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One Last Harvest for the Season

This morning we put our vegetable garden to sleep. We gathered what I think is likely to be our last harvest this season (I still have a few onions not quite ready to be picked). We have our greenhouse up and running so hopefully we’ll have tomatoes, peppers, culinary herbs, and greens through the winter, but even so, for the first year we did this, our garden produced an amazing amount of produce. I am grateful to all the Gods of the land and harvest. (We even got a small handful of perfect figs from our trees, which I placed in offering on Ceres’ shrine as a gift of first fruits).

Random Cat Post lol

This majestic fellow regularly comes to investigate our garden. He is not a stray, rather he belongs to our neighbors across the street. (They’re in the process of moving and we are stressing about their cat, hoping they don’t forget him. If they do, we plan to marry him to our tortie Elena. LOL. She is not impressed with this plan). He never wants to play, but is always very focused on the important cat business to which he must attend. He also likes to nap under our porch where it is cool.

Orange tom 1

He lives mostly outside, wandering round and keeping the birds on their toes. 

orangetom 2

He’s welcome in our garden any time.

Update on Our Garden

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any updates about our garden and that’s partly because I’ve been too busy picking veggies, cooking, canning, and pickling to do so. It’s exploded in beautiful and bountiful ways. The zucchini alone has kept me busy. So, for those who might be curious, here are a few pictures, because this endeavor (a new one for me) has brought me closer in my heart to my ancestors who worked the land, but also to the Goddess Ceres, and to certain of the Vanir. It’s not that I didn’t honor Them before this – I absolutely did—but I honored Them without fully comprehending all that They represented and governed. I won’t claim that I have full understanding now, but I certainly have more appreciation!

Firstly, here is our Ceres shrine. The photo is a little lopsided because I wanted to show the beautiful hollyhock that is growing to the left of the shrine. There are beans growing right at the base of the arch and some of them have already reached the edible stage. She receives offerings regularly at this shrine (and we also have shrines to Nerthus, Frey, Freya, Libera, and Liber on the property).

july 2020 Ceres shrine

Here is our beautiful herb garden. I also have herbs in porch boxes and in front of the house, but this is our primary garden. Among other things, we have valerian, skullcap, loofa (loofah sponges come from a squash – who knew? I always thought it was a sea creature but no, it’s a vegetable!), two kinds of mint, motherwort, basil, fennel, hyssop, borage, attorlaðe, chamomile and more.

july 2020 herb garden

Here is our main garden bed. We have onions, peppers, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini (so much zucchini @___@), eggplant, lettuce, dill, strawberries, squash, and watermelon (the last two are still just vines), also potatoes.

main bed july 20920

Here’s a better picture –we had to fence it off because of deer and ground hogs.

maiin bed july 2020

We didn’t forget to honor the Fair Folk, who have definitely made their presence known in our garden. Here are two of the little houses we symbolically set out for them (there are two more as well). We also set up a watering station for bees, and I’m waiting on a bird bath to arrive (I found a pretty one on etsy). It’s been so blisteringly hot, I figure this is the least we can do for our pollinators. I also put up these cute little bug boxes to help carpenter bees, independent bees (not all live in a colony) and lady bugs find shelter. We have three of them around our yard at strategic points and also an owl box. I’ll post pictures of those later. It’s too hot to go out and get more photos right now.

july 2020 fair folk house

Here is the very first tomato that I have ever grown. I am unduly happy about this one and in a few days it will make a lovely sandwich. In the back you can see one of our other vegetable beds. This one has chard, eggplant, savory, more tomatoes, and asparagus. There’s another of comparable size farther back with more potatoes.

July 2020 tomatoe

Here is some of the corn I planted at random intervals around the property. This was an experiment and next year I might plant significantly more. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, if it is knee high by July, we’re doing well and ours was at least that. Woo!

random corn july 2020

Finally, all over the property, but especially in front of the porch, we have unauthorized flowers: Queen Anne’s Lace. They’re lovely and I’m glad that authorized or not, they showed up. (we tried to plant roses, daisies, and poppies but the latter did not bloom, the daisies burned in the heat, and the former bloomed only slightly. I’ve no hand with roses I’m afraid, though I love them). I look at the explosion of Queen Anne’s Lace (and believe me, it’s EVERYWHERE), as a gift from the Fair Folk and I am grateful.

front porch july 2020 queen annes lace

That is all for now. Meanwhile, our household is preparing for Loki’s feast day, which we celebrate on the 17th (though we’ll probably do it over the weekend instead this year) and I’m off to pickle some cucumbers.

Misfit Veggies and Food Waste, also, our Ceres Shrine

While the world is going happily to hell, my household has been working to become more self-sufficient. We have a long way to go but this process has been bringing us closer to our ancestors, to the land, and to our Gods too. Working with the land in any capacity is a healing thing, and since I know I’ve been getting emotionally overwhelmed by watching and reading the news more than normal these past few days, I thought perhaps those of you who are in the same boat might enjoy reading this, or at least find in it a bit of a helpful respite.

Firstly, I’ve made my first journeys into canning. I’m still a little afraid to try induction canning. I’ve never done that before, nor do I remember my grandmother doing it, but I have done water-based canning over a decade ago and I know my maternal grandmother did as well. I wanted to try it again. So, I made pickles. It was easy, much more so than I expected. First, I took myself in hand and even though I was nervous took our leftover parsnips and carrots and pickled the hell out of them. We’ve been picking up produce and eggs weekly at a local CSA. The farm is really wonderful, the people lovely to deal with, and the food organic and fresh (they work with two other local farms also, so the farm stand is well stocked. There was even a bit of fruit, though it’s early yet for that) (1). The parsnip/carrot pickles turned out well. The canning process went as it ought to have done; the jars sealed. It helped my confidence a bit, so two nights ago, I took 2/3 of our cucumbers and made dill pickles. They turned out beautifully and as soon as we get more pickles from our CSA, I’ll be making more. It’ll be even better once our dill flowers. We planted dill and have a ton of it. There’s something really nice about using produce or herbs that one has grown oneself. So far, we’ve only been able to do that with our greens (Romaine, lettuces, sorrel, spinach, some chard) and herbs but soon we’ll have more vegetables to play with. I’ve been able to freeze quite a bit, at least two mos worth of greens for a household that eats A LOT of greens) (2). I mostly pray to my ancestors when I’m doing this, but Sigyn and Frau Holle have also been strongly in my thoughts and my prayers. I remember my adopted mom talking about how tending the home is sacred. It is making clean space that nourishes our loved ones. It is worthy work. I think of Them a lot when I cook now, and thank Them always for Their guidance. I’ve always liked to cook but this is new ground for me – literally!

Secondly, we have battled woodchucks and won. I was going to cook up the one we caught, but my housemates are culinary wusses lol and refused to even consider eating it, so, I let the local critter man just take it away. We’re also seeing a lot of garter snakes on our land. This is a good thing, a sign of a healthy environment, and I like snakes. I’m glad they’re making themselves known. They can stay ha ha.  My poor housemate though never saw one up close until she found one lounging in a planting pot she was wanting to use. I’m afraid it freaked her a little bit, but she’s slowly getting used to them (3). When I see one, I give thanks and sometimes make small offerings to the Lithuanian Goddess Egle, and also to Eir, sometimes Asklepius. The snake brings healing, wisdom, transmutes poisons. I’m really glad they’re present and I almost always take it as a positive sign when one appears.

This week we received our first box from Misfit Market. This company works with local growers to buy up produce that stores won’t touch. That produce might be oddly shaped. It might be weird looking. It might be perfectly good but small or a little weird in color. Usually this produce would go to waste (though farmers can turn it into compost at least) so this way, it doesn’t. They have a number of subscription boxes one can order. I was shocked when we got our box. The produce looked just fine to me and it tasted really good. I would have bought any of it in a store if I’d seen it. I am really boggled at the idea that it would have been rejected from regular supermarkets, but I’ve been horrified lately by food waste.

My husband and I watched this documentary recently – he knew about this already, but I didn’t. It blew my mind. I have trouble conceiving of such waste. When my grandmother was raising her five children, she was so poor she shot squirrels to feed her family. I was terribly poor in my twenties and the idea of having a full refrigerator and larder is still something that occasionally makes me cry. I have a pantry now, with a good three months of food at least put away (all staples like flour, sugar, pasta, rice, beans, etc.), full cupboards, fresh produce on my counter, a full fridge, a large freezer full of meat, and greens, and game and I am grateful. I remember more than once in my twenties having to eat food that was borderline bad because it was all that I had, and going hungry too. I can’t stand to see someone hungry. Those who come to my home leave well fed and with food if they need it.

I recommend watching the documentary. It really opened my eyes and maybe it will give you all ideas for small ways to cut food waste. I just decided to do what I suggest people do with ancestor veneration: to start where I happen to be at the moment and go from there. Our next step is learning how to compost (4). When I’m dealing with food, I vacillate between honoring Ceres, Pomona, Nerthus, Frey, and for cooking, Fornax. This brings me to my final update. We finally installed our Ceres shrine. There will eventually be special space for Nerthus and at least one shrine for Frey and when our fruit trees and bushes start to blossom, we want to put up something for Pomona. This week, however, we installed our Ceres shrine and it is lovely.

Ceres shrine

There is a wire arch over it and beans planted on either side that will, as they grow, climb up over the arch so that Ceres’ statue will be surrounded by green, growing things. Behind her, our main garden bed begins, and immediately behind her there are zucchini, onions, and eggplant growing. On either side of her, there is fennel, hyssop, borage, and chamomile.

We are also growing the nine herbs of Woden, but that’s a post for another day.

Notes:

  1. The farm was originally doing a weekly CSA box, but their farm manager took a leave of absence due to family illness (not Covid) so they refunded everyone, saying that they didn’t feel they could guarantee the quality and timeliness they wished. We got our refunds, $50 gift cards, and it’s not that big a deal. We would have had to go weekly to pick up the produce anyway. We do that now and get to pick what’s in our box. It all works out well. They even have butter and eggs from another local farm, which is lovely. We’ve really been trying to eat organically but just as importantly locally. We’re trying to develop relationships with local farmers and gardeners, supporting where we can instead of buying from supermarkets. So far, so good.
  2. For me, working the land physically has brought me into greater communion with my male Lithuanian ancestors, but working in the kitchen brings all my Disir around. (For those not Heathen, Disir are female ancestors). It’s a place sacred to them, where nourishing the line, the home, loved ones takes real and concrete form and where stories and wisdom, knowledge and family culture is passed down from our grandmothers (and some grandfathers too but it’s simple historical fact that gender roles were much more divided prior to the twentieth century – this is not to say that women’s roles were treated with disdain. They weren’t. They were utterly essential. One of my Lithuanian ancestors, a male ancestor really drove this home for me. He emphasized that most men worked outdoors with that type of hard labor – some women too but mostly men. Then the women took over with household gardens and indoor work (Cooking, keeping the fire). It took both to successfully sustain a family and both were sacred. There was absolute egalitarianism in his approach to it, and a sense that there were mysteries in both that were holy, complimentary and holy).
  3. There aren’t poisonous snakes in our immediate area, though the mountain has been getting rattlers recently. We’re just getting garter snakes.
  4. We have two compost boxes in the back, but I’m concerned they will attract rodents.

 

 

 

 

 

Gardening Updates as of May 18, 2020

Gardening is so weird. It’s awesome and wonderful and back-breaking and frustrating and just weird. We’ve had some ups and downs this past month, with unusually cold weather about two weeks ago killing our basil plants. That was shocking – not that they died, but that they turned totally black having been frozen to death. I’ve read accounts about farming and trying to save crops from an unexpected frost, about how they could turn black and be lost but I’d never seen it happen and it was really shocking to see. We’ve replaced the basil but our intense respect for the elemental powers grows daily (and for farmers, and all of our ancestors who were farmers who depended on the land and elements for not only their livelihood but for the survival of their families).  I’m also deeply envious of my friend Sarenth’s rotary tiller lol. I have told him this too. Now, mind you, we don’t have that much land that we would ever *need* a rotary tiller, but that is not the point. I saw pictures he was posting on facebook of a beautifully ploughed field bed and now I have rotary tiller envy. Ha ha.

Our greens have grown lol. I’ve been harvesting and freezing romaine, lettuce, chard, spearmint (I like to add a little to salads to give it a zing), and just as of today, spinach. I’ve also been making salads and clipping our chives to use in omelets and it’s wonderful. The food grown by our own hands tastes so much cleaner and fresher than what we buy at the store. We’re waiting with bated breath for our tomatoes to decide what they’re going to do.

I’m currently waiting on two raised gardening beds for the other side of the house where we’re going to put our root vegetables. I was worried we’d be late planting, but everything we want to put there will work in late summer/early autumn so that is perfect. I just wish the beds would arrive already!

I planted a bunch of seedlings, the first time I’ve worked from seed, and they’re growing! I looked today and radishes and marjoram had sprouted. I hope the parsnips and carrots follow suit. In the interim, we planted a bunch of flowers (many of which are either edible or medicinal and all of which are beautiful), another rose bush (I love roses and have a couple more on order), and I set out some potted herbs: marjoram, basil, rue, peppermint, lemon verbena, lavender, and chamomile.

may 2020 flowerpots 2

I also bought a tiny savory plant. I’ve read about this plant but have never used it in cooking. I’m looking forward to experimenting. First though, I need to make woodruff syrup so I can enjoy a nice Berliner Weise when the weather turns hot again. ^___^.

So that’s where we’re at now: waiting for things to arrive and letting the land do it’s work. We’re going to be setting up two shrines in the garden, most likely as part of our solstice celebrations: one to Ceres and one to Freyr. Working the land in this way, for me at least (I can’t speak for my housemates) has given me a far, far greater respect for my ancestors but also a deep sense of conscious connection to my Lithuanian ancestors particularly. I’d always felt somewhat disengaged from them, chalking it up to having been raised by my mother’s side of the family but since we started gardening, my Lithuanian ancestors have been so tremendously present. Farming was a way of life for them, whatever other professions they may have had. Several times they’ve actually given us suggestions to help with our planting. They know the land and what it takes to work it.

Next week, the local CSA should be open and possibly our local farmers’ market too. I’m looking forward to that and soon in addition to adventures in gardening, it will be adventures in canning and pickling. I shall keep you all up to date on how it goes.

may 2020 flower pots

My first carnivorous little plant

Today my friend Tatyana gave me a present, something I’ve wanted for a very long time. We’ve been working on our garden together and she got me a carnivorous little Venus fly trap. I’m so excited about it. It’s a marvelous little plant! It’s so tiny too. Each of its mouths is only about the size of a nickel. I repotted it as soon as she gave it to me and right now it’s getting fat and happy on my porch. Already three of its mouths have captured bugs.

Apparently, it only grows naturally in the Carolinas and its habitat is in danger. Here is a page all about these plants.

And here is my plant:

venus fly trap may 2020That is all. 🙂

Garden Updates

For those of you wondering how our lawn transformation (lol) is going, I wanted to give you all an update. We’re making good progress, so much so that if we get even a third of the produce we’re planting (and I manage to effectively can all of it) we will be set for the winter. Another cool thing that we’re noticing is that almost all of the houses on our street, at least in our block, have started their own gardens, either larger vegetable gardens like ours, or smaller but thoroughly respectable little plots, or just porch boxes. It’s really cool to watch and to be part of this progress. Self-sufficiency comes in many forms, after all.

While we still have a lot more to do, including making the Acerbot to Erda, making offerings to Nerthus and Frey, and carrying phalloi for Dionysos around the perimeter to banish evil, we’re making steady progress, and already having the joy of seeing our vegetables and herbs grow. This is our primary in-ground bed so far:

best view main bed april 2020

We’ve got lettuce and dill and three rows of strawberries (eventually it’ll be three rows. Right now, there’s a little room to expand but strawberries are seriously hardy little plants. I was stunned to see how well they’ve handled the shitty weather). They’re for Freya and Hermes and Sigyn will have Her offerings too (Especially from some of the flowers we’ve planted). I was worried about the lettuce and dill at first. When I initially planted it, it was looking a bit peaked but now, I’m happy to report they’re both doing better and over the weekend we’re going to get our brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower in, following with other veggies later in the week as weather permits.

We have a nice herb garden here (and of course there are a bunch more in boxes on the porch, and in a smaller back-yard garden not pictured here):

april 2020 herb garden

We planted a ton of nettle by the porch (While I cannot take nettle internally due to certain health issues, it is an excellent herb medicinally and I like its warrior energy, hence, it’s placement by the front door):

porch nettles april 2020

I have two standing porch boxes. One for tomatoes and peppers:

first standing box april 2020

One for onions and spinach (though I’ll be planting more spinach elsewhere):

second standing box april 2020

And just for the beauty, we planted some flowers (marigolds, poppies, lobelia, vervain, pinks, with room for more – I plan to drop by the garden center and get more this weekend plus we have several rose bushes on their way), though lobelia makes a good tincture, especially when combined with a bit of cayenne for chest issues, and marigolds are edible. We also planted foxglove and hollyhock for the fae:

flower line april 2020

My favorite flowers are poppies, roses, and sunflowers. We are planting two of the three and my next-door neighbor grows the hugest sunflowers I have ever seen, and we share. Our next steps will involve planting the large bed fully and then we’re waiting on two 4×8 foot above ground beds to arrive. They’ll be going on the other side of the house. Plus, we have a beautiful elderberry tree to plant. We’ll also be honoring the Minoan Poppy Goddess when the flowers begin to bloom, since the poppies specifically are Hers. We pour offerings to Sunna, our Sun Goddess when the sunflowers bloom, and we’ll be putting in night-blooming jasmine and other flowers for Mani. Elderberry and rose themselves are elders amongst plant spirits so they too will have their offerings. I’ve also planted two Jupiter’s Beard plants, in honor of Him, by our front door. They’re next to the nettle.

While we’re waiting for our veggies to grow, our household has joined a local CSA. Starting at the end of May, we’ll be receiving weekly buckets of produce. I’m excited about that. It lets us support a local farm, we get the benefit of locally grown vegetables, and my ancestors have been pushing us to make friends with local farmers, start developing a network, etc. and so, this is a good place to begin. That’s where we’re at.

Most importantly, this has opened the door to a devotional relationship with Ceres, Who became very, very present during our preparations. We intend to set up a shrine to Her at the head of the garden bed, where we will be making regular offerings.

Gardening Adventures – It Begins lol

gardening adventures april 22

So, this is a picture of what my driveway looks like right now. This is about a third of the soil that we will eventually need to have delivered to us in order to cultivate the side of the lawn pictured here. This is because we are three inches away from bedrock, maybe less. This was a huge shock when we were planting roses a couple of years ago. I knew we were close to the bedrock, but had no idea at all that it was at most, three inches down. We live in the shadow of the mountain, in its water-basin, and the mountain guards us, but oh it does make gardening a challenge!

A local gardener suggested that we have proper soil delivered and so we have done. It’s beautiful soil too, rich and lush and black. We decided to do three separate deliveries to make it all easier and less intimidating to shovel and rake out. After two days of working on that, I decided to hire someone because with my back injury, I just can’t do it. Fortunately, a local farmer, a young woman contacted us almost immediately after I put the add out and all this should be sorted by the weekend. I’m grateful for the help and she is happy with the work. It’s a win-win. A friend said, “that’s a lot of money you’re paying” (I had set a rate I was comfortable with and thought fair when I posted my ad) and I promptly responded, “After doing this myself for the last two days, it’s worth every penny and more.” It’s labor. (Normally Sannion would help whip it right out but he’s had some pain issues lately, esp. with the cold weather, and I’m not willing to risk it). 

This weekend, we’ll be making offerings to Erda, using a version of the Acerbot charm and setting out eggs, bread, milk, honey, and beer at the four corners of our home, the four corners of the yard that will be our garden.

In the meantime, since I know that we are unlikely to have the best harvest in our first year, the household has joined a local CSA. We buy shares in a local farm’s vegetable crop. I drive past the farm we chose almost weekly as it’s not far from my friend Mary Ann’s house. Starting the end of May, we’ll have weekly vegetables and the opportunity to pick herbs and flowers if we so choose. If we have too much, I’ll share with the neighbors or can them for later use. This way, I can be supporting local farmers too. We are still considering our meat and egg options but I suspect that once Covid restrictions are over, the local farmer’s market will handle that.

That’s one of the things our ancestors have pushed us to do: develop a network of farms, farmers, farmer’s markets, etc. because no one needs to do every single thing, but we can support and sustain each other.

More to come, I am sure, though right now I feel as though I shall never move from this sofa again lol.

Learning to Work the Land

My household is currently focused on turning our lawn into a working vegetable garden. We’re planting vegetable, fruits, and also medicinal herbs. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for years but it’s been a little overwhelming. Now, being at home due to Covid, it’s provided a perfect opportunity to really focus on learning how to work — and work with — the land.

Actually, while Tatyana had a thriving herb garden since last year (she’s our housemate) this was really my first go-round with any type of gardening (though I did grow a few herbs years and years ago when I lived in Queens) and it was prompted by news reports that Michigan was banning the sale of seeds in local stores as “non-essential.” That triggered something with my Lithuanian ancestors and they started hammering me hard to plant. Something about government stepping in and preventing local stores from selling seeds well, it was like it flipped a switch for them and they started hammering me so intensely to create my own garden, to get it up and running right away, that I had no choice but to comply.

Now, I have severe spinal damage (remnants of a career as a ballet dancer and one of the main reasons I retired in my early twenties) so bending and working the soil is not something I can easily do – one of the things that was very intimidating to me about all of this. I solved that problem by starting with porch boxes, pots, and standing boxes (these latter haven’t yet arrived). We discovered our local gardening supply shop is open and that they deliver so Tatyana and I went to town. While she’s busy setting up our in-ground vegetable garden, I decided to start with about a dozen porch boxes. I planted marigold (keeps pests away and leaves are edible), lettuce, onions, peppers, brussel sprouts, strawberries, cauliflower (I accidentally planted Tatyana’s cauliflower and it’ll have to be replanted when it really starts to grow), basil, thyme, oregano, woodruff, parsley (I have seeds for marjoram and sage on their way). For medicinal purposes I have feverfew, calendula, chamomile, lavender, lobelia. For beauty, I have a rose bush, poppies, and already had lilacs and forsythia. My ancestors don’t care about flowers unless they are medicinal or edible but these were available and I like them. I also ordered a lemon tree –potted so it can live inside during the winter.

Tatyana is planting carrots, zucchini, peppers, squash, peas, potatoes, turnips, tomatoes, parsnips, lettuce, strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries, cucumbers, a passel of medicinal herbs including yarrow and elderberry, and a ton more that I can’t recall at the moment. I think this is something anyone can do, but it’s important not to get intimidated. Starting with a single herb in a pot is well begun. It helps us connect to the cycles of nature, to the spirits of herbs and trees, plants and the land, and as we work hard to build communities, well, there’s no functioning community without food. We’re a long way away from being self-sustaining but it begins with willingness and putting those first seeds into the dirt.

I’ll be blogging about this as we go and you can join us on this journey.

garden april 19

(our porch garden. there are more boxes to the left not pictured here). 

In the meantime, here are a few sites that have been both inspiring and beneficial:

Here an here are two posts on Victory Gardens – why did we ever stop doing this!

Then there’s Townsends, which focuses on 18thcentury cooking, crafts, and gardening. It’s a great site and it’s way too easy to go down the rabbit hole emerging hours later with a desire to build a log cabin, cook weird dishes over an open hearth, and make one’s own clothing. LOL.

Finally, there’s this channel Homesteading Family. They know how to do things and their channel is a treasure trove of info (even if I find the ever-growing passel of children off-putting lol).