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Archive for the ‘Possum Living’ Category

Daisy catches up.  A little.

Today is partly sunny and almost 70 degrees.  That seems to be how winter in Savannah goes.  It’s freezing for 2 or 3 weeks, then for about a week it’s 70 degrees with alternating rain and sunshine.  It’s a delightful taste of spring every few weeks, and it makes the winters here very tolerable for a cold hater like me.

The freezing temperatures over the last few weeks kept me and Little Boy mostly indoors.  I stayed in my warm bed with my fluffy comforter as much as possible,  reading, researching, and hanging out on Facebook way too much.  Little Boy built castles with his blocks, had parties with his plastic dinosaurs, and drew endless dragons on dollar store paper tablets.

But there’s no time for watching movies or making cookies today.  We’re busy catching up on the homestead chores here at the Green Goddess Gardens.  Spring is mere weeks away, and we have lots to do before we plant the first seeds in the spring gardens.

My serious little farmer. I interrupted him while he was "busy" working on some sticks.

The biggest problem we’ve been dealing with are the chickens.  With not as much green stuff growing in January, the girls have picked our backyard clean.  Nothing left but old grass roots and pine straw.  If I want to plant food for us to eat, I’ve got to keep those pesky birds out of the garden. 

I love when they follow him around the yard.

We started out by stringing chicken wire around about half the backyard.  Well, those acrobatic biddies were able to easily fly over the 4 foot barrier!  I began rescuing them from the back lane several times a day.  The Herban Cowboy and I despaired about being the white trash folks on the block whose chickens are always in the alley. 

I finally remembered I could clip their wings, and a bit of internet research and a few YouTube videos later all 5 girls got clipped.  Note:  If you’re going to do this, do it first thing in the morning before you open the coop.  Take them out one at a time, clip and release.  If you let them all out first, then you’ll just have to catch them, running around the muddy yard while your 3 year old laughs hysterically.  Trust me.

The wing clipping seems to have done the trick.  Only Mavis has gotten out since then, and only once.  Have to keep an eye on that one, that Mavis.

That brought the girls down to earth, but we had another enemy to conquer:  the crape myrtle tree in the garden.  She blocks so much sun, and we need all the rays we can get in our shady little backyard.  So last weekend, the Herban Cowboy climbed the ladder and sawed down the branches/trunks about halfway up.  I chopped them up with loppers and a hand saw, hauling the branches to the chicken side of the yard.  The bare trunks of the tree still stand, but those are a manageable enough size that I can saw them down and haul them off at my leisure, without jeopardizing the garden fence.

She'll be hauled to the dump and mulched (everyone sing with me): It's the CIRcle of LIIIIIFE!

As of this writing, the Herban Cowboy is outside stapling up a chicken wire fence.  Update:  He just came in and announced that he’s 5 minutes from completion, but has to run to Home Depot for more staples.  I love that guy.

Anyway, this is a huge deal here at the homestead.  The reasons our fall garden failed were lack of sufficient sunlight and the chickens, who kept flying over the barriers we created, eating everything they could get their beaks into that WAS growing.  I’m still mad about the turnips. 

Chicken wire fence!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  thank goodness I don’t have to live off this land!  I really can’t beat myself up too much, the yard was nothing but blackberry brambles and pokeweed when we bought it, and each season has brought more lessons and more food than the season before.

I haven’t been able to do much in my garden for the last few months, but now I have no more excuses.  Well, except when the freezing cold temperatures return.

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Daisy takes a bath.

Winter is full upon us, and so is my winter skin.  I get so spoiled in the hot, humid summers here, rarely needing moisturizer, glistening like a frog in a bog.  Then winter creeps the cold and dry into all the cracks and my skin dries out until it looks and feels like paper.  Mmmm sexy.

I love to warm up on a chilly winter day with a hot bath, but soaking in a tub of hot water is murder on my skin – I dry up faster than Lindsay Lohan in rehab.  I used to douse myself with bottles and bottles of lotion afterwards, but my skin always seemed to soak it right up and be just as tight and dry as ever. 

But wait Gentle Reader!  Despair not!  I have discovered the secret to baby smooth winter skin, and because I love you all so much, I shall reveal it to you.  Drumroll please (you have to imagine the drumroll yourself)….    

Twice weekly oil massage/salt scrub/hot bath! 

It sounds decadent, which it is.  And it’s also easy and cheap, and don’t the Herban Cowgirls just LOVE easy and cheap?  So here’s how you do it.

Warm up the bathroom and gather your usual towel, washcloth and soap.  Go to the kitchen and get a dish of regular table salt.  Get some oil, a few tablespoons to a quarter cup.  Any kind of oil will do.  I use whatever’s cheapest or whatever’s going rancid (hey, can’t eat it, might as well use it!), usually olive oil.

DISCLAIMER:  I am about to suggest pouring oil on your naked body while sitting in a slippery tub!  This is clearly an idea fraught with peril!  If you have never done this before, BE CAREFUL!!  Rubber mats and extra towels can save you some bruises (or worse!), but use your judgment and BE SAFE.  Again:  DANGER!  SLIPPERY OIL!

Okay, now take your clothes off and rub the oil all over your body while you sit in the slippery tub.  Really massage it in there.  I like to go from the extremities towards the heart.  I usually do this part standing, since the tub is COLD under my butt, but you may feel safer sitting.  Again, the slippery oil.  Danger and all.

Once you’ve oiled yourself slippery, it’s time to salt scrub those hamhocks.  Get some salt on those hands and polish that skin, working in circles from the extremities towards the heart.  I hope I don’t have to tell everyone to avoid your face with this treatment.  Please do not scrub handfuls of salt into your face.  You will not feel spa fresh doing that.

When you’re covered shoulders to feet in oil and salt, it’s time for your hot bath.  Yay!  I like to add a few drops of lavender essential oil and swish it around.  Rinse off all the salt, letting it dissolve into the hot water.  Massage the oil into your skin, using the washcloth to remove excess oil from all your cracks and crevices.  After a good soaking, if I still feel overly oily, I rinse off a few minutes more in a hot shower.

HERE IS ANOTHER DISCLAIMER:  I am about to tell you to hoist your oiled body out of a ceramic tub!  Danger!!  Use a towel to dry your hands off, or put a hand towel on top of your rubber bathmat, or call someone in to help you – whatever you have to do to get out of the tub safely.  Also make sure you remove all excess oil with your washcloth and/or towel.  Oil will stain your clothing and sheets!  Use caution please!!

Okay now hoist your oiled body out of your tub.  Rub yourself dry with your towel.  Congratulations.  Your skin is now softer than it’s been since the day you were born.  Now put on your jammies and snuggle under the covers with a book and some hot chocolate. 

You’re welcome.

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Daisy butchers a Dickens classic.

I am not getting you a Christmas present.  There, there; dry your tears.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.  Really.  If you think I’m a Scrooge, join me for a Christmas Carol, Herban Cowgirl style.  First, let’s follow the Ghost of Christmas Past to an amalgam of Little Daisy’s childhood Christmases….

By Thanksgiving, my mother would always announce (quite emphatically and sadly) that This Year We Were Not Going To Have A Big Christmas.  She would explain to my younger sister and I that we were very fortunate to have all that we did, and Christmas isn’t about getting presents anyway.  Then, over the next few weeks, my sister and I would watch as the drifts of brightly wrapped packages got bigger and bigger under the tree, eventually spreading across the living room floor like an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Then of course, Christmas morning would arrive, and with it, all the rest of the toys and goodies that Santa had left for us in the night.  It was a toy orgy beyond most children’s wildest dreams.

I was always excited for Christmas, and eagerly anticipated its arrival, but so much about the holiday confused me, even at a young age.  Why do people put up decorations and do Christmas stuff for weeks before the actual day?  Nobody does that with any other holiday.  Why do we get/give so many presents?  In the stories, Santa only brings one, and what do presents have to do with Jesus being born anyway (my mom always said it was because of the Magi, but they only brought one present each as well)?

I was too young to be able to articulate it, but I always wished for a truly simple Christmas.  There was something about opening ALL those presents that made me feel uncomfortable.  I also spent a lot of time thinking about the Jewish kids, and wondering why Santa never left them any presents.  On a side note that the Herban Cowboy thinks is hilarious (he grew up Jewish), I always assumed that any undecorated houses at Christmastime were where the Jewish people lived.

Enough idyllic Christmas scenes from Daisy’s childhood; the Ghost of Christmas Present will take it from here.  First of all, I do love getting gifts for people.  I love finding something that makes me think of someone I love, knowing that they will love it.  I love the look on people’s faces when they receive a gift that truly touches them.  What’s so difficult about it?  Make a list, check it twice, shop, wrap, give.

Of course what works in theory often falls apart in practice.  Making the list, even when I check it twice, I invariably forget at least one very important person.  I really hate shopping, but when the stores are twice as crowded as normal and everyone seems to be rude and pushy and angry for some reason, it’s even worse.  I also hate wrapping presents.  I don’t know why, but I always have.  I’d rather be waterboarded for an entire minute than wrap any kind of gift. 

So the actual giving part is the only part of this entire process that doesn’t irritate me.  And don’t even get me started on the boring, awful Christmas music.  I know some of you love that stuff and that’s fine, but imagine the most annoying music you can think of being played everywhere you go for an entire month.  Gah!

Sometimes I make homemade gifts for people, but I do that year round anyway.  And some people think handmade gifts are cheap.  I’ve even had someone say to me, referencing the bath salts I just handed her, “It’s hard to be able to afford gifts for everyone.”  I just let it go, but I always want to explain to people that I have enough money to buy them a gift but I chose instead to… Uch.  You know what?  Nevermind.

I do feel pangs of guilt when I hear my mother or sister talk about how many gifts they’ve gotten for people and how much shopping they still have to do, because I know that all they’re getting from me are secondhand books and homemade soup mix (hastily wrapped in brown paper).  It’s hard not to judge myself because I’m not putting as much thought or effort into their Christmases as they do mine.

Perfect. The house is now decorated. Pass the eggnog.

So where do I go from here?  How do I celebrate the holiday in a personal and meaningful way without succumbing to the pressures of the perceived expectations of others?  This is where the Ghost of Christmas Future gently takes our hands and leads us to a vision of the Christmases to come.

Daisy’s utopian Christmas?  One present for Little Boy from mom and dad, and one present from Santa.  One small Christmas tree covered with two strings of lights and a bunch of old ornaments.  Homemade food and drink, freely shared with friends and family.  We’ll spend a weekend making presents for our extended family, each year a different project; salt dough ornaments or handmade cards or whatever crafty idea suits our fancy that year. 

In my imaginary future Christmases, I feel no guilt for not celebrating the way others do.  I give what I can, when I can.  I accept gifts with grace, without feeling the pressure to reciprocate. 

I’ve already started making these changes towards my ideal future Christmas.  This year I Freecycled all the decorations except the tree, two strands of lights, a box of ornaments and our stockings.  No garlands, no wreaths, no extra Christmas tchotchkes.  I got my nieces one book to share.  My mom is getting some homemade lentil soup mix in a jar.  The Herban Cowboy is getting some sexy flannel PJ pants (I’m going to burn his nasty sweatpants so help me).  A few of my Cowgirl friends will be the lucky recipients of some books I no longer want in my collection. 

And that’s it kids.  No guilt, no shame, no pressure, no excess.  This may sound crazy coming from a non-believer, but I’m pretty sure it’s what Jesus would have wanted.

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Daisy freezes her patootie off and makes lunch.

Pitiful, frozen elder trees. Don't worry. She'll be back.

My garden is frozen.  The chicken waterer is a solid block of ice.  There is a lovely miniature ski jump of ice coming out of the hose nozzle.  The elder and hibiscus hang with dark, frosty, withered leaves.  This is a serious cold snap for Savannah.  My old cat Mojo has been sleeping inside nights, something he usually avoids.  I’ve even had to actually turn the heat on, which I’ve avoided like the plague this year so far. 

With all this cold weather we’ve had, I would be smart to get cooking and let the oven heat the house, but for some reason (maybe I’m a glutton for punishment) I’ve been preparing food to freeze.  I’ve already written about making food and freezing it; so far I’ve done chili, soup, meatloaf and breakfast muffins. 

The tiny, frozen waterfall on the end of the garden hose.

I’ve tried cooking for the freezer years ago, but I never really got into it.  Right now it seems to work for me.  I do have to spend time in the kitchen cooking (which I hate), but I’ve been thinking of it like a part time job.  I clock in, make some food, and clock back out.  It’s a worthwhile investment of my time.  It sure beats having a real job.

So I clock in and make some homemade food for my family.

The other day I made some chicken soup and some burritos.  They’re all packaged and frozen and ready to be thawed and heated.  My new favorite freezer food, however, is sandwiches. 

Little Boy and I usually end up having sandwiches for lunch, either peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese.  It’s not that we’re particularly fond of these sandwiches (nor are they fabulously nutritious), but they are cheap and easy, and so they win by default.  Lazy, lazy lunch.

While researching freezer foods, I ran across a website with pages devoted to making and freezing buttloads of sandwiches.  Peanut butter and jelly and ham and cheese to be exact.  There’s a trick to making the PB&J.  None of the jelly can touch the bread, so you spread both sides of bread with peanut butter, and spread the jelly in the middle, leaving a small margin of peanut butter around the edges.  With the ham and cheese, the trick is to use Miracle Whip instead of regular mayonnaise.  Who knew?

So we gathered our ingredients.  Most were from the local Piggly Wiggly, but an impromptu trip to the dollar store yielded two loaves of bread and some strawberry jelly.  I also got some freezer bags to store all my delicious sandwiches.  Lay out the ingredients, make the sandwiches, mark which kind they are on the bag, and stack in the freezer.  It took me about half an hour.

L to R: Chicken soup, chili, frozen burritos, red cabbage and potatoes (behind burritos), sandwiches (with another stack of sandwiches behind), more burritos (in door).

I made 9 PB&Js for under $4.00.  That’s less than 50 cents a sandwich!  The ham and cheese were more expensive; I made 9 sandwiches for just over $7.00, but that’s still a sandwich for under a buck.  Not bad in my little world.  The best part is, just take them out of the freezer and they’re thawed by lunchtime.

Little Boy and I have been having picnic lunches outside with the chickens.  The girls quickly figured out that we’re holding the good stuff when we come out there, so they come running when they see us.  They’ve gotten quite cheeky in their attempts to sample our lunches.  Mavis has snatched a pickle right out of Little Boy’s hand (she then immediately discovered that she doesn’t like pickles), and yesterday she jumped right into my lap!  Naughty girls.  (By the way, Mavis has started laying her brown eggs, so now we’ve got two girls “in production”)

These freezer sandwiches are not totally eco-friendly (disposable plastic freezer bags).  They’re also not the most nourishing whole food (store bought bread, cheap meat, etc).

But will they keep me from driving through at Taco Bell?  Absolutely.  Will they stop me from blowing 15 bucks on 2 days worth of saturated fat at Wendys?  You betcha.  Will they prevent me from stressing about what to make for lunch?  Of course.  They already have. 

Expenses?  Down.

Caloric intake?  Down. 

Stress?  Down dooby do down down.

I’m in love with freezer sandwiches.  Tomorrow I’m having PB&J.

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Daisy gets promoted from pet owner to farmer.

We have eggs!  After 6 months of sharing my backyard with these pesty, ravenous, feathered dinosaurs, they are finally beginning to earn their keep.  Or at least one of them is.  Betty, my Araucana with the gold and brown feathers, has matured and begun laying beautiful pale blue eggs. 

Right from the chicken's butt.

We’ve been expecting this for weeks.  We changed their feed to what the lady at the feed and seed store called “layer crumbles”, whatever that is.  It looks like plain cracked corn.  The Herban Cowboy made a nest box that we lined with wood shavings and nestled a golf ball inside for inspiration.  The girls have been “singing,” a sign that they are getting ready to lay some serious eggs.  It’s called singing, but it’s actually a kind of weird, creaky noise like, “Bra-a-a-a-a-a-a-ack.”  I’m not sure if that’s the exact spelling.  Transcribing chicken is harder than it sounds.

So last week, I went out to check on the girls and I only counted my four black hens.  While my eyes scanned the backyard for signs of Betty, my ears heard faint shuffling noises in the coop.  Wait, in the coop?  But they never go in there during the day…   Unless…

I got there just as Betty was emerging.  No egg yet.  But she had made a well in the nest box and was obviously practicing.  Good girl.  Over the next few days, Betty continued to practice, and Mavis started taking turns with her.  To tell the truth, I thought for sure Mavis would be my first girl to “ripen,” since she’s a hybrid.  But Betty beat her to it.

Despite my 4 daily trips to the coop “just to check it out,”  the Herban Cowboy was the first one to discover an egg.  We oohed and aahed over it forever.  I ended up taking the very first egg over to Aida’s, where she was packing for her move to Vermont.  She promised she would keep it forever and ever.

Betty's eggs, shown next to a white grocery store egg (R) for comparison.

Since last Saturday, Betty has laid 4 eggs.  One I found right after she laid it – the morning temps were in the low 30s, but the egg was warm in my hand.  They’re a bit smaller than the large eggs I normally buy at the Piggly Wiggly, but they’re much prettier.  We haven’t eaten any yet.  I think we’re waiting to have enough for scrambled eggs with cheese.  Another day or two should do it.

Now that the whole egg thing has started, I’m itching for the rest of my girls to start as well.  Come on ladies, mama’s hungry.

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Daisy puts the herb in Herban Cowgirl.

It got colder than a witch’s you-know-what last night here at the Green Goddess Gardens; I should know.   Winter is coming, and Christmas is right on her heels.  With the cold and the stress, the Cowgirls are doing our best to stay nourished during this vulnerable time of year.  In that vein, today’s post is about how to make nourishing herbal infusions.

First of all, making infusions was Lesson One in my herbal studies with Susun Weed, but have I done a post about them yet?  Um, no.  How did this get by both me AND Aida? 

Anyway, you may be saying to yourself, “But Daisy, why should I care about herbal infusions?  I tried mint tea once and I didn’t like it so whatever, pass the coffee.”  I hear you, you imaginary naysayer.  But I’m not talking about some pansy herbal tea that you soak in a cup of water for a minute and then drown with honey.  No, I’m talking a thick, witch’s brew overflowing with vitamins and minerals.  And here’s how you make it:

Put one ounce (about one cup) of a gentle, nourishing herb (oatstraw, stinging nettles, red clover, raspberry leaf, violet leaf, mullein, etc) into a one quart mason jar.  Pour boiling water over it, filling the jar and screwing on the lid.  Steep 4-8 hours.  Strain and refrigerate.  Drink it within 48 hours.  After that, feed it to your houseplants or pour it over your hair in the shower for a final rinse (I’m not kidding!).

One ounce herb in one quart jar.

You can make an infusion before bed and strain it when you get up in the morning.  Or put some on in the morning and have it by lunchtime.  The wet herbs you strain out can be thrown on the compost pile if you have one.  Drink one to four cups a day.  Sweeten it.  Heat it.  Ice it.  However you like it, just drink it.

The long steeping process extracts lots of vitamins and minerals from the herbs, WAY more than you’d get from a simple cup of tea.  One cup of raspberry leaf infusion has more vitamin C than an orange.  One cup of stinging nettles infusion has more than 500 mg of calcium.  The nutrients come directly from the plant, a little more as nature intended, as opposed to a vitamin pill, where substances are isolated, synthesized and concentrated. 

Topped up with boiling water and capped. Steep 4-8 hours.

In addition to wholistic nourishment, herbs are cheaper than vitamin pills.  Depending on the herb and if you buy bulk, a cup of infusion costs anywhere from 15 – 50 cents.  That’s some delicious possum living. 

You can find your herbs at a Whole Foods or your local independent natural grocery store (shout out to Brighter Day in Savannah!).  If you live in a rural place without a fancy hippie store, you can order online (Frontier Herbs and Red Moon Herbs are good companies to try).

My favorites are oatstraw and red clover, but I also love raspberry leaf and linden flowers.  The Herban Cowboy likes stinging nettle the best, but it’s a bit too strong for me, so I sweeten and dilute it.  Little Boy’s favorite is oatstraw.  He makes it for his stuffed animals sometimes. 

From Left to Right: Raspberry leaf, Oatstraw, Stinging Nettles

You don’t have to make infusions every day.  Two or three times a week should do it.  So toss your expensive vitamin pills and nourish your body with simple herbs.  Build optimum health and keep the flu at bay this winter.  Seriously, give it a try.  You may find yourself suddenly on the other side of winter without having incurred a single cold.  It’s worth a try.

We just finished up a big pitcher of nettles at our house.  Tonight we’ll make some oatstraw.  It’ll be perfect in the morning, heated up with a spoonful of honey.  Mmmm…

Here’s Susun Weed talking about infusions and her favorite infusion herbs.  Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pKpe_YGUUw

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Daisy cooks up a storm (not literally of course).

I have been working in my kitchen for the last three days straight.  Well, I did take breaks to pee, hang out on Facebook, and go to rehearsals for the play I’m in (stage version of “A Christmas Story” first 2 weekends in December at Muse Arts Warehouse for those interested).  But other than that, I’ve been hard at work making food out of meat and vegetables and cheese and eggs and flour.  And then washing dishes and doing it again.

I really hate cooking.  I guess it’s fun once or twice a week, but to have to think about making something to eat several times a day is exhausting for me.  I couldn’t care less about the preparation of food.  I’d like it to just magically appear in front of me whenever I’m hungry.  It’s such a pain to spend hours of the day preparing food that it takes 15 minutes to eat.  I can’t help but feel sad when it’s so quickly gone.

This is it kids. This is where the magic happens.

You can see how a person with desires and feelings like this would get hooked on junk and convenience foods.  Anything in a package is great; just tear it open, eat it and throw the wrapper away.  Nothing to wash.  How lovely.  Fast food is just amazing; sit in my car, collect my lunch that I didn’t have to prepare, eat at home and toss the “dishes” in the trash.  Frozen dinners are a luxury; no preparation, just heat and serve and (again) throw the dishes away.

What a fabulous life!  The costs of this lifestyle, of course, are staggering.  First of all financially, since it’s cheaper to prepare (and even grow!) good food at home.  Second of all ecologically; it’s an awful lot of trash generated by convenience food.  There’s also the toll this food takes on my physical health.  Y’all, right now I am the fattest I’ve ever been in my entire life, and it’s because I’m lazy and I hate cooking.  PC about fat people aside, I’ve put myself at a high risk for diabetes and heart disease, among other things.  Curse you Taco Bell!  You and your Nachos Bellgrande can go straight to hell!

Sorry, where was I?  Oh, right, how my crippling addiction to fast food is slowly eroding my physical and financial well being, as well as contributing to the destruction of our natural habitat.  Right, right, right.  Anyway, since it dovetails nicely with my “Vow of Poverty,” I recently redoubled my efforts in the area of home food preparation.  Uch.  Fine.

So here’s the list of all I’ve made in the last three days:  lemon garlic crockpot chicken, herbed rice, sautéed green beans, vegetarian chili (a gallon), lentil/split pea soup (3 quarts), cornbread, blueberry oatmeal muffins (1 ½ dozen), iced tea (so I don’t buy diet soda), meatloaf (2 of them) and a buttload of steamed broccoli. 

Foil wrapped meatloaf, bagged muffins, plastic tubs of chili and soup. I better get crackin'. I've got enough room in there for some more muffins and maybe a casserole...

I’m trying to get ahead with some of this.  The chili, soup, meatloaf and muffins were mostly frozen for future meals.  What’s really crazy to me though is that this is how much food my maternal grandmother cooked all the time.  She had five kids.  I mean, dang.

I haven’t even started my Thanksgiving food.  Little Boy, the Herban Cowboy and I will meet my sister and her family at my mom’s tomorrow.  I’m making traditional yams with the marshmallow crust on top (for the kids) and steamed green beans with dried cranberries and sliced almonds.  Mom’s making a turkey breast thing and maybe some stuffing or mashed potatoes.  And cheap, store-bought, white bread rolls from the grocery store, because it just isn’t Thanksgiving in south Georgia without them. 

Although I hate cooking it, I am grateful for this food.  I am grateful to the Herban Cowboy, for working his hands to the bone so I can eat this nourishing abundance.  I am grateful to Little Boy, for constantly reminding me what’s important in any given moment.  I am grateful to my sister and her family, for traveling hundreds of miles to be with me.  I am grateful to my father for his neverending support.  I am grateful to my mother, for all the home cooked meals of my childhood.  I am grateful to my friends, for being my tribe.  And I am grateful to my grandmothers, for showing me the way.

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