.

10-Stock: After dinner the lamb bones came back to the VT kitchen where they spent 24 hours simmering on the stove to create a rich delicious nutrient dense stock. We love to use this for soup, cooking grains, or mix it with miso and drink it. We also pressure canned a round of it to use in next Thanksgivings’ gravy.

One more

11-Hide: The lamb hide is currently undergoing the tanning process. You just might see it as apparel at next years’ dinner.

Pumpkin Carvin’

 

 

A cold and rainy day didn’t keep the pumpkin carvers away. There is a full week of activities at Earthaven Ecovillage to celebrate Halloween and one of my favorites is the annual pumpkin carving.

I went over to the Council Hall with my eight-month-old, Oakley, inside my rain jacket. I wasn’t sure how much I would be able to participate with him there but wanted to hang out anyway. I always loved pumpkin carving as a kid and was excited to introduce the tradition to him on his very first Halloween.

Before I even got in the building I noticed a small group of musicians standing in the middle of the room. It hadn’t been pre-planned, but what a treat to have live bluegrass music at this event.

A happy group of kids and their parents, along with a few witches, were already elbow deep in pumpkin guts when I got there. Some people were also hollowing out huge turnips and I learned that turnips where the original jack-o-lanterns. Legend has it that there was once a man named Jack who was so bad that when he died even the devil wouldn’t take him into the underworld and he was left to eternally wander the earth with his lantern. When European people came to America they brought their vegetable lantern carving tradition with them. I can only imagine how excited they were to learn about pumpkins, which I can tell you from direct observation, are a lot easier to carve than turnips. The challenge, however, did not stop Earthaveners from giving it a try and several beautiful turnip jack-o-lanterns sat next to the pumpkin ones decorating our Council Hall for the Samhian Ancestor Feast a few days later.

I saw a pumpkin getting carved with a pretty intricate face, one with a moon and stars, and one being cut into many curved ring layers. There were still pumpkins available so I thought I would give it a try and see how far I could get on a carving project of my own. I put Oakley on the floor and to my surprise he was perfectly happy playing with and tasting the pumpkin guts while I cut out super basic, classic triangle features.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Coffee Hour Market

Coffee Hour was started by Earthaven member Suchi in the summer of 2009. She was looking for a way to increase social opportunities and support the village economy. One picnic table outside the Trading Post held the coffee, tea, muffins, goods for trade–and all of us.

Every Tuesday morning for over two years, friends and neighbors have gotten together, rain or shine, freezing or scorching, for a social event with a different flair from the nighttime gatherings.

We now fill two tables with food and one or more with people, often with kids playing all around.

Here is the impressive list of foods available for sale or trade at the most recent Coffee Hour, all grown and/or produced right here in our valley: goat milk, goat yogurt, goat cheese, sunflower spelt bread, sourdough pumpernickel bread, sesame flax crackers, sweet red peppers, a wide variety of hot peppers, okra, shiitake and oyster mushrooms, onions, garlic, figs, fig preserves, potatoes, sauerkraut, eggs, kombucha, coffee, tea, and lemon poppy seed muffins. Some star highlights from the past include chocolate pies, lacto-fermented mustard, handmade jewelry, and pesto.

I have always liked attending this morning gathering, enjoying its unique feel. Now as a new mom who can rarely make it to events past an 8:00 PM bedtime, I have an extra appreciation for people getting together in the morning. I take this time to sell my baked goods, buy foods I don’t grow or make myself, drink my weekly cup of coffee, visit with folks, and get what Geoff Stone (very regular coffee hour attendee) calls “The Buzz” of the village. Also known as gossip, news, or keeping up to date, I consider this an important part of community life.

When the weather turns cold we will continue meeting through the winter inside the toasty Council Hall. But for now join us any Tuesday morning starting at 9:00 under the canopy in the village center. We’d love to have you!

Local Food All Winter

Tomatoes! Garlic! Chicken Stock!

And that’s just the beginning


Eli with cheese squash

The author, Eli, here with cheese squash.

At the Village Terraces common kitchen we haven’t stopped eating a diet based on local foods just because it’s February.  In fact, we’re practically swimming in foods from our farm, Imani, other farms and forests at Earthaven, as well as regional farms and orchards. Our winter pantry goes way beyond cabbage and potatoes.

Imagine this recent meal—sautéed beef (from an Imani steer), home canned tomato sauce (Imani) with peppers (Imani), garlic  and basil (VT garden co-op), and onions (Gateway Farm at EH) served with cornbread made from a neighbor’s homegrown and ground cornmeal and milk and eggs from our farm, and collard greens fresh from our garden. For dessert? Blackberries from a local U-pick farm (via our freezer) and homemade raw yogurt from our cow’s milk. All that hard work this past year is definitely paying off.

An inventory of our pantry: Canned tomato sauce, blackberry jam,

Boxes of stored grapefruit and apples, both from the Southeast.

strawberry jam, and chicken stock. Dried summer squash, tomatoes, strawberries, and juneberries. Onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, apples, and a large variety of winter squash. For nutritional and medicinal teas- dried nettle, raspberry leaf, dandelion, comfrey, red clover, catnip, and peppermint.  Sauerkraut, Kimchi, apple cider vinegar made from cider we pressed ourselves including some garlic and herb infused vinegars. Honey, berries preserved in honey and whiskey (ok, the whiskey came all the way from Kentucky, but we do made certain concessions), dried mushrooms and burdock. Right outside the kitchen door the rosemary, sage,  and oregano live on and about twenty feet away there are still a few surviving kale and collard plants.

Peppermint, Catnip, & Raspberry leaf, harvested to use all winter as tea.

In our freezer we keep strawberries, blackberries, juneberries, and basil as well as beef and pork from our farm and venison from the region. We daily get eggs from our chickens and milk from our cow which in addition to fresh drinking goodness we also use to make raw yogurt and cheese. And while they aren’t actually local we are devouring and loving the cases and cases of citrus I purchased at a Florida farmer’s market while I was in Gainesville visiting my grandmother in December.

I fondly remember sweating in the July heat of the tomato field, collecting

Lee stirring a pot of chicken stock made from our poultry and meat bones.

those first spring nettles in the forest garden, staying up late into the night to can stock, handing over LEAPS (our local currency) in exchange for Gateway squash,  the group work day in the fall to put in the garden co-op’s garlic crop and the most abundant fruit year I can remember.  And I am eagerly looking forward to those first wild spring greens and the strawberries I can see out my bedroom window.

I have always been passionate about food, and since I’ve been living atEarthaven ( 1 ½ years) I have been able to begin the lifelong journey and spiritual practice of being an active participant in growing, gathering and otherwise obtaining my nutrients. Finally, providing my food and living my daily life are becoming intertwined.