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ISSUE 24 :: REST botanical art / spoon carving / making feta natural food dyes / cardigan sweater pattern DISPLAY UNTIL JANUARY 23, 2018
winter cakes / scrappy quilts / Ayurvedic recipes
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COVER ART BY LISA CONGDON
head 12 Retreat to the Sauna
by Megan Devine
16 A Community Gathers by Kristina Urquhart
20 The Magnificence of Seeing by Erika Howsare
hands 32 Carving a Kitchen Spoon from Green Wood by AndrĂŠ Souligny
38 Lavender Tuck-In Pillow by Alison Kaplan
42 Slowing Down, Stitch by Stitch by Anna Hewitt
Little Kitty Friend
by Caitlin Betsy Bell
by Verena Cohrs
60 Presque Isle Blanket by Beatrice Perron Dahlen
66 Pure Sattva by Brittany Wood Nickerson
72 Wholesome Winter Cakes y Jessica Lewis Stevens b 78 Taste the Rainbow by Sophie MacKenzie
84 A Meditation in Cheese by Kirsten K. Shockey
90 Meeting Lavender by Amy Jirsa
heart 98 Laid Fallow by Julie Letowski
106 Swimming in the Wild by Shari Altman
ISSUE 24 :: REST
/'tĂŚp ru:t/ noun '
1. The large primary root of plants such as the dandelion, which grows vertically downwards and bears smaller, lateral roots. 2. A quarterly magazine celebrating food, farm, family, and craft through writing, photography, and the arts, both fine and domestic.
Publisher Jason Miller email@example.com
Editor Amanda Blake Soule firstname.lastname@example.org
Advisor Ted Blood email@example.com
Associate Editor Meredith Winn
Copy Editor Amy Chamberlain
Assistant Editor Rachel McDonald
Business Manager Veronica Medwid
Magazine Designer Beth Taylor
Marketing Manager Katie Ustaris
Subscribe taprootmag.com/subscribe Questions? firstname.lastname@example.org Taproot Magazine (ISSN 2333-6293) Issue 24 published November 14, 2017, by Taproot Media, LLC. Taproot is published
quarterly in Shelburne, Vermont (6655 Shelburne Road, Suite 100, Shelburne, VT 05482). Periodical postage paid at Shelburne and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Taproot Magazine, 6655 Shelburne Road Suite 100, Shelburne, VT 05482. Copyright ÂŠ2017 Taproot Magazine. All rights reserved.
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from the editor I’M WRITING YOU THIS LETTER ON A COOL OCTOBER NIGHT IN MAINE, illuminated by the light from a single candle. Paper and pen are the tools I’m using, and I find myself surprised at how cramped my hand becomes after just a few paragraphs of handwriting, so not used to the practice I am. (New 2018 goal = write more letters!) My current environment and ambiance is not necessarily of my choosing – it isn’t out of a desire for an unplugged life, a quieter moment in my day, or a sentimental nod to the past, though all of those things are an unintended but nice benefit. It’s simply because we’ve lost electricity after a wild and windy storm, and it’s severe enough that it appears as though it will be days before it comes back, maybe a week. And well, printing schedules go on despite all that and so here I am. By candlelight! We consider ourselves fortunate when we assess the damage from this one – the only trees that have fallen on our property are those that are okay to come down and will simply turn into next year’s firewood - a few in the pastures, many in the woods. The two hundred year old sugar maple trees in front of the house that I worry about with each storm held their roots and stay in the ground, holding court as they have for two centuries now. But the house is fine (save for a flooded basement), and the animals, most of all, seem un-phased. There is, of course, some inconvenience that comes with such an event regardless, namely that of relying upon an electric pump for our water (for animals and livestock both) and electricity to keep our freezers going (and that basement pumped). We are at the peak of the harvest season right now, with three freezers entirely full of eighty chickens, three pigs, and one freezer dedicated just to fruits and vegetables. We scramble, and are lucky, to find one of the few remaining generators on the shelves. Freezers are saved, water is pumped. We manage just fine and with a touch of good fortune. We help our neighbors out who fared worse than we – trees on cars and trees on houses, and so on and so forth. But after all of that clean up work is done, there is silence, and space. Cell towers are down so internet is spotty on the cell phones that are draining of battery anyway. And we’re then left with each other and our own created sources of entertainment and comfort. In that, of course, is a little bit of a blessing. There’s magic in this kind of quiet, forced though it may be. Our days, in general, are not as quiet as we’d like for them to be, not as still as we hope for. We aren’t unique in that situation, I know… we’re all running a bit faster, taking in a little more noise, and getting a little less rest than we probably should. And so I take this inconvenience in with a little bit of gratitude. Gratitude for the guitar I’m hearing from my teenage boys in the kitchen, the reading aloud that I’m hearing my husband share with the younger kids by the woodstove, and the game of family charades that I know will follow just as soon as I wrap this up. Everything feels slightly slowed down, and in that, a bit of rest comes into our everyday moments. I find myself craving more. I’ve been thinking a lot in recent months about rest, namely in the form of sleep. Partly inspired by a little bit of insomnia that’s kicked in, definitely led by wanting to instill in my children (becoming adults before my eyes) their own healthy sleep habits, and also by coming across the new book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. In it, he makes the scientific and psychological case for honoring our human need for eight hours of sleep a night, while addressing the many reasons why that isn’t happening for most of us these days. The science is sound, the reasons clear, and much of what he writes is information we all may know but certainly can use some reminders of, the gist of it being that there’s just no shortchanging the sleep we need! This week, I’m noticing a shift in the sleep we are all getting, as darkness is dictating bedtime more than anything else. We all find ourselves tucking into bed at a much earlier hour, of course, without the distraction of technology or interruption of electrical activity and artificial light. It’s a peace that feels comforting in that dark and quiet hour before sleep. The sleep, I’m certain, feels more restful, more complete. And though I will be grateful for the electricity when it returns, I am making plans to find myself an old-fashioned alarm clock, keep the smartphone out of my bedroom, and get some real rest. Sweet Dreams!
AMANDA BLAKE SOULE
Editor REST |
letters First, thank you so much for your excellent magazine! I have been a subscriber since the first issue emerged a few years ago, and I have read your essays and stories with much interest—often aloud to members of my family. In your most recent issue, TRADE, you published a recipe for Dark Chocolate Beetroot Brownies (in “A Baking Practice” by Demetria Provatas). I am no stranger to beets in baking and love a good beetroot cake! But this recipe caught my eye because it was gluten and dairy free and— with the exception of the 4-ounce chocolate bar—free of refined sugar. My husband was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that is chronic and can be debilitating. He has chosen to forgo the Western medical route of prescription drug treatment in favor of strict diet modifications and exercise (based largely on the Wahls Protocol and Jelinek’s diet). For him, this means getting the right kinds of oils and avoiding any potentially inflammatory foods (sugar, wheat, dairy, etc.). So, as the resident baker of our
household, I am constantly on the lookout for modifiable recipes that allow for some occasional sweet treats. These brownies were a perfect addition to our kitchen! I made one modification I wanted to share with you and other readers, if possible. In place of the chocolate bar (which often has refined sugar and sometimes dairy), I supplemented my own softened chocolate “bar”: about ⅔ cup organic cocoa powder, ⅓ cup coconut oil, and ⅛ to ¼ cup agave nectar (to taste). I combine these ingredients in our food processor until they resemble melted chocolate and then measure out 4 ounces to be used in the recipe. Voila! Free of refined sugar! And the results were delicious. If you want a sweeter chocolate mixture, just add more agave! Thank you again for bringing something yummy into our lives—both your magazine and these brownies! Melissa Littlefield Urbana, IL
TAPROOT MAKEALONG Join us and share photographs of your projects from the pages of Taproot using #taprootmakealong on Instagram or Facebook. Here are some of our favorites from TRADE!
We want to hear from you! We are pleased to receive your letters, both snail and electronically mailed. If we print yours, you will be rewarded with a free one-year subscription or extension. Send letters to email@example.com or Taproot Magazine, 6655 Shelburne Road, Suite 100, Shelburne, VT 05482. Letters may be edited for length and style. Please specify in your correspondence whether you would prefer us not to print your last name and/or physical location.
contributors SHARI ALTMAN lives in rural Vermont. Every day she finds time to write, take photographs, and walk down her dirt road. Her work has been featured in 1110 journal and the book From Fields, Orchards, and Gardens. Although she misses the South where she grew up, she now sings the praises of maple creemees, town meeting, snowshoeing, and community suppers. // Swimming In the Wild, page 106 CAITLIN BETSY BELL spent much of her childhood elbow deep either in the dirt or the craft drawer as her family moved all across the U.S. Her college years took her to Savannah, Georgia, for a BFA in fibers. Now she is living in Vermont with her favorite guy and their sweet baby girl. She spends her days designing, making, and being a part-time children’s librarian. See more at caitlinbetsybell.com. // Little Kitty Friend, page 48 JOANNA CAMP lives and works as a creative consultant in Port Townsend, Washington. When she isn’t helping others refine vision, organize space, and enhance communication, she can be found chasing two young children, exploring plant medicine, obsessing over a countertop full of kimchi, kombucha, and kefir, and putting her culinary degree to work in her home kitchen and vegetable garden. // Lavender Tuck-In Pillow, page 38 VERENA COHRS is a knitwear designer based in Berlin, Germany. She loves to transform natural, woolly yarns into modern, minimalist knitwear designs that are destined to become wardrobe staples. She’s passionate about high-quality, ethically made materials, about supporting small businesses and about growing this amazing community of knitters and makers. You can find her online at the-wool-club.com. // hometown Cardigan, page 54 LISA CONGDON is best known for her colorful paintings, intricate line drawings, pattern design, and hand lettering. Her clients include MoMA, Harvard University, and Chronicle Books, among many others. She is the author of seven books, the most recent of which is A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives. Lisa lives in Portland, Oregon. // Cover BEATRICE PERRON DAHLEN lives in Southern Maine with her husband and two children. She is a fiber artist, teacher, aspiring homesteader, and daydreamer. She creates hand-knitting patterns under the label Thread and Ladle and is the author of a collaborative book project inspired by the sea, farms, and wilds of Maine, titled MAINE Knits. You can find her online at threadandladle.com. // Presque Isle BlankeT, page 60 JILL DE DIEULEVEULT is in her late twenties, in proud possession of two passports, and loves to travel. She studied architecture and urban design in her first life. Now she is a photographer in love with her job. There is nothing she would rather do than capture beautiful things and beautiful people. Jill has always enjoyed creating things, and creating photographs has become much more than just a passion over the past few years. // hometown Cardigan, page 54 MEGAN DEVINE is a mama of four, kindergarten teacher, writer, beekeeper, soap maker, and chicken tender living in the Northwoods of Minnesota. She is fueled by strong cups of coffee and the passion and desire to teach and learn. Check out her snapshots and ramblings at kids andeggs.com. // Retreat to the Sauna, page 12 LORI EVERT is the author of six children’s books, including a New York Times Best Seller, The Christmas Wish. She also works as prop, set, and wardrobe stylist for commercial photography. Lori enjoys photography, travel, skiing, paddle boarding, swimming, reading, drawing, and being a mom. She lives with her family in Minneapolis, where they have a sauna on their roof. // Retreat to the Sauna, page 12
contributors LARA CALL GASTINGER is a botanical artist and illustrator in Charlottesville, Virginia, and was the chief illustrator for the Flora of Virginia. She received a gold medal at the Royal Horticultural Society garden show in London, and her work has been in several national exhibitions and was accepted into the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. // The Magnificence of Seeing, page 20
ANNA HEWITT is passionate about everyday creativity and encouraging everyone to find joy in making things. She spends most of her time writing, baking, sewing, bicycling, and growing alongside her two young children and husband in Southern Maine. See more of her work at annaghewitt.com. // Slowing Down, Stitch by Stitch, page 42 ERIKA HOWSARE lives in Virginia, where she mothers, writes, and keeps on working on the house. Her first full-length book of poetry, a meditation on waste written collaboratively with Kate Schapira, will be published this year by Trembling Pillow Press. Read more at fillacollectionablog.tumblr.com. // The Magnificence of Seeing, page 20 AMY JIRSA is an herbalist/writer/homesteading girl from Maine. She is the author of the book The Herbal Goddess Guide (Storey Publishing) and spends her days celebrating anything green and growing, long winters, and wild weather. She is a teacher and constant student and believes, with enough practice, anything must be possible. To follow her adventures, publications, and photos, visit thisquietearth.com. // Meeting Lavender, page 90 ALISON KAPLAN is the creative force behind Kata Golda, a craft studio in the mossy seaside town of Port Townsend, Washington. Kata Golda is a flourishing business that preserves crafts such as needlework, letterpress, pottery, hand-dyed textiles, stitched felt, and bookbinding. Alison finds inspiration in the woods, farmlands, and beaches of her Pacific Northwest wonderland. See her work at katagolda.com. // Lavender Tuck-In Pillow, page 38 JULIE LETOWSKI and her family live in Maine, where the days are long, the love is sweet, and the life is good. Together they make pottery and tend to a beloved family milk cow, a flock of wayward sheep, and too many geese and chickens. Find Julie’s writings and wares at folk-ware.com, and follow along on Instagram @homesweethomestead. // Laid Fallow, page 98 SOPHIE MACKENZIE is a plant-based whole foods blogger and photographer who shares her culinary creations on her blog, Wholehearted Eats. Now residing in Vancouver, British Columbia, she was born and raised in a small coastal community on Vancouver Island. She is a West Coast country girl through and through, and is happiest exploring the majestic forests of the Pacific. Follow her at wholeheartedeats.com. // Taste the Rainbow, page 78 BRITTANY WOOD NICKERSON is an herbalist, author, mother, homesteader, and cook. She owns Thyme Herbal in Western Massachusetts, where she offers online and in-person courses in herbal medicine. She is the author of Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen, The Herbal Homestead Journal, and The Everyday Living Series (posters and zines for the home). You can find her at thymeherbal.com. // Pure Sattva, page 66 JESSICA OJALA lives with her husband and two daughters in northern Vermont, where she works as a designer and photographer. She loves sewing, knitting, gardening, keeping house, and reading nineteenth-century British novels. She is a definite homebody who finds meaning in exploring what Jane Brocket calls “the infinite possibilities and permutations of the domestic space.” // Swimming In the Wild, page 106
DEMETRIA PROVATAS is the baker, photographer, and artist behind Woodland Keep, a baking and otherwise creative space nestled in the woods of the San Juan Islands. Fueled by the natural landscape and a cozy home, she makes everything from pies to recipe illustrations to moon calendars, taking photographs all the while. See more at woodlandkeep.space. // Meeting Lavender, page 90
KIRSTEN K. SHOCKEY is a mother and homesteader living in Southern Oregon who finds herself with increasingly fewer children at home, significantly less livestock in the fields, and way too much fruit in the orchard. Now she travels across the country helping people to make, enjoy, and connect with their food. She is the coauthor of Fermented Vegetables and Fiery Ferments! Her website is http://ferment.works. // A Meditation In Cheese, page 84 RIKKI SNYDER is a freelance photographer, stylist, and writer currently residing in Queens, New York. She grew up in the heart of the beautiful Hudson Valley with a wonderful family focused on food. When she’s not in the kitchen baking or taking pictures, she can be found perusing antique stores or relaxing in the backyard with a good book of poetry. Visit her at rikkisnyder.com. // A Meditation In Cheese, page 84 AMANDA BLAKE SOULE is the author of The Creative Family, Handmade Home, The Rhythm of Family, and The Creative Family Manifesto, all published by Roost Books. She and her husband, Steve, live in the foothills of western Maine with their five children, where they work together to bring a 200-year-old farmhouse and homestead back to life. In their days, they strive to live simply, close to the earth and each other. She blogs at soulemama.com. // Presque Isle Blanket, page 60
ANDRÉ SOULIGNY was born in Minnesota and moved to Vermont in 1996. He was introduced to the green woodworking tradition at Goddard College. For over twenty years André and his partner, Heather, have lived a rural Vermont life, homeschooling daughters Marguerite, Cedar, and Ruby. By their graces, André continues to revel in traditional spoon making, teaching and blogging on the topic at spoonderlust.com. // CARVING A KITCHEN SPOON FROM GREEN WOOD, page 32
JESSICA LEWIS STEVENS is a quilter, baker, and mother making a home and tending a small homestead in Vermont. Her practice is born of a love for the visible marks of hand making, the earnest work of making what we need, and cultivating a relationship with our natural environment. For a glimpse of current projects, kitchen stories, and life at home, follow her on Instagram @sugarhouseworkshop or visit sugarhouseworkshop.com. // Wholesome Winter Cakes, page 72
KRISTINA URQUHART is originally from Key West, Florida. Now an art therapist living in Asheville, North Carolina, she raises chickens, tends to hives of honeybees, gardens, preserves food, and raises fiber and meat rabbits with her husband on their four-acre homestead. She is a freelance writer and has regular columns in Urban Farm and Chickens magazines. // A Community Gathers, page 16
RACHEL WOLF is the owner and founder of LuSa Organics (lusaorganics.com), a body care company specializing in herbal balms, soaps, and baby care. She delights in teaching others how to make their own remedies, both through her writing and in person at her seasonal herbal retreats. Rachel and her husband, Pete, homeschool their two kids, Lupine and Sage, on a scruffy homestead in western Wisconsin. You can find her at lusaorganics.typepad.com. // Carving A Kitchen Spoon from green wood, page 32
head Stop a minute, right where you are. Relax your shoulders, shake your head and spine like a dog shaking off cold water. Tell that imperious voice in your head to be still.
The Magnificence of Seeing
retreat to the sauna BY MEGAN DEVINE PHOTOGRAPHS BY MEGAN DEVINE & LORI EVERT
t is a hardy sort of folk who can thrive in Northeast Minnesota. It’s true: our summers can be glorious, and fall is a delight. Spring is a bit marginal compared to its competition, but our winters? Well, our winters are a challenge. Winter weather can extend from late October through March. It’s not a surprise to have a snow shower on the day of the walleye-fishing opener in early May. Winter brings the early onset of darkness, subzero temps, and extreme windchills (reaching –50 degrees Fahrenheit or colder at least once every year). It gets so cold here that sometimes it hurts to breathe. Many of our residents who have the desire and means to do so seek solace in warmer places during the wintertime, traveling south for a week or more to get a good dose of
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sunshine and vitamin D. Many of us find other ways to take the edge off our extreme winters, taking advantage of the frozen lakes and snow that expand our options for recreational activities, such as cross-country skiing, dogsledding, and ice fishing. And of course, our Nordic culture gravitates toward another traditional retreat, not only in the wintertime but throughout the seasons: the sauna.
The sauna (correctly pronounced sow-na) made its way to my neck of the woods with the immigration of Finnish settlers in late 1887. The area in which I live has deep Finnish cultural roots, as do other areas spanning Northeast Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, dubbed the “Finn Hook.” Finnish immigrants
established ethnic agglomerations in communities that became known as “Finntown settlements.” Settlers were drawn to this region by opportunities for work: in mining towns, logging camps, sawmills, and railroads. According to Minnesota historical documents, geographers theorize that Finns in particular settled in Northeast Minnesota as a “geological response,” attracted to the region’s physicalgeographical attributes, which are similar to Finland’s. The area of my small community in which Finnish settlers established their roots is still referred to as “Finn Hill.” Both locally and regionally, there are remnants of old Finntown neighborhoods, with homes, community buildings, churches, and schools still standing from the early settlements. Historically in Finnish culture, the sauna has been the center of both life and work. Finnish pioneers often built their sauna or savusauna (the even more traditional, primitive smoke sauna) first and lived in the sauna until their house was ready. The sauna was used for bathing, as the place for women to have their babies, and also for domestic chores. For example, farmers used the sauna to dry flax that would be made into yarn, to sprout seed potatoes, and to cure meat. The sauna has also been a place to treat aches, pains, and diseases. It is said that bone injuries, fractures, and sprains were treated in the sauna, and the practice of massaging sore muscles in the sauna is still common today. Inherited advice from common Finnish folklore affirms that “If spirits, a sauna, and tar don’t help, your condition is fatal.” The Finnish culture is often characterized by an attitude of sisu, a term that can be translated as the “Finnish spirit,” one of bravery, determination, and resilience. The term sisu can be both a mindset and a course of action, grounded historically by the resilience of the Finns enduring both their harsh climate and hostile neighbors. Their saunas have been a habitual refuge, helping hard-working Finns rejuvenate after a hard day’s work. A place to rest, relax, and socialize, the sauna has offered a sanctuary to generations.
It is the resonance of this rich cultural tradition that lead to the situation in which I found myself on a Saturday afternoon last February: jumping into a hole cut in the ice when the temperature was below freezing. Three of my close friends and I were attending a long weekend retreat for women at Camp du Nord, a retreat and family camp situated on the North Arm of Burntside Lake in Ely, Minnesota. Camp du Nord maintains a traditional wood-burning sauna, constructed at the camp by Finnish carpenters in 1933, who used it as a bunkhouse as they built some of the other buildings around the camp. The sauna continues to serve retreat goers and vacationers year-round.
Finnish Sauna Terms
avanto A hole in the ice of a frozen lake or sea. avantouinti Swimming in a hole in the ice. kauha A wooden ladle used to throw water onto the hot stones on a sauna stove. kiuas The sauna stove. kiuaskivet The stones on top of the sauna stove. kiulu A wooden bucket used in the sauna to hold water. löyly The heat and humidity of the sauna. löylyhuone The hot room of the sauna. pukuhuone The dressing room, often attached to the löylyhuone. saunanjälkeinen The relaxed and clean feeling that occurs after a sauna. savusauna Smoke sauna; the original form of sauna, with no chimney on the stove. sisu An attitude of grit, determination, bravery, and resilience. vihta A whisk made of birch twigs and leaves used for beating the body in the hot room. This unique type of massage increases blood circulation and helps to exfoliate and clean the skin.
Although the camp where the retreat was held is not far from my home, I felt a world away. Distancing myself from REST |
my day-to-day responsibilities of work and home gave me an opportunity to reconnect with three dear friends; we had not been together as a group since we were teenagers. On our retreat we were catered to with great food and wine and full days of unstructured time during which we could participate in yoga classes, go for hikes, talk, laugh, read, and sauna. My friends and I signed up for a midday sauna and avantouinti (swimming in a hole cut in the ice). It was a lovely way to continue our experience of relaxation and connection. Wearing wool socks so our wet feet would not freeze to the ice afterward, we embraced heat nearing 200 degrees Fahrenheit, sweat beading from our skin. As a mother who hesitates jumping into the cool water of a pool with my children, I surprised myself by mustering enough courage to run out of the hot sauna and jump into the frigid water of Burntside Lake for a short, invigorating swim. Doing so, I was able to experience what the Finns term saunanjälkeinen, the rejuvenating, refreshing feeling of being both physically and mentally clean.
Having grown up in Northeast Minnesota I am not a stranger to the experience of a sauna. As a child and teenager it was common to socialize at friends’ cabins, spending weekend afternoons and evenings running back and forth from the sauna to the lake. The community in which I live now is deeply rooted in this Finnish tradition. Many of my friends and acquaintances have saunas in their basements or in a separate building a few steps from their main home. We have building contractors that specialize in sauna construction and gift shops that sell sauna novelties and supplies. There is even still a scattered population of local residents who, by necessity or choice, reside without indoor plumbing, and many of these residents bathe in saunas at their homestead or at our local public sauna, which has been in operation since 1915. The appeal and popularity of the Finnish sauna expands beyond those of Finnish heritage. The Internet abounds with inspiration for both traditional and modern saunas, with sauna Facebook groups and communities, Instagram feeds, and Pinterest boards. I have seen many elaborate saunas and unique designs ranging from saunas constructed from old shipping containers to portable saunas set on trailers or pontoons. Whatever the design, the purpose is the same: to elicit a state of rejuvenation that cleanses the mind, body, and soul.
The feeling of saunanjälkeinen I experienced on my winter retreat was a welcome reminder of the power of this restorative practice, which I had lost sight of in the busyness
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of work and motherhood. The routine of taking a sauna is grounded in simplicity, mindfulness, and connection, an avenue for relaxation that only pockets of our national population have discovered—one that even I seem to have forgotten as I transitioned from teenager to adult. The revelation saunanjälkeinen gave me insight, wisdom, and perspective, and continues to serve both as an invitation and as a strong reminder of the power of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Since my Camp du Nord experience, I have found more opportunities to sauna, and my husband and I are making plans to build a sauna at our homestead so we can make retreating to a sauna a sustainable habit in our lives. We have our harsh winters in Northeastern Minnesota, but like the generations before us, we also have both sisu and our saunas, which help us to not only survive the cold and darkness that Minnesota serves us, but to thrive here.
HOW TO TAKE A SAUNA
Fire up the sauna. The time it takes to warm up your sauna will depend on its size and the season. Traditional woodburning saunas take can take hours; modern electric heaters can warm up a small sauna in thirty minutes. Both the choice of stove and optimal temperature are individual preferences, but typical saunas range from about 150°F to approaching 200°F. Disrobe. You do not have to sauna naked, but doing so is considered part of the experience. Traditionally, Finns find nothing strange about nakedness, and it is quite common to sauna in the nude, even with strangers. It can also depend on the occasion. However, there are no real rules about disrobing, and ultimately it is up to the sauna-goer what she wants to experience. If you do wear clothing, stick to a swimsuit or just a towel. You will want to take off watches, glasses or contact lenses, and jewelry to be the most comfortable. You may also want to shower beforehand to remove any products that could clog pores or potentially sting your eyes when you sweat. The most important thing is to enter the sauna in a state in which you will be comfortable, so you can relax, socialize, and enjoy the effects that a good sauna has to offer. Heat up. When the sauna has reached your desired temperature, enter the sauna. Choose an area of the sauna where you are comfortable (the higher benches will have more intense heat). Spend approximately 5 to 15 minutes here in the löylyhuone (hot room) building up a sweat and embracing the heat. You can use water from the kiulu (wooden bucket) to cool off a bit, or use the kauha (ladle) to splash water on the kiuaskivet (stones) to heat things up. You may even want to use the vihta, the traditional whisk made of birch leaves, to add an element of massage and deepen your sensory experience.
Known benefits of saunas
Increased circulation Lessened joint stiffness Pain relief Reduced swelling and inflammation Weight loss Cardiovascular health Detoxification Stress reduction and relaxation
TYPES OF SAUNA & SAUNA-LIKE EXPERIENCES
Wood-burning sauna (wood-fired stove) Smoke sauna (wood-burning stove but without a chimney) Electric sauna (electric stove) Infrared sauna/heat therapy room Steam room, or Turkish-style bath (100% humidity and lower temperatures)
Are you curious about saunas? Check out these publications: SaunaTimes: www.saunatimes.com Sauna Digest: https://saunadigest.com “Join the Finns in the Sauna”: www.visitfinland .com/article/join-the-finns-in-the-sauna North America Sauna Society website: www.saunasociety.org
Cool down. After sitting in the sauna for a bit, escape to the outdoors for a blast of cool air, a rinse under an outdoor shower, or a dip in the water. Then return to the sauna for another round. Repeat. Continue the progression in successive rounds as often as you like. Be careful that you do not stay in the sauna too long or turn the heat up too high, and remember to continue rehydrating yourself before, during, and after a sauna. Take a final cool-down. After your final round in the sauna, take some time to cool down once more. Jump in the lake or take a cool shower to close the pores in your skin. Don’t get dressed until your body has stopped sweating. Tap into saunanjälkeinen, the relaxed and clean feeling that occurs after the sauna.
U M N M I TY OC
BY KRISTINA URQUHART
ntil this summer, if you were to walk up to the Holden house on any other day but Saturday, you would be greeted by a small pack of dogs of varying sizes and levels of enthusiasm. As you made your way up the paved drive, a few of them jumping along beside you, you’d see a small wooded pasture of ponies extending to your right. If you were lucky, Onyx, a miniature black horse, and Yegua, a sweet brown pony, might be there to greet you. A paddock with a few small structures houses the family’s milking goats up ahead. I made such a weekday visit to the Holdens’ homestead, the property of a young family who transplanted from New York City to a tiny mountain town in Western North Carolina. Leslie Holden is bona fide horse woman, tending to a herd of horses and ponies and offering horsemanship skills to the surrounding community, in the way of pony
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rides, riding lessions, and instruction on respectful horse management. Chris is a chef who studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and under top chef Daniel Boulud at his New York City flagship restaurant, Daniel. They’re both also full-time parents to ten-monthold Naoli—their young daughter who, in part, was a catalyst for their shift from urban to rural life. When I ask Chris what made him want to be a chef, he says, “When I was a teenager, I worked at my dad’s restaurant. That was the first time I’d ever seen him in his element. Truly, it was that—seeing my dad’s leadership and how he ran the whole restaurant from this hot little corner in the back.” With his French heritage, Chris felt drawn to seek out authentic French cuisine as a culinary focus. For him, pursuing a career in the food industry wasn’t all about feeding people—at least not at first. It was about connecting with his
father. “He worked really long hours, so it was a way to get to know him and see him.” Food is, after all, one of the first ways we all connect with those we love. Like their many peers before them, the Holdens’ shift from a more conventional city life to a rural world with farming roots was all in the interest of food: sourcing it, raising it, and sharing it with others. The story is common now, but with one of their careers firmly rooted in the food industry, the Holdens had a stake in also putting their money where their mouths were, quite literally. In a world saturated with young entrepreneurs capitalizing on the farm-to-table trend, though, starting something up in one of the larger hubs like Los Angeles and New York had been out of reach. “Friends and peers were telling me to check out [the Asheville area] because they knew about my interest in local and truly organic food,” Chris tells me. Seeing the real farm-to-table that’s happening here, I knew immediately that I could do it. And any food establishment is only as good as its customers; they demand what you can do. It was a huge struggle for me when customers weren’t concerned about their food sources. Here, everyone is expecting to know where their food comes from. It’s beautiful. Eventually the couple settled in the community of Barnardsville, just north of Asheville. “The diversity and the geography, the temperate climate,” says Leslie, when asked what drew them north to the mountainous farming community. What they didn’t know then was that there are two Barnardsvilles: there are the older families who have lived and farmed in Appalachia for generations, and the younger families, the “transplants” like themselves, who were attracted to the area for its geography, biodiversity, and locally grown organic food. A divide of philosophy, perspective, and life experience separates the two communities, though they’re geographically intertwined. A short time after moving in, the Holdens would be hosting meals that would bring these two communities together. Barnardsvillian Jessica Milliner of Nine Yards Farm is one of the very few people who bridges the old Appalachian world and the land of the new young homesteaders. Though she spent her entire adolescence and most of her adult life in major UK cities, Milliner resides on her family’s property
in Barnardsville—land where her great-grandparents had lived and her grandparents were born. When Milliner and her husband, Henry, moved back to the States with their three-year-old daughter, Annabel, they chose this region for much the same reason as the Holdens and many others: to raise food responsibly in one of the most fertile and coveted locations in the country for local foods and progressive community. Now farming and living on land still shared by much of her Appalachian family (great aunts, an uncle, and second cousins), Milliner also participates largely in the new community, so she has an integrated perspective. “There’s a bit of a gulf in the understanding of the term ‘the local community,’” she tells me, referring to the two disparate communities, “but part of the mountain culture is to live and let live, and the many twisty little roads through the trees allow everyone plenty of space and privacy to live how they want to.” REST |
I jumped on it.” After subbing at the Dillingham farm for a few weeks, the Holdens officially moved the breakfast to their family home. According to Chris, “[The transition] was very natural and very easy for everyone.”
THE HOLDENS’ COMMUNITY BREAKFAST
As I join the community for the last breakfast of the summer, the energy of the gathering is casual, upbeat, and happy. Before everyone starts arriving, Milliner sets up her table with a spread of decadence: crumbly cookies, warm glutenfree options, and sparkly, springy lemon bars. She’s several months’ pregnant, joyfully chatting with everyone who comes her way, myself included. She shares tips and conversation with Chris before the orders start rolling in and the kids start running around. To nurture the community, one must start by nurturing its families. The family structure is, after all, the first community we know. For Chris, aiming for a “slightly tweaked philosophy” regarding the traditional role of a chef-parent was the first goal. “My dad used to come home after 10 p.m. six nights a week,” he says. “I want to be home before dark.” For a time, hosting the community breakfast allowed him to work from home, a space that was familiar and filled with his family.
THE DILLINGHAMS’ COMMUNITY BREAKFAST
For a decade, the Dillingham family, a fixture in the older Barnardsville community, hosted a breakfast-club meeting every Saturday morning. Rain or shine, the packed dirt floor of their old chicken barn was covered with folding tables and live music. The barn was heated by woodstove in the winter and opened fully to the humid morning air in the summertime. “Dues” were paid, and in exchange the club members would enjoy a weekly breakfast of eggs, sausage, and vegetables, all products raised on the farm. While there, attendees could buy more of the farm’s milk, eggs, and meat, and support local schools and community organizations through the purchase of baked goods and coffee. The breakfast was a fixture in the community’s collective week, a modestly kept secret spread judiciously by word of mouth. And that’s exactly how Chris and Leslie heard of it. “I was told from a million different directions to check out the breakfast,” Chris says. On New Year’s Eve of 2016, the couple finally attended, and it was “a situation of divine timing and alignment.” The Dillinghams shared with the Holdens that they were ready to either discontinue the breakfast or move it to a new location with a new chef. “I’ve seen the concept of supper clubs before,” Chris admits, “and I’m just the type of person that wants to make it happen. It was just an awesome and obvious opportunity, and
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There are a lot of positives to working where you live: to wake up in the morning and get right to work— that was my favorite part of it. The challenge is finding balance when you have a home business. When you’re trying to cook out of your home, just navigating the public in your space is the biggest challenge. “At the breakfast, everyone from staples of the community to new young families come together and share a meal,” Leslie says. One of the initial challenges of this transition was convincing the “old-timers” of Barnardsville to make the jump from the farm and family they knew so well to a new family’s home. Social media, the bulletin board of the new generations, was successful in getting many of the younger people and families to come, but snagging the older Barnardsvillians through the word-of-mouth grapevine took more time. “When they did come, it was beautiful, and it was really fun to watch how people were really able to embrace each other.”
There’s a natural sense of responsibility involved in opening your family home to an entire community, especially when your personal philosophies hinge on sustainable agriculture and nourishing food. It gets costly. The Holdens were feeding their friends and neighbors the highest quality food they could source—much of it from farmers and growers in the immediate vicinity who were also friends and neighbors. “If you’re going to pay the farmers what they deserve, buying from folks down the road—your community—you’ll
be paying top dollar,” Leslie says. And, though costly, isn’t that the way it should be? “They might have been simple dishes for just bringing community together, but this was also a culinary experience. We went all out to get the best ingredients that we were aware of and that we could find,” Leslie says, “Stuff we feed our own family.” The cost of ingredients wasn’t the only consideration for this scale of hosting. Certainly bigger than a brunch potluck, though not quite to the level of a full-scale restaurant, a community breakfast out of a family home poses its own unique set of needs. The Holdens had to consider the impact on their house from the amount of traffic going through the structure, particularly the restroom. The family kept furnishings in the main dining space to a minimum and encouraged outdoor seating in the warmer months. Simple measures such as these allowed a homey experience with less wear and tear on the family’s belongings.
truly nourishing food,” Chris says. “When working a traditional Monday-through-Friday, nine-to-five work week, it’s hard [for people] to find accessible, readily available, readyto-eat food that is nourishing.” The conundrum is that truly fresh, nourishing food requires sourcing and preparation— something the nine-to-fiver doesn’t have. Time, when you work outside of the home, is limited. Feeding his community remains at the heart of Chris’s work, and as always, “Family is the foundation of it all, and that’s where the inspiration comes from.” Chris and Leslie Holden can be found on Instagram @milkandhoneyorganiccafe, and Jessica Milliner can be found on Instagram @nineyardsfarm.
Eshewing shortcuts and doing things the responsible way is just harder. “We refused to use disposable things, and that required a higher level of cleaning,” says Leslie. “There’s a big difference when [you are] not using disposable plastic.” Guests were encouraged to bring their own plates and cutlery, and to clear and wash their own dishes after use. This is the big difference between a community gathering and a hosted meal: the level of participation by guests. In the former, “guests” are really members, individuals in a collective who volunteer to lessen the burden on any one or more individuals, namely the hosts. To make any community event sustainable, all hands are required on deck. Says Leslie, “Community is families and individuals that are bound together by shared interest in resources and interest in the atmosphere in which we raise our children,” and that very much includes the way they feed themselves and share meals.
In August of 2017, the Holdens closed the community-breakfast chapter of their community life in order to open their first cafe: Milk and Honey Organic Cafe in Arden, North Carolina. The goal is to make it a hub for nourishing people, and the Holden’s intentions are very much consistent with their personal philosophies and the vision behind the community breakfast. “The establishments that provide our food structure don’t provide opportunity to eat REST |
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THE MAGNIFICENCE of SEEING NINE QUESTIONS THAT GROW FROM THE BOTANICAL ART OF LARA CALL GASTINGER BY ERIKA HOWSARE ILLUSTRATIONS BY LARA CALL CASTINGER
What are their names?
“Can I draw squares while we talk?” Lara says. She’s filling in the tiniest veins in her drawing of Helianthus tuberosus, Jerusalem artichoke, while we sit together in her studio. The room—part of her house on a quiet street in Charlottesville, Virginia—is white-walled, carefully arranged, serene, and spare despite its occasional dense clusters of specimens: seeds, pods, cotton bolls. The names of plants are one of the richest parts of the language, each species lugging its heavy trunk of a Latin name while also dressed in a cotton skirt, the common name that lives near creeks or pushes through sidewalks. When Lara Call Gastinger isn’t sure of the name of a species, she can look it up in the exhaustive guide she herself illustrated. It leans on a book stand atop a bookcase. Another, shrink-wrapped copy is on the shelf below, alongside field guides and a Thich Nhat Hanh title. The big window over Lara’s desk is full of the branches of an oakleaf hydrangea, whose leaves Lara described as having “great topography.” I heard her say this same thing a few months earlier in a botanical watercolor class she was teaching at the local art center. She was trying to get us to paint the shadows in the tiny canyons of the leaves, where the veins run. She brought the hydrangea leaves to class in jars of water, along with diminutive tubes of paint from which she squirted pure, thrilling colors onto our white china plates.
How can we grow to see more?
In class we would spend the better part of two hours painting one leaf, putting down layers of nearly dry watercolor, the filmy, delicate wash that we began with growing richer and darker as more paint accumulated. Painting this way requires thinking in reverse: if something is white, or light, like the part of a leaf most directly struck by the sun, then you have to mostly ignore it. A white dogwood flower barely exists in paint; only its shaded surfaces get a little sepia color, with maybe a bit of ochre mixed in. It’s the shadows where you spend most of your time, slowly scratching the brush back and forth within miniscule provinces of the paper.
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How to see more? Lara’s work offers a simple answer: look more. The longer you look at a leaf or a stem the more intimately you know it. And the more years you spend looking at leaves and stems generally, the more perceptive you become; Lara can see and quickly render the tiniest components of a leaf surface, the “squares” or “boxes” that are really irregular polygons bounded by the leaf ’s capillaries. Human skin has similar divisions, obvious under a microscope but also visible, just barely, to a naked eye that’s looking keenly. These are the odd shapes that inhabit a certain layer of being, between the level of the forms we usually deal with (people, cars, chairs) and the level of the cellular, the invisible. Just at the threshold of what’s available to an unaided eye, there is a world of detail in which Lara dwells. This world is rooted in the lush epiphanies of perception that any child will experience if left to play outside. Near Lara’s childhood home in Virginia Beach was a marsh. She remembers “just looking at crabs” in a kind of preverbal awe. “You’re amazed,” she says, “but you’re not trying to categorize.” Encounter what exists, expand the eyes’ capacity to see, even as the world presents more and more things-to-be-seen.
What lives inside the lines?
As a teenager, Lara was taking advanced art classes when she made another discovery. She and her parents and sister were at a camp run by the National Wildlife Federation where outdoor-minded families slept in dorms in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Under the tutelage of a sketchbook artist, Lara learned to keep a field sketchbook. She became captivated by the idea that one person’s drawing of a plant could communicate its form—and not only that, its exact species—to another person. That art could convey scientific information. Or at least that a handmade image could have value in the realm of knowledge. It’s such an old idea, of course; this is the way botany was conducted long before the invention of photography. But
someone needs to keep up an old method if it’s not to be lost; some young person needs to get interested and begin the life’s work of mastering the craft, be it botanical art or baking salt-rising bread or making saddles. Like lifeforms themselves, human crafts must be continually renewed, regrown inside a living person, or they become obsolete, extinct, within a generation. Of course Lara wasn’t pondering all that as a teenager. She went to the University of Virginia thinking she was heading for a medical career. She ended up studying biology and landscape architecture. For her, plants were the link
between these fields: she loved botany, and working for a landscape architect, she was intrigued by the arrangements of plants that please the human eye and person. Lara knew enough, or was lucky enough, to be on a grass identification walk along with her mother in 1999 when she met the editor who’d later hire her as chief illustrator for a comprehensive guide to Virginia’s plant life. She was only twenty-six years old, newly married, when she got the job. It’s a very heavy book, the Flora of Virginia. It took Lara a decade to draw most of the species that grow in the state: 1,300
illustrations in pen and ink, some of live specimens that arrived at her house by overnight mail in plastic bags. By the time the 1,554-page book was published in 2012, Lara was the mother of two boys and had grown into mastery, not only of botanical illustration but of botanical art as well. Just as the Flora takes as its parameters a human-made container (that is, the borders of Virginia) and represents all the plant life within, Lara was drawing and painting what grew within other, smaller containers of her own choosing. She drew species appearing on one particular farm outside Charlottesville. She devoted herself to illustrating the plant life of one spot in Shenandoah National Park in each month of the year. She once drew the seeds of every plant ingredient in a certain salad: quinoa, tomato, cilantro, pepper.
She’s not sure what the fifth species in this painting is, with its three pompom-like blooms stacked one over the other on a straight vertical stem. “It could be in the mint family,” Lara says. There’s ambivalence about identification. It’s not always necessary, and it might even get in the way. “When I start doing a plant, I’m always working on that level I was at as a kid—observing, seeing what interests me, making discoveries. I try not to name it when I’m out there.” Instead, she might take seedpods apart, touch bark with her fingers, turn petals over. Still, part of her mind is making connections, noticing similarities with other species, forming an intention to later attach a name. “In the end, I will want to know what it is,” she says. On a bulletin board in her studio is one of her favorite quotes, from a source she forgot to note: “Though we have fewer botanists today, we have more botanical artists than ever before.” Science and art don’t have to be at odds, but one senses that, for Lara, who once meant to be a doctor, the scientific underpinnings of this art have a way of justifying all the time and attention, all this extreme aesthetic care.
Can fields see each other?
This work straddles the most delicate line between science and art. You can tell Lara has a master’s degree in plant ecology when she declares that she wouldn’t draw a random collection of plants just because they look fetching on the page. “I want to represent and show that there’s this plant community,” she says. In one piece, for example, Lara represented five species in the month of December in Big Meadows, on Virginia’s Blue Ridge; all the plants really do grow there, and are natives in an indigenous ecosystem. Yet the beauty of her work unfolds from imaginative space, where a composition can take shape that never actually existed in the real world. The way the ribbonlike blades of a grass unfurl around the other four plants, the way the fern and allium and vaccinium together make a complex, compound shape, a rune that inspires an almost melancholy appreciation—these things are accomplished through art, through Lara’s eye. At the same time, the technical prowess required to render a dried stalk of Queen Anne’s lace, or a half-open morning glory bloom, is so refined it’s almost scientific in itself.
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“Artists are there to see things,” she says. “I like that charge of bringing things to people, that there might be something important I’m doing.” Partly, for Lara that importance lies in being a “citizen scientist,” a disseminator of information. Those 1,300 pen-and-ink illustrations will, for years to come, quietly supply other people with the names of plants.
Why are we people?
Certainly there’s tremendous value in those unheralded moments when knowledge about the world is transferred through Lara’s drawings. Still, the importance of what she does is greater than that. Because her work sits right at the intersection of science and art, the power of both those realms is behind it. Still, it’s mindfulness—a kind of attention akin to prayer—that makes it glow.
Lara’s work takes a plant, a manifestation of life, and puts that phenomenon so vividly in front of you that it’s almost a hallucination. Here is the luscious, bottomless reality, the there-ness, is-ness, of a dried and curled sycamore leaf: it lifts off the page and vibrates with quiet, luminous human attention—a wide, cool moonbeam of looking, evenly and for a long time.
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“It can be a diving-in experience. When it does happen, the sense of time is sort of lost,” Lara says. Students of mindfulness and Zen Buddhism have been attracted to Lara’s classes for the sheer discipline of keeping their minds focused on what they are looking at: you cannot paint this precisely, this truly, without a deep dedication to looking and an acceptance of what is there.
For the viewer of the work, not only is the leaf there in front of you, but so is the effort and patience and faith that put it on paper. It makes you proud to be a human: an animal who can not only see and perceive and sense but also render, weave, or construct. We show our humanity through endeavors that go worlds beyond survival. We knit or learn ballet or tend bonsai trees, and the inordinate time and care that these things require lead to a kind of transcendence for both maker and viewer. “This isn’t something I escape from,” says Lara of her work. “It’s something I escape to. I’ll never retire from this.” Given her starting point in the sciences, Lara may be a little self-effacing, if not apologetic, about the place of stillness and joy—those hard to quantify, elusive experiences—in what she does, but they are central to her work nonetheless. And what’s surprising is that the names and classifications, though they can function as a distraction, can just as well be the key that unlocks our attention. Lara takes me outside into her native plant garden, and through the use of their names (hearts-abustin’, mayapple, wild ginger) she expands my view of what is there, even though it’s fall and many of the plants have receded from their visible existence. “There are so many different goldenrods,” she says, fingering one stem with its rows of yellow blooms, and just with that sentence she teaches me to look more closely, more curiously at humble, ubiquitous goldenrod.
Why did we name them?
Lara is quick to acknowledge the difference between her illustrations, which exist to teach and are, as she says, “drawn to look like the perfect plant,” and her art, which is deeply grounded in reality but dwells in other dimensions. The artwork doesn’t reject categorization so much as it imbues it with wonder, letting the names vibrate with a kind of original energy.
Why did we name everything in the first place? Because we need it, and we love it. Paying very close attention to plants is part of human survival. We all need to look as closely as Lara does, or at least we needed to, back when we were gathering our food from wild places. Her knowledge of plants recalls matters of life and death, nutrition versus toxicity. Being attuned to plants’ life cycles and habits—where to find them, how they reproduce, which parts to eat or to employ—is the stock of the gatherer’s trade. Maybe that’s part of what we respond to in her work: the ancient memory of a time when all of us were this engaged with the plant kingdom. We let beauty give us vital information, staring at the way light reveals the “topography” of a leaf, or the exact shade of red that means a wineberry is ripe.
What happens while we’re (not) looking?
Lara’s way of looking also makes her a bit of a radical in her field. Flipping through a catalog she loaned me from a botanical art show in which she had a piece, it’s clear to me that this is a conservative art form guided by very specific conventions. In fact, one of the first things I learned in her class was this: “In botanical art, the light always comes from the upper left.” In other words, if you are painting a tomato or a daylily, you render the illuminations and shadows as though the sun were shining on your subject from the top left corner of the paper. Period. A conceptual rebellion might consist of asking, “What happens if I light it from the lower right?” Lara has a more subtle way of challenging the rules of botanical art (which has, as you might guess, its own associations, certificate programs, exhibitions, collectors—all largely separate from the more general fine-art world). As an artist, she’s subordinate to her subject matter, so Lara’s rebellion consists in her choice of subjects. REST |
Traditionally, botanical art conceptualizes plants as static: perfect peonies, say, at the height of their bloom. Its specimens live forever floating on a white field, suspended outside time and removed from their ecological context. But these subjects are, in truth, a moving target. Leaves wilt before your eyes as you paint them. Buds that are three-quarters of an inch long today are seven-eighths tomorrow. Hues brighten and glow, then fade. Plants inexorably go about their business, not pausing to indulge the artist’s gaze. Growth is always mirrored by decay; life exists on a circular continuum with death. Plants are a temporary arrangement of molecules always in process. So, in a way, every botanical piece is a fiction, a pretense—the tomato, the redbud leaf, never did look exactly like the painting.
But art can help us see more; it asks us for expansive attention. When we make a container, we expand into it, maybe seeking a way back to when the world was tactile and scented, and berries and birds were the most brilliantly colored things on the planet.
Lara is pushing the botanical art field toward a more honest accounting of how plants exist: connected, physically and genetically, to other plants and soil and air and water. She openly celebrates the other side of growth when she paints skeletonized leaves and other evidence of decay and transformation. “Instead of a [blooming] sunflower,” she says, “I paint the dry head in fall.” Her paintings of marigold roots honor the parts of plants that no one looks at, though they’re no less wondrous than the flowers. She loves “the crumbled leaf, the leaf that’s falling apart”; she loves to paint things in winter.
Seeing more is how we become experts, and to become an expert is to approach the perfection of a plant: being perfect to start with, then growing into another kind of perfection, then growing again.
Lara is suggesting, even though she’s still using the white background, that botanical art could let the world seep in a little. Not just the world of the bloom or leaf itself, but the messy, entropic world that surrounds the plant, full of the smell of decay and pollen and evaporating dew.
How small is the palette?
It’s vital to be in unconditional love with one’s subject. “Pay attention to your materials,” said John Cage, who was also the ultimate conceptual artist, a disrupter of conventions. I asked Lara (who signs her emails “Botanically, L.”) whether she’d still make art if for some reason she couldn’t paint plants anymore. This gave her pause. “There’s just something magical about plants,” she said. Then she added, hopefully, “I do like lichens. Are lichens gone?”
Why should we grow to see more?
The way things are is a deep unknown. We have senses that filter everything, and we’ve made all these names that are filters, too. Other species have their own ways of sensing; plants are living in a different world than we are, even when we share space with them.
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What makes us so different from other species is that we can consciously make containers for our own attention, but the flip side is that we can so often miss the messages of our senses. Lara’s work seems to suggest that plants are always perfect. It’s humans who can be imperfect; our attempts at art or anything else are usually short of ideal. It takes so much dedication, as a human, to embody what plants are in every instance.
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hands Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.
Taste the Rainbow
CARVING A KITCHEN SPOON FROM GREEN WOOD BY ANDRĂ‰ SOULIGNY PHOTOGRAPHS BY RACHEL WOLF
Carving wood with sharp carving knives, hatchets, and other hand tools carries with it very serious risks. Our hands are made up of hundreds of nerve endings, precious fingers, muscles, tendons, bones, and blood, not to mention that our hands primarily manifest our creativity. It is possible to cause a debilitating injury while carving a spoon. If you are wholly inexperienced with handling carving knives and other sharp tools, I strongly recommend first working with an experienced spoon maker or participating in a local spoon-carving workshop to begin your spoon-making adventures. A NOTE OF CAUTION:
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andmade wooden spoons are lovely. They are globally familiar objects. They represent historical traditions, material culture, folk and family lore, handcraft skills, and creativity from the places, hands, minds, and trees of their origins. The process of making spoons strengthens connections to a different way of life. A life where our hands matter more, our companionship matters more, our attention matters more, and where the things we create or nurture with our hands are the dominant currency. Practicing in the ongoing evolution of spoon making and other handcrafts keeps preindustrial technologies alive for successive generations of young people, who will bring their own creativity and expression to the work. This tutorial expresses an introduction, one of many ways to make basic wooden spoons from green wood. The tools discussed are readily available, but the techniques take time to learn. This is quiet, meditative handwork with nonpowered historical tools. No amount of explaining can replace hands-on practice, so find your way to some tools and wood and make a start.
batoning Riving (splitting) wood with a bushcraft knife blade and a heavy stick. billet A piece of wood, about the diameter of a small baguette crosscut One type of cutting that a saw blade is designed for: cutting across the grain. froe An iron tool with a wooden handle, used along with a mallet for riving wood. haft A wooden handle mounted to a tool, or the process of mounting a wooden handle to a tool. heartwood The dead inner section of a tree between the pith and the sapwood. kerf The width of the cut in a piece of wood made by a saw blade. pith The very center of a tree, surrounded by the heartwood. radial checking Cracks formed in wood end grain, perpendicular to the growth rings. rive To split wood with the intention of following the grain. sapwood Between the heartwood and the bark, the living section of a tree. scoring A series of small hatchet or axe cuts into the surface of a piece of wood, to be followed by a chopping motion to remove the scored wood. shaving horse A bench to sit on while carving, with a foot-operated mechanism to clamp wood, freeing the hands to use tools for shaping the wood. Shaving horses come in countless designs. spoon blank Between a billet and a finished spoon, a piece of wood in the basic shape of a spoon but with the bowl still uncarved.
Green wood is wood that was recently harvested or wood that still retains much of the water content from the time when it was harvested. Working with green wood involves either harvesting only what you can use in a project before the water content dries up or using one of various techniques to slow down the drying process and retain the water content in the wood for future use (see “Drying and Finish Work”). You can locate green wood easily. It often winds up in piles along the sides of roads after seasonal storms. Utility-easement trimming operations, work sites of local arborists, firewood suppliers, farms, small-town road crews, and fruit orchards are all good sources of green wood. Take a small crosscut handsaw or small folding saw along as you travel, and you will be afforded endless harvesting opportunities. Seek landowner permission before entering private lands. Here in the hills of central Vermont grow abundant varieties of spoon-friendly hardwoods, namely paper birch (white birch), moosewood (striped maple), pin cherry, and beech. While they are a little more difficult to carve, yellow birch, any of the other maples, and red oak also make lovely spoons. Wood toxicity is something to consider when choosing spoon wood, and there are many resources online to assist you in investigating this. Generally, bark, sap, and dust from sawn or sanded wood are the most common irritants. If you tend to be particularly sensitive, consider taking time to do research about wood types before handling any green wood. I encourage you to do much experimentation with wood types. From sumac (bright green wood) to lilac (slightly purple wood) to grape (hard and full of knots), leave no wood un-spooned.
To most efficiently shape your wood in green woodworking it is helpful to use the larger, more “aggressive” tools first. As you shape your raw material and the spoon blank begins emerging, you soon reach the point where the tool you are using no longer affords enough control to keep from overdoing your shaping work. Move on to the next smaller tool. As you gain experience, you will become skilled at exploring the boundaries between progressive tools, and this will improve your efficiency, helping you exert less overall physical effort in the making of a spoon. For making your own spoons out of smaller diameter green wood (about 4 to 8 inches), the primary kit of tools includes a crosscut handsaw, a small hatchet, a small wooden mallet (making one of these is an excellent simple project for practicing hatchet work), a straight-blade carving knife, and a (less common) bent-blade carving knife. These will allow you to cut your materials to the desired length, rive the materials into spoon-sized billets, shape each billet into a basic REST |
spoon blank, and finally carve the handle and convex and concave surfaces of the spoon bowl. At the start of the process you will also need a chopping block of some kind, to refine your spoon blank from the raw materials. An unsplit round of firewood makes a great work surface. For starting with larger diameter green wood, such as large rounds of firewood approximately 12 inches across and up, I would add one or two steel splitting wedges, a sledge hammer or splitting maul, and a less common tool called a froe. A froe is a straight piece of iron with a perpendicular wooden handle. The iron part is essentially a long, gradually tapered and blunt-edged “blade” that acts as a wedge. It is used for riving, or splitting, wood by holding the handle and striking the blunt back of the iron opposite the blade with a wooden mallet, driving the froe blade into the end grain and riving the wood apart. The small hatchet, driven with a mallet in a similar manner, can do much of the same riving work as the froe, but I consider the froe important because of its long blade and the ability to “lever” the froe handle to separate the rived wood. Secondary tools include an adjustable foot-operated vice/ bench for holding the work, called a shaving horse, a twohandled blade for shaping and shaving the work called a draw knife, a spoke-shave for finer shaping and shaving, and a coping saw to help with simple decoration of the spoon handle. Explore the secondary tools only after you have a good foundation of handling the hatchet and knives.
RIVING AND SHAPING
Riving—using a mallet or thick stick to drive a wedge, froe, or hatchet into the end grain of wood, perpendicular to the growth rings—allows wood to separate along its radial grain, retaining the structural integrity of the wood in each riven billet. For small-diameter green wood, a thick branch or sapling for example, riving will generally be limited to halving the wood once. Riving these smaller pieces of wood can also be done with a stout bushcraft knife; a technique referred to as “batoning.” To prepare spoon blanks from larger rounds of green firewood, first halve the round by
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driving a steel wedge through it with a sledge hammer or splitting maul. Examine the pith, and you might see a small check, or crack. Align the blade of your splitting wedge with this check and drive it in. After halving the round, continue the riving process with the froe or hatchet, halving the halves, until you have a small pile of wedge-shaped billets, each containing the imaginary spoon you envision. (A 12-inch-diameter round will usually yield twelve or more good-sized kitchen spoons.) For small or large materials, use a hatchet to remove any remaining pith (the very center of the tree) and all the bark from the billet prior to further shaping or storage. Look at your riven billet and consider the spoon inside. Choose the end of the billet that is free of knots for your spoon bowl. A knot in a spoon bowl will shrink as it dries and could eventually pop out, leaving you with a nicelooking one-hole sweet pea strainer (do you know anyone with one of these?). Try to incorporate any natural curves of the billet in your thinking as you decide what will be the concave and convex side of the spoon bowl. Take a sharp pencil and draw on the billet where your bowl will be, as a guideline for your hatchet work. I prefer to orient the face of my spoon bowl in line with the radial grain of the wood (that is, I draw the shape of the bowl on one flat surface of the billet or the other, between the pith and the bark). After riving your spoon-sized billets and penciling in your spoon face at one end, you will begin shaping your spoon handle through hatchet work. Try to take as much wood off the spoon handle with the hatchet as you can—that is, until further hatchet work would risk cutting too far, into the handle or bowl. Be patient: this takes practice! Take one end of the billet in your hand—this will be the bowl end—and place the handle end on the work surface so that the billet is straight up and down. Angle the billet about 15 to 20 degrees to the right or left away from your hatchet hand. To protect the digits on the hand holding the billet, hold it at the end grain with your fingertips, fingers and thumb curled in, just as you hold a tomato to keep your fingers out of the way while slicing. Apply some downward pressure on the billet. (To
help keep your billet from slipping as you work, chop a small indentation in the top of the chopping block and settle the end of the billet into the indentation.) Begin making small quick chops from the end nearest the chopping block, working your way up to where the bowl begins. Your hatchet should swing straight down, 90 degrees to the work surface, cutting into the slightly angled billet. This is called scoring. The objective with scoring is not to remove wood at first, but rather to cut into the wood and create a series of chop marks all the way up to where the bowl begins. A sharp hatchet chopping into green wood will not require a strong swing. Take it slow, and observe how hard you need to strike to make this work. Once you have scored up to the bowl, straighten the spoon back to perpendicular with the work surface, then with a stronger single motion, chop straight down from your highest scoring mark to the work surface. This will effectively remove all scoring marks, and the chips will fly off the handle. Repeat this process as you shape the handle, always keeping the handle end on your work surface. Leave your handle a good thickness, ¾ inch at the very least. The handle will be refined and made smaller with knife work later; at this stage it’s nice to keep it stout, affording you a good grip when you work to carve out the bowl. Shaping the bowl end of the spoon comes next. The face of your bowl is roughed out in pencil, and this is where you will carve the concave of the spoon. As a rule, imagine a centerline (or even pencil it onto your spoon blank) extending from side to side across the widest part of the bowl on the front and back. Your hatchet work will now turn to the back of the spoon bowl, shaping the convex side from the centerline of the bowl to the tip of the spoon. Setting the bowl end of the spoon on the work surface, chop carefully with the hatchet to round the back of the bowl from the centerline of the bowl to the tip of the spoon, observing your bowlshaped pencil line on the spoon face when you get around to the sides. Once the tip half of the back of the bowl has been shaped, place the handle end on the work surface and apply downward pressure on the tip of the spoon with your fingertips in the “tomato slicing” position. This chopping is
the most difficult, as you are chopping both close to your fingers and high off the work surface. Take it slowly, chopping from the centerline of the back of the spoon downward toward the handle, rounding the other half of the back of the spoon. Shaping this area—the “shoulder” or “neck” of the spoon—is the part I find the most challenging. You want to remove a significant amount of material here with the hatchet, getting as near to your final surface and shape as you can, as knife work in this spot is also challenging. It is common to want to chop into this area at an angle with the spoon blank resting on the work surface, and this can work well, with a deliberate approach; however, doing so runs the risk of chopping into the back or sides of the spoon bowl or chopping the handle right off. When the convex side of the spoon bowl and the handle have been roughed out with hatchet work, I consider the result to be a “spoon blank.”
Shape the handle first, holding the spoon bowl in your nondominant hand. Gripping your straight knife, cut away from yourself in the classic “whittling” position. Sharp knives cut deeply into green wood, so start with shallow cuts so as not to dig too deeply into the handle, which can cause it to crack. Here you are refining your surface, deciding on the finished shape of your handle, and removing imperfections. When straight-knife carving the back and rim of the bowl, use both the above-mentioned “whittling” grip and motion and the paring motion (that is, the second motion described in detail in the following text). Once you have the handle down to its finished size, trim the end of the handle with the straight knife and paring motion to remove the crosscut saw marks. Observe the imaginary, side-to-side centerline across the back of the bowl, and again cut from the centerline line toward the tip of the spoon, and from the centerline line toward the handle of the spoon, to avoid digging into the grain the wrong direction. Another good straight-knife hold, which is a little nerve racking to the beginner, is to rest either end of the spoon blank on your breastbone, cupping the other
end in your nondominant hand, and to carve toward yourself with the straight knife. This hold is best for getting into the shoulder/neck area of the spoon and for taking smaller, very controlled cuts. Some tie a small board around their neck to rest the end of the spoon blank against instead of their chest, and others wear a heavy leather apron. Now for the spoon bowl. As a beginner, it is important to take this part slowly and exercise patience. You will be using a bent-blade carving knife, and these knives take practice. Bent-blade knives come in many varieties: knives that are sharpened on one or both edges, knives that have longer or shorter handles, and knives that have a shallow or deep bend in the blade. I suggest you choose knives with longer handles, as they offer a greater variety of possible grips. This tutorial describes the use of the double-edged knife, which has three main grips.
The first grip uses the thumb of the nondominant hand to push on the knife handle while gripping the handle with the dominant hand. Like pushing on the back of the blade, instead you are pushing on the handle. Hold the spoon in your nondominant hand, by the handle and out in front of your torso, with the tip of the handle resting on your knee. Imagine holding it like a microphone, with the flat side of the bowl facing you. Begin by lining up the edge of the blade on the surface of the spoon, near the edge, then push the handle with your nondominant thumb, gently, to take very small slices. I want to emphasize this most important point here: very small slices at first. The blade should cut with the slightest of pressure. If it is stopping and you feel yourself applying additional pressure, you are trying to cut at too severe an angle. Relax your hand, back out of the cut, and start over, trying to take less material. You want to try to cut so that your blade and the wood surface are at nearly the same angle. Once you figure this out, you are on your way. Continue removing the entire top layer and surface of the spoon bowl, working all the way across and up to the edges. It is easy to begin to concentrate in one area, but refrain from doing this. You will soon dig too deeply in one area, creating problems that are challenging to solve. Excavate the spoon bowl in layers, if you will. Go over the whole surface, then repeat, always cutting across the wood grain, from side to side. As you create the concave, the knife will begin to match the spoon’s concave with its convex edge, and the cuts will be smoother, with less resistance, and take off more wood with each pass. The second is a “paring” grip, just like the kitchen technique. Grip the knife handle between the edge of your palm and the base of your fingers, so that when you squeeze your fingers toward your palm, the knife rolls forward slightly. Now, while holding the spoon in your nondominant hand, tuck the thumb of the hand gripping the knife behind the spoon
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bowl. Your blade should be right near the surface, ready to cut with small motions like paring, but with your thumb tucked safely out of the way. (This is also the paring hold for the straight knife.) Some carvers craft a small leather sock to put on their thumb for protection. Anything that adds safety and comfort is good, but it is important to consider that we are creatures of habit. If you get used to hitting your thumb with the knife because you are wearing the leather sock, you will be in trouble if you forget to wear it when you carve. The third grip is to reverse the knife handle in your hand, extending the blade from the bottom of your hand. Take a small board and rest it on your lap, as you might not be sporting a heavy leather apron. Grip the spoon handle in your nondominant hand, along with the edge of the board, so you are squeezing the two together as if you were holding the spine of a book while it rests on your lap. Next, gripping the knife with the blade extending from the bottom of your hand, and leaving at least one inch between the skin of your knife hand and the blade, begin taking small cuts, either away from or toward yourself, again across the grain. The tricky part with this hold is controlling the blade. Tuck your elbows in. Try not to “flick” the knife blade uncontrollably off the work surface, but rather use your strength to control the start and stop of each cut. This hold works best after the concave of the bowl has been well established with the previous two knife grips. Just remember, this is not a melon, and wood will not come out in large chunks. There is a lot going on in the grain of a spoon bowl. The sooner you find the rhythm of removing a little material with every pass, you will build your control and stamina, then later your strength, and then you can begin to assert a little more pressure on your cuts. Tinker, gently, on your first spoon. Take it slowly.
DRYING AND FINISH WORK
You’ve gone from raw green wood, to billets, to spoon blanks, all of which can be stored green. To keep it very simple, whenever you are done working, place your spoon blanks or unfinished spoons in a used food-grade plastic bag, or two, and seal up the end. Bread bags work well because they are long. Every time you return the spoon to the bag, first reverse the bag inside out, shake off any condensation, and put the spoon into the dry inside of the bag. Sections of larger diameter trees can be stored in longer lengths; the longer they are, the more slowly they will dry out. The ends can be sealed by painting on beeswax or paint, applying plastic bags and rubber bands, and so on. Keeping them in the shade is also helpful. Keep in mind that billets and spoon blanks have a limited shelf life in a plastic bag: the living organisms in wood will continue their work, and surface mold may develop. Once you have begun carving the face, or concave side, of the bowl, you should begin controlled drying of the spoon.
Now that your spoon is almost complete, follow the same process but leave the bag open. After a day or two, leave the spoon out in the open air, but not in the sunlight, to completely dry before beginning your finish work. It will become lighter weight and change in color. If you tap a spoon against a hard surface when it is green, and then later, when you think it is dry, you will notice a lighter tone as well. Your spoon is dry now; it has changed color a little and has a bright tone when tapped on the table. Take the straight and bent carving knives and work your way around the spoon, smoothing and correcting imperfections or runs in the grain. Consider the grain carefully as you carve the final shape of the edge of the bowl. On the outside edge, use the straight knife, and observe the centerline “rule” (from the line toward the tip of the spoon, and from the line toward the handle of the spoon) while smoothing the edge. On the inside edge of the rim of the bowl, the rule is reversed (from the tip toward the line, and from the handle toward the line), and carving should be done with the bent knife. I find the best grip for this work is with the blade coming from the bottom of my hand and the spoon on the board on my lap.
You can see some of the ornamentation I create in the photos accompanying this tutorial. This very simple carving done with a straight knife is not necessary, but it really adds something to each spoon. To carve simple narrow bands around your spoon handle, simply pencil a line all the way around, then gently push the edge of the straight knife in at a 45-degree angle from one side of the line, then from the other side, removing the chip and, with it, your pencil line. (To further decorate and embellish your spoon, refer to the many instructive books and online resources available on “chip carving.”) Finally, I hand-sand my spoons for just a few minutes with a small square of emery cloth and then finish them with organic olive oil. It is a wonderful moment, to oil the spoon and enjoy the fruit of your labor.
n d e e v r a lTuck-in Pillow BY ALISON KAPLAN PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOANNA CAMP
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s a professional crafter, I am always sketching, stitching, or thinking about sketching and stitching. On a morning walk I am observing interesting botanical patterns and thinking about recreating them on fabric with a needle and thread; when Iâ€™m digging in my garden and see a seed sprouting, I have to resist the urge to dash to the studio and play around with that imagery on a piece of felt. Sometimes I feel bombarded by inspiration and need to be mindful about quieting the busy buzz in my head. The satisfaction of completing a simple sewing project can do just that.
tools & materials Scissors Tracing paper Two 18-inch pieces of embroidery floss, one black and one a color of your choice Sewing needle Two 3-inch ovals of wool felt in coordinating colors (I recommend a light color for the front and a richer color for the back) 4 tablespoons dried lavender blossoms
The connections between aromatic lavender, peacefully sleeping animals, and the idea of rest are clear. Turning inward and away from whatever it is that distracts you, spending a few quiet moments focusing on a satisfying project, and then holding a palm-sized lavender-scented pillow in your hand will infuse you with a sense of calm. Tucking this sweet project under your pillow at night will also hopefully encourage a more restful nightâ€™s sleep . . . preparing you for the busy and creative day ahead!
Trace the sleeping deer template onto your tracing paper.
2. With a single strand of your black embroidery floss,
3. Continue stitching the deer, completing the outline
4. With a few strands of colored embroidery floss, use
5. Fill the pillow with the dried lavender blossoms. 6. Close up your pillow using blanket stitch and enjoy!
stitch a general outline of your deer right through the tracing paper onto the top piece of felt. Donâ€™t worry about the details at this point; you are just after the general form. Then gently tear the tracing paper away.
blanket stitch to connect the front and back pieces, leaving a 1-inch gap.
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and adding in the small details that will give your deer personality. You are essentially drawing with your needle and thread. Refer back to the original image for guidance as needed so you can put all the little details in just the right places.
SLOWING DOWN, STITCH BY STITCH BY ANNA HEWITT
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t is an ever-teetering balance or, more likely, imbalance, racing to keep up: with obligations, with aspirations, with technology, the news, work, and family. No matter how mindful you are, it can be hard to escape the hurried hum, the constant murmur of better, faster, more trying to convince you that money is for making and time is the thing you are supposed to save. It is essential to resist the anxious whisper of “busy” and, when you can, find hours that can be slower and on your own terms. Choosing to make something by hand is just that. The fingertips that fly over screens, flutter across keyboards, and access a whole world in a few clicks are also your connection to the simple, the immediate, the one-stitch-at-a-time in and out of fabric. Work that engages your senses and slows you down can be an opportunity for rest and rejuvenation. Connecting your hands with textures—using your fingers to pinch scraps together as you feed them through the sewing machine, smoothing the seams with your palms—brings your focus to the here and now. And when your hands are working, your mind is free to percolate and process. Making something creative, even if it is also functional, is carving out a tiny escape, a getaway that requires no plane ticket, just a little bit of time. My first step in slowing down is sorting through scraps of fabric. I dig through a bag of odd shapes and bits, finding just enough of the blue herringbone, the orange with polka dots, the dark gray with tiny brightly colored mushrooms. These patterned fabrics came from other things I’ve made: skirts, clothes for my kids, and quilts or aprons. Like rereading a favorite book or flipping through the pages of a photo album, sorting through the scraps brings back memories and forgotten moments. If you haven’t amassed a pile of scraps like I have, you can hunt for pieces for your quilt elsewhere. Clothes that are beyond wearing or mending, thrifted fabric or garments, and sheets or pillowcases that you no longer use can find new life stitched into a scrap quilt. As you sort and search, begin to curate: choose and cut fabric to combine patterns and colors that will bring inspiration and joy to an ordinary day. Just as firewood warms you twice, so making a quilt warms your heart and your fingers, long before it is ready for tucking over chilly toes. Later, when I begin the process of quilting itself—that is, stitching together the patchwork-quilt top, the inner batting, and the backing—I remind myself that this large task is not a chore to be accomplished in as little time as possible. Hand quilting at a measured pace is an antidote to the very need to rush, the drudgery and tedium of doing something just to get it over with. These stitches can be a moving meditation of fingers, needle, and thread, a chance to be mindful and find your own approach to slowness.
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The first step in hand quilting, getting the thin string through the tiny metal eye, requires you to pause and take a deep breath. The gentle heft of the blanket keeps you lightly weighted to your spot. While your hands are occupied with the satisfying task of pulling thread into taught rows, you can ignore a world that spins far too quickly. Slowly, stitch after stitch, you can bind together layers of fabric and, for a brief while, center your soul.
Scrappy Strip Quilt
Patchwork and quilting are in the tradition of finding abundance in what you already have; they celebrate the scraps and bits, and turn making something necessary and practical into a source of enjoyment and an escape from life’s challenges. The following technique gives you the freedom to make something with love and care but without having to worry about precise corners or a perfect pattern. Like looking at the landscape from above, the colored, textured whole creates its own patterns and smooths over imperfections. The final size, colors, and pattern (or lack thereof ) will depend on what delights your senses and how much fabric cutting and sewing you wish to do. You just need a pair of scissors, a needle and thread, and a sewing machine (along with the ability to sew a fairly straight line with it). To start off with a good understanding of the process, read through the instructions before beginning. These instructions allow you to make any size of quilt you wish, depending on how much fabric you have and how much sewing you want to do. The top layer of the quilt is made up long strips of patches that have been sewn together. Depending on your preference, you can run the strips the length or the width of the quilt. The sample quilt pictured is a lap quilt, 54 by 54 inches; its patchwork top is made up of approximately 4½ yards of various fabrics.
tools & materials Fabric scraps and pieces, at least 3 inches wide each Iron and ironing surface Sharp fabric scissors and a piece of letter-size paper, or a rotary cutter and cutting mat Ruler Sewing machine Medium-weight cotton thread for machine sewing (or other thread you prefer) Large piece of fabric (or pieces sewn together) for the quilt backing (see step 5 for sizing) Cotton quilt batting Straight pins or curved quilting pins Quilting needle Hand-quilting thread
Begin by washing your fabric scraps and drying them in the dryer to make sure the fabric won’t shrink any further after it has been stitched together. Iron your scraps for easier cutting.
If you will be using scissors to cut your fabric, first make a pattern for cutting the patchwork pieces. Cut a 3-inch-wide strip off the top edge of your piece of paper; this will be your pattern. Place the pattern piece on a scrap of fabric, lined up as close to the edges as possible. Using sharp scissors, cut a strip from your fabric; the strip can be any length, but it should be 3 inches wide. Continue to cut 3-inch-wide pieces from the same scrap and the other scraps of fabric, cutting as many pieces from each scrap as possible, or desired. To make very long patches for efficiency, you can fold larger sections of fabric into thirds or quarters, place the pattern piece near an end, and cut. Next, cut your long pieces into shorter ones; anything from 4 to 8 inches long works well.
If you will be using a rotary cutter, you can skip making a pattern and measure and cut the fabric using a ruler and cutting mat.
Before sewing, you may want to decide whether the patchwork strips will run along the length of the quilt or across the width. I usually take a free-form approach and arbitrarily choose a length for my strips, assemble them until I have run out of patches, and wait until the whole thing is sewn together to see how they run. If you don’t want to leave it up to chance, keep in mind that vertical strips will need to be longer, and horizontal strips will be shorter but you will need more of them. If you have final quilt dimensions in mind—and you are pretty sure there are enough scraps for that size—at some point you will want to figure out how many strips to assemble (strip lengths will be determined in step 4): Factoring in the seam allowances, your 3-inch-wide patches will become 2¼ inches wide once sewn together; divide your final width (vertical strips) or length (horizontal strips) by this number.
Once you have cut out your fabric pieces, prepare to piece them into long strips of patches. To sew the first strip, choose several pieces cut from different fabrics and arrange them in an order that you like, perhaps creating favorite color or pattern combinations. Line up the patches, adding more until you reach approximately the desired length of your strip, then stack them, in order, in a pile. To sew the patches into a strip, place the first two pieces of fabric together, printed sides (called “right sides”) facing, with a 3-inch (“short”) edge of one patch lined up precisely with a short edge of the other. There is no need to pin
them; you can just hold the pieces gently together. Using a ⅜-inch seam allowance, machine-stitch along the aligned edges. Open up the stitched-together fabric and pick up the next piece in line. Placing right sides together, align a short edge of the new piece with the remaining short edge of the last piece in the strip. Stitch them together in the same way. Continue adding pieces until you reach the end of your pile. (You can use this first strip of patchwork as a template for the length of all your strips.) Repeat the process of lining up fabric pieces, stacking them, and sewing them into strips until you have used all the fabric you have cut or you have created enough strips to make a quilt of your desired size. REST |
place the batting and quilt top on top of it, leaving an even, equally wide edge all the way around. Ensure that all three layers are completely smooth, then pin them together with straight pins or quilting pins set every 8 to 10 inches.
Press all of the strips with an iron to make sure that the fabric and seams are smooth. Lay out the quilt by placing all of your strips side by side, with the long edges next to each other, and rearrange until you reach the desired order for your finished quilt. Beginning at one end of your quilt, place the first two strips right sides together and, using a ⅜-inch seam allowance, machine-stitch along one long edge, folding the existing, horizontal seams toward you so they lay flat as you stitch. It is not necessary to pin the strips together first: just make sure the long edges of the strips are lined up. Continue adding strips one by one, with the long edges aligned and the right sides together, until all the strips have been sewn together. Press the wrong side of the patchwork with an iron to smooth out the fabric and seams. If your strips are not all exactly the same length, trim the edges to make them even.
Unfold the cotton batting and place the patchwork quilt top on top of it. Trim the batting so it is 1 inch larger than the quilt top all the way around.
Prepare the quilt backing. The backing fabric will be folded around the edges of the quilt to form a border on the front as well. When your quilt top is centered on the backing, the backing fabric should be at least three inches larger than the quilt top all the way around—a total of 6 inches wider and 6 inches longer than the quilt top. If you have a piece of fabric that is big enough, then iron it and continue. Otherwise, you can sew together multiple pieces of fabric to make one large backing piece, then iron. Once your backing is ready, place it on the floor with the wrong side facing up. Making sure the quilt back stays smoothed out,
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To hand quilt the layers together, you will be stitching long rows along the strips, from one edge of the quilt top to the opposite edge. Depending on how much sewing you want to do, you can make one row of stitches along every other strip or every third strip. The rows of patches make easy lines to follow with your stitching.
Make sure again that your layers are all smooth with no bunching. Thread your quilting needle with hand-quilting thread, then hold the thread double and make a knot at the end that ties the ends together. Starting at the short end of the second strip of patchwork (the first one will get partially covered later, when you create the border), weave your needle in and out through all three layers, keeping the needle aligned with where you want your line of stitching to be. Pull the thread all the way through until it is stopped by the knot. Continue to hand quilt in running stitch, making ⅛- to ¼-inch-long stitches with equal-sized spaces in between. (You can go in and out of the top and bottom of the quilt one stitch at a time if you prefer, but it is easier to do the running stitch as described.) Whenever you pull the needle through, make sure to pull the thread all the way taught so it won’t get tangled.
When you have about 3 inches of thread left, tie off your thread. You can pull the thread through to the back of the quilt, cut the thread near the needle, and tie the two strands into a knot, or you can make 3 stitches in the same place then cut off the remaining thread. Thread your needle again, hold the thread double and tie a knot, and continue stitching where you left off. Remove any pins as you stitch. Finish your row at the short end of the patchwork strip and tie off (do not continue to stitch into the extra backing material). Continue to smooth out the fabric and stitch across the quilt in rows, removing pins as you stitch and tying off and starting with new thread as needed, until the whole thing is quilted to your liking. All the layers of the quilt are now sewn together.
10. Once you have finished quilting, lay the quilt on the floor with the patchwork top facing up. On all four sides of the quilt, fold in ½ inch of the backing on top of itself and press with an iron. Then fold the pressed edge over the quilt top, overlapping the patchwork by ½ to ¾ inch, and press well. Pin down the folded-over border along one side of the quilt. For now, open up the second, overlapping fold on the other three sides
of the quilt. (The raw edge will still be folded down, and you will see the pressed line of the second fold.) Form your first corner at one end of the folded and pinned side as follows. (Note that this corner fabric is starting off already foldedâ€”twice on one side and once on the other.) Fold in the corner toward the center of the quilt, forming a small triangle: one side of the triangle aligns with the inside fold on the pinned side of the quilt; another side aligns with the ironed line on the adjacent side of the quilt. Press and pin. (To reduce bulk, you can trim the fabric that is folder over, leaving at least Â˝ inch.) Now refold the backing along the adjacent side. Press and pin. You now have a straight line from the outside corner of the border to the inside corner, creating finished, angled edges of fabric in the corner. Continue to work around the quilt this way, forming corners and pressing and pinning the border fabric as you go. When you get to the last corner, you may have to unpin the first side a bit in order to form the final corner.
11. Choose a medium-weight thread to match your
backing fabric, or contrasting thread if youâ€™d like more visible stitching. Beginning at the outside of one corner, machine-stitch along the angled corner seam as close to the edge of the pinned border as you can. When you reach the inside corner of the border (next to the patchwork), stop the machine and pivot your quilt, then continue to topstitch along the pinned border until you reach the end of that side (at the inside of the next corner). Backstitch to secure your thread, and cut it. Beginning again at the next corner, stitch the angled seam from the outside corner toward the patchwork, as before. Stop the machine just before you reach the inside corner of the border, pivot the quilt, and stitch down the border all along the next side. When you reach the inside corner, backstitch to secure the thread and cut it. Continue stitching the remaining sides in the same way until the quilt is finished.
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Little Kitty Friend BY CAITLIN BETSY BELL
cozy kitty companion to make, admire, and play with. This plush is a simple and satisfying creation that is just right for an afternoon project. Not only can you whip up a kitty, but you can
create a little wardrobe too: patterns are included. Add a little rickrack, some sweet buttons, or a bit of ribbon to customize your kittyâ€™s look.
tools & materials Scissors Hand-sewing needle Coordinating cotton thread Straight pins Sewing machine
For the Skirt: 3½ x 12½-inch piece of fabric for kitty’s clothes (see note) Iron and ironing surface Pinking shears 6-inch length of ⅛-inch-wide elastic Safety pin Trim, small buttons, etc. (optional)
For the Kitty: 8 x 12-inch sheet of wool felt Small scrap of wool felt in a coordinating color Black embroidery floss Water-erase fabric pen (optional) Wool stuffing
For the Knitted Scarf: Worsted-weight yarn Size US 3 straight knitting needles Tapestry needle
NOTE: I used quilting-weight cotton, but feel free to experiment with different textures of fabrics such as fine-wale corduroy, double gauze, or even an interlock knit.
The backstitch is an embroidery stitch that creates a continuous line of stitching. Poke the needle up through the fabric a little ahead of where you want your line of stitching to start and pull the thread through. Insert your needle backward one stitch-length and, without pulling the needle all the way through, poke it up through the fabric one stitchlength past your previous stitch. Pull the thread through.
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Insert the needle where your previous stitch ended and, again, poke it up one stitch-length farther along and pull it through. Continue, creating a line of end-to-end stitches.
Satin stitch is used to fill in larger areas with embroidery floss. Essentially it is lots of parallel stitches that are made very close to one another.
instructions Make the Kitty 1. Cut out the pattern piece. Cut 1 piece from the 8 x 12-inch sheet of wool felt to be the front of your kitty, leaving enough felt to make the back of your kitty later. Using the pattern piece as a guide, cut out a circle from your coordinating felt scrap to be your kitty’s face. 2. Using a hand-sewing needle and coordinating thread, hand stitch the felt face onto the front of the kitty, referring to the pattern piece as a guide. 3. To embroider the kitty’s face, first separate the embroidery floss into three strands. Using a double strand of embroidery floss and working in satin stitch (see sidebar), give the kitty a nose. Create the kitty’s
mouth and whiskers with a backstitch (see sidebar), then stitch the kitty’s eyes in satin stitch. You may find it helpful to draw the kitty’s face on with a water-erase fabric pen before stitching. 4. Place the front of the kitty, right side up, on the felt piece you cut it from. Machine-stitch around, ⅛-inch from the edge, leaving an opening as indicated on the pattern piece. Trim the back piece using the front piece as a guide. 5. Stuff your kitty to your desired firmness with the wool stuffing. Pin the opening shut and topstitch across the opening using the sewing machine.
Make the Skirt 1. Lay your 3½ x 12½-inch piece of fabric wrong side up on your ironing surface. Fold in the longer edges ¼ inch and press with an iron. Fold in another ⅜ inch and press. Unfurl the folds and align the short edges of the fabric with right sides together. Using a sewing machine, stitch ¼ inch from the edge. Trim raw edges of the seam with pinking shears. 2. Fold the top and bottom edges of the skirt where pressed. Stitch ¼ inch from the edge all the way around one edge. This will be the bottom edge of the skirt. Repeat for the top edge, but stop 1-inch short, before you meet the first stitch, to leave an opening in the seam. 3. Attach a safety pin on one end of the piece of elastic. Insert the safety pin into the opening in the seam then push the elastic through the casing that you created, gathering up fabric on the front of the safety pin and then straightening it out behind as you work your way around. Be sure not to lose the other end of the elastic into the opening. 4. Stitch the two ends of the elastic together, then stitch the opening closed using the sewing machine. Add buttons and trim to the skirt as you please.
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Make the Scarf Cast on 50 stitches. Rows 1â€“3: Knit all stitches. Row 4: Bind off. Weave in ends using a tapestry needle.
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HOMETOWN CARDIGAN BY VERENA COHRS PHOTOGRAPHS BY JILL DE DIEULEVEULT
he Hometown Cardigan is a beautiful everyday piece with just the right amount of textured details to make it a relaxing knit and then a wardrobe favorite. The cabled front pockets, halftwisted ribbing details on body and sleeves, and reverse stockinette background are those little extras that make it stand out while remaining a very wearable to-go piece. Because it is worked from the top down, the body and sleeve lengths can be customised to fit you perfectly. This cardigan makes natural wools shine. Specifically, it is designed for Blacker Yarns’ Blacker Swan DK, a smooth, worsted-spun DK-weight blend of Falkland Islands Dohne merino with a bit of Shetland and dark Bluefaced Leicester. The small amount of dark fiber adds depth to both the dyed and undyed colorways, making the Blacker Swan palette extra special. I highly recommend treating yourself to what is without a doubt one of the most luxurious wool yarns out there (available through www.blackeryarns.co.uk and select yarn shops and online vendors such as The Woolly Thistle, www.thewoollythistle.com). Other excellent fits would be Quince and Co.’s Lark, O-Wool’s O-Wash Worsted, the Fibre Co.’s Cumbria, and Brooklyn Tweed’s Arbor.
Finished bust circumference: 33½ (36¼, 38½, 41¾, 45¼, 48½, 52, 54½)" Up to 4" positive ease is recommended. Model is wearing the 36¼" size with 3" positive ease at the bust.
Blacker Swan DK by Blacker Yarns (100% wool; 119 yards [110 m] / 50 grams) 1107 (1217, 1230, 1414, 1571, 1662, 1771, 1871) yards in Teaberry
One 32" or longer circular needle in size US 6 [4 mm] or size needed to obtain gauge One 32" or longer circular needle in size US 4 [3.5 mm] One set of double-pointed needles in size US 6 [4 mm] or size needed to obtain gauge, for sleeves (optional) One set of double-pointed needles in size US 4 [3.5 mm], for sleeves (optional)
21 stitches x 28 rows = 4" [10 cm] in stockinette stitch, knit back and forth on larger needle, after blocking
Five ¾" buttons Blocking mats and pins (optional) Tapestry needle Stitch holders or scrap yarn Stitch markers
approx approximately BOR beginning of round circ circular needle CO cast on dec(’d) decreased dpns double-pointed needles inc(’d) increased k knit k1tbl knit 1 stitch through the back of the loop k2tog knit 2 stitches together (1 stitch decreased) kfb knit into the front then the back of the same stitch (1 stitch increased) LPT left purl twist—Slip 1 stitch purlwise onto a cable needle and hold in front of work, purl the next stitch on the left-hand needle, then knit the stitch on the cable needle through the back of the loop p purl p1tbl purl 1 stitch through the back of the loop p2tog purl 2 stitches together (1 stitch decreased) pm place marker RPT right purl twist—Slip 1 stitch purlwise onto a cable needle and hold in back of work, knit the next stitch through the back of the loop, then purl the stitch on the cable needle RS right side sm slip marker st(s) stitch(es) tbl through the back of the loop WS wrong side
This V-neck cardigan is worked from the top down on a circular needle to accommodate the large number of stitches. Arms are worked in the round, either by the Magic Loop method or using double-pointed needles if you prefer. The button bands and pockets are worked last.
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With larger circ and using the long-tail cast-on, CO 75 (75, 81, 83, 89, 89, 95, 97) sts. Do not join. Set-up row (WS): K2 [right front sts], pm, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl [raglan rib], pm, k8 (8, 10, 10, 12, 10, 10, 10) [right sleeve sts], pm, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl [raglan rib], pm, k35 (35, 37, 39, 41, 45, 51, 53) [back sts], pm, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl [raglan rib], pm, k8 (8, 10, 10, 12, 10, 10, 10) [left sleeve sts], pm, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl [raglan rib], pm, k2 [left front sts].
COLLAR & YOKE
Begin collar and raglan shaping Row 1 (RS): K1, *purl to marker, sm, k1tbl, p1, k1tbl, p1, k1tbl, sm; rep from * three times, purl until last st, k1. Row 2 (WS): *Knit until 1 st before marker, kfb, sm, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl, sm, kfb; rep from * three times, knit until end of row (8 sts inc’d). Rows 3–4: Rep rows 1 and 2—91 (91, 97, 99, 105, 105, 111, 113) sts. Row 5: Rep row 1. Row 6: Kfb, *knit until 1 st before marker, kfb, sm, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl, sm, kfb; rep from * three times, knit until last st, kfb (10 sts inc’d)—101 (101, 107, 109, 115, 115, 121, 123) sts. Rep rows 1–6 another 5 (7, 7, 8, 9, 9, 5, 3) times—231 (283, 289, 317, 349, 349, 251, 201) sts. Rep rows 3–6 another 1 (–, –, –, –, 2, 9, 13) times—249 (283, 289, 317, 349, 385, 413, 435) sts. Rep rows 1–4 another – (–, 1, 1, 1, –, –, –) times—249 (283, 305, 333, 365, 385, 413, 435) sts. For sizes 33½ (36¼, 38½, 41¾, 45¼, –, –, –)" only: Next row: K1, *purl until marker, sm, k1tbl, p1, k1tbl, p1, k1tbl, sm; rep from * three times, purl until last st, k1. Next row: *Knit until marker, sm, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl, k1, p1tbl, sm; rep from * three times, knit until end of row. Rep last 2 rows another 2 (1, –, –, –, –, –, –) times—249 (283, 305, 333, 365, 385, 413, 435) sts. Separate body and sleeves Next row (RS): Removing all markers as you go and placing new markers as instructed, k1, purl across 28 (33, 35, 39, 43, 47, 52, 56) left front sts, pm, k1tbl, p1, k1tbl, place 52 (60, 66, 72, 80, 82, 86, 90) sleeve sts on st holder or piece of scrap yarn, CO 7 (7, 7, 7, 9, 9, 9, 9) underarm sts using the backward-loop cast-on, k1tbl, p1, k1tbl, pm, purl across 75 (83, 89, 97, 105, 113, 123, 129) back sts, pm, k1tbl, p1, k1tbl, place 52 (60, 66, 72, 80, 82, 86, 90) sleeve sts on st holder or piece of scrap yarn, CO 7 (7, 7, 7, 9, 9, 9, 9)
underarm sts, k1tbl, p1, k1tbl, pm, purl across 28 (33, 35, 39, 43, 47, 52, 56) right front sts, k1—159 (177, 187, 203, 223, 239, 259, 273) sts.
For sizes – (36¼, 38½, 41¾, –, –, 52, –)" only: Row 1 (RS): K1, *purl until marker, sm, k1tbl, [p1, k1tbl] x – (6, 6, 6, –, –, 7, –), sm; rep from * once, purl until last st, k1.
Next row (WS): Kfb, *knit until marker, sm, p1tbl, [k1, p1tbl] x 6 (6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7), sm; rep from * once, knit until last st, kfb—161 (179, 189, 205, 225, 241, 261, 275) sts.
Row 2 (WS): *Knit until marker, sm, p1tbl, [k1, p1tbl] x – (6, 6, 6, –, –, 7, –), sm; rep from * once, knit until end of row. Rows 3 and 4: Rep rows 1 and 2.
Continue V-neck shaping For sizes 33½ (–, –, –, 45¼, 48½, –, 54½)" only: Rows 1 and 3 (RS): K1, *purl until marker, sm, k1tbl, [p1, k1tbl] x 6 (–, –, –, 7, 7, –, 7), sm; rep from * once, purl until last st, k1. Row 2 (WS): *Knit until marker, sm, p1tbl, [k1, p1tbl] x 6 (–, –, –, 7, 7, –, 7), sm; rep from * once, knit until end of row.
Row 5: Rep row 1. Row 6: Kfb, *knit until marker, sm, p1tbl, [k1, p1tbl] x – (6, 6, 6, –, –, 7, –), sm; rep from * once, knit until last st, kfb— – (181, 191, 207, –, –, 263, –) sts. Rep rows 1–6 another – (–, 2, 1, –, –, –, –) times— – (–, 195, 209, –, –, –, –) sts. Rep rows 3–6 another – (3, 1, 2, –, –, 3, –) times— – (187, 197, 213, –, –, 269, –) sts.
Row 4: Kfb, *knit until marker, sm, p1tbl, [k1, p1tbl] x 6 (–, –, –, 7, 7, –, 7), sm; rep from * once, knit until last st, kfb—163 (–, –, –, 227, 243, –, 277) sts.
Begin main body Row 1 (RS): K1, *purl until marker, sm, k1tbl, [p1, k1tbl] x 6 (6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7), sm; rep from * once, purl until last st, k1.
Rep rows 1–4 another 3 (–, –, –, 3, 4, –, 3) times—169 (–, –, –, 233, 251, –, 283) sts.
Row 2 (WS): *Knit until marker, sm, p1tbl, [k1, p1tbl] x 6 (6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7), sm; rep from * once, knit until end of row.
Rep rows 3–4 another 1 (–, –, –, 1, –, –, –) time—171 (–, –, –, 235, 251, –, 283) sts.
Rep rows 1 and 2 until body measures approx 16¼" from underarm (or approx 1½" less than desired length). REST |
Begin hem Change to smaller circ. For sizes 33½ (36¼, 38½, 41¾, –, –, –, –)" only: Row 1 (RS): K1, [k1tbl, p1] until last 2 sts, k1tbl, k1.
Rep rnd 2 until cuff measures approx 1½". Bind off all sts using the invisible ribbed bind-off or your preferred bindoff method. Work second sleeve accordingly.
Row 2 (WS): K1, [p1tbl, k1] until last 2 sts, p1tbl, k1. For sizes – (–, –, –, 45¼, 48½, 52, 54½)" only: Row 1 (RS): K1, [p1, k1tbl] until last 2 sts, p1, k1. Row 2 (WS): K1, [k1, p1tbl] until last 2 sts, k1, k1. For all sizes: Rep rows 1 and 2 until hem measures approx 1½". Bind off all sts using a tubular bind-off or your preferred bind-off method.
SLEEVES Pick up sleeve stitches With the larger circ (for Magic Loop method) or dpns and with RS facing, beginning at the center of the underarm, pick up and knit 4 sts from underarm edge (1 st each from the k1tbl, p1, k1tbl, p1), then, working across live sleeve sts off the st holder, p1, k1tbl, pm, p48 (56, 62, 68, 76, 78, 82, 86), pm, k1tbl, p1, pick up and knit 3 (3, 3, 3, 5, 5, 5, 5) sts remaining at underarm edge—59 (67, 73, 79, 89, 91, 95, 99) sts. Place BOR marker and join for working in the round. Begin sleeves Rnd 1: [K1tbl, p1] twice, p1, k1tbl, sm, purl until marker, sm, k1tbl, p1, [p1, k1tbl] until last st, p1. Rnd 2: K1tbl, p1, k1tbl, p2tog, k1tbl, sm, purl until marker, sm, k1tbl, p2tog, [k1tbl, p1] until end of round (2 sts dec’d)—57 (65, 71, 77, 87, 89, 93, 97) sts. Rnd 3: K1tbl, [p1, k1tbl] until marker, sm, purl until marker, sm, [k1tbl, p1] until end of round. Rep rnd 3 until sleeve measures 17 inches from underarm (or approx 1½" less than desired length) and at the same time work the following decrease round a total of 6 (10, 13, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23) times, once every 2¾ (1½, 1¼, 1, ¾, ¾, ½)": Dec rnd: K1tbl, [p1, k1tbl] until marker, sm, p2tog, purl until 2 sts before marker, p2tog, sm, [k1tbl, p1] until end of round (2 sts dec’d). Begin cuffs Change to smaller needle.
With smaller circ and with RS facing, beginning at the lower end of the right front, pick up and knit approx 2 sts for every 3 rows along the right front, then approx 1 st for every cast-on st along the cast-on (V-neck) edge, then approx 2 sts for every 3 rows along the left front, making sure to pick up an odd number of total sts. Set-up row (WS): P1, [k1, p1tbl] until last 2 sts, k1, p1. Row 1 (RS): K1, [p1, k1tbl] until last 2 sts, p1, k1. Row 2: P1, [k1, p1tbl] until last 2 sts, k1, p1. You’ll be working the buttonholes in the next row. To indicate where buttonholes will be worked, place 5 removable markers between live stitches along the right buttonband, making sure to place each one after a knit stitch: place the first marker ¾" from the bottom edge and the other 4 markers every 2¾". Row 3: K1, *[p1, k1tbl] until marker, sm, double yo, k2tog tbl; rep from * four more times, [p1, k1tbl] until last 2 sts, p1, k1. Row 4: P1, *[k1, p1tbl] until 4 sts before marker, k1, p1tbl, k1 into the first loop of the double yo and drop second loop; rep from * four more times, [p1tbl, k1] until last st, p1. Rows 5 and 6: Rep rows 1 and 2. Bind off all sts using the invisible ribbed bind-off or your preferred bind-off method.
With larger circ and using the long-tail cast-on, CO 29 sts. Do not join in the round. Work row 1 (WS) of the Right Pocket chart, then work rows 2–39 of the chart. BO all sts. Rep for left pocket, following Left Pocket chart.
Rnd 1: K1tbl, [p1, k1tbl] until marker, sm, p2tog, purl until marker, sm, [k1tbl, p1] until end of rnd—44 (44, 44, 44, 50, 50, 50, 50) sts.
Gently soak your cardigan and pockets and wet-block using blocking mats and pins, if desired. (Block the pockets separately.) After blocking, sew the right pocket onto the right front and the left pocket onto left front using mattress stitch.
Rnd 2: [K1tbl, p1] until end of rnd.
Weave in all ends. Sew buttons onto left front.
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MEASUREMENTS A Back Neck Width 8½ (8½, 8¾, 9¼, 9½, 10¼, 11½, 11¾)" / 21.5 (21.5, 22.5, 23.5, 24.5, 26, 29, 30) cm
C Upper-Arm Circumference 11 (12½, 13¾, 14¾, 16½, 17, 17¾, 18½)" / 28 (32, 35, 37.5, 42, 43, 45, 47) cm F Yoke Depth 6¾ (7½, 8, 8¾, 9¼, 9¾, 10¼, 10¾)" / 17 (19, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27.5) cm
E Sleeve Length 18½" / 47 cm
G Front Neck Drop 9½ (10¼, 11, 11½, 12¼, 12¾, 13, 13½)" / 24 (26, 28, 29, 31, 32.5, 33, 34) cm H Body Length 17¾" / 45 cm
B Bust Circumference 33½ (36¼, 38½, 41¾, 45¼, 48½, 52, 54½)" / 85 (92, 98, 106, 115, 123, 132, 138) cm
I Pocket Width 5" / 13 cm J Pocket Height 5½" / 14 cm
D Cuff Circumference 8¼ (8¼, 8¼, 8¼, 9½, 9½, 9½, 9½)" / 21 (21, 21, 21, 24, 24, 24, 24) cm
Schematic: Vivian Kvitka
Work charts from right to left on RS rows and from left to right on WS rows. Please note that you begin working the charts on a WS row.
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BY BEATRICE PERRON DAHLEN PHOTOGRAPHS BY AMANDA BLAKE SOULE
Approximately 50" wide and 52" long
Chunky Merino by O-Wool (100% certified organic merino; 166 yards[151 m] / 100 grams) 10 skeins in Brook Trout OR 1,660 yards of chunky-weight yarn of choice
One 40" or longer circular needle in size US 11 [8 mm]
10 stitches and 16 rows = 4" [10 cm] in seed stitch after blocking
Stitch markers Tapestry needle
This blanket is worked from the bottom up, with cables flanking sections of texture. You must keep track of your progress through the cable patterns and continue to build cables as you work through the textured sections as described in the main pattern. This blanket is also worked at a loose gauge. If you prefer a tighter gauge, use a bulky yarn or smaller needles, and be aware that this will affect your required yardage.
ABBREVIATIONS CO cast on k knit LN left-hand needle p purl pm place marker rep repeat RS right side sl slipâ€”Slip the following number of stitches purlwise sm slip marker st(s) stitch(es) WS wrong side
SPECIAL STITCH PATTERNS Right-Leaning Cable Panel Row 1: P1, k6, p1, k6, p1.
Row 2 and all even (WS) rows: K1, p6, k1, p6, k1. Row 3: *P1, sl 3 to cable needle and hold to back, k3 from LN, k3 from cable needle; rep from *, p1. Row 5: Rep row 1. Left-Leaning Cable Panel Row 1: P1, k6, p1, k6, p1 Row 2 and all even (WS) rows: K1, p6, k1, p6, k1. Row 3: *P1, sl 3 to cable needle and hold to front, k3 from LN, k3 from cable needle; rep from *, p1. Row 5: Rep row 1. REST |
CO 142 sts. Begin bottom garter edge Row 1 (RS): K4, pm, work row 1 of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, pm, knit to 19 sts before end, pm, work row 2 of LeftLeaning Cable Panel, pm, k4. Rows 2, 4, and 6: K4, sm, work row 2 of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, knit to marker, sm, work row 2 of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 3: K4, sm, work row 3 of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, knit to marker, sm, work row 3 of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 5: K4, sm, work row 5 of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, knit to marker, sm, work row 5 of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 7: K4, sm, work row 1 of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, knit to marker, sm, work row 1 of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 8: K4, sm, work row 2 of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, purl to marker, sm, work row 2 of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Begin section 1 Row 1: K4, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [k2, p2] to marker, sm, work next row of LeftLeaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 2: K4, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [k2, p2] to marker, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 3: K4, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [p2, k2] to marker, sm, work next row of LeftLeaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 4: K4, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [p2, k2] to marker, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Rep rows 1–4 six more times. 28 rows of section 1 worked. Begin Section Divider Work Section Divider (4 rows) as follows: Row 1: K4, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, knit to marker, sm, work next row of LeftLeaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 2: K4, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, knit to 19 sts before end, sm, work next row of RightLeaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 3: K4, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, purl to marker, sm, work next row of LeftLeaning Cable Panel, sm, k4.
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Row 4: K4, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, purl to marker, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Begin section 2 Row 1: K4, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [k1, p1] to marker, sm, work next row of LeftLeaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 2: K4, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [k1, p1] to marker, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 3: K4, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [p1, k1] to marker, sm, work next row of LeftLeaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 4: K4, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [p1, k1] to marker, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Rep rows 1–4 six more times. 28 rows of section 2 worked. Work Section Divider. Begin section 3 Row 1: K4, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [k1, p1] to marker, sm, work next row of LeftLeaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 2: K4, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [p1, k1] to marker, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Rep rows 1–2 thirteen more times. 28 rows of section 3 worked. Work Section Divider. Begin section 4a Row 1: K4, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [k3, p1] thirteen times, pm for center, [p1, k3] to marker, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 2: K4, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [p2, k1, p1] to marker, sm, [p1, k1, p2] to marker, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 3: K4, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [k1, p1, k2] to marker, sm, [k2, p1, k1] to marker, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 4: K4, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [k1, p3] to marker, sm, [p3, k1] to marker, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Rep rows 1–4 two more times. 12 rows of section 4a worked.
Begin section 4b Row 1: K4, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [p1, k3] thirteen times, sm, [k3, p1] to marker, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 2: K4, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [p1, k1, p2] to marker, sm, [p2, k1, p1] to marker, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 3: K4, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [k2, p1, k1] to marker, sm, [k1, p1, k2] to marker, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 4: K4, sm, work next row of Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, [p3, k1] to marker, sm, [k1, p3] to marker, sm, work next row of Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Rep rows 1â€“4 two more times. 12 rows of section 4b worked. Work Section Divider. Continue working in pattern in the following order: Work section 3, including Section Divider. Work section 2, including Section Divider. Work section 1. Begin top garter edge Row 1 (RS): K4, sm, work Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, knit to marker, sm, work Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Rows 2, 4, and 6: K4, sm, work Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, knit to marker, sm, work Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 3: K4, sm, work Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, knit to marker, sm, work Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 5: K4, sm, work Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, knit to marker, sm, work Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 7: K4, sm, work Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, knit to marker, sm, work Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Row 8: K4, sm, work Left-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, purl to marker, sm, work Right-Leaning Cable Panel, sm, k4. Bind off.
Weave in ends using a tapestry needle. Steam- or wet-block to finished measurements.
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Pure Sattva HERBAL REMEDIES FOR LIVING IN BALANCE
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BY BRITTANY WOOD NICKERSON
magine it’s a clear, still morning. A light breeze rustles the leaves of a nearby tree, and the faint, light pink and magenta hues of sunrise kiss wispy clouds set against a piercing clear blue sky. Your eyes are open, but you are still half asleep—not groggy, but between the worlds—in the peaceful, serene state that vacillates between dream and daydream. Our consciousness thrives in this state: Is this mind or is this spirit? Is this me or is this universal consciousness? Like the thinning of the membrane between dream and daydream, this state gives us access to the rich fabric of our conscious awareness in its true home—where it lives within and among our unconscious and amid the consciousness of the larger universe. This experience—of oneness, unity, connection, purity, grace—this is Sattva. Sattva is one of the three prime qualities known as gunas in Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine). Sattva is associated with love, light, harmony, and virtue. It promotes clarity, perception, intuition, peace of mind, wisdom, intelligence, joy, and contentment. Being in a sattvic state gives us access to our inner landscape—our intuition, spiritual connection, and depth of perception—allowing us to more deeply connect with ourselves, with others, and with larger universal consciousness. It also awakens the five senses of the body, which gives us a greater ability to experience the world around us. Sattva provides the clarity and inner peace by which we can learn and know truth. It is the wise, calm, collected place many of us aspire to live within. Sattva stands in contrast to the other two gunas, called Rajas and Tamas. Rajas embodies the principals of energy, action, turbulence, and movement. It provokes thoughts, inspirations, and creativity in the mind. Too much can lead to overambition, restlessness, and aggression. It is said that too much Rajas leads one to seek satisfaction outside oneself rather than from within. Our fast-paced, high-achieving society is very rajasic, and our diet and lifestyle both reflect and aggravate our rajasic tendencies. Tamas follows the worn-out, tired, or depressed burnout of Rajas. Tamas is steady, heavy, calm, and solid. It causes sleep, degeneration, and death. Tamas helps complete cycles and activities—without Tamas nothing regenerates, renews, rests, or ends. It is associated with dullness, stillness, inertia, stagnation, lethargy, stubbornness, and illusion—in excess, these emotions can overwhelm the psyche. It is easy to pass judgment when first learning about the gunas, yet each has its virtues. Without Rajas we would never get up from our peaceful, sattvic morning daydream and make a meal and get off to work or school. Without Tamas we would never complete a project or find ourselves in a peaceful state of rest at the end of the day or at the end of our lives. We need the balance of all three to find true health and happiness—this graceful balance is called pure Sattva.
I love that Sattva is not an all-or-nothing state. In fact, to embody pure Sattva, we must engage with all three of the gunas. Learning to exercise them in balance is one of life’s greatest lessons. Luckily, Ayurveda and herbal medicine traditions around the world give us many tools to help cultivate such a life of balance. More than anything, Sattva is a lifestyle. One of the best ways to help promote Sattva is to create structure, regularity, and routine in your daily life. Daily routines help to create security for the body and mind, which helps promote the sattvic virtues. Your sleep schedule is one of the most important, and can take inspiration from the natural cycles of the earth, following the patterns of the sun and the cycle of the year. The first step is to pick a consistent bedtime and wake-up time. Falling asleep before 10 p.m. and waking up around 6 a.m. is recommended by Ayurveda. It can be appropriate for your sleep cycle to change a bit with the seasons, being drawn to an earlier bedtime during the colder, darker months, for example. Observe your body: What feels good—not necessarily in the moment (who doesn’t want to stay in bed a few extra minutes in the morning?), but what feels good throughout the day? I find that regularity and routine around sleep (and particularly getting up around 6 a.m.) sets me up to have a far more relaxed and grounded day, even when getting up early means I get a little less sleep. Another important area to cultivate structure and routine is around mealtimes. Eating three balanced meals a day helps the body know what to expect. This reduces stress, uncertainty, and distress at the physical level and therefore at the mental level, freeing the mind and spirit to experience a deeper state of Sattva. Going without food or relying on high-energy, low-nutrition snacks or drinks, on the other hand, stimulates Rajas, which leads to Tamas. Highprotein animal products and by-products, as well as refined and processed grains, high-sugar foods, and spicy foods, are rajasic. With the exception of nourishing proteins, it is best to avoid most foods in the rajasic category, at least on a regular basis. Relying on rajasic foods, as well as eating leftovers, leads to the stagnation of Tamas. Sattvic foods, on the other hand, are fresh, light, and nourishing. Most whole foods, including most organic vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, are sattvic. The cow is sacred in Ayurveda, so milk products from grass-fed cows that are living a sattvic life (not from factory-farmed animals) are considered sattvic. Ghee, an Ayurvedic type of clarified butter, is particularly nourishing and sattvic (recipe follows). In addition to making time to eat, making time to cook is a way to infuse your daily life with Sattva. Cooking gives us access to our inner landscape—as we chop, stir, and season we can dive into a contemplative, meditative sattvic state. When we cook in a sattvic way, we also infuse our food with REST |
greater Sattva. Making time for activities that are peaceful, nourishing, gentle, and grounding helps to promote Sattva in our physical and emotional body and in our larger environment. Living a sattvic lifestyle is one of the primary ways to support mental and emotional health. Rajasic and tamasic minds are prone to competition, jealousy, self-critique, and depression, whereas in a sattvic state of mind it is easy to take things in stride and to feel the love, harmony, and peace in our lives. When we are in a place of balance we can experience temporary turbulence of emotions—perhaps from hearing an upsetting news story or from a disappointing interaction with a friend—and they may even provoke us to take rajasic action, but because Sattva prevails, we can more easily return to a deep-rooted place of harmony and trust. One of the most powerful things about living a life of pure Sattva is that, not only is it grounding, balancing, and harmonizing, it is revitalizing. Living daily life in this balanced state helps to build our reserves, so these simple practices not only make us feel better, but they help the body to build lasting strength and vitality. And in turn, deep vitality is part of maintaining balance: if we are having a particularly rajasic day, we can tap into that vital energy in reserve and use it to sustain and nourish us. Another practice that is deeply restorative and sattvic is the practice of warm oil massage. Like cooking, self-massage has a contemplative quality that invites us in. It is deeply nourishing to the skin, nervous system, and immune system and helps the body to relax and unwind at the end of the day. It is a great before-bed practice, helping you drop your awareness down into your body and promoting deep, restful sleep. You can try sesame, coconut, olive, grapeseed, or any other type of oil. Use the same high-quality oil on your skin that you would choose to eat—we absorb substances through our skin just as much as through our gastrointestinal tract. To do a warm oil massage, first warm your oil in a small jar set into a bowl of hot water. In a warm room, gently massage your entire body with a thin layer of warm oil. Too much oil will leave you feeling greasy and heavy, so use just enough to barely coat the skin. If it appeals to you, massaging your scalp and face is very soothing to the nerves, as is massaging the bottoms of the feet. I like to follow my oil massage with a hot shower or bath; this opens the pores of the skin and helps the oil to absorb more deeply into the tissues. Gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to promote a sattvic state. While you do your oil massage, think about the things you are grateful for. Let your mind wonder and daydream, if you can. It is a great time to explore the veil between the worlds, between your conscious and unconscious, your spirit and the universal spirit—the place where Sattva is most at home.
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Cardamom-Rose Coconut Milk “Latte”
Sweet Potatoes with Ghee, Citrus & Cilantro
Cardamom, rose, and coconut are all sattvic. They have a subtle, gentle energy that leave the body inspired and nourished. This particular recipe is perfect to help you wind down in the evenings. It clears and nourishes the mind and the spirit in preparation for a good night’s rest. Makes two 8-ounce servings.
Ghee is a sacred and sattvic food in Ayurveda. Excellent for the digestion and the nervous system, it nourishes the mind and spirit. Ghee is anti-inflammatory and detoxifying. As a high-quality, easy-to-digest fat, it supports the hormonal system and helps the body to better cope with stress.
ingredients 1 cup coconut milk 1 cup water 1 teaspoon ground cardamom 1 teaspoon rose petals Maple syrup or raw honey (optional)
instructions Combine the coconut milk, water, cardamom, and rose petals in a small saucepan. Gently warm over low heat until a thin foam begins to form on top and the rose petals soften, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the rose petals with a slotted spoon and discard. Sweeten your latte to taste with maple syrup or raw honey, if desired. Garnish with more cardamom or a few rose petals and serve hot.
Sweet potatoes are delicious and deeply nourishing blood builders. They are sattvic, grounding, calming, and balancing. Serves 4 as a side dish.
ingredients 4 medium or 3 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes, with the skins 4 tablespoons ghee ½ teaspoon mineral salt ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon ½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped Juice from ½ lime Juice from ½ orange
instructions Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the sweet potato cubes on a baking sheet and add the ghee in dollops. Sprinkle with the salt and cinnamon. Place the pan in the oven just long enough to melt the ghee, then remove from the oven and toss the sweet potatoes well to coat. Return the seasoned sweet potatoes to the oven and bake for 35 to 50 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender and cooked through. Transfer the sweet potatoes from the baking sheet to a serving bowl. Add the cilantro, lime juice, and orange juice and toss well. Season with more salt to taste.
Ghee Ghee is a form of clarified butter that’s traditional to Ayurvedic medicine and Indian cuisine. The butter is cooked until the water evaporates and the milk proteins solidify and begin to caramelize. The proteins are then strained out, leaving behind the pure butterfat, called ghee. Ghee is highly nourishing, providing fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) in an easy-to-absorb form. It is excellent for the nervous, endocrine, and digestive systems, healing the tissues of the GI tract and reducing inflammation. In Ayurveda, it is considered a carrier: when your meal includes ghee, the fat helps deliver the nutrients in the food you’re eating to the cells of the body. Ghee has a high smoke point, 485°F, which makes it ideal for high-heat cooking. It can be used for searing, sautéing, roasting, or frying, or it can be used like butter on your food: put a dab of ghee on steamed veggies or a bowl of oatmeal. It has a mild, nutty flavor that goes well with many foods. Makes 2 cups.
ingredients 1 pound unsalted butter
instructions Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is completely melted, reduce the heat to the lowest setting your stove will allow and cook uncovered to allow the water to evaporate. As it cooks, the butter will bubble and its proteins will form a foamy white layer on top. This foamy white coat will eventually begin to solidify and fall to the bottom of the pan. The butter will sputter less and less as it continues to cook, indicating that
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water has evaporated. When the sputtering has mostly stopped and the ghee is clear with a rich golden color, it is ready. (If necessary, use a spoon to push the foam to the side to see the color of the ghee beneath.) This entire cooking process takes 20 to 30 minutes. Watch it carefully: if it becomes brown, the proteins at the bottom of the pan have burned from overcooking. Let the ghee cool for a few minutes, then strain it through fine cheesecloth or cotton muslin into a glass jar. Let it cool completely before putting on the lid. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, ghee will keep for 6 months. Always use a clean utensil when you scoop some out.
Centered & Focused Tea One of the most important ways that we can comfort ourselves is by soothing our nervous system. Our nervous system becomes agitated and aggravated when we are in pain, when we are cold, hungry, or dehydrated, or when we are emotionally distraught. And, of course, when the nervous system becomes aggravated, all of those symptoms worsen. Many culinary herbs have aromatic oils that soothe and open up the nervous system while supporting circulation and mental clarity. This tea is perfect for helping us to stay focused and relaxed during times of relative calm or high stress. Makes 4 servings.
1 tablespoon dried linden leaf and flower (oatstraw, milky oat tops, and chamomile are also excellent) 2 teaspoons dried or chopped fresh basil 2 teaspoons dried or chopped fresh mint 1 teaspoon dried or fresh rosemary leaves 1 teaspoon fennel seeds 4 cups boiling water
Combine the linden, basil, mint, rosemary, and fennel seeds in a teapot and pour the boiling water over them. Cover and let steep for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea. Strain and enjoy. As you sip the tea, let its aroma stimulate your senses and relax your body and mind.
“Ghee” and “Centered and Focused Tea” recipes are excerpted from Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen, © Brittany Wood Nickerson, photography © Keller+Keller Photography; used with permission from Storey Publishing. The image of ghee on page 70 is © Alexandra Grablewski.
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wholesome winter cakes BY JESSICA LEWIS STEVENS
here is no better time for cake than winter, when the heat from the oven and the kinship of gathering around the table for something sweet can warm both our limbs and our hearts. These cakes
make use of comforting, rich flavors, hearty root-cellar vegetables, and warming spices to bring us together and make the shortest days of the year a little sweeter.
Chickadee Cake Inspired by the flavors in a classic “hummingbird cake,” this pared-down, pineapple-free version is a little less sugary and a little more wholesome. The banana and toasted coconut make a sublime combination for a cake that is both simple and richly flavorful. Named for our favorite local winter bird, Chickadee Cake makes an afternoon at home perfectly sweet. Makes one 9-inch single-layer cake.
ingredients ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda ¼ teaspoon salt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature ½ cup raw sugar ½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 medium bananas, mashed 1 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice Confectioners’ sugar and/or fresh whipped cream, for topping
instructions 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line with a circle of parchment paper. 2. While the oven is heating, spread the coconut flakes on a baking sheet and toast in the warming oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until the edges become deep golden brown. Set aside to cool. 3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. 4. In a separate medium bowl, beat the butter, raw sugar, and brown sugar using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and bananas and beat to incorporate.
6. Add half of the coconut milk mixture to the creamed butter and bananas and beat to combine. Add half the flour mixture and beat. Add the remaining halves of the two mixtures, alternating between wet and dry, beating after each addition until fully incorporated. Fold in the toasted coconut, reserving a tablespoon or so for garnish. 7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden on top and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. 8. Allow the cake to cool completely, then top with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Sprinkle the reserved toasted coconut on top and serve.
5. In a measuring cup, stir together the coconut milk and lemon juice. REST |
Parsnip Cake with Clementine Cream Frosting Parsnip takes over for carrot in this sweetly spiced variation on classic cold weather flavors. The clementine syrup in the frosting makes for a bright, tart, and scrumptious topping. Makes one 2-layer cake.
ingredients For the Cake: 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup whole wheat flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon ½ teaspoon ground ginger ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg 2 cups grated parsnip 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup brown sugar 4 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ¾ cup milk kefir or plain yogurt For the Clementine Cream Frosting: One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened 2 cups confectioners’ sugar ½ cup Clementine Syrup (recipe follows)
instructions 1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper. 2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Add the grated parsnip and toss it in the flour mixture to coat completely.
5. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until deeply golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool. 6. While the cake is baking, prepare your frosting. First, you will need to make the clementine syrup (recipe follows).
3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter and the brown sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition to incorporate completely. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then the kefir.
7. To make the frosting, combine the softened cream cheese and butter, the confectioners’ sugar, and ½ cup of clementine syrup in a medium bowl and beat or whisk until fully combined.
4. Add the flour and parsnip mixture to the butter and egg mixture and fold them together until fully incorporated.
8. After the cake has cooled completely, frost it and serve.
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Clementine Syrup This recipe yields more syrup than the Clementine Cream Frosting requires, but you’ll want the extra for swirling into your sparkling water and drizzling over morning pancakes. Makes about 1 cup.
ingredients 1 cup raw sugar ½ cup water
¾ cup clementine juice (from 6 to 8 clementines) 1 teaspoon clementine zest
instructions Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is fully dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Add the clementine juice and zest, and continue to cook at a low simmer until the liquid has reduced by about half, about 10 minutes or more. It is finished when thickened to a sticky, but still liquid, consistency.
Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake with Dark Ginger Ganache Rich and complex, this cake makes good use of some of the roots tucked away in winter storage. With a deep, earthy flavor gleaned from beetroot complemented by the gentle heat of ginger, this cake warms from the inside out. Makes 1 Bundt cake.
ingredients For the Cake: 4 large beets 3 cups all-purpose flour 1½ cups raw sugar ¾ cups cocoa powder 2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 3 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water ⅓ cup canola oil 1 teaspoon vanilla extract For the Ganache: ½ cup heavy cream 1 tablespoon raw honey 2-inch piece of ginger, sliced 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
instructions 1. First, prepare your beet puree. Peel the beets, if desired, and roughly chop them. Put the chopped beets into a medium saucepan and cover with about 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. 2. Drain the cooked beets and allow to cool slightly, then purée in a blender or food processor. Reserve 1¾ cups of beet puree for the cake and save any remaining for another use. 3. Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter a Bundt pan. 4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. 5. In a separate medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a whisk. Whisk in the water, canola oil, and vanilla extract. Add the beet purée and stir or whisk well. 6. Add the flour mixture to the beet mixture and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until fully incorporated.
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7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool. 8. To make the ganache, combine the heavy cream, honey, and sliced ginger in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat until the mixture barely comes to a simmer and adjust the heat as needed to hold at a very low simmer for about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Strain the mixture through a sieve set over a bowl to remove the ginger, then return the mixture to the pan. Return the pan to the warm burner and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth. 9. After the cake has cooled in the pan for at least 15 minutes, turn it out of the pan onto a plate. Pour or spoon the warm ganache over the cake. Serve warm, or allow to cool before serving.
RAINBOW A GUIDE TO NATURAL FOOD DYES BY SOPHIE MACKENZIE
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s a devoted reader of labels I keenly keep my eyes peeled for some particular food additives: hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, and added colors are at the top of my list of concerns. Synthetic food coloring seems like an obvious ingredient to avoid, but many of us are not sure why we steer clear of them, beyond that too much could be “bad” for us. It turns out, most food colorings are made from synthetic ingredients derived from petroleum, and repeated studies have shown that these synthetic dyes cause problems in children, ranging from allergies to hyperactivity and difficulty learning. If that isn’t cause enough for concern, particular colors have been shown to cause cancer in animals (that is, FD&C Blue Nos. 1 and 2, Green No. 3, Red No. 40, and Yellow Nos. 5 and 6), and their the long-term effects on humans are not yet fully known. Despite all of this, food coloring use is booming. In a world that’s obsessed with rainbow cakes and “unicorn” and “mermaid” colored foods, it is well documented that we’re eating more synthetic dyes now than ever before (around fives times as much as in the 1950s). But we don’t have to. While we might want to make a conscious effort to avoid these foods, there are times when having something festive and colorful at home is just what we need. Knowing what natural ingredients can give your food that hit of color allows you to infuse fun and vibrancy into your meals—often adding a little nutrition, too. A simple raid of your pantry, fridge, or local health food store can yield vast options to liven up any birthday party, holiday, or simple weekday meal.
THE NATURAL RAINBOW
The common colors of food dye found in the average baking aisle can be just as easily found in the produce section. Looking for natural dye sources, you need to take into consideration the consistency of the source (liquid or powder), the flavor, and whether its color will change or fade over time. The following are my favorite go-to dye sources to achieve vibrant colors in both sweet and savory dishes. RED AND PINK The juice from freshly grated beets adds a rich dark red to cakes, pasta, lattes, and even pickled eggs. Beet powder offers a dry option for adding to breads, cakes, and frostings. Steeping strong hibiscus tea is another option for a vibrant reds in liquid form. For pretty pinks, try using the juice of fresh raspberries or cherries. ORANGE A great source of orange is carrot juice. If you don’t have access to fresh carrot juice, grate some carrots
on the finest grater available and squeeze the pulp over a sieve to release its juice. Another favorite of mine is goji berries: simply steep some goji berries in hot water until they’re soft, then drain and puree with a few drops of water (enough to get the mixture moving). (You can sometimes even find powdered goji berry juice, which also works wonders.) Finally, if it’s wintertime, blood orange juice is a great source of pinky-orange color and adds a beautiful citrus flavor to baking or icing. YELLOW There is one best option for bright and vibrant yellows, and that is turmeric. While turmeric does have a strong flavor, there’s no need to worry: a little bit goes a long way. If you’re making something savory, such as a bread or grain dish, another option is to add a little saffron steeped in hot water. If it’s a sweet item you’re looking to dye, the juice from grated and squeezed golden beets can also work well (however, their color can turn brownish when cooked in breads and cakes). GREEN Green is a rather simple and flavorful color to make. Juice from spinach (made by pureeing it with a dash of water and straining) is great for adding color to baked goods. For items like pastas, muffins, and pancakes, a handful of whole spinach leaves can be blended in without adding much flavor. For icing, I love to use a little matcha powder or spirulina, both of which add a subtle and enjoyable flavor. BLUE The most unnatural looking of the natural dyes, you can get blue in a few different ways. There’s blueberry powder, and trendy blue algae is a great option, though it’s rather pricey. Blueberry juice adds a nice blue-purple tinge, and cooking purple cabbage in a little water with a tiny amount of baking soda will result in a vibrant blue. My alltime favorite way to get blue, however, is to make a strong concentrate of butterfly pea flower tea. PURPLE Purple and blue are so close that many of the same fruits and veggies can be used for both. Cooking purple cabbage in a little water will result in a purple cooking liquid that can be further reduced. A strong butterfly pea flower tea will turn purple with a little lemon juice. If these are too exotic for you, try adding a little natural grape juice (without coloring) or blackberry juice. BLACK The best way to achieve black is from food-grade activated charcoal. It should be noted that a little goes a long way: activated charcoal will remove both nutrients and medication from your body, so use it wisely.
GREEN SPINACH PANCAKES WITH CURRIED CHICKPEA SALAD Spinach adds fun color and a boost of nutrition to these flourless pancakes. Here they are served up with a curried chickpea salad, but they can just as easily be served with fruit and syrup for a sweet breakfast. Serves 4.
ingredients For the Spinach Pancakes: ½ cup uncooked millet ½ cup uncooked quinoa 1 tablespoon chia seeds 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons water ½ cup spinach ½ teaspoon baking powder Pinch of sea salt 1 tablespoon high-heat oil of choice, such as avocado or coconut For the Chickpea Salad: 2 cups cooked chickpeas 1 celery stalk, diced 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 1 tablespoon chopped raisins 2 tablespoons mayonnaise ½ teaspoon curry powder ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper Pinch of cayenne Sea salt
instructions 1. About 8 hours before serving, put the millet and quinoa in a small bowl and add enough water to cover by an inch. Let soak in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. 2. To make the pancakes, first mix a chia egg: In a small bowl or a jar, combine the chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of the water. Stir well and let sit until the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
into the hot pan and use a spoon to spread out into a thin, even layer about 6 inches wide. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake, 2 to 4 minutes, then flip and cook the other side until set, less than 1 minute. Repeat with remaining batter, adding oil to the pan as needed. Any extra batter can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days.
3. Drain the soaked grains and combine them with the chia egg, 1 cup of fresh water, and the spinach, baking powder, and salt in a high-speed blender. Blend until the mixture is totally smooth; the batter will look somewhat like a smoothie.
5. To make the curried chickpea salad, combine the chickpeas, celery, parsley, and raisins in a medium bowl. Using the back of a fork or a potato masher, gently crush some of the beans so that about half are lightly mashed and half are still intact. Add the mayonnaise, curry powder, black pepper, and cayenne and stir to combine. Add salt to taste.
4. Heat about 1 teaspoon of the oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat. Pour ¼ cup of batter
6. To serve, fill each pancake with a heaping spoonful of curried chickpeas and fold into a little package.
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CONFETTI SPRINKLES The perfect thing for a child’s party, these sprinkles are gluten free, sugar free, and all natural. You can find the beautiful butterfly pea flower tea for your blue sprinkles at any tea shop and most herbal apothecaries. Makes ¾ cup to 1 cup.
ingredients 12 to 16 tablespoons unsweetened desiccated coconut ⅛ teaspoon spirulina 1 carrot 1 teaspoon loose-leaf butterfly pea flower tea 1 tablespoon boiling water ⅛ teaspoon ground turmeric 4 blackberries ⅛ teaspoon beet powder, or ½ fresh beetroot
instructions Divide the coconut among 6 small containers, one for each color, and add colorings as follows (if you do not have access to all of these colorants, see “The Natural Rainbow” for a list of alternatives): • To make the green sprinkles, add the spirulina powder and a drop of water to the coconut in one bowl and stir well. (The water will help the powder to coat the coconut.) • For the orange, finely grate the carrot and handsqueeze over a sieve held above one of the coconut containers, extracting as much juice as you can. (The grated carrot can be used for something else when you’re done). Stir. • For the blue, steep the butterfly pea flower tea in 1 tablespoon of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Strain, then add only the liquid to the coconut. Stir. • For the yellow, add the turmeric and a drop of water to the coconut and stir. • For the purple, place a sieve over a small bowl and add the blackberries. Using the back of a spoon, crush the berries to release their juice. Add the juice to the fifth bowl of coconut. • Finally, to make the red sprinkles, add the beet powder and a drop of water to the last bowl of coconut and stir. To use fresh beet instead, finely grate the beet and follow the instructions for making orange dye from a carrot. Set your oven on its lowest setting and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. To dry the sprinkles, transfer onto the prepared baking sheet, keeping the colors separate if possible, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until dry but not browned. Alternatively, dehydrate in a dehydrator. Once dried, these will last for months in a jar in the cupboard.
ball shape has been formed, transfer the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and cover with a tea towel. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes while the oven comes to temperature. 3. After the oven has preheated and the dough has rested, carefully remove the hot Dutch oven, and remove its lid. Gently lower the parchment and loaf into the hot pot. Cover the pot and return it to the oven. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the loaf is puffed and risen, then remove the lid from the pot. Continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf is nice and crusty. 4. Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven. Let it cool until able to be handled, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
GOLDEN NO-KNEAD BREAD A perfect bread for when you have little time, this loaf is simply mixed together the night before then cooked in the morning—no kneading required. A great accompaniment to a hearty soup or eggs, or for your avocado toast. Makes 1 loaf.
ingredients 3 cups organic white flour, or a combination of 2 cups white flour and 1 cup whole wheat 1½ teaspoon sea salt ½ teaspoon instant yeast 1 teaspoon ground turmeric Big pinch of ground black pepper 1½ cups water, at room temperature
instructions 1. Make the dough the night before you plan to bake it. Combine the flour, salt, yeast, turmeric, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the water and stir until no lumps remain and a thick dough forms. Cover the mixture with beeswax wrap or a plate to prevent it from drying out. Allow to sit out on the counter for 10 to 12 hours. 2. The next morning, place a 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven with a lid into your oven and then preheat to 450°F. Meanwhile, flour your countertop and gently turn out the risen dough. By this point the dough should be puffy and bubbly. Using well-floured hands or a bench scrapper, gently form the dough into a round while trying not to knock out any of the air (remember, this is a no-kneed bread). Once a rough
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RAINBOW ROYAL ICING Having a selection of natural powdered dyes on hand in your pantry is a great way to be prepared for any baking that comes up. This recipe includes my favorite powders to add to royal icing and butter icing, as they do not thin out the consistency or make the icing runny. While you may not have access to all of these, most natural food stores will carry many of them in the bulk section or in little containers. Again, some colorings will add a slight flavor to the icing, so start with just a little and test as you go. Use this to ice your favorite sugar cookies.
ingredients 3 egg whites, from pasteurized eggs ¾ to 1 pound confectioners’ sugar ½ teaspoon vanilla extract Powdered coloring of choice, such as: Spirulina for green Turmeric for yellow Blueberry powder for blue Goji berry powder for orange Beet powder for red (use less for pink) Blue spirulina for blue
instructions Whip the egg whites with an electric beater just until frothy. Add ¾ pound of the confectioners’ sugar and beat. Add more sugar as needed to achieve a thick yet still pipe-able consistency. Add the vanilla and beat. If you want more than one color, divide the icing into the same number of small bowls as the colors you want. Add a little bit of powder at a time, stirring after each addition, until the desired color is achieved.
a meditation in cheese BY KIRSTEN K. SHOCKEY PHOTOGRAPHS BY RIKKI SNYDER
f the fermentation crafts, cheesemaking may be one of the simplest. The only ingredients you need are milk and a willingness to surrender to time—patience and serenity are words that come to mind. If you are looking to slow down, taking part in the transformation of milk to cheese can help. It induces wonder as it provides a rhythm: stirring, ripening, resting, and pressing, one step at a time. In 2002, early in my stint as a cheesemaker, we had only one milk goat—no cows yet. It was before the milking of animals had evolved into an every-morning chore—and I don’t mean “every” in the loose sense of the word. I am talking every morning, seven days a week, weekends and holidays not excluded. Eventually, every single day I would be faced with three to four gallons of fresh, warm milk. This was before all that, when it was still cute that I made cheese, and it was only once or twice a week. Here’s a journal entry from June of that year: Thursday, June 13, 2002 5 a.m. It is 5 a.m. The refrigerator is full of milk—again. It has been this way since March. I knew when I put away last night’s milk that we’d hit critical capacity. A wall of white gallon jars teetered on the front edge of the shelves, hiding our groceries somewhere behind.
I’ve pulled out two of the older gallons and am waiting for the water to boil. It’s a good time to make cheese. The house is quiet, which fits the mood of cheesemaking. It is a slow process: the warmed milk waits many times, napping for the next step. Of course, that is not entirely true—I will tuck the milk into the lidded pot with the desired culture thinking all is calm; however, inside is probably a party of friendly bacteria, making more and more friends, quickly acidifying my milk. “Probably a party of friendly bacteria”: now that just makes my 2017 self laugh, given my current place in the world of transforming food with bacteria.* 5:28 a.m. Feta, in the larger sense of the word, doesn’t begin with my full refrigerator. To get feta in June, start listening to goats sometime in late summer, when the first fall breeze has blown in unnoticed. Our normally silent doe starts vocalizing, a polite way of saying she is asking for a man, and won’t be quiet until she gets one. From this moment on, all other tasks of the day are set aside because next year’s milk is riding on the next twenty-four hours and my finding a suitable boyfriend. I begin calling various honeymoon spots ( folks with breeding bucks), hoping someone is home.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: See Kirsten’s many books on fermentation as well as her website, FermentWorks (http://ferment.works).
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This entry goes on and on, back and forth between dairy goat breeding (like driving a stinky goat in a hatchback) and the process of making feta that morning before the family got up. 5:50 a.m. The milk is ripening. In 45 minutes I will check for a clean break in the curd, which means when I press with a knife on the curd it cracks nicely, revealing clear whey. When it’s ready, I will cut the curd. The fast sound of the long knife hitting and scraping along the bottom of the stainless steel pot is the only bit of cinematic action. I will bring the knife lengthwise, widthwise, creating white jello-like long rectangles, finally a diagonal-horizontal cut to make smaller squares. There is a 5-minute settling period for all the disruption that takes place. It is the beginning of separating
CHOOSING MILK FOR CHEESEMAKING Ideally, use fresh and unpasteurized milk—something that, a hundred or so years ago, was as ubiquitous as the family cow and flock of hens, but which very few of us have access to now. If you have a source, yay for you; if you don’t, it’s fine. You will want to use the freshest, best quality goat’s milk or unhomogenized whole milk available: look for that cream-on-top kind, and take it from the back of the cooler. (In general, the freshest products are stocked in the rear.) Hint: The denser the cream on top, the older the milk. If the milk is in a clear jug or glass bottle, you can tip the container a bit and see if the air bubble at the top can move down the side of the bottle: If it moves, the milk is fresh. If there is no movement, chances are the cream is plugging the top of the container and the milk is older. Still, if less-fresh milk is all that is available, don’t despair; it will still work. Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized, so you won’t see a cream top unless it is old; even goat milk will eventually separate some. If you are using grocery store milk, you may want to add calcium chloride, an optional ingredient that can help coagulation (that is, creating the curd) and improve yield.
UNDERSTANDING THE INGREDIENTS
Cultures are powdered starters that contain types of lactic bacteria that transform sugars into acid. The wide variety in these types of microorganisms, each of which responds
the curds and the whey, which has to be done slowly (hopefully the kids won’t be up yet) and with some finesse; otherwise I will create problems in my cheese, the most serious of which, I think, is losing the cream with the whey. Funny how life changes. These days I rarely get up at 5 a.m., because Why? It is quiet now, all day long. I miss the daily pattern, the tie to home, the warmth of fresh milk brought to the house by impish man-cubs—and I don’t. I no longer make cheese out of necessity but for the pleasure of the process. There is something deep in me, or in our humanity, that finds a profound fulfillment, or joy even, in caring for dairy animals and making cheese. I haven’t yet let go of the notion that someday I will have another dairy animal, and I will bring this grounding cadence back into my orbit.
a bit differently, is responsible for the myriad of cheeses in the world. For the beginner, the best choice for successful results is freeze-dried cultures that are added directly to the milk. Flora Danica and MT1 are both mesophilic cultures, which thrive in a temperature range of 80°F to 102°F.
The calcium in milk gives it structure and helps the curd develop. In older or pasteurized milks, however, the calcium may become damaged, which will decrease the final yield. In these cases, calcium chloride can be added (at least 5 minutes before the rennet) to improve the yield from these milks. Calcium chloride is sold in powdered and liquid forms, both of which must be diluted in water before adding. Either type can be stored at room temperature indefinitely. Interestingly, if there is not enough calcium in the milk and, therefore, in the resulting brine, aged feta can become soft in the brine over time. To avoid this, calcium chloride can also be added to the brine. (For this recipe, though, you won’t be storing your feta in brine: you will eat it fresh or after aging in olive oil.)
A whole article could be written on rennet and all the types available, but in a nutshell, it is an enzyme solution that coagulates milk by causing the proteins to stick together. For this recipe, you will be using a double-strength liquid vegetarian rennet. But be aware: some vegetarian rennet is now made through fermentation using a GMO microbe (the vendors listed in the Resources do not carry this GMO rennet). Measure carefully: Too much enzyme, and you will get bitter flavors; too little, and the milk won’t curdle properly.
Feta Feta is unique in that it is basically pickled in salt brine. Technically true feta is made from sheep’s milk with some goat’s milk added, though most “feta” that you can buy is made from cow’s milk. Interestingly, the “feta technique” and brining style are applied to cow’s milk to make another traditional Mediterranean cheese, called telemes, which originated in Romania. Because our cows were grass fed, when I made “feta” from their milk, it was a light yellow color, like butter. Even though I followed the same process that produced the feta we expected whenever I made it with goat’s milk, this cheese had its own terroir. It was delicious and easy, but we didn’t recognize a similarity to any common cheeses. Instead of brining all of it for storage, I would dry-salt the 1-pound rounds for immediate use and wrap them in unbleached waxed paper bags; we sold these to neighbors, and it became known as the Brown Bag Cheese. Turns out, the whole time I was making telemes. This fresh feta is wonderful as it is. However, it is amazing after being marinated and aged in olive oil. Marinated aged feta is an easy, uncomplicated first step beyond fresh cheeses and into the realm of aged cheeses. The aging process is fun, and this recipe gives you a chance to see how deep, wonderful flavors can develop through aging, without needing to have the special type of space and conditions required to age most cheeses. (You age this feta in your refrigerator.) Makes about 1 pound.
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check the temperature of the water in the canner: if the water is warmer than 90°F, remove the stockpot from the water bath. Sprinkle the Flora Danica or MT1 culture on top of the milk and let it sit there for a few minutes to hydrate; this will prevent clumping when you stir it. Stir gently for 2 or 3 minutes, again with an up-and-down motion.
ingredients 1 gallon unhomogenized whole cow’s or goat’s milk (see sidebar on choosing milk) ⅛ teaspoon (.02 gram) Flora Danica or MT1 culture ⅛ teaspoon liquid calcium chloride diluted in 2 tablespoons cool nonchlorinated water (optional) 1∕16 teaspoon liquid vegetarian rennet diluted in 2 tablespoons cool nonchlorinated water 2 tablespoons cheesemaking salt or any salt without added ingredients
equipment Stainless steel (preferably heavy-bottomed) stockpot Slotted ladle Food thermometer that can read below 100°F Long knife, ideally a round-tipped cake knife or frosting spatula A water-bath canner Colander Fine cheesecloth (butter muslin) String Storage container with lid
instructions 1. Fill your stockpot with enough water to fill it about three quarters full (about 1 to 2 gallons of water) and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, then use the slotted ladle to lower your thermometer and curdcutting knife into the boiling water. Leave all the implements, including the bottom of the ladle, in the boiling water for about 5 minutes to sterilize. Pull everything out and place on clean, dry tea towel to air-dry. Turn off the heat. Carefully pour the boiling water into the canner. (Since this will become a warming jacket for the stockpot of milk you will set inside, you want enough water in the canner to hug the outside of your stockpot at least to the level of the milk. If it looks like the stockpot might displace too much water out of the canner, go ahead and pour out some excess hot water now.) Place the canner on the burner, but no need to turn on the heat. 2. Pour the milk into the empty stockpot and place the stockpot into the water-filled canner. The hot water will begin warming the milk immediately. With the slotted ladle, stir it gently in an up-and-down motion. Turn the heat on and off as needed to reach the desired temperature of 86°F to 88°F. When the milk reaches temperature, turn off the heat if it is on. Now
3. If you haven’t already, remove the stockpot from the canner. Place the lid on the stockpot, wrap the pot in a thick bath towel to help maintain the temperature, and allow to the cultured milk to ripen for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (This is when the bacteria are converting sugars and acidifying the milk. The timing is a little flexible here: the longer the milk sits, the more of the sugars will be processed by the microbes. Closer to 1 hour will give your cheese a sharper flavor; however, I wouldn’t go over the hour.) 4. If you are using (diluted) calcium chloride, stir it in now. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. 5. Stir the milk again with an up-and-down motion. Add the diluted rennet as follows: hold your slotted ladle about 2 inches over the top of your milk and pour the rennet onto and through the ladle, allowing it to disperse before it hits the milk. Stir, using the same gentle up-and-down motion, for about 1 minute. Hold the ladle gently at the surface of the milk to still the milk as much as possible. (Milk holds its heat well, but it is time to check the temperature. If it is below 86°F, very slowly add a bit of heat by gently—you don’t want to disturb anything in the pot right now— placing the pot back in warm water that is not above 90°F.) Set the stockpot, wrapped in a towel, in a warm spot in your kitchen to coagulate for 45 minutes, or until “clean break” is achieved.
The curd should be firm like soft silken-style tofu. To check it for “clean break,” cut a small slit in the curd, then insert the tip of the knife under this slit and lift gently. If the curd is ready, the break is “clean,” and the whey will seep out a clear, almost yellow color. If the liquid is still milky and white, wait 5 minutes or so and try again.
6. It’s time to cut the curd. Gently pull the long knife through the curd in deep, straight cuts across the mass. The cuts should reach the bottom of the pot and be about ¾ inch apart. Repeat this step, slicing crosswise. You will be making vertical columns of curd. Then pass the knife through the curd a third time, making cuts (again about ¾ inch apart) diagonally through columns. Try to make these diagonal cuts as close to perpendicular as possible. Let the curds rest for 15 minutes. 7. Check the temperature of your curds and whey. You are still trying to maintain the same temperature—
86°F to 88°F—which might require a bit of careful reheating in the hot water bath. (In the next step, you will start to gently stir your curds up and down. If you are reheating, you can stir while you are bringing the mixture back up to temperature. Just be sure to keep an eye on the thermometer and not let it go above 88°F.) 8. Submerge your slotted ladle, then lift it slowly and watch your curds slowly move through the liquid. You are beginning the process of releasing more whey from the curds as they slowly tighten and contract. Continue to gently stir in an up-and-down motion. You shouldn’t see the curds cracking apart or breaking much; if you do, slow down. Here’s where you really have to turn on your patience, apply your mediation skills, and be Zen with the curd. There can be no multitasking here: this is where working faster can compromise the texture of your cheese. (I have used this time in the most hectic of days to allow myself moments to breathe, no matter if “Rome” was proverbially burning around me.)
Don’t let me scare you, though: you got this! You will know you are stirring too quickly if you see curds crack and shatter. Curds for feta are very tender and soft. If the curds are over an inch long, lift them with the ladle and cut into smaller pieces. After the stirring period, let them—you guessed it—rest for 5 minutes.
9. In the meantime, position a colander over a pot or bowl and line it with fine cheesecloth (if you like, you can use clothespins to hold the cheesecloth in place). When the curds have finished resting, carefully ladle them into the cheesecloth to drain. After you have removed all you can, gently pour the whey and the rest of the curds over the lined colander to capture all the curd. Set the whey aside for another use (see note). 10. Create a bundle with the cheesecloth and hang it to drain as follows: Tie the corners of the cheesecloth together over the handle of the ladle and suspend the bundle, by the ladle, over the stockpot. Alternatively, gather together the edges of the cheesecloth and tie with string, then use the string to hang your bundle from a cabinet handle (set a pot or bowl below to catch the whey). Make sure your draining cheese isn’t in contact with the drained whey below. Allow the curds to drain at room temperature (65°F to 72°F) for 12 hours. 11. Unwrap the drained feta and cut into slabs about 1 inch thick. Sprinkle evenly with the salt. Place side by side in a storage container and allow to sit, covered, at room temperature for 8 hours, occasionally turning the slabs to coat them with the salt and resultant whey. This fresh feta is now ready to use. Refrigerate. The fresh cheese will keep much the same as store-bought cheese, for about 1 month. If marinating in olive oil, it will keep for about 6 months in the refrigeratator.
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NOTE: Waste not, make whey cheese (ricotta). When you are all finished, bring the reserved whey to almost boiling. When the surface starts to quiver, turn off the heat and pour in ¼ cup vinegar or lemon juice. This will release the final solids from the milk, which will rise to the top. Carefully ladle out these small curds and drain them in a colander lined with fine-mesh cheesecloth (butter muslin) and placed over a bowl. Allow the curds to drain to the desired firmness, then salt lightly to taste.
Olive Oil Marinade ingredients Feta (see recipe) Fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano, or tarragon 1 to 2 cups olive oil (see note) NOTE: Extra-virgin cold-pressed oil will impart more flavor and is more likely to solidify in the refrigerator. If you donâ€™t want the oil to be solid when cold, combine a lighter (more refined) olive oil with another oil that is less likely to solidify, such as refined sunflower oil.
equipment 1-quart (approximately) wide-mouth glass jar with lid (Have fun here and pick something pretty!)
instructions Allow the fresh feta to sit in the refrigerator for 3 days. Check daily and drain any developing brine. After 3 days, cut the slabs into 1-inch cubes. Place in a glass jar and add fresh herbs as desired. Pour olive oil over the cubes until they are completely submerged, and secure the lid. Place the jar in the refrigerator and allow to age for at least 1 month and up to a year. Take the jar out of the fridge a few hours before serving. Return the jar with the uneaten portion to the fridge.
When I began making cheese there was one book out there. I learned by trial and plenty of error. Now there are a plethora of books and cheesemaking resources.
cheesemaking that utilizes added acids instead of allowing time and bacteria to do the work. For this type of cheese, I turn to this book by Claudia Lucero.
The Cheesemakerâ€™s Manual by Margaret P. Morris This book was the second book I found and the one that finally taught me to make good cheese. It contains very few photos, but it is still a valuable book if you want to go past basic cheesemaking.
Online Cheesemaking Suppliers
Mastering Basic Cheesemaking: The Fun and Fundamentals of Making Cheese at Home by Gianaclis Caldwell This is my favorite book to understand (and have success with) cultured cheeses. One-Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero Cheesemaking is a process of acidification, and just as much fun (and wonder) can be experienced in quick
Get Culture: www.getculture.com/freeze-dried-cheese-cultures New England Cheesemaking Supply Co.: www.cheesemaking.com This site also features a helpful state-by-state milk locator. Urban Cheesecraft: www.urbancheesecraft.com For quick-style cheese kits.
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meeting lavender BY AMY JIRSA
PHOTOGRAPHS BY DEMETRIA PROVATAS
o many of us—we gardeners, crafters, creators, artists, and artisans of all sorts—have a hard time with the idea of restorative rest. Somehow, the notions of restoration and ease get lost in translation, our mantra being I should be doing something right now. For me, at least, I think it’s a question of faith in myself: Have I earned this rest? And, if so, will I become so enamored of it that I will turn to voluntary idleness? Despite the fact that I know my fear is unfounded (anyone who’s ever been temporarily bed- or house-bound with a sprained ankle can attest that doing nothing gets old pretty quickly), I’m still loathe to slow down, much less to stop. But would you believe an herbalist when she says, “I have an herb for that”? Well you should, and I do: Meet (or, probably more accurately, reintroduce yourself to) Lavandula officinalis, aka Lavandula angustifolia. Out of the fancy pants? Say hello to lavender. I know, I know: lavender is old news, and everyone and their neighbor’s dog has a bottle of lavender essential oil in their kitchen or first-aid kit or bedside table drawer. (Its popularity in no way diminishes lavender’s stellar reputation, however—that puppy is well-earned.) But I’m not talking lavender essential oil, as such. I’m talking about the herb itself—the whole package, stem to stern. For the sake of full disclosure, here’s a secret for you: I don’t love the scent of lavender. I’ve tried and tried, but eventually I had to relegate the oil to first-aid use only (for burns and insect bites and as an antiseptic for a cut, in a pinch). But I’m stubbornly opposed to not liking a plant. After all, who loves the scent of valerian? Very few, but it doesn’t stop many of us from using it on the occasional sleepless night. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go out and take a sniff of the tincture—I dare you.) Plus, lavender is a mint, and I do love
the other mints. So I decided to investigate the whole herb, holistic detective style. Here’s what brought me around. It was the words of herbalist Barbara St. Dennis: “The world is moving toward a lavender condition . . . what used to be called obsessional thinking is now normal. People are mentally full . . . addicted to a stress-filled life.” Well. If that’s a lavender thing, then sign me up. Send me the membership card, the name tag, the newsletter, because I am mentally full—topped up with that lavender condition. Why does it work? Well, lavender is a relaxing nervine (as opposed to an out-for-the-count sedative), just gently tugging at that knot of tension until it manages to untie it, loosening the twined strands of your temperament and leaving you in-tune and relaxed. Since it’s an aromatic herb, bursting with volatile oils, its essential oil has long been the delivery system of choice for lavender, and its name graces almost every kind of scented product, from soaps to bath salts to vacuum cleaner bags. (Truth—I’ve seen it.) But my favorite herb delivery system? Oh, it’s always tea. There is nothing in this world more restful than the ritual of brewing tea, sitting with a quiet cup while storms rage, outside or otherwise. The ritual of tea, like the ritual of gardening, knitting, hiking, whittling, what-have-you, is healing and restorative in and of itself. But lavender tea on its own is . . . challenging. I tried it once, and the aromatherapy factor itself had me out the door before the cup reached my lips. It turns out, the secret is blends. Tea blending is an endless curiosity for me, and I’m perpetually fiddling with my blends. Here’s my favorite lavender tea blend. Brewing it reminds me that sometimes it’s enough just to curl up with our plants, drink our steaming cuppa, and watch as the world shifts around us.
Resting Mind Tea I usually make up a pint jar of this blend and then dole it out a tablespoon per cup.
ingredients 1 part lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) Lemon balm is stellar for easing sadness and depression, encouraging sleep, and lifting mood. Bonus? The scent! The flavor! Amazing. 1 part milky oats (Avena sativa) These are the seeds (grain) of the oat, harvested while still green and unripe. You can generally find them in the bulk herb or tea section of most natural food stores. Green oats are earthy and sweet, and restorative for an overtaxed nervous system. Boasting a hefty amount of silica, they simultaneously boost our mineral stores while easing our minds. ¼ part dried lavender flowers (Lavandula officinalis/angustifolia) ¼ part dried rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) The flavor of rosemary cuts through the aromatic sweetness of the lavender and the sour of the lemon balm and grounds the entire blend while giving you a bonus dose of antioxidants. If I have fresh rosemary on hand, I’ll usually skip adding the dried version to the blend itself in favor of simply dropping a sprig into my cup as I brew.
¼ part dried rosehips (optional) If I have dried rosehips on hand, I’ll usually toss a handful into my blend as well. Rose hips’ tartness and color, along with their vitamin C and antioxidant load, really add to the overall package. (I’ve tried adding rose petals—so good for relaxation and easing stress—but with the lavender I found them too overwhelming.)
instructions To brew, put some water on to boil and place a tablespoon of tea blend into a cup. Pour the hot water over your loose tea and cover the cup immediately. Covering your brew catches the volatile oils, which are essential (no pun intended) for the truly restorative experience of this tea. After 10 to 15 minutes, strain your brew, inhaling deeply as you do so. That bit is important—part of the ritual of tea, the ritual of rest. At this point, I like to add a bit of honey and a splash of fresh lemon juice to my cup, and, oh! It’s a meditation/foot massage/mud wrap/whateveryour-fancy in a cup.
GROW YOUR OWN If you are of the gardening ilk, you can plant and tend your own lavender even if you aren’t perfectly situated in the dry chalk of the Mediterranean. I know, because I grow it and I live in Maine, where it’s often wet and perpetually winter (not really, but almost really). I’ve found success growing lavender in containers filled with a good blend of cactus/succulent potting soil and regular potting soil. Growing herbs is all about good light, good drainage, and
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replicating home territories; all herbs grow as wild weeds somewhere, and you know how resilient weeds are. Or convince a friend to grow lavender to share with you; just make her some tea in thanks. Once you have a plant, harvest the flowers to use fresh, or dry them and add to a tea blend—at your leisure, of course.
There is nothing in this world more restful than the ritual of brewing tea, sitting with a quiet cup while storms rage, outside or otherwise.
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heart She stared at the stars like they were pillows for her mind and in their light she could rest her heavy head.
laid fallow BY JULIE LETOWSKI
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rom the start of one spring to the end of the next, we planted. Our frames grew crooked from awkward shapes held under banners of fertility, growth, survival. We surveyed the landscape and amended the bed; we read, consulted, prepared. Our bodies ached and our finances spread thin under the weight of this harvest’s demands. And at the end of that year-and-some growing season, our arms were empty yet. No fruit to justify the aches; no baby in whose ear we could pray a thousand relieved thank-yous. ... Almost a decade ago we were barely on the other side of being children when my husband’s longtime doctor set a four-month timer on our window to make a baby. He held our hands and toed the line between doctor and friend. “You will always think there’s a better time to have a child,” he said. When my husband was small he was diagnosed with a rare disorder whose myriad of side effects include infertility. We were able to sit in this doctor’s office and discuss children only thanks to the good fortune of his having grown up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, across the river from a Boston
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hospital that gave him a spot in a medical study that, now, years down the line, gave us a 1 percent chance of having a child without intervention. The numbers were dismal, but they were there, and for as long as my husband was a willing participant in the study, we had a chance. That day, as my husband’s doctor gently explained that the study had lost its funding, we weren’t wholly unprepared for the idea that we might not have children. For years we had met, nose to nose, in the quiet vulnerability offered by twilights and early dawns, folded around one another in the half-light of our bedroom. We would whisper the hard things: he missed his dad (still, always); I worried about my mom; we wanted babies (one for each arm), but we were enough for each other, we promised, just in case. We would pull worst-case scenarios into the light of day, hoping a little sun and fresh air would evaporate the fear that clung to them. Childless wasn’t an unspoken word. But I do think we too readily imagined the best versions of ourselves coping and thriving during these What If mental excursions. The pain of what might happen could only be guessed at, and even a lowly 1 percent chance was a wellspring of hope. And then the impossible happened. Within a week of that doctor’s appointment we conceived a baby. At forty-two
weeks on the nose, we would meet our son. This past September he turned seven. Every day I cup the curve of his cheeks in my palms, checking in on their waning roundness. I wrap my arms around his little body when he crawls, naked, into my side of the bed in the morning. I lose my hands in the sheets of long blond hair that skim his waist. My love for our son is exceptionally tactile in its expression. It jumps out of my fingertips and reports back to my heart: Breathe. He’s here, he’s here. ... It was spring. Our son would be five in late summer. We had learned to work around the ever-tender bruise that was the How of growing our family. While our friends slowly, and then quickly, began to add one or two or three more children to their families, we contented ourselves with the sheer improbability of our young son and the feeling of infinite time that comes with both being in your twenties and parenting very small children. But one day we looked at our unlikely baby and he wasn’t a baby. We weren’t in the trenches of young parenthood anymore. The age gap between our son and any siblings we might give him felt staggering, and the deep gut feeling that our family existed incomplete was a relentless nag. Years before in that doctor’s office, after explaining that no one ever felt truly ready to become a parent, my husband’s doctor had also encouraged us to imagine what we might want for our family in five, ten years’ time—another impossible request in a completely mind-warping turn of events. Options, he said, for your future selves. It was at his suggestion that later we had marched, newly pregnant and terrified, into a cryobank to preserve our Options and had thus spent all our recent years in a baby purgatory of sorts. So, there we were in the spring, with our son turning five in late summer, sitting in front of a new doctor, presenting him with our Options. “You’re a slam dunk,” he said. “I mean, they’ll never tell you that to your face, but any doctor sees you come in and they’re going to feel great.” I was young, healthy, and had successfully been there, done that, in terms of pregnancy. An eighty-five percent chance, at least, they told us. And then came the exhale of held breath—the sort that makes you realize, while waiting for the walls to cave in, you had forgotten how to really fill and empty your lungs. It’s how you feel when a test confirms you’re pregnant with the unlikeliest of babies, when specialists your midwife calls during your third trimester say the baby is fine, when the trauma of birthing recedes because someone has finally placed your son (a son!) on your chest twelve hours after he was born, twelve hours after you saw him through a crack between nurses, lifeless on a table. Breathe. He’s here, he’s here.
I remember that spring, as we got word of 20-some eggs retrieved, then of 14 fertilized, then of 4 strong and viable embryos, worrying what we would do with all we had made. I spent the following year milking our cow in the pitch dark of predawn so that I could climb onto doctors’ tables in the city by 7:30 in the morning, slip my feet into stirrups, and beg forth rusty meditations learned for a birth years come and gone. When I wasn’t in those fluorescent-lit rooms, we were working ourselves to the bone to afford the privilege of such vulnerable positions. It was excruciating in ways that push the limits of my expression, but it really was a privilege—to try, to intervene, to have Options—even as it buried me alive. We spent nights in our home pottery studio calculating the cost of babies in terms of mugs, batter bowls, and canning funnels made. And by daylight, I worked my body with medications and procedures until I couldn’t recognize its shape, its habits, its needs. Then, the following spring, our fourth and final embryo failed, just like the three that had come before it. In the weeks that followed, I looked at our son and wondered if I had told him I loved him as many times as I told him I didn’t feel well in the past year. The timing of the third embryo transfer had consumed the Christmas season—first with the timidity of body that comes with waiting on signs of a baby, then with the disappointment and despair that results in the absence of those signs. Having lost time with a child we barely conceived in the first place while on the quest for another is a regret so bitter its bite has yet to weaken in my mouth. We could have gone on like that endlessly, but in a moment of divine clarity, or perhaps emotional rock bottom, I gave up and then convinced my husband to give up right alongside me. And so it was without extreme intervention, and with only a nurse whom we had grown close to over the past year, that we followed my body’s natural timing and sent the rest of our Options toward a naturally ovulated egg that was waiting in my womb. Our magnolias were blooming that week, and I would stick my nose deep in the blossoms and imagine one just as sweet in my belly, blooming, blooming, blooming. And it worked, albeit briefly. As my body made the very early preparations for a baby, I thought: this was our path, to have another baby on another Hail Mary pass. It was a good story, I thought. A few days later I woke up to the immediate knowing that my body wasn’t preparing for a baby anymore, and a few days after that my womb emptied, having never really been all too full in the first place. I would like to say we met the reality of this part of our story like we had imagined all those years back. Brave faces, grateful hearts. That we looked at one another and we looked at our son and we said, Breathe. He’s here, he’s here. But we didn’t. We survived and that’s it. We capitulated the garden to the weeds, losing each other in forests of hip-high green when it came time to dig potatoes. The
winter squash never made it into the ground that early summer, and the garlic bed lay to waste that fall. After a year plus of making pottery well into the small hours of the night to manage the strangling costs associated with having a baby made outside your body, we let the kiln cool and allowed the dust to gather in our home studio. We were tired. We were broken. We gave up and gave in; we let go and held tight. ... This spring there were babies on the homestead. Little lambs and a calf gushed from their mamas, geese broke free of their shells, and chicks arrived by way of the post. They were all in their own rights little exhales of breath held too long, each one a harbinger of our return to a life lived out from under sadness. I’ve ruthlessly questioned our right to grieve babies we couldn’t make in a world full of babies who need and deserve love, but those of us who struggle with infertility and walk these high-intervention paths aren’t doing so with baby-shaped holes simply in need of filling, just as those able to conceive independently in the sacred spaces of their choosing aren’t either. Our stories are incredibly varied and complex, and the path journeyed to conception does not put the moral onus on any one person or couple to take any one route.
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Despite my own resistance to the notion, I think as much time as was put into this part of our journey, was as much time as was needed to find ourselves no longer sitting consumed by our grief, but rather holding it in our pack as we cleared the path forward. As I write, my husband is firing a kiln whose contents were never valued in terms of babies, and the winter squash are orchestrating a slow takeover of any and all flat surfaces in our home. Most days I think we’re experiencing a fertile revival of spirit after a hard period of being laid fallow. My next-door neighbor, a man in his eighties who seems in his lifetime to have farmed all that is farmable, still tells the story of being driven out of raising pigs by the price of grain, the frustration and injustice of it all as fresh as it was when it happened half a century ago. I think of him when I worry about the space my grief and disappointment can still sometimes take up. I like to imagine there must be room for all the things that rub our souls the wrong way. Big or small. Pigs or babies. And what I’ve never lost sight of through driving tears and heaving chests is that, while we ache for our babies in the stars, those babies who missed every single earthbound train we sent, we can still count ourselves among the lucky ones. And gosh, I do wish sometimes that that acted as stronger balm on my soul, but it’s one foot in front of the other, saying the right thing until your heart knows what your mind has been telling it all along.
And what Iâ€™ve never lost sight of through driving tears and heaving chests is that, while we ache for our babies in the stars, those babies who missed every single earth-bound train we sent, we can still count ourselves among the lucky ones. 104 taproot | REST
BY SHARI ALTMAN
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PHOTOGRAPHS BY JESSICA OJALA
We need the tonic of wildness. —Henry David Thoreau
tonic noun A medicine that strengthens and invigorates. wild adjective Living in a state of nature; not tamed or domesticated.
’ve always felt more like myself outdoors, but I haven’t always been a swimmer. For years, I didn’t even own a bathing suit. I pretended to be perfectly fine even on the hottest days, dipping my toes in the water while the rest of my friends swam out to the cold deep. When friends asked me to go swimming, I simply told them that I wasn’t a strong swimmer. When I did have a bathing suit, I conveniently “forgot” to pack it on trips. I declared the water was too cold for my Southern blood. I said, “That’s okay. I’d rather be reading.” I was good at inventing excuses. In my heart, I longed to swim again as I did as a child, underwater and with ease, before I took swimming lessons and learned that I was doing it all wrong. Swimming meant the freestyle, the backstroke, the breaststroke. I started to feel anxious about swimming and about my body, and then I just quit. I stayed in my comfort zone on dry land, but did this make me feel more alive? Not at all. And yet I continued to avoid the water for many years. Two summers ago I was invited to visit friends who were staying in a house on Lake Champlain. Instead of bringing my bathing suit, I brought a novel and spent the afternoon in the hammock while my friends and husband swam in the lake. On the drive home, I was full of regret. I kept imagining how it would feel to swim again. I decided then that, the next chance I had, I would swim. No excuses! So on a camping trip with friends later that summer, I put on my bathing suit under my shorts and T-shirt, wanting to be prepared so I wouldn’t have an easy way out. We canoed over to a rocky island on a beautiful summer day. Immediately upon docking, my friends jumped into the water. I stood on the island looking out at the water as my friends shouted happy exclamations. After a few moments of anxiety, I remembered my pledge and jumped in. The lake was cool and refreshing and a bit rough; waves lapped up against the shore. I felt happier and more alive than I had in quite some time. I wasn’t thinking about my body or my bathing suit. I was thinking about my feet touching rock, the wide-open water, the colors, the laughter, and the wildness.
The next summer, just this past year, I kept field notes from my wild swims throughout the state of Vermont. Each place was beautiful in its own way, yet completely different in mood and atmosphere. At every one, whether by myself or with friends or family, I drew comfort from being in nature. I found joy in creek dipping when the summer sun became too intense and when the news of the world was a little too much to take. The pleasures of swimming in nature seemed to multiply with each new trip: the time spent away from technology; the feelings of ease and letting go; the stillness and reverence. Swimming in the wild became my summertime practice, a time to reconnect with myself and my friends, to both look inward and focus on the natural world around me.
1. THE REMOTE LAKE SWIM
Our foursome canoed out to the middle of the lake, which is flanked on all sides by tall trees. Lily pads formed a network of constellations on the surface of the water. My injured shoulder secured me a place in the middle of the boat, where I could take it all in. We glided forward, losing a straw hat overboard when the wind kicked up. I grabbed it, knocking us off-center and almost capsizing us, soaking the entire left side of my jeans. We docked at Picnic Island to have lunch: green peas still in the shell; kohlrabi fresh from the garden, cubed and salted; fruity seltzer. It was the first swim of the season. Even though I knew the rewards of going in, true to form, I hesitated. Suddenly that old feeling of being split down the middle emerged—a part of my Gemini nature that I’ve had to learn to live with. One part of me wanting to play it safe, the other part willing to take a risk. One part of me happy on dry ground, another part craving the water. I’ve never been one to just plunge right in. Instead, I must get used to the idea. The water here up north is much colder than the warm Atlantic Ocean that I swam in as a child. I have to take it slowly and inch in, little by little, until finally I’m up to my waist. Then I dunk my head under the water and am ready to go. There is absolutely nothing like the
feeling of reemerging from the water on the first swimming day of the year. Exhilaration. Happiness bordering on giddiness. A feeling of being removed from my body, but at the same time hyperaware of my surroundings. The water in the lake was tea colored, moody. The afternoon sun formed rays around my shadow like an icon painting. As I swam, I reconnected with these true aquatic pleasures: dog paddling with legs dangling below, no surface beneath to hold me; the warmth of the sun on my cheeks as I float on my back; the feeling of being so small on a wide-open lake, with friends spread out in the water around me. It was the first time this year that it truly felt like summer to me, despite the need to pull on a sweatshirt after the swim. That evening, I welcomed the tired feeling that comes after a day in the water and out in the sunshine. The deliciousness of that feeling. The best way I can think to describe it is exhaustion coupled with contentment.
2. MUDLARKING AT MILL BROOK
Early in the summer, my friend M asked, “Do you want to come over and walk the river?” I was curious about what walking the river meant, so I decided to take her up on her offer. It turned out my friend had to work and couldn’t join me, but she told me to come over and walk to the back of her property anyway. Behind her house, a large, flat lawn stretched out to a lone, tall willow. I could see Adirondack chairs dotting the edge of the property, down by the brook. I dropped my bag and towel on a chair and eased into the brook. It varied in depth from ankle deep to knee deep, and there were deep holes perfect for completely submerging oneself. Steep banks with tall grasses and flowers gave the area plenty of privacy. At this location, too, I experienced that initial hesitancy. It wasn’t as warm as I would have liked, which gave me pause. Where does that feeling come from, the one that always tries to tug me back to the safety of dry land, that almost prevents me from experiencing the joy that swimming in wild places brings? Maybe the hesitation has almost become a ritual—a few seconds to breathe in and out and allow myself to move from one world into the next. From stability to fluidity. While walking in the brook, I saw thimbleberry in bloom, vines climbing trees and dangling out over the water. I saw fallen tree trunks shot through with deep, geometric crevices made by insects. I found tiny shards of cream-colored crockery, and so I slowed my pace and began looking in earnest. I pocketed smooth bits of blue and green glass, and triangle fragments of china with floral patterns, and all of a sudden realized I was mudlarking! I had just learned this word a few months earlier when I read an article about Ted Sandling’s new book, London in Fragments: A Mudlark’s Treasures. The term refers to people who scavenge
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for valuables among the slippery rocks at the muddy river bottom. However, instead of finding Tudor antiques in the Thames, I was content finding the remains of an old farmwife’s kitchen dishes in Mill Brook. Mudlarking encourages slowness and concentration. It is meditative, calming. My pockets became weighted down with fragments of a domestic life from a different time. That afternoon I wondered what traces I might someday leave behind. At times, I took a break from walking and mudlarking and sat right on the rocky bottom in the current’s path, letting the water tumble me about as birds called back and forth from the trees. I noticed raccoon tracks on a mini-sandbar, ghostly traces of what was there once, before I arrived— a different kind of fragment but one that can be collected only as a photograph or memory. I made my way back up the bank in the late afternoon, my pockets loaded with treasures for my windowsill.
3. FOREST SWIMMING HOLE
In the heart of summer, I hiked in to a local swimming hole. The path ends right at the water. When I arrived, there was a group of young people sunning like lizards by the cairns that other visitors had left behind. I was hoping to have the place to myself, but I tried not to let their loud conversation ruin my time in the forest. The day was warm but had cooled off significantly when I entered the canopy of leaves. Shade was abundant. I climbed up the rocks to a large boulder positioned perfectly over a clear pool, thinking that the best way to deal with my hesitation, perhaps, was a full and immediate immersion. I jumped and plunged into the water, bobbing up to the top. The cold was like a healthy slap to the face, making my body more aware of itself and its sensations. I repeated the jump again and again as the group continued to lounge. Each time, I stayed in the water a little longer, until I felt like I could just hang out on the rocks with half my body submerged. My legs and arms became rosy from the cold, and eventually they numbed to a point where the cold didn’t phase me anymore. Finally, wanting to be alone, I climbed up past the rocks and hiked down to an even more secluded spot with two waterfalls. It was dark and deep and green. The water was so clear it became like a mirror, reflecting back the emerald forest and lending the scene an ethereal quality. It was breathtaking. A feeling bubbled up inside of me. Joy mixed with admiration for the natural world. Lucky to be here, in this moment in time. After swimming for awhile, I hiked back up to the rocks to find that the group had disappeared during my absence. I pulled out my picnic and felt that good kind of sleepiness that emanates from physical exertion. I felt content and perfectly at ease, a feeling that I often seek in my day-to-day
life but find rather elusive. The small details from my day are already starting to fade, but the physical sensations and the emotional impressions remain clear. ... The summers in New England are short, but the memories of my wild swims will be a balm to me this winter. When the nights are long and the snow is flying, I plan to revisit each swimming hole, lake, and creek that I encountered this summer. I will do my best to remember what it felt like on a warm day, to emerge from the cold water and plop down in the summer grass to air-dry, my hair becoming wavy and soft, my shoulders pink and warm. I will perhaps recall how my restlessness and daily concerns evaporated into those summer afternoons with each stroke and kick. It will remind me to choose the things in life that make me feel more alive. And to choose them again and again.
The summers in New England are short, but the memories of my wild swims will be a balm to me this winter. 110 taproot | REST
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FOOD :: FARM :: FAMILY :: CRAFT
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