Winter is Confusing for Busy People

I don’t know if this post will teach you anything, unless your personality is similar to mine. I am busy ALL. THE. TIME. If I’m not busy doing something that has some sort of worth to me, I feel guilty, as if I am being lazy somehow. I’m sure there is a Flower Essence that would help me deal with this, but for the moment I am just sitting around listlessly trying to decide what is the most worthwhile use of my time.

All my sewing projects are caught up. Most of the things I like to craft, little things to sell at fairs and online, haven’t been selling well lately so I don’t want to bother making more. I can crochet like crazy when I have a specific project I’m working on, but no one buys gloves much anymore and all I have is a scrap blanket left to make. I haven’t felt the drive to paint anything since last year. If I am not actively doing SOMETHING that could either improve my skills somehow or eventually lead to me living a more comfortable life (making money usually, which is why I make things to sell) then my time is being wasted. Of course I do read and I watch TV/Movies, but anytime between the hours of 7am and 5pm, I feel the need to be doing something worthwhile.

Everyone’s definition of “worthwhile” is different, I know. In spring/summer/fall, strolling through the woods and communing with, listening to, and just feeling nature counts as worthwhile to me. But February in Connecticut is not the time to be running barefoot through the trees and trying to talk to flowers. The trees are still asleep, the flowers and herbs hiding underground waiting for warmer days to emerge. Even my favorite oak tree out back barely gives me a sleepy welcome when I touch her, as if I was trying to have a chat with a Snorlax.

Heck, there’s still snow on the ground!

This time of year is unpleasant for me, because even if I start some seeds indoors or clean the chicken coop, these tasks take such a short time that I feel something wanting. It’s as if my mind is suffering from stagnation, as if I had a terrible condition of the heart I need to address that can only be healed by the earth herself. I have been reading farming and foraging books, which improve my knowledge but make me yearn for warmer days, even if that means 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) instead of 30.

There aren’t any plants I can forage with this much snow and Ice still on the ground. I don’t like trimming more branches than I need to use, and right now I have plenty of birch oil and pine tincture to last at least another year. No point in harvesting more than I need.

This is supposed to be a time for inner reflection and improvement. I’ve been writing, which is helpful. But I can only push out a couple of pages a day. I feel restless, I feel the need to DO something. I might start cleaning curtains soon, I’m getting that desperate. Netflix doesn’t help much–the choices are so many that more often than not, I give up and toss in a DVD from my cupboard rather than spend an hour trying to find something new to watch.

I think that the moment the snow has melted, I must go outside and stand barefoot in the mud, if for no other reason than to feel the vibration of the earth humming beneath my toes. That is, if I can find a spot not covered in goose poop…

I believe I will go home today and try to create an incense blend that reminds me of spring. Goldenrod smells absolutely lovely and floral, even when burning. I can grind the last bits of white sage I have left over, and a bit of mugwort to help ground me since I can’t actually touch the ground. Perhaps some Eastern Red Cedar to give me the woodsy scent, and a little white bitch to help it burn more quickly.

I think Cabbage (the goose) is going to start laying for the season soon. Once I see some remnants of grass in the lawn and hold a giant goose egg in my hand, my mood should improve. Once it’s warm enough to say hello to my plants and actually feel them answering back, all things will be right again. Once I hear the birds singing endlessly with their mating calls, I will feel happier than I do in these dark days of confusion, when I can’t decide which of so many directions to go.

I want to say hello to a tree and feel its welcome hug in return. I want to see chicks walking the yard and seedlings sprouting their heads through the soil.

I want to dance around an open fire on a moonlit night to the sound of drums, cool grass beneath my feet and fireflies in the air.

Will you join me?

Hot Cocoa Could Be Healthier

My kids love hot cocoa. Pretty sure EVERY kid loves hot cocoa, at least in the Northern United States. But most of what I can find here in Northeast Connecticut is Swiss Miss or some other knock off brand that’s like 80% sugar and preservatives. Sure, it tastes good, but enough of it will probably turn you diabetic.

I know this isn’t a food blog, and I mostly talk about herbs. Guess what? Cacao is a healthy plant if you eat it right! It contains antioxidants and this lovely thing called phenethylamine, which triggers the feel-good center of the brain. So is cayenne pepper, a warming herb (much desired on cold snowy days!) I am aware that most Mexican hot cocoas have chili powder in them rather than cayenne, but I can’t find chili powder that doesn’t also contain salt for some reason, so I use a bit of cayenne.

Cacao VS Cocoa FYI

As per usual, I didn’t think this would make a good blog subject until AFTER I had already made it, so my packages are all open and I don’t have steps of the process, nor did I EXACTLY measure ingredients out. I hardly ever do… so bear with me.

Instead of buying the cheap prepackaged cocoa packets from the store, I mix my own hot cocoa. My kids, thankfully, actually PREFER mine (when their friends aren’t looking,) so I get them to eat a tad healthier on my time.

I mix about 3/4 cup unsweetened cacao powder, a heaping 1/2 cup of white granulated sugar (you can use a healthier sugar like turbinado if you want; I just didn’t have any in my cupboard today,) a dash of cayenne powder (about 1/4 tsp at the most) and 3/4 of a bar of dark chocolate all chopped up. Just whisk this all together and pour into a jar with a lid. When you want cocoa, you can use either hot milk or hot water. Most of the time, we put a big scoop of cocoa mix into the mug, pour a few tablespoons worth of heavy cream on top, and then just fill the rest of the cup with boiling water. Mixing with a spoon is critical; marshmallows are optional. Note: If you taste it and think it needs to be sweeter, just add a little more sugar to your jar and give it a good shake.

Jumping up on my soap box for a moment: I bought this chocolate bar at Big Y on sale for $3. Yes, it’s more expensive than a Hershey bar, but it’s much higher quality, fair trade, and sustainably sourced. That means no small children were kidnapped and forced to work on plantations to produce the beans, nor was some poor farmer forced to work and feed his family on ten cents a week just so we could eat cheap candy. I do not buy products made with what we refer to as “slavery chocolate.” I admit, the white sugar trade isn’t a heck of a lot better, but I think the fact that their crimes were outed and made more visible long ago has forced the industry to treat its laborers just a little better in modern times.

The first thing you learn when becoming an Herbalist is that what you put into your body matters more than anything else. I am a huge advocate for eating healthfully, and keeping processed foods out of your diet as much as possible. I understand the line of “processed” is blurred here, considering the cacao powder I bought is processed from cocoa beans. But if you choose to buy INGREDIENTS rather than ready-made foods more often than not, your stomach (and whole body!) will thank you.

One final note: a full jar of this mix lasts us close to a year, but only because I don’t let my kids have hot cocoa all the damn time. This has been my TED talk… now go play in the snow and drink some hot cocoa when you’re done!

Any old jar will work

Giant Squash 2020!

I just had to make a quick post about this. I am SO bummed that all the fairs were cancelled this year because LOOK WHAT I GREW!

I think Boston Marrow winter squash are just the coolest. I have NEVER grown one this big before though. 42.4 lbs of pure enormous food! I can’t wait to cut her open and see how many seeds I have. This, and the 6 other squash I have already, are from ONE little plant!

The smaller one was 28 lbs

I am super proud of this! I had to do vine borers surgery on the vine last week to save it, because those little bastards really love this squash. But I am gonna make pie and soup all winter now! Woohoo!

Do you think I should take any with me to market?

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