Thursday, December 27, 2007

Giving Glastonbury a Run for its Money?


Jason at The Wild Hunt Blog (here) has posted a wonderful story about a rare strain of apples that are apparently indigenous to an island off Wales known as the possible location of the mystical Isle of Apples...

The apples and trees are free of disease, which is apparently rare for wild grown apples in Wales. The grower has started grafting from the mother tree. There is a 2-year wait for saplings in the UK, and apparently there will be grafted stock available in North America at some point! Oh, so exciting.

More information on the Bardsey apple website and a related news story.

I wonder if the claim Glastonbury holds upon magical apples will now be in question? I have visited there many times and the old apple orchards at the base of the Tor are, in my opinon, just about the most magical location in an area lousy with magical locations. But Glastonbury's hold on all legends Arthurian lacks the Welsh cache of Ynys Enlli.

We are planning to order two trees from Trees of Antiquity, an heirloom apple farm, for planting in spring. It would be lovely to be able to add this variety at some point, or maybe get some for the Brushwood Folklore Center which has its share of wild apple trees indigenous to western New York.

Image: Arthur Rackham's "Apple Maiden"

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Wassail!


To all spending time with family and other loved ones during the December holidays, enjoy! I drink a toast to my friends and anyone who has found their way here in 2007 and hope you will come again in 2008. Wassail, Wassail!

I would like to share my favorite carol, which dates back to the Middle Ages and celebrates the tradition of wassailing. The names of cows (Dobbin, Cherry, Fillpail) and their body parts (eye, cheek, ear) refers to the custom of walking the animals in a ring or through two small bopnfires, and splashing cups of cider on their heads to bless them an thank them for providing milk. Likewise, people would bless their apple and fruit trees with a splash of cider, usually the morning of winter solstice.

Years ago I spent Yule with friends in the Berkshires who had an all-night candlelight vigil, with songs and stories, with a trip around the orchards in the morning to wassail the trees. I hope to reinvigorate this custom in coming years, as we're planting wo apple trees in our yard in the spring.

Gloucestershire Wassail

(Chorus)
Wassail, Wassail, all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown,
Our boel it is made of the white maple tree
With the wassailing bowl we'll drink to thee.


So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee

And here is to Dobbin and to his right eye
Pray God send our master a good Christmas pie
A good Christmas pie that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee

So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee

And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e'er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee

And here is to Colly and to her long tail
Pray God send our master he never may fail
A bowl of strong beer! I pray you draw near
And our jolly wassail it's then you shall hear

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all

Then here's to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.


And, from History.uk.com a recipe for you to try:

A Traditional Shropshire Wassail Recipe – for hardened Wassailers!

10 very small apples
1 large orange stuck with whole cloves
10 teaspoons brown sugar
2 bottles dry sherry or dry Madeira
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 cloves
3 allspice berries
2 or 3 cinnamon sticks
2 cups castor sugar
12 to 20 pints of cider according to the number of guests
1 cup (or as much as you like) brandy

Core the apples and fill each with a teaspoon of brown sugar. Place in a baking pan and cover the bottom with 1/8-inch of water.

Insert cloves into the orange about 1/2" apart.
Bake the orange with the apples in a 350° oven.
After about 30 minutes, remove the orange and puncture it in several places with a fork or an ice pick.

Combine the sherry or Madeira, cider, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon, sugar, apple and orange juice and water in a large, heavy saucepan and heat slowly without letting the mixture come to a boil.
Leave on very low heat.
Strain the wine mixture and add the brandy.

Pour into a metal punch bowl, float the apples and orange on top and ladle hot into punch cups.

Makes enough for 15-20 people – but we always wish we had made more!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I wrote this as a bit of spoken word fluff recited over the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance melody, performed at the one and only concert ever given by the Celtic quartet Epona which I was a member of a few years ago. We did an early December concert with songs connecting Samhain to Yule. It was very well-received and a friend made a recording of it (a rough one but it's good to have it). We performed songs in Irish, Scots Gaelic, Breton, Cornish, Welsh and English.

Anyway I had forgotten about this piece and jotted it down as I listened. It goes well with this image I found the other day, so why not? It is not really a poem but I like its scenario and may try to turn it into one this Yule season.


The Stag at Solstice

Antlers shattering the new moonlight
He stamps and snorts and sniffs out the night's possibilities.
Stopped on the ancient path leading into deep green darkness
He asks the frozen wind "Which way now?"
The warmth of the herd, of the cold of the spear?
At the forest's edge he stands, paused between life and death,
and lifts his ight horned head
and looks upon the moon's empty face
and asks her silently "Which way now?"

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blessings of Yuletide


This lovely artwork depicts Rozhanitza, an Eastern Russian goddess of winter, often depicted in embroideries with stag horns, and she is standing with her daughter, a goddess who is sometimes human and sometimes a deer. Her feast day is December 26th, and is often celebrated by the baking and giving (and, presumably, eating) of iced reindeer cookies.


And here is the Holly King, who probably needs no introduction...he and twin brother the Oak King, British vegetation gods equivalent to the Green Man, battle at the winter and summer solstices for the right to rule that half of the year. Traditionally, the Holly King wins at Yule and reigns until summer...or is it the other way round? (I have seen it written both ways)

These images were found here and there are some more great solstice images by this artist, with prints available for reasonable prices. I think this art would make a great tarot deck, maybe with seasons representing the four elemental suits. Yes?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Coming of Winter

A poem by Canadian poet Archibald Lampman

THE COMING OF WINTER

Out of the Northland sombre weirds are calling;
A shadow falleth southward day by day;
Sad summer's arms grow cold; his fire is falling;
His feet draw back to give the stern one way.

It is the voice and shadow of the slayer,
Slayer of loves, sweet world, slayer of dreams;
Make sad thy voice with sober plaint and prayer;
Make gray thy woods, and darken all thy streams.

Black grows the river, blacker drifts the eddy;
The sky is gray; the woods are cold below:
O make thy bosom and thy sad lips ready
For the cold kisses of the folding snow.

Priceless


Got this from another pagan blogger: The Pagan Hierarchy.

Hilarious and probably more accurate than anyone might care to admit.

Where do I fit into the diagram? I'm not tellin'...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Must share...a poem for Yule.


(Painting: "End of Winter" by Andrew Wyeth)

I saw this poem today on the Expulsion of the Blatant Beast blog. I hope Bo does not mind my sharing it here! It is so evocative of the season.

I will be posting others this week, so watch for Archibald Lampman, Robert Frost, and others...perhaps I will pen one, too. But for now, enjoy the morbid but enlightening musings of a master.

A Nocturnall Upon St. Lucies Day, Being The Shortest Day

’Tis the yeares midnight, and it is the dayes,
Lucies, who scarce seaven houres herself unmaskes,
The Sunne is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rayes;
The worlds whole sap is sunke:
The generall balme th’ hydroptique earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the beds-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar’d with mee, who am their Epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers bee
At the next world, that is, at the next Spring:
For I am every dead thing,
In whom love wrought new Alchimie.
For his art did expresse
A quintessence even from nothingnesse,
From dull privations, and leane emptinesse:
He ruin’d mee, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darknesse, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,
Life, soule, forme, spirit, whence they beeing have;
I, by loves limbecke, am the grave
Of all, that’s nothing. Oft a flood
Have wee two wept, and so
Drownd the whole world, us two; oft did we grow
To be two Chaosses, when we did show
Care to ought else; and often absences
Withdrew our soules, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing, the Elixer grown;
Were I a man, that I were one,
I needs must know; I should preferre,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means; Yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love; All, all some properties invest;
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am None; nor will my Sunne renew.
You lovers, for whose sake, the lesser Sunne
At this time to the Goat is runne
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all;
Since shee enjoyes her long nights festivall,
Let mee prepare towards her, and let mee call
This houre her Vigill, and her Eve, since this
Bothe the yeares, and the dayes deep midnight is.

John Donne

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

You Call it Christmas, We Call it Yule


Wow, there are so many people writing articles for Witchvox these days, the ones I have written over the years for holidays are barely visible anymore (though if you go to the holiday pages, they are among the most-viewed pages over the years).

It's nice to see so many people eager to contribute. We started out with only a handful of writers back in the late 1990s (Wren, Fritz, myself, Mike Nichols, Christina, and gradually folks like Dio and Waterhawk and others joined in). Now there are hundreds if not thousands of people posting new stuff, with lots of new articles every week.

I do sometimes think a lot of the articles are retreads of stuff that has already been written about, and once in a while I read something that makes me scratch my head, like this quote which seems to be to somewhat dubious scholarship: "On All Hallows' Eve, as it was called back then, the Druids would go from door to door holding an empty basket asking for fruit and whatever treats the residents would give them. Later in the evening, everyone would gather together in a festival, dancing, singing, playing, and enjoying the foods they were given." Um...did you have a historical citation for that?

I recall a whacko fundie Christian appearing on Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" years ago saying pretty much the same thing about Hallowe'en, except her version was that "the Druids would go door to door, looking for a human sacrfiice." At least her crazy version has some basis in reality, even it is only a fantastical pre-Raphaelite painting by William Holman Hunt entitled "A Converted British Family Sheltering a Christian Priest from the Persecution of the Druids". See those bloodthirsty Druids? Outside the door...why, it's almost as if they are going door to door!

Anyway, I digress. In the spirit of Yuletide nostalgia and plain old self-aggrandizement, here is my own Witchvox Yule article written all those years ago...Read and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Green Fairy; now stuffing stockings?



Yes, friends, you may now purchase absinthe legally!

You may slobber over her (or, more likely, keel over onto the table after several hours in her presence) to your heart's content...

The New York Times has the latest...

I also found this lovely website, home of that gorgeous vintage poster image...if you have a few thousand dollars to spare, you can get a nice antique advertising poster for your wall.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sacred Green Manhattan




Here, some images from the Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park, also taken Samhain weekend. There's me at a fountain in the courtyard, an espaliered pear tree in the medieval herb garden, and one of the four quince trees in the garden. Our favorite spot was the herb garden, if the time spent there is any indication.
I highly recommend a visit here, better in warmer weather so you can see the lovely gardens and have a coffee at the outdoor cafe.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Wild Manhattan




These are three of many photos I took on my Samhain weekend visit to New York. My friend who lives in the Inwood neighborhood has this wonderful natural escape practically next door; almost 200 acres of woodland, most of it the last pristine forest left in Manhattan. The New York Times approves.

So you New Yorkers who want to get away from the crowds in Central Park for a more wild experience, get thee to the A train and ride it all the way to 207th Street...oh, and if you go on Saturday you can hit the farmer's Market!

You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Golden Compass and other movie news

I saw it. And I do not feel compelled to become an atheist. So there.

Tomorrow I will attend a press screening of Sweeney Todd. Yay.

December


In honor of the final month of the year, I have posted a photo of the full moon taken in the penultimate month of the year. I believe November's full moon is called the Snow Moon. December will bring the Oak Moon.

Is that named for the Oak King?

This was the view through my kitchen window on November 24th.

The darkness lowers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

stealing music


I found out today on one of my LiveJournal groups (psych folk) that someone had illegally uploaded the tracks from a recently-issued music compilation called John Barleycorn Reborn, curated by Mark Coyle of The Unbroken Circle and Woven Wheat Whispers. I saw it posted and thought, naw, they could not really be offering this for free when Mark and his group have only recently offered it for a nominal fee?

But then Mark posted to the thread and said it was an illegal download that needed to be removed immediately. So far the thread is still there with links, and no response to Mark's request other than my own admonishment that people should buy this collection, especially given Mark's generosity and tireless efforts to promote and distribute music by contemporary musicians who perform psych folk music.

I see this sort of thing and then think of how many of my students and other people I know think nothing of "ripping" movies and copying music illegally...who do they think pays these musicians and filmmakers and other people who create this stuff? Not every film or record is made by some huge corporate entity. To steal creative output from artists who already live hand to mouth is unconscionable.

What makes it worse is that this album was created in part to appeal to pagan minded folks, and the idea that such folk would consider stealing something that could be had for a reasonable price, especially when it meant making it difficult for such music to be on offer in the future, makes me sad and angry.

ETA: the original poster (who is 19 years old apparently) took the upload down and apologized. Mark posted a polite reply explaining the delicate dynamics of how his group works to support and promote contemporary music. I wish the LJ psych folk community would stick to uploading and file sharing only that music that in long out of print and widely unavailable, and save their sharing of current music for private use among their friends.

Monday, November 26, 2007

November musing



(The photo is "Pomona" by Julia Margaret Cameron)

Goddess of the orchards: where do you go in winter? Do you merely sit beneath a favorite tree and let the frost and ice and snow preserve you until springthaw? Are you hightailing it to the tropics? Are you hoarding bags of grain and bushels of fruit in your cold cellar? Do you order pizzas and pore over gardening catalogs by candlelight? I hope your winter is warm and healing. Thanks for the fruit.

November weather is confounding. Robert Bly evokes some intriguing thoughts in this simple poem:

The body is like a November birch facing the full moon
And reaching into the cold heavens.
In these trees there is no ambition, no sodden body, no leaves,
Nothing but bare trunks climbing like cold fire!

My last walk in the trees has come. At dawn
I must return to the trapped fields,
To the obedient earth.
The trees shall be reaching all the winter.

It is a joy to walk in the bare woods.
The moonlight is not broken by the heavy leaves.
The leaves are down, and touching the soaked earth,
Giving off the odors that partridges love.


- Robert Bly, "Solitude Late at Night in the Woods"

I love the golden beauty of November, the winds that carry the mist of heavy dark mornings, usually warmer than seems possible, then turning cold and mean in minutes. I love the way colors meld into one another until some daring hues burst forth in a last passionate yelp of life: the rich yellow beeches, the bright pink fothergilla, the deep crimson Japanese maples, the last vivid blooms on die-hard snapdragons, asters and chrysanthemums. This sonnet describes the month's beauty in familiar and warming images:

I am rich today with autumn's gold,
All that my covetous hands can hold;
Frost-painted leaves and goldenrod,
A goldfinch on a milkweed pod,
Huge golden pumpkins in the field
With heaps of corn from a bounteous yield,
Golden apples heavy on the trees
Rivaling those of Hesperides,
Golden rays of balmy sunshine spread
Over all like butter on warm bread;
And the harvest moon will this night unfold
The streams running full of molten gold.
Oh, who could find a dearth of bliss
With autumn glory such as this!

- Gladys Harp


I love the multitude of crows at dusk that gather for their soiree of screeching song. I see them on my daily walks this time of year, watch them fly from all across the area to a wooded spot behind the orphanage/school in my neighborhood, I stand beneath the trees they sit in and watch them flit to and fro. Their chatter comforts and intrigues me. The sight of them against the greying sky and naked branches makes me catch my breath.

Apples are freezing on the trees. Thank the gods for cold storage but the time of fresh, crunchy apples that have just been picked is gone now for the season, and there wont be more until the cheeky early varieties blush and crisp in August.

I planted a few bulbs the other day, thinking I had not more opportunity since the ground has had its upper layer frozen several times now. But it rained this morning and now the ground is soft again. Do I put those last few tulips and daffodils in my yard here or bring them to Boston? It is still somewhat warmer there.

I have cleaned and oiled the tools,clipped shut the bags of bone meal and bulb booster, I have stored the dahlia tubers in sand. The begonias got wet and I need to dry them before storing. The back room smells like compost and carrion.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving thanks for beautiful food


Ah, the holiday of food and family and cultural imperialism!

Let us all be thankful for the abundant riches we enjoy in our daily lives, and think on those who have little on this day.

After eating too many snacks (why do we always put out so many nibbles on this day when most people are already starving for the real meal?), I had a meal that was mostly microwaved or ersatz (fake butter, storebought rolls, pre-made potatoes)...although the turkey was very nice as was the stuffing. I can understand why someone who's made a huge family meal for many years wanting to make it easier, but the difference in time and labor is not all that great, is it? I mean, doesn't food just plain taste better if it's made fresh? I guess lots of people don't care or even know the difference--this explains why so many people eat so much fast food. Personally, I appreciate my food more when it is made with care and pleasureable to behold and to eat. Not necessarily fancy, but beautiful and tasty. Here's to real food.

For my contribution, I spent a good deal of time making two desserts from scratch, a pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust and an apple crisp from a Moosewood Cookbook recipe made with locally-grown apples. The cheesecake was a big hit! I saved a couple small pieces for myself to eat tomorrow since I was too full to taste it today. The apple crisp (served warm with French vanilla ice cream) was very tasty but not as popular, and the leftovers from both will go to work with my sweetie.

I will go for an extra long walk and maybe hit the Nordic Track tomorrow to work off all the calories. I never used to be one of those folks who worried about holiday overeating but this year I want to be careful not to overindulge. I also want to focus on real and fresh food, over tasteless or artificial crap which is always in abundance at the holidays. Time to start making nice winter-hearty soups.

We had friends visiting from out of town and took them to Indian Ladders, which they loved. Bought some local sausage and honey. Most of our local apples are gone so I will enjoy the few we have left and hope to get more soon. The orchards have a few winter and holiday events planned, it'd be nice to attend. Eating local foods in winter is a challenge worth pursuing. Next year at this time I hope to be growing my own Brussells sprouts.

Hail the bounty of the earth!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Gargoyles and Demons and Chimeras



Oh My.

This is the first of what I hope will be a number of photosto be shared here that I took at the Cloisters in Manhattan. My friend Rosanna and I went on a blustery autumn day at the end of October (despite there being very little evidence of autumn since the trees had not begun to change color) and both of captured many images, inside and out.

There were some amazing carved gargoyles and other figures on the columns surrounding the cafe. Devils and horned figures seemed to be a popular theme. I did not copy down theexcat information on most of these figures but they are mainly 15th and 16th century, I believe, from various countries (France, Germany, Italy). The Cloisters is a wonderland of history, beauty and sublime, quiet artistry. And they have the best museum gift shop I have ever seen. Probably my favorite feature is the medieval herb garden, where we also took many photos. The espaliered pear trees are impressive.

Many visitors did not seem to realize the quince trees were quince trees! I heard a lot of people call them apples or pears. I purloined several fallen ones from the ground and gave them to Rosanna to keep in a bowl in her apartment. They ripen and mellow and scent the room with a sweet, fruity fragrance of autumn for weeks.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pomona, thy bounty recedes...



Apples end.

I just got a bag of Macouns from a farm store (wth orchard attached) in New Hampshire but I know this is the last of them. They have not been picked fresh in weeks now and cold storage only lasts so long. We got a cold snap the last couple weeks, after what seemed like a freakishly long spell of warmth which hinted at endless harvest.

So the apples are in the fridge and I hope to get some more at the farmer's market in Boston next week and the week after and hoard them. The later varieties might still be on the trees and freshly picked if they;re not freezing. At least the Mutsus and Fujis and some other late varieties will be fresher than the fragile mid-season Macouns.

Sigh.

November is frosty and golden and hauntingly beautiful The colors are just past peak now, a phenomenon which usually has occurred a month earlier. I have been enjoying it immensely, here and in Boston and on the journeys in between. Today I am heading to western NY to visit my Mom. Looking forward to seeing the landscape on the journey, which will be by bus through Syracuse, Cortalnd and Ithaca. Our digital camera got broken but will still take pics (the screen is scratched) so I will try to capture some images.

The garden is a story unto itself, and I'll report on it soon.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sad and horrific


My friend Rosanna sent me the link to this story which has me shaking my head in disbelief.

How could someone kill such a magificent and rare animal? I hope the poacher gets caught when he tries to sell its head. Sadly, I am sure there is more than one eager buyer for such a trophy.

I am not against hunting, but I am against stupid insensitive butchery of rare animals that, when glimpsed by humans, lend some magic and wonder to our lives.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Samhain Greetings!




Not feeling it too strongly yet...maybe when "true samhain" gets here next week (November 6) it will hit me. Still, the energy is strong when the whole world is celebrating, even if the true thinning of the veil happens when the sun is at 15 degrees of Scorpio...

Anyone out there think of Samhain as a date, as opposed to a moment in astrological time? or both? or neither?

Anyway, hoping your celebrations and observances are full and worthwhile.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New York City...autumn?



This photo (from whidc.org) shows an aerial view of the Cloisters in the fall. BUT NOT THIS YEAR. I was just there, in late October, and the majority of the trees were still green. Normally I think the view would look more like this one.

This struck me as odd. We have loads of foliage color in the Albany area which is only two and a half hours north. I guess NYC did not get temperatures low enough to force the maples to change. This may mean they don't get any nice bright color this year, which is a shame.

In any case, the day we visited the Cloisters was very autumnal, chilly and sunny and windy! The night before, when people in costumes were roaming the streets, was quite warm and humid. It was nice the weather finally became seasonable. I will post some of my own photos when they are available.

Oh, and I hate digital cameras. They eat batteries like popcorn. Very environmentally-unfriendly. That is all.

Monday, October 22, 2007

change of scene



I'd love to go to England right now (Avebury would be nice). But it ain't gonna happen.

I have been itching to have some sort of change of scenery for a while now. It's nice to go back and forth from eastern NY to Boston every week, especially in autumn, but I have not been anywhere else but Brushwood or Elmira for the last few months.

I feel lucky, therefore, to be going to New York City this week for several days. I will spend time with a friend who's involved with the green living community there. We've had a standing date to go to the Cloisters (which I have never seen) for a couple years now so we'll finally do that. And we're going to a cool Samhain event at St. John the Divine as well.

Also my sweetie is coming with me to Boston for a couple days and we'll visit friends overnight in New Hampshire. I doubt these brief sojourns will satisfy any deep-seated wanderlust but it's something. I used to think of myself as someone who travelled fairly often. But since getting into a relationship and buying a house and getting a dog, it's harder to get away.

Does this mean I don't get to travel anymore?

Friday, October 19, 2007

samhain and death and grief



I am trying to come to grips with something.

Why is grief such a selfish emotion?

In other words, why do so many people respond to death in such self-serving ways?

It has seemed to me in recent days that some of the outpouring of feeling I have read online about Chas (a friend who passed on October 16th in Ohio) are little more than thinly-veiled expressions of people's own agendas and issues, disguised as expressions of grief.

Then I find myself wondering if I am guilty of the same thing.

Why do we do this?

I am thinking this will become a much longer rant. But for now, I am just pondering it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A magical entreaty....



(cool earth graphic from Jupiter Images)

Isaac Bonewits has a good idea...in his blog entry entitled "Run, Al, run!" on October 12.

So check it out.

It would be such a wonderful thing if Gore ran. He already won the popular vote once. But does he stand a chance against Hillary and Barack? Maybe the spell-work could also include opening the hearts and minds of the democratic hopefuls to ask Al to be their running mate?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dark Days Challenge


This is a challenge to eat locally-grown or produced foods for 90% of a meal once a week in the winter: quite a challenge in the Northeast!

More information can be found here. Thanks to my pal Zimra for keeping track of this stuff.

Since I can get stuff from the farmers' markets in Boston through Thanksgiving week, it will not be too difficult in the first few months. I know there is also plenty of locally produced dairy produce in our area we can get from Indian Ladders Farms. Locally-raised meat and poultry will be tough but I will try.

Potato-leek soup! Apple crisp! Kale over pasta! Roasted winter vegetables! Yum.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

the weekend approaches



Lots of rain means no yardwork and staying in to start scraping paint.

It also makes it easier to stay indoors and do all the grading and writing I have to do!

Not much else to say right now, other than I love pumpkins. I grew some white ones, and some gourds, and they are now decorating our front steps. Photo to follow, perhaps...

Have a lovely autumnal weekend, oh and don't forget Mercury goes retrograde tonight. :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Autumn/Samhain issue of Goblin Fruit now live!

Yup, that headline about sums it up.

In case you missed my previous post where I mentioned having a piece accepted, my poem "Transplendent We" has been published in the latest issue of this lovely online poetry zine, found here. The issue and art have a very satifyingly spooky focus, perfect for Samhain. I realize I forgot to include the sort of last (tag)line of my poem which reads "Leiden, Samhain, 2004" but perhaps it is not needed.

They have some wonderful artwork, this current issue's theme includes fantastical mushrooms. I plan to submit some more poetry to other zines in coming months so will post news of any publications here.

ETA: I blush to say my poem is quoted at the top of the Endicott Studio's entry on this issue. Here, have a look.

I should also say, I was wrong in my earlier post when I said I had not noticed audio files there previously. Actually, they ARE there, cleverly disguised with little graphic symbols. So look for them in the archived issues!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

the long weekend


The weather at Brushwood was unseasonably warm; during the wedding we stood around sweating and flushed and one poor guy actually passed out from the heat! (T. checked him out, it was not serious). October is a crapshoot for this kind of thing but we were lucky to have warm nights and sunny days, if a bit muggy and uncomfortable here and there. The ceremony was very moving and the celebration went all night long with drumming and music in the Roundhouse and plenty of wine from local wineries flowing...We missed Friday night's festivities which were apparently a good time as well, though I heard the women had much more fun than the men!

We only spent one night at our beloved Brushwood, as I had to stay at my Mom's house and give my siblings a bit of a break from lookig in on ger every weekend. It was also hot in Elmira, so we did not accomplish much. I pulled a few weeds and picked my white pumpkins and gourds to rbing home for some nice autumnal displays on our porch.

The Harlequin marigolds I planted there actually came out the way they are supposed to! With bold stripes of brown and yellow as pictured above. The ones I planted at home are mostly yellow with small spots of brown. But they are not as mature as the others yet so maybe they will develop more color.

Friday, October 5, 2007

to Brushwood



We're heading to Elmira for the night, to stay with my Mom for a long-overdue visit and help care for her. We will go to Brushwood on Saturday for a wedding and to spend the night, then will head back to Elmira to stay Sunday night and most of Monday. It will be really warm and nice, "Indian Summer" weather this weekend.

Hoping to get some more photos for the calendar project I am doing, all photos taken with a 1964 Pentax Spotmatic and 50mm lens! This photo is of an old apple tree near the entrance to the lower campgrounds.

I will also bring some flower bulbs in case I get a bit of time to do some planting there. We're planning to get the little grove site we've been working on in shape for our own wedding next summer and having some flowers planted are a good start tp transforming it. To bloom in July, I will plant some Asiatic liles and dayliles, some Chinese forget-me-nots and maybe some annuals like impatiens for color.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

cool clip art!



Cute, huh? Every week I get an email with free clip art samples from Dover. Want some? Sign up here. It's a weekly email, nothing more.

This week there are plenty of vintage Halloween images! And I download a lot of the free samples to post in my blog or use elsewhere. Oh, and Dover does this to get people interested in ordering their print clip art books, which are also fantastic.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

This sh*t pisses me off




Why does stuff like this keep happening?

Dad

My father died one year ago today.

I am feeling sad. I just posted a long entry in my LiveJournal about it.

Why must people die on beautiful autumn days? And why must those days be so achingly beautiful in subsequent years?

We're still planning to plant apple trees in his honor, in our backyard. Two heirloom organic trees. I also have some of his garlic harvested from last fall and am going to try planting it this year. I have parsley from his garden that I dried and cook with frequently.

How do we keep people alive? Memories? Keepsakes? Photos? Words? My father lives on every time I gaze upon a tree fluttering in the breeze or waterfowl in flight or a pond glittering in the sun. Dad was about living things: growing them, hunting them, observing them, surrounding himself with the cycles of nature. I am thankful for the path he taught me to follow, even as I know there must be a thousand things I have forgotten. I wonder how his friends and other family members cope with his loss. I hope they can find warm thoughts of him everywhere on this day.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Burning Man...a ritual?



Hmm, maybe.

There was just a segment on CBS Sunday Morning about this yearly event in the Nevada desert. The guy who founded it was referring to it as a "ritual" and said rituals were valuable because they showed us things are still the way they always were...

So, does that mean our ancestors used to set big metal neon men on fire?

Give me a real free-standing bonfire made of wood anyday. Starwood obviously kicks Burnings Man's ass. And with far fewer people.

Photo came from this blog.

Today, cow manure



Ah, compost. Also known as plant poop. Is there anything it can't do? My sweetie helped me create my own compost bin. It's in the garage, a big plastic tote with holes poked in it, stuffed with grass clippings and other plant waste. I now know I shold not have put so many roots in it but hopefully that won't be a problem if I pull them out before using it. It should be usable by next spring I hope! Black gold, they call it.

Today, we have a sunny cool day and I plan to work in the yard a bit. Yesterday we bought 3 bags of cow manure and one bag of mushroom compost. I hope it will be enough to enrich all the flower beds. Some of them have fairly rich, well-drained soil already. Some have dry, sandy soil. Some have okay soil but it is full of roots. And some of the soil is full of clay and has lousy drainage. They say compost is the answer to most of these issues, except the roots, which need to be pulled out by hand.

I still have tulip, hyacinth and daffodil bulbs to plant but will wait until after the new moon, and when temperatures are cooler. I got two nice salvia plants with bright blue flowers yesterday at Loews for fifty cents each! Should have gotten more. Plant markdowns are a great deal there. I got two clematis vines for $3.50 apiece last month.

I am also waiting on some plants to arrive that I got via mail order (a purple smoke tree, some daylilies, peonies, alliums and English bluebells). By this time next year our yard-wide "cottage garden" should be well on its way! Between buying a few things at bargain prices (hydrangeas, and replanting a whole lot of stuff from previous gardens (irises, peonies, sedums, hosta), as well as some well-timed purloining of native weeds or overflowing perennials, we have a nice selection of growing things without spending a whole lot of money. By next year though I hope to integrate more annuals for color, once the perennials in the beds are more established.

photo: That is a dahlia planted in front of our garage. It is known as "Tout a Toi" and is a compact variety. It has always done well for me, although this one probably needs a bit more sun.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Difficult equinox

My coven has for years maintained that the equinoxes bring difficult times of personal challenge or even tragedy. I have never completely understood the full reason for this, something to do with the shifting of the tides affecting energy in a general way. It is felt that the "weirdness" lasts over several days.

This week, which also contains a full moon three days after the equinox, I have found out a friend from Brushwood is in the hospital in serious condition following a severe stroke, after entering the hospital with pneumonia. A second friend's mother has died, but at age 84 at least she had a long and full life, and was healthy in recent years. Another friend has been diagnosed with a suspicious growth in her neck which is (hopefully) benign but she is scared all the same. I tripped and fell at the base of the stairs at a friend's house Wednesday night, and while not seriously hurt, it certainly could have been bad as I twisted my ankle and bruised up my right arm and hand.

Then again, I have seen non-equinox weeks where it seems to pour, not just rain. (Oh, and it rained yesterday, and some people in our area lost power, but we really do need the rain!)

I wonder if there is something to this. Some skeptics of astrology say that Mercury retrograde is not the only time travel and communication and contracts and electronic functions tend to go awry...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

another blog!



I have started a new blog devoted to discussing a new project, a book I am co-writing with my friend Hannah: The Celluloid Bough: Cinema in the Wake of the Occult Revival. You can find it here. There is not much there yet, but in the coming months things should heat up! Both of us will be posting our finds and travails as we work on this very exciting project.

By the way, that photo is of an ancient book of psalms found in an Irish bog.

Monday, September 24, 2007

apples and gratitude



We went apple picking at Indian Ladders orchards yesterday (the photo above was taken there this spring). The place was packed! Not surprising, it was a beautiful day.

But as we stood in line at the orchard stand across the road from the big store and the petting zoo area, waiting to pay for our bag so we coule pick apples, they announced they were officially closing down the "U-pick" section! That meant they were telling cars trying to drive in there was no more picking that day, although plenty of apples for sale in the store, and more picking next weekend. We were told by a young sweaty guy that, after running around the entire orchard (!), there were still apples for picking at the end of the rows, and he told us how to find them.

So most everyone still in line was game for it, and we bought our bag ($11 and you can fill it as full as ya like, plus eat as many as you can hold) and headed in. Empires! The Jonagolds seemed to be gone, but as we walked we saw people with HUGE gold-green apples the size of bocce balls. The Empires were few and far between at first, but as we moved to the ends of rows most people had not gone to (as the orchard runner had described), we found plenty. But at first we were looking under boughs and even on the ground to find lovely apples people had missed, or dropped. Empires are best with plenty of red on them, and we got a few that were a bit green but still ripe. By the time we really found the "motherlode" we had filled our bag.

What got to me was the people complaining about how there were "no apples"! Just because they did not see the trees nearest them groaning with apples (and of course the ground was littered with huge apples that people had carelessly dropped, or taken one bite from and tossed away), they acted like there was nothing. I heard people say "it's really disappointing here today" and "it's like looking for buried treasure" and "there's nothing here!" and was really perplexed. I mean, wasn't part of the reason to go apple picking to, you know, go apple picking? If you just wanted to spend five minutes filling your bag from 3 or 4 trees, why not just buy them ready picked from the store? The whole place is surrounded by apple trees so it's not like you'd get no view of the orchards. Same apples, no effort. Considering a few yards' walk yielded trees full of fruit, I think it was mainly laziness or cluelessness.

What bugged me the most was the people who brought their kids and basically encouraged this lazy, cynical attitude towards what should have been a really enjoyable experience, outdoors on a beautiful day, a way to observe the change of seasons, to reinforce the connection between the living earth and our food, etc etc. I mean, do you really need to teach your kids to think every outing just ends in disappointment because you're too fricking lazy and unimaginative to make it into a positive experience? Also, despite being told politely but firmly by the sweaty orchard runner not to pick inside the taped-off areas, because the fruit was not ripe enough for picking, and that they'd get sick if they ate those apples, some people ducked under the tape and picked from the trees that, despite being covered in fruit, were not designated by the orchard owners for public consumption. Why do people do this stuff?

Of course, some folks were a bit more intrepid and into the experience and enjoyed the search. I pointed out to soem folks near us how many good apples were on the ground (this was before we got to the area where some trees still had plenty of pples on them) and this caused some people to consider this possibility. Maybe in years past, the crowds were smaller? I know the apple crops last year were not great in the Northeast, so maybe people made up for it this year. Maybe all the articles urging people to celebrate fall (and the equinox) by visiting orchards or picking apples (hey maybe they read my Witchvox article!) drove people out to the orchards.

After filling up our bag and eating 2 or 3 apples apiece, we put them in the truck (we had parked quite a ways from the picking orchard) and headed back to the store, planning to get some lovely hot cider donuts. I was even willing to go off my autumnal equinox "fast" (which is only half over, and which has me giving up sugar, meat, alcohol and, later this week, dairy and flour) to have some! But there were at least a hundred people in line, in the hot sun. The smell of spicy donuts frying in oil was enticing, and it was not that hard to believe people were willing to wait in line for them. But we'd have been there for an hour. And, unlike many of the folks there yesterday who only visit Indian Ladders once a year (again, this perplexes me: most of them live locally like we do; and why doesn't the comparative rarity of the experience make them appreciate it more?), we love it there and will probably go back at least 2 or 3 more times this season. We'll go next month at my birthday to get additional apple varieties (the Mutsus and Fijis will be ripe), and will get a pallet of apple wood for our fireplace (cut from the older orchards when they prune the trees), and some local cheese, and yes, we will get some donuts without having to wait in line. Maybe they won't be hot, but they'll still be good!

So we drove home, with our back seat full of apples, and a few more tumbled out of the bag every time we stopped, and though the bag handles broke and a bunch of them fell on our driveway, we rescued them and they are now in bowls and bags in our fridge and on our counters. Yum. Apples. We'll bring some to friends in Boston, and save some for the homebrew being made for our wedding, and enjoy the rest. Gratefully.

Happy Autumn!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Forgotten

I recently wrote a new article for Witchvox on the autumnal equinox, which is part of a series comparing pagan and traditional views on our most significant festivals.

I had thought it was weird I had not written about this holiday before, as this time of year is so important to me. When I checked the listings on the website, this article did not come up. Even though I had googled a line from a poem I had quoted in it a while agp, which led me to find where someone had plagiarized it as their own (something I detailed on my Livejournal), I had forgotten it was from the Autumn Equinox article.

So now: there are two articles by me with the same title! this one and this here one. Hope you enjoy them! The three year gap has me no less inclined to use poetry to make a statement on this most poetic of seasons, apparently.

As for me, I am starting to fear the early onset of Alzheimer's...and my memory for stuff does seem to be worse the more I use email and the internet, oddly enough. In other words, if I get information from a person or a phone call, or print literature, I tend to recall it better than if I get it online. I think so, at any rate. Hmm. Any research on this out there?

countdown to equinox...



Tomorrow, the tides turn, day and night will be in perfect balance, and autumn becomes official.

I love autumn. The colors, the smells, the produce, and the hint of longing in the air. This time of year feels me with all kinds of emotions and ideas, and my dreams and instances of deja-vu get more intense. I find ithis increases if I spend more time outside, so I aim to do that this year.

Today we are having a yard sale. Tonight we'll go see "Hallowe'en" at the movies. Tomorrow, apple picking at the local orchard. I started my twice-yearly equinox fast this week. Right now, have only cut out meat, sugar and junk food. Next is alcohol, dairy, dough, and, hopefully, coffee. It's a ten-day fast and by the last three days I try to eat nothing but fruits and nuts. Not a "real" fast but a cleansing of the body and re-evaluation of food choices.

But going to the orchard and not having a cider doughnut? This seems wrong. Maybe if I eat nothing but apples and raw nuts for 2 days after? Ah, the little bargaining games we play with ourselves. The equinox is about balance, after all.

Monday, September 17, 2007

the garden, chilled



The unseasonable cold has me somewhat worried my growing flowers won't enjoy their moment in the sun, so to speak. I still have late-planted cleomes trying to grow, and dahlias and roses also in the midst of putting forth many more blooms. As well as the caryopteris, still in full swing, and some sunflowers. The mums were from the garden store and never seem to do that well anyway, so I'm over it, and the purple asters will just have to try again next year I guess.

I am learning more every year about what flowers are in bloom during different seasons, and also starting to realize the limits of the landscape of my home. There is not as much full sun as I first thought, but enough partial sun that I have a lot of choices. My realization of a real cottage garden are probably at leats a year off. But I am glad I have already put a lot of perennials in that we can landscape around, so that when the paths, walkways and other features are done the plants will be mature and full.

The cold is welcome, though. Last year the apple orchards were in danger of losing apples or even entire crops because they did not get cold temperatures early enough to start on their usual schedule of going to dormancy. And the fall colors were never at a proper peak, so the tourism trade in the Northeast did not do well. The lack of snow in early winter also affected tourism. I felt badly for people who rely on seasonal normalcy to make a living. Global warming is having a huge economic impact that is only starting to make itself known. The personal cost may eventually be beyond counting: the loss of experiences and memories of the natural world.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A truly autumnal day...



Is there any more beautiful season? More fragrant, more evocative, more inspirational? No. No I say! Bring it on. Summer is a flibbertygibbet, a ditzy girl in a gaudy sundress, a suburban barbecue with sickly-sweet chicken and domestic beer...autumn is a worldly troubador, comfy tweed and vintage leather, a haunch of venison roasted over a woodfire and served with a crisp cider....

TO AUTUMN.

1.
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

2.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

3.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

John Keats (1795-1821)


Up early today and it is unseasonably cold, but bright and brisk is my favorite kind of day. I will definitely venture out somewhere. I had hoped to attend the Regional Food festival at Indian Ladders but my sweetie is working so I can't get out there. Oh well.

Last night was also very chilly! It got down to the upper 30s, much more characteristic of October for this reagion than mid-September. I had houseguests (friend Rosanna and her compatriates attending a conference on Permaculture and similar topics) who had originally planned to stay at a nearby campsite. But they welcomed the warmth and dryness of our little fixer-upper! It was fun to have guests, it would have been nice to have a fire in the fireplace (or outside in our yet-to-be-assembled firedish) but we're still in some disarray from all the indoor and outdoor work. Hoping next time we have guests at least the living and dining rooms will be painted.

Yesterday it rained quite a bit (we need it! a few days' worth have reverse the summer drought, maybe) but when it cleared in late afternoon we stopped by Larkfest and walked among the crowds. It seemed like almost everyone had a beer in their hand! But it was fun to see people out and about, happy the street fair had been salvaged after a rainy start to the day. Washington Park was nice, too and I plan to walk there today.

The equinox approaches...I just wrote an article for Witchvox on Mabon. It was a bit rushed and I now wish I had tied in some other information, but I liked the poem quotes I found. There is one article left in the series to be written (for Lammas) so I look forward to working on that for next summer.

I am excited about the approach of fall. This never fails me, every year, for as long as I can remember.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Last Peach: an Urban Musing



I am a harvest diva. I get very excited when a particular fruit or vegetable becaomes available in season, and try to enjoy it while it is at its peak of flavor. I will not eat corn in any form but fresh corn on the cob, and it must be picked within the previous 24 hours or I won't touch it. A corn snob, that's me. But I don't want to be part of some foodie cognoscenti; I seek out fresh produce for the sheer joy of it.

This morning, as I have so many mornings in the last several weeks, I enjoyed a fresh peach. I got it at the farmer's market that happens in our neighborhood every Tuesday. The farm stand has a little old lady who slowly but steadily packs evertone's apples, peaches, plums or other fruits into a bag, while her son arranges them in baskets and her (daughter in law? I'm guessing) basically does very little to help customers and rolls her eyes at how slow the older lady is. Their peaches are great; I tried the white ones but prefer the yellow for better flavor, not so syrupy sweet.

I have been eating them with plain organic yogurt for breakfast, and on their own for snacks. There is nothing better than a fresh peach! They are rarely grown organically, at least not commercially, but I like to think buying from local farms means I am getting peaches with less spray than those that have to travel halfway across the country.

I finished the last peach in the bowl today. There is a mound of farm fresh Bartlett peaches beneath them, and I even had one with the peach, sliced into a bowl. This marks the transition from summer to late summer fruits I suppose...I will miss my peaches. It will be an entire year, after all, until I can eat them again, unless I happen across another market with a later variety (which may indeed be the case when I go back to commuting to Boston this week).

It makes me think about what it really means to enjoy foods that are only available for a short time, at the height of their season of ripening. Sure, I can buy a peach any old day at the supermarket. But that's like eating a pink, mealy supermarket tomato: it bears no resemblance to a fresh one picked a matter of hours before I eat it.

Before people in this country enjoyed produce flown or trucked in from far away, they ate things grown locally. They must ahve really appreciated the fact of a favorite fruit's limited availability. Some foods could be stored in cold cellars, like apples, or root vegetables like potatoes, turnips or carrots. But the sweet, juicy fruits of late summer, the tender greens of early spring, these were celebrated in their time and no doubt gave way to the pervasive small-town strawberry fairs, peach parades and fiddlehead festivals. For what else could give better cause for celebration than the incomparable flavor of these jewels of the orchards and fields?

For me, the farmer's market itself is like a festival. The brightly colored produce arranged in baskets, the fresh-cut flowers, the cheery signs, the waving and smiles of neighbors...well, for the most part, anyway. But it's also true people behave as badly at the market as they do in any other retail situation, which saddens me, since it seems so obvous this is an experience to be savored and appreciated, much like the foods we go there to buy should be.

When did we stop appreciating food's beauty? At what point did the smell of apple blossoms, or watermelons ripening on the vine, or fresh basil growing in the sun, fade from our memories? How could the sight of peaches on the tree, peas on the vine or blackberries on the bush not be one of our most fervent quests, throughout the shifting micro-seasons of harvest?

We have been disenchanted by plastic, tasteless, toxic food. And it has clearly had repercussions far beyond the aesthetic realm. Our health, our economy, our communities, our culture, our history and our future: all are intricatey and irrevocably woven into our relationship with the foods the earth gives us. We need to re-enchant this relationship.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

to the BBC!

I am submitting a script to the Writersroom Project at the BBC; it is a pilot for a TV series on witches in London. I worked on the first episode quite a bit and have plotted out several follow-up episodes. I need to get the rest of the submission together and might tweak the script itself a bit more...but it has been through several drafts so I am hoping they see some potential in it...

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Drop everything but your pants!




Thanks to Jason at Wild Hunt Blog for finding this out...

There is a new music compilation from Mark Coyle!

The new album is called John Barleycorn Reborn and is sure to be amazing.

Other useful links: Woven Wheat Whispers and The Unbroken Circle

Mark's compilations are wonderful, as those of you who own "Lammas Night Laments" already know...This would be a great gift for the fan of pagan, psychedelic or folk music on your gift list...including moi!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Harvest Home



Heading out to Conjure Cinema in central Mass. to watch the mini-series adaptation of Thomas Tryon's excellent novel Harvest Home which was retitled, for the purposes of sounding spooky, "The Dark Secret of Harvest Home."

It's a great series, starring Bette Davis (post stroke), David Ackroyd and a young nubile Rosanna Arquette. I have been wanting to do a new script adaptation of this for a while now (looking into getting the rights) but this one was really pretty well done. But it could definitely be updated for a contemporary audience.

Ya know, it strikes me that one difference between life in the 1970s and life now is, everyone is attached to some sort of electronic device on a nearly constant basis. So a writer has to include things like cell phones and iPods and Blackberries and make sure their characters interact with them. But with this story, where a couple who lives and works in Manhattan decide to move with their teenage daughter to a tiny village in New England that still keeps the "old ways" it is not implausible to think that cell phone coverage might be, well, spotty at best...the better to make sure the hero is not able to call for help from the dark, scythe-shadowed cornfield, ha ha...

I am not sure where Walter got the DVD copy of this, maybe it is a bootleg. It is shown on TV once in a while but I am sure it gets cut a lot by commercials...the original version is 300 minutes long, and we are seeing it in two parts (part 2 next month), so hoping he has the whole thing!

Of course this book is also the basis of my coven's Provider Cycle rituals, along with a few other key texts including Robert Duncan's poems from The Opening of the Field and Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha."

Trying to figure out something appropriate to make for the potluck. If the idea of cooking and eating tongue were not so repulsive...hmm, maybe fruit salad.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Festival of the Trees

I am pleased to announce that I (well. my blog, really) will be hosting this very cool thing in March 2008.

The whole concept of a blog carnival is new to me, I also found one at Treehugger which is a great website in and of itself.

I'll remind you all next spring to send me your favorite links about trees! I think I will probably do an orchard/apple tree theme, surprise, surprise...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Gardening



This is the time of year when I drool over gardening catalogs and try to decide what bulbs I want to plant to come up next spring. Above are tulips I photographed at TulipFest in Albany this past spring. I love tulips and want to plant plenty of them this year. I have gotten a couple of catalogs with "wholesale prices" that offer large amounts of tulips for a good price (50 bulbs for $20) so I am going to get some Cum Laude tulips and maybe some Angelique ones. I will also get some Siberian Squill, and maybe some Kronos hyacinths.

I will also maybe order some things from Gilbert H. Wild, which has great late season specials on daylilies and peonies. UPDATE: I did get some things. Some daylilies (including some red and yellow ones to plant at Brushwood), 3 peonies (3 for $12 special, they send random varieties, hee hee I love surprises), a copper-colored iris, and 3 Asiatic lily bulbs.

Still hoping to create a gardening blog with my pal in Florida, and maybe an additional fiend she says is also interested! But for now, my gardening news will be here or on my Livejournal blog.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I took a trip down to look at the faire...

We're planning to go to the Altamont Fair later today. I have not been to this fair before, although I have attended Old Songs at this fairgrounds a few times. I like fairs, I hope this is a good one. There are a few exhibitions and events, like pig racing, sheep-shearing, a lumberjack event, demolition derby etc. I miss going to the Tunbridge Fair in Vermont which is a real wolrd's fair in the old style, lots of agricultural and animal exhibits, plus plenty of great food, etc. and a maple sugar house where you can buy, then eat, all sorts of treats made from maple syrup.

I love fairs! I am looking forward to going. I have not been to a renaissance faire in a long time, either, mainly because King Richard's was the only one close by and is simply no longer worth going to: too expensive, no longer authentic or fun, crappy vendors (except for a a few die-hard quality ones like Moresca, the others can't afford it anymore).

But I might go to the Maryland Ren Faire to see the Medieval Baebes in October!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yay!

I just got an email: Goblin Fruit is going to publish my poem in their Fall issue!

I had expected to wait several weeks for an answer, but it took less than a week. They asked if I can record myself reading it for them, which I found odd since there were no links for sound files in the previous journal issues (must be a new thing). That seems cool, I like to read my work aloud. T. is going to help me with it since he is more technically-adroit than I am.

My first published poem in a while, it feels good! I have sent out a couple of others, we'll see if they do as well.

hmm, morbid yet fascinating

If you go to www.deathclock.com, it will calculate the day you will die.

My personal death day is January 4th, 2043, which means I will be 80. Not bad I guess.

Gotta get that BMI lower if I want to live longer, though!!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I don't like cherries but...I do like fairies




This is a lovely quote from Emily Dickinson:

“When I sound the fairy call, gather here in silent meeting,
Chin to knee on the orchard wall, cooled with dew and cherries eating.
Merry, merry, take a cherry, mine are sounder, mine are rounder,
Mine are sweeter for the eater, when the dews fall, and you'll be fairies all.”

Trees in trouble



I saw this on Isaac Bonewits' blog Views from the Cyberhenge, and it kinda scared me a little: a map created by Arborday.org, in a post where he suggests buying oceanfront property in northern California... (and wouldn't we all love to do that!)

This is a map showing Zone hardiness changes in the last 17 years and how global warming has affected the growth of trees and plants in those zones.

Hardiness zones are areas mapped to let us gardeners know which plants will do well in the areas we live in. For example, when I lived in Boston, it was Zone 6, but now in Albany I am in a Zone 5a. My pal Wren in Florida lives in Zone 9; this means she can grow all kinds of cool tropical plants and have stuff in bloom year-round, but it also means cold-hardy plants and trees which need a period of cold temperatures for their growth cycle will not grow there at all, like peonies, daffodils, lilacs, apples, pears, etc.

Global warming is causing some zones to get warmer, while a very few (mostly in desert areas) have gotten colder. Global warming, despite the name, does not just make things warmer: it intensifies weather conditions that already exist, hence bigger floods in Bangladesh, more severe droughts and dryspells in Florida, hotter muggier summers in New England, and windier gale storms in Europe.

How does this affect us? Well, in areas where farmers grow certain crops their ability to grow and harvest fruit from trees (like apples, cherries, peaches, pears, oranges, in short ALL THE FRUITS WE LIKE TO EAT) will be compromised, thus affecting their livelihood, and our ability to purchase locally-grown fruit. It is likely Californa will still be able to grow large amounts of produce like it does now, so we will still be able to get many fruits at the supermarket. But in recent years there has been a nationwide movement afoot to support local farms and eat local food for its benefits to our health and local economies, not to mention supporting the farming way of life which helps us all to acknowledge and participate in our most basic connection to nature, the fact that the food that feeds our bodies comes from the earth.

This is important.

My thought is that if this type of farming gets more difficult because of weather changes (as we saw earlier this year when some Northeast apple growers feared crop failure due to an abnormally-warm winter), that more of them will throw in the towel. So we need to support them now if we want the coming difficulty to be lessened.

If any of you have never tasted a locally grown apple, ear of corn or tomato, let me just say there is no comparison to that pale, mealy often tasteless stuff you buy at the supermarket. The freshness is everything. And if you can get organic local produce, so much the better. Even if the health benefits from not ingesting pesticides were not a factor, the superior taste alone should get people to switch to organics. And eating local produce means your immune system gets a boost from the local pollen and bees that helped to pollinate these plants.

It worries me that this warming trend is going to affect trees and crops. I want to try and do what I can to raise awareness. I try to buy local and organic produce, visiting my farmer's markets every week, but my purchases alone won't do much. So I will continue to try and write about these issues and talk to my friends about them.

There are so many problems in the world, that if a compassionate person tried to decide among them it is enough to drive you crazy. I learned long ago when I worked as an environmental activist, you have to choose your battles and put your energy into issues that are important to you, and apply your skills where they are best utilized. So in my activist activities connected to paganism, I have written about media portrayals and the like for years. But I am feeling a need to reach out a bit further and help the planet.

My focus now in environmental activism is on promoting healthy local food, lessening pesticide use, and helping protect trees and orchards. Join me in eating well and preserving the beauty and majesty of nature's wisest plants.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dreams, and Fish

Wow did I have some weird dreams last night. Probably because I watched this movie. But my dreams were nothing like the film, not darak or scary or paranoid, just full of people from my life past and present and all sorts of activity...some sort of trip to a conference or event seemed to be the central event. We (a group of friends and I) stayed variously at a hotel, my house, and my grandmother's house. We also ended up in a very chic, beautiful city where we walked around and visited a farmer's market and other places. Lots of food and coking and eating out in this dream (maybe because I skipped dinner in favor of carby snacks? I definitely woke up feeling some low blood sugar this morning) All in all a fairly pleasant dream. One person that showed up was an old high school friend, Jim R., who wanted to date me in junior high. Of course he looked exactly the same as he did twenty five years ago, as people do in dreams.

In other news, NOAA, my favorite weather website, has created a new site to help people find safe seafood. The site lists many popular types of fish and seafood and gives the latest information on mercury levels and other contaminants, as well as overfishing and supply levels. I love fish but rarely eat it because of fear of heavy metal contamination, so maybe this will change that.

Another gorgeous day today, perfect for some gardening. T. was too tired last night for meteor gazing, so we skipped it. Oh well, maybe next year! Hope we have a new moon for it again.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Appleless

I found this lovely journal online:

Fairy Tale Review

A piece by Aimee Bender in their "Blue Issue" is called "Appleless" and I thought it would be a lovely thing to share on this blog. I am also adding this journal's link to my list. Oh, and I think I will have to send them some writing.

Here is a sample, visit the website for the rest:

Appleless
Aimee Bender

I once knew a girl who wouldn't eat apples. She wove her walking around groves and orchards. She didn't even like to look at them. They're all mealy, she said. Or else too cheeky, too bloomed. No, she stated again, in case we had not heard her, our laps brimming with Granny Smiths and Red Deliciouses. With Galas and Spartans and yellow Golden Globes. But we had heard her, from the very first; we just couldn't help offering again. Please, we pleaded, eat. Cracking our bites loudly, exposing the dripping wet white inside.

It's unsettling to meet people who don't eat apples.

Sunny day, summer is slipping away...

For someone like me, who enjoys observing the passing of seasons on nearly a daily basis, it's hard to choose a particular time of year that stands out as a favorite. But in addition to the days of late November, after the leaves fall but before the snow comes, and the bright, colorful days of autumn, and the damp, fragrant days of early spring, I do love August, which I think of as "high summer." The colors of green in the landscape, seen in the tree-covered mountains of New York state, have reached their pinnacle of vibrancy and have begun their dying fall. This always seems to me to happen right around Lammas, coinciding with the time we think of as "harvest" when produce begins ot become plentiful and will be so until October. It is the beginning of abundancy, yet also marks the start of a decline. The fullness and deep green of the leaves will continue to lessen and fade as we journey towards winter. But I try to enjoy each day for its own pleasure.

Some of my most common instances of deja vu happen at this time of year, because I recall so many times as a child being struck by the peacefulness and beauty of these August days, particularly late afternoon, when you could start to smell the scent of barbecue grills on the air (back then it was all charcoal of course), or hear the sound of lawnmowers or sprinklers (nowadays people have noisy weed-whackers too and I do not look forward to the proliferation of leaf blowers a couple of month sfrom now: one of th emost obnoxious and lazy inventions of the 20th century)...I'd also be reminded that these idle afternoons would soon end when I went back to school, and that would make me a bit wistful. Little did I know, the feel of a carefree summer afternoon would become a rarity once I became an adult and entered the working world.

Why is it that so many of us consider August the "end" of summer? I mean, September brings such gorgeous weather, often as hot and sunny as July! I think it is because we all associate it with the few weeks left of "freedom" before going back to school. It's funny how being raised in that timeframe, which follows the seasons so closely and consistently, is a habit and memory that is so hard to shake off after many years/ Of course if you're a teacher it remains the case even more than usual...

Not teaching this summer gave me lots of free time to work on my garden, etc. but I'd have preferred the paycheck! Now that I am going back to work and will be commuting again I am at least thankful I only have to be in Boston for a couple of days instead of four. Should make it easier to continue to get some work done on our house and yard. Other than working outside we have not done much on the indoors this summer. But I have really enjoyed our time spent camping at Brushwood, and having some unstructured days in which to do whatever I want at home, indoors or out. This makes me strongly consider the possibility of trying to work from home once I stop commuting to teach. Being able to work in the garden for a couple of hours each day, and a few hours of work writing or researching, instead of doing some 9 to 5 somewhere, would be a much healthier lifestyle for me, and for T. too, since he only works every fourth day.

Missed the meteor showers last night as it was cloudy, but tonight there may be another chance. I will make fresh peach ice cream today, and do some gardening, and go for a long walk with the dog. Then tonight I will pack us some snacks as we head to the mountains in search in shooting stars. And you, what will you do when you get home from work today?

Here's to the joys of summer and enjoying them in all their sweet languor...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Perseid Meteor Showers

Earlier this week, the forecast for our area was for clear skies at night; but now it has changed and we have cloudiness and chance of showers expected!

This will interfere with watching the meteor showers tonight.

Hoping we might still be able to see some meteors tomorrow night...but am regreting not getting out to Brushwood for the sky show, as I think it is clear out there.

This happened to us last year: we drove to the mountains but the clouds obscured much of our chances to see the show; but we did see a few good ones. Also, my partner has to work tomorrow morning, so we can't stay up too late. According to an article from the BBC, it will peak Monday and be visible into Tuesday morning. Here is hoping for clear skies!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Green Egg on line

Green Egg magazine is back, but in online format only. Which is good news, and I am happy it's back. I went to a workshop/talk Oberon had at Starwood briefly (I had to get to something else going on at the same time), and the webmasters of the new zine talked about the site.

I looked at it for a bit, as they have provided a free sneak peek on the website as they try to get people excited to pay for a $13 subscription (for an online zine?)

The article topics look pretty good, but the online layout leaves a lot to be desired. The articles simply are not very readable. They are single spaced in bold font, and for some inexplicable reason, the text is all centered! This makes it very hard to read.

I wish Green Egg all the best but before I am willing to pay money to subscribe to an e-zine, it needs to be in a format that is easy on the eyes and readable.

Indian Ladders



This is an orchard in New Salem, NY, not far from us. An old, family-owned orchard (the family name is the same name as our street!) with many acres of orchards. You can pick your own apples there, or strawberries or other fruits in season. They also have a great seleection of local foods and goodies, and the line for fresh cider donuts in the fall is always out the door on weekends!

This place represents a dying way of life in this country. Please support your local orchards!

The orchards at Indian Ladders.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Pagan "Community" and Witch Wars

I remember having conversations with F & W over the years, on how sad and frustrating it is that the pagan community seems to have no interest in achieving any sort of unity or common ground. People just love their witch wars too much, it seems.

Well, now that I am embroiled in one, it drives the point home even further. I am sure it will not get too teribly public, since it is only some dumb slob's blog we are talking about, but he has drawn a lot of attention to himself by engaging in some witch-hunt-like tactics trying to destroy the reputations of two community elders.

I have always wondered at the efforts of pagans to draw attention to themselves via the internet... I mean, it is one thing when someone actually has somethig beneficial to offer: good writing, or art, or humor, or teachings of some kind. But when one is offering negativity and arrogance and personal attacks, why do they think people want to listen to that?

I guess I am no better, in my attempts to defend victims of such attacks, I engage in the same tactics to denigrate the attacker. But this does seem justified to me, especialy when the victims cannot speak for themselves in the same forum in which they are attacked.