Spring Catch-up

Just when I think I’ve gotten a handle on things around here, something throws me for a loop and I fall behind again.

It’s been months since my last post. Often, it’s due to my seeming inability to balance my health issues with the times I feel well enough to play catch up. Here, I’ll try (yet again) to mash together a catch-up post I can follow with more regular and focused posts. Please bear with me. 🙂

Health Re-claimed

Last summer, I finally found out why I was sick – Lyme disease. Looking up natural treatments, I realized the invasive plant growing behind my barn was just what I needed. Oddly enough, it sprang up about the time my symptoms got worse, a few years ago. This was before the studies came out about its effectiveness for Lyme. Gotta love Nature!

I took the antibiotics my doc gave me and followed them with an herbal treatment I bought. It works surprisingly well and has been helping me re-gain my life. However, it’s expensive, so when I’m out, my symptoms creep back in before I can re-up. I am going to have become an affiliate for the company, because I love their products. I can help others discover them and any purchases would help offset the cost of my own medicine.

To harvest my wild knotweed, I had to wait till early spring. My tincture is extracting and should be ready soon. I also kept some roots to dry for use as tea. It won’t be a complete replacement for the purchased treatment (which has other effective herbs in it, too costly to make my own version) but may help me fight it harder and stave off a re-surge when I’ve run out. I’ve had Lyme for 10+ years…it’ll take many years of diligence to beat it and likely many more to ensure it doesn’t strike again.

Spring Gardening & Repairs

Despite my best efforts to put together a garden my boyfriend couldn’t kill with his mower every year, it didn’t come together until now (after lumber went up, of course). We worked hard and have 20 beds of varying sizes, 10 potato bags, 20 vertical stacking planters, five 30-gal grow bags, and an assortment of pots for flowers and such. If we want, there’s still room for a few more beds later.

It’s much further along now but I have no updated pics yet – soon to come!

The front landscaping has to wait for now, as does the gravel for the garden. But, we did a respectable repair on our porch (new stringers for the steps and a fix on a few deck boards). It’s back in decent enough shape until we can rebuild and expand it. We’ve been saving up the materials for building a greenhouse and roadside landscaping for a while. Those will get done after the garden’s finished (many days of hauling dirt still ahead).

So far, I have my roots, bulbs, tubers and greens planted, as well as putting in my dormant berries and some of the herbs (valerian, marshmallow, yarrow, tulsi, etc). The orchard trees (fruits and nuts) are coming out of dormancy and I hope to plant them in the fall. My kiwi vine, however, died in the porch greenhouse.

The live plants will go in after the last frost date in the remaining beds. Among these are some medicinal herbs I’ve coveted – ashwagandha, comfrey, skullcap, etc. My mullein plant died but the company (Grower’s Exchange) refunded my money for it. I am still waiting on the sweetgrass and tobacco for my ceremonial bed, as well as the wood betony and nettle seeds. I wanted white sage for smudges but it’s in need of protection until it can be re-established – green garden sage is a fine enough substitute.

It’s a lot to take on at once but it had been put off for so long (I may have mentioned my dream of transforming our humble acre into a sustainable mini-farm?). I had to grab and growl while the gettin’ was good, you know what I mean?

Other Changes

In my last posts, I mentioned prepping and ensuring a healthy stock on necessary items. I’m still at it and still encourage it. Probably more so now, with so much instability ratcheting up. For me, though, prepping isn’t about a fearful mindset. It’s about putting to use the frugality I was raised with and taking it up a notch or two, the way my more distant ancestors would have. It’s also about making the most of available resources and squeezing every drop out of the dollars spent. And it’s about planning ahead to ensure my family’s taken care of.

We got a large water tank last year and hope to get another, then add a first-flush system to the gutter to feed it some rainwater. In the meantime, I can keep my filtered faucet water in it. A good filtration system for the rainwater is also on my list of things to buy.

The tank has since been wrapped in black sheeting

Food is a major area to prep, right? We got lucky last year when Dad gave us a load of canned goods. His doc put him on a special diet and he couldn’t have those things anymore. We’ve been helping him re-up on what he can have and also stocking up on dry goods. I have an order in with a friend who farms for bulk meat. This year, we got another freezer to store the extra. I’d been experimenting with fermenting but also just bought a dehydrator and pressure canner, so the preservation game is afoot!

Again, it’s a lot. But it feels good to finally knock some of these things off my to-do list. They’ve been simmering for years. And, when they’re all set up, I can move on to back-up cooking and energy sources…and, eventually, small livestock and bees!

And…the wind-down…

Hopefully, I can set up a posting schedule when things cool down a bit. Regular posts will be more focused, and informative to read, than the random chaos I’ve been putting out (does anyone even bother reading them through? in any case, it is therapeutic for me to write them out).

Have you all been dancing the dance of Spring? What have you gotten done, or plan to do? A garden? Repairs? Taking on new endeavors for 2021? Just taking a few moments to relax for a change?

A Multi-Fold Harvest

This year has brought some serious changes to our lives. It’s taken so many turns, it’s almost unreal. In my life, it’s been a multi-fold harvest in many ways and, despite the challenges that come with it, I’m thankful for every bit we’re blessed with.

A Literal Harvest

This year has kicked in my inner prepper. I’m trying harder than usual to prevent waste and keep stocked up, especially with food. My garden didn’t get as far as we intended it to. Still have the beds to build; the budget’s just too tight for all the materials we need (especially the soil and 1/2″ hardware cloth!). But, earlier in the year, I signed on with a local pantry that delivers.

We’ve received so much produce! In fact, we’ve gotten more than we can eat before it goes bad and we’ve even given quite a bit away to loved ones. That said, there’s still plenty and I’ve been trying to put it to good use…for later. The cherry tomatoes are great to dry and store. Onions and peppers can be sliced/diced and frozen. Many fruits can be dried or frozen also. For a load of citrus fruits we got (lemons and limes), we zested the skin and juiced ’em.

Dried maters…SOOOO tasty!!

Personally, I’ve focused on freezing and drying for preserving. I’ve never canned before and have that bit of apprehension many get. I do think I’ll try to can the apples though, as a sauce or butter, if I don’t dry them all. I’ll use some organic lemon juice as the acid and waterbath ’em. I don’t own a pressure canner (yet), which is why my green beans and corn got prepped for freezing too.

Meats and dry goods are being stocked too, as much as my budget can manage. Some comes from the pantry, some from the grocery, and some from the farmer’s market. If I wind up with a bulk package (say, of meat), I separate it into meal-sized portions, season/marinade and prep to freeze like that. I sort of winged it on the seasonings. If they turn out good, I’ll post the recipes I made up. All in all, I expect they’ll make for some tasty, quick meals on busy days.

I’m hoping to make time to put out some kind of fall garden, to ensure cool weather crops for fresh eats as Autumn sets in. Carrots, lettuces, kale, beets, turnips, and radishes are top on the list. Fingers crossed we can make this happen in time!

A Spiritual Harvest

This year has been trying for most of us and led us into new directions to cope. In my case, it’s shaken me out of my years long “out-of-practice” mode, spiritually speaking. I have a re-newed vigor for my Pagan faith and am looking to get back into old practices (like tarot/divination and herbalwork), as well as explore new ones (like journeywork and crossing the hedge). It feels like doors that have been closed are all opening back up at once. My empathic abilities are hitting new levels very quickly.

Puma illuminates the path, helps overcome
anxiety, and sees beyond what’s “normal”.

In prayer one morning, I asked for a sign of guidance, so I can be sure of my direction. You see, I’ve felt myself lost/stuck at yet another of life’s crossroads. To my right, just ahead of me, I received an immediate answer – my totem. It’s curious how I lean European in my Craft but my totem is decidedly Native American. I do have Native ancestors and felt this may have been sent by one of them. It was exactly what I needed and the answer came to me much quicker than normal. So, now I’m exploring Puma and the medicine she brings to one’s life. My Minister recently told me “step into your power”…it’s advice that matches up with my totem perfectly!

Another area that’s opened up is my innate desire to help others. I hate to admit it but, growing up, I encountered a lot of “takers” in my life. Sick of always being drained and taken advantage of by bad actors, I shut down. I think it was a protective mechanism, so I can heal the damage it caused (mentally and energetically).

Lately, it’s re-opening and I can’t help but feel it’s because the world needs so much healing right now. All the healers are likely being called at this moment. I’m still on an intensive healing mode, but I finally feel ready to begin helping others as well. I only hope I’m not jumping in too soon, or over-exposing myself to harm again, and serving only to further deplete myself. That won’t be helpful to anyone. Fingers crossed here as well that I can meet the call in full capability.

A Creative Harvest

This is another area I’ve felt has been shut down the last few years. The designing, the concocting, the sewing, the poetry and short stories…all of it seemed to have left me. It was like The Muses abandoned me or something and I couldn’t figure out why. Maybe because I was so depleted in so many areas of my life. It felt like a slow, painful death of everything that makes me Me.

Slowly, it’s coming back to me. Basic designs and words/phrases come out, asking to be brought to light. New skills are begging to be explored, like canning and embroidery. I have a renewed interest in things like making salves and tinctures. I suddenly can find the energy to at least start the processes of moving these things back into the forefront of my life. It feels like waking up from a terrible nightmare and realizing you’re safe in the warm sun of morning.

From Darkness, Light Is Inevitable

I can’t shake the feeling that things are likely to get worse before they get better, especially here in America. I encourage everyone I know to prep what they can and to encourage others to do so as well. I hope I’m over-reacting; this feeling is so strong. But, if I’m not, we’ll all need a stocked supply of necessities and each other’s help to maintain and pull through.

That said, I believe these dark times can be overcome. There will eventually be a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s inevitable because you can’t have one without the other. In the push-pull of it all, we will get to the other side of it and prove stronger than before.

Has the year shown you who you are? Are you prepared/ing? Have you received a call (of any kind)? What do you make of the lessons of 2020, personal or societal?

Imbolc: Life Springs Eternal

Imbolc (pronounced ee-molk), also known as Candlemas or Brigid’s Day, marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  Celebrated Feb 1-2, it’s sort of the tipping point that reminds us that winter won’t last forever.  The warmth will return, along with the growth of new life, as we turn towards spring.

The word Imbolc means “ewe’s milk”, as this is the time of year many animals are birthing the Spring flocks.  Sheep, goats, etc. are giving birth and need special attention to help ensure safe deliveries.

Saint_Brigid's_cross
St. Brighid’s Cross 

St. Brighit (Brigid, Bride, and various other spellings – pronounced ‘Bree’ or, sometimes,  ‘Bri-jit’) started as a Celtic goddess and, as other Pagan deities have to encourage conversions, became adopted as a Catholic saint.  Between the two faiths, she’s known as a patron of fertility, the arts, poetry, healing, charity, and prophecy.  She is celebrated still, particularly in the British Isles, by crafting an effigy doll or a St. Brigit’s Cross (‘how-to’ in the link) and with the lighting of lamps or candles.  Another tribute to the ever-lengthening days. 

An Imbolc rit my church did one year involved planting a seed in an eggshell and a visualization on the ways we wanted to grow in the coming seasons.  Eggs and freshly planted seeds are also means of celebrating this time-honored Sabbat.  Sometimes we need the reminder that, no matter what is happening in life, new things will continue to emerge.  There’s always room to grow, and learn, and evolve, and improve.

Yesterday, I focused more on the planting of new seeds than anything else.  Now that I’m working outside the home (more steady than freelancing allowed for), I’m saving up to repair the elements of my garden.  I didn’t use it at all last year and the cats have since destroyed the flimsy fence we threw together to section the garden from the yard and it’s become overgrown.  This year, I intend to revive and improve it.  Instead of trying to go big, all at once, I’m keeping it basic and will add to it as I go, as I’m able.

Garden beds
Something like this is what I’m after – will post before/after pics as able!

As a side note, yesterday was also a waxing moon in Taurus.  Today is, as well.  A waxing moon in a fertile sign is always good for planting, transplanting, etc.  Things planted under Taurus are believed to grow sturdy and be productive.  I considered this occurring on a fertile holiday my sign to get seeds started.

At some point, I’ll have to do a series on what I’ve learned about ‘Planting by the Signs’ and how it’s been a tradition in both Europe and Appalachia for centuries (probably millennia).  Only becoming a dying art over the last hundred years, it’s reviving now as another “Old-Time Wisdom” we shouldn’t lose.

Whether you celebrate Imbolc, the more secular Groundhog’s Day, or just treat Feb. 1-2 as ‘another day’, I hope it’s spent with loved ones and enjoyed.  Remember that Spring is just around the corner…in another 6-7 weeks (sorry, Groundhog, it’s always another 6 weeks of winter, technically 🙂 ).

Happy Lughnasadh!

I wanted to pop in today to wish everyone, Pagan or not, a Happy Lughnasadh.  For the record, as it’s a dicey looking word (many Gaelic words are), it’s pronounced “loo-nah-sod” or “loo-nah-sad”.

In Pagan tradition, Lughnasadh (or Lammas, meaning ‘loaf-mass’) is the first of the 3* harvests.  It introduces the transition of summer into autumn and is often celebrated as a grain festival.  By some contrast, the next holiday, Mabon (or Autumn Equinox) is often considered a wine festival.

There are many ways to celebrate, from a simple meditation to a full-blown ritual.  It could be a baking of bread that is consecrated (blessed) before eating.  If eating freshly harvested foods, don’t forget to save the seeds, for it is said that, if they sprout the next year, one should plant it as a connection with the Divine.  This seems to go especially for trees, such as apple.  However one chooses to revel, the main point is to mindfully recognize where the Wheel of the Year currently sits and express gratitude for/reflect on/celebrate/etc. your place as part of Nature.

There is also some lore involved with the holiday, much of it Celtic, but I won’t get too far into it today.  I intend to create a series on the Pagan holidays soon enough, so there’s no need to be redundant. 🙂

As I said before, whether you’re Pagan or not…enjoy your day!

 

*According to some traditions, Samhain (pronounced sow-en, not sam-hane) is not counted as the third harvest.

 

The Garden’s Coming Along Nicely

I know.  It’s been a while since my last post and I missed this past week’s Misplaced Myths.  I apologize.  A lot’s been happening and there were unforeseen complications recovering from my recent surgery.  Life happens, but I’m still here because I’m too far gone 😉

One of the things I wanted to use this blog for is to document my adventures as a wannabe homesteader.  I say wannabe because I’ve barely gotten the garden together, after several years of trying. In my defense, my problems with keeping plants alive started only when I tried to over-do it and go too big at once.  This year, I decided to start small.

We took down the fence last year and rebuilt it this year.  It delayed putting the garden in, so I didn’t get my cools in this spring and worried I was too late with my warms.  In the garden, I got some maters, okra, sweet peppers and a watermelon plant in.  In the shady side at the back, I transferred collards and 2 types of lettuce.  In the “corn/grain patch” on the other side of the barn, I planted heirloom corn and came back a couple weeks later and planted green beans with them and transplanted my yellow squash.

Fast forward, something like 1 or 1.5 month, and things are coming along nicely.  The corn’s near shoulder-height (so glad I went with a 90 day heirloom and not the typical 120 day sweet corn!) and some yellow squash are forming.  The maters are flowering, as is the watermelon plant, and the okra is gaining on the maters.  The collards and lettuces are lively and growing.

Of the failures, it looks like the peppers may not have survived and the green beans don’t seem to have sprouted at all.  I may have misjudged the peppers readiness for transplant, though, and the green bean seeds were from a couple years back.  May be contributing factors…

The yields aren’t likely to be huge, since I only planted a small bit, so there won’t be any canning this year.  I will probably be processing some to freeze, if it isn’t all eaten fresh.  I may still try to put in some cools for a fall harvest before it’s too late.  Been a while since I’ve had carrots I grew myself.  May try for those and some beets, cabbage and what-not.  I have seed onion, shallots and purple potatoes that I’ll give a go…I believe they can over-winter for a late spring harvest if planted and thickly mulched before the frost (but don’t quote me on that – I’m still a novice).  I’m hopeful for a more cultivated green thumb and an ever-expanding garden as time goes on.

I wish I had a picture to post.  Still gotta replace my worn-out digital cam.  Maybe there will be a pic come harvest time.

If you’re gardening this year, how are your plants coming along?  Leave a comment and let me know!