Full Moon – Apple Moon Crests (Time to Shed My Skin…)

I still haven’t made any apple butter.
 
Maybe this won’t surprise you, as we recently put a deposit on a rental house and are now in the process of moving house. I’m spending my days packing and purging rather than preserving, and my goal is to basically do a second 2014 Eat Down the Larder challenge – on my own, this time, rather than working alongside Erica and her other readers – in order to (a) divert funds to buying huge numbers of plastic storage totes (the better to avoid packing roaches into our new place as we leave the old one behind), and (b) cut down on what we have to move in the first place.
The work-work-work ethic of Apple Moon is being channelled predominantly into packing, these days. Bagging and crating the yarn, roving, and the fabric, sorting and boxing the Thealogy books, making candles while I still have a stove to work on (we’re picking a new-to-us set up in a few days – our Gods and Ancestors are definitely looking out for us here!), and trying to mend the clothes that need it so that, when they come out of their packing boxes, they’ll be ready to go right off the bat. I admit that the “pear” in my suggested “pear moon” is more like “pare” these days – as in “pare down”: Get rid of the excess, the duplicates, the stuff you’ve been putting to use because it wasn’t “broken enough” to just throw it away or pitch it into the recycling bin; cull your closet (again) ruthlessly (again) so that there’s less stuff to move and unpack on the other end of this process – I have two winter coats to send to The Well, along with an entire bag of extra clothes that hadn’t been culled yet when I made the last run (only two weeks ago!), plus a couple of big extra-large zip-lock bags full of goodies that I’ll take with us to Unholy Harvest for their leather-and-lace swap table. And that’s just in the past three days.
 
You guys, I can’t tell you how much I hate packing. How much the need to go out and buy plastic boxes with fitted lids is exacerbating that situation, especially when I consider how little (one shelf of a narrow bookcase fills one five-gallon bin with books; one shelf in the craft cabinet – yarn, fabric, roving, oils, you name it, each item bagged up in a plastic zip-lock just to be sure – fits into a ten-gallon bin) can fit into a given $4-$7 bin. But that’s not even the half of all the Things I’m feeling right now.
 
As of this morning, I’m no-longer a VERSeFest organizer. I’m no-longer “employed” even in a volunteer kind of way, and it’s making me nervous about what my resume will say if I don’t find work in the next week or four.
I feel like I’m on some sort of a precipice.
 
My 2015 We’Moon date book arrived a week or so ago, and the moon of my birthday (almost gone) is “Encountering the Shadow”. Five days later comes the moon called “Feral” – the wild wisdom that has no marketing strategy, no 9-5, and whose behaviour sounds a little like some of the elements of my Shadow that scare me most. The powerful and furious, fury-ous, protector-demandor, the Fearsome Queen, The untamed Ocean Heart that is sexual, sensual, and Wants without a plan. I can’t help but feeling that the two are related, that my Seven-Year that starts at 35 is rooted in these names, this wildness. My Scorpio “year at a glance” says that 2015 is a year to refine my voice and claim my ambitions.
I am terrified.
What if I mess it up?
And yet… I know where my voice wants to go (I think I do, I think I do), and it looks like my desires are being facilitated already – house and heart, a yard to garden, the money to invest in the CSAs that will fuel at least one of my projects.
Can I do it?
Will I do it?
 
My 34th year is winding down and I can see the changes coming, piling up at the end of this year-of-life like so much stuff to be purged, like so much stuff to look forward to. Another shedding of skin.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

R is for Relocation – Pagan Blog Project 2014

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago (just shy of two years, as it happens, though it feels like even less than that) that we moved out of our fourth-floor one-bedroom apartment and into a two-bedroom place in the same building.
It’s funny how things come around again. I moved into this building, less than two months from the beginning of my fifth Seven Year cycle, alone and recently separated. Now, with the same move-in date as before (September 15th), I’ll be moving out again, this time with a wife at my side, ready to begin my sixth Seven Year in a new house.
Yes, you heard me, house.
A rental place opened up down the street – so same neighbourhood, still walking-distance from just about everywhere we might want to go, still close to the vast majority of our friends – for a price that we’re pretty comfortable with. It’ll only be my second time paying utility bills, so I admit I’m kind of bracing for the shock and horror of the heating bills to come (and recognizing that I’m going to have to get used to being – eugh – cold for a lot of months of the year. But just watch me learn how to crochet a rag rug in record time, y’all…), but as a house – rather than an apartment – it comes with its own cold/storage room (the basement) and an unusually large-for-downtown, if shared, back yard where I can readily do container gardening next Summer. There is room enough for my wife’s workshop. Room enough for a dining table in the kitchen. Room enough for a library/office on the second floor that will double as a spare bedroom when we have guests. Room enough to store the canoes and the unicycles, the bicycle and the spare motorcycle parts, indoors without losing the second bedroom to equipment. Even with the nail-biting, stomach-knotting stress of uncertain heating costs and – ye gods – purging and packing before the move (yikes)… I’m still excited about this.
As I said, our move-in date is just a few days shy of the Autumn Equinox. But our official “move out date”, when we stop living in two places at once and the lease on our soon-to-be-former appartment is finished, will be on Hallowe’en. Meaning that – and this is how this post connects with the PBP, if you were wondering – our Samhain ritual will involve welcoming the ancestors (and no small number of People) into our new home. And, yes, probably handing out goodies to trick-or-treaters as well.
 
When your religiosity is rooted in Place, how does relocation affect that connection? (In my case, not tonnes, at least from the PoV of moving all of a block away from where we are now… in terms of cultivation, however… potentially a lot). When you’re a kitchen witch – when your calling, in so far as you (or I) have one, is hearth-tending, land-guardianship, building Family/Phamily in creative ways, and singing the praises of holy Earth and Sky in your own public and private ways – how does relocation effect what you do and how you do it?
 
With this move, my hearth will get a little bit bigger; my garden will, once again, have a place to actually grow (and my pantry, with it). My Altar spaces may get changed around again in a number of ways.
Not so long ago, I was saying how much I wanted (and want) a house. And I think Someone must have been listening, when I wrote it, because – as my lovely wife was speculating this morning – the house we’re about to move into? It probably went on the market the very same day that we saw the For Rent sign on the porch. My wife asked if the Someone in question was one of mine, since her particular Lady (sovereignty notwithstanding) is less hearth-oriented than mine are, and mine are very hearth-oriented indeed. So we’re calling this one a Yes for my Girls. ;-)
 
So let’s put it this way:
Thank you, all my gods, for sending us this house in-which to make a home. Thank you, and may we live up to it and make it wonderful. <3
 
Wish us luck in moving into our new home. :-)
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

R is for Root Time – Pagan Blog Project 2014

As-you-know-bob, I’ve written about Root Time before.
Years ago, I said that Root Time is:
 

[...]The time of year when we, like the perennials and the bears, hunker down, live off our stores, and turn inward towards our dreams.
Winter is a great time for planning, rehashing, and taking stock.

 
The seasonal cycles are what they are and, around here, Winter is a time of rest for all the perrenials in the neighbourhood. For me, as well, the cold(er) seasons of the year are a time of long evenings, candle light, slow-cooking meals, writing, and handicrafts interspersed with regular festivities – which, I admit, are on the hectic side, and don’t necessarily lend themselves to resting, at least not in the lead-up there-to – where I get to feast and frolic with my various nearest and dearest. :-)
 
The “shoots and fruits” side of the year is, even for someone without a garden (yet! Only 11 days to go!) to call their own, a busy time. For those who do cultivate the land (along with their relationship there-with – a particular form of land guardianship), the time between Beltane and Samhain (still quite a ways off at this point) is a rush of activities – prepping, planting, protecting, harvesting, and preserving – that can threaten to overwhelm on many occasions. As much as I love it, knowing that the the big preserving push is winding down, and that the end is in sight, is a relief. Don’t get me wrong. I count myself grateful for the many nearby grocery stores with their freezer cases, produce aisles, and shelves of tinned tomato products that allow me to get away with preserving only 10 litres of tomatoes, only, freeze only 6 litres of fruit and vegetables; that allow me to rely on my crisper drawers rather than managing a root cellar or cold room of late-harveste, hopefully non-magotty root veggies and winter squash. Otherwise this time of year would be noticeably more hectic and significantly more stressful than it is.
 
 
Right now, I’m still in the somewhat squirrel-like mad dash to finish canning All The Preserves, a situation which is compounded by the recentlly acquired need to purge All The Things, pack up what’s left, and move house!
Our move-out date – the day we have to be completely moved out of our current apartment and have given the keys back and so on – is Samhain. The official beginning of Root Time (in my mind, at least). I find it remarkably appropriate that we’ll be finishing the last of the unpacking – crossing our own threshold, symbolically, if you will – just as we’re crossing the waning threshold of the Wheel.
 
This year, the “planning” and “taking stock” aspects of Root Time are going to be standing out in sharp relief. I’m looking forward to many an evening sitting down with graph paper designing the layout for the network of raised beds and trellisses that my wife and I will be building (and growing things in) once we’ve crossed the waxing threshold at Beltane. I’m looking forward to getting settled in our new Nest, to cooking meals in our new kitchen using preserves canned and frozen in our old one, to resting and regenerating, growing towards the coming Spring.

New Moon – Apple (Harvest) Moon Begins

Ontario’s Yummy Season is still in full swing but, at this point, we’re coming down the home stretch of Summer. My fridge is full of golden zucchini, roma tomatoes, huge, round Sicilian eggplants, yellow peppers, new potatoes, rainbow carrots, and chioggia beets, along with the last of the garlic scapes, and the first of the garlic bulbs (not actually in the fridge, but in the garlic basket hanging from my cupboard door). My cupboard is filling fairly rapidly with jar after jar of tomato preserves, along with the odd cup of jelly or fruit butter.
Fruit butter.
Yeah. Right now, I have my slow-cooker set up on my foor, on a bed of old newspapers, cooking down a litre-and-a-half of apricots (plus half a cup of cider vinegar and half a cup of granulated sugar) to what will probably work out to about two cups of apricot butter, if that. We’ll see what the results are when we get it all done some time tonight.
I’m hoping that I’ll be able to snag a few dozen apples off of our various apple-tree-having friends, though Hidden Harvest Ottawa has been pretty good for apple offerings so far and I should be able to get some for no more than the effort that comes from picking them yourself. Apple butter is great as an accompaniment to savoury foods – spread on a grilled cheese sandwich, for example, or thinned out with a little vinegar and used as a glaze for pork, turkey, winter squash, or various root veggies (sweet potato, rutabaga, celeriac, carrots) – as well as a good substitute for both straight-up sugar and eggs when it comes to baked goods (vegans, and friends of vegans take note). Any other fruit butter will do the same thing, though, and my goal this year is to put up more pear butter and pumpkin butter (combined) than apple butter… if I can swing it[1]. The apricot butter currently on the simmer, though, is more of an experiment. I want to see how it tastes, and what it goes with, so that – if/when I can swing buying a house with some yard space attached – I can determine whether or not I want to grow an apricot tree in said yard based on how readily I use the fruit. (This is another situation where putting my dehydrator to use would be a good thing, but I’m dealing with fruit that isn’t readily ripening, so I’m hesitant to put it to use at this time).
 
Also on the to-do-list for today are:
Another 2.5L of bruschetta, this time in pint jars because I’m running out of single-cup options and I still have my various fruit butters to put up.
Bake bread – Made the dough last night and let it chill in the fridge until this morning. It’s rising slowly, possibly because of the cold and possibly because of the high(er) whole wheat flour content… not sure. Some of the dough will be a (single) loaf of bread, the rest will become the crust for tonight’s New Moon Pizza.
Make pizza: Apple Moon pizza, not surprisingly, will feature (last year’s) apple butter as the sauce, apple-and-sage sausage slices from Seed to Sausage, cremini mushroom slices, yellow pepper slices, golden zucchini rounds, smoked eel (in small slivers, like anchovies), and mozzerella cheese.
 
Apple moon starts of it’s 2014 cycle by sliding from Leo into Virgo, making this a creative period that calls us to work, work, work – on creative projects, but also on the heavily-producing (we hope) garden and the ensuing canning marathon that comes with it and, for some of us, the return to school and studying after a summer-long break.
Others of us, of course – parents of school-aged kids, or people like my wife whose busy season happens in the summertime – will be looking at the arrival of apples, pears, and the earliest winter squash with relief because it means that there will be less on their plates. Time to restock, work on more personal projects, catch one’s breath, and maybe even have an evening off every now and then.
 
As far as naming this time of year goes, last year I speculated that maybe I’d be better off calling this cycle “Pear Moon” because of the recent appearance of Ontario pears in the grocery stores. This year’s “Apple Moon” begins almost two weeks before last year’s did, date-wise, but, yes, the pears have just appeared in the produce section. Maybe this should be called Pear Moon. Hm. :-)
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] This is unlikely, as apples are available for free and, failing that, exceedingly cheap, while pears are a bit on the pricey side. None the less, I live in hope.

Q is for Queerness (Otherness, Sexual Deviance, and The Witch) – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So… Miss Sugar has a post on Being The Other as a witch (in the sense of magical-practitioner/spell-crafter rather than in the sense of someone who practices Wicca). This has got me thinking about queerness again and about how “witch” is tied up with “sexually deviant woman” in much the same ways as “slut” and “dyke”. See… I do magic. Sometimes I even do it professionally, as folks who have commissioned jewelry from me will know. I’m a spell-crafter, as well as an arts-and-crafter, if you will. ;-) I’m also a femme dyke and a professional naked person and, as such, I’ve got some personal freedoms tied up with the human rights of (and denial there-of, and the resulting tacit encouragement of violence against) sexworkers. I live in a neighbourhood where multiple people make their living – in an official, “I’ve got signage in my front windows” capacity – as diviners and fortune tellers and umpteen others do so in a more casual/unofficial way (myself included).
 
My neighbourhood is full of (a) racialized and/or immigrant/new-comer people, (b) kinky, poly dykes, (c) broke-ass, working-poor, fixed-income, and otherwise economically-screwed people, (d) sexworkers in various fields & on various career paths, and (e) folks who are some or all of the above at the same time. It’s a neighbourhood that is full of Othered People, is what I’m getting at. If you’ve ever read “Baseball Magic” (or Mama Fortuna’s blog, for that matter), you’ll know that people turn to spell-craft and divination and similar when they can’t control their situation through more mundane means. No surprises, then, that neighbourhoods where marginalized people tend to live also tend to be neighbourhoods where witchcraft flourishes (relatively speaking, at least) as a trade.
It’s also not surprising, being as we live in The Patriarchy, that women who know-damn-well that they possess personal and sexual agency and don’t act like good, little, self-policing Stepford Wives competing for men’s attention, are (a) scary as fuck to said Patriarchy, and (b) Othered all the heck because of it.
 
Witch has always been a word leveled, like a threat, against “sexually deviant” (too pretty, too ugly, too wanted, too wanting, too available, not available enough…) women. So has “dyke”. So have “slut” and “whore”. We are all related.
Glamour is a tool of the vamp, the femme fatale, the witch as beautiful seductress. Femininity is art/artifice/artificial, set up in our cultural narrative as lie in order to make masculinity look “natural” and “honest” next to us.
 
This shows up everywhere from the damn Maleus Malificarum to the fairy tale witch who is set up as “woman gone wrong” with her stealing/eating of children, her house on chicken-legs or made of questionable-yet-alluring materials, her seducing of men away from their wives, her dangerous beauty; to relatively recent pop-culture icons like: the spooky, short-skirt-wearing, self-identified “weirdo” girls in The Craft; Jilly the “bad girl” in Practical Magic – who was totally comfortable using her power to her own advantage and who was also kinky, promiscuous, and generally “wayward”, right alongside her “good girl” sister Sally’s status as a witch being an open secret “she’s… different” whose “coming out” is commented upon by her co-workers – two characters who, in different ways, ping dyke buttons on their own; Willow Rosenberg who, as she grew in her power and her comfort there-with, also came out as a dyke and took a trip down her own “wayward”, stand-in-for-recreational-drug-use, path; and Lisle Von Rhuman (Death Becomes Her), the seductive, sensual, dominant, sorceress who holds the secret to eternal life and perpetual youth.
 
Goddess Spirituality, labrys pendants, and similar iconography have had a few surges in popularity as a means of flagging dyke to women who might want to hook up with you – the late 70s and early/mid 90s being two that I can think of myself. (Starhawk definitely had a hand, intentionally or not, in that one. Morning Glory Zell, too, for that matter – bi, poly, and pagan both of them).
 
Slut, dyke, and witch are all set up as “home-wreckers” in various ways, and thus contrasted to the “home-maker” status of idealized/expected/“respectable” (safe) womanhood.
Whore, Slut, Femme, Dyke… Witch.
Witches are transgressors.
We are Circe, every one of us.

Q is for Quilt – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So, as-you-know-bob, there’s a tonne of stuff out there (relatively speaking, at least) about spinning and yarn as can be used in magic – spinning for trance work in Seide, for example, or using yarn (hand-spun or not) for binding or other knot-magical purposes. But, being as I’ve started sewing more of my own clothes of late, and being as one off-shoot of that is that I’ve got a small (thank goodness) but growing (er…) bag of scrap fabric sitting in my craft cabinet, I’ve started wondering if quilting isn’t somewhere in my near future. To that end, I have started wondering how quilting can be turned to magical purposes.
I mean, there’s the obvious stuff – stitching pieces of people’s old clothes together in the form of patch-work is a way of binding them together, strengthening family ties, and so-on – but I’m wondering what else it can do.
 
Creating quilts as devotional art, for example, by choosing colours and patterns that would appeal or depict your patron deities. Quilting wall-hangings that fit with a given seasonal rite as it pertains to your own bioregion. The act (and final product) of quilting as a multi-layered means of ancestor remembrance/connection – both as a skill-set and with regards to which fabrics get used. Using the pattern of stitches to, say, cursive-write a spell directly into the quilt without “lifting your pencil” (that would actually be really difficult, since quilts are on the big side and needles tend to need re-threading multiple times during the quilting process). Including specific elements/components in the quilt’s stuffing or stitching different stone beads into a quilted wall-hanging might also apply.
 
Right now, the fabric scraps I have are bits of various wedding dresses (mine and my wife’s) plus some scrap fabric from a dress I made for myself, and the odd shirt or two that I’ve tailored. Not a whole lot to work with, spell-wise, but using scraps of my own clothes – stuff I’ve made for myself because I wanted something specific to fit my needs and my desires – could be a great way to quilt a glamour spell for myself, for example, using the quilted fabric (with or without some sort of warming in-between layer) to create a magical dress or skirt for myself – in the same way that I’m creating a Fetish Shawl for myself out of yarn that I’ve hand-spun and then knit into various stripes – and treating it as a means to stitch bits of my empowered, desirous Self back together.
 
Might be worth a shot.
 
Thoughts on quilting magic? Ever tried it? How did it go?
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Preserves! Bruschetta In A Jar!

In truth, I suspect this is better classified as either “picked tomatoes” or “diced tomatoes with extra stuff” but either way “bruschetta in a jar” is probably a more evocative description, so we’re going with it.
Yesterday, I finally got around to canning the latest 2.5lb (bulk) bag of roma tomatoes and, in the interest of flavour variety (if not vegetable variety) in our winter diet, I opted to can them as one-cup jars of “bruschetta”.
 
 
Bruschetta in a Jar
 
2.5 lbs roma tomatoes (12-15, roughly), blanched, skinned, cored, and diced
2 large yellow cooking onions, peeled and finely diced
1 bulb (BULB – about 12 cloves) garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
½ C balsamic vinegar
½ C white wine vinegar
¼ C tomato juice
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp dried rosemary (I would have liked to use basil instead/also but I’m out. Oh well)
 
 
Put everything in a pot and bring to a boil. Allow the liquid to reduce somewhat, if possible[1]
Once everything is boiling and has been mixed together well, ladle it into sterilized jars – I used a slotted spoon to do this – and top up with about 2 tbsp of vinegar-tomato cooking liquid[2].
Cap the jars and process them in a boiling water bath for 10-15 minutes
Remove from water and allow to cool, listening for the “plunk” as each jar seals.
 
Makes about two litres
 
 
One of my jars didn’t seal, so I wound up with seven cups of bruschetta preserved and sitting in my cupboard, plus one clup of bruschetta that I used in last night’s dinner. I poured it, plus the large amount of left-over balsamic-tomato liquid, over a couple of fish fillets and baked the whole shebang. It tasted amazing so I’m confident that the above preserves will serve us well over the winter. :-)
 
That brings me up to about six litres of tomato products in the cupboard so far. I still have plans to make my annual roasted-garlic-balsamic tomato sauce (and I’ll be using a litre of frozen tomato skins and cores along with whatever other tomatoes I can scrounge to do it), but I can see this bruschetta mix – which is quite similar in terms of ingredients – taking up more and more space in my cupboard. It tastes good, and – while you do need to peel and core the tomatoes – it’s relatively quick as it doesn’t require a night spent in the slow-cooker before it’s ready to can.
Something to think about. :-)
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden
 
 
[1] This may or may not work. Tomatoes have a lot of liquid in them, so when you first boil them, you’ll actually get more liquid than you started with.
 
[2] The point of this is to keep the Ph level low enough to safely can them in a boiling water bath. The next time I make this, I’m more likely to half the vinegar in the recipe BUT add a tablespoon of balsamic to each jar rather than relying on the tomatoes, onions, and garlic to soak up enough vinegar to be acidic enough “on their own” during the cooking process.