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Posts Tagged ‘garden’

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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We already went to the cider mill a couple weeks ago. It’s become an important autumn tradition to my family since we moved up here. The apple cider and donuts are decadent! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

Today is the Autumn Equinox.  It was chilly when I went outside to perform my morning devotional.  The leaves are changing.  Apples are ready to harvest in Upstate NY.  Be that as it may, our afternoons have felt particularly summery lately.  It’s tempting to run off to the beach this weekend, but I think we’ll return to our favorite local cider mill instead.

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The oak tree starting to change over our work-in-progress compost pile. Time to toss more brown matter on top! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

We’re mostly settled into our new home. There are still some boxes to sort through and rooms to organize, but at least we’re all moved in! As with all of life’s great changes, moving has disrupted my personal practice. I’m only starting to reestablish my routines, but it’s been difficult when my altar is still in a state of flux. That said,  I have everything I need  to engage with my spirit allies and give gratitude. That’s a huge part of what the Autumn Equinox means to me – giving thanks for what we’ve harvested all season.

 

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My outdoor shrine at the moment. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

In the meantime, I’ve set up an evolving shrine in my backyard.  The yard is one thing I’ve “harvested” that I’m particularly grateful for. It may not be acre upon acre of forest, but it’s safe for my daughter and relatively private. I have shaded areas thanks to some lovely trees, and I have sunny spaces for a garden. I plan to plant a small grove of trees in the back. There is a lot of untapped magical potential in the land. As much of nature prepares to sleep, I’m excited to see what will grow in the spring. I look forward to working with the land to create even more fertile spaces for my family and the nature spirits who already live here.

I’m grateful to my little container garden. We had a good harvest of potatoes and snow peas this year. I also have a decent pot of sage, and even some dill. We grew more tomatoes last year; moving really distracted me from carefully tending the garden as usual. Still, I’m pleased with what we have and the lessons I learned.

Finally, I’m grateful for the house itself! Last year, I didn’t think home ownership would be in the cards for another decade. My husband and I have worked so hard paying off debt, managing our money, and making ends meet. I may not have much of a literal harvest this year, but what did come into fruition is pretty darn spectacular!

I hope my readers have a very blessed Equinox!

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As Lughnasadh starts to turn us towards the Autumn Equinox, and as it is the beginning of the major harvests, I find myself reflecting on the successes and failures of our little container garden. Each year, we learn more about our plant allies. Each year, through a mixture of experience and research, we recognize opportunities for growth and improvement.

I harvested several red potatoes this year. This is a better yield compared to last year! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

I also picked our onions and hung them to dry out a little. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We gave offerings to the local spirits in gratitude for our bounty. Photo by Grey Catsidhe 2016.

Not pictured is the basket of tomatoes we gathered, mostly from my husband’s hydroponic buckets. In addition, I also gathered some basil and sage which I hung to dry. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to our own cupboards. 

I’m also thinking on my metaphorical harvest. I’ve had a fairly productive and joyful summer. My family hasn’t faced as many struggles this season. I have had more opportunities to do things that make my soul sing. I have room to improve, but the harvest is stil good. As we move toward Autumn, I’m already preparing a fall garden. I’m also making new goals – things to sew, books to finish, essays to write… May my next harvest be just as, or more, successful! 

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Fresh from the garden!


So excited to have mugwort as a plant ally in the garden. This is my first time using them for smudge wands. We’ll see what happens!

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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016


This year, I’ve started to notice how many Nature Spirits interact with my garden. I’ve always observed frogs, toads, birds, sometimes snakes, and a variety of invertebrates in and around my garden pots, but this year there’s greater significance to their presence.  Upstate NY is experiencing a drought watch, and our family garden, watered once or twice a day depending on the heat, has become a refuge for several, such as the frog pictured above.  This guy has been in our garden for a couple weeks, hiding in the shade, and enjoying the moisture.  I suppose he would rather hang out in a very sheltered environment with plenty of food and water rather than risk crossing the very dry, very scratchy, very open yard that separates my garden and the marsh.  Honestly, that’s looking awfully dry this year as well…
Someone at work gave my husband a bird feeder as a gift a couple years ago.  Last year, I didn’t notice any birds using it.  I continued to add water and clean it as best as I could.  I’ve kept that up this year, and I have noticed so many birds taking advantage of the water.  There’s a robin family who lives in a cherry tree near our garage.  The mother and father frequently visit.  We also have a hummingbird feeder, a gift my husband gave me, and there’s a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds who often stop for a drink.  There’s even a sap-sucker woodpecker who likes to have a sip every so often!   It makes me happy to see animals benefiting from our garden, especially when there’s been so little rain.

My garden is also a shrine to the local spirits.  Our fairy garden grows as a representation of this.  My sister introduced me to Fairy Garden Chest, and we decided to try it out for something fun.  My daughter was so excited to get the box.  I usually don’t go in for mass-produced things for my fairy garden, but my sister was really excited about it.  I like to make houses and buy handmade, most of the time.  Those factory-made-things we have are often given to us, although I have a soft spot for gnomes and sometimes can’t help myself…   Creating this little pot was a project for me and Bee.  We transplanted some chicks and hens, and added some blue aquarium rocks.  A neighbor got rid of a fish tank months ago, and he spilled some of the stones in the driveway.  They sat there forever, so we decided to repurpose them.  Bee added some pretty stones she liked, and then the fairy moved in with her gazebo and watering can.  While making it, Bee was very concerned about making the garden fairies happy.  This brings about a lot of age-appropriate discussion on The Good Folk, respect, and safety.  I don’t actually see the tiny winged statues as accurate representations of them, but I like the whimsy it adds to my garden.  I suppose, if anything, I see them as more representative of the plant spirits.  It provides a nice focal point, something that I see as valuable for toddlers who may struggle with abstract concepts.  And, again, pretty.  We make offerings in the fairy garden.  We only put things out that are safe for Nature Spirits – a bit of something we baked, some milk, bird seed, herbs…  Each time, Bee either gives a hug to the trees, or waves to the statues.  It’s adorable.  I can’t help but think of how I interacted with statues of Mary and St. Francis at my old Catholic church…

As I witness more corporeal Nature Spirits in and around the garden, and as the plants are productive and happy seeming, I get the feeling that the Good Folk and other local spirits are happy with us, or at least we haven’t offended them much.  There have been a couple times where I saw what looked like a person standing in the garden. Each time, they vanished when I fully turned to see.  There weren’t any neighborhood children around, no sound of their coming or going, and Bee was either inside or with me.  Both times it happened, I was very shocked and felt my body buzz.  Neither time did I feel threatened. Since this doesn’t happen often, and I am able to complete everyday tasks, I don’t think I’m losing my mind. There have been occasions in the wood where similar happened, and I instantly felt that I needed to leave.  This has been very different… more positive.  I hope I can continue to please or, at least, not upset the local spirits.

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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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Some plantain leaf and heal-all I harvested. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

I’ve noticed a significant decrease in temperature recently. There have been reports of frost in the Adirondacks, and the chilly nights have already started to impact my garden. Some of the less cold-tolerant plants are starting to wilt or die back. An Cailleach is waking up, and as much as I love autumn, it means that many of our Nature Spirit allies who bless us with food, healing, and other creature comforts are going to go back into the Earth Mother for awhile.

Each year I say I’m going to prepare more than the year before, and I never do quite as much as I hope.  I always have grand plans of stuffing my cupboards with canned or dehydrated veggies and fruit.  One of these days, that will happen, but it won’t be this year.  However, just as I learn more about gardening each year, I also learn something new when it comes to preserving the harvest and preparing for the cold season.

This autumn, I’m trying to save a few little things here and there. For example, I forage for useful herbs as I play with Bee around the house.  As I do this, she is also learning about the world around her.  And even though I just haven’t had the time to can lots of fruits and veggies, I may make bigger batches while preparing our daily meals, then freeze some for later.  Today I made apple pie and prepared twice as much filling as I needed.  Just a little extra effort will make for a sweet reward on a cold, winter day.

Fresh apple pie. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

As I prepare for the winter in these small ways, I reflect on my gratitude for the blessings of the Three Kindreds.  The Nature Spirits have given me so much in the form of food, shelter, and healing herbs throughout the green season.  In gardening, foraging, and preserving, I am calling on age-old knowledge passed down from my Ancestors.  I give gratitude to Airmed for herbs in my garden and to Brighid for the transformative power of the hearth fire as I cook and preserve.  I thank An Dagda for the abundance we have.  I suppose I could even thank An Cailleach for the chill in my freezer!  (Hmmm… never thought of that before…)

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