Thursday, April 29, 2010

oooh, the beauty i've seen!

Spring has brought us so much beauty already. Every day, as I walk with wonder down dirt roads, or skirt the edge of yellow rapeseed fields, my love for this country grows deeper. This morning I took a thin path through silver birch trees bursting with green, and as I looked up at the lacey network of branches, a group of crows took off from a tree was so quiet that I could hear their wings flapping....and bits of leaf-scales drifted down on shafts of sunlight. I had to stand still for a very long time, just to be able to wrap my heart around that moment. Even now, as I sit typing this with the window open, the birdsong is so loud, the trees are so green, and the sky is so blue...and I feel the woods calling to me.
You were with me in my thoughts as I took today's morning walk, and I snapped photographs so I could share the beauty with you.

To get to the woods, I walk past the farmer's field, which is full of blossoming rapeseed now. Gold, stretching out to a horizon of blue. To the left you see the wooded hillside where I am headed...I have a bottle of water with me, and a bag for collecting wild herbs...and I have Kiki, too, of course.

I enter the woods, which is made up mainly of silver birch trees, all wearing their green spring dresses now, nodding on the breeze, towering up to the sky. The forest has a secretive quality to it. The shade and the rustling of the wind in the leaves enclose you, and the open fields are a sunny contrast.

Kiki and I stop to listen. I am listening to the birds while she listens for anything suspicious. 

We discovered this lovely patch of woodruff, my favorite herb (learn more about it by clicking on it's botanical picture, gallium oderatum, on the sidebar). It's called Waldmeister in german, which translates to Forest Lord or Forest Master. I collect some every morning, and dry it overnight to use the next day in lemonade and appleade. 

Above is another favorite herb of mine, Sanicle . So little is written about it nowadays, though it was once used by witches and herbalists for many healing potions and salves. It's not all too common here, and I always celebrate seeing it. I like knowing where to find case I need it for an emergency magical potion. 

I also love finding hunter's look-outs. I always consider climbing up and taking in the sights, but then I get scared and leave it be. I don't know how long they have been there...or how well the nails will hold. So I just take a picture. 

My whole being is soaking up the green. Trees move differently now that they have their leaves again. They are magestic, and sway, and nod. There are so many roads and pathways here in Gablitz. It would take a lifetime to know them all by heart. 

Stepping out of the woods into the bright sunlight and heading back home, I passed the rapeseed field again and took notice of all those dandelions.

And I knew: it's time to make this year's Dandelion Honey. 

I really hope that my internet connection is here to stay now. It's been frustrating to not be able to communicate with you all. I'm so happy to be back, and am knocking on wood that I'm back permanently now!

I hope the sun is shining, wherever you are...

xoxo country girl

Friday, April 23, 2010

green blessings!

I took these pictures on a sunny morning; it was my first walk in the woods since spring has begun. I usually walk on the open just feels safer to be able to see long distances in every direction. But this time, curiosity got the best of me, and I just had to see what was growing in the forest. 
This walk, and all the beauty I found while on it, renewed my deep gratitude about living where I do, and having Kiki as my companion. When you are walking down a path lined with wild wood anemone and violets, with the gentle spring sunlight shining through tender new leaves, how can you not feel amazingly blessed?

Tree stumps frothy with oxalis blossoms....bird song....Kiki exploring every bit of moss and mud with me. Glorious!
This was just one of the days I wanted to share with you...more to come!

Love to all of you...hope you are enjoying the weekend.

xoxo country girl 

p.s. here are the best pics i could manage of mr. chaffinch!
on the water cooler, giving his own reflection the evil eye
and eating loads of oats and hemp seeds...fighting your own reflection apparantly builds a healthy appetite!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


You are all so kind a patient, thank you!
I've been having the most amazing walks with Kiki in the woods this past week, and can't wait to share the photos with all of you...hopefully tomorrow.
In the meantime, there is a beautiful male chaffinch which has been eating oats and hemp seeds from the feeder and then attacking the window, all afternoon! He is so amazingly hungry, has been eating for hours now. If he's back tomorrow I will try to take a photograph of him for you. Here's an image from google so you know what I'm talking about:

I can't help but wonder if there is a Mrs. Chaffinch, and possibly little babies, which he is bringing some of the oats and seeds to. I hope he is back tomorrow so I can capture this brave, curious little fellow in action.
Life does have it's ups and downs, it's winters and springs. I am really doing my best every day to count my blessings and not allow my mind to sink into those dark places which leave me feeling lost and lethargic. Depression runs in the family, and I am fighting it tooth and nail lately. The sunshine and blossoming trees help, as do, naturally, my husband and my Kiki. It isn't a lie when I say that I'm an optimist, that I look on the bright side of life and appreciate all the little, simple things. But it's also true that I am struggling to stay afloat in joy lately, and I want to be honest with you about that. 
After considering going down the pharmaceutical path for a few days to get me back to my usual 'happy' self, I decided that I don't want to take that step right now. I'm not saying I think it's bad, or wrong, and I am certainly glad that it is helping people. But I want to try and heal through other channels; through what I eat, what I think, how I spend my time, fresh air, and yes, therapy. I already live a very healthy lifestyle, which makes it all the more frustrating when I don't feel healthy and happy because it doesn't seem there is much room for improvement. But I am sure there is a way to heal from the inside out, without medication. 
I am glad to be back here with you, in this supportive community....thanks for all of the kindness and truth you give me.
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
"I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well."
-Henry David Thoreau

I'll be back soon! Hopefully tomorrow! :)

xo country girl

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Sheltering Tree

"Friendship is a sheltering tree."
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I hope you will all be patient with me....I've been taking some kind of a little break from blogging until I feel I have something positive, uplifting, and joyful to share with all of you. I'm sorry that I've been absent on your wonderful blogs, too. You are all with me in my thoughts.

Sending Love!


Saturday, April 10, 2010

motto for new home: pretty and PRACTICAL

I used to look at magazines and swoon over gorgeous interiors, and then do my best to replicate what I saw without giving a thought to whether it was practical or not. I've been turning over ideas in my head about our next home; we'll be moving in October to a three-bedroom apartment with a combined kitchen/dining/living room, a pantry/storage room, hallway/mudroom, bathroom, separate wash closet, a terrace, and two gardens. I've moved quite a few times in my life, and every time I get smarter about interior design. Here are some of the rules I have decided on for our next home:


One of the latest trend in kitchens is open shelving, but I have enough dusting to do in the other rooms, and in the kitchen things that are standing out tend to get a greasy film. That's what I learned from experience now with my kitchen island which has open shelves. I constantly have to pull stuff off and clean everything, especially since it's close to the floor and Kiki's hair manages to settle in the most impossible places.
Another trend is to only have storage on the shelves or cupboards. Again, this looks beautiful, open, and uncluttered....but I am being honest here, I need as much storage space as I can get! I want a place for everything; let's not forget that things which are often overlooked like flower vases, tupperware, baking sheets, and glass jars for homemade jams all need their place along side the usual suspects like plates & bowls, glasses & cups, pots & pans, spices & canned goods.


With past gardens and our balcony, I would go to the nursery and pick out one this, one of that, basically anything pretty that caught my eye. I ended up with an array of plants which were all beautiful, but there was always something lacking; I finally figured out what that was. A CONCEPT.
For at least one of our two gardens, I have decided to have a color scheme of white, green, silver (think lamb's ear and sage), and splashes of pink and dark purple here and there.
This way, I can have a variety of plants, forms, and aromas, but there will be a thread of continuity uniting everything in a graceful, harmonious way.

At some point I had to admit to myself that, if I wanted to be truly happy with our gardens, if I wanted them to look like the vision I have in my mind, I am going to need help from a landscaping artist. My 'domestic goddess' ego is squealing in a corner right now, saying, "A real housewife would be able to plant her own garden!"
But I know from the past that I was always getting one or two plants at a time (because I don't drive), and then doing guess work as to where to plant them and how, not to mention that I never worked with stones or borders, or ever managed to add plants which spread and filled in the bare ground between larger plants. I am actually really excited to work together with someone who will be able to quickly and efficiently realize the vision I have in my head. So no, I won't be able to say 'I made it myself;' but I will have helped design it, and I'll be taking care of it, and keeping it beautiful.

For veggies, herbs, and annuals, I want to have a raised bed made. I've heard so many great things about them, and finally want to experience it for myself. Plus, no chance of Kiki peeing on anything edible.

One of my biggest goals is to use the storage space in the cellar and pantry so well that I never again have to slide something like boxes of Christmas decorations under the bed! I can't tell you how happy I am that we are finally moving into a home with alot of storage space. Up until now storage has always been an issue. I want the space under our bed to be so clean that you could eat off of it. I am sick of boxes under there getting covered in dust and dog hair. Yuck! Even if no one else sees or notices them, I KNOW THEY'RE THERE and they haunt me!

I have some sort of phobia about hammering a nail into a wall. I have most of our framed photographs and art standing on shelves and table tops, taking up room and looking a little cluttered. And then on the other hand, I have wide open spaces of wall which I am too scared to fill because I'm afraid of making a mistake. I really want to learn how to cluster photos and pictures in a way that looks informal and, in itself, like a work of art.

This is going to be a really tough one, guys. I am hoping to keep my arts/crafts/office space as small and tidy and organized as possible. I only want it to take up a corner of one of the bedrooms, so that it can easily be transformed into a baby's room. I am hoping that, by figuring out a good filing system for our bills/papers/letters/photos, I will be able to accomplish this.
That will probably be the biggest it me, or is this one of the toughest things to keep organized? 
One of my goals is to buy, and use, a drill.
I don't know why, but I find power tools frightening and overwhelming.
(sheesh, what a sissy)
But deep down inside I have this feeling that being able to drill holes in walls will give me an incredible sense of freedom. Just think of all the shelves I'll be able to install by myself!

xoxo country girl

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Bee Charmer

There is a scene in the movie 'Fried Green Tomatoes' where Idgie brings Ruth out on a picnic; she tries to impress Ruth by going to a beehive in a tree stump, swarming with bees, and pulling out a fresh piece of honeycomb which she drops into a glass jar and brings over to Ruth, who is fascinated. Ruth says, "You're a bee charmer, Idgie Threadgood. That's what you are. A bee charmer." That scene has stayed with me, and everytime I hear lots of bees humming, I think of it. 
This morning I was walking with Kiki through the clover field. There was a lovely scent in the air, coming in waves whenever the wind was still. But try as I may, I couldn't find the source anywhere. Then, while heading back in the direction of home, I decided to take a quick look on the other side of the line of trees which flanks each side of the creek running along the clover field. And there, white and frothy and swimming in bees, was a low blossoming tree. This was where that glorious scent was coming from. 
There were bumble bees, honey bees, and butterflies swarming all over it. I managed to capture these three pictures:

It was a magical, almost adventurous feeling standing there in the warm sun, surrounded by buzzing and gossamer wings, silent witness to this spring harvest. I'm going back to the tree this evening, before the sun sets, to clip a branch or two for the vase. You know me...I'm just a lil' bee charmer...

This past week, even the tiniest chore felt like an enormous struggle for me. I felt completely and utterly emotionally exhausted. But luckily, I also spent beautiful hours out in the woods and fields with my friends...and of course Kiki... 
 ...who loves her friend Gömbi. That's her, standing up to give him a kiss. No joke.
Gömbi belongs to my friend Gerit, who shows me new herbs and wild edibles nearly every time we go on a walk. We explored a new field the other day; it's dryer than the fields we normally walk on, so we found a few plants which like dry soil.
Clockwise from top right: woodruff, chives and mint.
The woodruff grows on forest floors, and the chives and mint grow on fields where the soil is relatively dry. All of these are edible and delicious. I put the chives and mint into shallow water to keep fresh, and dried the woodruff on the windowsil, which makes it most aromatic. To me, woodruff smells and tastes like the most interesting mix of vanilla, lemon sorbet, and ground pepper corns. Delicious!
When my friend Maria and I made plans to take a hike, I put the mint and woodruff into a mason jar with water and lemon juice. I let it sit and steep for a while; it was a really refreshing drink on our walk.

I used the wild chives in an omelette with fresh duck eggs from Gerit's ducks...but more about that in another post.

Thank you all for being such a wonderful group of friends. I can't believe my good fortune!

Ok, I'm going out to that flowering tree now....

xoxo country girl

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

just me

I took this picture this morning...out on the sun-soaked field, sitting in the damp grass, watching Kiki chase leaves. There were angry thoughts and frustration whirling around inside of me, and then, you know what? I felt OK. I felt glad to be out there in the fresh air, where everything is simple. Where I am just me. Kiki, the wind, the sun....they see me without makeup, see me in whatever mental state I am in, and accept it, and love me and give me their blessings. I felt embraced! And I thought, why don't I take a picture, so I can remember what I really look like, so I can decide who I am, so that I don't have to buy into what someone else might see and might label me as. And this picture made me feel good; I love who I am, I love my life, and I feel confident that, even if the worst happens and my father in law never speaks to me again like he threatened over the phone, I will be able to live a fulfilled and happy life.

I've been dealing with the word 'FAT' these past few days. What is fat? When is someone fat? Who decides? One thing I definitely have decided is that I am not going to allow FAT to be a label for myself or anyone else. Last night I lay awake, wasn't able to sleep, and was thinking about fat, fat, fat. And suddenly I saw fat as just another part of my body....another element which completes this composition which allows me to live. Whether I have a little more or a little less of it....who cares? I have hands that grasp, legs that walk, eyes that see, and skin that holds it all together. Fat is the oil in my machinery. It's a part of me. And why should I hate any part of me?

I also saw the irony in the fact that, the minute I thought I had made my peace with fat, a loved one would call me fat, and I would be forced to reevaluate my relationship to fat (and to that loved one, too). I told him on the phone that I didn't cry because I feel fat...I cried because I was sad that he would look at me and see a fat girl, instead of a girl he loves and respects, who makes his son happy, who lost her child last fall, who is doing her best to be a good and positive person in a world where it's not always easy being good and positive. I cried because I thought someone who supposedly loves me would be gentle with me; nurturing, supportive, careful. I am almost angry at myself for having allowed someone who acted in such a shallow and inconsiderate manner to have affected me so much. I wish I had dealt with all of this differently. You know how it is: you look back on an incident and wish you could have hit 'pause' so you could catch your breath, gather your thoughts, and respond in a true and direct manner.  Instead I reacted from an injured, frustrated place, and in turn apparantly hurt my father in law's feelings by insinuating that he is shallow. When he told me I should be careful what I say to him, and that if I insist on him being shallow, he will never utter a word to me again as long as he lives...and then hung up on me...I felt awful. This wasn't how I wanted things to go. (On the other hand, a part of me kind of laughed and thought, "If never talking to me again means him never hurting me with his words again, maybe this is a good thing!")

I am aware that these past few blog entries have been very 'me me me,' and that the subject matter isn't particularly uplifting....still, I can't help but be honest about what is going on in my mind and heart. I hope soon I will be able let go, feel free, and share spring beauty and joyful thoughts with all of you! I really do want this to be a place where you leave feeling refreshed and good. But, you know how it is...sometimes, shit happens!

Thanks for all of your patience and support. I really, really, REALLY appreciate it.


Monday, April 5, 2010

a tumultuous weekend

Thank you for all the comfort and advice. 
This has been a tumultuous weekend.
Right now the family is torn apart, and I can only wait and wonder how things will mend, or if they will mend at all. I really hope so. 
It's a strange feeling to have this family so at odds with one another when deep in my heart, I think none of us want that.
And yet, apparantly, there are things which needed to be revealed, and boundaries which had to be drawn.
As always, something beautiful came out of all this pain and yelling: the loyalty and love between my husband and myself.
It's more palpable now than ever.

xoxo country girl

Saturday, April 3, 2010

what would you say? what would you do?

I want to start out by saying that the conversation I am about to share with you went exactly as I wrote it. I didn't edit anything out or change anything to make it sound more dramatic.
I was on my way to the farmer's market yesterday when I saw my father-in-law on his bicycle. I waved and smiled as he approached.
Me to my father-in-law: "Hello!"
My father-in-law: "You've gotten fat!"
Me: "Oh, well, thank you...that made my day alot nicer."
My FIL: "Are you eating differently? Why did you gain so much weight?"
Me: "I don't think I want to discuss my weight with you."
My FIL: "You used to be so thin. You must be eating differently. Why have you gained so much weight?"
Me: "Have a nice day."
And I walked away.
And cried.
He tried calling me twice after that, but I was so in shock, and so hurt, that I didn't pick up. I was at a loss for words. I still don't know what to say.
What would you say?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring Frittata with Wild Nettles, Ground Elder, and Ramsons

This morning I did my first real foraging of the year and brought home a small bag of young nettles and ground elder. I had gathered some ramsons the other day and knew I wanted to combine these three wild spring greens into a frittata. A frittata is an Italian egg dish, like a quiche without the crust. Layers of anything you like (mine always include potatoes, bacon and cheese) baked until golden and bubbly. The perfect spring dish.
As I was washing the greens in a colander, wondering what I should serve with the frittata once it was done, I heard the shuffling sound outside my door of the man who delivers my weekly box of organic produce and raw milk. It's always a little surprise what's inside. When I saw a cluster of radishes among the piles of fresh veggies and fruits, I knew I wanted to make little radish-butter finger sandwiches using organic brown bread from the local bakery. 

Spring Frittata with Wild Nettles, Ground Elder, and Ramsons

fistfull of spring greens washed of any debris, chopped
1/2 cup gouda grated or thinly sliced
4 tiny onions peeled and chopped
5 or 6 small potatoes boiled, peeled, sliced into rounds
4 strips of bacon cut into tiny pieces
salt, pepper

8 eggs room temperature
1/2 cup milk beat together with the eggs

soft butter for greasing pan

preheat oven to 200°C (392°F)

Make repeating layers with the first 6 ingredients evenly in a greased 9-inch pan.
Pour egg/milk mixture over.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. (your kitchen will be smelling lovely right about now!)
Serve warm with radish-butter finger sandwiches or a spring salad.

A note about collection stinging nettles:
One of the most fascinating things I've learned about the plant kingdom is that, where there is something harmful, the cure more often than not grows right beside it. So it is with nettles and the common 'weed' ribwort, or plantago , pictured here to the left. They often grow very close to one another. If your fingers are tingling from collecting nettles, make a knot out of a few ribwort leaves and rub and squeeze them between your palms until the juice is released. This juice will ease the pain and itching. It even helped sooth the uncomfortable bug bight my stepmother had last spring. 

On another note...
All of your heartfelt and sincere messages have touched me and uplifted me, AS ALWAYS. I am so grateful to you all. You teach me so much about myself, and about the goodness to be found in others. Thank you!

xoxo country girl


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