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Posts Tagged ‘Northern NY’

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An offering of locally made whiskey for An Cailleach.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We had an unseasonably spring-like Imbolc, but An Cailleach isn’t done with us yet!  Northern NY will experience some seriously frigid temperatures tonight into tomorrow, and we’re experiencing lake effect snow today.  Visibility has been pretty poor around my home.  Many local businesses and offices closed or never opened today, and I was fortunate enough to stay home.  Perhaps that colors my judgement today, but I try to stay positive about the winter weather.

Since I’m an animist and a polytheist, I find it really difficult to moan too much about what Nature does. It just feels seriously disrespectful. Sure, I grumble a bit when I have to brush and scrape the car, then drive in potentially hazardous conditions… but if I want to maintain a healthy relationship with Nature and the spirit realm, I need to find the silver lining and give gratitude for blessings known and unknown.  I need to accept Nature’s rhythms to truly learn and grow in my Druidism.

An Cailleach surely blesses us with snow.  Northern climates need this as it will help with the later harvest.  It helps to control populations of parasites and disease carrying critters.  Many seeds require cold to germinate later.  Furthermore, the snow and cold teachers us humility and patience.  In our modern world, so full of conveniences, few things shake humanity out of the illusion of control like difficult weather!  And really, I feel quite blessed to live in a place that experiences an occasional ice storm or blizzard compared to hurricanes or tsunamis.  Man oh man, it must be hard to find the blessings in that! (I’d be curious if readers in other climates and locations have found blessings and would be willing to share.)

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Snow Day Snowman – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

A snowy day is a great day to get in touch with your inner child, too.  Having a little one forces me to reconnect with the whimsy of winter!  Taking the time to catch snowflakes on our tongues, make snow fairies, and build snowmen is still so much fun!  (Although rolling balls for snowmen really makes me feel my age.  Choose the pain you’d like to experience later – knees or back!)

After making offerings to the Nature Spirits and playing in the snow, it’s so nice to come inside, peel off those wet gloves, and enjoy some hot cocoa.  My husband makes a delicious batch from scratch!  As I hold the mug, I feel Brighid’s warmth flowing into me.  I feel gratitude for the lessons and blessings that come with enjoying An Cailleach’s wintry weather and Brighid’s warm, sheltering hearth.

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Apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Upstate New York is known for its delicious apples. Each autumn, orchards roll out their red, yellow, and green goodness, cider presses offer their ambrosial best, and folks everywhere delight at the numerous confections produced in kitchens across the land.  When fresh apples appear in mounds at farmers’ markets and grocery stores, when the cider presses open, that is when autumn has officially arrived, and this little Druid rejoices!

While I’ll join my fellow grovies on Saturday for a formal ritual to honor and thank the Earth Mother for her bounty, I’ve spent my Autumn Equinox eating a homemade meal with my little family and enjoying the harvest of apples – including some from a tree right outside my home! I’ve already dehydrated some for snacking.  Today I decided to do something simple and quick – apple sauce.

It’s such a simple dish – a large batch of apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon.  Recipes say that last ingredient is optional, but you’re a strange one if you omit it.  Blended together, the aroma wafts through the home, the most welcomed autumn incense you could dream up.  While the plant world is dying or preparing for sleep, the smell of apples is youthful energy unleashed!

Homemade goodness. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Unlike store-bought applesauce, the homemade variety, fresh off the stove, tastes like apple pie filling without the crust.  All the good stuff – the heart and soul of the autumn season.  The only thing more gastronomically titillating is pumpkin pie filling.  Oh, mama… Speaking of mamas, there’s something very motherly about apple sauce to me.  Perhaps it’s because one of my first childhood memories is of watching my grandmother make it using apples straight off her tree – apples I helped to pick and sort.  As my baby salivated and smiled at the sugary treat of apple sauce, I realized that I was passing along yet another North Country tradition, one that goes back generations to the Old World.

Drying apple head. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Another apple tradition, one that I’ve never tried before, is drying apple heads to make dolls.  As someone who enjoys making dolls and learning about traditional arts, I don’t know why it’s taken me this long.  Using an apple that had a massive bruise on one side (normally I’m not a fan of wasting food, but this one was going to get thrown in a hedge anyway), I carved a face, inserted peppercorns for eyes, and placed in my oven on a low setting. It’s still drying nicely, and my hope is to make an offering for our Autumn Equinox celebration this weekend.

I hope your own harvest celebrations have been equally sweet and inspiring!   May your harvest invigorate your heart, mind, and soul, and may it reconnect you to your Ancestors and the rhythms of Nature!

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There’s a very big witch hanging around Philadelphia, NY.

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People planted baby trees to celebrate Arbor Day. Specialists taught them how to do it properly to ensure the survival of the trees. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

 

Yesterday I joined my friend Miss Corinne to celebrate Arbor Day with her organization The Thousand Islands Land Trust.  It was a really excellent event held at their Zenda Farm Preserve  just outside of Clayton, NY.  Admission was free and included information about planting and caring for trees, local wildlife, and local conservation efforts.  Volunteers were able to help plant trees throughout the preserve.  Children (and the young at heart) were able to see live animals from the local zoo and organic farm, participate in a community art project, and make seed bombs and peanut butter pinecone bird feeders!  Those last activities were what I volunteered to help with!  It was messy but a lot of fun.  Not many people knew what seed bombs are (Miss Corinne shared some information about that on her blog if you don’t either) so it was really exciting to share that with adults while the little ones played with the clay.  I think it’s a great activity to get children excited about gardening, and it can spiral up into a greater awareness of creating habitats for pollinators, urban renewal, and even permaculture!  Several boy scouts in attendance made as many as they could! Kudos to Miss Corinne for putting together a great activity table!

Seed bomb and pinecone bird feeder station. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

 

 

Community art project featuring bark from old trees and leaves painted by local children who attended the event. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

 

Everyone enjoyed the visiting animals, including this wood turtle! He moved surprisingly fast and seemed very excited to see people. Other animals at the event included a kestrel, a python, and a very friendly goat. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

If you live in the North Country, you should definitely bookmark The Thousand Islands Land Trust’s event calendar.  There are hikes, kayak excursions, gardening, and wildlife viewing opportunities for young and old alike.  They’re ways to connect to and even help with local conservation – something that I feel should be very important to Druids.  Many are free to attend which is wonderful for people (like myself) who struggle with money over the summer but still want to have fun along the beautiful St. Lawrence River.  I can’t wait to sign my little one up for some of their exciting kid treks!

While at the Arbor Day event, I saw many signs of spring.  Nature called, as she frequently does to pregnant ladies, but the farm preserve’s toilet was out of order.  I took a little hike into the forest to find a special tree, and along the way I noticed several trout lily leaves and even some trillium leaves!  They’ll be blooming soon!  Those are always a sure sign to me that winter is definitely over.

After returning home, I saw another sign of spring in the form of a stowaway.  That’s right – I had a tick on me!  I discovered it when I itched my expanding belly.  The darn thing was hiding on the underside of my stomach where I can’t easily see!  In all my years of running around forests, I’d never been bit by a tick before, and I naturally freaked out because I don’t want to get Lyme disease – especially while pregnant!  Weretoad carefully removed it with tweezers but, because we were both new to this, he killed and removed it from the house.  I guess it’s recommended you put it in a bag just in case you need to test or identify it.  He thinks it was a dog tick rather than deer, and my father agrees based on the description. It was still flat, thus it hadn’t been on long enough to engorge itself – which, from what I read, is when you’re at risk of catching the disease.  I hope and pray everything is ok!  This pregnant lady doesn’t need that extra worry…

Yet there’s a sign of spring in Northern NY if there ever was one – the ticks are awake.  Just a little reminder that, along with the beauty, there are those who we consider outsiders.  They’re an essential part of creation but boy, they can be a pain!

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Ice on the car windshield. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

 

We woke up to any icy world. An Cailleach exhaled her frosty breath over Northern NY and made it glisten. The trees shimmered like glass and the grass looked sugar dusted. As I scraped the car, I noticed how the ice fell away, tinkling like marbles. Winter’s hold is weakening, but this reminder of its power also reminded me of its magic and beauty.

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I had a girls’ day out today with my friend Miss Corinne of A Green(ish) Life.  I’d not seen her since New Year’s Eve, so it was really nice to catch up in person.  FB is no replacement for a true social-outing!  She’s involved with conservation efforts in the Thousand Islands Land Trust, and therefore keeps me up to speed with different events in the area related to outdoors activities and environmentalism.  On the agenda today was a lecture about winter photography by Vici Zaremba and Steve Diehl at the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center on the lovely Wellesley Island.  I’m no photographer – my husband knows more about our cameras than I do – but I’ve felt drawn to learn more about nature photography.  Their focus was on winter photography, and they shared slides of some beautiful examples.  Some that really stood out to me and captured my imagination featured ice.  Often, the photographers confessed they’d taken the photos in ditches, but you’d never known.  The examples were so beautiful and focused in on the way the ice captured ripples around reeds.  There were also some lovely shots of ice on rocks and thin sheets just barely obscuring decaying oak leaves in a stream or pond.

One of the big take aways from the event was their focus on conservation.  They spoke at length about their efforts with the Indian River Lakes Conservancy, a local organization that works to preserve land, educate, and provide recreational activities to the public.  I learned a lot about the biological importance of my beautiful home.  I can’t wait to further explore it and share it with the little one.

The lecture pleased this Druid in training because, not only was it a blend of art and environmentalism, but the photographers really emphasized natural awareness.  They shared their process and admitted to photographing the same little spot for hours and hours, or waiting outside for lengths of time until the lighting or wind were just the way they wanted.  Photographing the land around them, they have come to know many different plants and creatures – some I had never heard of before!  They made Northern NY sound a bit like the Amazon to me with their talk of newly discovered and rare species.  It’s all quite exciting!  Some of the photos they shared demonstrated their growing ever closer and more aware to just a small corner of the world.  First a normal shot, then closer, then closer still thanks to their amazing lenses.  Their perspective of nature has become very intimate because of the time spent in it, visually meditating on its shapes and colors.  They studied decaying leaves, ice bubbles, and snow drifts in loving detail.

It really inspired me to look closer.  In the winter, especially, we can forget about that.  The green world has mostly gone to sleep, and so the landscape seems very monochrome and bare of the interesting details we all celebrate in the warmer half of the year – the spiral of a young fern, the color and texture of moss on a log, the soft ridges on a fungi…  And yet winter is also full of its own beauty and intricacy.  When I returned home, the first thing I noticed upon exiting my car was a sheet of black ice, cracking and full of lace-like patterns.  I wish I had had a good camera with me at the time. And a macro lens.  And a tripod.

As we learn to grow in appreciation and awareness of the natural world, we Druids could learn a lot from photography – their methods, their aesthetics, and their zen-like patience.  Even without a camera, why not take an hour or two to explore and appreciate the simple beauty all around us?

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Yesterday I went to a Mother Earth News Homesteading Fair in Lowville, NY.  It was located at the Maple Ridge Center, kind of a hybrid farm, winter recreation retreat, and Christian education facility.    Thankfully, the event was secular in nature and thus very accessible.  The cost was only $10 for a whole day ($15 for the weekend) consisting of vendors, food, children’s activities, live demonstrations, and workshops.  The workshops and demonstrations were lead by experts such as educators in the Jefferson County Cornell Cooperative Extension, farm vets, the New York State DEC, maple syrup orchards, the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, alternative energy experts, and the Sustainable Living Project.

 

A sheep at the Maple Ridge Center.  Made me think of Brighid and my love of fiber arts.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

For me, honoring and working with Nature Spirits and the Earth Mother doesn’t stop at lip service and offerings at an altar.  It must include ongoing attempts to live in better harmony with the Nature spirits and more sustainably upon the Earth Mother.  My Druidry is a series of baby steps towards improving those aspects of my life, and attending such a fair helped me better understand the future steps I’d like to take.

I was able to attend four workshops at the event.  The first was on solar panels and the differences between living off the grid and tied to the grid while utilizing this renewable resource.  I now feel like I have a better understanding of solar power including the planning involved to install it, the different types of mounts, and the batteries used to store the energy in an off grid scenario.  The next presentation was all about vegetable gardening for beginners.  Although I have a few years under my belt, there’s always room for improvement.  I learned about the different types of blight, how and when to properly water, and hand-pollinating squash.  I received some handouts from that workshop that I think will help me better plan when I plant and transplant.

The final two workshops we attended were presented by Jim Juczak of Woodhenge Sustainability.  This man actually built a mortgage-free home using recycled materials in Adams Center, NY.  His workshops were of particular interest to my husband and I since we have started to think about taking this path to home ownership.  Juczak’s first workshop was on “rocket stoves” and burning wood efficiently and sustainably.  I’ve been seeing rocket stoves all over environmental blogs lately and was excited to learn more.  Juczak actually taught people in Afghanistan how to build and cook with them to help them live more sustainable, affordable, and healthy lives. A major point of the workshop was that we are reaching a point where fossil fuels are becoming more difficult to obtain and, as a result, more expensive.  Something has to give, and the rocket stove could be one possibility for families.  He also shared other examples such as a masonry heater like the one he built out of recycled cement cylinders.  Jim Juczak’s last workshop of the day was about “scrounging” – gathering old materials and using them to build a home.  This was especially useful to Weretoad and myself.  It included everything from buying “damaged” land, dumpster diving, buying scrap building materials for dirt cheap, and the realities of building a home mortgage free.  To see that someone in Jefferson County did this is so uplifting to us.  It is also nice to know of educational opportunities that can better inform us to prepare and free ourselves from the debt that so often seems to be the rule of the land.

We left the fair full of date-filled cookies, new information, and hope that we can live more sustainably and relatively debt free.  It means changing your life, saving, and having to be patient, but it also means a nice, comfortable tomorrow.  It means that when I whisper my desire to grow in better harmony with the Nature Spirits and Earth Mother, I’m actually working on just that.

 

Wee little chicks at the Homesteading Fair.  How cute!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012

 

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