Mar 25, 2013

The Easing In of Spring

The equinox came on handsomely last week.  The above photo is the sky at dusk on the day that, for a short moment, daylight and darkness were balanced.  (I know that there is more to the equinoxes in an astrological sense and the timing is sometimes suspect, but I'm a romantic and am more than happy to observe on a certain agreed-upon day.)

I feel like I'm still integrating the equinox energy, and interesting things have come up for me this week  but I'm enjoying the spring dance that is happening right now.  The weather is completely crazy, still jumping back and forth between ice-cold winds and very warm days, with a stray snow flurry or spot of hail thrown in for good measure.

The yard wakes more and more each day, even if the frost knocks a few of the plants for a loop on some mornings.  I spotted this dandelion trying valiantly to wake and bloom:

The cats have been in their glory lazing around the yard and are not happy having to come inside when I switch my gears from garden work to office work.  They are soaking up the sunshine and chasing bugs and chittering at the birds that hide in the cedars.

The same office work that gets me out of bed (and the house) all winter long transforms from a boon to a burden as the season progresses.  I'd rather be outside all the time, wandering the hills, chatting with the veggies growing in the raised beds, and napping in my hammock.  But there needs to be balance there too.

As we wander into the last week of March (already?!) and some of us prepare for another celebration of family and food and chocolate bunnies, I feel grateful for the easing-in that spring is affording me this year.  I'm not quite prepared yet to spend all day in the yard.  Although I'm finished with year-end books for my employer, my own taxes are staring at me, and the Great Home & Business Organization of Winter 2013 is not even close to being complete.

I am finding my way into spring.  There is a dance going on.  First, getting rid of heavy blankets and then adding a few back in for those frigid nights that linger.  Clearing the garden of dead branches and leaves and then packing some back around the plants to protect the new growth from frost.

I know that there are still places under snow, and storms are making a mess in some areas.

I hope spring finds you too, and eases in, waking your land and brightening your skies.

Mar 18, 2013

Green Greetings

Signs of life!

I spent Saturday outside reveling in the yard and gardens.  My back took a beating last week with the early plantings and there has been more yard work since.  Much yoga is needed!

The valerian is showing off already.  It is quite happy it its pot, but by next year I may have to find a spot in the ground for it.    Several of my potted herbs have outgrown their containers.  The evening primrose is hanging over the edges of its pot, so it will be the first to get a new home - as soon as the weather evens out a little. I managed to gather quite a few seeds from it, but because I didn't grab them in the late autumn, I'm not sure about their quality.  I'm trying to sprout some now.  If it works, I'll have seeds to share.


In the veggie gardens, the chives are happily popping up.  I'm itching to make a potato salad with these lovelies!

The chickweed is thriving and is flowering too!  It's hard to see, but if you click the pic below, you'll see the little white flowers.  They look many-petaled, but in fact the petals are merely split.  How many times have I posted about chickweed?  It almost competes with dandelion for my weedy heart.

The lady is waking up too.  I've got to take the shears to the lady's mantle, but she'll have to wait her turn.  This year, instead of rushing through all the chores, I'm trying to take time with each plant. It helps me to appreciate them more and sometimes I get a clue on how I might make use of them in new ways. The valerian in the top photo was the first to get a nice clean up, and it really spoke to me about taking time for myself and making time to relax.  This year I'm going to infuse some of the wonderful-strange scented flowers in oil.

My wishes for spring go out to all of you - especially those still under snow.  We've had a few flurries here, but the snow no longer stays on the ground.  Although the time change kicked my butt last week, I have to say that I'm rather happy with the longer days.  No more driving to and from work in the dark, which is wonderful.

Even more good news - the spring equinox hits on Wednesday, and Mercury is out of retrograde.  Good things are afoot!

Mar 16, 2013

Goodbye Reader

Now that Google has sent its Reader packing, I'm heading over to Bloglovin.  It gets some good reviews and makes life easier for me as far as keeping up with the blogs I read and finally allows me to edit out the ones that have been taken over by spam sites or simply have sat neglected for years.

If you want to add me to your reader there, the following link should do the trick:

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Has any other reader caught your eye?

Mar 14, 2013

Buds, Warmth and Weeds

It is official - the peas are in the ground!  I could have had them in a week ago, but I was waiting for the new moon.  I want to give them all the help I can.  The earth was treated to a few good scoops of compost and a nice offering of whisky, and then it sat for a week awaiting the seeds.  I've planted spinach and radishes too.  Everything else will need to wait a couple weeks until it warms up a bit more.

It has been getting rather warm here too.  Warmer than last year when we had snow in March.  I'm grateful for the balmy weather, and that I can get rid of my bulky winter coat.  I even fell asleep on the grass yesterday.  It was one part time-change tiredness and one part the bliss of lying on the lawn again.  I had some nice grass indentations on my face when I woke up.  Sexy.

At the river, things are perking up.  The Saskatoon bushes have buds that will be opening soon.  I picked up some wind fallen poplar buds today, which are infusing in oil, and some red willow that was cut by a beaver.

While the river is my respite, the yard is where I need to be.  Now that the snow cover is long gone, all the work I need to do is staring me in the face.  I'll get to it...soon.  Right now watching the yarrow, evening primrose and a few other perennials show off their new growth.

Stellaria media (chickweed) from: SB Johnny - Creative Commons

I'm also grazing my way through the chickweed patch.  If you have this in your yard and aren't eating it - you are missing out!  Here's a little blurb from my weekend Wild & Weedy class:

This sweet little plant can be very tenacious.  Once chickweed finds its way into your yard, you will see it popping up everywhere.  Fortunately, it is a tasty bit of green that stays almost year-round.  It is always the first thing to pop up in my garden in the spring.  Nibbling it, I taste intense green and something akin to pea shoots or young spinach.  High in vitamins C and minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium, chickweed is the perfect addition to spring salads, pesto and green juices.

After a long winter and much snow, the intense green of this plant is a welcome sight!

Chickweed is anti-inflammatory - I call it a “cooling herb,” and as such is wonderful used topically on burns and rashes.  It is a must in my gardener’s salve, which saved me last summer after a severe sunburn that should have blistered.  Several coats of the salve, and the burn healed quickly.  It can also help increase circulation and reduce swelling.  Also - use a compress on rosacea or acne or use in a facial steam.

Chickweed contains saponins which work as a digestive aid, helping regulate intestinal flora and absorbing toxins from the bowel.  Although some warn against taking in too much chickweed because the saponins can cause stomach upset, eating so much chickweed as to cause this problem is rare.

Hope you are finding lovely things popping up in your yard!

Mar 6, 2013

Personal Alchemy

On Thursday, I couldn't get a phrase out of my head.  "Six keys for six roads."  I didn't remember hearing the words anywhere else, and wasn't sure exactly what they meant, but the keys/roads symbolism wasn't lost on me.

I did a search for the phrase, for kicks, and "The Six Keys of Eudoxus" showed up.  The text speaks of alchemy - in this case it refers to mercury many times and I assume the steps taken to transmute that into the material most valued - gold.  I find this type of writing both fascinating and confusing.  If you have a minute or thirty to look over The Six Keys, you'll understand what I mean.  It's both rich and poetic and mysterious as well as terribly difficult to wrap your head around completely.

As I read it, another level of understanding appeared to me.  I'm not a chemist, but I grasp the idea behind alchemy - the process of transmuting something common, or of little value, into something valuable, rare or superior in form.  And although this text is about "the generation of a new substance infinitely nobler than the First," I feel as though I could spend vast amounts of time picking it apart and applying the directions to life itself.  It helps that the author uses the words "life, body, spirit, soul," and similar words to describe mercury and the other substances in the Keys.

For example:

"...there are three different substances...which are the spirit, the soul, and the body; and though they appear pure and perfectly united together, there still wants much of their being so..."

"...the spirits of the bodies are the Bath where the Sun and Moon go to wash themselves."

"Hermes says, that there is so much sympathy between the purified bodies and the spirits, that they never quit one another when they are united together: because this union resembles that of the soul with the glorified body; after which Faith tells us, there shall be no more separation or death; because the spirits desire to be in the cleansed bodies, and having them, they enliven and dwell in them."

The Alchemist - Cornelis Pietersz Bega

It was not a surprise to me then, that the next day, upon visiting my 99 year old grandfather who had taken a sharp turn in his health, I would be pondering the body and the spirit and the idea of transmutation.  While sitting with him, I looked up at the mirrored doors of his closet and could clearly see myself sitting at his bedside, but could not see him on the bed.  I looked back at him, and then at the mirror again and still could not make out his form in the mirror.  I had a clear moment of understanding that he was already taking steps on his journey out of this world.  By the next evening, he had passed on.

I often ponder my progress in life.  Am I learning my lessons?  Am I becoming more than I have been? Seeing a progression is important to me (while still maintaining a childlike joy, of course.)  I don't want to be hung up on the same issues five years from now.  I don't want to be on my death bed and think "I wonder if I look fat in this hospital gown?"  I desire alchemy in my life.  I want to transform lower thoughts and not-so-lovely attitudes into more beneficial philosophies and practices.  I still fall.  There is much to be learned in a fall too.  But the goal is to not step into the same hole again.

My grandfather wasn't perfect.  He fell too.  But he evolved.  He grew more interested in joy.  In chocolate.  In seeing his family and grandchildren grow.  In chasing the ladies after my grandmother passed on.  He died surrounded by family and friends because he was cherished. People didn't flock to his bedside last weekend because he had a fortune to leave behind that they were hoping for a piece of.  They were there because he had built a legacy that people were proud to be a part of.  He had transformed himself from a poor English farmboy to a nearly 100 year old patriarch of an adoring family.  He passed from this life singing.

He took a body of flesh and a spark of spirit and created something incredibly valuable with them.

He was a hell of an alchemist.