On Solstice Eve

While I may not have chestnuts roasting on an open fire, I do have pine needles stewing in a pan of water which is still pretty darn festive if you ask me.  I’m always a bit slow to the party when it comes to yuletide cheer, I find December pretty exhausting truth be told; coupling darkness, busyness, pressure and running around does not make for a content Emmalina.

Around this time though, as Solstice Eve dawns damp and remarkably unsnowed upon, I find my cheer emerging.  We’ve done everything we need to do to prepare for this special season, shopping has been shopped (mostly), we have treats ready to be scoffed, we’ve seen friends and attended parties, we’ve laughed and made the most of it all.  Now it’s time to slow.

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I feel grateful to have lovely friends to share this season with, friends who are themselves a gift throughout the year.  I feel grateful for the friendships my boys enjoy, their delight in seeing their pals and in sharing their passions with them.  But mainly I’m grateful for hearth and home, for a place to come back to, my bolt hole of safety and security.  Now that we’ve spent a goodly portion of the last 2 weeks out and about, enjoying activities and time with friends, I’m ready to close the door and turn my focus inwards.

This year has been a busy one, I know I’ve said that before, but it really seems to have been non stop.  This year we made conscious decisions to scale back through the winter, giving ourselves some breathing space, some room for rest.  It feels like now is the time for that to begin, this Solstice Eve where the main tingle of magic is the simple fact of being able to stay at home and share an uneventful day with the boys.  We’ll be doing some chores to prepare for Nana’s arrival this evening (yay!), but mainly I would just like to snatch quiet time, peaceful moments that are meaningful only to ourselves really.

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The solstice means different things to different people, like any festival or celebration.  To me it symbolises the simple truth that people really don’t change that much, that we can stretch our fingers back through time and brush against all those that went before.  Like those who lived centuries ago we turn faces to the darkness and wish for the return of light.  Despite our knowledge, our technology, our advancement, our barbarism, we all turn our faces to that life giving ball and hope.  We all know, that we are no more than creatures of the earth, dependent on her for our survival, our life.  It’s easy to forget that, but I feel at my best when I am closer to the land and remembering that I am part of the fabric of it all.

So this morning, as I rather despondently cruised Facebook, I was inspired by a post by Amber of The Wild Garden, to switch off my screen and go out and do something less boring instead.  So I did.  With secateurs in hand I clipped branches from Cedar and Spruce trees that sit on our driveway, the scent of their needles wafting up at me and clearing my head.  I clipped fragrant Juniper and life affirming Yew from our garden, feeling connected to home as I did so.  Traditionally Yew is planted in sacred places, marking them as special; so we planted one here, in this place that is more special than any other to us, our home.

I snipped the branches and arranged them in vases to be distributed around the house (inspired by my artist friend), twisting them until they were just right, as beautiful as any flower arrangement.  The extra pieces went into a large pan of water, it’s now simmering away filling the house with the scent of fresh pine.  The air smells clean in here, it reminds me of walking through the woods with a carpet of needles under my feet, I feel that I’ve brought a little of the solstice inside for us to enjoy.

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Despite the house being warm I started a small fire this morning, onto it I threw the remaining branches of wood I’d brought in from outside.  As they burned they scented the smoke and turned the fire into something a little magical.  This afternoon I’ll read some solstice stories to the boys, sharing some thoughts about this special day.  Then we’ll clean and tidy and get things ready for Nana, she’s arriving tonight and she feels like the best solstice gift of all.

So here I am, finally able to stop and smell the pine a little.  Able to sit for some quiet moments and enjoy the thought of what’s to come.  Able to finally get in the festive groove and look forward to the family time we’ll share in the coming weeks.  Home cooked, home grown, home loved.  I know, I know how lucky I am.  Sometimes I get too tired to remember, too rushed, too sad or too worried; I never live up to my own standards, I don’t think I’ll ever really be done.  But when the peace comes, when the world slips away a little and I take the time to cook pine needles on the stove, to watch the flames licking around the wood in the fire, to listen to the boy’s laughter as they play some mad game in the basement, then I remember.  I remember and my heart is full.

Bright blessings to you all this Yuletide, wishing you a joyful and, above all, peaceful Solstice.

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Getting Medieval

In the Kingdom of Osgoode, once more it is medieval fair time!  We are so lucky to live within a few minutes of a great medieval fair that runs for a weekend each summer.  This year, like last year, we attended the fair’s education day with some of our homeschool pals. learning all about medieval life.  But unlike this year we didn’t attend the whole day as we were picking up Stephen from the hospital, so we just popped over for the afternoon.

To make up for it I took the boys to the actual fair over the weekend, something we’ve never quite managed to do.  It was fun to see all the stalls and hear the medieval music being played, and of course we had the chance to watch the jousting.  A hobbling Stephen came with us (he’s an injured chap and taking things slowly after a couple of days of being in the hospital) so we didn’t stay too long, but he did see live jousting for the first time!

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The boys loved the jousting, despite the hot sunshine, and cheering raucously for their favourite knights.  Huwyl was disappointed that none of the knights were unhorsed but other than that is was very enjoyable.  Given that the armour weighs upwards of 160lbs I think the knights were happy to stay where they were.

DSC_0804 DSC_0819 DSC_0823 DSC_0824As we wandered we saw a blacksmith working, tried out archery and castle storming.  Neirin even volunteered to go into the stocks, an excellent invention that I’m sure we could find a use for around the farm.  Ice creams were enjoyed and sword fights engaged in, generally a jolly good boys day out.

DSC_0829 DSC_0831 DSC_0832 DSC_0835Despite his brief interlude as a criminal, Neirin took the opportunity to be knighted by the King of Osgoode and Metcalfe, he took the honour seriously and I was proud of his confidence as he strode into the tent.  This boy of mine can by shy with strangers, but he knelt calmly and happily accepted this new honour.

DSC_0841 DSC_0842 DSC_0847 DSC_0848 DSC_0851 DSC_0853Trying on the armour was, of course, the absolute pinnacle for my two boys.  They spent more time in this tent than at the rest of the fair combined (though they lingered pretty heavily at the sword and dagger tent) and it was lovely to watch them trying to bear up under the weight of chain mail and helmet.  But bear up they did, with comments on how amazing the jousting knights are for carrying the weight of the armour and helmet while piling along the list.

Though only a brief interlude it felt good to get out as a family for a while.  The farm can dominate all of our time if we let it, so we are trying to take breaks and have some down time together.  That said I find myself reluctant to drive far and to leave behind the peace and green of our home.  I was glad to take part in celebrating the Kingdom of Osgoode, but just as glad to be home again afterwards.

On Christmas Eve

The storm that has been kicking North America’s botty for the last few days has finally abated, the snow and ice rain receding and leaving behind cobalt blue cold.  From Friday to Sunday we battled against snow and ice, trudging through calf deep drifts with buckets of feed and water, feeling the ice pellets slip down the back of our jackets or listening to the tiny hiss of snow landing on snow.

On Friday my friends forged through terrible driving conditions to come and share part of the solstice with us.  Cosily we spent time and watched as the snow fell and fell, coating everything; but we knew the ice rain was coming next, a much more dangerous cousin.  So after sharing our celebrations everyone headed off to hunker down for the weekend.

But this morning, ah this morning.  Bright and clear and (-28C) a tad brisk, but…

DSC_0588 DSC_0591 DSC_0592 DSC_0594 DSC_0595 DSC_0602As the new sun rose, tinting the world with hues of summer, I couldn’t help but stand in awe of this place I have the privilege of calling home.  A shining world made of diamonds and glass, the reward for days hiding and rushing, dodging ice and cold.

DSC_0616 DSC_0628 DSC_0624 DSC_0619 DSC_0617Even the most mundane things were covered in sparkles and light, reflecting the dawn in a way that seemed as if it was shining in each flake at once, transforming summer chicken coops and fences into Faberge creations.

DSC_0628 DSC_0634 DSC_0633 DSC_0632 DSC_0631Last night we finished the last of our Christmas shopping, a few books that still needed to be bought.  We were out after dark, later than we ever normally would be, dipping our toes into the world of commercial Christmas and then heading home again to our cocoon.  But this morning, this is what makes the heart soar and fly.  Crunching through a crystal crust while marvelling at the presents nature has wrought.  Noticing a head of Goldenrod encased in sparkling glass, a magical bouquet beyond our making.

DSC_0636DSC_0639 DSC_0643 DSC_0640Without meaning to sound trite (but of course sounding it anyway) I was reminded that the true meaning of Christmas is not in the gifts we buy, not matter how much we treasure them.  It’s outside, the world that we walk on every day and often forget to be grateful for it’s strange miracles.  It’s the way the sun catches the light on an ice encrusted branch, it’s friends taking time to be with us, it’s long distance Skype calls to those far away but always close in my heart, it’s crazy excited kids, it’s bumping into your beloved on the daily chore run and feeling as full of joy at that meeting as I did 19 years ago.  It’s laughing at the stunning beauty while our faces are pinched hard and our toes protest that it really is time to go inside.

DSC_0637DSC_0622DSC_0647It’s all that and more, lots more.  More than I have words for and quite possibly more than I deserve.  But, knowing that, knowing how chance and luck have worked along side determination and struggle, I grab it with both hands and hold on tight.  I grab it all with both arms and squeeze the joy right to me, right inside me.  I let it sit and fizz away as I watch my wonderful family enjoy this day, as I connect to those far away that I wish I could squeeze close but settle for seeing their lovely faces and hearing their laughing voices instead.

I am blessed and I hope so are you.  Sending everyone rapturous joy this yuletide; stay warm, stay safe and have a very, very Merry Christmas.

Happy Canada Day

 

 

While our Canada day was mostly comprised of lovely outside work (there really is nothing like mowing an acre of lawn to give you a feeling of satisfaction!) we did make some time for a bit of celebrating.  Our local town had a bouncy castle and assault course, pony rides were had and new bikes were thoroughly zipped about on.  But of course the highlight of any celebration is the sparklers…canada day 2013-9183 canada day 2013-9188 canada day 2013-9196 canada day 2013-9201Each year I feel even happier to celebrate this special country, the place that has adopted us, the place our children call home.  Happy Birthday Canada!

 

Today we have mostly been…

Planting tomato seeds…

may fun-8828 may fun-8830building forts…

may fun-8825attending cookery school with Daddy (and making dinner to boot!)

may fun-8823 may fun-8824may fun-8831getting chickens (big and small) onto the green pasture that is leaping out of the earth all around us…

may fun-8832 may fun-8834looking up at the sky and seeing what we can spot…

may fun-8835 may fun-8838taking an evening stroll down by the pond…

may fun-8841 may fun-8844What better way to end a day than that?

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkinpaloosa

There’s something of a theme running through our activities at the moment…

After seeing me needle felt my first pumpkin (after watching this great tutorial), Huwyl was desperate to have a go, so he made his own over the weekend.  I can’t say watching him wield the needle was a stress free experience for me, but he got the hang of it and has now declared that he wants to needle felt every day from now on.  Ok.

 

Continuing on the pumpkin theme we did our second round of pumpkin lanterns this weekend.  I’d hoped to enter our first ones into Movita’s pumpkin carve off, but before I could get my act together and buy candles they, well, rotted.  It really doesn’t take long does it?  Ahem.

So we missed our chance for glory but will hopefully have working lanterns for our Halloween celebrations, I’m calling the previous ones a science experiment on the process of decay.  Planned it all along.  Yep.

 

Ah, kitty cat pumpkin, how sweetly you glow.

Thankful

2 years ago this weekend we put in an offer on what is now our home.  At the time it was derelict land, barely visible from the road because the weeds and brush were so high.  After it was finally ours, and the snow came so we could see the land, we realised we had a field we didn’t know about.  We call that Bonus Field.

1 year ago we were barbecuing outside on the driveway as we still didn’t have a working oven or properly clean water to drink.  We owned 7 chickens and hadn’t planted so much as a pansy on our property, having invested every ounce of energy we had into building our house.   The desperation I felt to move in was like a physical presence.  We spent every moment we could here, only returning to our suburban rental when it got too dark to stay out.  We preferred camp fire beans and fresh air to a more plush dinner in town.

Today…

I woke to a dark smudge of dusky pink on the horizon, by the time I went out to sort the chickens (wearing a big coat for the first time since spring) the ground was thick with white frost and frozen hard.  The crisp, icy air pinched my cheeks, but the stunning view kept me captivated.  As the sun rises in the east the thick light slowly trickles down the trees of the forest; the forest we look at every day with joy and reverence.

In the last year we moved in, started a farm, raised 4 pigs, 60 meat birds (with more to come), an organic garden and a laying flock of over 60.  Alongside that we’ve homeschooled, adventured and lived together in this wonderful place.  For this, and for the people who  make my life such a joy, I am truly, truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!