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Posts Tagged ‘food’

Like most Americans, I grew up hearing people moan about weeds. My grandmother, an avid gardener, was fussy. She didn’t want anything growing between the cracks of her sidewalk. When she still lived at home, she often poured boiling water over unwanted plants. Old fashioned, effective, relatively eco-friendly in terms of chemical use, but laborious. At the same time, she was the first to teach me about foraging and herbalism. She had a respect for the plant world, but wanted control over what grew where in her yard, as many do.  Myself included to an extent! My mother and father have been more relaxed about it. They prefer hand weeding and mulching, but don’t get hung up on dandelions and other diversity in the yard. My mother was always delighted to get bouquets of dandelions, and she taught us to make wishes when they went to seed. Her tolerance transferred to me, but magnified to a deeper respect for plants like dandelions – plants that not only are beautiful in their own ways, but very nutritious for us and pollinators like bees.

Since my early forays into gardening, I’ve been reading about herbs, and that also lead me to foraging. I’m in no way an expert. I have so much to learn about living in harmony with the natural world while also keeping my “territory” safe for my family and veggie patch. You can imagine my horror as I looked out my window to see my new neighbor spraying chemicals on the dandelions and clovers this spring. I’m, shall we say, friendly with weeds?

I actually dislike the word “weed,” but it’s easier than saying “plants growing where I don’t exactly want them.” I suppose I should just call them “wild plants.” The more I learn, walking through my yard is like browsing a grocery store. It’s not just “grass” or “lawn.” I can name much of the flora. Not all, and don’t ask me for Latin names… like I said. Not an expert. Weeding my veggie patch is an interesting mental process for me. It must be done. Just as I do not want fleas on my cats, I understand that my veggies will be less successful with too much competition. And yet, I have internal conversations like this:

“Oooh, lamb’s quarters! I’ll let you grow for now, but I’m coming back for you later. You’re going in a stir fry…”

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My sandy, yet flourishing, herb spiral.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

I made a deal with the crabgrass today. I know it will die off in the autumn, but for now, its roots are helping to prevent soil erosion in my fledgling herb garden. The soil here is very sandy in places. I have my work ahead of me, but for this year, I’m accepting the crabgrass in the bare spots to keep things together when I water. I told the grass, “I’ll let you grow here for now, as long as you aren’t right next to the herbs. In exchange, you need to accept my haircuts!”  Yeah, I’d rather not have seeds settle in there.  I’ll plan to fill those areas in with something else next year.

I did tear plenty out around the lavender, though.

While my family is cultivating parts of the yard for food, we understand the importance of buffer zones for native species and pollinators. The back of our yard, right up by the stone border separating us from the cemetery, is filled with all manner of plants. I needed to see who was there before making decisions about what I want to do with that area. However, one corner is for the pollinator garden (or the “fairy garden” as my daughter likes to call it). We’ve dedicated it to the local spirits. Unless guided to do so, we are not taking anything from it for ourselves. I’ve since learned there are raspberries growing there. They are for the birds. We’ve planted bee balm, purple and yellow cone flowers, and lavender hyssop. Some other plants are starting to grow there, too. I’m carefully weeding so that the native varieties are able to flourish.

Elsewhere in the yard, we also leave patches of clover alone for the most part. The previous owners had a big dog, and he dug massive holes around the yard.  Before we finalized the purchase, they helpfully filled those in for safety, but we had big sandy patches all over.  We let crabgrass and flowering plants take those areas for now and just let them go nuts.  It’s better looking than sandy spots.  I’ve noticed many happy bees, and they bring their joy to our veggie and herb patches. It’s a win-win!  In the meantime, I continue to study foraging, learning what I can eat, how it impacts everything else in the yard, and am even dipping my toes into permaculture.

That said, if we get something really dangerous, I’ll probably follow my grandmother’s lead and bring out the tea kettle…

 

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June 2018 Garden Update

July is nearly here, and it promises to be bountiful! I’m grateful for the growth in my garden throughout June.

I love how the cabbages spiral. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

The peas seemed to blossom later this year. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

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Last year, I took a personal day on the Winter Solstice. This year, I used one for Samhain and don’t feel right asking for tomorrow given various things happening at work. I’m mildly resentful tonight as I work myself exhausted trying to make tomorrow a fun and memorable day for my family. I still have things to do for family and friends who celebrate Christmas instead, but I’m ready for our family celebration. I even have dinner ready to cook in the crock when I get up. That way, I can return from work and just relax (while sewing and crocheting some gifts). 

Working tomorrow means no attempt at a vigil tonight, but we did continue with some new traditions from last year. We made sun and snow sugar cookies. I read Bee a Solstice book before bed, then sang her the Pagan “Silent Night.” We made an offering of a cookie to our Ancestral Morhers, turned off all the lights, and thought about the longest night, darkness, the sun, and rebirth. 

I’m exhausted, but it’s worth the effort. Enjoy your longest night! Whether you stay up or rise early to greet the reborn sun, may you take a moment to give thanks for the miracle that is the sun and our very existence as we loop around him each year. 

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The #30DaysMagicalRoots challenge started yesterday.  True to form, I’m a bit late!  Given that it was a major holiday in my tradition, I feel that’s entirely forgivable, right?  Right.  My family had a lovely, low-key Lughnasadh full of blueberry pancakes, board games, and a big dinner.  I also made offerings and went on a run, which felt particularly appropriate on a day for competitions.  Only, I was competing against myself.

So, day 1 of the 30 Days Magical Roots challenge is all about Divination.  I mostly work with the Druid Animal Oracle.  The symbolism resonates with me.  My focus this month is definitely moving.  The waiting is stressing me out.  I asked for insight into that and drew the otter – a card of play.  The Kindreds seemed to tell me to try and enjoy the process, and to not take everything so seriously.  I’m trying… but it is very difficult.

Today is day 2 and the focus is grounding.  My absolute favorite way to ground is through movement.  I reach up to the sky and let the fiery sky energy return to where it is needed.  Then I move into the yoga movement called child’s pose on the floor or ground. I let the watery, underworld energy seep back into the Earth Mother.  It is especially potent outside when you can feel the heat from the sun and the moisture in the grass or soil.

 

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Another year, another lovely garden. Each year I learn more about and from the Nature Spirits. This year, my husband joined me in the adventure as he experiments with hydroponics. Once more, we are renters who largely rely on containers for our gardening. It has pros and cons, and I definitely look forward to having our own land one day, but for now, I’m happy that our garden improves each year! 

We have many representationns of Nature Spirits around the garden.

Veggies in-progress.

Herbs and small trees.



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Basil leaves 
and rose petals drying on my homemade drying rack. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

The warm weather is here, and I’m working to improve my relationships with plants. I’m always learning about herbal properties, plant identification, methods of preservation, and various magical uses. My paternal grandmother started to teach me when I was little.  She had a beautiful herb garden and apple trees at her home.  Some of my favorite childhood memories are of our time exploring the garden together.

Presently, I have various plants drying from my drying racks.  Some will season food, others will become tea, some offerings, and many will serve multiple purposes!

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A basketful of freshly picked strawberries from a local farm.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Today we went strawberry picking.  It’s alway a lot of work but great fun!  My daughter certainly enjoys it.  We picked three big baskets.  As soon as I got home, I started to process them.  I have several in the freezer and made some jam.  I’m going to throw some on the dehydrator later.  A friend suggested I make strawberry shrub syrup which I hadn’t ever heard of before, but I’m intrigued!  Perhaps tomorrow.  I may even have enough to make more jam!

While picking, I found several patches of wild chamomile and red clover.  I brought some home to dry.  Both are great in tisanes.  My hands smell delicious…

A few days ago, we had our first bonfire of the year at our home.  We decided that we would  toast some vegan marshmallows we had leftover from Bee’s birthday party.  I taught Bee that we need young wood on which to place the marshmallows while we toast them.  We brought an offering of water to the nearby apple tree.  Bee reached up and asked permission without any prompting!  She then held the cup of water up, presenting it to the tree.  She poured the water and then I found suitable branches to cut.  We gave the tree our thanks.  I explained to Bee that I normally don’t harm trees, but sometimes young wood is necessary.  I was really impressed with her respect and how easily the words came to her.  I’m definitely a proud Druid mama!  Hopefully the tradition of working with plants will continue in my family for another generation.

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Bealtaine is one of my favorite holidays.  One reason is simply because, unlike the Spring Equinox, Bealtaine truly brings the warmer weather to Northern NY.  Another reason for my fondness is that it’s basically my unofficial Pagan anniversary.  I don’t know exactly when I started the conversion process, but my first experiences with two Pagan groups that shaped my practice occurred on two separate Bealtaines.  I get really excited about the High Day.

 

A small coven invited me to celebrate with them this weekend, but that didn’t work out for health reasons.  My husband and I contemplated visiting our friends at Muin Mound Grove, but we ultimately decided to stay closer to home and rest.  A marathon Bealtaine would have been fun, and would have taken me back to my college days when such a feat would energize rather than exhaust me.  Nowadays, I’m a little more subdued, and my daughter keeps me so busy that I’m worn out before we even leave the house!  I know many Pagan families with older children who are able to take long trips in order to attend multiple gatherings or festivals – I look forward to doing that again down the road.

So, staying home, I focused on the home.  I cleaned it as best as I could, although I admit it’s never entirely clean.  There’s always something in progress in my kitchen… I’m very hearth-centered, so I suppose that makes sense! I cleaned my altars, which Bee found fascinating as it gave her a chance to look at everything.  We decorated our family altar with symbols of the season.  We even made a little May bush with fallen birch and apple branches.  We each picked colored ribbons to tie to the branches.  It looks very festive!

In addition to making dinner, I made some scones on Bealtaine eve.  We offered some to the Good Folk.  This morning, I made pancakes as my mother told me my grandmother always made pancakes on the first of May.  I love learning about and continuing family traditions, especially when they somehow line up with my High Days!  Of course, an offering of said pancakes was made.

We did a little ritual the night before in which we gave offerings to the Kindreds and the Good Folk.  We jumped over our altar candle for blessings and purification.  Bee thought this was great fun.  She wore the flower circlet I crocheted, a tutu, and her new ballet slippers – she’s quite the performer!  This morning, it’s raining, so I just collected the rain water for purification and healing work.  I made offerings to the only flowers blooming right now – lovely purple ground ivy – and picked a few sprigs to offer to the Good Folk on my doorstep.

Simple and sweet, but certainly inspired by tradition and full of fun and meaning for my family.  Now we will look forward to the big protogrove celebration next weekend!

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