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.


Saturday Morning

Cold and frosty earth, crumbs left over from breakfast, a roaring fire and stock on the stove.  These are a few glimpses of what I’m seeing here this morning.

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I hope you are cosy, wherever you are.

Mama has a brand new lens.


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So if your newly arrived Papa said to you, “I have your Christmas present here, do you want it now or do you want to wait for Christmas?” you would, of course, as a reasonable adult fully in control of their faculties say…”Immediately now please!”

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And you would be right because then you would get to spend the day messing about with your brand new 35mm lens which is sooooooooooooo fantastically fabulous and wonderful.

And you would be right.


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.

Rainy Days

My friend Amber who writes at her blog The Wild Garden, wrote the other day about her daily summer schedule.  She talked about working outside on those hot sunny days and inside on the rainy ones, allowing the weather to dictate rather than trying to apply an artificial schedule.  I think that has a lovely ring to it, though I couldn’t apply it wholly to our life here as farming is a bit of a rain or shine business, I really do feel that I’d like to have more of a natural ebb and flow over the summer months.

The last month has been so hectic my head has been spinning.  What with chickens going to harvest, new chickens arriving, breeding plans for animals, gardens being planted, family visiting, house improvements, hay equipment being bought…it’s felt pretty non-stop.  This weekend we were out doing chores until well after 8pm and I started the week feeling a bit on the frazzled side.

DSC_0720 DSC_0723 DSC_0724So when Stephen arrived home early from work at the same time I arrived with a new DVD for the boys from the library, it seemed the perfect time to just stop for a bit.  We all sat together and watched a movie, resting and laughing, enjoying some cuddle time.  When today dawned very wet and dreary (cancelling the scheduled Farm Workshop for another day) it seemed right to take a quiet day.  A busy day outside had been planned so, with all that cancelled, what to do?

DSC_0713 DSC_0714 DSC_0716Well there’s the regular farm chores of course, feeding animals and checking on baby chickens throughout the day; there’s house chores and cooking and the odd bit of tidying up, but other than that…So today has been a quiet day, a day of listening to the boys discuss which Harry Potter character they like best, based on the lego book we got out of the library yesterday.  A day to lie down on the sofa and rest my poorly back while reading a saucy recreation of Regency England.  A day for extra cuddles and maybe even a tiny snooze in the lull of a rainy afternoon.

Tomorrow will dawn hopefully bright and we’ll begin the work of getting in the hay, hay that will feed our cows for the coming year.  There’s weeding to do, matting to lay down, mulch to spread, grass to mow, plants to plant out, cheese to make, foraging to do and a million other things that weave in and out of summer days.

DSC_0721DSC_0725DSC_0728 But not today.  Today there’s the sound of the rain on the steel roof, beating a tattoo that lulls the house into sleepy quiet.  There’s dashes out into the rain, work to be done as quickly as possible while the cool water splashes our faces and makes our hands slippery and wet.  There’s the chance to rest, just for one day, until the sunshine beckons us out into the green again.

In the morning time

After a weekend spent outside raising garden beds and planting seeds (as well as a billion other things!) it feels odd to return to our everyday life.  The season seems to be shifting quickly from spring to summer and I’m ready for our rhythm to change once more, though I haven’t quite decided what that will look like yet!  I certainly feel it’s time for us to move to a  different beat as the sunshine draws us outside and the farm demands more of our time.

So this morning we’ll be heading off the library, returning a batch of books that were our reading for the spring, looking forward to the new inspiration we’ll find there for the weeks and months ahead.  The boys, who went out to do ‘chores’ and are still outside, seem to have forgotten entirely that there may be such a thing as school and I don’t blame them.  The sunshine beckons and outside is now warmer and lovelier than in.

DSC_0679 DSC_0675 DSC_0674 DSC_0670 DSC_0668 DSC_0667I am lingering, in the quiet of a morning that began with rush and begins a full day; my tea is warm and my snack sweet and delicious, just like the kiss of the morning sun outside. As always there is plenty to do, eggs to sort for customers, stock bubbling away (roasted pork bones this time), lard waiting to be rendered and a fridge full of milk demanding my attention.  This afternoon we’ll head across town for our homeschool gym class to bounce around in the sunshine with friends.

DSC_0677 DSC_0676 DSC_0678 DSC_0680 DSC_0673 DSC_0679 DSC_0672So while my boy who “fell in mud” gets changed and the other disappears into a corner somewhere to build or think or read, I snap a few moments of this lull, this quiet space between going here or there.  There is always enough work to go around in this busy springtime on the farm, always more than we think we can manage yet somehow it gets done.  But the lulls, the quiet moments that creep across an hour or a minute, they are precious and to be treasured.  So often they are gone before you can really sink into them and so I hope to snatch it in my net and soak it up before the tasks once more fill up the space.

DSC_0669 DSC_0671DSC_0678 DSC_0680And now, as I write this, I feel the day tugging at me once more.  The last sips of tea are gulped rather than sipped, the voices of boys are raised and ready to go, the clock glows at me, reminding me that there are only so many minutes in a morning and that we must make good use of them.  So off I go again friends, into this beautiful day, this morning; I will carry with me this lull, this little corner of peace and know I’m lucky to have had it, and lucky for all the rest too.

Garden Schooling

It’s gardening season here on the farm, with tomato plants abounding and green things on our minds.  We are in the process of building a series of raised beds so that we can really get stuck into our veggie production and we’ve been planting fruit trees and bushes around our garden too; it’s gardenpalooza.

So it makes sense that it should also become part of our school work, after all the big advantage of homeschooling is that we can choose what to learn about and do it in an integrated way.  For our family, raising and growing our own food is a big part of our raison detre and we really want to include the boys in the work it involves.  We also want them to learn the skills they will need in their own lives, the skills needed to be less dependent on a food system that is, it seems to me, doomed to fail.

DSC_0600 DSC_0601 DSC_0602Without wanting to be scary-post-apocalypse-gardening-lady (no one invites her to their party) I believe that the future will look very different from what we are used to.  Our food systems will be strong affected by the rapidly changing world we live in now and knowing how to grow food is going to be increasingly important.  I could wax lyrical for many hours with my thoughts on food security and it’s importance, but I shall refrain and instead talk about tomatoes.

Is it possible to have too many tomatoes?  I’m not sure it is and I tend to act accordingly.  This year we’ve got about 140 determinates (bush varieties) on the go and I’d like a few indeterminates for the polytunnel too, but we shall see if that works out.  We are bringing our tomatoes on in the tunnel and will be planting them out in June, weather depending.  My life goal is to produce enough tomatoes (and manage to preserve them in good time) to see us through a full year, it is a simple goal but one I haven’t quite managed to achieve.  This year we made it to about February on our own produce (we had tomatoes on the go from about July last year so that puts us at the 7/8 month mark) so we’ll see what we can manage this year.

DSC_0599DSC_0603 DSC_0604As part of our school last week I did some gardening work with the boys, teaching them how to transplant seedlings and talking about what seeds need to grow.  We set up a surprisingly efficient assembly line with Neirin filling the pots, Huwyl levelling and creating the holes and me transplanting the seedlings.  We got 40 or so done (so more to do) which I was really pleased with.  The boys were extremely enthusiastic about their involvement, organizing themselves to make the tasks easier and working very efficiently as part of a team.  I hope this bodes well for future gardening activities, there are going to be a lot of them.

DSC_0605 DSC_0606If I could hope to instil one trait in the boys through our homeschool (and family) journey, it would be confidence in their own abilities.  I want them to feel able, resourceful and capable of tackling whatever life throws at them.  And if my vision of the future is crazy nonsense, well being able to garden never hurt anyone.