Aug 25, 2012

Farmers Market Saturday

I'm ashamed to say that I've not gone to our local farmers market much this summer.  But I do have a good excuse.  While I heartily advocate supporting your local farmers, especially if you do not have your own garden, I have more produce than I know what to do with this year.  My mother and I have already made two batches of salsa and numerous jars of jam and I've dried a dozen or so varieties herbs, tinctured several more and am handing out veggies to all my neighbours.  The extra garden plots this year have created our own little farm and we are terribly busy trying to keep up.

Meanwhile, at the market, the root veggies are center stage.  I grow these golden beets - they are SO good for roasting or tossing on the BBQ.  Also - tomatoes are everywhere.  I love picking up the heirloom tomatoes at the market as I don't grow those varieties.

Summer squash is everywhere too, and our plants are popping out a good crop of sweet squash that will last us through the winter.  The potatoes are slowly being dug and the onions are drying nicely in the basement.  The only thing that didn't do well this year was the cucumber - we tried it in a pot, but it wasn't happy there.  Luckily, the farmers market can hook us up!

Above is the yellow variety of tomato I grew this year.  Large, beefstake-type tomatoes that are very fleshy but low acid.  I've lost the name of this variety, but I'm very happy with it and will grow it again next year.  I usually stick to paste/Roma tomatoes because I love them for bruschetta, in salsa and in sauces, but these yellow ones are keepers I think.

Below is just the little basket I picked this morning for a friend.  Multi-coloured beets and carrots, yellow and red tomatoes, beet greens and a little calendula flower along for the ride.

I hope you've had a lovely harvest in the garden or at the farmers markets this year!

Aug 21, 2012

The Storm, The Snakes and Dionysus

A storm has come upon the Valley.  The air has been thick all day.  By four o'clock the thunder started, echoing from far off.  Just after five the lightening began, and still it built and built until finally the rains burst forth.  The relief of the earth is palpable.  We've all sighed in ecstasy over the moisture.

Life in the southern end of the Valley is a strange mix of lush lakes and desert.  The settlers here used the lakes to keep their crops alive in the hot summer months when rainfall was (and still is) practically non-existent.  Crops quickly turned to orchards, which are now falling to acres of vine-land to feed the growing winery population.  One cannot help but think that Dionysus has had a hand in the re-commitment of the land.

The grape harvest is still a while off, but the wineries are doing a bustling business with the summer tourists and getting ready for the local fall wine festivals.  At the winery where my brother creates amazing things in oak barrels, they have been on rattlesnake watch for the last month after an employee was bit while out in the vines.  I have heard that the snakes climb the vines (and sometimes small trees) and wait for birds, but I can't say if that is factual.  All I know is, in the summer months, you look where you step and where your reach your hand.

I only have a passing interest in Dionysus and so have only heard the most loose connection between him and snakes. It is said that the wild women or maenads that followed him were often depicted carrying snakes or wearing snakes in their hair.  Another connection is made by the simple way that the grape vines grow, snake-like along whatever is holding them up.  The snake seems to be a fitting symbol for Dionysus.  The skin-shedding "rebirth" of a snake fits in with Dionysus' lore of being twice-born.  The snake is chthonic in several myths, which also works with the tale of Dionysus' journey to the underworld to fetch his mother.

Also of interest to me today, is the folk connection between snakes and storms.  In North American folklore, some believed that if you hung a rattlesnake (presumably dead) with its belly toward the sun, it would bring a storm.  In Indian folklore, Nagas were considered snakes or serpent-like beings often living in the ocean.  Varuna, the king of the Nagas, is the Vedic god of storms.  Slavic folklore has several stories about beings who influence the weather and appear in myriad shapes, of which a snake is almost always one.

Gary R. Varner states: "Snakes have also contributed to weather folklore around the world associated with rain. Nineteenth century folklorist Richard Inwards noted, “the chief characteristic of the serpents throughout the East in all ages seems to have been their power over the wind and rain, which they gave or withheld, according to their good or ill will towards man."

Whether tonight's storm has been caused by the unfortunate hanging of a snake, a pissed-off sea spirit, or the mad, whirling debauchery of Dionysus' maenads and their snake-accessories, I couldn't tell you.  All I know is that the garden and I are breathing a bit easier, and the wine in my glass, for some reason, tastes much sweeter.


Aug 17, 2012

This Week In The Garden - August

It has been wildly hot here these last few weeks.  Keeping the gardens and pots watered has become a rather large undertaking.  But very worth it when you see the rewards.  The corn is tossing its wild pink hair all over the place.

The onion harvest was plentiful.

The joys of compost - sometimes a seed survives the breaking down process and begins a new life in the strangest places.  This rogue petunia is happily living with the beets.

The tomato jungle.  An entire raised bed full of Roma (paste) tomatoes and one lone, low-acid yellow tomato for eating with fresh basil on toast - yum!

The skullcap is flowering pretty little blue blossoms.

An early squash sits fat and happy at the edge of the bed.

The simple fountain gurgles away while I'm mucking around the garden.  It's a favoured watering station for Daisy the kitty.

The weather will cool soon enough.  I've noticed a few 'tells' this week along the river.  The salmon are back - early this year.  The quail have given up keeping to pairs (and families) and are back to flocking in groups.  I saw them moving through the neighbours' yards, fattening up already.  An early winter this year?  It's hard to say - but I hope not.  I'm looking forward to a nice long autumn!

Aug 13, 2012

The Mundane and the Magical - Basil

Also called “Our Herb,” “St. Joseph’s Wort” or “Witches Herb”

Basil is an inspiring plant.  Although it lends itself to delightful dishes in the kitchen, it also roused fear in days of old, having thought to be a plant of witches and all sorts of evil.

Basil is a happy pot or garden herb.  It has been said that the stricter you treat it, the better it will produce for you, but I’m not one to terrorize my plants.  I believe that this suggestion was a result of the fact that basil will bush out and grow a stout, healthy plant if you snip the tops off the basil as it grows.  Many people do not like to cut down into the hard-wood of a herb, but harvesting these top leaves and letting the side leaves alone, allows for a bushier plant.  Pinch back the flowers as they form and you’ll have continued leaf growth.  You may even manage to get two good harvests.

Basil is said not to grow well near rue, one report being that it will “curl up and die.”  I have read that rue will exude a chemical that prevents some other plants from thriving beside it, so this may be where the idea that basil will not grow well near rue comes from.

Basil is an annual, so even if you bring it inside when the frosts begin, it will not last through the winter.  However, there are plenty of ways to continue to enjoy your basil after it is harvested.  Dry leaves flat on screens or in a dehydrator and keep in a glass jar.  You can also chop fresh leaves and freeze them in ice cube trays with a bit of water for use in sauces, soups or pesto.  Basil is a wonderful addition to pastas, chicken or vegetable dishes.

Medicinally, basil is rumoured to be good for the kidneys, but when researched it is found that most do not use it for internal healing at all (aside from adding it to rich food as a digestive aid.)  It is said to be a headache cure or an aid to memory, when used in aromatherapy.  Putting a few drops of basil essential oil, or a handful of fresh, crushed leaves in a steam bath and inhaled is said to help with sinus and chest congestion.  And used topically, basil is supposed to be wonderful for use healing skin and removing the sting and/or itch from insect bites.  It also boasts some aphrodisiacal qualities.

The folklore on basil is fun and fascinating.  Here a just a few of the many wild legends about basil:

~ “Named after the fearful creature the Basiliske,* it is the Devil’s plant in Greece; a charm against witches in Wales.”  Vernon Quinn 1937

*Of note - other texts say that the Basilisk got its name from basil OR got its name from the same Greek word basiliskos, which means “little king,” as basil (basilicum) did.  This is more likely than Mr. Quinn’s idea that basil was named after the serpent that could kill with a look.  Also, basil has been reported as being both a guard against, and a favoured herb of witches.

~ Culpeper says:  “Mizaldus affirms, that if it (basil) be laid to rot in horse-dung, it will breed venomous beasts; and Hollerious, a French physician, affirms upon his own knowledge, that an acquaintance of his on smelling it had a scorpion bred in his brain.”

Basil is said to be a herb of Mars, under Scorpio, which is what likely led to it being so tied to scorpions and other “venomous beasts.”  Strangely, there is lore that states basil can both call forth and protect against, snakes and scorpions.

~ Witches were said to favour basil as a flying herb.  After brewing the basil juice, they would rub their broom or horse and their bodies to allow for flying.  A flying recipe is, as follows:

Witches Brew For Flying  - as recorded by Hon. Ralph Shirley (1865-1946)

Oil or juice of Our Herb (basil)
Bats’ blood
Nightshade *
Water parsnip *
Sweet Flag

*This recipe contains two poisonous plants and if it is in fact accurate, would have to be created by an incredibly knowledgeable herb worker so as not to kill the partakers.

~ The heady scent of basil has given it the reputation of being a herb of love.  It is said to foster favour between lovers as well as quell discord within the family.  As such, it is a great pot herb for indoors.  Or one may wish to tuck a basil leaf under the pillow of their sweetheart.

~ Basil is said to be a protective herb.  Use as a floor wash or to wash windows and doors to keep your home safe.  Use in strewing herbs or floor sweeps.  Give a small pot of basil as a hostess gift to bless and protect your friend’s home.

~ Perhaps due to the coin-shaped leaves of sweet basil, the plant is also associated with money.  Carry it in your pocket or purse to attract money to you.

~ It is also found to have been used as a funerary herb amongst Hindus, placed over the breast upon burial (said to have been a rite adopted from the ancient Egyptians.)


Essential Herbal Wisdom - Nancy Arrowsmith
Mysterious Herb & Roots - Mitzie Stuart Keller
Culpeper’s Complete Herbal - Nicholas Culpeper
The Essential Herbs Handbook - Lesley Bremness
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs - Scott Cunningham
Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic - Catherine Yronwode

Giveaway Winner

Thanks to all who tossed their name into the hat!

The SJ Tucker CD is going home with.....


Congrats!  Please pop me an email with your mailing address to:  rueandhyssop AT gmail DOT com.  

Aug 6, 2012

Faerieworlds Giveaway

This image belongs to SJ Tucker and and is linked as such.
This image is used only to advertise SJ Tucker's music.

One of the best parts of Faerieworlds for me was hearing SJ Tucker play "The Wendy Trilogy" in the Neverland area of the park, under the trees surrounded by faeries and with a merry band of pirates acting out the song.  It's not something I'll forget.  

If you've not heard SJ, you are in for a treat.  Her songs are soulful and addictive.  While buying some music at the festival, I picked up this CD for one lucky reader here at Rue and Hyssop.  Her song "Hymn to Herne" on this CD is one of my very favourites of hers.

Here is what her site has to say about this CD:

Blessings is a purely spiritual work of art. This daring album is entirely dedicated to the pagan segment of S.J.'s fanbase, and may not be appropriate for all audiences. For those that are open to alternative spiritual paths, this album is not to be missed. Blessings opens with an invocation and includes other musical passages which are both powerful and functional, such as a moving piece about the power of the labyrinth, a hymn dedicated to the male deity Herne, a pair of highly energetic tunes devoted to dance, and two playful numbers relating to Mama Dragon. Ginger Doss of Dreamtrybe and Velvet Hammer fame describes Blessings as, "The most sacred, most highly evolved body of pagan work I have ever experienced. SJ walks her path, and it shows."

If you'd like to get your hands on this wonderful CD, all you have to do is be a follower or friend of the blog in some way (subscribe by RSS or email or by Google Friend Connect, or be a pal on FB or Twitter) and leave a comment.  Please make sure there is a way for me to contact you if you win.  I'll announce the winner in one week on August 13th!

Best of luck!  And if you don't win - run out and buy one of SJ's CD's anyway - you won't be sorry!

Aug 4, 2012

Land of the Fae

Here are a few pictures from my first Faerieworlds experience last weekend. They are taken with my meagre phone camera, so forgive any fuzziness.  You can click on the pics for a slightly larger view.  You won't find me or my wild Canadian crew in these pics, I'm afraid.  We were vastly under-dressed.  Next year - full faery wear, and pictures of us!  If you want to see some amazing (and professional) pictures - check out the Faerieworlds website.

It was a wonderful weekend - but a whirlwind!  It took us 11 hours to get from our little valley in British Columbia to Eugene Oregon.  Even though we had most of Saturday and all day Sunday, I still feel like I missed seeing many of the vendors.  The merchant area was massive!  Next year, we will spend more time (and I'm sure more money) exploring the land of the Fae at Faerieworlds.  We are hooked!

Aug 1, 2012

Welcome August!

"Fairest of the months! 
Ripe summer's queen
The hey-day of the year
With robes that gleam with sunny sheen
Sweet August doth appear."
- R. Combe Miller

A very happy August to you!  The days have flown and July is finished whether I was prepared to be done with it, or not.  I spent the last few days of that hot month in Oregon where I was dancing with the fae at Faerieworlds.  What a weekend!  I'll post some pictures soon, but for now I'm still trying to catch up on my sleep and garden duties.

"He that has a good harvest, must be content with a few thistles." ~ Spanish proverb

I'm surprised how much is fading now.  It seems like these globe thistle flowers had just bloomed and the neighbour's rose of Sharon was only beginning to open its giant purple blossoms - but today I noticed the petals on the ground and the bees busily combing the thistles as they begun to wilt slightly.

Out in the valley hills, the wild rose hips are ready for picking.  I've got to head out very early one morning this week to harvest.  The weather is stifling hot, so any work outdoors is still relegated to the morning hours.  I wanted to have a First Harvest fire in my fire bowl today, but the hot, dry weather meant that any sparks would be a hazard.  My Lughnasadh fire tonight will be contained in my cauldron.  It will consist of some of the dried stems of herbs I've harvested thus far this year.  Yarrow, sage and lavender will make a lovely scented fire.

This first harvest is traditionally about grain.  I don't grow grain or cereal crops, although I've tried my hand at corn, but the stalks produce little if anything and are used as decoration more than food.  My harvest altar is pitifully lacking a corn or wheat dolly this year.  There are plenty of great posts out about the sabbat today (here and here) so I won't delve too much into the traditions and history involved in the day.  I tend to think of summer's winding down as a time to reflect on what worked this year thus far, and what hasn't.

What I love about August is that there is still time.  Still time to put in some late summer crops that enjoy the cooler autumn weather.  Still time to change my plans if they are not producing the desired effect.  Still time to work on my goals and desires before winter sets in.  There is still plenty of time to play in the sun!

Wishing you a blessed Lughnassadh, Lammas, First Harvest, August!