Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lughnasadh. Lammas, the harvest begins

As August begins so does the harvest, in the heat of summer are the beginnings of the next season. Though the suns is still intense,it also sets earlier, a few short weeks ago one could still read outdoors at  9PM, now there is only the faintest glow.  
Now is when the crops give up the bounty for our survival, it is as true now as it was millennia ago, even thought at first glance not as apparent. 

 The first fresh grain  was a cause for celebration, in Celtic  tradition the first sheaves of grain are cut on the morning of August 1st and the first loaves made with that new grain and ready to eat by nightfall, grain that will feed everyone in the coming  months.  Lamas, literally "loaf mass"   a loaf made from the first harvested grain was often made in the shape of a man to honor the harvest and the spirit of  the  grain harvest, thus completing the cycle. 

The harvest is brought in over months, as all crops do not ripen on the same day.  A backyard farmer like me, will have  extras that need to be put-up or preserved in some way, beginning in the spring with rhubarb, asparagus, garlic and ending with sometimes as the snow is falling with potatoes, Brussels sprouts and onions.  In that long ago time, there were of course some food vendors, but a family needed to rely on their own work and resourcefulness to survive the months until the next harvest.  It is indeed difficult even for me to imagine how much effort went into making sure that there was enough grain to make a years worth of bread, it is also a good time to honor the work and ingenuity of our ancestors.  Lammas added a Christian element to a much older tradition.

It was also the custom to give gloves as a gift, not only for the obvious reasons ,  warmth in the coming cold months  and that last years were probably worn through, but also as a gesture of benevolent authority by the landowner toward a tenant.   Also possibly because during the Middle ages this was the time of year when Guilds set of fairs where there members could sell their work, there were  musicians and performers of all sorts on the village greens of cities and towns alike.  Farmers who had good harvests  and had produce to sell and extra money in their pockets to spend.

Lughnasadh, also falls on the cross quarter day between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox, it honors  Lugh of Many Skills, and was originally a funeral feast  instituted by Lugh to honor his foster mother,  Tailtiu, who died after clearing a vast plain so that the people of Ireland would have a place to grow enough grain to fend off starvation.
Lughnasadh festivities not only a celebrated of the beginning of the harvest , but encompassed sporting events and games, fairs for craftsmen and artisans, music and entertainment, and honored the ancestors,  the many skills of Lugh, were also the many skills of man, the skills needed to survive. 

~~Selena Fox
 It was also the time of year when couples would enter into a Tailtian Marriage, which were meant to last until next years festival.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Golden moments of quiet

I think that storms are beautiful, a terrible and awe inspiring beauty, but beautiful just the same.  

The first thing I do when I see a strom coming is grab my camera and try to photograph lightening.   So far I haven't succeeded, even though the thunder rolled continuously for almost half an hour today.   As usual there was plenty of traffic even during the downpour.

I have often said that the only time I notice the traffic sounds are when there aren't any, and briefly during the most intense part of the storm, there were several golden moments when the roar of thunder  and the pelting rain were the only sounds.

In those few golden moments there was a peacefulness and serenity in the chaos of the storm. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No pictures this time

It was really late last night when I finally got to sit down and watch some TV.   Lottsa noise and clamor, quote"reality" unquote, and plenty of just plain noise.

There was much said, and much attempted explaining and a ton of  geographical facts about the shootings and the shooter in the theatre.   An expression of a angry young man, who wanted to leave an impression.  If you can't be famous be infamous.
And will we every know why?,  will someone be able to stop the "next time"?

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died yesterday, she was 61.  In her obituary it stated that she was the long time partner of another woman.  Soar in Peace

Gabrielle Giffords, who barely survived a shooters bullet, went skiing with her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly.  yes!yes!yes!

Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President (1861-1865)...no wonder so many people have seen his ghost.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

National Hot Dog Month

~ A Martha Stewart picture..noms.noms.noms~

I have always said that vegetarians can eat hot dogs because there is no meat in them, even though I know that isn't true.  I love hot dogs, boiled in beer with the works, or burned to a crisp and covered with fried kraut and apple butter, or lightly grilled with lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo. They truly are comfort food, salty savory and sweet all at the same time, I am getting really hungry.  I love those rolling hot dogs, especially when they have  been rolling along for awhile and are thoroughly tanned and a bit chewy...gotta have one of those every now and then during the dark winter months because they smell and taste like summer. 

The average American consumes 60+ hot dogs a year, I consume and relish may-be one fifth that many.. I do know people who eat them every day.  For me a hot dog is an occasion, a blank canvas, which can be spread with any number of condiments, i have even tried them with peanut butter and bacon, but as yet I haven't tried chocolate sauce, apparently the number one condiment chosen by children, when their parents aren't looking.

I know that they are considered unhealthy, in fact they always have been.  I mean how could anything that tastes that good be good for you???  No, don't think i need to talk about that!!  Hot Dogs are comfort food, but they are also happy food.  I remember the excitement of  in the lunch line on the days 'tomato penny soup" was on the menu.  And of course there was spaghetti with cut up hot dogs, now more fashionably know as "Squab".    Having "angels on horseback" at scout camp. Hot dogs are not only food they are a part of the mythos of ones life. 

Do i really have to talk about all of those times we built a fire and roasted hot dogs on sticks and then toasted marshmallows as the sun went down, it didn't even have to be summer.  Hot dogs taste even better when there is snow on the ground.   I am told there is a "healthy" hot dog, other than the "tofu pup", i wonder of if they crisp and turn bacony brown over and open fire, if not one can always smother them with pineapple and ...........

Thursday, July 19, 2012

it's hot, so think cool thoughts

It is hot and humid, normal for July. 

Something that has become normal for July is Christmas in July.  Looking at frosty images and thinking about Christmas is fun for a day, just as I spend a fair amount of time wishing for summer in the depths of winter, while look through seed catalogs.  People in the southern hemisphere celebrate the holiday on the same day we however it is their summer there, some people also celebrate Christmas  on July 25th, which is During their winter season.

One story I particularly like, about the  relatively recent origins of the idea in Australia is that a group of Irish tourists who traveled to Australia's Blue Mountains, for a the skiing. found the snowy mountains made them think of Christmases back home and they persuaded the resort owner to put up a Christmas Tree and have a traditional Christmas feast.  It was such a success that the resort owner made it a yearly event.

~all cards from http://www.etsy.com/shop/missgaylee

I could enjoy sitting in front of the TV with the fan going full blast enjoying an icy cold beer and watching "A Christmas Story".  It's funny but it has to be at least 85F before beer tastes good to me.
And did you know, and you probably do it you watch  "24 hours of  A Christmas Story"  that all of that snow had to be trucked in???

But my cynical side always thought that it was some sort of gimmick to get people to shop for Christmas early, or to buy the left overs from last year at bargain prices, before the new stock came in.  Even though I would love to think that is because Christmas us something so many of us look forward to, and in fact the custom has a more practical, and altruistic side also.
Anyway! I looked it up and here are some information on the the subject from Wikipedia via poor Richards Almanac and http://ourfriendben.wordpress.com.

* The first “Christmas in July” party was celebrated by an Ohio fraternity in July 1884.
* The first actual use of the phrase “Christmas in July” was in an 1894 English translation of the French opera Werther: “When you sing Christmas in July, you rush the season.”
* In 1933, a girls’ camp in North Carolina began celebrating an annual Christmas in July, complete with a tree, gifts, and even a visit from Santa Claus.
* In 1940, Preston Sturges directed a Hollywood comedy film called “Christmas in July.”
* In 1942, a pastor at a church in Washington, D.C. instituted the annual celebration of “Christmas Presents in July,” which he had brought from his earlier post in Philadelphia, complete with a gift-covered Christmas tree. His goal was to collect presents in plenty of time to distribute them to the church’s worldwide missions. By 1946, the Christmas in July service began to be broadcast on the radio, that era’s equivalent to television.
* During World War II, the U.S. Post Office, in conjunction with the U.S. Army and Navy, launched a Christmas in July campaign to make sure servicemen and -women overseas got their Christmas cards, correspondence and gifts in time for Christmas.
* The advertising industry picked up on the trend and turned it into a sales opportunity for their clients as early as 1950, when “Christmas in July” sales were first advertised in print

Pretty cool.huh?
Not every Christmas is a happy one, but so many hold good memories, even if  those memories are just of seing the lights on one's drive home from work., each year has some meaning to most of us,, though we may have to back a few years to find it.       \
Happy Christmas in July

Sunday, July 15, 2012


I opened the back door, and on the steps, was a bag of peas.  Not since the Old Farmer had given up gardening had I found vegetables on placed there.  When there were extra vegetables but not enough to make canning them worth while it was everyone's custom to leave them on someones doorstep. 

And shortly thereafter, I was shelling peas.  I have always preferred edible pod peas, you can eat them when they are new and tender flat little pods or if you want you can let them mature and shells.  Shelling peas is one of those repetative joys, where you can free your mind to day dream, or think serious thought, or just watch the clouds sail and the birds courting.  it can get downright tedious, but watching the bucket fill up with pods that would become compost for next years garden, and the bowl fill with luscious fresh peas is  rewarding,  my thoughts wandered forward to how  these would taste on the Thanksgiving table.

 For a few seconds i could feel the cold, grey chill of November, even on this one of the HOTTEST days of summer. 
And further back to hot summer evenings shelling peas we had picked earlier,  while sitting on the front porch watching the sun go down, and looking for the first fireflys .  I wonder if I ever thought this far forward.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Happy Friday the 13th

~artist unknown to me
I was out picking blueberries this morning early, bucket precariously perched in the apple mint because I love the way it smells every time I drop berries into it, like anyone really needs extra incentive to pick berries on a cool and breezy morning in July!   i was reaching for just a few more berries to fill my hands before i plopped them into the bucket, when i dropped several of them, they landed neatly in the bucket, and the bucket didn't spill, which it should have done.  Anyway it usually would have done.

but today is Friday the 13th. my lucky day, it always has been, and almost every  one has brought with it a good surprise.   Some of them large and some of them small.  Perhaps that was my surprise for today, because  having to pick up all of those berries would not have been a good way to start the day.

Friday the 13th was once considered a very lucky day.  Then it like black cats became associated with bad luck.   Of all of the stories i have heard about why it is an unlucky day, the only one I think could be a reason is that it was the day that the Knights Templar were rounded up and imprisoned, tortured and/or burned at the stake.  After all it began a campaign of terror and persecution.  I often wonder if  9-11 will meet a similar stature, because it certainly changed our lives.

Therefor gentle readers I wish you all a good day, this Friday the 13th, and may only good things come your way.

Friday, July 6, 2012

old pictures


I always considered myself lucky when on a rainy Sunday afternoon someone would bring out an old photo album for me to look at while the adults talked about things I wasn't even vaguely interested in.  Much akin to that  new amusement TV, these pages could be sources of  thought provoking wonder.
Most of the photos were of dour men and women standing uncomfortable and stiff in front of a car or house, trying to ignore the camera as they cut a birthday or anniversary cake.  I could just hear them saying, "Put that damned thing away!".     Pictures of scenery were rare, film and developing it were expensive.  and there were postcard views in abundance in those days, every dime store, train station and drug store had racks of them.   The scenery and houses  were my favorites.
Then there were photos like this one, unposed photos of other children, and they were enjoying some of the same things that I did.  True the children in these pictures were grown up now and talking grown up talk in the next room, and the clothes and toys were not exactly like the ones I  had, but i was pretty sure that they also loved to look at old pictures much more than listen to grown-ups complaining in the next room.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sometimes I think about how it must have been those  sultry days in early July so long ago with all of those wool wearing, pipe smoking, powdered wig bedecked men who who were signing the Declaration of Independence, and say "Thanks!"

Monday, July 2, 2012

july full moon

Even the breeze is warm, and air smells of fresh cut hay, drying under the clear noon sky.  the sun reflecting off the stubble and ground making your legs feel  like they are too near the coalstove.  This is haying, those  dry days  in early July when the hay is cut, dried and bailed to be stored in the barn, fodder and bedding for the animals this winter.  And sometimes the hay loft is a place for the young man and his best girl to sneak a cuddle or two. 

A time when the fireworks  Mother Nature fills the sky with can be at least as beautiful and the man made ones that mark the 4th of July, and a whole lot more  frightening.

The full moon of July has been called the Hay Moon, and the Thunder Moon for obvious reasons, it is also known as the Buck Moon because  antlers are beginning to grow.

 Currants, with their rich fragrance, much better than their flavor, are almost done now, they got an early start because of the mild winter.  I once added currants to the mead I made from surplus honey given to us, it was tasty and powerful.   This moon is also called the Mead Moon.  With the ripening of blueberries and raspberries during this month it is now wonder it is sometimes called the Berry Moon.  The long hours of picking and watching the clouds overhead, thinking  as you avoid thorns and sometimes bees, a contemplation, meditation, watching for shapes in the clouds and of course sampling the sweetness of ripe berries.

It really is true, you can hear the corn growing, those eerie pops, and snaps, zips and rustles one hears as the "knee high by the 4th of July"  stalks try to reach their full height, a wondrous thing that  during the Moon, when some  called the full moon the Ripening corn Moon.

Silent Sunday with animals