Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ramblings About Communal Living

Every day I wake up thinking about communal living. Ever since my husband brought home a real estate magazine, with the intention of reading through it to see how much more home we could get for our money now than when we bought five years ago, I haven't been able to shake the picture of that beautiful lodge out of my mind.

It sits on thirty acres of woods and wetland, and stretches itself out on the shores of Lake Huron. The lodge was initially built as a church, but the project was abandoned and the new owners gutted and reinforced the building to turn it into a bed and breakfast. With eight Great Rooms (each with its own fireplace and bathroom), a guest cottage, a library and a large living room, big commercial kitchen and screened-in wrap-around deck, it is my communal living opportunity come true.

I have wanted this living arrangement for a long time, as a way of not only reducing my footprint on the earth, but also of connecting myself more closely with the people that I love. I want a village to help me raise my children, I want a sanctuary from the ever-growing consumerism and materialism that I find encroaching on old fashioned values, I want to reap the fruits of a hard day's physical labor, I want my children to grow up in a family of people that love them and care enough to help me raise them, and vice versa.

I picture myself waking in the early hours of morning, in the quiet darkness, to mix yeast and water and sugar, to knead warm dough on the long butcher block countertop, dusted with flour. I would look out the window to see the light spreading itself like melted butter across the pond, raking through the needled pines and tiptoing gently over the sleeping leaves of maple and elm. The early morning solitude welcomes the soft thud and swish of dough as it rolls and presses against the wood. I will slide ten loaves into the hot oven, its mouth gaping in anticipation.

While the bread bakes I will sip tea made from the peppermint growing just outside the door, in the herb garden that spreads out in front as if to lure the culinary explorer up the path into the kitchen with their basket filled. I picture myself piling the table with fresh eggs scrambled with herbs, sweet wild strawberries and cream, home made maple walnut granola, warm bread smeared with blueberry preserves, and coffee with wild clover honey. I picture a long, rough cut table filled with my friends and all of our chattering children, sharing food and life, sharing hardships and celebrations, sharing work and play.

I picture a dozen yurts nestled in and around the woods. These would be rented to individuals or families that want to come for a week, a month, a summer, to experience communal living. They would help for a short time each day with chores around the property in exchange for meals of seasonal vegetables, fresh goat cheeses, eggs and poultry, fish and fruits, all served around a big table or around the camp fire at night. We would offer guided hikes and bike rides around the miles of groomed trails. There would be opportunities for these "campers" to learn about the native herbs and their healing properties, to learn how to cook simply from seasonal foods, to swim in the pond and in the lake, to drum and play music, to meditate and practice yoga and tai chi in the quiet of sunrise. There will be new friends to make, and old friends to cherish.

I know it sounds like utopia, and many will say that I am a dreamer. But where else do ideas begin, how else are changes made, if not by first dreaming? Why are people so afraid of chasing their dreams? I have spent much of my life getting one step behind my dream, and then turning back on the path, only to let my dream disappear over the horizon. I replace it with a new dream, and then the cycle begins again. I want to be done turning around.

I think the most successful people in life are those that have a dream, or an idea, and they don't stop until they acheive it. If my dream is to live in a peaceful, co-operative community that teaches people how to respect and sustain one another while they give our earth that same courtesy, why shouldn't I try to achieve that dream? Some day I will have my Sanctuary. I know I will.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Grilled Peaches

Even though you are dirty and greasy, you rarely touch a vegetable and generally prefer the company of beer-drinking men with a taste for large chunks of meat on a hot summer day, I would like to introduce you to my friend: Grill, meet Peach.

Peaches, I believe, are practically perfect in every way. Soft and feminine, plump, juicy and sweet, they compliment any fruit salad, pastry, or gelato. They can be sliced into a pie or chopped into salsa. Ahhh, Peach. Who knew it would take the crude contrast of the Grill to pull you into delicious perfection?

I stumbled upon this coupling while continuing to persue my sugarless way of life. While also shunning artificial sweeteners, I began to feel an emptiness in the air space next to my after dinner coffee that left me yearning for a substitute. Not just any substitute. One that didn't mind being thought of at the last minute, thrown together without much care, or leave me craving a Saunder's Hot Fudge Cream puff at 1:00 in the morning. Peach, I knew you would not let me down.

The recipe is simple: Wash a fresh, ripe peach. Slice it through the middle, rotating around the hard pit. Twist the two halves until they pop apart. Discard pit. Brush the open fleshy sides with melted butter or canola oil. Make sure your grill is flaming hot. Place the peaches flat side down against the waiting iron. Let them stay in their place for one to two minutes until they are softenend. Slide them off with a metal spatula. Plate them in twos with a dollop of cream freshly whipped with pure vanilla extract. Dessert perfection! A dessert so pretty you'll want to kiss it... but don't! Cuz one thing will lead to another and then, well, she's gone and the next time you'll be happy takin' another one just like her!

Note: My earliest memory of peaches is that my dad loved 'em, but couldn't touch 'em. The fuzz gave him the shivers. So when they were ripe, he'd buy them by the bag full, then I'd peel them and we'd slice them over vanilla ice cream. Now my dad says he'll eat the fuzz. Probably because no-one is around to peel the peaches. Dad, if you read this, I'll peel you some peaches! But first I'll grill 'em and add whipped cream! You'll fall in love all over again!