Today was the first day that really felt like autumn. It started off with a gentle drizzle in the morning, and matured into a breezy and cool, yet sunny warm day...the perfect kind for wandering on the hills. Unfortuantely I've been inside at work all day, except for the short break I took to have some egg salad for lunch in the late afternoon.
The incessant busy-ness of summer is wearing on me, and getting old. I am completely eager for the cool, restful, slow darkness of winter...and I can feel it in the change in the weather today. It is on it's way. I've even seen a few trees with yellow leaves. I always have loved the transitions of the seasons, when it isn't quite one or the other, and the air is all astir with change...funny how change is hard in our emotional sphere, as it is in the physical sphere. Many people come down with the sniffles and sneezes as the weather changes from one season to another in the space of just a few hours.
I think I love the turning of the seasons because it reminds me that nothing is permanent. Things will always change. Just as we tired of the heat and busy bustle of summer, and look foward to winter, we can look forward to a change in occupation, residence, or food. Even though it is sometimes challenging to adjust to the new situation at hand.
So I've just been through some pretty big changes in my personal life, reuniting with my love, moving, sleeping in my vehicle, moving some more, and starting school. It's been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, and now that things have morphed and changed, I look foward to the rest and settling in of my new circumstances. Come spring and summer I'm sure things will change again.
But it's also time to start preparing physically for the seasonal change, through food and herbs. I always love to roast rooty vegetables and squash and make roasts and rich stocks in fall and winter, to nourish the body. A crock pot is an invaluable tool for making rich warming foods and herbal soups, but it can be done in a pot on the stove on low as well.
I usually start with chicken thighs, or a chicken carcass after roasting (smoked turkey carcass from thanksgiving is also devine!) in a big pot with enough water to cover. I then toss in warming and immune supporting herbs, either whole, or in a muslin bag. My herbs of choice include garlic, onion, sage, ginger, burdock, astragalus, hawthorn, eluethero, and mushrooms (shitakes are my favorite). Then I simmer the broth on low for 4-6 hrs. I always check to make sure the chicken remains covered with broth, but as it cooks down the broth gets thicker and richer. You can add your choice of vegetables and take the meat off the bones for a chunky soup, or strain it for a a plain broth/stock, that can be frozen for later use, used to poach breakfast eggs, or cook with in other dishes.
I love to eat soup for breakfast, and will sometimes warm up my broth and add a spoonful of miso paste, or poach an egg or two in the simmering broth for a warming breakfast with protein.
One of my other plans for fall and winter brews is an immune tonic concentrate. I'll do much the same as with the chicken herb soup, but select some less tasty herbs and cook them down for a LONG time, until the liquid is reduced by 60-70% and I'm left with a thick syrupy tea. I'm thinking Reishi mushrooms, astragalus, eluethero, burdock, echinacea, elderberry and ginger. Once it is cooked down and strained, I'll preserve the concentrate with blackstrap molasess, and perhaps an ounce of brandy to keep it. Molasses adds it's own mineral rich goodness to the syrup, thickens and sweetens it up a bit. Especially since Reishi is pretty bitter, and I dont know many people who like the tingly taste of echinacea decoction.
I almost always have on hand in the winter my super cider vinegar, which is basically a very strong infused apple cider vinegar with garlic, ginger, onion, horseradish, cayenne and honey. I sip on this a little every day, when I need a little extra "zing". It's HOT though, and can upset sensitive tummies, so I usually reccomend it mixed in food ( great as a salad or steamed green dressing or marinade), or diluted in water. But I like it hot and spicy, and take it straight from my personal jar by the tablespoonful.
Of course any nourishing winter lifestyle includes LOTS of REST. Just when you thought it was time to party through the holidays...I spend much of the winter sleeping more, kind of like a hibernation. Using the time to dream, process, and nourish the soul that gets a bit pushed aside in the go , go, go of summer time ( or the holiday rush!). It's okay to feel a bit lazy in winter. If you don't feel like doing anything, you probably shouldn't be doing anything. Rest and relax, curl up with a book or a journal, beloved pet or beloved person and just be.
I'm still unpacking my boxes, but once I get my kitchen unpacked, I'll be making soups and stews and herbal tonics. And then I'll be sleeping, when I'm not working or seeing clients, or attending classes.