Monday, June 30, 2008

Walking, gardening, and eating catfish

A slow day today. Started off with the usual green tea with chocolate mint from the garden and a breakfast of peanut butter and strawberry preserves. I don't have (and don't want to use) a refrigerator so I've been eating a streak of these sandwiches so that I can finish off the preserves before they start to mold. I keep the jar in a small cooler with a bit of well water which keeps it fairly cool on hot days and I'll probably dig a small, improvised root cellar which is a 4 foot hole dug in a shady area with a well sealed container placed inside it. When I start canning my own I'll make a point of using the smallest possible jar for that reason. Eventually we'll put in a proper root cellar too.

After breakfast I took a walk with the excellent medicinal plant book, Peterson Field Guide: Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs. We're surrounded by food and medicine, we just have to know which plants are good for what as well as what parts of the plant and how to prepare. I've started learning and will also start harvesting for winter and out of season use. I think I'll be starting with Mullein and Wild Rose hips. The Mullein leaves and flowers can be harvested for use in tea as an expectorant, demulcent, anti-spasmodic, and diuretic which can be useful in treating chest colds, bronchitis, asthma, coughs, and kidney infections. A word of caution though, the leaves contain rotenone and coumarin and should be used with caution. The rose hips are the little red fruits after flowering and can be made into a tea very high in vitamin C, I'll probably mix that with mint from the garden. I'm no longer drinking orange juice so that will make a nice supplement to my diet.

The half-way point of my walk was a visit to the grandparents. As is almost always the case granny offered food: grilled cheese and potato salad. A very tasty treat! I also retrieved a bag of frozen catfish* for dinner. Freezing fish is likely the only thing I'll be needing a freezer for so I'll just borrow a bit of space since it won't be much. I've got three relatives all within walking distance so I can spread it out if I end up having a lot. I'm thinking I also need to learn how to smoke fish for longer term storage though I'm not sure how long it can be stored even when smoked. The best thing would be to eat it fresh but when it is cold and the lake is frozen that will not likely be an option.

After the walk and before eating the catfish I worked a bit on preparing a couple of new keyhole beds in the zone 1** garden of annual veggies just outside my cabin door. Back in 60s-90s this land was used as a hunting and fishing club so there were little weekend trailers scattered about and my cabin sits on one of those sites which means it sits on a bed of gravel and rock. Fun, fun. I'll be raking and digging that rock out into a thin path from the door to the road. The site has been unused for at least a decade which means there's a nice layer of composted leaves built up which I'm separating out from the rock. The resulting beds will initially be planted with lettuce, spinach, carrots, and radishes for a late summer and fall crop.

*Folks that know me personally probably know that I've been a vegetarian for 20 years and may be wondering why I'm eating catfish. A big part of my decision to become a vegetarian was based on the energy aspects of diet. It generally takes less energy to eat a plant only diet. Another aspect of the energy equation is transport and there are other concerns such as whether the food is being exported from a country where people do not have enough food due to the production of cash crops for export. When I decided to move here to create a life based on permaculture principles I knew that it also meant that I would begin harvesting the mature fish from the lake. It is an excellent protein source which is available in great abundance within 100 yards of my front door.

**For folks new to permaculture, when a site is designed it is viewed as zones. The house or living structure is Zone 0 and the area immediately outside the doorways is Zone 1. This is the area most often and conveniently accessed so this is where we try to plant the annual vegetables that need the most attention and which are likely to get harvested often.

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