Gifts of Meadow and Mire

Freshly laid frog eggs.

Freshly laid frog eggs.

Fuzzy fiddleheads erupt from the floor of the pine grove.

Fuzzy fiddleheads erupt from the floor of the pine grove.

Dandelions mark the natural date of Beltaine on our land.  It was 5 days later than the calendar date this year.

Dandelions mark the natural date of Beltaine on our land. It was 5 days later than the calendar date this year.

Still working on identifying these lovlies.

Still working on identifying these lovlies.

Garlic mustard is gaining more and more of a foothold, sadly.  I will be making a lot of pest this year.

Garlic mustard is gaining more and more of a foothold, sadly. I will be making a lot of pesto this year.

The swans have returned.  I can't wait to see if we get cygnets again this year!

The swans have returned. I can’t wait to see if we get cygnets again this year!


Make Like a Crane

Happy Vernal Equinox! I think I heard the first “official” spring peeper this morning. However, being one of those snow-lovers, it’s been bitter-sweet to watch the glaciers recede in parking lots and on lawns. Their retreat leaves behind all manner of debris, a miniature echo of the glacial processes of the last ice ages. The archaeologist in me wonders what the current glacial retreat will reveal–probably not the plastic shovels and swords of the early 21st century, but maybe still something interesting.

Since I’m traveling, I won’t be dyeing eggs like I had planned (that’ll be next week), but I will be outside, standing on one foot with one arm behind my back and one eye closed, in balance at the moment of balance.

Blessed Ostara!

Practicing Together #7

Apple Blossom

Seed thought taken from Leaning into Mystery: Practicing Together #12.

I noticed that destructive thought loops are like parasites: separate them from the host and they will die.

In more cheerful observations, I’ve heard both wood peckers and swans in the past week. And I was able to witness a rather impressive swan display as I walked around the brook yesterday. As the female nested, the male took off across the water, slapping the surface with his wings. It sounded like a series of gunshots, intimidating to say the least. Swans can be dangerous creatures if riled and this was a good reminder of that.

This week, I invite in poise and balance, inspired by my woodswalking, and having so much fun wobbling along logs with my son. Poise and balance generally seem like stuffy terms to me, and I want to figure out how to play with them more.

Ways this could happen: literally practicing balance with Crane qigong; more log balancing in the woods. I want to experience this viscerally, not just in my head (although that’s a pretty big place, too!).

What went well: Finished the Planetary Sigils project! ‘Nuff said. 🙂

Updates: Garden is still waiting expectantly. The seeds are sitting on my counter, begging to be put in the ground. My attic is still a mess, waiting for the book cases to be put in. This is making crafting challenging to say the least, not to mention bigger spiritual exercises. So for now, the woods and the kitchen altar will have to do until I get my woo!space back.

Practicing Together #6

Seed thought taken from Leaning into Mystery: Practicing Together #11.

I noticed that I got a lot of practice failing last week! I though I did complete a number of large projects, I also dropped a number of balls in order to do so. Like, being two weeks behind on the Pagan Blog Project, for instance. But, with the spring peepers peeping and the first mosquitoes snacking on my hemoglobin, it all somehow seemed ok.

This week, I invite in awareness, noticing how my inner and outer worlds interact with each other. I can often get distracted by one or the other, so paying attention to my emotions and how they affect my actions is something I want to work on.

Ways this could happen: Asking for awareness in my morning ritual. Pausing throughout the day to check in with myself.

What went well: I definitely got my geek on. In some ways, I think I went a little overboard with it, which derailed some other projects that I had in the works. The next step will be harnessing the geek, rather than letting it run over my life. Ooops.

Updates: I didn’t get to work on the calendar, but I did get the spring crops ordered—in fact they arrived today. I felt like I broke through to the sunlight after a long, hard March (when SAD tends to kick in for me). Breaking through was tough, but I’m feeling a lot more together by the beginning of this week for sure. And, my Ovate tutor wrote back–I’m not fired! Not that I thought I would be, but a fear of disappointment always lurks when I write to her and it was nice just to be held by her very kind words.

Can You Say, “Hoop”?

Last spring I was inspired by Dana’s post on cold frames/hoop houses over at the Druid’s Garden. Though we didn’t have enough money in the budget for these in the community garden last year, I really wanted to make sure we didn’t go another season without them. So last weekend myself, my mother-in-law, and three other folks put in about four hours and constructed a nice batch of hoop houses for four of the raised beds in the community garden.

Half-inch conduit brackets hold the PVC in place.

Working off of Dana’s notes and a few random pieces of advice gathered by Google-fu, I designed these to rest just on top of the soil of the raised beds, making them 3.5′ by 6′ in size. I hadn’t used a circular saw since stage crew in high school, but it came back pretty quickly. The best piece of advice I got from Dana’s post was to use these nifty little conduit brackets from the electrical section of the hardware store to serve as guides for the PVC pipes (1/2″ diameter). The PVC slides right into them, allowing the frame to be anchored in the soil once outside.

Materials (for one frame, around $20-$25):

*20′ of 2×3 (we got some of ours from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which salvages lumber from construction sites)
*3 8′ pieces of 1/2″ PVC (hoops should be roughly double the width of the frame)
*8’x10′ piece of heavy plastic sheeting
*12 conduit brackets
*8 3″ screws (hold frame together)
*24 3/4″ screws (attach brackets)
*Staple gun & staples
*Circular saw
*Tape measure

First, measure out all your pieces. Then on the long boards, place and mark where the brackets will fall (one of our group made a template out of a short piece of PVC with two brackets taped to it, which made this step really fast and easy): two sets should be about an inch from the ends, and the third set should be right in the middle (3′ mark). Use a drill to then fix all the brackets in place with 3/4″ screws.

Next, using the 3″ screws, attach the two long sides and two short sides together to make a rectangle. Insert the PVC into one set of brackets, bending it until it slides into the set directly across. It should be starting to look like a hoop house now!

Finally, take the plastic sheeting and mark the halfway point on the short side. Match this to the center point of the short side of the frame, and then double over the edge and staple in place. Work from the center to the edges on one short side, then the other; lastly, repeat this on the long sides, miter the corners and voilà! You are the proud owner of your own hoop house!

A finished hoop house!


Enter the Pac Choi!

The community garden is rumbling along at its own steady pace. The past weekend was a bit frantic, trying to get the field prepped for tilling on Monday, but we squeaked through, pulling out the last of the winter “rock crop” just as Bob C. arrived with his tractor. Our amendments of choice this year were bone meal (phosphorus) and urea (nitrogen), since last year’s crops were disappointing in their hardiness. However, I am *very* happy not to be turning everything by hand this spring, which is what ended up happening last year. Yes, it was a low-carbon footprint/free exercise way of doing things, but it took two weekends and my glutes were scolding me for a month!

Newly amended and cultivated field garden

One advantage of pooling resources is pooling compost. Below is a shot of the mountain collected from various households as well as landscaping debris. We’re aiming for a “turn-less” system (which is what the 4′ pvc pipe is supposed to help with), but we had too much volume for a single vent to handle. The goal this year is to build a couple more boxes, and see if smaller piles won’t keep hotter and ultimately be handled by the pipe method.

Mt. Compost

And, as promised, baby plant pic spam!

Baby kale

Baby lettuce

Baby spinach & pac choi

Lastly, our garden guardian, the Toad Cairn. Last year I found a mummified toad amongst the tomatoes, and I asked if it would like to stay and help keep watch over our crops. I built him a little toad tomb in the northeast corner of the garden, from which he can survey his domain.

Toad cairn