Things to Notice: Light
The light, again! I know that the “thing to notice” in January was also the light, but it’s just so different this month, and every bit as much worth noticing. At this time of year the evenings are long, the mornings arrive early, and sunny days tend to be more frequent. Having said that, we’ve just come through a dark and rainy stretch, and this evening the sky is dark and thundershowers are in the forecast for overnight. If it’s going to make an appearance, the sun is up well before 6:00am and doesn’t set until after 9:00pm in this corner of the world. As the sun rises and stretches across the lawns and fields, it catches every drop of morning dew. When it’s high at midday it feels like a warm hug, and in the evenings the sunsets are spectacular this month. If you can sit for a little while underneath an apple or cherry or other blooming tree as the sun peeks through between the blossoms at any time of day, do. The bright green new leaves are still tender and the light glows through them. There is such an abundance of light this month, and it’s easy to take for granted! You can make your own light to keep it going after dark with a little fire and some roasted marshmallows, too.
Things to Make
Plantain salve: I’ve been enjoying Terri Conroy’s YouTube channel called Danu’s Irish Herb Garden. Every time I watch one of her videos, it inspires me to or appreciate something from the garden or the wild. I recently watched this plantain video, and am hoping to make a batch of plantain salve this month. I find her videos are a bit like a pleasant visit with a friend; just calming and lovely visits in her Connemara garden.
Rhubarb Squares: I’ve shared the recipe before, and I will again - it is so perfectly delicious. Sour and sweet, custardy and shortbready, quick as a wink to whip up, and they use up some of that rhubarb in your yard or that a neighbour left on your step. I theoretically could eat an entire pan of these, but have discovered there is a limit to what my digestion can handle, despite my enthusiasm.
Rhubarb Custard Squares
Makes an 8x8 pan, approximately 12 servings.
Preheat oven to 350.
On the stovetop in a medium pot, melt 1/2 cup butter. As it's melting, line an 8x8 pan with overlapping parchment paper, to make removal from the pan easy. Remove melted butter from heat and stir in 1/4 cup icing sugar and 1 cup flour. Spread evenly in pan with a wooden spoon or hands and bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine in same pot (to save dishes!) 2 beaten eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 tsp salt. Mix well, then fold in 2 cups diced rhubarb.
When the base comes out of the oven, pour the rhubarb mixture on top and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until set and slightly golden. Cut into squares or bars and enjoy! You can double the recipe and use a 9x13 pan.
Rose water / syrup: This is another seasonal recipe that I’m planning to make later in the month when the many rosa rugosa are in bloom along our beaches. A splash of rose syrup in sparkling water, along with a sprig of mint is just a delicious delight on a hot afternoon. And the colour is just incredible! I shared a post all about it over at another project of mine, Nova Scotia Kitchens awhile back. You can the recipe and some photos here.
Things to Do
Dehydrate herbs for tea: I seem to do a lot of things with herbs, I’ve noticed now that I’m keeping a bit of a log of the things I like to do through the seasons. Lemon balm and mint are two of my favourites. There are many ways that you can dry herbs; a dehydrator woks best, but you can also use paper bags if it’s not too humid where you live, and some people have had luck with a low oven - but if they get too hot they lose colour and flavour. There are many other ways that you can preserve them, too - freezing in cubes, using in jellies - there really are hundreds of possibilities. Once they are nice and dry, I like to store them in a dark cupboard in glass jars - and don’t forget to label them.
If you don’t have either mint or lemon balm in your garden, now is the perfect time to plant them! They both spread enthusiastically, so if you don’t have a space where they can do that freely, you might want to plant them in pots. They’re readily available at garden centres, and - even better - if you have a friend with either or both, you can just take a bit to start your own! And the combination of flavours in tea is minty and lemony - perfection.
Find some lilacs: Drink in the scent. It is heavenly, and only accessible for a very short while each year. I can’t explain what it does to our brains and senses, but it is amazing. Right at this very moment the lilacs here are in their glory, and it seems like every other house or old homestead has some. I was driving for work yesterday, and opened the window as I drove - the scent wafted in. It was amazing. 100% recommend.
Nature watch: There is so much happening in the wild at this time of year, that it would be a shame to miss it. The hummingbirds have arrived, and the ducks, geese, robins and other songbirds are singing in the mornings and evenings, visiting feeders, and raising babies. If you don’t have a yard to look for wildlife in, there are bird nest webcams online and public parks have lots to look for. I especially like checking in on the same things often to see how they’re changing as spring progresses. We have a pair of muskrats that have moved into our pond this spring, and they are such a delight! They’ve done a number on our cattails, which we are thrilled about, and it is so much fun to watch them do laps back and forth, their mouths full of grasses and leaves as their little tail-rudders steer them along. I’m hoping they might have some babies that we will be able to watch before long!
June really is a magical time of year, and it can be so busy that is slips by almost without noticing - that is something that I’m determined not to let happen this year! I hope you’ll join me.