Posts Tagged ‘Northern NY’

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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Long-time friends and readers know that, while I’m a vegetarian, I’m supportive of small, humane farmers who do their best to provide comfortable homes to their livestock.  I also support hunters who follow the rules and care about conservation.

I’m adamantly against factory farms.

So I was very excited and impressed to read that a local farm/artist retreat gave some older “battery cage” chickens a new life – complete with access to the outside world!

Better Farm: Spent Hens Rescue Mission Complete!.

What a beautiful story.

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"A Dangerous Method" movie poster from buzz.blastmagazine.com

Ever since I heard there was going to be a film featuring Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, I have excitedly anticipated “A Dangerous Method.”   I first became aware of Jung’s work in psychology when I applied some of his ideas to a paper on Frankenstein in 12th grade. I was dabbling with Wicca at the time, and his ideas about archetypes, the universal unconscious, the dark self, anima, and animus were just too delicious.  Delving into academic papers about his beliefs and discoveries at such a tender age was probably my first look into a more “academic approach” to spirituality.  It relied on comparative mythology and his psychological understandings at the time.  Truly, it gave me a real boost in understanding what many of the “Wicca 101 books” glossed over, and really made me start to consider such concepts rather than accept them blindly.  To this day, I still wonder about the universal unconscious; various duotheistic approaches to Paganism rely on archetypes; Witchcraft delves into the concept of the shadow self; and most of us, regardless of path, seek a balance between our masculine and feminine energies.  Jung’s ideas, while seldom  utilized by most contemporary psychologists,  have remained very influential in literary circles as well as our own religious community.  With that interest, I waited for the film’s release!

A few weeks ago, I learned that a small group of individuals had petitions our local theater to show “A Dangerous Method.”   You see, Mortensen graduated from Watertown’s high school and attended St. Lawrence University in the Canton-Potsdam area.  Despite that, many of his films aren’t shown here!  I was delighted that “A Dangerous Method” made it to our theater, albeit on a very limited release.  I fear it was not advertised very well outside of the above article and one movie poster near the theater entrance.  Weretoad and I were the only people in the theater at the latest showing!  I do hope it attracts larger crowds.

Unfortunately, when competing with an action film like “The Grey,” “Method” will prove uneventful to the average audience.     Directed by  David Cronenberg and written by Christopher Hampton and John Kerr, this film depicts the tumultuous relationship between Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Freud (Viggo Mortensen), as well as Jung and his patient Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley).  It is very dialog-driven.  I found myself wondering if I would appreciate it as much if I hadn’t taken a couple psychology classes in college and read so much about Jung.  It almost feels like a niche movie – a story for true and wannabe intellectuals (I’m probably more of the latter). There are some interesting exchanges between the characters.  The tension between Freud and Jung, as the protege shows an interest in the mystical (telepathy for example), is rather intriguing.  Sabina occasionally discusses occult topics – the directions her “angel” has given her, for example.  There are regular exchanges of dreams and attempts to interpret them.  Jung comes to disagree with Freud’s insistence that everything is sexually-driven.  He seeks more spiritual explanations and believes religion cannot be fully divorced from science when healing patients.  To paraphrase, Freud says he doesn’t care if a patient worships one God, or others like Aphrodite – but he wants to leave that out of his clinical work.  An interesting thing to say when his office is littered with Pagan statues.  50 points if you spot the Venus of Willendorf!

Vincent Cassel, who plays Otto Gross, truly stole the show in my opinion.  His exchanges with Jung were the most fascinating, particularly because of his character’s quirks and how he interacted with objects on the set.  I’ve never seen Cassel do poorly in a film and I was delighted and surprised to see him in this story.

I can see “A Dangerous Method”  doing well in theaters that cater to such audiences – Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute in my old hometown will likely show it to a large crowd in it’s usual two showings.  No doubt it will do well in denser, more urban cities.  All the same, I’m so glad it reached Northern NY and that I could see it.  It is a depressing but intellectually satisfying story.  It is worth seeing if you are interested in Jung, psychology, or just enjoy a good costume drama.

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From Tribe

Devil’s Oven Island

From Tribe

Bolt Castle

From Tribe

Neat mushrooms at Hyde Lake

From Tribe

Hyde Lake, NY

In addition to all this, I saw little fish who stalked my toes and tried to eat my fingers, a deer, a humming bird, and a pheasant.

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Today I went exploring with my friend C.  We sun bathed like a couple of beach babes and enjoyed the beautiful St. Lawrence River.  While there, we saw ducks and even a loon.  We also stopped at a barn sale where I came face to face with one of these.

This, my friends, is the black rat snake.  They can climb trees which is evidenced by the fact that it was on a high shelf in the barn hiding behind some lamps.  I startled it while looking at antique blue Ball jars.  Having only ever encountered little garter snakes, I was was momentarily taken aback.  The owner of the barn was near me determining the price of said jars.  I kind of absentmindedly muttered, “You have a snake in your barn…”  Recalling the time a mechanic found and then mutilated a snake in my car, I quickly regretted telling the man, but he was actually super laid back about it.  Basically said, “Yep.  That’s a black snake.  They eat the mice in the barn.  He won’t hurt you.”  C and I watched him for a bit.  The snake curved its head out of its hiding place to look right at me – at slightly above eye-level.  What was really disconcerting was that he seemed to be making a little rattling noise with his tail.  The man assured me the snake wasn’t a rattler.  We have them in Upstate NY, just not in Jefferson County (at least not that we know of…)

As I researched the snake to find out it’s real name, I found out that they vibrate their tails against their surroundings to scare off potential predators.  Apparently they also release a musk but, thankfully, that didn’t happen in my encounter (probably because we didn’t try to touch him).  The owner of the barn said they can grow up to eight feet, and indeed they can!  The specimen we saw couldn’t have been longer than 6 but was probably closer to 5 feet.  It was hard to tell because of how knotted up he was.  Truly a beautiful creature and a great find on such a lovely day!


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I’m a few days early, but I’ve nearly been living in Northern NY for two years.  It feels like I’ve been here longer than that, but I guess winters slow our perception of time.  I moved here for a job.  It’s taken me awhile to feel part of the area.  The forest near our apartment has only felt truly welcoming this past year, for example.  I know people here – I’ve made friends!  I’m taking classes, attending workshops, and even have some favorite hang-outs.  I’ve seen new opportunities spring up like the North Country Arts Council in Watertown, NY.  There’s been a small international film festival.  There is a growing sustainability movement here.  There is plenty for me to get involved in once I’ve obtained my graduate degree and have more time.

Winters are rough in that I stay inside more, see my family less, and tend to stick closer to home.  My eyes were looking at jobs near my family.  Now summer has come and I’m out on the River just about every week. There is so much to do – craft shows, farmers’ markets, outdoor concerts, swimming, kayaking…  And this area is just gorgeous.  My parents are talking about moving up here someday.  At the very least, they want to get a summer camp.  They adore the area.

Feet in Clayton, NY

Our pale feet in the St. Lawrence River in Clayton, NY. (Photo by my husband.)

It’s so easy to be inspired here.  There is so much grandeur.  No matter where I look, something reminds me of how spectacular Mama Earth is.  What a marvelous piece of work we live in!  Weretoad and I often talk about traveling to other places, and indeed I love going to major cities to admire human-made works of art and feats of engineering.  Humanity is very gifted and some Gods have blessed us with talent to create and manipulate our resources.  And yet…  I’ve only found myself starring, as if in trance, at a manmade structure once in my life and that was the rose window in Notre Dame de Paris.  Otherwise, human structures, while inspiring, fascinating, and breathtaking never seem to capture my attention the way nature’s temples do.  Yes, I found myself in utter awe in and around Newgrange.   There was a great sense of power there and I felt really connected to my Irish ancestors.  But for me, I’ve always been more drawn to the Nature Spirits. It is their sanctuaries, made and/or perfected by their hands, that truly take my breath away and leave me dumb with reverence.  They make me feel small.  To some that may be discomforting.  For me, it is reassuring.  No matter what is going wrong in my little life, it is nothing in the grand scheme of things.  Something about that puts it all into perspective.  I am part of the great pattern.  I belong.  I’m where I need to be.  I’m home.

Some people call getting outside ecotherapy.  Sometimes, that’s what it feels like – especially that first time at the river after a long, cold winter; the first sighting of a flower or leaf bud; the first robin; the first snowflake after a hot, humid summer…  Nature is my favorite medicine.

Going outside helps me connect to the divine.  The Nature Spirits are everywhere, of course.  In fact, I’ve seen more wildlife here than I ever did in Central NY – and my parents have a large forest in the backyard.  Living in farm country, I feel more in touch with the agricultural cycles.  The Wheel of the Year is more meaningful when approached through a local diet.  Not only do I enjoy the benefits of seasonal, local food – I see it grown and harvested all around me.

I feel Brighid in the fiery sun as it rolls like a fire wheel over green pastures, corn fields, and lakes.  I see the Cailleach in the dead trees and craggy stones of the forest.  I hear The Morrigan in the calls of the ravens from the tops of tall pines.  The forest itself seems to be it’s own Goddess.  I see her leap through the trees as a deer, inhale and exhale with the change of seasons, and hear her in the voice of the loon on the lakes.  The Two Powers aren’t merely something I visualize – I go out of my way to experience them.  My favorite thing to do on the River is to put my feet in.  I feel the sun beat down upon my upper body, and the chilly currents of the St. Lawrence River rise from my toes up.  It’s become such a powerful exercise for me that it’s what I visualize and feel when I do my shrine devotionals and meditations.

The St. Lawrence River stretches from the North Atlantic waters, winds itself through the Thousand Island Region, and joins Lake Ontario at Cape Vincent, NY.  The waters of my European ancestors – the rivers of Ireland, England, France, and Germany – are there.  They course through the rivers of my Native American Ancestors, the Cree, in Canada.  They mingle, they struggle, they dance, they mate, they lay together on their backs and stare up at the stars …  They mix with the mighty cauldron of Lake Ontario and the other Great Lakes.

Today we stood at Tibbetts Point in Cape Vincent, NY and stared out into Lake Ontario.  I sometimes forget it’s a lake – it’s so vast.  I thought of all the waters mixing.  I thought of the River Gods from many places coursing through to visit.  I thought of how interconnected we all are.

Last summer, I started to warm up to life in Northern NY.  This summer, I’ve fallen in love with it.

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Upstate NYers should be aware of the dangers associated with Giant Hogweed. People new to foraging and wildcrafting (like me!) and parents with children who like to gather wildflowers should be extremely careful and have field guides on hand.  Check out the post from North Country Public Radio to get informed.
A big, nasty plant .

(Photo from NY State DEC)

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