As the weather bounces from spring-like balminess to killing frosts, followed by piercing wind or icy rain, I add extra bedding to insulate the henhouse, cover my young citrus trees with ghostly fabric, put row covers or straw over the spring veggies and hardy greens, and, in spite of my mortification, put little jackets on my short-haired dogs. The crows, jays and magpies get extra peanuts, and the hummingbird feeder gets refilled. The feisty, orange, feral cat gets a little food by the shed where there’s also a blanket for him to sleep in. I worry about the bees who appeared briefly to pollinate the early apricot and pluot trees. I even wonder about the coyote that sometimes naps in my sunny meadow after a cold night. I crack the ice in a water dish and temporarily quit shooing away fat sparrows and doves from the leftover chicken feed. I see my neighbor has put blankets on her two horses, but the pony’s fur is thicker than a 70s shag carpet, so he’s probably warm enough. In summer, the hard, dry weather will require work too — mostly providing shade and water — and I’ll have a new routine to follow, but at either tough extreme, extra care is required.
Does it seem like there is a lot of hardness in the world these days? I vaguely sense that increasing violence, callousness, rage, name-calling, injustice, tyranny, greed and self-interest are somehow related to the mean weather and the angry mood swings of climate change. Whatever our politics or causes, sympathies or worldviews, we can all contribute more care-giving as counter-balance. Personally, I find it much easier with plants and animals than with humans, since they are innocent bystanders and don’t insult you on facebook over minor differences, but to each their own.
Many of the world’s origin stories, from the garden of Eden to diverse Native American and African cultures, teach that plants and animals appeared before humans were formed and that our purpose was to take care of the world, not dominate or grab greedily, destroy things and dirty the place up like mean, spoiled brats. What if we take back our original job as stewards? Many people already do this — small farmers, wildlife rescuers, environmental advocates, firefighters facing wildfires, folks re-establishing native plants and creating habitat, beekeepers, those who spend their vacations cleaning up rivers or beaches, and others, including those who kindly care for other humans. Wouldn’t the world be a softer place if we collectively took this job seriously?
Even our food choices can be part of this purpose, cultivating gentleness over brutal exploitation. We can support treating our soil carefully, avoiding poison run-off in our water, treating laborers decently and fairly, and raising animals as living beings rather than products. My biggest hen, Eileen, who is an excellent egg-layer, has an infection that requires medication, so after popping a pill in her throat, I sing “Come On Eileen” to her, “Too-ra-loo-ra, too-ra-loo-rye, aye!” She settles down and dozes off for a bit, not holding a grudge. I could go at this in a more efficient way I suppose, but there would be more fear and angry flapping. I’m not asking everyone to go this far for eggs, but we can be kinder stewards.
We can also be better care-givers by eating lower on the food chain, seasonally and locally. As spring, real spring, grants us a gentler season, the plant world rewards our care, reciprocating with nourishment for our bodies through vegetables and fruit that help us clean out the mucky debris of winter. Asparagus and dandelion greens are considered kidney cleaners, while artichokes are thought to cleanse the liver and help with cholesterol, and strawberries may clean out your cardio-vascular plumbing. Try this tender asparagus mousse – springy, subtle, and seasonal.
Note: For best flavor, as well as for animal welfare and environmental concerns, I recommend using pastured eggs, as the hens are outdoors, foraging and living a proper chicken’s life, and their eggs reflect and return that well-being to us .
- 1 cup thick cashew milk or other neutral- flavored “cream”
- 1 bunch fresh asparagus, steamed with a splash of olive oil and cut into small pieces
- 3 eggs (ideally pastured, organic eggs)
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Fine bread crumbs (or panko, gluten-free varieties do exist!)
- Optional: Parmesan-style “cheese”
- Preheat the oven to 355.
- Place the milk, asparagus, eggs, corn starch in the blender and puree the ingredients until the mix is very fine. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the parmesan if desired. Optionally, you can mix in ¾ of the asparagus and later add the remaining pieces in to add texture.
- Lightly oil a loaf pan or custard cups, then coat well with the bread crumbs.
- Pour in the egg mixture.
- Set the loaf pan or custard cups in a roasting pan and set them on the oven rack. Pour hot water into the pan, avoiding the mousse containers, to come up halfway up the sides of the dish(es).
- Bake until a knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean, about 45 minutes for the loaf size, less for the smaller cups. The mousse should be firm, with light cracking on the surface, but not dry or hard.
- When done, remove from the oven and let cool on a rack. You can serve in the custard dishes, slice the flan from the loaf pan, or un-mold the mousse (at your peril) by running a very thin knife around the edge before inverting it.