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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Divining the Cabbage

The Cabbage
There are at least as many traditions for New Years Eve as there are cultures, though when we mark the new year, does, of course, vary a bit.

In many places in the USA, folks eat cabbage (or in the south, collard greens) on New Years Day, as these green cruciferous vegetables are considered representative of money. Although I did not grow up with any particular traditions for this time of year, I have adopted the cabbage, and serving pork for the meat in January 1 supper (with 'kraut for me) along my travels. Usually I end up buying one, but this year I had two heads still lingering in the fridge. Both were harvested late and therefore had suffered some from the ravages of the late season weather. As I worked through the dry layers and underlying moldy leaves, a thought came to me.

There are many traditional forms of divination, also practiced on New Year's eve, preferably at the stroke of midnight. You can light a white candle and drip the wax into cold water, or you can poke a hole into the end of the first egg laid on New Year's Eve day (not something practical for us northern farmers who believe in giving the ladies a season of rest) and let the drips fall into hot water (or, I might suggest a clear chicken broth, as after completing the divination, you could eat egg drop soup as the chicken* scratches the old year into the past!) I have also read of a German tradition of melting lead, or possibly in recent times, tin and dropping it in water. This ancient form of divination, known as Molybdomancy, has been used for 1000s of years in many cultures.

If you read cards (playing cards or Tarot cards can be used by those in the know) there is a layout known as the "Clock" or "Circle of Years," in which you place the cards one for each mark on the clock in a cirle, and the last in the middle. You read them, one o'clock for January and so on, and the one in the middle for the whole year.

Now, I have never been good at divination, or really terribly interested in seeking to know what is around the corner. However, as I was working on this cabbage, without seeking for anything other than clean, edible vegetable matter, it spoke to me. 

"I may not be a very big head," it said, "and yeah, my outside is pretty bunged up and gross." "But, look!" She continued as more and more edible cabbage was revealed, "I prevailed!"

This tiny cabbage, echoing an oft-heard and repeated message over this year, will stay in my mind over the next one. Its lesson blends in my mind with many throughout the book, Braiding Sweetgrass, that I finished last night.

I honor her for her tenacity and for the lesson, and nutrition, she has brought. And set the Intention, going forth, to take time to just sit, and even lie in the garden, to continue to notice each plant. And to persevere. Little Cabbage reiterated another recent awareness: little bits matter.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

On turning the Calendar

It's almost that time again, time to take down the tattered old calendar hanging on the wall, and put up a new one. Mine has tractors on it, and soon the page with the Oliver brand machine will be extracted for its trip to my grandson, Oliver. I don't this year, have a replacement though! I will have to go hunting; I usually get mine free from the feed store but last time I was there, I only saw their horse ones. I like horses well enough, but usually they have both and I forgot to ask or search for the tractor version. But I digress.

2017 was a pretty beat up year, all 'round, I think. But since I count the year as beginning in the spring -- and it's all just a continual spiral anyway -- I don't normally make a big deal out of "Change The Calendar Day" or the Eve before. But it seems like everyone else does, so the energy is there to piggyback a bit of Working... and why not!

I am also not a big fan of spending tons of time and energy on looking back and reflecting over the past months. Personally, when I have, I seldom find anything new to discover. Lessons and insights come as they come and I do my best to learn and carry the insights forward as I go. And I know from past experience that if I don't, the Powers That Be have no issue with another round of instructions. Usually I manage to "get it" before the bring out the Celestial 2x4 for the whack 'long side the head, thankfully! 

I am also not a big fan of loud noisy parties (period), getting sloshed (deliberately) and the usual shenanigans that accompany the mainstream Change The Calendar Day Eve. While these past months seem good ones for a rousing farewell, on the national and world stage for sure, our lives here at hex central with the
Stormy, not long before
her passing
critters that share our lives -- fussing ducks and all -- was really not that bad. Several passed on, ones we loved as well as the ones I thanked and deliberately sent... you know, the ones we eat. The plants did their best to cope with the strange seasons and I did my best to tend,
onions
harvest and store them. This was NOT a good year for storage onions, though. Not like last year, when we were still eating the bumper crop long after planting this year's seedlings. This winter, we will be lucky to have them for much longer. The harvest, which was adequate in quantity, is proving to not store well, despite being the same varieties as we planted last year. I am cutting and freezing them; mostly they are used in cooking anways, but it's always interesting to me to see the changes from one year to the next.

So rather than a massive celebration of having survived 2017 (which, considering everything that went on outside our four acres this year, I can, kinda, understand doing) I will, as always, spend this weekend moving forward in the way I would like the next bit of time to move. I had hoped to attend a "setting Intentions" ritual with friends, but because of the arctic temperatures and my truck's wimpy heating system, I have decided just to stay at home and work with them in spirit. This IS something new to me... the deliberate setting of intentions. I have for many years, paid attention to some threads that I wished to encourage, mostly by spending the evening cleaning and organizing my abode. It's been some time since I was last able to do a complete house cleaning in a day, though, so while I will be continuing to work on that
Organizing the fiber stash so I can
actually work with it.
project, I have also thought a bit about other threads that have surfaced recently, and I will spend some time today trying to make sense out of that, and to find ways to organize and prioritize giving them attention.  Note, this is not a plotting, planning, setting goals or resolving to do this or that, beyond the level of "paying attention" and "listening to and following" prompting from those Powers That Be.

And following my tradition, we will eat pork on Monday (and saurkraut for me) and there will be a cabbage in prominent display (from the garden! It's been in storage.) and greens of some kind to be eaten as well (likely spinach, raw from the store for Tractor Guy, cooked for me for the symbolism they bring.

May this Change of the Calendar find you all moving forward with abundance and joy!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

So it wasn't a bank robbery, just weather.

Today is Thursday, and as you can tell by this graph, it's rather chilly here at hex central, under the sign of the Fussing Duck.
To be truthful, this prediction is a bit off... as I was sitting at my desk this morning, before dawn, I checked the remote-reading thermometer and it said -17F. It was predicted to bottom out at -11, but in the end, neither of those numbers was correct, as it fell to -20 just before sunrise. Yeah, BRRRR!

I had planned a day in town, to finally meet up with online friend and fellow blogger Crystal Sands who was doing a reading from the book of poems for kids penned by her talented hubby and illustrated by their equally talented son. Tag-teamed with that bit of fun was a necessary run for feed and kerosene, the last of which was loaded into the "spare" heater this morning, to take the chill off the unheated bedroom and bathroom. Unheated, in this case, meant the cats' water was frozen in their bowl, in the bathroom, when we went to bed. It was frozen again this morning. Not surprising as the room temp -- surveyed by a digital thermometer I hauled along when I headed to bed last night -- was 35F.

Yeah, it did need a bit of a warm up... but thus far I am pleased to report that, by leaving serious drips going on all the faucets, we still have running water, hot and cold.

What we did not have when we got up this morning, was a working propane wall heater. You know the one... it's attached to the living room wall and it's sole fuction is to keep the place warm enough, overnight, so that it doesn't freeze. Well, it didn't freeze, thankfully, didn't even approach the bedroom's overnight low, but it did need to be dealt with. Fortunately, when we previously swapped what we thought was an empty big tank for a full one, we did so in error. The problem had not been lack of fuel, but lack of flow. The pilot needed addtional link and beast hair removed by proper application of canned air, and ran just fine after first refusing to acknowledge that the canister we had just filled, and knew to be full, indeed was full. So we were able to swap the empty for a partial, getting the heater back on line and buying us some time. With the addition of some more kero, we could put off the big propane fill for a day, thankfully.

The driveway was, as of this morning, still filled with snow. While it is not hard to drag an empty large propane tank down a 200' long driveway over/through the snow, pulling it back UP again -- even though the rise is slight -- is another matter, and one left for its own day.

I was lucky to have Artie start right up...kudos to a 27 year old truck, on a day when my mechanic had spent the morning responding to "won't start" calls. After several trips down to the truck with sled loads of fuel containers, I headed off to get the winter tires put on and then headed to town.

Of the many errands on my list, one was to stop at the bank to pick up cash which I will need this weekend. I was making good progress, so I made my quick run through the grocery store, then figured I'd hit the bank, gas station and feed store and end up at the library just in time for the reading.

Oops... think again. When I got to the bank, which shares a building with several other businesses, there were alarms sounding all over and many folks standing around outside. The front door of the building was open, so I went in, only to discover that the doors to the foyer, from which one entered the bank, were locked tight and no on could be seen inside.  Being on a schedule, I decided to head off to get gas and while pumping I heard sirens responding to that direction.

Hummmm... I was, by this time, almost late to the start of the reading, so should I try to get there or go check out the bank? I realized I had no camera with which to capture any action, and went to the library, had a great time finally meeting Crystal and her family in person, and then headed by to complete my errands. Turns out the problem was not a robbery, but a broken water pipe. It seems any issues like that set off all the alarms and when the alarms go off -- even for cold weather problems or "acts of God" -- security measures go into effect. The tellers were glad that it was just water, which had been restored.

And I got back home, all errands complete, to discover that my mechanic had done a good deed and plowed us out! Not only did I not have to haul several sled-loads of fuel, food and feed up to the house in what is currently -5F with a wind, but we will be able to load and unload the big propane tank about 10 feet from where it needs to go.

And there is wine, and Epsom salts in the house, running water for a nice hot bath and "feel good" meal of creamed dried beef on toast and a green salad in the offing.  It may be going to be the coldest week on record in Bangor for 40 years, but life is good.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A Pagan Practice over Time

An online Pagan friend recently posted a series of questions that grew out of her reading of a post on patheos.com and I have felt motivated to use them as a writing prompt today.

She began by asking: What is your practice? Has it deepened or become less? Do you maintain a personal altar/ritual space and when was the last time you physically cleaned it, or decided which objects stayed or needed to go? 
My practice has evolved over time, but remains experience-based. I came to my path being taught directly by the Gods (not all of Whom gave their names initially) and as much, if not more, by the Elements and the natural world around me. I was living in a remote, off-grid community at the time and I think that made it easier, both to hear the quiet voices and to follow thier promptings. It was at least a year from when I began talking with the moon on regular occasions and from when I populated my first altar -- to Earth -- before I labeled the path as Pagan. That epiphany was the result of a philosophical conversation with a young, Pagan friend, who was astounded by what I had *not* read.
 Along the way, various Gods and mostly Goddesses led the way: Artemis, Athena, Hecate who handed me off, after my Croning, to Frigga, with whom I still work. Things have, indeed, changed and I believe deepened.
I do have a personal altar, and have recently added and subtracted to it, as well as having spent a good long time going through the objects in my "magic chest" in which I keep sacred things that are not currently in use. As a result, a few things have gone away, a few more are awaiting shipment to a Pagan daughter and even more were used to follow up on a prompting I got at the time, to establish Elemental altars outside, on our property lines, to each direction and element, which I set on Mothers' Night.
 Do you journal? Do you maintain a connection with the Moon (as well as the Sun)? Do you still have rituals even if you're without a group?
 I have tried to journal at various times, but have never been able to keep it up for long. Now, I often write here on this blog, as well as on Facebook, both of which seem to be longer-lasting habits. And I do keep connection with both Moon and Sun in their cycles. I do this at least in part by building bridges of magical/mundane connections and empowering necessary chores with magical intent. An example of this is my monthy trash/recycle/bottle redemption/charity donation run, which I do shortly before the dark moon. Our dump/recycling center is only open a few days a week, so I designate an open day just prior to the dark moon as our monthly trash and recycle disposal day. We don't generate much, and are looking to further minimize waste, but this ritual is tied to the concept of getting rid of unneeded things, so that there continues to be a "hole" into which abundance can flow. And being a subsistence homesteader, the yearly cycles are easy for me to keep.
I have always been solitary, so of course I have rituals. One of the bedrocks of my practice is a greeting to Frigga each morning that begins with a few lines from the Poetic Edda:
"Hail, day! | Hail, sons of day!
And night and her daughter now!
Look on us here | with loving eyes,
That waiting we victory win....
And ends with a greeting to Her and her Ladies, followed by a "penny ritual" for abundance. Each Friday, as well, I hold a fire to honor and petition Frigga and her Handmaidens.
I do not regularly read through old writings and only occasionally look at some of the Pagan books that I do have on my shelf, though I do when one speaks to me. 
Are you a life-long learner or do you think you've figured it all out?
I certainly do not have it all figured out, but my "ah ha" moments most often come from not-particularly-Pagan sparks, the most recent of which was a talk by indigenous botanist Robin Kimerer.
How are you being mindful of the world around you? What is it saying to you? How are you learning and reflecting, and how can you look at your circumstances through a spiritual eye? Have you tried doing things in a new way? Why not?
Part of my "mindfulness" these days is an increase in political actions. I have started a "15 minute activism" protocol in which I take at least a few minutes each day to fax or email legislators to support or oppose proposed actions. Following some of the awareness that has built as I read Kimerer's book, Braiding Sweetgrass, many of which build on things I was taught while "sitting under the Zen pine" in the beginning of my journey on this path, I find that I am more aware of the plants and animals around me as individuals and populations with whom I can speak.
Having long had a "chop wood, carry water" foundation to my practice, pulls me into a non-mundane point of view often. For me, new ways grow out of old, sometimes as the result of a conversation or something I have read, but always "proven" against my personal experience.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Mothers' Night, the Night before Yule

Since I am still counting days as starting with sunrise, rather than sunset, Today was the day before Yule, for me; traditionally Mothers' Night (Mōdraniht) and a night to honor the disir, All-Mother Frigga, our female ancestors and even the landwights. It is also the day that I renew the protective talismans that I place to surround our land. 
Six little talismans all in a row.


This year, I also had been moved to collect some of the altar items that are no longer in my regular rotation, to populate elemental altars on the appropriate sides of our acreage. I felt that today was the day to do this, also. 

It has been a while since I had to break trail on snow shoes to do this ritual, and using only one walking pole so my other hand could pull the sled full of materials made it awkward. Even worse, I lost one of the 'shoes along the way and did not notice it until I had likely walked most of the length of the east side of the land. Breaking trail is hard, walking unevenly as I was made it harder, so I chose to not go back in search. I will get out there in the next couple of days to track it down. 

North Altar
I started out walking North, making my way through the electric fence (turned off before I started) and set up my altar for the North/Earth near the boundary of the field.
After placing the North altar I turned East, greeted the little young grove in the north-east corner and tied the first talisman to a birch tree growing there. 
Crab apples
against the
cloudy sky

  
Talisman in place in the NE corner
Then I headed south, along the east boundary. I greeted the neighbors' horses and said hello to the volunteer crab apple tree that we discovered and identified a year ago last summer. 

East/air altar

The east/air altar came next with feathers from our turkey and a bird's nest with a pecan in its shell standing in for an egg. As I continued, I saw issues with the electric fence, and began working on them as I went along...until I found a place where the lines were broken and I had taken up too much slack as I worked my way along to be able to reconnect them...even if they had not been totally encased in ice! So I proceeded just on the ritual path, making a mental note to tend the fence later. 

South-east talisman.
When I placed the south-east talisman in the evergreen, I noted a faded bit of ribbon hanging just left of center near the bottom of the photo...a left over from last year's ritual. As I turned and continued west along the front and road-side of our land, I took in several of the trees I have planted as a visual screen, and several more places that the fence needed attention. 

I hung talismans on both sides of the drive, and placed the
One of two talismans
beside the driveway.
south/fire altar there. It is small and sparse, with just a bit of charcoal and some twigs to represent the fuel for the fire and I forgot to take a picture of it. 

Along the south-west boundary I greeted more of the young trees, ending up in the southwest corner, where the bush that I
Talisman in baby oak tree.
had been using to support the talisman had gone, so the young oak tree, one of many I planted a few years ago, stepped up to the task. 


As I turned north again, along the west boundary, I found many things of interest!
icy pine tree
Two of the pine trees from my earlier planting had been blown/bowed over the fence and were still encrusted with ice and snow! I gently whacked the branches to remove most of the ice and made a mental note that I will need to look at

them early in the spring.  I also found what appear to be buds on
witch hazel
my witch hazel shrub! I will have to keep an eye on this and catch it in bloom!

The west/water altar and the north-west talismans were next, but I cannot up load any more pictures for this post, so you will just have to imagine them.

All in all, it was a good working, though my body is -- and will likely continue to -- offer complaints from the workout. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Falling into the Flow

I love it when I seem to be in sync with the energies of the universe. It doesn't happen all the time, and especially during the time of maximum change in day length at spring and autumn, I struggle. Finally, though, it seems I have once again fallen into the flow for winter.

I look forward to winter, more maybe than some of the other seasons. While I love the busy days of spring promise, seedlings and new birth, tolerate - more or less well - the summer heat for the abundance of produce and growing critters and enjoy the winding down of autumn, with its crunchy leaves and often awesome color displays, I need the rest that winter brings. I relish the short days that call me to sit by the fire, to study, to knit, to spin by lamplight or the light of the low, cold sun. The slower days, I think, makes it easier to find the flow. There is less daylight (and as you know if you have read my blog for any time at all, it is my nature to take my cues from the sun, not from human clocks and electric "man-light."

Being on the farm, our work is often guided by the weather and the short days, coupled with bouts of cold rain and hopefully eventually snow, have an impact. Dry days, when the mercury rises just a bit, call us to work quickly on outside projects and today we did just that. Tractor Guy spent the morning laying out extension cords to power two "heated dog bowls" of 6 quart capacity which will hopefully eliminate our need to break ice, and therefore allow watering of fowl with the hauling of less water. We may have to haul morning and afternoon, if they prove to be heavy drinkers, but if so, so be it.

6 foot long "tip"
I spent the afternoon gleaning more greenery and making our wreath. I had planned to "go tipping" on a friend's place earlier in the week, but missed them on my visit. On the way home, I realized that our past storm had felled sufficient trees that I would be able to gather sufficient branches from those down along the road, and that realization came as I passed what I thought was a small bit of tree in the roadside ditch. I stopped and loaded the bit of greenery, left, into my truck. LOL I dropped it in back, by the picnic table and the goats have been looking longingly at it ever since.

Since I prefer wreaths with different textures, I took a walk yesterday, to find other bits from our road to go with. I had learned my lesson, though, and walked down the road with just my small cart, not the pickup truck! I was only planning to make a few wreaths at best, not to go into production! As I walked, with eyes and mind open, I found three other types of evergreen and several other plants that wanted to be included: red dogwood twigs, bit of birch, with the catkins still attached, and bit of moss and lichen, some still attached to downed dead branches.

With the addition of the birch, a tree sacred to Frigga, I knew this wreath would be more than just decoration. Then I discovered that moss has a floral meaning of charity and maternal love, which fits nicely into a project for AllMother.
I have not yet got the bow on it, though I will do so. It is my first attempt at a two-sided wreath, as it hangs on our glass front door. I hung it immediately on account of the itty bitty destruction committee, kitty version.

And in further keeping with the flow of the season, I realized that, with the payment in hand from last month big design project, I could easily afford to haul my collected non-Icelandic wool to the mill for cleaning, carding and turning into roving. And furthermore, doing so would be in tune with the tradition of finishing fiber projects before the 12 days of Yule commence (or else risk displeasing the Goddess (Frau Holle by some traditions, Frigga in others), as this is the one project that I have been wanting to complete for some time. I have collected many bags of free fleece, which are being stored here, there and everywhere about, taking up space and as I have been organizing and sorting, I determined that it needs to be made into an effecient to use form. I do enjoy carding and working "in the grease" but will reserve that for my special wool... the fleeces from Elenor and her offspring, Rigby, who came to live with us this year.

So, skirting the wool will be a project for this next week, along with making more cookies (which will be fun, because I was planning to use the kitchen table for both projects... just not at once!)  Current plans are to take Tractor Guy on a day long explorationg and rambling drive, now starting with a visit to the mill, then on to visit Liberty Tool Company, whose stock I fell in love with at the last Common Ground Fair, where I hope to find a drawknife for a Yule present for TG, then on to Unity for a visit to the Amish Charcuterie and nearby Community Market and ending in Belfast, for a visit to The Green Store and an art gallery where a friend has a large work currently on display. It will be a long, tiring day on the road, but I am hoping it will be fun for both of us.