Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blessing the New Year, under the holly bough

I know some pagans consider Samhain the "Celtic New Year." I have never understood this. I always thought it was someone's idea of how to make life as a modern witch even more "authentic" by co-opting or creatively adjusting actual history and folklore to suit their own preferences. And if one were to choose a pagan holiday other than, say, Yule, to celebrate the new year, what more "witchy" one than Samhain? In any case, I'd love to know if there is any any sort of historical, cultural or folkloric basis for this belief. Any historians of our fair spiritual path out there who know the answer? (Maybe a perusal of one of Hutton's volumes is in order).

My own coven celebrates a Rite of the New Year, but we also have the welcoming of the new year "built in" to our Yule festival rite. There is a poem by Charles Mackay, collected by our heirophant and ritual author, which suits our purpose, and it is spoken three times through as everyone, singly or with a chosen partner, walks beneath a holly bough suspended from the ceiling in the center of the circle. It is a renewal of the trust and strength of our relationships with others, a reminder to forgive others, to stop dwelling on misfortune and move forward with hope. It seems especially pertinent this year for me.

Ye who have scorn'd each other
Or injured friend or brother,
In this fast fading year;
Ye who, by word or deed,
Hath made a kind heart bleed,
Come gather here.
Let sinn'd against and sinning,
Forget their strife's beginning;
Be links no longer broken,
Be sweet forgiveness spoken,
Under the holly bough.

Ye who have lov'd each other,
Sister and friend and brother,
In this fast fading year:
Mother, and sire, and child,
Young man and maiden mild,
Come gather here;
And let your hearts grow fonder,
As memory shall ponder
Each past unbroken vow.
Old loves and younger wooing,
Are sweet in the renewing,
Under the holly bough.

Ye who have nourished sadness,
Estranged from hope and gladness,
In this fast fading year.
Ye with o'er-burdened mind
Made aliens from your kind,
Come gather here.

Let not the useless sorrow
Pursue you night and morrow,
If e'er you hoped—hope now—
Take heart: uncloud your faces,
And join in our embraces
Under the holly bough.

May your new year bring hope, prosperity and peace.

(Here is a link to a gorgeous image from Flickr user Brenda Anderson, who entitled the photo "Apple Holly" for its resemblance to holly berries.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Winter

Winter Uplands

The frost that stings like fire upon my cheek,
The loneliness of this forsaken ground,
The long white drift upon whose powdered peak
I sit in the great silence as one bound;
The rippled sheet of snow where the wind blew
Across the open fields for miles ahead;
The far-off city towered and roofed in blue
A tender line upon the western red;
The stars that singly, then in flocks appear,
Like jets of silver from the violet dome,
So wonderful, so many and so near,
And then the golden moon to light me home--
The crunching snowshoes and the stinging air,
And silence, frost, and beauty everywhere.

~ Archibald Lampman

(photo from user "Muffet" on Flickr.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Yule!

Bright blessings of the returning sun to all! May the solstice sun warm you through the ice, snow and wind, and bring you light in the darkness.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Christmas Carol

I simply never get sick of this story. This season so far I have seen the version starring George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge (and Edward Woodward as the Ghost of Christmas resent!), and now am watching Patrick Stewart as Scrooge and Richard E. Grant as Bob Cratchit.

But my all time favorite version? Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol! The animated musical version. It's simply wonderful.

It just occurred to me: with all the wonderful actors who have played this role over the years, is it similar to King Lear for actors of a certain age? You haven't really had a proper acting career until you've played the Scrooge?

I also appreciate the pagan sensibility that the Ghost of Christmas Present has; he's a merry, Father Christmas type of figure, holly in his beard, furs twinkling with snow, and lives (literally) in the moment. Woodward is especially wonderful in this part, and they make him appear about eight feet tall!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lots of 23 news this week...

This week's news headlines with the number 23 in them:

Ferry Accident Kills 23 in the Phillippines

23 Pirates Captured in Somalia

And in sports: a guy with the number 23 on his jersey and an exciting game that had 23 in the score, and another, and one event with 23 Saves! (I don't know what sport either of these is and the articles did not say).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Winterfest, Indian Ladders Farm

After a last-minute suggestion while we were chatting on Facebook, my pal Kate agreed to come to Indian Ladders Farm for their winter activity day. Most of the fun was indoors (music, Santa, cookie decorating and crafts) but I wanted to go on the orchard walk with the owner, Peter Ten Eyck. We got a late start and got a we bit lost at first, but we arrived just in time for the walk! (It had started late, lucky for us).

It was very cold; and some of the folks who started out on the walk turned back before it was over (a group of developmentally-disabled adults and their helpers--I salute them for being troupers, it was freezing and windy in the valley!). Ten Eyck told us all about the place, where he'd lived his entire 70 years. With humor and old-school wisdom, he talked about the property's glacier-formed rocks, its trees and most of all its history as former pasture land (some of the parcels, divided by rock walls, had hills and valleys forty feet high!), and its past orchard lives growing pears and plums and heirloom apples. Much of the former pasture land had been planted with pines, and some of it has been reclaimed by florabunda roses and other thorny shrubs.

One old orchard planted in the 1970s with heirloom trees was being "brought back" and Ten Eyck listed the varieties: Snow, Spitzenberg,Old Smokehouse, Sheepnose, Chenango Strawberry. I asked about when they might start to blossom so I could come photograph them. He described the time when the shad trees bloom in spring in the forest : "first there's nothing then suddenly there are white blossoms everywhere; the apple blossoms appear about a week later." The timing can vary each year depending on weather.

After a brisk and invigorating walk, we returned by way of the barn and saw some goats and sheep in the yard. There was also a huge Highland cow named Rosie (I thought it was male at first since it had huge horns), looking like a huge stuffed animal, regarding us from under its shaggy forelock. Ten Eyck called it a "Yuppie cow" bought a few years ago by his daughter and son-in-law.The furry animals looked as if the cold didn't bother them at all.

We had hot cider and delicious homemade Knudsen caramels in the cafe, then bought some goodies to bring home (I got a few apples, some peach preserves, cheddar cheese and a half dozen fresh cider doughnuts. A wonderful way to greet the coming winter and bid farewell to the season of harvest. The farm store is open through Christmas so I hope to get out there one more time, as I forgot to bring my camera! But Kate took some great photos on her cell phone!

Apple photos (A Chenango Strawberry above a Spitzenberg) from Apple Journal and Trees of Antiquity.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Amsterdam to become less fun, more safe?

This article from BBC news discusses the plan to close down many brothels and coffee shops in Amsterdam, to try and drive out organized crime from the city center.

I had never realized this was a problem there; Holland has always seemed to be relatively crime-free to me. I only got to spend a few hours in Ametsrdam, during the day and on a cold autumn day. I'd love to go back some day. What a beautiful city!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Welcome December!

the new orchard image for the blog this week is by photographer J. Scott Bovitz.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sustainable Farming Grants

The Garden Rant Blog (listed in my favorites) featured a link to these grant opportunities for sustainable farming initiatives all over the country. Go ahead: I dare ya to grow food and help your community!

I am going to look into what is involved in turning an empty urban lot into a public garden space...we have so many of them in Albany. Even better would be to turn it into a vegetable garden where people can grow and eat their produce, and maybe even sell it in local markets.

I spend half my days gardening or thinking about it. Mostly flowers. But having grown up in a family that grew much of our food, and having really enjoyed the fruits of my labor this past summer (mmmm, tomatoes, basil, parsley, dill), I know it is something I will try to do on a slightly larger scale from now on. Home-grown food is the future, people.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Heirloom Apple Poem

Thanks to my friend Anne of the Green Leanings blog, who shared this wonderful poem with me. It's by Emma Lee, and celebrates the quirky, musical names and remarkable qualities of many heirloom apples from the region of Devon, near Cornwall in southern England.


He was tall and slender like a Longstem,
eyes soft of grey-Blue Sweet, alert, witty brain,
blemish-free, clear, pale skin like Hollow Core,
hair blue-black as the stem of Loral Drain,

restrained with a Dufflin’s subtlety,
the opposite of a Hoary Morning,
well-respected - unlike Slack Ma Girdle -
our hero composed as a Keswick Cooling.

Our heroine has grace of Sour Natural,
the fairness of Jacob’s Strawberry,
had rejected suitors like Johnny Voun,
and Johnny Andrews, such was her beauty.

For the rest of this delightful poem, go to the Lost Stones blog.

(photo from

Monday, November 17, 2008

What does "Green" Mean?

Okay, somehow I missed the launch of the Green is Universal website last November. Now they're celebrating their second Green Week on MSNBC. (One anchor recently made the point that Ebay and Craigslist are "green" because they encourage recycling--I totally agree.) I guess for a giant media corporation to show its concern about environmental issues is a good thing, but how much of it is pandering to consumers with deep pockets? Let's face it, for the most part, people interested in these issues tend to be liberals and liberals tend to be urban and often well-heeled. This is not to denigrate all the wonderful liberal Democrats, Libertarians, Greens and unaffiliated folks out there who are trying every day to live their lives in an environmentally-responsible way and have done for years.

But have we not heard and seen all this before? "Green" might as well be a coat of toxic paint. Remember when the lawncare giant ChemLawn changed their name to Tru-Green? Did they suddenly stop using dangerous pesticides and herbicides? No! A number of large manufacturers are claiming to create and market "greener" products (like Clorox's new green cleaning sprays, or Clairol's Natural Instincts haircolor). But what about smaller companies that have been making these things for years, like Simply Green, and Arm & Hammer, and Trader Joe's, Burt's Bees, The Body Shop, and good old Dr. Bronner's?

Sadly some of these companies are no longer the small concerns they used to be; Burt's Bees has been sold to Clorox. That's right, the company that used to be owned and run by a former beekeeper is now under the auspices of the biggest bleach makers on the planet. The wide range of body care products made from herbs and natural plant oils has given way to more make-up and a smaller range of choices. The Body Shop, the UK-based international company that was a fine model of environmentally-friendly practices including using fair-trade ingredients, was sold two years ago to L'Oreal, a big traditional cosmetics company. These changes in ownership affect products; The Body Shop no longer carries many of its original products made from simple natural ingredients and now focuses on "home fragrance" and cosmetics.

So I guess what I am wondering is, will the green revolution ever really happen? Or is it all just a big scam designed to make rich corporations richer? Isn't environmental responsibility connected to economic responsibility too? I know one can chose to have one's investment portfolio concentrate in "green" companies. What would happen to our economy if more people did this?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sarah Palin on migrant labor and apples

This article from the Reuters blog mentions a pre-election conversation the Vice Presidential candidate had with a Pennsylvania apple grower, in which the Alaska governor assumes his biggest worry must be Chinese imports. But in truth the grower is more concerned about Washington State apples, which represent 60% of the apples grown in the U.S. The Pennsylvania orchardist expressed concern that he could not find enough migrant labor to pick the harvest, and no other local workers could be found who would do it.

The comments this article sparks, about immigration and migrant labor, among other things, is interesting.

In other related news, this video from looks at a similar labor shortage in Europe during crucial periods of fruit harvesting.

This article details the history of migrant labor and fruit harvests in Washington State. And, from 2006, an artic le on the importance of migrant labor in the NY State apple harvest, in Poughkeepsie.

I am of the opinion that jobs should be given to whoever needs them, and in this case, whoever wants them. What troubles me is that, with such high levels of unemployment is so many areas, how is it that people are unwilling to pick apples for a living? I honestly believe one reason we have been looking at the erosion of small farm concerns in this country is that people just don't see this kind of work as proper employment any more. If it's not in an office or a shopping mall, it's somehow not worthy of us. This is silly. What happened to good, honest, physical labor? And what better work is there than growing healthy food?

BTW, the new blog image is from Flickr photographer LinnMarr:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Willie Nelson sez to Obama: It's all about food!

Pro-pot, pro-farm, awesomely-cool country music icon Willie Nelson has posted an open letter to President-Elect Obama on the Good Food Movement. This movement has swelled and thrived just fine without government interference, but now, Nelson insists, is the time for the federal government to create policies that support what many in America think will save out ailing country and its farms and foodways.

Supporting local farms bolsters economies, provides fresher food for everyone, reduces use of fossil fuels (and thereby may lower food prices in the long run), and preserves small farms (which have disappeared at alarming rates across America. Family farms also embrace alternative fuel sources and environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices.

Check out the many links in the article (yes I blogged it and sneakily made you link to it, ha ha) to learn more about family farms and how to support local food.

It's one thing for journalist and food activist Michael Pollan to offer advice on food policy to the White House via the New York Times, but when a celebrity and known mover and shaker (remember Farm Aid?) does it, let's hope it has a more populist impact.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

True Samhain: November 7th

Since Jason on the Wild Hunt Blog linked to last year's post on True Samhain, I thought it would be a good idea to post here with this year's update. True Samhain, or the time when the Sun enters 15 degrees of Scorpio, the true cross quarter, is November 7th.

So those of you who want to follow up your Hallowe'en celebrations with a more somber, calmer observance apart from the high-energy (and undeniable power and cultural passion) of Hallowe'en, you now have another day to do so, nearly a week later!

Blessings to you all in this season of reflection, harvest, and anticipation of darkness.

(image from

Today's featured blog: Fruits and Votes!

Seems appropriate. And the author once contacted me because of eerie similarities in our blogs (not subject matter so much but terms we chose, etc.) and I have linked to it for a while now. It's a great site and has some helpful and sane info for those wringing their hands today, on this most significant occasion of electing our next leader.

Don't fuck it up, people. Go vote. Vote your conscience, vote strategically, vote out of spite, but VOTE. It's your duty.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Orchards dying out?

I found this distressing article from September about rare and heirloom varieties of orchard fruit dying out in the British Isles. This represents a tragic loss not only of fruit varieties but also of habitat for virtually millions of living things.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why the first snow matters

The first snow. Dry and powdery, wet and heavy, sparkling, dirty. Nothing is the same now, not for another few months.

You're a New Englander, or a New Yorker. For you, the first snow may be banal, or exciting, depending on many variables: your penchant for romanticism (that first touch of white is an epiphany, a signal of transformation), your love of nature (seasonal transitions are times of sensual pleasure), or your occupation (postal carriers may heave a general sigh).

It may come early, in October, or puzzlingly late, in December. It may color the holidays with pixie dust or rent them asunder by making travel dangerous. It may coax you to buy winter sports equipment, or invest in a Pendleton wool coat, or make you yearn for sandy beaches. Snowfall at night can be magic, or terrifying. It can quicken your steps as you walk through falling flakes towards a fire-lit room or twinkling nightclub. It can slow the wheels of the car as you drive into flickering walls of white, wondering if you're seeing what you're seeing. It reddens your cheeks and whitens your hair.

The first snow makes beer colder, apple pie spicier, lovemaking tenderer, walking to work more memorable. The first snow lets us know we're in for a few weeks of Nature's impulsive and naughty tricks. The first snow makes us feel wrapped in warmth and ancient human fear. The first snow is inevitable. And when at last the time comes when we know we've seen the last of it until winter returns, we face the yellow sun with relief, and perhaps a bit of sad regret. Now, we say, now will live outdoors. But we might have done so before, wrapped in cloaks, clutching pots of embers, bellies full from autumn feasts.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

In other blogging news...

I am now the "Boston Nutrition Examiner" at It's actually shocking how many categories of examiner they have on topics that, to me, seem to be really closely related. I mean, they also have one on "food and drink" and one on "organic food" and one on "food culture." I mean, can not all these be covered by the same person? Oh well, at least I have the green light to cover green living, too.

Anyway, I have just started out but hope to turn this into a lucrative (as I am told blogging can be, potentially) and fun thing, so please to be reading, sharing and subscribing to me! And thanks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How to Flirt with Survivalism

I am finding this topic intriguing these days. Today's headline offers the context of the current economic crisis for the reason all sorts of people are looking for ways to squirrel away necessities for the coming...troubles. But obviously some people have gone well beyond flirtation to courtship and flat-out marriage proposals.

What we pagans like to call "homesteading" is starting to become one aspect of survivalism. The notion that survivalists are all gun-crazy bullet hoarders who are stockpiling antibiotics, freeze-dried eggs and bottled water has given way to the idea that some of us who find that kind of stereotype disturbing are actually engaged in the same kind of preparations, albeit with less emphasis on guns and more on food storage. The antibiotics might translate as a colloidal silver making machine (built from an inexpensive kit), the freeze-dried eggs become canned tomato sauce from our gardens and dried beans and lentils, and the bottled water replaced by a water filtration system.

Nowadays it's not about waiting for Armageddon; it's wondering if the looming shortages of everything from petroleum to coal to food, not to mention the possible freezing of the banking system, may start to directly affect our ability to procure food, medical care and other basic needs. So liberals as well as conservatives are united in wanting to make sure there is enough food on hand for their families and maybe some neighbors in need. I like how the article acknowledges the different approaches to survivalism that people with differing socio-political attitudes might embrace. It also mentions something which I had suspected was happening but that other articles on survivalism had not mentioned: people are starting to hoard gold and silver as eagerly as canned beans and propane.

Those of us who live in the Northeast have been told for many years we need to keep a few days (if not weeks) worth of food in our homes in case of severe winter weather. Of course the majority of people don't bother, due to lack of space or money, or simply not thinking it's necessary. I for one don't really buy that worldwide food shortages are imminent, but there is no denying that more and more people are interested in growing and storing their own food. I have not seen this level of home-based agriculture and canning since I was a kid. People used to do it to save money, and of course there is that impetus now, too. But it's also about preparedness, the notion that there may come a day, and not too far off, where, for one reason or another, we won't be able to just head to the grocery store or phone for a pizza, and having some non-perishable food on hand will be not just comforting but mandatory.

Ever seen the wonderful and hilarious French film "Delicatessen"? It's based on a "Soylent Green" principle but with the addition of an underground (literally) band of seed hoarding vegetarian mercenaries. The notion of a food shortage in food-obsessed France was, at that time, nasty futuristic fun. But now?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Apple Picking

We had a very successful day at Indian Ladders yesterday. The place was packed with other like-minded people; who doesn't want to go pick apples on a sunny beautiful fall day? Unlike last year's adventure, when dwindling supplies of apples made people crabby, there were plenty of ripe apples practically falling from the trees. We filled a bushel bag in about five minutes with gorgeous Empires and Jonagolds. I had wanted to get some Golden Delicious but we didn't have any more room. I hope to go back and pick again maybe later in the season. We also found a handful of huge Red Delicious apples someone had dropped on the way back to the car and I grabbed a couple of those, too. I normally dislike this variety since its supermarket version is alway bland and mealy. But I've had fresh, fragrant crunchy ones fresh from an orchard when I was a kid, so I knew these would be worth a try.

The fall foliage color was simply stunning. The orchards lie at the base of the Helderbergs, and a more picture perfect fall day could not have been ordered. We watched for houses for sale in the area, and there are quite a few. But an unsettling number of McCain/Palin signs in peoples' yards; WTF? At least compared to Obama/Biden signs. Then again most people do not have signs in their yards so who knows what their leanings are?

Now--What to do with all these apples? I still have tons of apples from Brushwood (not as ripe and lovely as these, but all organic!), and now another bushel. I have been storing them on the front porch, but with the weather getting so warm I hope they don't get soft. Maybe I will put them in the basement. I am not much of an applesauce or apple butter person. I'll definitely make some apple crisp. I have been looking into apple wine making and definitely want to give this a go. I still need to get a few bits of equipment: an air lock, a corking machine, and probably a big glass carboy. And the wine yeast.

We also stood in line to get fresh cider doughnuts. Yum. Worth the wait. I had three in the car, warm and soft and covered with sugar. I also bought some whole wheat pancake mix and a jar of red raspberry preserves. The farm also had Pick Your Own raspberries yesterday but when I asked about them the lady behind the counter said there might not be many left so late in the day. Must plan for this next year, and call ahead and get there early.

I enjoy seeing so many people enjoying this yearly ritual. The kids love running around and playing in the orchards. People can;t wait to open their jugs of cider and swig from them standing in the sunshine. There are Clydesdale horses pulling a wagon, and hayrides and a petting zoo, plus people picnicking or just sitting on the ground amid the orchards. I don't like seeing so many apples with single bites taken out of them and discarded on the ground, but amid such bounty I guess people think nature is an endless fount of abundance. Yesterday, this seemed very true. Here's to a beautiful harvest season.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Gardening Day

I must have gardened for about seven hours today! First I worked at Emack & Bolio's for over 3 hours. I dug out a bunch of those horrible invasive daylilies (the ubiquitous ones that grow like crazy everywhere). I then planted some tulips (red and yellow,not my color choice for sure) and daffodils, and 3 red lilies. Then I created a shade garden bed with some lovely old bricks they had lying around. The bricks were huge and had words on them like "Catskill" and "Tidewater." I dug out all the grass in the oval garden bed, then added three bags of compost-y topsoil. I planted daffodils, forget-me-nots and some hostas, plus one astilbe and some ferns. The owner Amy and I talked about what to do for the side of the building, which really just needs all the old shrubs removed. I decided to just plant some tulips to spruce it up for spring and then maybe the area will get an overhaul next year. I filled two big lawn bags of debris. I rewarded myself with a well-deserved ice cream cone: a scoop each of peach and pumpkin; yum-o-rama.

Then I came home and planted the rest of my daffodils. The usual: digging out roots before planting. Sometimes I hate my yard and all the damn weedy roots that grow everywhere. I also planted some bi-color grape hyacinths and some drumstick alliums.

I look forward to planting my tulips and getting some more to complement the purple ones I already bought. I'm trying not to spend much on them. I have a budget to buy plants and bulbs for Emack's and also a client in Boston, and if I get large amounts of them I can grab a few for myself. I will probably get this collection and it will be enough to plant everywhere I need to plant things...or maybe this one although Amy does not want any pink flowers at Emack's. Maybe these? But I sure don't need 100 crocus bulbs. Of course what I really want is this one but it's kind of pricey and I don't need all those daffodils.

Maybe I should just get tulips by type. Like 50 of these, and 50 of these and 50 of these and 50 of--well there goes my budget! This collection here is a good deal: 300 tulips for $95. And it has all the colors I need to please everyone, including some for me.

Any thoughts? Help me decide!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

poem to welcome October and bid September adieu


Sweet summer is gone; they have laid her away--
The last sad hours that were touched with her grace--
In the hush where the ghosts of the dead flowers play;
The sleep that is sweet of her slumbering space
Let not a sight or a sound erase
Of the woe that hath fallen on all the lands:
Gather, ye dreams, to her sunny face,
Shadow her head with your golden hands.

The woods that are golden and red for a day
Girdle the hills in a jewelled case,
Like a girl's strange mirth, ere the quick death slay
The beautiful life that he hath in chase.
Darker and darker the shadows pace
Out of the north to the southern sands,
Ushers bearing the winter's mace:
Keep them away with your woven hands.

The yellow light lies on the wide wastes gray,
More bitter and cold than the winds that race,
From the skirts of the autumn, tearing away,
This way and that way, the woodland lace.
In the autumn's cheek is a hectic trace;
Behind her the ghost of the winter stands;
Sweet summer will moan in her soft gray place:
Mantle her head with your glowing hands.


Till the slayer be slain and the spring displace
The might of his arms with her rose-crowned bands,
Let her heart not gather a dream that is base:
Shadow her head with your golden hands.

Archibald Lampman

(photo by Phil Childs)

Apple wine

(New blog image is of Gays Mills orchards in Wisconsin)

So, we picked a bunch of apples at Brushwood, I really want to make wine out of them. But I don't want to invest in a bunch of expensive doodads. I remember my Dad used to make dandelion wine with nothing special. Is it possible to make wine with stuff lying around, apart from having proper bottles and corks, and the necessary yeast? Anyone have experience with this?

If I can't make wine I have to think of something to do with these apples. I have been including them in my morning juicing ritual.

Coming soon: photos of Harvest Moon weekend and cider pressing!

Friday, September 26, 2008

busy week

Just's been a crazy week.

Laptop achieved! I still have to rescue the data from my old one and get MSOffice installed. The new Ipod has been a fun toy and I look forward to getting the application that allows me to record voice dictation notes and then save them as text on my computer.

Harvest Moon at Brushwood was a great success. We made gallons and gallons of delicious cider from organic apples. Yum! The ritual and bonfire were also wonderful and there was a bountiful potluck feast. Everyone is already looking forward to next year! I will post photos as soon as I have them.

Sadly, my cat Trivia passed away on Wednesday morning at 3 am. I have a write-up about her on Livejournal, to be found here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

computer kaput

I dropped my Mac laptop and the hard drive is toast. I am looking into getting the hard drive repaired or have the data retrieved soon, but until I can do that my computer access is going to be somewhat limited.

Fongers crossed: some dear friends may be offering to get me a new Mac as a business expense and tax write-off. I think, anyway, the phone message was a bit unclear. This would be wonderful, since I cannot afford a new Mac right now, and would at best only be able to get a refurbished one, repair the old one IF it is repairable, or get a piece-of-crap PC.

Positive techno energy welcomed!

Update: My wonderful friends are getting me a new MacBookPro. It's being shipped here. i am speechless with gratitude and feel very blessed. They buy and maintain their own home computers as business expenses too and since I write for their website and have done for years they saw no reason not to help me out in my time of need, because they can. Wow. I grew up in a family where generosity was highly valued and now I can appreciate this lesson.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Can I just say...

I freaking LOVE this blog. I sometime go a few days or even weeks without reading it so I can gorge on its simple beauty and deft poetry.

The ginger cats and their cohorts feel like a part of my daily life, even though they're thousands of miles away. They remind me of how important my own silly pets are to me.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

prose poem for September

Autumn Landscape with Tossed Hair

I wanted a grey day, the beggar said, one with huntsmen lurking in the bracken, willowy girls in wet dresses skipping through the bogs, ginger cats slipping down silken copses to dispatch voles and snakes and buckets brimming with mist-ripened plums.

I remember the cries of the blackbirds, the poet mused, in the heat of the afternoon, swirling over the burning cornstalks, black liquid spirals tracing otherworlds beneath blue clouds gleaming, disappearing into the ravine, into imminent twilight, where brown armies of scurrying ants and black covens of twitching cicadas converge, oblivious, waiting in the whispering dark for dew.

I wanted the smoldering brush, the husband said, the winnowing baskets and wagons piled with pumpkins and leeks, the last sheaf of grain held high by the harvest queen, lips like wineskins plump and red, copper bracelet flashing like green fire.

I know the old ones scythed and hacked these fields, the wife insisted, scraping wheat and barley for winter stores, salting the meat of blood moon-slaughtered cattle for Yule's feasts, blessing the horses with cups of cider, rolling russets into the bins and hoarding twists of sugar between candle boxes.

A frightful day in the dull countryside is what I wanted, the child said, one that should end as it begins, with tinkling lamps, our skin scented with sour sweat, hot chocolate, by the fire with cheese and bread, songs sung in my head at sunrise, offered as blessings from travelers at midnight, sending us off to sleep with melodies, memories, circling like crows at dusk, hawks of morning.

We go to Safeways now, but it still tastes like magic if we walk 'round the garden three times before supper.

Friday, August 29, 2008

New Moon, Farewell August

We're off to Brushwood Folklore Center this weekend, and with the clear skies in the forecast and the new moon fast approaching, it should be a perfect weekend for star gazing! The moon is in Leo, the sunniest sign of the zodiac, so it seems fitting that summer's last gasp is a loud lion's roar, giving way to Virgo, often represented as Demeter or Ceres, the goddess of grain, or Pomona, goddess of fruit and orchards. (The Pomona mask image is by artist Lauren Raine, a frequent visitor to Brushwood.)

We missed the Perseid Meteor Showers this year because it was so cloudy here. So a sky full of stars, all the brighter for no moonlight, will be a delightful way to say farewell to August. I love late summer; and unlike a lot of people I don't think summer "ends" when September arrives. Some of the nicest, warmest, sunniest weather of the summer occurs in September.

September is summer tinged with cold, and gold. It's summer packing its woolens for autumn, still clothed in its holiday linens. September is fragrant with the perfumes of harvest, awash in the lush Arcadian colors of meadows and forests, sun-dappled, dreaming of the bloom of frost on its lawns and leaves. September wants a jug of golden wine and a hearty loaf to sate its parched august heart.

(Images from, Cafe Tarot, and Apple photo from

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Well! It's About Time! (European Witch Pardoned)

200 years after the last so-called "witch" was executed in Europe (Switzerland, to be exact), she has been pardoned. Read all about it here.

I wonder if this woman really did try to practice the magic she is accused of having perpetrated? Or was she just another victim of hysteria, prejudice, mean-spirited pettiness? What went through her head before she was killed? Did she believe she was dying a martyr's death?

May she rest in peace, along with everyone else that has ever been executed for crimes they did not commit.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

wedding pics!

Here we are with Burchard, the wonderful guy who delivers our firewood; he showed up just before the ceremony started.

Here we are during the ceremony:
Here we are in the grove after the ceremony. (If it had not rained all night we would have had the ceremony here; but it was a bit too muddy for folks in wheelchairs, etc.)

Here we are cutting our yummy cake!

MMMMM.....cake....and cupcakes!

Here we are at the reception with my new brother and sister-in-law.

More photos in this album on Photobucket. I am new to this so they are not all edited and resized or in any special order.

I will be uploading another set of them taken by our friend Roy soon.

Monday, August 18, 2008

help a friend with kidney disease

My pal Brent has put out an appeal to raise money for kidney research, hoping to benefit himself and thousands of others with kidney disease. Won't you pledge a measly $10 (the cost of two pints of Guinness or three cappuccinos) to help?

(message from Brent)

As some of you know.. I have Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) and have
just been put on the transplant list. This starts a 5-7 year wait for
a new kidney. Until then, I can just take care of myself and try to
put off dialysis for as long as possible.

Currently, there is no cure for PKD. There is only treatment in the
form of dialysis and transplant. I don't believe this needs to be the
case. That is why I've signed up for the North East Ohio PKD walk pn
9/21. I want to raise $1,000 for research. I need your help.

So- what can you do? Well.. its easy...
The easiest thing you can do is go to


and donate. I think it would be really cool to get 100 people to
donate $10 each. Yeah.. that's my goal. 100 people @ $10.

What? You don't think that's enough.. ok.. then how about this...
let 10 other people know about this little project. You see... I
don't know 100 people's email addresses. So, I can't send this to 100
people myself. So, forward this. Cajole and embarrass people until
they donate. You know the drill.. pretend you like me and want me to
stay around a little bit.
(tell ya what, if ya raise the 1000 yourself, I'll never bother you
again, deal?)

Seriously.. any help you can give (financial or networking) is
greatly appreciated.



Sunday, August 17, 2008

A poem for summer's dying fall

This stunning poem appears in the summer issue of Goblin Fruit. It's possessed of a lusty pagan worldview, dying vegetation god-style, and it makes me want to dive into the change of the seasons head first.

The Seasons' Dying

by Samantha Henderson

Summer dies warm in the brown arms of Fall
who lays her down easy
by his cool streams, takes the name Indian
Summer and runs.
Calloused barefoot, beloved of apples and witches,
his eyes are tawny and green trees turn glorious
musk at his touch. He does not flinch
when Winter slays him. Winter, warrior,
banners streaming white and blue,
dons the medieval robes of the last small Ice Age
and metes out justice. 'Til Spring
grows from the foot of his throne, twines about his limbs,
and tickles him to death.
Born of melted ice and mud,
weakest-seeming of the seasons,
she makes the aching buds burst.
She kisses her favorite frogs awake
who cannot save her from Queen Summer who,
passes her hand before her face,
closes her eyes with bright copper pennies,
and covers her with cloth of gold.
Summer strides,
eating peaches, until weary,
she faces handsome Autumn, walks into his embrace,
and lays her head down.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Neil Gaiman giveaways

Cool contest on this blog with books, Lush products and other groovy prizes.

Barack rocks!

This is very funny and strangely moving:

Nice bit of YouTube.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Nature's Foodie Wisdom

The Planet on a Plate blog published an intriguing post on the connection of the shapes, colors and benefits of various foods to the organs of the body. I've reprinted a bit of it here. Those familiar with the Doctrine of Signatures will recognize this theory. My favorite example comprises the Venusian fruits that benefit the skin, hair, and reproductive organs, like berries, apples, peaches, and mangoes. The goddess of love, sex and beauty takes care of her children with foods that draw us in with their seductive colors, shapes, scents and tastes.

From "Planet on a Plate":
A friend recently sent me an email that I thought was wonderful. I'm not sure who wrote this originally, so I'm unable to credit the original author:

A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye...and YES science now shows that carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart is red and has four chambers. All of the research shows tomatoes are indeed pure heart and blood food.

Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows that grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds are on the nut just like the neo-cortex. We now know that walnuts help develop over 3 dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.

Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.

Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the motility of male sperm and increase the numbers of Sperm cells to overcome male sterility.

CHeck out the blog link above to read the entire post. Fascinating!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Heading Home

We're leaving tomorrow to go to Brushwood, and getting handfasted on Sunday! There's lots to do today. I probably won't be posting too much over the next three weeks, as computer access is not easy there, but I will post some photos when I get a chance.

Have a wonderful summer, everyone!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Running! (Okay, jogging)

After a very long hiatus, I have decided to start jogging again. Last week I started running a mile on the rubberized track at a nearby college campus. A mile is a short distance but I thought it best to start slowly so I can really make this a habit. I did four days in a row! Now I am in Boston, but when I get back today I will start up again. Not sure how I will continue this new routine when I am out at Brushwood as it is hilly and tends to be very hot during the day, but I did used to go for jog-walk sessions there (before I broke my leg) so I will try it. I am eager to get back to it, actually.

I used to be a runner, you see.

Starting as high school was ending, all through college and graduate school and beyond, that is to say, from ages 17 through 35, I was a regular runner. At my peak I was running 5-6 miles every day. Not much compared to marathoners, but it kept me in very good condition. At one point in graduate school, when I had taken up smoking after a bad summer studying abroad, I was a jogger and a smoker! (William Hurt in Body Heat anyone?) Then, I started to get injuries. Not running-related ones: clumsy accidents that resulted in sprained ankles broken toes, etc. And then the running would stop, to maybe be replaced eventually by brisk walking, maybe careful jogging, hiking, cross-country skiiing and augmented with yoga and Nordic Trak. I always thought I'd get back to my regular habit of 3 miles a day, six days a week. Then I broke my leg in two places, requiring surgery. That was in 2004, and since then jogging has been only very tentative and brief, and only after a year and a half had passed. I hope I will be spared the early onset of arthritis, but this is always a danger with broken bones.

But I finally feel like my bones have fully healed, the occasional pain and swelling I get at the injury site is minimal (except in winter), and I am ready to add some high-intensity exercise to my life. The last couple years, commuting between Albany and Boston, I have found myself doing less walking just as a mode of travel. So I have added walking for exercise, plus my usual gardening activity, and also occasional use of my Nordic Trak. But it has not been enough. Damn this post-40 metabolism! I recently read about "postman's plateau" or something like that. It refers to the fact that postal carriers who get a fair amount of daily exercise (say, 3-4 miles of walking per day) reach a point where the activity becomes the norm for their body, and they start to put on weight. A sedentary person could add 3-4 miles of walking per day and drop pounds and firm up quickly; but poor postal carrier then has to add extra exercise, and usually of a much higher level of cardio intensity to see any difference.
I just read an article in The New Yorker by a Japanese novelist who wrote about running and writing. He said he was thankful he was someone who tends to put on weight because if he was naturally thin, he would not have started running and might be living a much less healthy life. That made a lot of sense. Some of the naturally thin people I know are not very healthy: they smoke, eat fatty foods, and are inactive. And when we get older and our metabolism slows down, we have to add new lifestyle habits to maintain our level of fitness.

I realized that the postman metaphor was where I was at. My daily walks, gardening, etc. which I considered part of an active lifestyle, were not intense enough to jump-start my metabolism. And despite enjoying the occasional challenge of fasting on fruit for a few days, I do not in general think dieting is a good way to lose weight (it lowers the metabolism). I just try to eat right as well as I can. Of course, I am sure I still eat too much of the wrong stuff, but I'm not going to become a vegetarian again. But despite trying to be healthy, I still managed to put on 15-20 pounds in the last 2 years. Hence, adding jogging back to my life.

I had forgotten how much I missed it. Of course, right now it is painful and horrendous. But I have missed the rhythmic, meditative quality it has, the raised amounts of energy it gives me, the satisfying muscle tightness in my legs. It will take a while but the raised levels of endorphins will kick in soon, too. They say you have to do something 21 times (or every day for 3 weeks) for it to become a habit. So I am working on jogging 4 days a week for the next month. If I keep that up until we leave for Brushwood, I will get myself some new shorts and a jog bra (my running wardrobe is pretty much non-existent right now). And if I keep it up until September, I will get new shoes. I have some walking shoes from New Balance that are decent and working for the moment, but a bit small (I got them on sale), so I want to get something better fitting and designed for running. Don't expect me to get matching outfits or anything! I used to run in polypropylene leggings in winter and nylon short shorts in summer, and gods help me, I used to jog in these heavy cotton tube tops I had in high school. They worked fine, then again my breasts were smaller then. Being older and heavier now, I need to be a bit more comfort and decorum in my gear.

Anyone else out there have experience of jogging or running after 40?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blessings of the Summer Solstice!

Tonight at 8:59 pm EDT will be the summer solstice.

We've already had some very summer-like weather this year, temps in the 90s (even up to 103 in Boston!), so this weekend's chance of showers and cooler temperatures makes for a gentler experience of summer. Ah, summer! Cookouts and pagan festivals and bounteous flowers.

Of course this time of year also makes me recall fondly my times spent in England at this time of year, including the memorable trip with B. where we attended the first open summer solstice celebration at Stonehenge in more than a decade. We also went to a private sunrise ritual inside the stones with a druid group that reserved the space; we got to meet Emma Restall-Orr (aka Bobcat) and Greywolf. Also spent time in Banbury (where we attended a conference on sacred landscapes put on by ASLAN), including a night spent sleeping outdoors at the Rollright Stones (where they held a wonderful celebration with the Wild Hunt Morris and Damh the Bard performing) and Glastonbury, where we met some cool people at the King Arthur Pub (which has since been sold to a new owner).

This is one holiday I have not written about for the "You Call, We Call It" series on Witchvox...I guess this would have been a good year to do it. I also have not done one for Lammas, since there is virtually no observance of that day in the mundane calendar...Still, it would be good to have the series be complete.

Todd and I will be utilizing the energy, weaving our handfasting cords for our Big Day next month, and finally opening that nice bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne our realtor got us for a housewarming gift..and maybe eating a nice juicy steak.

Blessings of the summer sun to you and may your fires burn bright!

Saturday, June 14, 2008


The online poetry journal Goblin Fruit has agreed to publish my poem "Atlantis" in their Spring 2009 issue. They must be getting a lot of submissions if they're now accepting work so far in advance...the first poem I had published there was featured in a review of the website by the Endicott Studios blog which, sadly, has decided to cease publication...but they're keeping the archives active.

I am happy for this poem to find a home. An earlier version of it was published on which went belly-up several years ago. I have been reworking a couple of older poems lately, and also working on some new ones. Most of the new pieces are at the idea/scribbling stage so far, I hope to do be able to finish them this summer.

The title comes from a bottle of nail polish. I was bored at my office job, decided to do my nails. I was into blue and green polish then, which was very widely available in many many colors! Not so much now, I mainly see pinks and reds in stores. This color was a pale blue with a gold sheen. The idea for a few lines of verse hit me and I started writing there at my desk and finished it within a few days...I like it when the muse arrives at unexpected times and places.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Unicorn Deer!

I thought this was a charming story, about a deer with a single center horn who looks a bit like a unicorn. Interesting that it is a naturally occurring phenomenon, unlike the goats that Otter and Morning Glory Zell turned into unicorns by grafting their horn buds together when they were babies...

I was quite obsessed with unicorns when I was younger; of course they were very popular images in the 1980s an 1980s. But I recall having lots of books and illustrated calendars, etc. My mother made me a really nice statue in ceramics. The base is broken and Id like to find a way to fix it so I can display it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Survivalism is Green?

I find the current discussion about this trend to be rather disturbing. I recall a thread on the Garden Rant blog not long ago where some of the comments took on a survivalist tinge (as when one guy mentioned land in western NY, south of Buffalo, was selling for cheap and it was possible to homestead there effectively so buy up some acres now and you'll be all set, but BE SURE TO HAVE SOME GUNS...

Yeah, it is the guns thing that disturbs me. I think people living in rural areas and planting orchards and vegetable gardens and raising their own animals that they slaughter themselves for food and learning herbal medicine and eschewing constant automobile use is all a great thing. But apparently this neo-back-to-the-earth movement is not about connection to nature and rejection of urbanization, but instead a full-fledged panic-driven effort at extreme self-preservation. The attitude seems to be: we are going to be prepared for what's coming (widespread food shortages apparently borne of fuel depletion), and when the people who don't bother to prepare come knocking, we have guns to keep them away.

There is something wrong with this picture. It just gives me a weird sense of cognitive dissonance. I associate organic gardening and "green" practices with liberal peace-loving humans. Sure I grew up in a family that grew our food and also hunted for it, with guns among other things. But there was never an attitude that guns needed to be around to deal with our fellow humans. Especially fellow humans in need.

I am picturing that opening scene of 28 Weeks Later where a group of random people have made their way to a huge country house that happens to have some canned food and bottles of wine socked away and they are doing just fine until the bloody, rage-ravaged "infected" happen upon them and try to tear their way in. The infected don't want the wine and vegetable stew on the table; they want the flesh of the survivors. The infected can be killed: but you have to be quick and brutal about it cuz they are FAST and STRONG and HUNGRY. So you'd better have big clubs, or knives, or guns. Or an impenetrable fortress to hide in.

This "green survivalist" scenario feels a lot like a horror film to me.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Heirloom apples...and writing

Thanks to the Evil Fruit Lord for posting a link to this article about heirloom apples. Most grocery stores sell no more than five or six varieties of apple, maybe more during the harvest season. But more and more at farmers' markets these days you see a wider variety and an exciting array of heirloom apples. I have tasted some wonderful apples that had been more or less lost to history for many years, except to expert apple growers. Now all sorts of growers are getting in on it, just as enthusiasm for other heirloom crops like tomatoes is also increasing. You can even order trees to plant, like the ones offered by Trees of Antiquity.

I really want to write about them, too. The idea of them interests me a bit more than the pragmatic aspect of how to find and grow them. Seeing this, I had the thought that I really should try to follow up on researching and writing about things that interest me and try to submit them more widely...ya know, start acting like a freelance writer again. I guess I just kind of assume that magazines and newspapers are starting to be a thing of the past and that blogging is the only place anyone reads anything anymore.

Or maybe I am just losing focus and discipline. Writing has fallen to the wayside. I always kinda feel this way just after the semester ends. Must regroup now and get back in the habit, before summer teaching starts. These book projects will not complete themselves!

Not feeling particularly loquacious just now. More on this later perhaps.

But I leave you with this reading recommendation: Apples by Roger Yepsen, a gorgeous and nicely-written little gem of a book about heirloom apple varieties. I got this as a gift from my sweetheart during our first year together and I treasure it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Orchards in Blossom

Todd and I visited Indian Ladders this morning. The farm store was not open (no coffee or fresh cider donuts, boo hoo) but we walked around a bit so I could photograph trees and enjoy my favorite smell in the world: apple blossoms!

I was reminded of that scene in Excalibur where Arthur drinks from the grail and is renewed: the knights ride through the blossoming orchard, with petals raining down, as the Carmina Burana of my favorite scenes in all of cinema.

These orchards have been farmed by the same family for several generations, and sit at the base of a huge mountain in a gorgeous area in New Salem, NY. There was a house for sale up the road. I would love to live near this place!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Trees Make Breathing Easier

This news story cites a study that suggests children who live on tree-lined trees suffer from asthma less often than children who live in treeless neighborhoods.

There is no direct correlation suggested, other than improved air quality and the fact that children may be encouraged to play outside more in such neighborhoods.

In my own experience, I have never wanted to live in a neighborhood where there were not plenty of mature trees, so I always have chosen apartments based on the surrounding area as much as what the actual living space had to offer. It seems like this should be easy enough to achieve even in big cities (like Brooklyn, New York, pictured above). Treeless streets seem unwelcoming, ugly and unhealthy. This makes me wonder if kids who live on tree-lined streets are just plain happier, and less stressed out, and thereby less prone to chronic illness. Of course, there may be an economic connection, too, although asthma seems to strike well-off kids as much as it does poor ones.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Without honeybees, life as we know it would pretty much cease. Plants can't pollinate themselves; they need bees, birds and other insects to help them. If the bees disappear, fruit and other food plants don't grow, forests die out, and produce shortages would probably follow in many parts of the world..

Colony Collapse Disorder: it's a problem. Learn more here.