Is this thing on?


I will make a covenant of peace with my people … Then they will be able to camp safely in the wildest places and sleep in the woods without fear.  

Ez 34:25 NLT

Solo camping became a calling, a craving, after moving to Oklahoma. Being from Alaska I rarely set out on camping excursions, and certainly never alone. I already lived in the woods. However city life in Tulsa had me thirsting for the rhythm of water lapping on the shores.

I’d rafted the turquoise, glacial waters of the Kenai river where you might not see a soul for days but the Illinois river was packed raft to raft living out a version of an Okie Mardi Gras, beads and all. The Last Frontier tucks away its beaches in places only a float plane can touch. Yet there I was, in stark contrast, sleeping in packed campgrounds and waking to the sound of an unknown neighbor vomiting last nights campfire meal.

I knew this sort of camping was not it, and I could still hear Him calling to solitude.

Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The LORD God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches.

Gen 2:8-10 NLT

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God among the trees. Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.

Gen 3:8-11 NLT

God designed a lush, vibrant garden for us to live that meets every need, yet when He comes in the cool of the day desiring to spend time with us we hide. We bury ourselves in busyness and noise, in relationships and sometimes even in the very ministry He has placed us. The idea of being alone with our thoughts, naked with our traumas, sends us into hiding. We fear that if we sit in the silence of the Garden the incessant self talk will drown us, judgements will be deafening or the biting words of those who were supposed to love us may tear us to pieces. He calls. He searches. We hide.

Song of Solomon is a love story between a Shulammite woman and her king. This erotic poetry speaks of a sensuous courtship and is symbolic of the love between us and our Lover.

My dove is hiding behind the rocks, behind an outcrop on the cliff. Let me see your face; let me hear your voice. For your voice is pleasant, and your face is lovely.

Song of Solomon 2:14 NLT

All of history is evidence that our loving God desires intimacy with you and me. Pursuing us He spares no expense to free us of the shame and disgrace we often attempt to suffocate with the noise of activity. Despite our minds knowing of His vast affection on many occasions this knowledge does not travel the 18 inches to our heart. We wear exhaustion and the bags under our eyes like a badge making ourselves appear to be in such high demand. It is our way of adding value to ourselves but it is a false sense of value. The truth is we are clothing our emptiness with rags while He desires to dress us for our wedding day; a bridegrooms garland and a bride’s jewels.

After gaining the courage to camp solo I took baby steps by sleeping in the back of my SUV, mostly because I was afraid of the venomous cottonmouths that lived by the lake only a few feet from my site. I am familiar with dodging moose and bear, but snakes, suffice it to say, we don’t have snakes in Alaska!  Piece by piece I collected all the necessities to survive in the woods and meet God there: in the Garden, also known as Oklahoma State Parks. I assembled a kitchen tote to include a shiny new percolator that I couldn’t wait to turn black over campfires shortly after watching the sun rise. Despite not being a morning person He would wake me to show off. As if to say, “Look what I painted for you today, Love!”

So there I was, a solo woman camper encountering varied reactions as I smoothed out my ground tarp, erecting a tent and building a fire to light up the dark nights and cook gourmet meals. (Truly I have discovered almost anything can be cooked on a stick.) Some watched suspiciously, others approached wondering if I kept a gun for protection and others God used to provide. At times I feel like Elijah after God called him into the wilderness.

The ravens did take care of him while he was there, just as the Lord said, bringing him a meal of bread and meat at sunrise and another meal of bread and meat at sunset. He satisfied his thirst by drinking from the stream.

1 Kings 17:6 Voice Bible

My provision wasn’t carried to me by ravens but by retired couples sharing their catfish bounty or bringing me a hot cup of coffee as soon as they saw my slow, sleepy body emerge from the night’s shelter.

God has prepared a garden to meet with us and the provision to do so. He is calling us away to times of solitude where there will be a flowing out of ourself to create an inward spaciousness that the Holy Spirit may flow in. This garden is a place where we are less likely to mistake our own perceptions, opinions, and agenda for reality and instead see through the eyes of Jesus. With practice we learn to burn away the manifestations of the ego so that we may walk through this life unbound, in humility and with peace. Ultimately, we will come to know our Creator in all the ways he wants to be known. As Meister Eckert said, “Sometimes we must let go of God, for God’s sake.”

During our times of solitude and silence we will encounter and practice the spiritual disciplines of mindful awareness, Biblical meditation and Christian detachment. In order to better understand how to approach these disciplines we will next discuss the anatomy of a believer and when enlightenment occurs for the believer.

 

Abbie’s Alaskan Halibut Tacos


Abbie is the truest of Alaskans. None of this transplant business. She was born in Soldotna and marked by the Big Dipper and North Star in freckles on her shoulder. Abbie’s uncle took her deep sea fishing out of Homer towards Seldovia and she caught a 30 pounder. Reeling in a Halibut is like pulling a sheet of plywood off the ocean floor. While everyone loves bringing home a trophy it’s the smaller catches that have better texture and flavor. Abbie’s Alaskan Halibut is the perfect reason to make fish tacos!

We’ll start with the tangy sauce:

1 jalapeño chopped (with seeds if you want more heat) 

1/4 c chopped cilantro

Juice of 3 lemons

1 c mayonnaise 

Salt and pepper to taste

Chop a quarter of a green cabbage like you would for coleslaw and set aside. 


I prepare my corn tortillas heating them on a griddle with butter and set them aside for assembling. Raw corn tortillas are no fun. 

While heating 1/4 c coconut oil in a skillet slice the Halibut steak into strips about an inch thick. Sprinkle with the following spices to taste: 

Cayenne, cumin, chili, onion and garlic powder, salt

Place Halibut in hot oil and rotate until cooked through, crispy and carmelized on all sides. Remove fish and allow the oil drain. 

To assemble Abbie’s Alaskan Halibut Tacos layer on top of your tortilla: cabbage, Halibut, cheese, avocado slice and a generous drizzle of the tangy sauce. Top off with a lime squeeze. 


Lastly be sure to let Abbie know you made her tacos. She’ll be totally jealous because it’s her fave! 
❤️

K

Homesteader’s Honey


So the story goes…. honey was a difficult commodity to come by in the Alaskan homesteader days. Out of necessity they got creative and cooked up what would become an Alaskan staple to slather on those cast iron biscuits on a cold morning. During summer months fireweed and clover grow in abundance and sugar was available at the local frontier supply stores. If you put bee honey and fireweed honey side by side and offered it to guests they’d never know the difference. Give it a taste for yourself. 

My daughter, Abbie, and I walked up the road to the Hall homestead where her sister-in-love, Nicole,  has fields of clover and fireweed blossoms.  We gathered: 


50 red clover blossoms

10 white clover blossoms 

30 fireweed blossoms 

While bringing 3 cups of water to a boil I picked all the leaves off and rinsed the blossoms with cold water in a colander. 

In a large pot combine 5 lbs of sugar, 3/4 tsp alum and the blossoms. When the water is boiling pour it on top of your sugar and blossoms stirring until the sugar is syrupy. Let the mixture steep for 10 minutes. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. 

Using a cheesecloth I poured the hot honey into a bowl straining out the blossoms. And immediately ladled the honey into jars and put them in a hot water bath to seal. 

Abbie is perfecting her biscuit recipe and I’m happy to contribute honey for breakfast. I can’t wait to break in to a jar. Looking for excuses tonight but I’m stuffed from our Alaskan Halibut tacos. I’ll save that for the next blog though! (My daughter caught the Halibut!)

Alaskan Gumbo-licious

More life has been shared over a bowl of gumbo in our family than most other recipes. So when I come home to Alaska it’s always on my daughter’s “mom-must-cook” list. Our gumbo is one of those recipes I have scribbled in a notebook with no measurements but always seems to turn out just right. 


I am primarily a vegetarian, rarely touching red meat, but I cannot resist reindeer sausage when I’m home. Gumbo is the perfect opportunity to satisfy my craving for a little Rudolph in my diet! 

Mostly I’ve made 15 minute white roux but our friend, Larry the Cajun, came to check on his cows and inspired me to go the scenic route with roux this time.  Larry also shared a piece of Cajun history when he visited that day: Acadians who were kicked out of Nova Scotia were marked with an X at the end of their sir name and sent south. Roux ends with an X.  Canada’s loss our gain. 


Tonight I lovingly stirred this roux for an hour until it was the creamiest peanut buttery colour. The ratio is easy: 

3/4 c oil or butter

3/4 c flour

Heat your fat of choice and slowly incorporate the flour. It’s a labor of love constantly stirring over low heat. The longer you cook your roux the more flavor it will give your gumbo. You can go as far as a copper coloured roux and even brick roux. Low heat and movement are your best friends as your roux is at risk of burning if you take short cuts. You’ll know it’s burnt if black specks appear and then you might as well toss it and start over. 


Once your roux is as dark as you like add your spices:

Salt, cayenne, sage, rosemary, oregano, 2 bay leaves and lots of thyme 

Next add chopped veggies and cook until softened:

1/2 onion

1 bell pepper

4 cloves garlic

4 sticks of celery 


Now toss in 2 chicken breasts and reindeer sausage cut into bite size chunks. If you don’t have access to reindeer, andouille sausage is traditional. 


Once there’s a caramelization on the meat add a 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes, 32 oz of chicken broth and a bag of frozen okra (or fresh if you have it).  

Let simmer for 30 minutes while you cook white rice. 

A scoop of rice in the bottom of the bowl and a scoop of gumbo on top will set everything right in the world. Enjoy your family. Make memories. 
❤️ 

K

The Lighter Side of Lasagna 


I’ve gotten a few requests for this recipe so as promised I’ll share this clean but satisfying morsel.  It will definitely make a second appearance at our house and I’m sure it will at yours as well!! 

Typically when I’m trying a new recipe I research. I Google, I Pinterest and I pull out the entire contents of my spice cabinet imagining the perfect marriage of flavors until I’ve created a meal that I’d serve to my best guest (aka Roy). 


(4 servings)

First I set the oven to 400 degrees and prepared the 2 acorn squash from our hay bale garden. They’re ripe when glowing orange shines through the green. 

After washing the soil from the skin of the squash I cut them in half , scooped out the seeds and bathed the flesh in olive oil placing them skin side down on a baking sheet.  I’m always liberal with my salt sprinkling. To me there is no quicker way to flatten flavor than to be salt stingy. It enhances every other flavor. Including the following which dusted the squash next:

Garlic powder, Cayenne, Nutmeg 

Place the acorn squash flesh side down and bake for 12 minutes. Rotate flesh side up and bake another 12 minutes. 

While the oven is working away it’s time to engage the stovetop. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Add half a chopped onion and 4 chopped garlic cloves sautéing until carmelized. Add your pound of ground turkey with heaping handfuls of basil, oregano and fennel and hit it again with the sea salt. I like to add a sprinkle of white sugar too.  No measurements here. Adjust to taste. After the meat is browned add a small can of tomato sauce and cook until all flavors are well incorporated. You can tell a lot from smell but it’s fun to taste to make sure the heat and the sweet are just right. 

Once the squash halves are soft dollop about 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese in the well and shred a couple tablespoons of mozzarella on top of that. Begin heaping the turkey mixture into the cheesy well until domed and won’t hold anymore without crumbs falling away. Sprinkle the tops with shredded mozzarella and bake another 10 mins. 


Here’s your grocery shopping list: 

2 acorn squash

1 lb ground turkey

Ricotta

Shredded mozzarella 

Onion

Garlic

Tomato sauce

Olive oil

White sugar

Salt, cayenne, nutmeg, garlic powder, oregano, basil, fennel

For serious. This satisfies my craving for Italian food without breaking the carb-bank. 

❤️

K

Awash in Squash

My Granny had to hide the pickled squash when I was a kid. I’d sit at her dining table in my grandparents’ humble home in the southern Arkansas heat sneaking one more. She was the queen of her acre garden and a master at canning and freezing the summer bounty for hearty winter meals. 


So when Roy gave me his first jar of pickled squash I knew I was home.  If you have squash in your garden this is a must have for your winter pantry. Although ours may not make it till the end of the year since Granny isn’t here to catch me before eating a whole jar by myself. Roy has generously shared his recipe with us:


The vinegar measurements are fluid dependent on how many squash you’re canning. If you want less tart cut the vinegar with water. On a stovetop combine the white vinegar, salt and however much sugar you’d like to find that perfect sweet-sour balance. Bring to a gentle boil and remove from heat. We packed our jars with squash (sliced in rounds or sticks), sliced red onions, jalapeños, peppercorn, bay leaf, and whole cloves of garlic. Pour the hot vinegar liquid over your veggies in the jars to the tippy top and tighten the lids. To store long term break out the canner. If you’re like me though storing in the fridge is adequate since they’ll be disappearing rather quickly.  


Dig in ya’ll!! 

❤️

K

Possums in the Peach Tree


Lately I keep finding myself in the book Song of Solomon, a sensual love story between the Shulammite woman and King Solomon. It beautifully paints a picture of the love Christ has for His bride. I have been meditating on chapter 2 verse 15.

Catch the foxes for us, those little foxes that menace the vineyards, For our vineyards are so vulnerable when they are in full bloom. (The Voice Bible)

This is the second year I have watched our peach tree bloom and produce the most delectable fruit. Last year we lost most of the harvest due to pests but this year I insisted with Roy that we be vigilant so as to not lose another crop. I have plans for those peaches! So we harvested the fruit slightly before they were fully ripe and let them finish maturing inside the house. Otherwise once ripe they would have been picked off one by one thanks to the wild animals. The result? Peach butter to smother my breakfast biscuits. (Recipe below. You’re welcome!)
When God brought my attention to the passage about little foxes spoiling the vineyard I felt I could completely relate to the Shulammite woman! In fact if the love story had been written by Okies it may have read more like this:

Catch the possums for us, those little coons and squirrels that menace our peach tree, for our tree is so vulnerable when the peaches are ripe on the branches.

Fruit is the excess energy a healthy tree or vine produces. Just as we deeply root ourselves in Christ, drawing nutrients from the soil of His Word, we will produce desirable fruit. In the days of the Shulammite woman in Israel vineyards produced wine and wine has always been symbolic of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Galatians 5:22, 23 (the Voice Bible)

As I meditate on these passages I have asked the question: what possums are stealing my peaches? What coons are devouring my peace or gentleness? And I ask my Lover-King to show me that I may produce in abundance and protect the tastiest fruit.
We harvested about 50 pounds of peaches off that generous tree. Roy took over the tedious task of blanching and peeling the skin and removing the stone. But I got to make the peach butter!

Purée about 12-15 pounds of ripe peaches and pour into a stockpot or crockpot.
Add:

3 Tbsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 cup brown sugar (more or less for your taste)

Sprinkle of salt

Simmer until reduced (about 1 hour) or let the crockpot work away at it for 8 hours roughly.

I canned mine in jars to enjoy through the winter months. It will be a tasty reminder of summer days.
So mind your peaches! Be vigilant to not let wild things devour your fruit. Let your kindheartedness be plentiful and sweet.

❤️

K

Bringing Home the Cows

Larry the Cajun brought a few head of cattle to the ranch this evening. The kiddos are picking out three hefers and naming them. So far they like Midnight for the black one and Sunrise and Sunset for the other two.  After getting the mamas and babies settled we washed up and made No Bake Cookies. Growing up every potluck in Alaska had these addictive oatmeal, chocolate, peanut butter sweets but tragically no one here had heard of them. So I’m a little bit of a hero in this ranch house for the introduction. I’ll take it!



A Bang Up Good Time

Looking back over the years I’ve been in Oklahoma I have spent a handful of Fourth of July Holidays solo. Those years I  learned how to make mead and scale rooftops to watch fireworks. This year was quite a change of pace having inherited a gaggle of kiddos and the making of new friends. We even threw an 18th birthday party and devoured a decadent strawberry cake my sister made. If you ever are in need of a cake that is as delightful on the inside as it is beautiful on the outside check out Kat’s Persnickety’s page on Facebook. Here are a few photos of our family ranch Fourth of July week! 



Follow this blog page! I’ll be posting this week about our peach harvest and how to pickle squash like my grandma did! 

❤️

K

Terra-cotta Trafficking (part two)

A masala chai vendor captured a long pour of creamy, sweetened tea in a low-fired, red, clay cup. These terracotta bhands hold about two swallows. Money exchanged hands and the last drop fell on the thirsty man’s tongue. A crushing throw lands the steamy, clay cup into a rubble pile of previously used and broken terracotta cups. It shatters, and over time is ground to powder under the feet of passersby, eventually washed away by the afternoon downpours.
As my gaze extended beyond the immediate I saw beautiful women and children as young as 11 years old who wore brightly colored saris, or scanty western clothes and thickly painted mascara and shadow. They line the street ahead and behind and number in the tens of thousands working these streets. Men moved in groups from one brothel to the next, window-shopping, in such a casual manner as if to purchase that clay cup of tea, consume, discard, crush and forget after the rain.
I found myself startled as a young Bengali girl, standing in her line, reached out and grasped both my hands in hers intermingling our contrasting complexions. Her touch drew me out of my head, which was frantically attempting to comprehend what my eyes perceived. I gladly returned the gesture and smiled. Leaning in I whispered, “Namaskar”. My mother and our friend came to my side and began to speak Bengali. Words I could not understand began to spill from the girl’s mouth as if conversing with white women in her native tongue took her breath away. Her grip remained firm.
Out of the corner of my right eye was a brothel, which stood out from the rest and trapped me in a moment that seemingly lasted longer than reality. Although strangers, their faces appeared familiar. I had been acquainted with the dark Tibetan wrap dresses adorned with the traditional pangden, woolen aprons woven into brilliant horizontal stripes.
Trekking to some of the most northern and remote Himalayan villages in Nepal I had discovered the fullness of their ancient culture through hot Tibetan bread for dinner, and Tibetan dance with flowing arms set to music played on handcrafted Tibetan guitars. Walking a trade route established centuries ago outside Namche Bazzar, I passed men with threadbare red strips of fabric braided into their hair, bent low under the weight of baskets carrying goods to trade at the Saturday market.
Climbing upward through rhododendron forests at 10,000 feet and stark barren landscapes at 15,000 I would stop in villages to rest for the night. Taking my last few steps into the teahouse I was always warmly welcomed with the nectar that refreshed my soul more than my body: Nepali milk tea. And over that cup of tea I shared a view of Mount Everest with Tibetan monks who resided in a monastery under her shadow. They shared with me their stories of the beginning of man from a rainbow and described the details of sky burial rituals.
Early mornings in the villages were filled with sounds of families preparing for the day’s work. Yet I began to notice an eerie lack of young girls and women spinning wool, or milking yaks or grinding corn. Where had they gone?
The Tibetan women of Sonagachi were renowned as beautiful and it was apparent that Nepal had a natural resource, which was becoming quickly depleted. I stood motionless watching men, like flies, hover over them as if they were choosing a cut of meat from the sidewalk meat market.
I wondered if that was her younger brother I had seen scratching math problems into the dirt with a stone in her home village. Was it her mother who had served me a cup of chai tea in her dining room, or her father I had seen repairing the tin roof on the family’s one room stone and mud house. The soil from her home had dusted my feet and would forever be a dusty film covering my heart.
Reality for the prostituted Tibetan girls has now become this: even if she were to gain freedom from this slavery, she can never return to that life. She has been molded and formed by the brothels into something disgraceful and full of shame. Her family would never accept her back because of that shame, and the risk of the girl’s father selling her again is a constant and paralyzing fear.
Towards the end of this particular street, near the Marble Palace, more women approached us. They touched my freckles, played with my wooden earrings and stared with intrigue at the green of my eyes. We exchanged a few words in English but again they held to our arms and hands and insisted we stay a moment longer. Quite a crowd began to press in around us until we were body to body. If we had lingered the women would have extended an invitation to sit with them in their diminutive cubicles, drink a fresh cup of chai tea and enjoy each other’s company. However, we had to keep one eye on the local police officer on the corner who seemed to increasingly become more agitated at our presence. So we kept walking.
Peering inside the curtained walls of the brothels I saw children tied to their mothers’ work beds by rope or chain, which was wearing sores and breaking open the scabs on their ankles. These mothers service between 10 and 50 men each day while their children hide under a bed that fills most of her assigned space. So unimaginably far removed from where she had come, she once had been a soft earthen vessel, but was deceitfully taken from the soil of her family’s village. After a price had been settled for her purchase, the madams and pimps would begin to form her by their own hand like a malevolent potter: caging, starving and beating. Fear claimed command over her mind. Finally she was placed into the kiln for firing by means of forcing one man after another onto her until she submitted.
Negotiations were going on all around us. Superstition and lack of education lead men to believe that having sexual relations with a virgin will rid his body of STDs and pass them on to the girls. Therefore virgins go for a much higher price. Young girls who have been sold already are sewn closed time and time again and resold as virgins. The pain and bleeding is enough to convince the man that he has broken her hymen and that he was her first client. The price, a young woman 100 rupees ($2) and an older woman 25-30 rupees (55-65 cents), is a monetary expression of the perceived value of those precious girls.
As I walked through Sonagachi that night the moon hung low and appeared red through the atmosphere filled with pollution and the smoke of cooking fires. The heaviness of incense burned as worship to the goddess Durga and it clung close to my skin in the post-monsoon air. She is said to receive her power and life from the “virtuous dust of a prostitute’s floor” which is mixed with mud and formed around a bamboo skeleton of her image. The warrior deity of female force, the divine mother outstretches as many as 10 arms wielding weapons in each hand: a sword, an arrow, a thunderdisc, and a trident, while balancing a lotus flower and riding a tiger.
Despite these traditions I hear whispered rumors of a resistance that has begun behind the tattered curtains of a prostituted woman’s quarters. During the annual Durga Puja celebration priests and potters alike come to gather sacred dirt from her floor in order to fashion images of this goddess only to be turned away. While for a few days these forgotten women hold a blessing to their people, the rest of the year they are known as whores. And while Durga’s name means destroyer of poverty, suffering and injustice she withholds the very powers of her weapons from the ones who give her that power.
Resistance is the engine that propels them into a new and unwritten future and education is the practical use of hands and feet to take them there. Grassroots efforts have begun to collect the broken pieces of these terracotta girls and are tenderly forming them into new vessels. Where they once were filled with fear and emptiness, broken and discarded, they are now being made whole again, overflowing with the sweetness I experienced that first visit in Kathmandu.
Vocational centers in Calcutta have been established to teach these women new trades and skills with which to support themselves outside the grip of the brothels. Suffering from PTSD, the trafficked women once thought that even if they could escape the brothels the world would look at them and know that the brothel was all they are good for. Yet love, counseling and encouragement inspire them to take a chance, risking their lives to break free. However, the heartrending reality is that not all who attempt to break free leave with their lives.
I was privileged to visit a home for girls that had been established at the request of the prostituted women. Fearful that their daughters will be forced into the same line of work they desperately sought women who could take care of their children outside the Red Light District. Now these young daughters live in safety and have the opportunity to grow into healthy young women.
I was invited to see the tutoring programs within the confines of the brothels turning the meager 25% of children passing their classes into 100% passing to the next grade. Volunteers spend hours nightly giving the children a safe place to stay while their mothers work. They feed the children, teach them songs with oversized motions and bellowing voices and, wrapping their hand around a child’s hand, teach him how to color. Literacy soars and children are given a voice where they were once silenced.

These women are our daughters, sisters, mothers, and nieces. I believe that with continued resistance and education we can end the trafficking of these terracotta girls. We can see the streets of Sonagachi emptied of prostituted women and children in our lifetime.

❤️

K