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the weekly tea
Fresh Stinging Nettle Tea
weekly tea: fresh stinging nettle tea
This week I got about a pound and a half of fresh stinging nettle.
The next Wedgeford book is set during the “hungry gap”—the period in farming in the UK when all the winter hardy crops begin to bolt and can no longer provide sufficient food, but before the first spring crops begin to produce.
Several years ago, I did a visit to a regenerative farm in Kent (if you’re ever there, like plants, and want to experience something cool and different, I highly recommend this). Most of what I learned there ended up as sort of background knowledge for Wedgeford.
For the record, I’m not using the term “hungry gap” in the book, mostly because hunger doesn’t play a role. What does play a role is the kind of forage and food that show up on the table, which is precisely what helps everyone there not be hungry during that time of year. Stinging nettles are an excellent source of vitamins and are about 20% protein by weight. They’re spring forage; they’re almost impossible to stop from growing, and Wedgeford would absolutely serve them at this time of year. 
I have reached the point in the book (which, happily for me, coincides with the point of the year when nettles are widely available) when I start making all the things in the book so that the description is accurate.
Anyway, a pound and a half of stinging nettle is a lot of nettle and I am going to put it to good use. Good use includes tea (and I mean this in more than one way; I did something absolutely ridiculous with this that I will share with you when we get closer to Book Being Out).
Making fresh tea is simple: grab a handful of green leaves and jam them into a pot. Add hot water and wait.
The leaves turn a bright green in the hot water; the soup of the tea turns a very light green. The taste is sweet and vegetal—it tastes the way new shoots, coming up after spring rains, smell. Nettles are stupidly good for you: they’re an anti-inflammatory and nettle tea is suggested to help manage arthritis.
I’ve talked about tea energy before—the emotional quality that a tea has on you. Fresh nettle tea also has tea energy: soothing, calming, and simultaneously, contradictorily, energizing.
It’s one of the non-tea teas that actually makes a good meditation focus, and I’m really excited to have tried it.

Forms of Meditation
In the fall of 2016, I took a meditation course. I did this because my then-therapist (she was an excellent therapist for what I needed at the time; after I’d figured a lot of stuff out with her help, I needed to move on to someone else) told me that meditation had been shown to help with depression.
I was Skeptical™ about this. In some ways, being told this felt like a version of someone saying “it’s all in your head, just get over it!” But I did it, because frankly, nothing else was working, and I’d crossed over from “blankly not feeling anything” into the point where I was so far from being able to cope that I was having to swiftly exit social events because of sudden, uncontrollable crying jags.
I remember a point in September, halfway through the class, where I went on a walk with my husband. It was one of those beautiful fall days where the leaves were turning and the sunshine was spangling through them and the sky was blue, and for the first time in ten years, I realized that I was feeling things like a normal person again. 
It turns out that one of the things that was going on at the time was that I had spent years trying to actively not think about what had happened when I was working for a federal judge, and “don’t think about that, don’t feel that” is not a good way to process emotions, and once you stop processing one kind of emotions, there are all kinds of knock on effects, like not being able to process happiness, either, and having the emotion you are not dealing with sitting inside you like a frozen lake.
Meditation, it turns out, didn’t make me feel better. It wasn’t a magic pill. I don’t think it would have helped at all if I had still been in the shitty situation that made things wrong. 
But since I was not, meditation made me aware that I was not okay, and in so doing, in being able to pull apart what was happening, it helped me understand where I needed to be and what I needed to do. Meditation didn’t, by itself help me; but it allowed me to see what I needed, and to give myself the space to grant it to me.
These days, I don’t do a lot of strict guided-type meditations. I’m a fundamentally restless person (thanks, ADHD), and I am the opposite of good at that. Luckily, there are meditation forms that work for me.
My primary form of meditation (obviously) is tea: it’s an opportunity to drink something, to ponder what I’m drinking and how it’s making me feel, to think about how the tea was made and what that means in our interconnected world.
My tertiary form of meditation is putting together arrangements using flowers from my yard (or from walks—yellow toadflax is invasive so I will happily pull it up and throw it in jars in my house). This, sadly, doesn’t happen nearly as much in the winter months. I can purchase flowers, of course, but it doesn’t give me the same joy. I don’t pretend to be good at this; I just like doing it.
(There is a secondary form, but talking about it will take too long and will probably end up in another newsletter.)
But we’re now (thankfully!) back in the flower arranging part of the year: here’s my first floral arrangement of 2024: pear blossom and golden currant leaves.
A shallow, round dish, containing two branches of white pear blossoms, along with the almost clover-like leaves of currant.

My other form of focus
One of the things that really helps me sit down and focus for work, as long as my executive function is in kind-of-okay mode, is an online app called Focusmate.
The premise is this: you schedule a session (the system supports 25, 50, and 75 minute segments). The system matches you with a stranger from around the world (and Focusmate is truly global: I think I’ve matched with people on every continent except Antarctica). You spend the first two minutes telling each other what you’re planning on working on; then you work on it (most people mute microphones during the session). At the end, you tell each other how the session went.
It’s been pretty surprising to me how effective this is. I like that it’s strangers: I’ve tried accountability with friends and I hate it, mostly because I don’t want my friends to feel like they’re responsible for policing my behavior and I certainly don’t want to tell them what to do. At this point, Focusmate has enough people using it that you can pretty much always get a partner for a session, and if yours doesn’t show up, they’ll match you with someone else who had a partner who flaked. You can sign up for a session thirty seconds before it starts and have someone there; or (my favorite thing to do), I plan my day and schedule all my work sessions at once, which makes me much more likely to do them.
There’s a free version that lets you do three sessions per week, and a paid version for as many sessions as you want that is $9.99 a month (or less, if you do it annually), and it’s literally one of two app subscriptions that don’t annoy the heck out of me when I see them.
If you want to try out a free month of the paid version, you can use my referral code. Full disclosure: if you do end up continuing with the full version, I will get a free month, but please don’t feel like you have to.

Until next week!
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