Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy Lammas & Lughnasadh!

Whilst August yet wears her golden crown,
Ripening fields lush- bright with promise;
Summer waxes long, then wanes, quietly passing
Her fading green glory on to riotous Autumn.

~ August Crown by Michelle L. Thieme

We wish you all a blessed Lughnasadh and a bountiful Lammas!


Aymi & Laurel

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Farm Internships in Ontario

The better half and I want to start our own farm, this is our dream (or a part at least!). The thing is that we both have limited experience--his being from when he grew up on a small farm, and mine limited to gardening and horses--so we would really need to get more experience to have this come to fruition, that is if we're smart about it.

Lucky for us there is a wonderful organization called Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training in Ontario (CRAFT Ontario). Here is a blurb from their webby:

If you’re ready for a full, hands-on experience that will immerse you in ecological farming then you’ve come to the right place. In this website you’ll find everything you need to apply for a full-season farming internship that could launch your organic farming career.

CRAFT Ontario is your gateway to a farming internship experience that will change your life. Maybe your dream is to have your own organic farm one day. Or maybe you want to learn some food-growing and hands-on skills that can be applied in other careers and lifestyles. Whatever your long term goals are, a farming internship is a powerful experience that will equip you with the tools and insights to make a real difference in the world. You’ll never be the same again!

Many former CRAFT interns go on to have their own organic and ecological farms. Others pursue careers and lifestyles that promote sustainability and ecological renewal in other ways.

They divide the service areas into different regions, called nodes, and right now there are only a handful of farms in our area, and one in our immediate area that are participating. Recently Eat Local Sudbury received funding to start up a program called Farm Alliance, and the program is mandated to increase the amount of new farmers in Northern Ontario and have partnered up with CRAFT Ontario to do this. So hopefully we will see more host farms in the area soon!

We have not applied to any farms yet, as we are 'window shopping', and I have come to find that it is so hard to narrow it down to even 10! We can apply to more than one, so we do have that on our side.

There are farms that teach Permaculture, fruit growing, beekeeping, cheese making, milking, raising heritage breeds of livestock, marketing, growing veggies, greenhouse management, seed saving, preserving food, ploughing with horses and oxen, and a whole slew of other things.

With a bit of luck, this time next year I will be blogging here after a long day's work on one of these farms.



Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Funeral Games and the First Harvest: Lughnasadh & Lammas

It was upon a Lammas night,
When corn rigs are bonie,
Beneath the moon's unclouded light,
I held awa' to Annie;
The time flew by, wi' tentless heed;
Till, 'tween the late and early,
Wi' sma' persuasion she agreed
To see me thro' the barley.

Corn rigs, an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonie;
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Among the rigs wi' Annie.

The sky was blue, the wind was still,
The moon was shining clearly;
I set her down, wi' right good will,
Amang the rigs o' barley:
I ken't her heart was a' my ain;
I lov'd her most sincerely;
I kiss'd her owre and owre again,
Amang the rigs o' barley.

I lock'd her in my fond embrace;
Her heart was beating rarely:
My blessings on that happy place,
Amang the rigs o' barley!
But by the moon and stars so bright,
That shone that hour so clearly!
She ay shall bless that happy night
Amang the rigs o' barley.

I hae been blythe wi' comrades dear;
I hae been merry drinking;
I hae been joyfu' gath'rin' gear;
I hae been happy thinking:
But a' the pleasures e'er I saw,
Tho' three times doubl'd fairly ---
That happy night was worth them a',
Amang the rigs o' barley.

~ Corn Rigs & Barley Rigs by Robert Burns

It's pretty hard for me to believe that it is the end of July already, and almost time (that is if we were on time!) for the first major harvest. We haven't had much of a Summer so far, so I am hoping that August is a little more warm and dry!

August 1st generally marks Lughnasadh and Lammas, although depending on where you are, and what the season has been like, it can differ. Other names for this time is Calan Awst in Wales, Láa Luanys in the Isle of Man, and Lùnasdal in Scotland.

Lughnasadh is an ancient Gaelic holiday, that has a few theories on how it potentially began. The one that I have come across most is that it started off as a time of funeral games in commemoration for the Tailtiu, the foster mother of Lugh. She had died after clearing the land in Co Meath.

Another claim is that it was a festival that originally began to celebrate Lugh becoming king.

During this feast there would be different contests for people to participate in to show off their skills and strength, and also horse racing, which is still a popular sport in Ireland. This was also apparently a time to announce engagements and to arrange betrothals.

Photo from Hello, I am Bruce

Lammas, which was also celebrated at this time of year has its roots as a Germanic solar festival--as an aside, many folks (including myself) get peevish when it is called the 'Saxon version' of Lughnasadh. Historically the Germanic peoples followed a different calendar than the Celts, and even if two of their festivals fell around the same time, I think it is pretty disrespectful and dishonest to just lump them together--and was an agrarian holiday. It was widely celebrated in England, and apparently the name stems from 'loaf-mas'.

One of the customs for Lammas was to bring the first loaf made from the harvest to the church, which would sometimes be used in holy communion.

There were also varying customs that had to do with the last of the harvest at this time of year.

A ritual in Ulster called 'snagging the cailliagh', where as the last sheaf of wheat stood, the harvesters would throw their scythes at it until it was cut down (Land, Sea & Sky). In Religion and Myth, James McDonald describes a custom that was carried out in Aberdeen Scotland:

...the last sheaf cut, or "maiden," is carried home in merry procession by the harvesters. It is then presented to the mistress of the house, who dresses it up to be preserved till the first mare foals. The maiden is then taken down and presented to the mare as its first food. The neglect of this would have untoward effects upon the foal, and disastrous consequences upon farm operations generally for the season.

In folklore there is quite a bit of mention of John Barleycorn, who may be a representation of a God of vegetation. In Robert Burns' version of the song John Barleycorn, it weaves a story about poor old John being sacrificed, and there are many other ballads that have a similar theme. He personifies the crop, which must die (be harvested) so others may go on living.

Photo from Hello, I am Bruce

Both Lammas and Lughnasadh are celebrated today, especially by neo Pagans. Festivities often include dancing, music, games, feasting, harvest rituals, bonfires, and crafting.

When the time is appropriate, I will be doing a harvest ritual, which is my own variation of the Reaping Blessing found in the Carmina Gadelica. I think it is also a good idea to leave a nice offering of the best of the crop not only to a God or Goddess of the field/agriculture, but also to the land spirits. This can either be done as a prepared food or a food item 'as is'.

Leaving food out as an offering, which the critters would surely enjoy, or donating food to a local organization in need are both suitable, I would say.

A craft with some tradition is making 'corn dollies' or other effigies of a Deity of the harvest. Making garlands of grains, flowers, and other harvested items make great decorations and can also be made as offerings. I have heard (I forget where now!) that sometimes garlands were buried in a sacred spot to signify the end of the warm season.

If erecting an altar, obvious choice decorations are harvested items, but also flowers such as sunflowers and blackeyed susans. Animals that can be associated with this time of year are cattle, sheep, and horses. You also might consider adding yellow, green, and red candles, as well as gemstones such as citrine, aventurine, amber, and peridot.

Here are a few photos for inspiration:

Photo from RuTemple

Photos from Sinjy

Photos from malpagaia

For some recipe ideas, you can check out this post that I did this time last year. And finally, check out this video of Damh the Bard performing Lughnasadh Dance:



Monday, July 27, 2009

Luverly of the Week: The Stag by Wenzel Hollar

This is an artwork featuring the main character from the Aesop's Fable The Stag and His Reflection (or The Stag and the Pool):

A stag had grown thirsty and went to a spring in order to drink some water. When he saw the reflection of his body in the water, he disparaged the slenderness of his legs but revelled in the shape and size of his horns. All of a sudden, some hunters appeared and began to chase him. As the stag ran along the level ground of the plain, he outdistanced his pursuers and beat them to the marsh by the river. Without thinking about what he was doing, the stag kept on going, but his horns became tangled in the overhanging branches and he was captured by the hunters. The stag groaned and said, 'Woe is me, wretched creature that I am! The thing that I disparaged could have saved me while I have been destroyed by the very thing I boasted about.'

Lesson: This fable shows people should not praise themselves for something unless it is useful and beneficial.

This and other Aesop's fables can be found here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Great Video on Local Food from Northern Edge Algonquin

Near North Locavore member and kitchen and garden manager at Northern Edge Algonquin Greg Waters talks with Todd Lucier (also of Northern Edge) about local and organic food, and
gives a tour of the garden at Northern Edge and local farmers' markets. This video was shot last summer.

Enjoy the video!



Monday, July 20, 2009

A Few Garden Photos!

So I have *finally* have some photos of the Near North Locavores' community garden!

It is a mish-mash of photos from different times, and I will get more taken once there is more to see. ;)

First, the overall layout of the garden:

We started this from scratch...lifting the sod, and then digging about 1.5 feet down and adding compost. No easy task, even with such a small garden! It is a grid of 20 deep beds, that vary in size, but none more than 4 feet across (for easy access).

This is a view facing West, showing the whole garden, including the containers (there are newly planted peas in the recycle bins, and other veggies and herbs in the containers).

Facing South, there are tomatoes in the first bed, then nasturtiums, dill, carrots, and cilantro in the beds behind.

Again facing South, there are nasturtiums, pole beans, bush beans, carrots, onions, chard, and chives in this row of beds.

Again bush beans, pole beans, nasturtiums, chard, lettuce, carrots, and beets.

This is the last row of beds. Pole beans, beets, nasturtiums, lettuce, and spinach.

And now here are some random shots of the garden:

Mint in the shade garden

Double chamomile

Daisy fleabane



Lemon balm

More mint




Sweet woodruff in the shade garden

Lady's mantle in the partial shade garden

More sweet woodruff




Luverly of the Week: Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt in 2006. Photo from Elke Wetzig.

Frank McCourt might be best known for penning the autobiographical book Angela's Ashes (which is how I came to hear of him). He was also a teacher, humanitarian, and a winner of many awards including the Pulitzer Prize.

He sadly died yesterday at 79 years of age. He will be greatly missed!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mr Bumble Bee by Liv Torc {a Nifty Spoken Word Piece}

I had originally heard Liv Torc of Wondermentalist preform this luverly spoken word called Mr Bumble Bee on the Druidcast Midsummer 2009 episode and I absolutely loved it! You can see a video of the preformance down below:

Also from Wondermentalist there is a great poem by Isley Lynn called The Stag that you can check out here.



Sunday, July 12, 2009

Organic Earwig Control & a Great Book

We have a bit of an earwig problem in the Locavore garden. They have been helping themselves to some of our herbs, and the little gluttons have left big holes in our basil. It usually wouldn't be too much of a problem with me, as I don't mind sharing, but this isn't my garden and will only have so many basil plants.

So how to take care of this problem? Well, first we need to find an organic solution. We could always go the way of my Grandmother, who went out religiously every summer night to squash the little buggers with gloved hands while the feasted on her wild rose bushes. I was lucky that my job was just holding the flash light!

Since I don't have the stomach for that method, I will have to use an alternative.

Clean North has a pretty nifty webpage dedicated to getting rid of non-beneficial insects in the garden, without the use of pesticides. This is what they suggest to get rid of earwigs in the garden:

The most effective way to control an earwig problem is to use trapping devices.

- Place folded or rolled up newspapers in between flowers and vegetables at night. Earwigs will hide between the sheets come daylight.

- Try packing a pot with loose straw, turning it upside-down on a stick, and place it among your violets. This produces a trap where earwigs will shelter during the day. Be sure to destroy the contents of the trap each day.

- Place cardboard boxes baited with oatmeal or bran in your garden. Punch pencil-sized entry sites in the sides near the bottom. Again, frequently destroy the contents of the trap.

- Another trap consists of placing a tuna can into a shallow pot or saucer. Fill the pot or saucer with potting soil up to the rim of the can. Inside the can, put a heaping tablespoon of bread crumbs and add about a half inch of cookies oil. Place the pot or saucer among your violets. The earwigs will be lured into the can. Once inside the can, they become coated in the oil, rendering them incapable of escaping.

To destroy trapped earwigs: Shake specimens into hot/boiling water or burn trapped earwigs in newspaper rools. Indoors, remove with broom and dustpan or with a vacuum cleaner.

I will give it a try and post the results.

I found a beautiful book at my local library called Women of the Harvest: Inspiring Stories of Contemporary Farmers

It features the stories of 17 different women farmers in America, and talks about the hopeful 'new trend' of women being the fastest growing group buying and operating small farms. One significant thing that seems to be tied to this is that they are approaching farming in a holistic way, and are using organic methods. They are looking to serve their local communities, and to share and exchange knowledge with others.

This is a encouraging for other women who wish to get into farming, and I encourage anyone who is interested in sustainable farming to read this book.

You can find more info about the book here.



Luverly of the Week: Boadicea Haranguing the Britons by John Opie

Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni was also a warrior who led her people in a revolt against the invading Romans. Her rebellion was one of great courage and anger, but was ultimately unsuccessful in the end.

Regardless, she is a symbol of inspiration for those who fight against tyranny and is a reminder never to mess with a mother's children. She was definitely a force to be reckoned with!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Trouble at the White House Victory Garden

It turns out that there was dangerous amounts of lead found in the White House Organic Victory Garden. There are a couple of possible theories as to how this happened. Check out the Huffington Post article below:

The Obama Organic Family Garden: Swimming in Sludge?

When Michelle Obama created an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn earlier this year, the move was greeted with positive headlines and excitement among the food advocacy community. Here, we thought, was a First Lady who understood the importance of locally grown, whole and organic foods in her family's diet.

Unfortunately, something happened on the way to the realization of the First Lady's good intentions. Recently the National Park Service discovered that the White House lawn, where the garden was planted, contains highly elevated levels of lead -- 93 parts per million. It's enough lead for anyone planning to have children pick vegetables in that garden or eat produce from it to reconsider their plans: lead is highly toxic to children's developing organs and brain functions -- however, it's below the 400 ppm the EPA suggests is a threat to human health.

What caused this alarming contamination of the White House lawn? Some news outlets speculated that residue from lead paint might have caused the toxicity. However an article running on Mother Jones online has a more probable explanation. During the 1990s, the Clintons agreed to have the South Lawn of the White House "fertilized" with ComPRO, a commercially available "compost made from a nearby wastewater plant's solid effluent, a.k.a. sewage sludge."

Read the rest of the article here.

If Clinton is responsible for this mess, then I think a fitting exchange would be for him to lick the garden clean.