Posted in Homestead and Hearthcraft, Morningbird's Garden

Seeding a Path

 

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I see thyme!

Today the weather was quite nice. Sunny and cool. I decided to let the birds wander loose and spend some time in the garden while I can. In truth, this spring-like weather can only last so long, so, even though I worked a 12-hour overnight shift last night and have another one tonight, I decided to caffeine up and make the most of the good weather.

 

My husband decided he was going to re-caulk the windows today. One of them was leaking in our last big rain and you know there’s going to be more and bigger rain before spring is over. So, I was on my own while he did his thing. I don’t think he’s done either. I may be on my own for a while, or until it rains or gets cold again.

I have decided to do a market garden this year specifically for herbs. So, I needed to expand my herb garden. This weekend I gave the bunny barn a good cleaning and took the hay and other waste out to use to kill the grass in the expanded area. The first year we moved here we had to take down a bunch of trees and so we had a lot of woodchips and I started my first gardens using the Back to Eden method, though I didn’t know the name of it at the time. Now I have no woodchips, but I have plenty of pooped-on hay and straw and that’s what I use these days. We improvise.

Today I decided to work on the path through the herb garden. I don’t like grassy paths because you have to mow them and mowing sucks. So, I dug up all the sod and heavily reseeded the path with the Alternative Lawn mix from American Meadows. I really want Roman Chamomile to be the primary plant there, but we’ll see what dominates.

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I had a little help from my friends. Penelope followed along and cleaned up the freshly turned dirt of grubs and worms.

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And Shazaam… industriously kicked the straw back onto the path.

I also marked out the area where my new garden fence is going in. My husband an I will put it in tomorrow if I feel up to it and if I need to sleep (after getting very little for two days) he can put it in himself.

It felt good to be out in the sunshine. Not expecting more for some time.

In other news: Sugar is broody and has been for some time. She has no eggs under her but it makes now difference. I pick her up and carry her outside every day to ensure she gets food and drink, but she hurries right back after about 30 minutes of activity. Yesterday, Ninjagirl was in her nest box when she got back and a messy fight ensued that had to be broken up. Ninjagirl has her own nest box, but my husband informs me that she has laid eggs in Sugar’s while Sugar was out the last few days. We will have to talk about this. We also have to have a conversation with Diva and Grimm about inter-species mating.

Posted in Homestead and Hearthcraft, My Homestead Journal

2018 New Year, New Plans

2017 was a year of major losses for us and we’re really focusing on mitigating them for the coming year.

We lost our drake to a weasel and our buck just up and vanished early last year and we were rather attached to both of them. Without them, we weren’t able to get much breeding done and didn’t end up with much meat in the freezer. We are already out of meat for the season and that is a problem. We do have a new buck and a new drake, some chickens (and roosters) and a pair of geese now (though we still aren’t 100% sure that one of them is male) so, with more diversity, we’re hoping to get more meat next year. We do need to build more housing for them. At this point, while we have adequate housing for our adult rabbits and poultry, we really don’t have enough for raising their offspring, so that’s top priority for 2018. Last year we did do a lot to perfect our meat processing techniques, so we are hoping for less awkward and more efficient processing days.

We also lost much of our garden to wildlife in 2018 and that caused a lot of extra work and wasted effort. So fences are another priority for 2018. Fences are expensive. Especially nice, pretty fences that won’t get the neighbors all grumpy.

My husband lost his job early last year and we’ve really been struggling financially since. He did get another job, a seasonal job that only lasted till the snow fell, and I’ve been working too, but our combined income has been about half of what he was earning alone at his previous job. Because both of us have to work full time and overtime just to have the bills paid, we are looking for ways to simplify and streamline our farming activities while also coming up with ways to make a little extra cash. I am personally also looking for ways to streamline my writing hobby and get some money in from it. Honestly, even when I’m working overtime, I am still only earning less than 3/4 of what he earned at the job he thought he was going to retire from, and our bills haven’t gone down at all either. So, it’s very hard to think about how we’re going to build new poultry and rabbit tractors and fences to make this adventure successful.

That all being said, here’s what I did today- Today is my first day off in some time. I worked a lot of overtime over the holidays, but now that the holidays are over they’ve cut me back to half time. I don’t know how we’re going to pay the bills like this, but at least I have some time to relax and get some work done around the house. My mom gave us some money for Christmas and we spent some of it on some new shelves that I am going to use for seed starting in the spare room (that is, the room my eldest son vacated when he joined the Marines) and the rest we used to get an oil change. So I’ve been working on turning the spare room into a grow room to get a head start on the garden. I have tons of seeds left over from last year. If I’m lucky, I won’t have to buy any more. We’ll see. After I’m done starting seeds, it’ll be time to brood chicks. Assuming we got our new chicken tractor built.

The weather has been super cold and I’ve been stressing the animals, but there’s not much we can do about it. I check the houses and pen daily to make sure everything is clean and dry and throw new straw on top every few days. All the houses are topped with tarps, one of them even has a quilt. I would bring them all in the house if I could, but that is just crazy talk. I have my silkies and my ayam cemani rooster in the spare room in rabbit cages and I let them play in the kitchen when I’m around, but my husband doesn’t tolerate that nonsense. So they’re bored. But they don’t want to go outside either. But unlike my other birds, the silkies are still laying. My other chickens, the naked necks, don’t seem to have any problem with the cold. They sleep with the geese, but the geese won’t tolerate the silkies. I don’t know why, but they seem obsessed with pulling out their fluff. The ducks are fine. The rabbits are fine- the girls are in the garage and the buck is a house pet. I find that if there are enough critters in one place, they keep each other warm just fine. I think I’ll write a blog about winterizing them, but for now, I’ll just tell you that the biggest problem we have is water. We have to check their water several times a day to make sure it’s still liquid and switch it out often if it’s not. You can buy heated water bowls, but I don’t have power out there to keep it working and solar panels are expensive.

Posted in Holy Days, Kitchen Witch Corner

Entertaining at Midwinter

The Winter Solstice occurs sometime between December 20th and 22nd and is the shortest day and longest night of the year and the official start of winter, though some folks will feel that winter has set in long before its arrival and some of us are saying “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”. This time of darkness gives rise to a number of holidays to brighten up the gloom of the season with a celebration anticipating the return of the light. I like to use the name Midwinter as a path-neutral alternative, but Yule or Yuletide is also suitable and if it’s easiest to say Christmas, I’ll do that too. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a great time for a party. The best time for a party.

But many Pagans, especially those still building new traditions, are sometimes at a loss for how to proceed. Many of the most obvious traditions seem to belong to other religions and many feel the need to reject these because of it. But I say to you- nobody owns them. These are universal traditions that highlight are similarities more than our differences. We are a human family and we should all celebrate together. So, I say to you: Invite them all; eat, drink and be merry! Party like a Pagan.

Midwinter Overview

The Winter Solstice means different things to different people. For many it celebrates the birth of a divine child who will bring light back into the world, either literally (as in Sun=light) or figuratively (a savior). For some, it is an entirely secular holiday set aside for spending time with family and friends without regard to what the Gods are doing.

In truth, the traditions of the Winter Solstice are probably much more ancient than any myths we associate with it. The dark of winter was a very scary time for our ancestors and just about everyone would have lost someone they knew before springtime. Cold, malnutrition, suffocation from inadequate ventilation, food-borne illnesses from stored food, viruses and parasites brought in by animals seeking shelter from the elements and bacteria benefiting from the fact that no significant cleaning could get done without a “nice day” to ensure everything dried before it froze meant many people didn’t make it.

The cold weather and the lack of electricity to counter the effects of the waning sunlight meant that most people spent the majority of their winters isolated from their neighbors. Some cultures believed that this dark time of the year allowed spirits to wander free and they heard the cries of their dead and malignant spirits on the voices of the storms, giving them further reason not to venture past their front door.

But our ancestors didn’t spend their winters in idleness. They spent them spinning and weaving and sewing the wool and flax they gathered during the warmer months; making baskets and mats from the reeds and straws they had stored up; carving useful objects out of wood: bowls, spoons, pipes. Even making toys.

Soon, the light would return and they knew it. And once that turning point hit the cabin fever would send them out into the light to seek out their neighbors and friends, to make sure that everyone they knew was okay and to offer aid where aid was needed. And of course, they brought gifts. Whatever projects they were working on while they were shut in became gifts for their neighbors- especially for those who helped them gather the materials – and those neighbors had gifts in return.

And what do people do when they’ve been cooped up for months and finally find themselves standing in the sunshine with friends they haven’t seen in quite awhile? They sing! They dance! They drink! They eat! and they make merry.

Hosts would want to decorate their homes, to brighten things up, to improve the smell a bit even. Evergreen boughs were perfect for this. And candles, of course, so you could see your dance partner. Letting the fire go out was never a good idea before matches and butane.

These ancient Winter Solstice traditions – gift-giving, charity, singing and general partying, and decorating with evergreens are inherent to humans living in Northern climes. These are gut traditions. The myths that go along with them vary from person to person, group to group, but we can all agree on the traditions which speak to the very heart of us. The part that needs comfort and companionship and light and greenery in the coldest, loneliest, darkest, dreariest of seasons and cannot help but burst into song when that need is fulfilled.

Decorating for the Winter Solstice

When decorating for the winter solstice the theme seems to be to make everything the opposite of what it is. The Winter Solstice is cold, gray and dark. Winter Solstice decorations are warm, colorful (gaudy even) and bright. Whatever greenery can be obtained should be. Your evergreen trees should be pruned in the winter anyway, so bring those prunings in and make an evergreen wreath and some evergreen garlands.

These bright decorations symbolically balance out or negate the winter cold and darkness, but some choose to embrace it instead with images of sparkling snowflakes, icicles and snowmen. This is can also be also quite festive and lovely.

Many people blend the themes for a harmonious look.

Colors for the Winter Solstice

Colors for Winter Solstice events should evoke warmth and light and the promise of new life. Gold represents the sun and fire, red is fire and joy and green holds the promise of the coming spring. These are the most popular colors of the season.

The colors red and green can easily be brought in using berries and evergreen branches. Holly and cranberries can be used to good effect. Apples are also popular.

Another popular color combination is white, blue and silver. These colors to me evoke images of the silvery moon in a cloudless sky reflecting off of snow. They seem to embrace the season rather than seek to banish it as a more fiery color combination does.

The Centerpiece

You can get really creative with the centerpiece and have a lot of fun with it. I think candles are probably the only requirement. Here are a few ideas.

  • A bunch of greenery surrounding large pillar candles is a gorgeous classic. Maybe add some pinecones dressed up with gold paint or glitter to complete the effect or some fruits and nuts.
  • Yule Log candle holder. You can dress this up further with some greenery and berries.
  • A boar’s head with an apple in its mouth is more traditional than you might think.
  • A large bowl (or cauldron) full of red and green apples and citrus fruits.
  • A gingerbread house or some other scene made of gingerbread figures.

Lighting

Candles, candles, everywhere. And strings of LEDs of course. You can get nifty solar powered lights for outside too.

Fragrance

The scents of Yuletide are both warm and bracing. The scents Cinnamonnutmegclovesallspice, pine, and spruce will make your home feel festive and cozy.

If you have brought fresh evergreen boughs into the house, you’ve probably got that fragrance handled. Otherwise, you can gather sap very easily from trees and these can be set in the top of an oil warmer to release their fragrance. Be careful, it’s very sticky and looks very dirty. If you’d rather spring for oils, do it.

You can fill your home with the warm scent of cinnamon and cloves by keeping a crockpot full of mulled cider on low throughout the festivities. Bundle the herbs up in a bag so you can ladle out your cider without getting bits of clove in there and keep adding cider to it as your guests drink it.

Symbols

The symbols of Yule are many and varied. Like our color combination there seem to be two major categories: those symbols that embrace the season, and those that seek to banish it. There is also a third category based around gift-giving.

  • Images of light, such as candles, stars, the sun help to drive away the darkness
  • Birds who fly south for the winter bear the promise of springtime- geese and ducks, robins
  • As do images of animals who hibernate in the winter, such as bears.
  • Evergreen trees, holly, ivy, any plants that stay bright in winter bear the promise of greenery in the summer, but also celebrate the uniqueness of the season.
  • Snowflakes and anything to do with snow, including snowmen, sleds, shovels, etc. celebrate the season
  • As so images of winter clothing, esp. boots and mittens
  • And animals that thrive in snowy climes, cardinals, arctic foxes, snowshoe hares, reindeer, penguins and polar bears
  • Images of Santa Clause also bear the promise of presents, though many also associate him with the spirit of the season.
  • Stockings, gift boxes and ribbons remind us of the gift giving aspect of the season

The Altar

Cover your Yuletide altar with greenery and candles. Other than that, it depends on what you’re focusing on. You may be embracing the winter and celebrating winter spirits or spirits of nature or focusing on the battle between light and dark or perhaps you’re celebrating the birth of a new God. If your celebration is strictly secular but focused on celebrating social bonds, you may wish to dedicate your altar to you Hearth Goddess, in gratitude for the protection your home and hearth offer from the cold or decorate it with family photos to celebrate how important they are to your life.

Group Activities for Your Yuletide Celebration

  • Decorate a tree. This can be a group activity, especially if there are children involved or you can have it ready when everyone arrives as part of the decor.
  • Decorate a tree for the wildlife. Strings of berries, dried fruit and cheerios make lovely garlands. You can also string together peanuts in the shell. Suet balls in netting can be decorated with some pretty ribbon, pinecones smeared with peanut butter or sun butter can be rolled in birdseed, sliced apples and oranges hung on a ribbon are also lovely and a tasty treat for your local critters. You can also get bundles of millet that are really cool-looking to hang from a ribbon.
  • Make cookies. Make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate it and set up a decorating station, sundae bar style.
  • Sing carols. There are many secular ones and several Christian carols have been rewritten by members of the Pagan community. You can find some here. If your neighbors are amenable, go caroling or wassailing.
  • Wassail your orchard. Assuming you have an orchard. Or even a single fruit tree, or just your garden. Sing to it, beat drums and blow whistles to scare off harmful spirits and pour it libations to let it know you’d like some gifts back as soon as it is able.
  • Collect winter clothing, toys or food to give away to people in need (pick one, if you make it general it just gets too complicated).
  • Have a gift exchange. You can have people draw names randomly ahead of time or do a White Elephant exchange. I find the latter to be easiest and very fun as it’s an activity in itself. You just tell everyone to bring a wrapped gift in a certain price range, between $5 and $10 for example. Then you just take turns. The first person picks a gift and opens it, the second person can steal that gift or pick a new gift. If the second person steals the first gift, the first person gets to pick a new one. At the end you can let people trade. This can be hilarious, but I find very young children and some teenagers can’t always handle this game.

The Winter Solstice Celebratory Meal

Lots of foods are associated with the Winter Solstice. The foods we choose are those that our ancestors would have relied upon back in the day. Preserved meats like ham and sausages would have made up much of their winter protein, supplemented by fresh game, particularly wild boar was popular and my own ancestors raised geese specifically to fatten up that special one just for Christmas dinner.

Dried fruits like datesprunesfigs and raisins are also popular as are fruits and vegetables that store well, sweet potatoes, potato]es, winter squashapples and nuts as well as heavy and heavily spiced cakes and breads, as grain stores well all winter- and they’d be stuffed with dried fruit and nuts and possibly liquor as well.

Posted in Food, Kitchen Witch Corner

Crafting Magickal Meals

There are many approaches to using magick and creating a meal with magickal intent is a method embraced the Kitchen Witch. Everything in Nature has energy that can be harnessed and directed toward the manifestation of your Will, food included. Whether you prepare and consume your magical meal as a compliment to other magical work, ceremony or spellwork or as a stand-alone spell in and of itself, a little planning will go a long way toward your success.

Here are some tips for preparing a magical meal:

1. Plan your meals ahead of time. This way you will save money and make sure you have the freshest ingredients.

2. Buy local. If you can’t get local, buy organic (or if it’s meat, get pastured). If you can’t get organic (or pastured), buy it cheap. That’s assuming you didn’t grow it yourself, which is best. Seeds planted with intent lead to vegetables grown with intent, food prepared with intent and ultimately powerfully magical meals. To facilitate all of this, cook in season.

3. Treat your culinary workspace like a temple altar. Begin by cleaning and blessing your workspace and evoking your Hearth God or Goddess. Light a candle and invite His/Her presence and blessing.(See my Daily Devotion to Hestia for the prayer that I use.) Leave the candle burning while you work and then snuff it when have completed your work. This helps remind you that you are performing great work here, not just throwing something together to silence the hungry masses.

4. The best materials for magical cooking are copper, cast iron, glass, ceramic or porcelain, and stainless steel- not in that order. Cast iron is the most traditional of readily available options. It also has protective properties. Glass is nice and neutral. It does not interfere with the natural magical energies of the food and supports your energies channeling into it while you cook. Copper increases energy and has properties related to love and luck. Aluminum is OK if you’ve got nothing else. Nonstick is poison, don’t give those people money. Acidic things should be cooked in glass or porcelain, never in copper or aluminum.

5. Kitchen witchery should be drawing magic. Don’t try to cook banishing magic into your food! Stirring sunwise (clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere) helps enhance drawing energy, but don’t get overly obsessive about this. Sometimes it’s a good idea to alternate directions or to stir symbols into your meals, such as a unity symbol or an infinity symbol.

6. Focus! While you are stirring, cutting, kneading, etc. stay focused on your intent and remember to think positive. Sing while you’re cooking, like the Swedish Chef from the Muppet Show. While things are rising, simmering, baking and boiling, you don’t have to focus so much but you can take this time to clean up your work area, plan tomorrow’s meal, research your ingredients, set a beautiful table or meditate on what a great meal you’re making. You should not take this time to go watch TV or run errands (unless you’re using the slow cooker) because this leads to scattered energy and burned food and you should certainly avoid getting into arguments if you can manage it.

7. Set a beautiful table! Bring your intention to the table. Decorate with flowers and colors (candles, plates, napkins, tablecloth) that support the energy you’re trying to cultivate and let all the diners know the purpose of the magic so they too can focus on it while they eat.

8. Eat consciously with focus and gratitude. Say a prayer of thanksgiving (See my Thanksgiving Prayer.) before diving in, or at least take a moment to remember all of the people, plants and animals that gave of themselves so that you could enjoy this meal and speak the intention you cooked into your meal out loud as part of your prayer. Sit down. Savor every bite. Chew thoroughly. Don’t read or watch TV while eating but do enjoy good conversation with people you love.

9. Leave a small offering to your household Gods or ancestral spirits. If you are eating food you grew in your own yard, be sure to offer a bit back to the genius loci outside too.

10. Put away your leftovers and clean up your kitchen. Remember the food is sacred so don’t waste it. Remember also that your kitchen is your temple. Keep it clean!

Have I made Kitchen Witchery seem complicated? It’s not. If you can cook and you can hold an idea in your head for more than a few minutes then you’ve got everything you need. Kitchen Witchery is a creative art without a lot of rules. Oh yes, there are correspondences and elements and planets & etc. but they are really not that important. Bring them in if you’re into it and don’t stress them if they cause you stress. What is important is your creativity and your intention. You know what foods evoke love for you and what foods evoke wealth and luxury, you don’t need a correspondence table for that! Just cook!

Posted in Book of Shadows, Holy Days

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is an American secular (semi-Christian) holiday that celebrates the first harvest of some of the earliest settlers in North America which was shared by the indigenous people of the immediate area. Thanksgiving is not a Pagan holiday, and it is a contentious holiday for those who support indigenous rights, but it’s also an American institution that is not easily escaped. And there’s food. Lots of food. And so I present to you this collection of Thanksgiving traditions to incorporate into your celebration.

Any of these can also be incorporated into any other Harvest celebration.

Giving Thanks

Gratitude should be practiced in the household of every Kitchen Witch as it fills the home with energy that draws many blessings. This Thanksgiving, take a moment to have your guests speak the gratitude in their hearts for the blessings they’ve received this year. If you aren’t all comfortable speaking out loud, perhaps you could write them on slips of paper anonymously and have someone read them all out loud. Or if you just want to share it with the Gods, toss them in the fire when you pour your libations.

If you don’t say “grace” at every meal, consider doing so today as well. You can find a list of Pagan meal blessings at http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/mealtimeprayers/ss/Pagan-Meal-Blessings.htm Meal Blessings for the Magical Home

Honoring Indigenous People

It is clear that the Pilgrims probably wouldn’t have survived without the help of their indigenous neighbors and the culture they brought into this land is guilty of a terrible genocide against those who were here before. This Thanksgiving, think of ways to honor the indigenous people of America and other places in the world.

Consider a donation to Native Planet or Amnesty International

This year, let us also keep in our thoughts and prayers the Native Peoples who are standing in the way of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This protest began with just the Standing Rock Sioux, but representatives from many tribes are there now standing together for all of our rights for clean water and a clean future, as well as the rights of Native Peoples to have their treaties honored. Consider sending them a donation, or calling or writing to your representatives in Congress letting them know how you feel about the situation. You can find the right people to complain to at http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Recognizing Native Foods

Many of the traditional foods served at Thanksgiving were unheard of in Europe before they landed on the American continent. If you don’t make it a regular practice to eat local foods, think about making it part of your Thanksgiving celebration and honor the spirits of the Land as you do so.

Native American foods include turkeypumpkin and many other types of squashcornwild ricepotatoes, cranberriescocoa(well, South American), beans, black walnuts, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, peppers as well as any local game or fish, of course, and many more. Most traditional Thanksgiving foods are native to the Americas.

Sports and Games

Watching sports while lounging on the couch seems to be a traditional Thanksgiving, though it doesn’t appeal to me, but a nice inter-generational board game or card game builds family togetherness. If you all love football, then that can too.

Posted in Kitchen Witch Corner

Caring for Cast Iron

As a Kitchen Witch I view my cast iron pans with slightly more affection than the rest. Oh I love my stainless steel pasta pot and my ceramic dutch oven but the cast iron holds a special place in my heart. Maybe it’s because they, all of them from the frying pans to the dutch oven, can go from the stovetop to the oven to the campfire. Maybe it’s because I know that Iron carries protective energy and that makes me feel good about using it to prepare food for my family. Maybe it’s because cooking with cast iron makes my think of hags bent over bubbling cauldrons singing “bubble bubble toil and trouble” and that makes me giggles. Or maybe it’s because cooking with a big heavy cast iron pan reminds me of cooking helping grandma in the kitchen and how she loved her big heavy cast iron pans (My mother still has the very ones, they last forever and become heirlooms!).

Of course it doesn’t hurt that cast iron is so easy to cook with. It is practically nonstick and distributes and holds heat evenly for perfect browning and cleans up wonderfully. Cast iron is one of the few things in this world that gets better with age. It doesn’t wear out, but improves the more you use it. However, if you don’t know how to use it properly, cast iron can be a giant pain in the butt! Stuck on food that won’t clean up! Rust! And I’ve even seen them crack in two! (It wasn’t me!) Like a living thing cast iron needs to be nurtured if you want it to cooperate.

Maybe that’s why I like it so much, it’s almost like pet! Maybe I should name them like I do my sourdough starters.

So, for all you Kitchen Witches who have not yet mastered the art of cast iron cooking, here are a few tips to make sure your experience is pleasant.

First and foremost, Lodge makes the best cast iron pans on the market. I have not seen better and I personally wouldn’t buy from anyone else. And Bonus for me- they are an American company. Buy local for the environment and the economy! They aren’t paying me to say this, and don’t even know I’m saying it, but if you follow the product links below, I’ll get a few pennies from Amazon.

Also get their cleaning brush and scraper. You’ll be glad you did.

Seasoning Your New Pan, Griddle, Dutch Oven or whatever…

When you get your new cast iron pan, you need to season it. Even if it says “pre-seasoned”, season it anyway. Wipe the inside and out with a damp cloth to get all the dust off and then dry it very very well with a dish towel.

Next, take some shortening and massage it into every surface of your pan. Yes, shortening, not olive oil or anything else. This is the only thing I use shortening for! If you’re a vegetarian you can use vegetarian shortening, but otherwise buy the old fashioned stuff. Don’t just wipe it on, massage it with your fingers. Get to know your pan intimately.

Next, place your pan in the oven at 300 degrees and let it cook for about an hour, then let it cool in the oven. You may want to place a bit of aluminum foil underneath to catch any oil that drips off.

Some people like to repeat this process 2-3 times. I find it works just as well to just do it once.

Once it has cooled, it’s ready to go.

Cleaning Your Cast Iron

After each use, allow your pan to cool then use the scraper that came with your cleaning kit (or some reasonable facsimile thereof) and scrape away all the food particles.

Next, use the scrub brush that came with your cleaning kit and warm water to finish up the cleaning. Don’t use really hot water or soap. This can wash off the seasoning.

Once your pan is clean, dry it immediately and thoroughly with a dish towel. Never let it air dry or soak as this encourages rust.

Cooking With Cast Iron

Always heat up your cast iron pan before putting anything into it. Even when baking bread I like to warm my cast iron pan by setting it on the back of the stove while the oven heats up before I put the bread dough in it, which I then set to rise, but with a frying pan this is even more important. Always heat it up slowly and wait till a drop of water sizzles before adding your food for cooking.

Do not put cold liquids into a hot cast iron pan. This can make it brittle and cause it to crack!

Storing Your Cast Iron

I like to coat my cast iron pan with a new layer of oil on the inside after each use. This isn’t entirely necessary if you care for it properly but it’s nice to give my favorite pan a massage and thank it for another amazing dinner.

Your pans should be stored in a dry place and not stacked directly on top of each other. If you must stack them, you can put a towel between them to allow the air to circulate. My grandmother stored her pans hanging over her stove. I store mine inside my oven.

Fixing Your Cast Iron

If your cast iron stops being nonstick, simply re-season it following the directions above.

If your cast iron pan gets rusty or crusty or if someone gives you such a pan thinking in their ignorance that it’s worthless, wash it with soap and hot water and a scouring pad then dry it and give it a good once over. Use sand paper to smooth it and get rid of any rust spots, then wash it very thoroughly again. Finally, season it. You may wish to season it 2-3 times in this case, since it needs some extra love.

Never…

… put cold liquid in a hot cast iron pan or hot liquid in a cold cast iron pan. This can make it brittle and cause cracking.

… store acidic things in your cast iron pans. Better yet, don’t use them to store anything, just use them for cooking. Acids can react with the metal, weakening it (and putting iron in your food. A good thing in small doses, not so good in larger doses.).

… wash your cast iron pan with soap, unless you’re planning to re-season it anyway.

… let your cast iron pan soak or air dry. This can cause rusting.

… put food in your cast iron pan till after it has pre-heated or it’ll stick. Not the end of the world, but harder to clean up.

 

NOTE: Brabantia left me a note on my blog (4/10/18) in its old format with additional tips:

hey Dawn,

I’m enjoying reading your blog and came across your post about cast iron; I too love my cast iron pots – using one to bake bread in (in the oven, with the lid on) always results in the best bread with just perfect crust. I just wanted to share a little tip about cleaning, which I hold from my own grandmother and has served me well. Once in a while, or if you find you have food sticking to the pot, pour a large handful of rock salt into the dry hot pan / cauldron (be careful not to burn yourself obviously) and scrub the pot well with a thick cloth you don’t mind losing… this will lift off the burnt food and also, according to my grandmother, prevent rust and will ‘flavour’ the pot. 🙂
Hope you find this useful.


 

Posted in Library, Reviews, Uncategorized

Pagan Family Movie Night

This is my compiled list of favorite movies for Pagan families to watch together. They have the potential to spark thoughtful discussion of values and themes that Pagan families often hold dear. These are in no particular order and I will continue to add to the list as I discover or remember more.

Brother Bear – I do not know how accurately this portrays historical customs of any particular tribe, I am assuming it’s a composite, but it does carry themes that Pagan children will recognize and values that are important to us. Honoring family, our ancestors, honoring Nature, the importance of all living things and empathy. It starts pretty scary with two violent deaths, but that seems to be typical of children’s movies. I don’t like to anthropomorphize animals, but, you know, kids like it. (Brother Bear II is meh. For once Disney made a movie without romance, but they had to do a II to get it in.)

Ferngully has been a family favorite in our house for years. It’s got fairies and magic and a message about the importance of wild places and the dangers of pollution and toxic emissions. Tim Curry is the bad guy, Robin Williams is a funny bat. It’s corny. We love it.

Room on the Broom – This is cute and I like it, but the teenagers won’t. This one will best appeal to the younger set. It is a sweet story about kindness and loyalty with a little bit of excitement near the end. It is based on the children’s book.

Kubo and the Two Strings – This story is beautiful and heartbreaking and I love the animation. While I do not believe it accurately depicts any story associated with the Japanese Moon God, (I don’t know, not a Shinto expert) he and his daughters are highly featured. The movie also shows ancestor veneration rituals and it’s all about music and magic.

Tuck Everlasting – When I watched this movie with my teens, it led to spirited philosophical discussion about when the best time would be to commence eternal life with your body exactly as it was. My beloved and I agree that to do so while a teenager would be a horrible idea. My daughter does not agree. In the end, I think we all agreed that not having an exit option would suck and decided that becoming a vampire would be much cooler. This is a great movie to get conversations started about the circle of life and such.

Song of the Sea – Is so beautiful. The music, the imagery, it’s gorgeous. Everyone loves it, from littles on up. Well, maybe not serious menfolk. It’s about selkies and fae and it’s set in Ireland with a great deal of Irish Gaelic singing that will have you singing the catchy tunes you don’t understand. While the story isn’t anything I recognize from Irish lore as I’ve studied it (again, not an expert) you will recognize many of the names.

Mulan – This movie is fun and has girl power going for it, as well as ancestor veneration. (Don’t bother with Mulan II, they ruined it.)

The Last Unicorn – People don’t seem to remember that this movie is very scary for the littles. It can be quite terrifying with images of flaming bulls herding unicorns into the ocean, so maybe reserve this for say 8ish and up? You know your kid. This movie has a great message about loving people for who they are and letting them be what they are. And unicorns and magic, of course.

Moana – Girl power, ancestors, Gods, demi-gods, raw power of Nature, fabulous music. What’s not to love here? The whole family loves this one, even the grown kids. I think this might be my favorite Disney movie.(And I was really worried they were going to mess it up.)

Posted in Kitchen Witch Corner

The Dirt on the Besom

A besom is a witch’s broom and the practical kitchen witch may choose her broom for looks or function or both. Many of us have two or more brooms. One for sweeping dirt indoors, one for sweeping energy indoors or out and maybe another for sweeping outdoors. They may be handmade or mass-produced.

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This image is in the public domain from the book “Thakerayana”, 1875, Joseph Grego for more information see https://flic.kr/p/owMMrD

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There is a great deal of lore associated with the broom spanning many cultures. Indeed it can be argued that the broom is one of the most magical of a witch’s tools. The image of a witch riding across the sky on a broom is familiar to many, the true magic of a broomstick lies at home.

The broom is a symbol of domesticity and represents the safety and security associated with being inside the house. The home itself is separate from the outside world. It is almost like another dimension. Your own world, where your family resides, a safe haven from the rest of the world. Your broom is the scepter with which you rule this little world and the magic staff with which you direct its energy.

Magical Correspondences of the Broom

A broom can be used like a wand or a staff to direct energy. Many would say it corresponds to the element of air. Some will point to their purifying nature and say that they correspond to the element of water.

The Broom as A Boundary

When you step or jump over a broom with your sweetheart at your wedding, the broom is serving as a boundary between one state of existence, single life, and another, married life. It symbolizes your leap together into your new life, your new combined household and the new family that marriage creates. One one side of the broom, none of that exists, it is just a dream. On the other side of the broom, it is reality.

Looking at the broom as a boundary marker, its easy to see how the iconography of the witch flying on a broom makes sense. What is she doing on that broom anyway? She is travelling between worlds. She is astral projecting. The broom is both the gateway and the means to pass through it.

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Ash, Birch, Willow and Hazel by Paul Walker on Flickr Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution Share-Alike

 

Using Your Broom for Home Protection

Placing your broomstick across your threshold will keep out unwanted intruders and people with ill intent. Like the broom, the doorway is also a boundary marker, protecting our private world from the public world outside. The broom reinforces this.

Many witches like to make a small broom, decorate it and hang it on or over the door as a protective amulet. This protects the home and attracts general luck and prosperity, especially if you tie a few cinnamon sticks to it with a ribbon, or scent it with cinnamon oil.

Just bringing a new broom into a home brings good luck. A new broom is a great magical housewarming or wedding gift as it helps sweep away troubles in the family’s future life.

Using Your Broom to Bless Your Space

Many witches will sweep the area they plan to use to do spell work before casting a magic circle in order to sweep away any energies that are residing there that might interfere with spell work.

Kitchen witches may also use a broom to sweep negative energies out of their home as part of a regular home blessing ritual. Simply begin in the center of your home and sweep outward, sweeping everything back door. Never sweep out your front door, or you’ll sweep away your friends (exceptions below). Or play it safe and just sweep into a dustpan and carry the dirt out.

In China, you should sweep out your front door on the Lunar New Year only. If you sweep out the door any other day, you’ll sweep away you’re good luck. On the Lunar New Year, sweeping out the front door gets rid of all of the last year’s stale energy to make way for new things.

But if you have unwanted guests, sweep out the door after them when they finally leave to prevent their return! If you do like your guests, don’t sweep immediately after they depart to ensure their safe return.

Broomlore Divination

  • When jumping the broom, the person who jumps the highest will dominate the household. If the broom is jostled or bumped in any way during the jumping, the marriage will not last.
  • If an unmarried woman steps over a broom, she will have a child out of wedlock. Or she will not marry that year.
  • If a woman drops a broom while sweeping, she will marry in a year.
  • If someone sweeps over your feet accidentally, you will not marry.
  • When a broom falls down inexplicably, it foretells a wedding.
  • If a broom falls into or onto the front doorway, it means company is coming.

Some More Broom Magick

  • To keep your spouse true, sweep in a circle around him/her.
  • A married couple should step over a broom upon entering their home for the first time to ensure good luck and fidelity.
  • If you come across a broom lying on the floor and pick it up, you will have good luck.
  • It is considered bad luck to sweep at night. This can be averted by burning the sweepings.
  • Some say it is bad luck to sweep on New Year’s Day at all. But others say that if you burn what you sweep up, you make way for abundance for the year!
  • Sweeping under someone sitting in a chair or in front of someone walking is very bad luck for that person.
  • Laying a broom on a bed or leaning it against a bed will bring great misfortune to the person who sleeps in it.

Replacing Your Broom

Brooms collect negative energy (and filth) over time and should be periodically replaced. Some witches like to replace their broom annually as part of a Sabbat ritual that may involve burning the old one and blessing the new one. You can really do this at any time, but many witches like to do it at Samhain or Imbolc or the anniversary of the day they moved into their home.

Some say burning a broom is unlucky. If you subscribe to this you’ll have to come up with a different way to dispose of it. If your broom holds particular sentimental significance, perhaps it is the one you and your spouse jumped over together, you may wish to simply replace the bristles.

You should never bring an old broom into a new home, especially if you are moving into a new home with your new spouse or partner. It brings with it all the baggage of your old life. It’s best to start anew. Again, if you’re really attached to it, dispose of the bristles and add new ones after the move.

Read More Online

Make Your Own Besom on About.com

Buy Handmade Besoms/Brooms

The Granville Island Broom Company in Vancouver, BC
Brenwood Forge and Broom in Hillsboro, West Virginia

 

Posted in Morningbird's Garden

Gardening for Butterflies

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Photo by Katie Burandt on Pexels.com

Many Pagans consider nature to be sacred and enjoy inviting the wild creatures of our neighborhood to share our gardens with us. A butterfly garden is an excellent way to do this. With just a little extra work and consideration in the selection of your plants, you can create a haven for butterflies that will also attract bees, birds and many other delightful creatures. Their energy will, in turn, transform your garden into a delightful haven that brings comfort to you and anyone else who spends time in it.

Providing for Butterflies Needs

Select a spot for your garden that is sunny, but sheltered from the wind. The garden should get 5-6 hours of sunlight per day. Because butterflies are cold-blooded creatures who need to external warmth to help them regulate their bodies, they like to be in the warm sun, but don’t like to fight winds. It is helpful to provide a few flat rocks in sunny places for the butterflies to rest on and sun themselves as well as some shady spots to get out of the heat if needed.

Butterflies, like everybody, need to drink. You can provide a water source for them by keeping a shallow mud puddle moist, maintaining a shallow fountain, or just putting out a little dish with water in it for them. The key word here is shallow. I’ve lost caterpillars to drowning in empty pots that I let fill up with rainwater, so it pays to be diligent in cleaning up anything that could hold standing water more than an inch or two deep. This will also prevent the proliferation of mosquitoes, whose presence can interfere with your enjoyment of your butterfly guests. Filling a container with river rocks and keeping it filled just so the tops of some, but not all, of the rocks are covered with water is another solution to the problems of both drowning caterpillars and breeding mosquitoes, but they will get slimy after a while and may require maintenance.

Some people like to put out butterfly feeders. This is really not necessary, but it can be fun, and it doesn’t hurt anything. The best thing to use in the feeders is just plain old sugar water. Setting out pieces of overripe fruit, such as apple, banana and citrus fruit, will also help keep your butterflies happy, but it will also attract wasps who may prey on your caterpillars.

Don’t Kill Your Butterflies

If you use pesticides in your garden, you will kill the butterflies and caterpillars- it’s as simple as that. Resist the urge and go organic. It’s better for you in the long run. If the caterpillars are eating your favorite plant, plant more! Or you could look into a book on the subject and find another plant the caterpillars will eat and move them.

I have never actually seen a butterfly use a butterfly house, but I am told that they do and that they can retire to them to escape predators and extreme temperatures. You can find wooden butterfly houses and garden centers and craft stores. They are also reasonably easy to make.

Love Your Caterpillars

Inviting butterflies to your garden can mean caterpillars, so be prepared to share. Plant a variety of plants that caterpillars like and they will nibble at all your treasured herbs, and hopefully not just your one precious. If they seem to be most interested in a specific plant; grow more! Soon, you’ll have a new batch of butterflies to enjoy!

Some plants that caterpillars eat are:

parsley, dill, milkweed, fennel, hackberry, violets, clover, snapdragons, Queen Anne’s Lace, Joe-Pye-weed, Peas, Fruit Trees, alfalfa and more

Adult butterflies eat nectar, for the most part, so you’ll want to fill your garden with long-blooming, fragrant flowers. When planting flowers to attract butterflies, you’ll want to plant flowers with varying blooming times to keep the butterflies attracted all season long.

If you have limited space and/or experience, a good, simple combination for a starter garden that pleases both adult butterflies and their larvae is – Buddleia, violet, verbena, parsley, dill, fennel, milkweed, coneflower, lantana, cosmos, and zinnias. You can expand your garden as the years go by and you get more experienced and adventurous.

A quick and easy fix for a butterfly garden is a native plant mix designed for your region. Make sure your plant mix says “native” and isn’t just composed of plants that do well in your region because those can invade non-natives and invasives. Native plants are those that the butterflies local to your area evolved with, non-native plants may or may not be compatible with them. Most native plants are evolved to drop seeds at the end of the season and are triggered to sprout by the natural temperature and moisture variations of your local winter and spring, so autumn is the perfect time to spread seeds in an area that’s been cleared for planting.


Posted in Library, Poems and Prose

The Ant and the Grasshopper

Once upon a lovely spring day, a young grasshopper was frolicking in a meadow when he happened to meet a pretty young ant out on a scouting mission.

“Hello, dear lady.” Said the grasshopper. “Will you walk with me awhile?”

The ant considered and said, “Alright sir. I will walk with you, but I must work while I walk. I have been sent by my queen to scout out the area to see what plants are growing this spring and what new creatures have moved in.”

“Why are you doing that?” Asked the grasshopper.

“It is important for us to know where to find food. So every spring our Queen sends many of us out to mark food sources. It’s also important that we know about things that can hurt us so we have to look for those too.”

“That sounds exciting.” Said the grasshopper. “I will help you.”
So the grasshopper and the ant walked for a while and the ant carefully marked every food source she found so that other ants could find it again. The grasshopper bounded here and there and was soon distracted and wandered away, but the ant kept on until she had done her job, then she went back to the place where she had found a dried up crabapple from last year, brown but still quite sweet. She looked around for someone to share it with but the grasshopper was nowhere to be seen. So she ate her fill and took some home to her sisters.

Sometime later the grasshopper was frolicking in that self same meadow and came upon his friend the ant walking up a tree!

“Oh dear lady, I see that you are nearly as agile as myself. Come and play with me and we will have a wonderful time.”

“I’m sorry friend grasshopper,”replied the ant.” Today it is my turn to herd the aphids.”

“Herding aphids?” The grasshopper was astonished. “Aphids don’t do anything but sit on leaves and suck.”

“Yes.” Said the ant, “And they also make honeydew, which is delicious. We herd them from plant to plant and keep them safe because they are not quick or clever enough to do it themselves.”

“That sounds like hard work. Why would you work so hard for such boring dumb creatures?” The grasshopper scoffed.

“I told you. Honeydew is delicious. All good things are worth working for.”

“Oh come on, the butterflies tell me the nectar is sweet in the monarda today. You can play with your aphids later.”

“I daren’t.” Insisted the ant, “For a ladybug or a wasp could come by and eat the aphids if they aren’t watched and then our supply of honeydew would be lost.”

“Well, if you insist on working, I’ll come with you.”

So the grasshopper followed along and chatted away as the ant herded the aphids onto fresh leaves and stood watch against the wasps and ladybugs who like to eat them, but soon the grasshopper grew bored and wandered away. As the day drew to a close the ant milked the aphids of honeydew and looked around for someone to share it with, but the grasshopper was nowhere to be seen. She drank her fill and took the rest home to her sisters.

Some time later the grasshopper was wandering along a hedgerow and he came upon an ant hill and who should walk out of it holding a huge pebble over her head but his friend the ant.

“Hello lovely lady! Fancy meeting you here!” Called the grasshopper.

“I live here.” Said the ant placing the pebble carefully on a pile “and you should be careful because not everyone here is as friendly as me.”

“What are you doing?” Asked the grasshopper.

“I am helping the colony build a new storeroom. We have grown this year and need more room to store food for the winter.” The ant explained.

“Wow. That sounds like hard work. Why don’t you come and play with me instead?”

“I’m afraid I can’t play with you today.” said the ant, “This is a very important job.”

“Can’t someone else do it?” Asked the grasshopper. “There are so many in your colony.”

“Many hands make light work.” Said the ant and disappeared back into her hole only to return a short while later with another pebble.

“There” said the grasshopper, “You’ve hauled plenty for today. You can finish your work tomorrow.”

“No” Said the ant, “Tomorrow we must begin filling the storeroom, for autumn is upon us and winter is coming and we must hurry. If you come back later, I will play with you then.” And she disappeared into her hole once more. The grasshopper shrugged and hopped away.

Sometime later the ant hauled the last pebble out of the hole and then climbed to the top of a primrose that was growing nearbye to watch the sunset. It was so beautiful she wanted someone to share it with. The grasshopper was nowhere to be seen so she called to her sisters who soon joined her.

The days were growing shorter and the air was crisp when the grasshopper saw the ant again. She was carrying a large seed over her head and walking quickly along a trail.

“Hallooo Ms ant!” called the grasshopper, hurrying to catch up with her.

“Hello friend grasshopper. What can I do for you today?” She said, not slowing her step, a bit out of breath.

“Well I just thought that you might like to accompany me on a picnic.” Said the grasshopper.

“That sounds lovely.” Said the ant. “But I am gathering food for the winter right now. When the storeroom is quite full, I would be happy to accompany you.”

“Ah but the sun is shining right now. You should come with me.”

“I don’t dare.” Said the ant. “The storeroom will soon be full and we can play then.”

“But I want to play now.” Whined the grasshopper.

“If you help, the work will go quicker. I bet a large insect such as yourself can carry a rather large load.” The ant suggested.

“Alright, I’ll help you.” Said the grasshopper and he followed the ant for a little way but soon became bored and wandered off.

As the day drew to a close the ant selected some tasty morsels from the food she’d collected that day and, since the grasshopper was nowhere to be seen, invited several of her sisters to join her for a picnic. After they ate they had fun playing before they went home to sleep.

Soon after the air grew chilly. The morning saw blades of grass frosted with silver and the skies were gray most of the day. The ants spent most of their time cozy inside the anthill playing games and telling stories and snacking seeds and dried fruit and drinking honeydew.

One day the grasshopper came to the ant hill and called out to his friend. “Hallooo Miss Ant! Will you please come out?”
The ant came out and said, “Hello grasshopper, have you come to play?”

“Oh who can think of playing at a time like this!” he exclamed, “All of the grass has gotten hard and dry and I am so hungry and cold. This morning I was frozen so stiff I couldn’t move till nearly noon!”

“I can give you some food, but I’m afraid you can’t fit inside my anthill. Don’t you have a home of your own?” Asked the ant.

“No.” Said the grasshopper. “I never needed one before. It was always so lovely to sleep under the sky.”

“Don’t you have any other friends you can stay with?” Asked the ant.

“No!” Said the grasshopper, “The butterflies all flew south and everyone else is hibernating.”

“Well,” Said the ant. “Maybe you should fly south, or hibernate.”

“I can’t! Oh I can’t travel that far. I would get tired. And all of the good hibernating spots are taken.” Whined the grasshopper.

The ant didn’t know what else to do, so she gave him some food and sent him on his way and she never saw the grasshopper again but she thought of him often and told his story the the little ones whenever it was her turn to care for the larvae and so he and his folly is remembered to this day.