Ecclesiastes tells us, there is a time and a season for everything. As the stresses of the pandemic have continued, the forces they have generated, have resulted in me receiving a message of "not yet" when it comes to the full plans of an intentional community for The Forming Spirit. I have however realized during this time that there is still a place for this ministry, in my heart and in the world. I will be continuing to develop resources that promote a life grounded in Prayer, Worship, Community Involvement, Study, Labor, and Leisure, and offering them online for all to use. I will be developing these resources in conjunction with the call that I am currently serving. Please check in from time to time to see what is new.
What has been forming over the last couple of weeks is a great deal of produce. A wave of fruits and vegetables have either ripened or come to maturity for harvest. I was able to focus with thanksgiving on this blessing as our group reflected on Psalm 67 for morning prayer this week. I’ve put photos throughout this post, as this is a bounty best seen rather than described.
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere him.
My thoughts on what this psalm was calling me to do or be (one of our daily reflection questions from the ELCA Book of Faith Initiative), were to:
Praise God for the abundance that I am receiving.
Praise God for the knowledge, equipment, and abilities for preserving the harvest that I have acquired over the years.
And praise God for the work of it all.
This last one is the most difficult for me at the moment. It is especially difficult following a day that I spent 11 hours making 5 quarts of tomato sauce with the anticipation of a similar day coming up.
What’s forming this week is some community volunteer work as our School prepares to head back into session.
Earlier this spring, front line medical workers began having to wear masks for hours at a time. The result of this was that the backs of their ears began to break down and have sores because of ear loops rubbing on them for hours at a time.
The solution that came to be was really quite simple, someone devised a simple piece of plastic that would stretch the loops a little further and thus keep them off of the wearer’s ears. What’s really remarkable is that the inventor of this ear saving device, did not apply for a patent, find the most economic factory they could and start selling them by the millions. Instead, they posted the design file on a prominent website, and made it available for anyone who wished to 3-D print as many as they desired. What’s more, other people worked to improve the design or submitted designs of their own. The result of all of this was that many people received relief for their ears as 3-D printing hobbyists went to work printing them up.
Earlier this summer, I purchased my own 3-D printer, and one of the things I have printed is some ear relief items for my own family, but there was another need I perceived. Beginning in about three weeks, there is another population that we will be asking to wear masks for long hours, day after day: teachers and students.
In response to this I have been printing up a few ear relief devices and donating them to our local school. Before beginning to print them in larger quantities, I am checking with the school to see if they are begin used and meeting an actual need. If so, I stand ready to offer my gifts to them.
I will post an update for this project in the future.
Over the last couple of weeks, the garden has gone from the, "Will this ever give anything?" stage to the, "What in the world am I going to do with all of this?" stage. It is a good place to be as it means the weeding is less, and the amount of fresh food on your plate increases as your grocery bill goes down, but now the work changes to harvesting, and preserving the harvest.
Our cucumbers have been doing well this season. We planted "Pick-a-bushel," which produces a lot of pickle sized cucumbers which can be picked anywhere from gerkin sized to 6 inch barrel pickles. They have been good fresh, and we are working on preserving them through lacto-fermentation as true pickles.
If you have not heard of lacto-fermentation, it is the process that is used for centuries to make sauerkraut and kimchi in the traditional way. In its simplest terms, salt is used to make an environment where certain good bacteria flourish in an environment devoid of Oxygen. These good bacteria out compete bacteria that would make you sick or cause food to rot. As the good bacteria eat sugars in the vegetables, they release lactic acid. This process, which takes about a week at 65-75 degrees F continues until the sugars are used up, or the environment becomes to acidic for the bacteria to continue.
There are many who will try to sell you on the health benefits or the pre-refrigeration nostalgia of it all. What I like, though, is that it's super easy, and the flavor that comes off of the end product is not something that can be duplicated. There are crocks that are made especially for fermenting vegetables that cost a minimum of $150. If you get into it, they are really nice. To start off and see if this is for you, I would recommend a simple airlock and wide-mouth mason jar set up. A good set of 4 airlock and lids can be purchased for about $20, and mason jars can be purchased for less than $10. Glass weights can also be purchased for about $10. These make it really easy to hold things under the water, which is necessary for fermentation, but if you are on a budget, you could get away without them. With these supplies you are ready to ferment just about anything and there are many good books available to help you out.
For Pickles, you will need the following:
Cucumbers (green beans are a good addition if you have them too)
2-3 Cloves of Garlic
Pinch of Red pepper flakes (Optional)
Mason Jar- 1 or 2 qt.
Brine Mixed at the strength of 3/4 cup sea salt to one gallon of water.
Make sure everything has been rinsed well with clean water, then put the Dill, Dill Seed, Pepercorns, Garlic, and Red Pepper Flakes in the bottom of your jar. Layer your jar with cucumbers and broken pieces of green beans using smaller cucumbers and beans to fill in the gaps. Fill the jar up to about 2 inches from the top with vegetables. Then fill it up with your prepared brine. Place some form of weight on the top to keep things under water and then put on your airlock. Find a cool (65-75F) dark place to keep your jar. After this, other than clean up, you are done! Wait a week and enjoy the results. During fermentation, you can expect the brine to get cloudy and the vegetables to start to look "cooked." Your end results will look something like the jar below.
For More Information:
"Cooked," by Michael Pollan has a great section that discussed what happens during fermentation and is what turned me on to trying this process.
"Fermented Vegetables," by Kristen K. Shockey and Christopher Shockey is my go to resource for recipes and brine ratios. It also contains an introductory section that goes into depth about the process of fermentation.