Monday, September 26, 2016

winds of change

We went looking for some Colorado gold last weekend, this was the view from Kenosha Pass.

We walked up the Colorado Trail for a while, took a break and then came back down again. We heard you could walk all the way to Mexico on this trail if you wanted. It is a well-worn path.

There are several stands of belladonna (deadly nightshade), Atropa belladonna, naturalized at the park near our house where I walk the dogs. Just across the road along Cherry Creek in the middle of Denver you can probably find poison hemlock growing. And of course at my house there is fragrant, poisonous datura. I've learned that generally speaking, all plants contain poisonous resins, essential oils, and alkaloids -- their poisons are often also their medicine for us as well, in tiny doses or otherwise prepared correctly. Belladonna and datura are both members of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family and a few of their nightshade cousins are potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, tobacco, wolfberry, petunias and peppers. In large enough quantity, even raw potatoes are dangerous and can be deadly for livestock and people. 

Interesting that just a few feet away, these belladonna berries are already slightly past their prime. We used to have belladonna growing wild in our back yard but I removed it to ease a neighbor's concerns about her cats possibly eating the berries. And recently, I sadly took out the datura growing along the front sidewalk after children picked a seedpod last week. In retrospect I know I over-reacted -- but it is still in several other garden beds further from the sidewalk, too beloved to ever be eradicated.

Last hurrahs in the garden, colors so glorious and vibrant, everything giving their all.

I'm wondering where we're going to store all the dried sunflowers for the birds without attracting mice.

Eleven cups in this second harvest of elderberries -- I'm freezing most of it but one pan of elderberries is drying in my oven right now.

All of the St. Theresa grapes will be frozen to make jelly or juice later in the season when there is more time. A raccoon family ate all of the Concord grapes one night, so these are what is left. I heard a commotion along the fence and I thought it was one of our dogs after something. Feeling my way in the dark toward the fence I called "Talula, Talula, come. Right now. Talula. Come. Talula!" over and over. All of a sudden Talula charged out of the house through the back door and I knew I hadn't been talking to Talula.

I stitched on this cloth over the weekend. It is woven from torn up men's shirts and green linen strips, an early project with Jude, I call it aspen grove.

Autumn's winds are the winds of change, you can tell they mean business. There is nothing soft or light about autumn wind. It's time to transition, summer is over, we all feel it.

Oh, now is the time of the harvest,
As we draw near to the year's end.
Now is the time of Mabon.
Autumn is the time to descend.
(author unknown)


Thursday, September 8, 2016

the harvest of john barleycorn

Harvest time.

People who work the land are in the fields day and night now to bring in the harvest. My memories of growing up are anchored in this chaotic, exciting, sleepless and sacred season in the life of a farmer's family. It didn't always seem so great at the time but witnessing the work of sowing, nurturing, growth, harvest and rest from spring through fall to spring again, year after year, gave me a template for living.

In my little garden right now, harvest means picking and cooking green beans for dinner, gathering beets and onions (many) and purple carrots (not many) and cucumbers and tomatoes (not many) to eat, freeze or put in the dye-pot. Harvesting is collecting sunflower heads to dry and store in a paper bag for the birds when the weather gets cold. It's cutting comfrey leaves and calendula flowers to dry for body oils and healing salves....and it's gathering basil for pesto, grapes for juice and elderberries for syrup. Harvest has really only just begun.

After I baked a batch of beets the other day, recipe here, I 1) peeled and cut them up to freeze; 2) poured the delicious leftover oil and juices from the baking dish into a little jar for future vegetable or salad dressing; 3) used the peelings to make a dye-bath for a bundled silk scarf. 

It is a good feeling to actually use all parts of something for a change. 

5-minute bread was made. Actually, the loaf took 5 minutes of prep extended over about a 21-hour stretch using an 18-hour initial rise.

I think the recipe said a 4-year-old could make it and that is probably true. Don't let that sway you though, it's still very good.

John Barleycorn is an age-old British folk song about the harvest of grain crops for bread and drink. Like bread and beer recipes, there are many versions, I love the words, and it's harvest time after all.

On an inner level, harvest means choosing what to take with you into the future. We have a choice on what and how much to carry forward as we enter these next darker, slower months of short days and long nights. We, and only we, get to decide what sustains us in meaningful ways as we go deeper. By the act of choosing what is wanted and needed, we automatically leave behind the unnecessary and don't even need to give it a second thought. Being "for" something rather than "against" something is empowering.

I like to travel lightly this time of year. How about you? xx