“Tending my inner garden went splendidly this winter. Suddenly to be healed again and aware that the very ground of my being — my mind and spirit — was given time and space in which to go on growing; and there came from my heart a radiance I had not felt so strongly for a long time… ”
Rainer Maria Rilke, to Heise, 1922
The sun definitely begins to restore that “radiance” in January. The still, bright night sky all a lit with pure silver cast stars! The sun that lingers in the kitchen while I fix dinner, cats wandering on counter tops. I feel like we primarily driven by the sun and the moon, so it makes total sense to me that the longer days have me dabbling with seeds, earth and growth!
I have sensed revival and growth – and maybe I express it through a primeval way – working with new life.
The earth and plants have bewitched me and I feel like I’ve become their faithful, voluntary servant.
And so, early in January I began to take a little bit of action in this realm, despite the seed packet guidelines. My logic is that I have house plants of all kinds, so why shouldn’t I be able to start some perennials as “houseplants” before transplanting outdoors. I have done this for the past 2 years since we have had our own acre and never experienced any problems with starting some early plants! It actually really deepens my bond with the particular plant because they receive so much early care (as opposed to my plants in April because there are hundreds!)
So it begins… I can’t wait for the day in May that we go to the nursery, the greenhouses! But for now, I really don’t mind just the stirring of life, the rising sun and clear night skies.
In other parts of my small world – I am working in the library, knitting a sweater that just needs button bands and buttons and preparing to make a little pattern available on here for the last pair of fingerless mitts. It may be so confusing which is why I am just going to put it up here and state “make at own risk.”
In memoriam of Dolores O’Riordan – she helped me through being a teenager and always, always made me think of spring and life and growth and just moving on. I feel so incredibly sad for her and her family and just wanted to share with you her beautiful voice ❤ May she rest in peace
How are you all! I am currently sitting at my kitchen counter, taking a break from making pizzas to finally post my last experience with plants, gardening and herbalism of April 2017. It has been a beautiful past week, the sun is shining right into the window before me, bathing the plants and warming my soul. The wind has lost her bite and is back to being a good, powerful ally. One of my favourite friends.
This week has been extremely busy and I am happy to finally sit down and not have a million things going on in my head at once (Although, I might still be buzzing – still need to finish those taxes… sigh). We have been graced with the most refreshing rain (that Henry and I got caught in yesterday, drenched to the bone!), such pleasant warm temperatures and just a general blissful attitude in the midst of a little bit of chaos.
WHY have we been so busy? Well, I am knee deep in garden working – sowing already potatoes, onions, kale, spinach and wildflowers, collecting natural fertilizer from the sea, planting trees, working with the indoor seedlings as well as just other general things. Aside from that, which obviously is only limited to certain times of the day – our washing machine broke. Yes, it is a 12 year old machine that came with the house when we bought it. I felt rather stressed since we absolutely need a washing machine and the price to replace one is not cheap. Moreover, the room in which our washer and dryer are hooked up is reached to by going through our upstairs bathroom (probably once a hallway to the room). Well, the previous owners must have had the washer installed and afterwards, installed a corner shower in the bathroom because the shower blocks about 5 inches of the old door (I’m sorry if this is confusing! It’s an old house and some things just negate common sense since these houses were not built for showers and washing machines!). Our solution? We tore out the shower with the intention of redoing the whole bathroom (it needed to be done at some point, why not now?). So, our first renovation job for our house is coming a little bit earlier than anticipated! Thankfully, our new washing machine arrived yesterday, so I can finally, finally, finally wash our clothes at home (it has been broken 2 months – yes, we procrastinate and used a laundromat), including sheets and quilts and arg I am so excited! I really never thought I would see the day that a washing machine would excite me SO much (Have you watched Tales from the Green Valley? The old way of doing laundry was SO so so much work, I’m very grateful for these machines). Next step is to build a clothesline and then I will be feeling very grateful indeed.
Anyhow, that was a little overwhelming and maybe a little too much about washing machines. I wanted to share a couple of pictures from the week about some of the things we have been up to. The crocuses and siberian squill are blooming – the tulips rising. Dandelions are popping up all over the place and I have been digging up, scrubbing and cutting up the roots for roasted tea (the plants that have crept up in garden spaces). The robins have been flying to and fro and I even saw 3 Cedar Waxwings the other day! The tide has been so incredibly low on our evening walks to the river and we are only spotting gulls and ducks – no longer the Canadian Geese.
On the New Moon, I planted a bed of red and yellow onions, russet potatoes, kale and spinach. I also began to dig a new garden by our driveway because the earth is amazing. We think that some time in the past, someone must have had a fire in this spot. I have dug up small glass bottles with twisted tops, forged nails, and animal bones. The soil is nearly black which is such a contrast to our regular red soil! I look forward to planting flowers and am hopeful to perhaps start a rose plant for rosehips. I’ve collected all of the dandelion roots in this area to roast for tea but first they are drying on a screen! I am SO excited that collecting and working with plants again has begun 🙂 I do believe that we are about a week ahead of last year.
A R T & O T H E R T H I N G S
Not much art has taken place – or anything aside from domestic and gardening stuff but alas, I did a couple of things! Granted, they are small. But I thought you might enjoy them!
I also finished a hazel heather Pangur Bán sweater! I will make a post next week, when it has dried and we have some photos for the etsy shop.
I am still reading Outlander, but have also been reading through The Celtic Realms by Nora Chadwick and Myles Dillon because… Jamie and I are going to I R E L A N D in 2 weeks and I can barely believe this is happening. Many of the places we are staying do not have internet, so I will probably not be using it much at all but I will be sure to make some posts about it when we get back. This is a pretty important trip for us, especially since I was a Celtic Studies student and feel a great connection to my Irish Ancestry (which I’m always scoffed at for when I meet people from Ireland!! Sorry, we don’t have thousands of years of history in Canada that we feel rooted in). I am ecstatic… and have kept it in for several months since we knew we were definitely going. But, soon dear fae friends, you will be bombarded by two small Canadians’ adventure on the emerald isle!!
Sadly, I must go! I enjoy writing these posts so much as I feel as though I’m communicating and almost having tea with all of you! This evening we are having friends over for homemade food and a bonfire, sending off a friend who is going away for the next month and a half. I am also seeing it as an early Beltaine celebration. I have so many other things on my mind, that really makes me feel like blogging more despite the death of blogging (I know I am so late to this).
I’ll be back next week! taking another solid break from SM this week for my sanity and clarity of mind!
Well, the pink moon has passed but any opportunity to quote Nick Drake 🙂
The weather is WARM and the sun has been gracing us with his presence! I am happy, so incredibly happy. A little sun burnt and exhausted but so full of the cleansing, full happiness that fresh air and manual labour brings. I’m back to communing with the land, with roots and branches, robins and bluejays. April is a muddy and plan brown (or red on PEI), drab time of year here, but as soon as you get outside and take a wee closer look at the earth, the trees the colours of life on this green earth are just abounding.
The work on our 1.25 acre is endless. Especially since our plans include using every inch of space for flower, vegetable and herb gardens, animals and trees. We have a huge checklist which includes new gardens, a ton of raking, preparing wood for next winter, tending to our forest (really a small wood but the forest just sounds so much more majestic ;)), mulching, digging, burning, felling trees (I’m starting to sound a little destructive but it’s all part of the process!).
This week has been g l o r i o u s. I completely disconnected from instagram and feel as free as a bird by just removing myself from social media. The earth is speaking to all of us, if we listen and work with her.
At this time of year, we are not even touching vegetable gardens because the earth is too damp to turn. So, it’s mainly raking, woodland, and clearing up flower gardens. I even started to plant some chestnuts that have sprouted in our basement. I hope you enjoy the photos of our work and can not WAIT to show you the contrast of now and a couple of months!
I N S I D E
And on the indoor front – it’s getting a little wild! The plants are shooting up and need daily care. The tomatoes are strong and the herbs already fragrant. The lupin seeds I collected on the side of the road last year have sprouted and I am beyond excited to give back to the insects of our world!
A P R I L P I C K S
I’m reading OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon and I can already say that it is fantastic. A friend of mine suggested it when I told her I was watching the show and felt like it was made for us (plants, magic, Highlands of Scotland, yes please!). I stopped watching it immediately and started the book
I’m also reading through some Norwegian Folk Tales as well as our man, Ronald Hutton’s Witches, Druids and King Arthur.
TV / PODCASTS
Other than repeatedly watching Tales from the Green Valley, I’ve been listening to The Higherside Chats with Greg Carlwood – about fringe topics. He has an episode on PLANTS that I definitely suggest called “Earth Alchemy, Plant Spirits, & Engineered Abundance” with Shamangineer. My sister suggested it to me and I am hooked. It’s available both in his website and youtube.
Maybe I’ll reveal a part of myself I don’t tend to share on the internets but, I was thinking of making a compilation of books/videos/documentaries on modern fairy lore. I’ll start with a really fun documentary that hits very close to home here on the East Coast ❤ ❤ ❤
It’s the last day of M A R C H! You guys, I am so excited. Right now, it’s blowing snow, minus 10 with that wind chill and just down right unpleasant. I love winter, but this slow rebirth honestly tears at my soul. I’m confused and feel like I’ve been swallowed up by some eternal grey and cold void. But it’s never as bad as all that, since it’s so temporary and it won’t be long before we are outside in the sunshine smelling the damp earth.
I am currently sitting by a drafty window with my big headphones on blasting the band QUILT (self titled album) and drinking caffeinated beverages interspersed with water and trying to figure out how I am going to write about the almost non-existent March gardening season (PHEW long sentence!). But I can’t stop thinking about how I need to play guitar and mandolin more and just change my life completely? Throw away my phone, read more books and just work on becoming telepathic with plants and how can I start writing music (sounds reasonable)?
A N Y W A Y . . .
If there is one thing that lets me feel a never ending sense of life and excitement during this time of year, it’s SEEDS! Yes, seeds. This year, I ordered some from the Incredible Seed Company and Hope Seeds (both heritage seed companies in Nova Scotia). I have a few packets from Heritage Harvest Seed (now 2 years old) and Veseys, an Island company about half hour drive from our place. I also have quite a few collected from the garden. My ultimate goal is to become self sufficient and not have to buy seeds, but this is only our 2nd year on our acre, so not quite there.
I started …
Tomatoes (many different types: Bloody Butcher, Alaska Tomatoes, Acadian Cherry Tomatoes, German Johnson, Black Prince, Black Krim, Orange Mennonite Beefsteak, Amish Canning Tomatoes, Early Rouge… Okay I have an addiction to buying seeds), peppers, F L O W E R S & H E R B S (lavender, rosemary, basil, sage, catnip, hollyhock, echinacea, black eyed daisies, bergamot, strawflower, poppies, zinnias and I know I’m forgetting quite a few).
I also planted a giant pumpkin seed which is slow going and a couple of pine tree seeds that I collected in the fall. Last year, I planted Oak and Horse Chestnut so hopefully this year, I can add some pine to the property.
S T A R T I N G E A R L Y
For the past couple of years, I have followed the instructions on seed packets. 6-8 weeks indoors before the last frost in your area. Last year, many of our flowers bloomed around (or didn’t bloom for that matter) the first frost of the season. Our tomatoes had to ripen inside and our pumpkins were definitely not orange or big enough to carve. I don’t know if this is going to be WAY too early to start a lot of our tomatoes and flowers, but my rationale is that when I go to the nurseries in late May and Early June to buy perennials, they are WAY older than 8 weeks and they do swell.
E C H I N A C E A
Echinacea is sprouting! I am so excited, last year I planted a lot of it hoping that we would forever have echinacea in the summer. Nothing happened at all. I was disappointed, my visions of an everlasting supply of the cold busting flower destroyed. I blamed it on the seeds not being viable and bought new seeds from a different company, without actually doing research on growing the flower. When it came to starting it again… I did the sensible thing and looked it up on the internet. Apparently, you should stratify the seeds, so I put them in a damp paper towel, sealed in a plastic bag for a week or two and placed it in a cupboard in the kitchen. Lo and behold, they sprouted! I was SO excited and immediately went to the recycling and found a home for them.
H O L L Y H O C K S
I dream of a house being surrounded by the fairy tale flower, and will do my absolute best to grow these. The past two years, I have failed terribly. I bought seeds from Heritage Harvest Seed Company (I think out of Manitoba) and I could not start the hollyhock seeds at all. This year, I ordered from a company much closer to PEI (Hope Seeds in Nova Scotia) and have about 5 little plants growing! I am going to baby these in the hopes that they will grow and grow and grow and live on for the centuries to come on our little farmstead.
They are black jet Hollyhocks and I dream about them at night. They are growing into beautiful wee plants and this is the reason why I am planning to document plant growth. I can’t wait to show you in August or September.
W A X I N G R E P O T T I N G
And, when the new moon graced the skies, my Mom (visiting for the week <3) and I repotted many of the house companion plants: Aloe Vera, Jade, Hoya Wax Plant, Peperomia, Spider plant, English Ivy, Haworthia. You have bigger homes now for the summer and I hope you will be happy!
F A C I N G the C O L D
During my Mom and Merlin’s visit this week – we still braved the cold, heading out through the fields to visit the hundreds upon hundreds of Canadian Geese on the river.
Queen’s Anne Lace
T H A N K Y O U
And I just want to thank you for reading and joining me on this absolutely magical journey of starting plants from seeds. I almost feel like I need to apologize for the total lack of colour from my posts lately, the glimpses of green though – life and more life in this grey and stark winter world. It won’t be long I hope before our world is bursting with colour. Before, winter feels like a distant dream and summer a sweet, buggy reality.
Planting seeds is E A S Y and honestly so incredibly vital to life on this planet. Evolution before your eyes. Vesey Seeds is currently giving away free packets of wildflower seeds in an effort to bring the extremely concerning issue of vanishing bee populations to the public as well as obviously providing more food for the bees. If you would like your own packet to help out, simply fill out a form by clicking H E R E
Grow my prettties
A delicious end of March Meal made by Jamie ❤ and bread by me – homemade peasant loaf and cottage pie with turnip
Rejoice, rejoice! It’s cold outside with a north wind. I’m sitting on a cushion on the floor while the animals sprawl out on the couch. I felt like just doing a quick post, to share a few pictures of our last weekend of winter.
Despite the cold and the wind, I still feel spring in the air. This past weekend, we didn’t just hear the crows cawing but all kinds of birds and geese honking overheard. The bluejays have returned to our compost pile and the tips of the maples have buds. Spring is a late bloomer here and we likely will be in an in between state for another month. We are all itching to get outside.
The sun was so strong this Saturday and the temperature so pleasant. Jamie and I had a busy weekend going for walks with Henry, working outside and going on aimless country drives. It was a really beautiful end to this winter and I wanted to share with you little bits and pieces.
The outdoor work on this little piece of land seems endless! This weekend, we focused on picking up sticks that have fallen during the winter gales. We had a bonfire and let the chickens and Henry free (Henry is pretty good with the chickens, although she occasionally runs as fast as she can at them to scatter them to the wind ).
The end of winter! I can barely believe it! It does go by so quickly. I would like to do more posts about gardening and despite the cold, I have started quite a few seeds already indoors. But the extent of our gardening this month is cleaning up the yard and starting a few seeds. I am ecstatic for the growing season!
So much snow fell on us yesterday. Our windows were covered by 3 pm, our world grey and dark. We have been having unseasonably cold temperatures, it feels more like we’ve been plunged in the depths of January and early February. I talk a lot about the weather… my journal since I was a teenage is half discussing the temperature, the rain or snow, the wind or how the trees bowed and danced. I love Mother Nature and simply observing her moods. When I write I think I focus on the weather first as though to clear my mind for what exactly it is I want to say, so please bear with me 😉
This morning, I went out to see the chickens (who refused to leave the coop when they spotted the snow), lit a fire and finally sat down to draw. My studio/work room had been overrun with my Christmas cards and packaging things up for orders. This morning, I shipped the last of my orders so my mind has cleared for new projects. I always have some kind of “Ode to…” brewing in my mind and this morning I worked out an Ode to working with the earth and with my hands. An ode to tradition bound up with the animals, insects and herbs that make a comfortable home. A home that goes so far beyond our front doors.
The sheep is at the center, providing us with wool that keeps our hands busy, our minds active and our bodies so warm (as well as countless other things – I’m currently contemplating insulating my chicken coop with wool and birch). The spindle – representative of transformation – spins the rough wool to the versatile material that we love. The quilt block is a marker of the home, of ancestors and narratives (to me personally, it is a symbol of love and comfort). The plants are dandelion, sage, lavender and Calendula – all magical, useful and healthful entities. I included oak leaves for wisdom, the boundary between worlds and for the love of the steadfast tree. Everything ties together to allude to traditional folk lives – working with animals and plants.
I developed it a little further by adding a home, emerging from the quilt.
And there she is! Homespun – an ode to a working kinship with the earth. I’m hoping to make some prints on rag paper. If anyone is interested, please let me know!
To leave you – some pictures from our walk through farmers’ fields today – in a foot of snow.
This fall has been so busy with preparing future gardens, harvesting and preserving produce and stacking wood. Even though we only have over an acre of land, the work seems endless. As I work, my mind does one of two things: zones out completely or thinks constantly about the other work that needs to be done or future projects.
An acre of land definitely doesn’t sound like a lot when you think of homesteading, but believe me you can do SO much on it (we have 1.25 acres). I’m currently turning over the soil for a new garden, putting the other gardens “to sleep” and stacking wood.
GATHERING AND PREPPING
Fall has brought the most bountiful time in our garden. The maritime climate is strange in that we have rather miserable springs and summer begins later than the south of Canada (something rings strange about that phrase…) but fall is glorious. We still have carrots, parsnips, beets, chard, squash, kale and an abundance of fresh herbs growing. However, this will all come to an end very, very soon. I have been so busy, picking, drying and preserving our produce and herbs so that we have organic, homegrown food for the winter that we can eat with a sense of peace and satisfaction (I don’t know if anything is more satisfying than eating your own grown or foraged food).
PREPARING GARDENS FOR WINTER & TURNING OVER SOIL FOR THE NEW
Over the summer, I learnt a lot about our plot of land. Our raised beds are surrounded by pine trees that block a lot of light. So, I’ve decided to turn the soil over in a different spot for a new garden. Why am I doing this now? Well, I wanted to expose the soil to chicken poop, dead leaves and rotten wood before the winter. All of these are excellent for the soil. While I turn over the soil, I let the chickens eat their hearts out. There are SO many worms and grubs and other insects that I couldn’t name. As soon as the chickens see me with a shovel they come running over to me, knowing there will be a feast (Chickens are very intelligent animals)! Our yard is covered in dead leaves as well and we have many rotten tree stumps. I’ve been raking the leaves and mixing in the beautifully rotted wood with the freshly turned soil. Next spring I’ll add in our compost and hopefully have some nutrient dense soil!
PREPARING GARDENS FOR WINTER
Once the above garden is ready, I will cover the beds with decaying leaves, pine needles and place birch bark on top. This is to protect the soil from our incredibly frigid, snow filled winters. It will also prevent weeds from growing in the spring before I actually start planting and working with the earth (I turn the soil over again in the spring). I really enjoy this part of gardening. I think of it as putting the gardens to sleep. Keeping them warm and safe.
PERHAPS NOT GARDENING… BUT FALL WORK ALL THE SAME!
And lastly… the WOOD PILE! It is never ending. But… I love it. So much. I love having the pile of wood outside of our home, waiting to have some meditative hardworking labourer strain their back over it (i.e. me or Jamie). The quintessential northern home. I have spent the majority of my life living in the country or in very small towns in eastern Canada (I grew up in Eastern Ontario) and there isn’t a spot that doesn’t have wood piles and smoke curling out of chimneys as a common feature. My favourite human landscape is a small town, covered in snow with a church steeple and smoke curling from the chimneys around it… I digress.
The work doesn’t end. I have a lot more to do before winter starts. But I wanted to share with you a couple more pictures before I say goodbye! Happy Samhain weekend 😀