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Posts Tagged ‘trees’

There are several tree stumps  in my back yard. At one point, there was a grove of trees in the back corner. Last year, our first full summer at our new home, I decided to observe everything growing there in order to decide how to proceed our approach to that area. Given that we only have a quarter of an acre, we have to find a balance between leaving the land alone and transforming it to make our dreams a reality. I watched and studied to determine what were invasive species, what was healthy, etc. I watched the stumps as they continued to send out shoots, fighting for life. I was tempted to let them grow, but my research lead me to reconsider. The odds are against them growing into strong trees once more. If the scrawny branches ever get very high, they will be weak and prone to wind damage. Removing a layer of last year’s oak leaves revealed that the stumps themselves are rotting. Fungi grow there, and various decomposers are making the wood soft despite what the roots are striving to do. It made me sad; the trees are dying and yet, like people, doing anything to live. Perhaps they should be put out of their misery? And so, I promised the land I would reforest the area. While I trimmed the green shoots, I prayed and chanted quietly.

Soon, we will start a new grove, starting with birch and mountain ash (rowan). We also hope to get some apple trees.

While we prepare that corner for reforestation, I decided the branches, which are mostly oak, should be put to good use rather than discarded. I chose some thick bits to dry for a future ogham set. The rest, so tender and pliable, inspired me to try something I’ve always want to do: make a wattle fence.

Well, it’s actually a garden border in what is becoming our forest/shade garden. The bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley are just coming up. I really like how the border turned out despite my inexpert hand. It adds to the woodland character of what we hope will be a quiet contemplative space full of native species. (I recently planted some wild ginger rhizomes out there below the pines.)

The border was especially fun to make since the wattle method is very old. Our ancestors used it to make fences and even construct buildings. Trying my hand at it gave me appreciation for the dead. It would have been so easy to buy a premade border, but the land provided this material. It was grown here and, eventually, it will go back to the land right here. While a part of me will always feel sad about cutting them from the stumps, this is the essence of working with the land.

My first attempt at a wattle border. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019.

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Mysteries

It’s officially spring, but we still have snow on the ground here.  All the same, signs of spring abound if you look!  There are buds on the trees, the chives have sprouted, and several song birds have returned.

Having only lived in this house since the late summer, this is our first spring here.  The process of moving in delayed us from getting acquainted with the local nature spirits as thoroughly as I would have liked.  I’m excited to work more at that this year.

I already started over the weekend.  My daughter and I walked around the backyard to look for signs of spring.  The snow is melting, so we could explore some of the plants.  I was intrigued to discover that what I thought were bushes last year are actually sprouting tree stumps!  My husband and I have been talking about planting trees in the back. There’s one large oak tree on the other side of the fence separating us from the cemetery, but we want more shade and privacy. Turns out, we already had some trees!  I’ll be interested to see the leaves after they appear.  For now, these are little mysteries. I’ve been reading about how to care for them so they grow as strong as possible.  I wonder why they were cut down in the first place?

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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

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Despite how sick I was feeling last week, I decided we ought to decorate our tree. We bought a potted tree this year, with the intent to keep her around. My husband brought our box of decorations out, and we hung all our memories. This is the first year that my daughter was visibly excited and able to participate. I put my Winter Solstice playlist on and really enjoyed myself, heavy cough and all.

Somewhere between the felt stars a grovie made and the stained glass Santa my late aunt painted, I realized that my family only really comes together to decorate a centerpiece for the Winter Solstice. My husband and I have always carved pumpkins for Samhain, but those go outside. We’ve almost always dyed eggs for the Spring Equinox, but not for decoration.

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Decorating our potted tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Many people share photos of their altars decked for the upcoming High Day. Outside of the Winter Solstice, and temporary altars my protogrove sets up, I don’t do a lot of seasonal decorating for the holidays. I sometimes put a couple things out on my own, but it’s not really a family affair.  Hanging memories on the boughs of an evergreen is symbolic and so very appropriate for a holiday that has come to symbolize light, family, and togetherness in the darkest times. Decorating with loved ones helps to focus our mental energy on the power and significance of each festival. It doesn’t require a lot of expensive, mass produced knickknacks either! Any holiday is a good time to embrace handmade heirlooms, traditional crafts, and what is naturally available outside.

I recently looked back at my spiritual accomplishments the previous year. Now for a resolution! In the hopes of furthering my own understanding and appreciation of all the holidays I celebrate, and to help engage my family, I am going to make a point to decorate our hearth altar for each season and occasion. I’m sure my toddler will love it!  Yes, this may mean yet more “altar porn” on the internet, but really, what Pagan doesn’t love it?

 

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Offerings at the oak tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

When life gets busy – go to the forest.

When there is drama at protogrove events – go to the forest.

When you question why you are trying to build community – go to the forest.

When your thoughts won’t let you be – go to the forest.

The oak tree will teach you how to reach to the upper and lower worlds.

The oak tree will teach you to weather your storms.

To oak tree will inspire strength.

The secrets are there in the forest. Your purpose is there in the forest.

You will catch your breath in the forest.

Life will make sense again.

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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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I’m one of those people who reads multiple books at a time, and you can bet that at least one title I’m working through is about herbalism or foraging.  I just started Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal.  It’s a beautifully photographed guide featuring tips for identification, a bit of folklore, and recipes.  With the forest and hedges springing back to life, a book like this makes me very excited!

On Saturday I decided to do some scouting.  I visited the forest and made offerings, then I observed, taking plenty of time to stop and soak up the sunniest spots as it was a very chilly, breezy day!  Surprisingly, the trout lilies have yet to bud, and the red trillium has yet to make an appearance.  Is it the chill in the air?  The very wet start to the season?

I was hoping to find chickweed and stinging nettled.  I have yet to identify the former and may have found the later but I need to do more research and closer observation (with thick gloves).

Foraging photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Foraging photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

In my search for chickweed, I found some plants that I had hoped would match my field guides once I got in.  No such luck, but I did find some other very interesting plant allies.  On the far left is what I believe to be sweet woodruff (galium odoratum).  At first, I thought they were cleavers but their leaves and stems are smooth.  According to Wikipedia, their name in German is Waldmeister which translates to “master of the woods.”  Very cool name, right?  Another English folk name is “wild baby’s breath,” so I’ll have to keep an eye on it to confirm my ID.  There’s some interesting info about it here.  On the right (hardly visible in the photo), I believe, may be a related plant called bedstraw.  If true, that is a very interesting find because it was apparently used to curdle milk as a type of vegetarian rennet.  And in the middle?  That guy remains a mystery…

I also saw some other lovely plants, some that I need to identify and keep my eye on.  Others I knew right away and delighted in their appearance, such as this lovely white oak seedling.  What a great omen for a Druid-in-training!

Baby Oak - photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Baby Oak – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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