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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

I was up too late last night. Don’t judge me, but I was reading a really compelling fan fic on my phone. Just like any good story, I couldn’t put it down. On top of that, my daughter is getting over a cold. She coughs a lot which makes me toss and turn. When I finally woke up, my eyes were irritated. For some reason, it impacted my overall mood this morning. I felt a bit grouchy. It’s times like that when the forest’s call grows loud and insistent.

Donning my winter coat, scarf, gloves, crane bag, and walking stick, I got out of the house, away from the screens, the messes waiting to be cleaned, and everything that annoyingly reminds me that I’m renting and not owning right now. The sun is out, but the air is bitter cold.  The neighborhood was quiet since most people don’t want to be out on such a day.  I felt assured of solitude.

The universe said, “nope.”

I crossed the hedge, carefully stepping on exposed logs and rocks to avoid the icy sheen of a frozen puddle.  I always ask permission to enter, and felt the familiar pull.  I was a bit apprehensive to return, honestly.  Last week, my husband and I believe we found bear droppings.  I took an omen before I went out today and was basically told to have courage because I needed this excursion.

The forest near my apartment is accessible to anyone who lives in my neighborhood. I’m grateful for the opportunity to take nature walks whenever I want, but sharing it with other people (people who don’t all respect the woods) is irritating.  There is a never-ending supply of trash to clean.  I take it upon myself to bring a small bag with me when I visit.  I collect what I can as an offering.

After making some other offerings at a large tree, I leaned against its trunk to breathe.  The relaxation was short lived, unfortunately.  Some kids noisily entered the woods and set about smashing things into trees.  Ugh.  I surprised them by stepping out from behind the tree and went deeper into the woods.

Their shock made me grin.  I was grateful they left me to my wandering.

No signs of bear this time.  Noisy kids aside, it was nice to return to the forest.  It’s a bit like a moving meditation.  I definitely don’t sit and meditate here.  You never know who may show up, after all.  I try not to let my guard down, especially when there’s possibly a bear around (not to mention coyotes and coydogs).  A snap of twigs in the distance gets the blood pumping and makes me feel so alive…

Closer to home, I inspected the garden.  Most of the pots are frozen.  The compost bin is unworkable at the moment.  And yet, despite how bitter cold everything is today, the chives are pushing their way towards the sky.  What hardy little plants.  They always  promise me that spring is near.  They appear even before the trout lilies in the woods.  Seeing them made me so happy and reminded me that it’s time to order seeds.

Gods, I can’t wait to garden again…

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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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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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Blessed Autumn Equinox!

I spent Saturday celebrating early with my lovely protogrove.  We sang, honored the Earth Mother, and feasted on our bounty.  I was honored to lead a friend and grovie’s mother blessing as our magical working.  It was wonderful, and definitely a post for another time.  Today marked the actual Autumn Equinox, and I had a quiet observation with family in the form of dinner – a soup made with homegrown potatoes and locally grown beet greens, a shared bottle of hard cider, and a bit of time outside with my garden.

Many of my plants have gone through their lifecycle, yielding small but enjoyable bounty.  It’s easy to get discouraged by how little I grow in my containers, but I always learn something new, so it’s worth it.  For example, this year I learned a better way to start tomato seeds indoors, had success growing lemon balm from seed, grew a bunch of snap peas (and have started another crop since they’re cold hardy), grew onions from starters, and even had a tiny success experimenting with okra.  Along with a small pile of potatoes, a few tiny cucumbers, a little kale, some small eggplants, five large sunflowers, a surprise pumpkin, and a few pots of herbs, I think I did pretty well for a wee patio garden!

I’m grateful for so much other bounty, though.  My daughter is growing well.  Maybe I can’t grow enough food to feed us all winter on my own, but I’m raising a smart and sassy little girl!  I’ve continued to support my family in many ways, even though times are occasionally difficult.  We pull through together!

Intellectually, I learned how to knit socks, I’m improving my Spanish (yes, my Irish is on hold), growing in my profession, in my understanding of the local ecosystem, and in my understanding of Irish history and lore.  I’m no Morgan Daimler, that’s for sure, but I apparently know enough to have respect in my protogrove*!

Speaking of my protogrove, it’s been a year since Northern Rivers Protogrove experienced a bit of drama in numerous forms.  We persevered and learned from it.  Members who had to take a step back due to health reasons have returned, we’ve gained another new member, and yet another was raised to Folk status after an initiation ceremony.  We are a small group, but we’ve managed to stay active, continually improve our ritual skills, and have become an even closer family.  We’re moving towards full grove status!  Cheer for us!

Spiritually, and related to my role as a grove organizer, I’ve continued to (slowly) work through my various ADF study programs.  I find myself growing in roles that help my community.  Writing and leading rituals has done a lot for my liturgist skills.  My divination skills have been improving too, and one of my protogrove members actually asked me to do a reading for her, which, again, honors me.  I love giving back to my community, and it validates all the hard work I’ve been doing.

While I may not have a cornucopia brimming with tons of homegrown fruits and veggies, I think I’ve done pretty well with this year’s harvest.  What are you thankful for this year?  I hope you take time to count your blessings as you celebrate.

*I seriously admire Morgan Daimler.  I would love to know a quarter of what she does!  Read her books!

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Mama and Me Corn Dollies – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Every so often, Pagans around the blogosphere post about whether or not various high days make sense to them based on their path or climate. I definitely agree with the need to pay attention to what your bioregion is doing at certain times of year. It’s how we learn the cycles of our local Nature Spirits, after all. However, as someone who follows an Irish hearth culture, the seasonal lore remains very important to me.  I honor three Kindreds, after all, not just the Nature Spirits.  Keeping the tradition of playing games to honor Lugh and his foster mother’s sacrifice honors the Gods and Ancestors I work with.  Perhaps if I followed a different path, one not infused with Gaelic customs and lore, celebrating Lughnasadh wouldn’t make any sense. Honestly, why people who aren’t honoring Lugh would want to celebrate some hodgepodge of Lughnasadh seems strange to me anyway…

Back to the Nature Spirits.  Referring to Lughnasadh as the first harvest festival sometimes seems a bit strange in light of the previous, smaller harvests that have been occurring.  Greens have been available since spring, and our strawberry harvest occurs around the Summer Solstice, for example.  Yet Lughnasadh marks the time when there are an incredible amount of crops to harvest.  In our neck of the woods, farm stands are loaded with tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, summer squash, plums, peaches, berries, and corn.  The latter becomes available right around Lughnasash, which is perfect for the grain-centric traditions.  While corn is a major cash crop in NY, other grains are also harvested around this time.  The oat harvest starts around now, and the winter wheat harvest finishes in August.  Thus, for someone who works with Irish cultural traditions, upstate NY is a great place to be!  I made a loaf of bread for our feast which consisted of many locally grown veggies.  My daughter and I also used the corn husks to make corn dollies. Yes, corn husk dolls are more of a New World custom, but in that we we are also learning about and appreciating the land we live on now.  We offered these to our Ancestors during ritual, thanking them for all the knowledge about the harvest that they passed to us.

My family and protogrove had a wonderful Lughnasadh celebration.  Whatever you celebrated, I hope you had a joyous time, and that you were able to connect to the Three Kindreds in a way that made sense to you and your region.

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A perfect berry makes for a perfect offering. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Ok, everyone, it’s officially summer in my point of view! Solstice be damned; the actual start of summer is when I taste my first, local strawberry. That happened a few days ago. First, I collected a few wild strawberries at my childhood home. Of course, the plants are few and far between, making ripe and intact berries rare and edible jewels. I felt like a child again connecting with the first plant I ever learned how to forage.

Yesterday, we picked strawberries at a local farm. The sky was gray, and there were scattered showers, but it was perfect berry picking weather! We were comfortable, didn’t get sun burns, and we were the only people picking most of the time we were there! We felt comfortable letting Bee run back and forth between us, stuffing her face with delicious harvest. I spent much of the afternoon and early evening preserving what we picked. Today I made offerings of berries and incense. I thanked the Nature Spirits for their wonderful blessings, and I thanked the Ancestors for the wisdom they passed down that allowed me to preserve the harvest.

People who are new to Druidism may wonder how to engage with it.  Seriously, it can be as simple as saying “thank you” and giving back some of what you have.  It could be the most beautiful berry you picked, or a simple prayer of gratitude and acknowledgement for what those before you allowed to occur in the present because of what they shared.

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Dandelion Cookie Offering. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I seem to post about food an awful lot, and I hope you’ll forgive me. Harvesting, making, and preserving food plays such an important role in our religious traditions and holidays.

I recently recognized what has become a family tradition in early May – harvesting and cooking with dandelion flowers. In fact, I know we had a huge harvest of dandelions around Mother’s Day last year because I have an adorable photo of Bee, dressed up for the day, sitting in our backyard surrounded by lovely yellow dandelions!  It was around that time that we made dandelion cookies.

On Saturday, after treating myself to a fabulous hot stone massage, we returned home, then Bee and I gathered some dandelion flowers.  Day by day, I’m teaching her to respect nature, how Mama Earth provides food for us, how we work with other creatures like the honeybees, and how to express our gratitude.  Seeing her grow in her knowledge and vocabulary is just magical.

When the cookies were done baking, I saw that one looked like a heart.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to give that one back as an offering to the Earth Mother.  Bee picked a few too many flowers, so we gave those back as well.  Between the birds, the ants, and the rain we had last night, the cookie is indeed going back into the Earth Mother.

Land, Sky, and Sea.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Land, Sky, and Sea. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I’ve had such a lovely Mother’s Day today.  We had breakfast in my favorite cafe in Clayton, NY, then spent some time at Grass Point State Park.  We put our feet in the river for the first time this year, and it felt amazing.  It was like a homecoming.  While Bee and her father played on the slides, I sat under some willows, where the land met the river, and meditated for a little bit.  I watched the honeybees pollinating the flowers all around me, watched the terns swoop through the air, listened to the St. Lawrence River whisper against the sand.  Nearby, plants grew, an otter carcass decayed, and seabirds sang over the small, rocky islands.  Everything, everyone, was part of the Earth Mother, and I was there with them.  Just as she nourishes me, I nourish my daughter.  One day, we will nourish others in the great cycle…  I sang to the River Spirit who is part of the Earth Mother.

It is just so beautiful and ineffable.  Cookies, flowers, songs, and prayers are but a simple expression of my love and gratitude.  Later, I did the work – I mixed new, organic potting soil with homemade compost.  Filled the pots, preparing them for homegrown veggies and flowers for our pollinator allies.  Working with the Earth Mother, working to improve my involvement with the Earth Mother, with my brother and sister Nature Spirits…  Still so much to do, so much to learn…

Whenever I do a devotional, I pray:

Earth Mother, may my greatest offering be my daily attempts to walk lighter upon you…

Every day, I learn more and grow more in my understanding, just like my daughter…

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