Tuesday, August 14, 2018

late summer and sweetgrass

It's nice to always have some handwork going. Something that requires a bit of attention but not too much -- you won't lose your place by daydreaming or listening to someone or something. 

I'm not sure what a person would call this. Coloring with fabric, maybe?

Patchwork/applique stitched onto a piece of medium-weight decorator fabric. The cloth is probably heavy enough to upholster a chair seat but still easy to get a needle through. I use mostly odds and ends of thread and cloth.

I will probably color in one more flower and then make a pillow cover with it...or something easy like that.

As I plan to make a triple tincture with the flowers, seeds and roots of some Echinacea purpurea that grows along our front walkway, the echinacea altar seemed most appropriate.

The blossom and her leaves lasted for days and days.

Cilantro always bolts as soon as the heat sets in but this summer I discovered the blossoms are just as tasty as the leaves. Pretty happy about that.

I couldn't get over the colors in this juice before I stirred them together and everything turned drab brown/green.

The magician playing an ashiko drum, flowers, feather and rock placed on my ashiko drum.

Sweetgrass was braided on Lammas (Lughnasadh), the first harvest celebration on the old-time wheel of the year.

Lammas is usually a busy time for most people and it's sometimes hard to get together with friends. When that happens I try to do something special by myself.

Sweetgrass is considered to be the hair of Mother Earth. As an offering, I placed several scoops of vermicompost and an amethyst crystal in the pot.

I always thought sweetgrass was native to North America but learned recently that it is also native to Eurasia all the way from north of Switzerland right on up to the Arctic Circle. So now I find myself imagining my own ancestors harvesting long strands of the Mother's hair for medicine, basketry, flavoring and fragrance. I find it interesting that I had been looking for ways other than cooking or handwork to connect with my ancestors when out of the blue sweetgrass presented herself.

Making herbal preparations is much of what I do in late summer. Last year's red oil still smells nice and fresh but for some reason never got labeled. Suffice it to say, I will be using this oil generously over the next few months.

We had loads of black currants on one bush. They are not as tasty as red currants so I've not used them much -- however, this "cough syrup" is absolutely delicious. I prefer to call it juice from now on. I made it by simmering the berries in water, straining and adding a few tablespoons of honey.

And a liqueur seemed like a good use, as well, since I know now how much flavor those little nuggets have hidden inside.

The lavender in the front circle garden was nice this year, too.

Motherwort grows everywhere in our back yard, the bees love it and I do, too, in this honey. Motherwort is usually taken as tincture because it makes a bitter infusion, indeed.

I loved watercoloring some pages to use for my labels.

This hibiscus plant has been watercolored, too, don't you think? The Japanese beetles love her.

In the mornings lately, I have been making holy smoke with last year's remaining sweetgrass braid. I smudge myself while invoking the spirits to help me as I begin to create my day. The scent on my clothes and body is a sweet reminder.

Blessings of late summer and sweetgrass to you. xo

Sunday, June 10, 2018

all the flowers

I'm not sure why exactly, but the blooming season has been extraordinary around here these past weeks. Some say it's because we didn't have that last regular killer cold snap, others say it's because we had measurable spring snow/rain at the perfect time. Regardless, all this beauty and fragrance has been the main topic of conversation among neighbors and gardening friends...and even strangers connect over "oh-those-lilacs" (which actually happened to me recently at the grocery store). Usually it's bad weather and devastation that bring people together but here it's been all the flowers.

Dusk is the best time for lunaria and blue pansies.

Going back in time, dandelion cupcakes were made.

About 3/4 cup of dandelion petals were added to the flour/flower mix.

Finished off with a basic buttercream frosting and a few more flower petals. I don't usually bake much but Jan loved these, I took some to a get-together and there are still some in the freezer...so it was worth it.

Right outside the bedroom window, the elder blossoms were breathtaking.

I filled my moonbag with enough flowers to both dry for tea and make a syrup. I made the handstitched bag with home/plant-dyed cotton and linen moon squares using a bag pattern by India Flint.

Elder flowers and Gertrude Jekyl roses drying on screens -- I left the roses intact this year as an experiment to see if they hold their color and fragrance better or worse than loose petals.

The bag's inside is pretty stitchy.

An elder flower syrup began by infusing flowers in water for several hours, then simmering the strained liquid combined with an equal amount of sugar for a half hour.

Cocktail. Two tablespoons of elder flower syrup topped with club soda. On the rocks. 

The bee yard. This new colony is expanding fast -- I've already added a second story and a third is going on soon. On the other side of the garden, the beehive in the tree trunk reached full capacity and swarmed twice (both swarms went to good homes). The colony left behind must love how roomy the tree trunk is now because it is thriving as well.

 Have you ever seen a yellowhorn tree?

A few days ago, I plucked blossoms off sage flower stalks. Since they were already past their prime, it took a lot of stalks to get enough blossoms for sage flower pesto.

A very small batch but definitely worth the effort -- just under a cup of sage blossoms, a few chive blossoms, about 1/4 cup walnuts, a clove of garlic and some nice olive oil went into the food processor. The last ingredient of 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese was stirred in.

The pesto had a subtle sage flavor and was delicious. Pretty sure I'll be making more pesto with different flowers all summer long.

I am liking learning from and connecting with flowers on a daily basis. I am trying not to complicate things by setting goals or collecting lots of recipes because then it turns into something else. I just want to go visit whoever is blooming in the garden and see what happens.

I hope you get to visit all the flowers. xo

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

queen of swords

With spring in full force, I've either been researching or experiencing spring tonics nearly every day. By definition, a tonic is simply something that restores or refreshes one's being...a tonic could affect someone on mental, physical or spiritual levels and by various means. Activities, exercises, nourishment, art forms and even ritual practices could all be subtle magical tonics.

I think I have the nose of a dog. Inhaling spring blossom fragrance daily is a favorite restorative of mine and there are many items on that menu -- apple trees, plum trees; golden currants, lilacs, sand cherries, grape hyacinth and Oregon grape holly bushes for starters. The beautiful iris was accidentally snapped off a few days ago and is developing her fragrance even without sunlight and birdsong.

I've begun a sort of art journal practice in a new handmade journal -- the first section of the book is dedicated to the Queen of Swords with a focus on the element of air and its corresponding attributes. It begins with the language of name and place...thinking about where I come from brought both people and sweet memories back to life. I loved doing this.

Every spring I look forward to collecting and cooking wild weeds from right outside the back door...tonic foods. My weedy stalwarts are always steamed nettles with onion and garlic, nettle pesto and dandelion Italiano on toasted sour dough bread.

I yearn to connect to the ways of my grandmothers, I tell myself that surely they cooked these same greens in the spring. The bowl of nettles is placed on my grandmother's table, now my dining table. She lived and died many years before I was born. When I feel sad that I have nothing to know or remember her by other than a few old photos, I remind myself that she rested her hands on this very table, maybe even in the exact same places that I rest mine.

A tiny prayer flag became a book mark on the full moon -- the chain-stitched spiral symbolizes air and wind.

We removed two dead trees this past week -- a pear tree and a juniper tree, both from which I kept mementos. The little bundle is a tiny pear twig tied together with some nearby plants. From the juniper trunk, Jan sawed me a small section revealing rings and colors and fragrance that surprised and delighted us. I'm finding that saving and holding natural objects like these as sacred is one way for me to express gratitude, no matter what the season.

The Queen of Swords has clear, piercing vision which the likeness of Frida Kahlo epitomizes for me on the bit of collage (the back of a greeting card). The handmade journal to the right, which I adore, was made by Kate Jackson.

In case you're wondering, the Queen of Spades is the equivalent of the Queen of Swords.

I'm ending this post with yet another photo of our many-years-old bee house holding a brand new colony of Italian honeybees. This house was vacant all last summer due to colony failure and I am so happy to have a full house again. At present, we have one wild bee colony in a tree trunk to the west and the new bees live on the east side of our back yard. At last it feels like things are back to normal around here.

My spring tonic practices have felt short-lived, almost elusive -- there is still so much I want to read and make and think about. But as we approach the threshold of summer, it will soon be time to begin focusing on the element of fire and the Queen of Wands. I am excited to see how they will show up in my life.

Late spring/early summer blessings of nettles and iris to you. xx

Friday, March 30, 2018

the language of spring

Well, it's been another little while, hasn't it? 

I like to add as many wild ingredients as possible into everyday food prep. The snow has melted (once again) so I walked the garden this crisp spring morning to see what would be good in scrambled eggs. I found yellow dock, chives, dandelion and violets -- everything looked clean enough so no washing...I don't usually wash wild/garden food unless it is absolutely necessary.

Something new around here is an old-time practice -- cooking with cast iron cookware. Currently I have three pans -- one is newish and two are from thrift shopping and appear to be very old. I like using cast iron for the usual reasons but one benefit I haven't seen mentioned is that it is so heavy that maneuvering a big frying pan is like lifting weights. I'm all for life exercise like that.

An egg-spell practice. It will be buried on the dark moon and a pansy planted over it.

Some wild honeybees moved here. The colony had lived for many years in a neighbor's tree. When the tree died, our neighbors had the tree removal experts cut out a 7-8' section and cart it over to our back yard. It was estimated that the hive area itself is several feet in height within that middle section. 

The bees seem content and we are thrilled and grateful to be part of such a unique endeavor. Plus this satisfies my secret fantasy to live inside a tree. I can imagine the hollow space of this tree divided by walls of honeycomb -- over here is the nursery and there is the capped honey area, up there is the nectar room, the drones are out back, the queen in the center of it all. It must be so warm and cozy with just the perfect level of humidity. The chanting of bees....zzzz....the fragrance...heaven.

A Rikke hat was finished -- it is a slouch hat and was fun to make, garter stitch on circular needles so there's still purling involved. I worked on this during wedding planning in December and January and finally got it blocked last month.

Holy smoke. Dried plant materials, having served their purpose, burned outside in the cauldron on a cold day. Ashes placed in the garden. Burning things takes me somewhere otherworldly.

A headband knitted in seed stitch. The last time I shopped for yarn with a friend, we decided I pick the same color every time. And she does too. Maybe everybody does.

A mossy altar was good medicine for the cold and dark months. 

I've been intentionally focused on resting over the last few months. No garden plans have been made, no seeds ordered, no new projects begun, no clothing bought or made to speak of. Like that. Now, though, I am feeling creative stirrings and the desire for clarity. Beginning to learn to listen to the language of spring and receive the messages sent by the element of air. Thinking about my inner and outer spring cleaning and taking the winds of change idea through to completion. What boons do I request. What are my visions and dreams and their meaning. Am I looking for signs and symbols, they are everywhere if only I notice. Are my grandmothers whispering to me, am I listening. What plants call to me and what dyes, medicines and meals might they offer. I hope that by learning the language and lessons of spring, I will better hear the messages of summer, fall and winter. 

I have never in all my life approached spring in quite this way. And so it goes, 'round and 'round. 
Happy Spring. xx