"Brave and true I will be
Each good deed sets me free.
Each kind word makes me strong.
I will fight for the right,
I will conquer the wrong."
Todayis Michaelmas. The Michaelmas festival reminds us to both summon and honor the courage
displayed each and every day – in noble acts big and strong. It reminds
us to be a champion for others, to look for the good in all and to
always strive toward our fullest human potential. The festival is named for the archangel Michael, the guardian of
humanity, who inspires courage, initiative and steadfastness. The image
of St. Michael with his golden sword, gives us the courage to face the
growing cold and darkness of the turning of season. As the world around
us draws inward, we too begin to draw into ourselves in preparation of
the coming season of introspection and contemplation.
This weekend, for the second year, we gathered with a few other families to celebrate. We keep the celebration on the light side, after all our kiddos are quite young. The idea is not to tell them what the celebration is about, but to bring it to them through song, verse and story, and then let it sit with them. Over the years, as they grow up, we will bring the festival to them in a deeper, more tangible way that will explain the significance of this festival.
For the last few weeks, our morning circle time has included a song about St. Michael, and we have been working to memorize the verse above, which was recited at our celebration on the weekend. On Saturday, as the families arrived, the kids played and the adults chatted. We enjoyed organic apple cider warmed over the open fire, apples were roasted, the kids bobbed for apples, corn husk dolls and star wands were made, and finally, we gathered around the fire where a friend shared the story of The Kiteby U. de Haes, from the Wynstones Press Autumn book, and the kids recited their verse. After sharing our gratitude with each other, we said our meal time blessing, and dug into our potluck.
We gathered on blankets, around the yard, kids and adults, sharing food, conversation, and laughter. I looked around and my heart was filled with joy. A small group of families, coming together to celebrate Michaelmas, the harvest and to welcome autumn, families we spend a lot of time with, families who get us, and the path we walk. I can't tell you how wonderful that feels.
After dinner, apple crisp was enjoyed for dessert, and as the sun began to slowly set the kids played some more, and the adults gathered around the warm fire. It was a simple, but meaningful celebration. Over the years we will bring deeper meaning to this day, and it will grow into something more. But for now, this was perfect.
Over the last six years, as I have consciously worked to deepen my connection to nature, I have developed a love for wild plants, in particular, wild foods and herbs. My identification field guides are well used, I have staked out my spots for harvesting, returning year after year to gather plants for us to eat, and to make medicine from, and I am now growing many medicinal plants both in our gardens, and around our property. Time has been spent learning from people who are not only experienced and knowledgeable, but also have a deep love for the natural world. They have shared so much information with me over the years, and slowly I have gained trust and confidence in my identification skills, and in making medicine.
Sitting in the corner of the main part of our schoolhouse home is a corner cabinet. A gift from, and made by, my dad. It was meant to be a china cabinet, and was for quite some time, but things change, and it is now my own little apothecary. In it I store my essential oils, dried herbs, infused herbal oils, tinctures, supplements, candle making supplies, ingredients for body butters, salves, bug spray, soaps, and lip balms, and product ready to be used.
This little cabinet is magic, in so many ways. It holds the very things that help keep my family healthy, from healing salves for cuts and scrapes, to nourishing teas, to tinctures for PMS to fever. When our bodies send us a message to rest, via a cold or fever, we take note and listen. We stop the daily plans and we rest. And while we rest, I open this cabinet and pull out a little bit of nature to help our bodies heal.
When I rely on plants from Mother Nature to heal us, I feel like I have come full circle. I have walked her paths, climbed her trees, and studied her plants. I have carefully and respectfully harvested plants, and turned them into medicine. As I harvest, I thank her, and more gratitude is offered as I work with the plants. The day then comes when I call on these medicines to heal us, and I recall where the plants were harvested, the kind of day it was, the work done to turn plant to medicine, and I again offer gratitude..to this earth, to Mother Nature, to the people who have shared their knowledge and experience with me, and to this journey, that has brought me to this place.
Plant medicine is so very powerful, from the healing connection I have gained with the earth, to the teas, tinctures, and salves that heal us. Mother Nature is amazing, and this cabinet reminds me of that every time I open it.
Yesterday, we took a little trip north to a wonderful organic apple orchard. Blessed by Mother Nature with beautiful sunshine and a warm autumn day we picked apples, we ate apples and we picked more apples. When we were done picking we enjoyed a little picnic by the edge of the woods, and then wondered along the nature trail.
When I tell people we travel 90 minutes to pick apples I often get strange looks, we do after all, have about six local orchards in our area. But, this little gem of an orchard is worth the drive. Organic apple orchards are hard to come by, and for us, worth the time and energy to travel a little bit further to pick.
So, my friend and I packed up her car with food, kids and my knitting, and away we went. She drove, I knit, the kids talked, sang and laughed. Yes, there was a little bickering in the back seat, and more than once the call of "when will we be there", but when the sun is shining on a beautiful autumn day and you are on your way to pick organic apples, not much can get you down.
We had a great time at the orchard, and packed the car up with apples, and cider before heading home. In the days to come apple cake and apple crisp will be baked, applesauce will be put by for the winter, and apple and berry fruit leathers will be dehydrated. I promised Reece and his little friend that we will push a few apples through the juicer today, and you can bet more apples with cinnamon will be roasted around the fire.
It's apple season, friends, and that is a wonderful thing.
The biggest news in the garden this week...the tunnels are up! At this moment they are covered with light frost protection covers, and as soon as the much colder weather arrives they will get a second cover with plastic. If all goes as I have read, we should be eating greens fresh from the garden well into winter.
As you can see, one tunnel is further along than the other. They were planted about two, maybe three weeks apart, so the second one should catch up soon, especially with the summer-like temperatures Mother Nature is gifting us this week. The herbs, parsley, sage, and rosemary, survived the transplant to the tunnels, and the strawberries, they just keep on coming. I picked a large handful on Monday morning, and there is another handful ready to be picked. If you plant strawberries, I highly recommend everbearing plants. Strawberries in June are wonderful, but when the second harvest is ready in September, it is amazing! They are also a little less work than June bearing strawberries because they don't produce a lot of runners, which some may not like, as it means less runners to replant for future years. These plants have been in production for four years, and will be dug up at the end of this season. I have moved the little alpine strawberries, and a few runners, to a new bed, and next spring they will be joined by new strawberry plants, everbearing, of course.
Other than that things have been pretty quiet in the garden. I picked up the garlic for planting at the market this weekend, but there is still another month before I will plant it, and I do need to cover all the beds in leaves, but not enough have fallen from the trees yet. So we are in a bit of lull, a good lull though. A little time to relax, and dream, before the last push.
Today we officially welcome the autumn season, although it has felt very autumn like here for a few weeks now...cooler evenings, temperatures in the single digits, our first frost warning, leaves changing, soups cooking in the kitchen, and the return to baking bread and other goodies. Apple picking is in the plans this week, and a certain little man keeps talking about picking pumpkins. It is a wonderful time of year.
We will welcome autumn with a walk in the woods, apple print banners will be made, popcorn threaded and feeders filled for our feathered friends, soup is on the menu for lunch, and cinnamon apples will be roasted around the fire.
The shift from summer to autumn is one of my favourites, it is a breathtakingly beautiful time of year, and one we intend to enjoy and celebrate to its fullest.