Monday, November 10, 2014

A Little Recipe And Yes, I Am A Witch

…but it has nothing to do with this broomstick.

You may have noticed, I've been in a bit of a hibernation mode lately, as far as this blog is concerned. There's a lot going on and with the ever shorter days it's hard to get it all done. This time of the year, I always take great pains to get enough sleep and make sure I eat well, because I feel like the increasing darkness leaves me vulnerable to colds and other illnesses.

Speaking of which, I often get asked for recipes of things we eat, but frankly, I usually cook in the darker hours of the day and mostly off the cuff, I don't often get around to fulfilling those requests.

Here's a seasonal recipe so simple, I'm almost embarrassed to call it one, but it's perfect for fighting colds and using leftover garlic seed.

I love garlic planting season because it's a promise of summer and spring. You gently separate the bulbs, trying to keep the skins intact (but if you can't this recipe will come in handy!), soak them over-night in vinegar, dig a little trench for them, cover them with that loamy soil and tuck them under some straw. It's like putting your plant babies to bed for the winter.

Garlic is one of those homestead crops that I'm willing to give ample space in my small garden, along with potatoes and beans, because it's easy to grow (knock on wood), abundant, keeps well and is expensive to buy.

It's great medicine against colds, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, supposedly can help lower your cholesterol and fight cancer cells, an all-around wonder-plant. It's also pretty much in every meal we eat.

One of the things I've never seen sold, or been offered, in this country is "Russian Garlic" which is this delicious fermented garlic I loved getting at the "Kauppahalli", an indoor market place in my home town. So I thought myself how to make my own. It was not hard ridiculously easy.

Fermented garlic becomes soft and delicious and much easier to stomach in emergency cold care as it's raw form. Trust me, if you like garlic, you'll love it. If you don't like garlic…I don't know, eat a cracker or something…

Here's how you make it, or any other fermented vegetable for that matter:

You'll need: garlic, salt, water, a vessel. That's it. You can also add pickling spices, but maybe try the plain version first.

-Clean the garlic. If you're ambitious, you can nip off the though bottoms. Can you tell who's not ambitious? Good.
-Make a brine. A rule of thumb is 1-3 tablespoons of salt to a quart of water. Err on the side of too much. Salt is what keeps your concoction from molding. Too much salt, however will keep it from fermenting. If you use coarse salt make sure it emulsifies. You can always mix a little in warm water and dilute.
-Cover cloves fully with liquid
-Leave in a not-too-cold, not-too-warm place. 60-70 degrees is ideal. This is almost never the temperature in my house.
-As you can see I make mine straight into quart jars. If you do the same don't screw the lids on tight. You'll need to make sure some air can escape.
-In a few days you should see bubbling in your brine. If not, maybe you have too much salt and need to dilute with more water.
-If mold starts forming, fear not. Skim it off and add more salt. As long as your veggies are fully submerged you're all good.
-Leave the garlic out for 2-3 weeks and then test. If you like the taste and the consistency refrigerate. I've had my current batch for about a year now. Great as a little side dish, or appetizer.

There's also a pickled version I haven't tried to make yet. Oh and a bonus homestead hack: if you're done drying herbs, fruit, or berries, but want to make sure they don't mold cover your storage container with a cloth instead of a lid. Make sure to lid in a couple of weeks so that they don't get stale.

Now about that broomstick…if you follow me on instagram, you may know already that our resident rooster and I are at odds. Since we came back from our big trip he's taking to attacking me whenever opportunity arose.

Nothing would deter him, not bribery, having a bucket of water thrown at him when he snuck up on me, sweet talk, threats, brandishing sticks, or even being kept at bay by those same sticks. He would not quit. Somehow he was determined that I'm after his ladies and rightful empire. If you've never been attacked by a rooster, you have no idea how wildly they fly at you and kick with their spurs and peck. It's not something you can really withstand day in and day out.

Since I like having a rooster, he's part of the flock, protects the hens, offers the prospect of chicks and is generally a good addition to the homestead, I tried to figure out a way to get him under control without accidentally hurting him (which had almost happened already).

Frankly, I admire his impertinent attitude, as inconvenient as it is. He's wily and obstinate and knows his own worth, which I like. We all him Ukko, or Ukkonen, or Thunder Rooster, because "ukkonen" means thunder in Finnish. "Ukko" means old man, or the main God in the Finnish Pantheon. Yeah, I know, maybe naming your rooster after the king of gods is a bad idea...

There's countless, endless message boards about how to make sure the roosters know you're the boss. Like all message boards, they contain completely contradictory advice, but the consensus seemed to be that you had to show it you meant business. Apparently you had go after him first. For that, I needed a weapon that would intimidate him, but not hurt him if it actually came to blows. Which is where the broom comes in. It's weird, makes a noise and does that amorphous shaking thing that chickens don't like, it's prickly enough, but won't actually hurt him, because it's broad and soft.

I tested this theory about ten days ago, by first pushing him with the broom when he attacked me and then running after him and whacking him on the bum with it. Worked like a charm. A truce was reached, though I would not turn my back to him for extended periods of time and he likes to come to the garden fishnet and scream at me, safe in the knowledge that he's behind the magic forcefield of the net.

All I have to do to ensure my safety is to carry the broom with me at all times and shake it at him occasionally. So, you can expect to see a lot of outfit shots with said broom. "We should really get a picture of this for your Witch Blog…" was the suggestion that prompted these shots.

Besides planting garlic, I've been harvesting surprising goods from the garden. A new, tiny crop of lettuce came up, along with some chickweed that the chickens love, and my beets are still going strong.

I dug up the last of my potatoes, a local variety called "bucket a hill", and brought in my remaining cabbages, which were slug-eaten on the outer leaves, but huge and surprisingly pretty.

I still have leeks, parsley, chard, mint and of course, kale coming, though some stuff may go away in the next few days if the frosts predicted here really come about.

In anticipation, I made a salad for dinner from kale, mint, parsley and nasturtiums, dressed with olive oil, Bragg's and nutritional yeast. Hey that's another recipe! Cooking school! Witch Blog!

I've been wearing my typical home day garden duds: a dump sweater, a dump dress, bloomers made from dump procured fabric. To dress it up and to address the witch-theme, I did wear my favorite pin, given to me many moons ago, by one of my favorite witchy Moon Sisters, Amber.

Storms have been coming and going, moving clouds and felling trees on our path. Charlie had to take a saw to get to work today.

On the marsh, the swans are visiting, another sign of impending winter. As much as it's hard to slow down with so many projects and plans and ideas, I love this season of inwardness and burrowing.

How are your long nights going?


  1. Hello Milla. I found you through IGram and am enjoying your blog and photos. I am an herbalist, beekeeper and Maker here in the PNW as well. I wonder if you might know my dear friends the Kvistad's at Blossom? to hear you speak of the dump makes me think i know here you reside :) I've found many a wonderful item at the transfer station myself when visiting. best wishes to you with Ukko and winter prep. it's going to get cold and i am grateful my woodshed is full- stay warm! xx jennette nielsen (smashing rubbish)

  2. It's been raining for quite a few days here, and I've been busy with my plants too. Not having a vegetable garden, I still have to take care of my cacti - with the snow getting nearer and nearer every day they need to be sheltered in order to get through another cold Winter.
    Btw, as a lover of garlic I'm definitely trying your recipe, thanks for sharing! And I know it's not, but I honestly found the rooster anecdote quite funny, so thanks for making me smile, as well... ; )

  3. Your post title reminds me of Yoko Ono's song Yes, I'm A Witch -- have you heard that? It's a great anthem. Looks like your garden got the same unseasonal second spring we had here in England, what with all those growth spurts. It's not the long nights that get to me in winter, so much as the days when it's constantly the same shade of grey. That's when you need cheering! That's a great brooch, btw.

  4. Hi Milla!
    Great photos and great garden duds. If only I could look that great whilst out in the mud!
    I love garlic so am going to give the fermented garlic a whirl, sounds pretty straightforward which is a bonus! Will let you know how I get on.
    Not only a cookery school and witch blog, but helpful gardening tips too.
    I am also hoping to plant some garlic this coming weekend, thanks for the lesson!
    Although, I always say I will do 'this and that', but don't seem to get around to much gardening these days. I was too late with most of my herbs and they have mostly withered, much to my dismay.However a lesson to be learned all the same.
    I also love the long, dark, cosy nights and enjoy to be tucked up in the warm ,or burrowing as you so beautifully put it.
    Wishing you a very happy winter and all the luck with that rooster ;) xxxxx

  5. What a lovely post Milla. I love seeing the bounty of your garden. I've never planted garlic or potatoes but since you say it is easy I might read up about it for my garden next year. Do you think they would work in raised beds?

    My days are growing short too: leaving home and leaving work in the dark :(

    1. Oh they totally would. Also, potatoes grow pretty much anywhere (in the absence of fungi) and the deer, rabbits etc won't eat their plant parts as they're mildly toxic so you can plant them in any plowed spot. Also, theres some great ideas for planting them in sacks. You'll love it. And yeh, dark to work, dark to home… Let me know when you get your package.

  6. What a pretty boy. I've always foiund the barred rock to be so docile. I have had roosters like him. They cluck around like they're finding something on the ground and the minute you turn your back, wham. They do hurt and scratch sometimes. I even had huge turkeys that did the same. They all got eaten by coyotes for their trouble.

    1. There's some wilded domesticated turkeys that re-domesticated at our friend's house and then promptly proceeded to attack everyone, but they're not as violent as the roosters. It's funny so many people have told me that barred rocks are aggro. I'm glad we've got a truce I was starting to be scared to go out in the yard.

  7. I need to come up there and do some dumpster diving! (Is that what you mean by "dump"?) Cute blue sweater, anywho.
    Hunkering down in these dark nights, my bedroom lit up only by a fake flame Amish heater. The fan blows out some amazing heat, and I'm reading an hour longer before bedtime.
    It's been snowing for two days and the high today is 8.
    While you've got visiting swans, long necks are still honking their way south, flying over our house nearly everyday! Joy!
    That purple cabbage is gorgeous, as are your roosters and garlic.
    You are a very good witch.

  8. I hope the freeze stays away from your greens! Our garlic went dormant (or drowned? after all the rain we've had. I'm letting them be, but they stopped growing at about 5" tall. :/
    I love pickling ours, with apple cider vinegar (both things said to boost the immune system). I'll have to try fermenting sometime. Thanks for the recipe!

  9. That rooster sounds intimidating! Glad you have your trusty broom to keep him at bay.
    Your garden looks awesome, especially all the lettuces! Love your outfit too! An excellent post all around :)

  10. Milla, you are hilarious! That rooster story had me giggling and smiling through the whole read. Also, I think I am officially a garden nerd because I found myself actually sighing at the beauty of your soil! Look at that rich soil!

    The garlic recipe is intriguing. I need to try it!

  11. Hi Milla,
    You're reminding me so much of my old rooster, right down to the big brush and the water and the getting afraid. In the end we became the best of friends, after he fell ill and I had to get used to holding him. When, upon recovery he planned getting back to battling, I scooped him up and put him under my arm and, because I was soooo shocked at what I had just done, I spoke softly and shushed him. He was so surprised himself and I suppose because it diffused the aggression of the moment, when I put him down again, he just staggered off and then called his ladies after him. It took another few times of doing the same, but I was able to retire the brush and was very sorry when he died.
    Now one of my new chicks has started crowing, so I guess I'll get to see if it works again!!
    All the very best:-)

  12. I find that especially in winter the home canned and prepared food is the best! my comfort food is tomato + rosemary + garlic soup. How wonderful, that veggies are still growing in there. Though not from own tomatoes. I will make some beeswax candles with aromatic oils for the winter months. It is getting so dark in here, but I have tried to burn more candles and enjoy this darkness. Decorating the home with holiday decorations helps also :-)

  13. Hi Milla! I would love to follow you on instagram. What is your name there?
    Love, Katharina

  14. That rooster story is pretty funny. I'm glad you guys are working it out!

  15. "If you don't like garlic…I don't know, eat a cracker or something…"
    Hahaha, my feelings exactly. Garlic is gold. I love this post and I love fermenting things, so totally going to try that recipe! Witch on, my dear!

  16. Haha, I love the image of you running after that rooster with your broomstick! Love this whole post as a great little peek into your days. I shall have to try that fermented garlic, because obviously I love garlic. That pin, also big love!
    And this season, I love it, but it's hard. I have a hard time getting anything done once the sun goes down, yet I can't get myself out of bed much earlier either and there's much to do. I'll figure it out someday and for now, these long nights are at least the perfect excuse to catch up on your blog! xoi

  17. I declare this is the best blogpost ever. I feel like I went for a crazy obstacle course walk with you around your kitchen and garden with rewards at the end. Who needs to travel, huh! xo

  18. This whole thing with the rooster - it's cracking me up. I would love to see you chasing him around with that broom, haha.

    I really wish we could have a roo, but they're banned in city limits where I live. We get coons in our backyard regularly, though, and they're persistent little bastards. My husband throws giant stones at them and they hardly flinch. Pros and cons, eh?