Monday, April 28, 2014

A Late April Stroll Through the Village Wise Woman Gardens

If you were to take a stroll through my gardens right now, today, you would find the sage, lemon balm, cat mint, bee balm, yarrow, chives and oregano returning in the herb garden along side newly planted (I just did it this afternoon after work) rosemary, lavender, parsley, basil, cilantro, pineapple sage and chamomile. Subtle herbal scents would greet you on the breeze, like a Spring incense. It's positively divine. Behind the row of herbs, you would see a white fabric hoop tunnel. Lifting the fabric a bit and peaking under, you would be greeted by an abundance of growing radishes and, I am sorry to say, only a few very small seedlings of kale, broccoli and brussel sprouts. Next time, I will not direct sow seed but start them all indoors or in my mini-greenhouse. The rest of the veggie garden bed lies in wait for tomatoes, eggplants and some other warm crop veggies.

Moving on to my rock garden, hostas are really coming in now, the spikes of leaves unfurling to show off the varying shades of green. The yuccas have been thinned out and are ready to send out their long flower stalks once Summer has arrived. The butterfly bush, which I know is not a native plant and is invasive but which I cannot bring myself to remove, is beginning to show new leaves all along the lengths of its branches. The daffodils and tulips are fading now but the forsythia continues with its brilliant yellow flowers and bright green leaves. At the center of the rock garden, still stands the skeletal remains of my Burkwood's Broom, the victim of Winter's wrath. I just purchased its replacement, a Lena's Broom. Gone may be the beautiful cream and crimson flowers of the Burkwood's May show but we will now have Lena's gorgeous bright red and yellow blooms in the Mays to come. My husband and I will carefully cut down the old Broom in order to keep several branches intact for making - what else -a broom! (More on that another day.)

The patio is a wondrous place to just sit a while right now. The lilac is in full bloom, its flowers changing from deep purple to a very pale lavender as each petal opens. The purple coneflowers are in varying degrees of growth, some several inches above the soil and some just poking through. Calendula is sprouting from the seeds I planted a few weeks ago. I still see no signs of my black-eye susans but there is still time. The day lilies are almost at full size but their bright orange trumpet-like flowers will not appear until the end of May. The first buds have just emerged on the sweetspire and, by June, it will be full of white flowers surrounded by several different species of bees and wasps, attracted by its strong sweet scent. Come mid-Summer, the entire patio garden will be popping with colors - purple and pink (coneflowers), orange and yellow (calendula and day lilies), deep red and orange (nasturtiums and cardinal flowers), fuschia (bee balm), white (moon flowers), and, of course, all the shades of green possible. The patio is also the place where my plants await transplanting in the garden beds. So, right now, you will find pots of Lena's Broom and spirea. The mini-greenhouse holds my current seedlings - tomatoes, cardinal flower, red twig dogwood, and more basil. 

Throughout the backyard I have nasturtiums, in baskets and tucked into almost every garden bed, just emerging from seeds I planted two weeks ago. There are several bird houses, feeders, and baths for all of my feathered friends. Soon the hummingbird feeders will be hung too! This year I am trying to attract Baltimore Orioles so you will often find oranges (their favorite) hanging around the yard. As more butterflies emerge and come to the garden, I will also set up a feeding station for them. It's a simple shallow bowl filled with aging berries, oranges and bananas. The bees are already beginning to arrive. Carpenters, masons, yellow jackets, and bumbles are flitting in and around every plant in the garden, looking for blossoms. In just a couple of weeks, these bees will be "bar-hopping" from flower to flower, taking all the nectar they can. The whole garden will be buzzing and singing in the warmer days to come.

The front yard is a bit less magical. I am still trying to figure out what would be best to do there. Right now, we have ivy, a huge yew shrub, day lilies, hostas, a rose bush, and goldenrod. A few hyacinths and tulips are there too. My husband and I plan to take out all of the ivy and the yew but it will be back-breaking work and we haven't felt up to the task as of yet. I will also remove most of the hostas and day lilies and give them away to a good home in a plant swap. I would like to make it as pollinator friendly as possible, with native plants and a few showy shrubs, and with as much color through all the seasons as I can find. My sun porch looks out over the front yard so I want to be able to see all the same beautiful sights - the bees, the butterflies, the birds, and the colorful flowers - that I see in the backyard. I dream of sitting in my wicker chair, reading a gardening book and sipping herbal tea, and glancing out the huge windows on that porch to see butterflies frolicking among the blooms and birds drinking from the small cauldron fountain (which, note to self, the hubby has to fix).

As April draws to a close, I find myself busier than ever in the garden. So much is done already but there is still so much more to do. There is still planting to be done, new plant friends to be found, a tree or two to replace, and new homes to be added for birds, bees and butterflies. As always, a garden is a constant work in progress. I don't mind though. I revel in the work. I get to be outdoors every day, rain or shine, spending time with Mother Earth. All is turning lush and green, vibrant colors are bursting all around me, and surprises greet me almost every morning. Magic is happening all around me. I am a happy witch in a beautiful, peaceful and magical place.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Every Day Should Be Earth Day

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel in it the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. (from Galadriel’s monologue in The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)

Today, April 22nd, is Earth Day. This is a day set aside for planting trees, cleaning up parks, forests and beaches, for teaching people to plant gardens and not lawns, and for healing Mother Earth. For me, as a witch and pagan, as a gardener, and just as a human being, every day is Earth Day and I find it very sad, dare I say offensive, that there is only one day in a year dedicated to caring for, tending to, and protecting our planet, our collective home.

Earth is a living thing. Carbon, the building block of life, is found in not only humans but in animals, plants, the air, the oceans, rocks, and soil. This means that we humans and the animals are not the only things alive on Earth. That rock you toss aside, that soil you turn for planting, that ocean you dive into each Summer, that tree you are cutting down - all hold the elements of life. As Earth is made up of rock, soil and water, the argument could be made that the planet Earth itself is alive. Earth, Mother Earth, Mother to us all, home to us all. And we are killing Her.

Each year, we humans spend tons of money, and time, on protecting the inner sanctum of our homes from things like carbon monoxide, asbestos, and lead, on air filtration systems to clean the air we breathe in our houses, and on water filtration systems for our drinking and bathing water. Yet, most of us cannot stop to pick up trash on the ground when we see it, cannot stop pouring fertilizers and pesticides on our lawns and gardens, and cannot stop filling landfills with every item we wish gone from our life, only to replace it with something “new and improved”. Our oceans are filled with tons of plastic and other waste, none of it good and all of it deadly. We are killing our home. Mother Earth is fighting for Her life. We, the people, can help heal Her, not just one day a year, but every day of our entire lifetime, for generations to come.

Saving our planet begins with education. Educate yourself. Understand how all life on this planet in interconnected. Learn the facts about climate change, pollution, and the importance of maintaining local native habitats and ecosystems. Learn how to compost, how to collect rain water, and how to recycle, repurpose, and reuse items in and around your home. Understand the chemicals we use in our lives, our homes and our gardens and the damage they can cause to humans, animals and plants. Know their dangers and how to either use, store and dispose of them properly and safely, or rid your life of them completely. Take that knowledge, make changes to your daily living, and lead by example. Then educate your kids, your family, your friends, and anyone willing to listen and empower them all to do the same.

Community service should not be reserved for just Earth Day. Volunteer to help clean up local parks, forests, creek beds, or beaches regularly. In Spring, consult with your child’s school administration about planting raised garden beds as part of science classes. In Autumn, help your elderly neighbors clean up the fallen leaves. Save them for your compost pile or show your neighbors how those leaves can be used to mulch gardens. Spread the word on your block of upcoming local shredding events, hazardous waste collections, or electronics recycling programs. Offer help in getting to those events. Simply just picking up trash you see in your travels and disposing of it properly is community service. On a larger scale, join an organization that protects wildlife and volunteer for their events as often as you can. Work with your local government to begin greener practices or to restore local habitats. I could list out hundreds of ideas and suggestions but I think you get the gist of it.

As Galadriel said, “The world is changed.” From all the scientific data I have seen and heard, it has changed for the worse. Mother Earth is being destroyed and we may not be able to reverse it. But I am going to go down trying! It starts with one person. I truly believe that one person can change the course of events. That change begins with me, with us. We are all part of this ever-turning interconnected orb of life. Perhaps our leaders will finally understand it and begin to change as well. So, of course, participate in as many events this Earth Day as you wish. But if you do anything this Earth Day, make the commitment to make every day of your life Mother Earth Day.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Full Moons, Lunar Eclipses and a Garden Full of Magic

There is something so beautiful, so special, and so magical about the first Full Moon in a new season. The world seems to revel in all the colors, scents, and sounds of the reborn season. We are keenly aware of the changes happening in nature and the continually spinning of the wheel of the year. For me, the first Full Moon of Spring is even more magical. All life is reawakening. My small part of the world is transforming from the dull grays of Winter to the lush green shades of Spring. Last year’s plant friends are returning and new ones are starting to take root in the rich dark soil. Birds are returning from points South to take up Summer residence and the groundhog appears out of the Winter slumber to see what I may be growing this year that will tantalize his or her taste buds. As the Full Moon of Spring arrives, I take a break from the regularly scheduled program of gardening to give the garden a magical boost and to just be a while with Spring.

The first Full Moon of Spring is on its way this week, April 15th to be exact. A Full Moon brings increased magical power and energy and is an excellent time for blessing the garden. The way in which you do this is entirely up to you. My usual blessing ritual is a three-fold process. First, I walk the length of each garden bed, smudging and clearing the area first with some sage as I go. I then walk the beds again, sprinkling salt water this time. My third time around I hold my hands over each and every plant and say a charm to bless that plant with abundance in the coming growing season and charging it with its magical, healing, nourishing or even aesthetic properties. I spend time with each plant and meditate on its life cycle, on its purpose(s), and on keeping it healthy and happy. And, yes, I talk to each and every plant, shrub or tree. I also bless the areas of the garden where I know the birds and critters inhabit, gather nourishment, and congregate.

When all this is done, I just sit on my patio, beneath those silvery Moon beams (even when it’s cloudy those beams are still there), and soak them in as I listen to my garden grow. Have you ever listened to your garden grow? It is a truly magical experience in and unto itself. It can be done whether you have a sprawling yard or a small patio garden. Ground and center yourself. Try using a tree of life meditation, becoming a tree to commune with your plant friends. As your “roots” take hold and your “branches” reach out, the ambient noise of your local environment – the cars, people, planes – will slip away and you will begin to hear the subtle sounds of plants growing, moving, unfurling, rooting, and blossoming. You will hear birds ruffling their feathers as they settle in for the night, bugs moving along stems and leaves hunting for food, earthworms burrowing through soil, or the flutter of moth wings as they move among the plants. You will feel yourself deeply rooted in the earth yet feel the gentle sway of reaching out and up toward the sky. Open your eyes for a few minutes and look around. Your garden will seem to glow and shimmer with the spark of life. Just stay in that moment for a bit. Close your eyes again and slowly begin to bring those roots and branches back in to yourself and ground the remaining energy. Open your eyes again. You will never look at your garden and plants the same way again after doing this. Believe me!

The Full Moon of the 15th will be even more powerful because there will be a total lunar eclipse. For those of you in North America, it will be visible! According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac 2014, the Moon will enter the penumbra (the outer shadows of the Earth) at 12:52 a.m. EDT, reach totality at 3:06 a.m., and leave the penumbra at 6:39 a.m. I urge you to take the time to watch it. It is a truly wondrous and magical sight. I liken it much to seeing the triple goddess before my very eyes, watching the Moon go through all of Her cycles – waxing, full and waning, Maiden, Mother and Crone – in only a few hours. This cyclical energy and the combined feminine energy of both the Moon and Earth will only enhance the cyclical energy of nature, the fertile energy of your growing garden, and your magical work.

There are other magical things you can do for and in your garden during the coming Full Moon. Plant a magical herb for use in spells, potions and healing in the days to come or flowers that correspond to the moon such as moonflower, gardenia, or jasmine. Add a statue of a Moon goddess, a gazing globe, or an image of the Moon to your garden. In honor of the Full Moon, the lunar eclipse and all that feminine fertile energy, I will be planting my moonflower seeds on the 15th.

Happy Magical Gardening and Full Moon Blessings!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: Eliora's Enchanting Elegance

Many years ago, when I first became a witch, many of my ritual and magickal tools were given to me as gifts. They were all appreciated. But at that time, witchcraft was not as out of the broom closet as it is today. There were only a handful of stores in my area that catered to the needs of pagans and witches. There was no Amazon, no Etsy, and no Facebook pages to like, follow, and discover new and exciting tools. My athame was a plain, black-handled knife. My wand was a simple oak smoothed and carved oak branch. My chalice was a simple black goblet with a pentacle on it. My cauldron was a simple black clay pot. All very simple and they all served me well over the years. But, over the years, as I grew into my pagan skin and continued along my pagan path, these tools no longer spoke to me. They no longer felt like extensions of myself and my spirit, like they should. Just then I met Lorelei Eliora through Facebook and discovered her Etsy shop, Eliora's Enchanting Elegance. Enchanting indeed!

Lorelei has been crafting ritual tools, magickal items and decor art for over 15 years but, as she says, she's been "crafty since childhood". As her Etsy shop notes, she is a "pagan artisan creating enchanting elegance for your magickal life". She creates her enchanting items in a magical workroom in her home, surrounded by old tall protective oak trees. All of her items are handcrafted, hand-embellished, and infused with love, blessings and magick. Her inventory is extensive, offering witches and pagans items like athames, wands, bolines, chalices, jewelry, divining boards, glass art, and charm clips, among many other things. She offers everything you need for your altar and pagan practices. She takes custom orders for whatever type of witch you are - from the garden witch, like me, to the witch devoted to a particular goddess.

Very early into our online friendship, I asked Lorelei to make me an athame, one that spoke to the gardening, herb-loving, tree-hugging witch in me. For a very reasonable price, Lorelei made me a beautiful athame. The handle is wrapped in a pale green suede cord and gold-link chain. It is embellished with gold, green and amber leaves, glass beads with acorn caps on them, small pine cones, tiny glass flowers of pale orange and yellow, and pentacles. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the athame for me. It fits perfectly in my hand and with my magick.

A few months later, I asked her to craft a wand for me. She went into the woods around her home, found a lovely branch of oak and embellished it to match my athame. It feels so natural and so powerful. It is perfect for this gardening witch.

When I received both items, it felt like Lorelei had known me for years. She knew the colors that spoke to me. She knew what the items should feel like in my hands. She knew me, knew my spirit, knew my magick. How could she know me that well? How could she craft the items I had longed for? She just knew.

Perhaps you are new to the craft or the pagan path, just getting started, and in need of all the ritual tools and magickal items. Lorelei has exactly what you are looking for - a complete altar set, customized to your magickal path! It is a cabinet or box in your choice of theme or color and charm elements of your choice. It includes Goddess and God tea light candles, elemental quarter tealights, a candle snuffer, water bowl, altar cloth, a small bell, small embellished jars filled with sea salt and sand, a mini-besom, a mini-wand, a mini-athame, a small altar box in the them of your choice, a ceramic cauldron, mini-chalice, a pair of potion bottles, charcoal, cone incense, and an altar plate, again in your theme. All of this for $200!

Lorelei is a joy to know and a pleasure to work with. She has a beautiful soul and it shines through her work. Your items arrive quickly (but don't forget that handcrafting, hand-embellishing, and customizing can take some time) and carefully packaged.

Head on over to Eliora's Enchanting Elegance and check out all of her lovely items. If you don't find what you are looking for there, contact Lorelei and request a custom piece (or two or three). You can also follow her Facebook page, Eliora, and see what she's working on now. Prepare to be elegantly enchanted!