Transitions and Lughnasadh

Believe it or not, Lughnasadh is almost here.

(I can’t believe it.)

August 1st is less than a week away. First harvest, harvest of the corn (grain). Which, appropriately enough, our only two ears of corn might be ready by then!

Of course, for those less agriculturally inclined, the reflections of the season usually center around what’s metaphorically/spiritually ready to harvest and what needs a bit longer, separating the what from the chaff and the transition from summer into autumn. It can seem a bit crazy, especially in Central Texas, that August 1st can celebrate the descent into autumn. But every year I think it’s crazy, and every year August 1st rolls around, and it feels right. The shadows begin stretching over the lawn just a little bit earlier; we take out the summer tomatoes and plant the fall crop; I can berry jam and apple butter.

Now that I work in a winery I know that August 1st is right in the middle of the grape harvest [for Central Texas, not so in other places]. The whites have already come in, and in quick succession the Petit Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat will be hand-picked, dumped into tubs, shoveled into the destemmer-crusher, piped into then the press, then pumped into tanks to begin fermentation.

No matter how hot it still is, how far away the cooler weather may be–it is harvest.

In my own life, it’s a time of transition. I’ve gone back to work. C had her first day of daycare today (yes, I cried, a lot.) Like I mentioned, the garden is in part dying off and in part being replanted.

And I’ve decided that, by Samhain, my house is going to be a home.

See, we’ve lived in our house for 2.5 years and it’s still..blank. The walls are empty. The front yard is a mess because of previous poor landscape design. Everything looks temporary, transitional. I suppose it’s because once we moved in we had a baby, and then we thought J was going to lose his job and we’d have to move, and then, and then, and then.

But I’m done with and then. Could life change on a dime and we find ourselves packing boxes to move to Place X? Sure. But I’m sick of walking into my house and feeling like it’s just a pit stop. I want the beige walls to be another color, there to be family pictures and artwork, grown-up furniture instead of college/newlywed furniture, and for the front yard to look decent. For people to walk in and feel the energy of a blessed home. You just can’t have that if there’s a little bit of chaos or emptiness wherever you look.

So I’ve given myself (and by extension J, haha!) the deadline of Samhain. The entire season of harvest to tuck into working on the lawn and the house. By October 31st I want our (largely non-existent) trick-or-treaters to walk up a clean path, surrounded by a seasonal front-yard and peer into a homey foyer. Where the energy of the house clearly says, we’re a family that loves each other, and we welcome you to our home.

Appropriate, I think, for a season I’ve always thought of as ‘Harvest Home’.

What are your thoughts about Lughnasadh? If it’s in your tradition, do you connect to it?

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Late Autumn Morning

Central Texas had a wintry blast this past week. Temperatures dropped into the 20s at night and struggled to climb into the high-30s in the afternoon. On Wednesday morning Claire and I, sick of being cooped up, braved the chill to go a-walkin’.

Frozen over bird bath.

Frost on the cabbage leaves

Can zombie basil survive the winter? My guess is yes. We'll see in the spring!

Creek bed (Niana), October 2011

Niana, December 2011

The branches have been empty since October. Now, due to the rain, some are budding out again like it's spring.

White winter sun.

Long shadows, even near noon.

Texas is Burning

Historic drought and heat combined with high winds has caused fires to erupt all over Texas. It sounds dramatic, but really, there are fires burning across the state, including some relatively close to where we live. [Edited 9/6/11: And now I mean right where we live. Brush fires have broken out within a two miles of our home. This is very surreal.]

Texas Wildfires, courtesy of Reuters

Image courtesy of CNN.com

Thankfully, the winds are finally calming down. Though it has begun to cool off there has been no rain and none in the forecast. No humidity, nothing to help out the parched earth.

So, please, send your prayers/energy/spells/whatever. We need relief.

The Land of the Living

I know.

I know!

Most of the time I bitch and moan about how dry it is. And it is. The third-most severe drought in Texas history. In fact, later this week I’m going to do a post on mercy-killing your plants and being a ruthless Darwinist in your garden.

However.

Plants live. Nature lives. We live. And there should be celebration that in a time when things are dry and hard that there are melons on the vine, corn unfurling to the sky and the hope of autumn as I plant my green-cover crop.

Mystery Melon on the Vine

Sweet Corn Forest

Basil + Heat = ❤

So, what to do to keep your hopes up during a drought or, likewise, during the winter? Well, keeping busy is the conclusion I’ve drawn. Nothing has helped so much as to take action.

1. It’s important to keep up your soil fertility. The drought, heat and mineralization effects of irrigation on your soil can be hard for plants and soil to handle. I’ve adopted a policy that as I take specific plants out I amend with compost, Ladybug TerraTonic and seed some clover. After the clover grows to about 4 inches, I’ll turn it into the soil, cover the ground with mulch and let it rest until late August/early September.

Clover Seeds and Ladybug Brand TerraTonic

2. Get a hobby. July and August will be long, quiet months around these parts. So I’m going to take up knitting again, as well as painting and, of course, spend more time writing. Also I’ll clean up the tools and in late July begin some seedling flats for broccoli, cauliflower and the longer growth autumn veggies.

3. Though planting takes a backseat now, especially for the home/hobbyist gardener, it’s still a time when eggplants, melons, winter squash and pumpkin can be planted from seed, until mid-July. Cosmos, a particularly drought/heat tolerant flower, can brighten up any patch of garden. Desert plants like agave and yucca will probably be fine.

4. Plan! Planning is the best part. Catalog your seeds and order new ones. Inventory your tools and see which ones need repair. Looking to take down some brush? Get price quotes. Building a chicken coop? Mobile, stationary? What about raccoons? What about city laws, HOA guidelines? Now’s the time to plan and budget.

5. I like rituals to mark transitions and will be doing one tonight at the new moon. It’ll be pretty simple, just a few words, but marking seasons is important.

So, there you have it. Those are the five things that are keeping me somewhat busy and hopeful as we ride out the summer. What are you doing for summer in your region?

Some Purple Survivor Flower--Verbena?

Summer Solstice/Litha 2011

This post is a little late; I apologize. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t post about the solstice.

When I woke up Tuesday to NPR telling me it was the Summer Solstice I was actually kind of surprised. Somewhere between Saturday and Monday I had lost time and thought I had another day to plan! But, no! I felt rushed because I was in the middle of writing a ritual.  I really, really wanted to do it, but it wasn’t close to being finished.

So, when C went down for her first nap mid-morning I scurried about gathering the tools that I wanted, rehearsing the half-hashed-out ritual in my head. I planted my butt outside, calmed down and performed what I set out to do.

And it wasn’t half bad. I felt the energy palpably raise, the breeze rustled the dry leaves, the sun gently warmed my back as it hit its peak in the sky. Dogs barked in the distance; squirrels nibbled on acorns. As a bonus, later that day I felt that what I had done worked.

All in all, a successful ritual. I learned quiet a few useful things, too, one being that contrary to my previous belief my neighbors can see me when I stand up in our backyard. Whoops.

For the rest of the day I spent as much time in the sun as I could. I talked to C about the solstice. When J got home we drank sangria, and I sunbathed until the ants bit me back inside.

Even better, at one a.m. I woke to lightning flashing and thunder rumbling.

Rain. The perfect way to end the solstice.

Solstice Kitty! She's my writing mascot.

Quick Solstice Sangria: red wine, orange juice, apple-pear soda. Presto!

Our grass has turned to dry straw.

Dead leaves, dry ground.

The ants go marching one by one...

Hurrah! Hurrah!

Inch by inch, row by row/ Please bless these seeds I sow/ Please keep them safe below/ 'Till the rain comes tumbling down

Grain for grain, sun and rain/ Find my way in nature's chain/ Till my body and my brain/ Tell the music of the land

Lyrics provided by The Garden Song by David Mallett

If I Had My Own Pantheon

If there was a Pantheon for Austin, Texas (according to Megs) there would be gods/goddesses of:

Trendy hipsters (including the music ones, vegan ones, unwashed ones, college ones and Those That Wear Horned Rim Glasses)

Bikers, runners, climbers and all those athletic types

(Demon of) I-35

BBQ, Burgers and Beer

Tacos and Margaritas

Music and Movies

Drought

…and Water, a la the Greenbelt, Barton Springs, Lady Bird Lake, Krause Springs, Bull Creek, etc.

Football (…is that you Coach Taylor?)

Colleges and University

Heat

Oak trees (and a demon of oak and cedar pollen, making an appearance around February)

Prickly pear cacti and agaves

Grackles, deer, squirrels, possums, pigeons, mourning doves and other varmints