The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Sustainable Living

Ode to the Apple: Making Applesauce April 6, 2014

In a recent blog post, I talked about the apple as a sacred tree in that it provides us with bountiful, amazing cider. In this post, I’m going to walk through the art of making and canning applesauce. The applesauce I made when I was taking photos for the blog is hands down the best applesauce I have ever tasted in my life! I really like making applesauce because it connects me with the sacred apple tree (more on that in an upcoming post), its very healthy, and it can be shared and enjoyed with others.

Apples free from a neighbor's yard

Apples free from a neighbor’s yard

Finding Apples

The first thing you need to do for a good applesauce is to find your apples.  In my crazy quest last summer to pay homage to the apple, I tasted apples from literally hundreds of trees.  I realized then that not all apples are created equal.  A good applesauce requires a really delicious apple.  These apples a friend and I gathered from my neighbor’s house.  We have no idea what variety they are, but they are literally the most delicious apple–a little tart, a little sweet, excellent creamy flesh.  I used these apples to make my perfect applesauce.

Now you shouldn’t have to buy apples–lots of old apple orchards are out there, and most people (at least in this area) have apple trees in their front or backyards.  I have found that if you go ask to pick apples, most people will be happy to let you (especially if you offer some of the bounty in return).   You can also find apples in local parks and the like.  If you are gathering lots of apples, make sure you get some sturdy bags (we gathered with 50 lb feed bags – pictured in the photo above) because we were also going for bulk for making cider.  The other thing about making a good applesauce is that sometimes a combination of apples can yield the best results.  So I used a few kinds of apples for the sauce, but the bulk of them came from the incredible tree of the neighbor’s!  You should pick apples from the tree–pull gently and the apple will come off easily if the apple is ripe.

Lots of Apples!

Lots of Apples!

Besides being free, there are a lot of other benefits to gathering your apples wild.  First, they are almost certainly not going to be sprayed with pesticides–and since apples are one of the fruits that hold in the most pesticide, this is something you absolutely do not want to have in your fruit.  Second, you can find varieties wild that you can’t find in the store, allowing for very unique flavors (my friend and I found one apple tree that literally produced apples that tasted like cotton candy last year!)  Third, you are eliminating the use of fossil fuels associated with transporting apples over great distances (depending on your mode of transportation, you might still have some fossil fuel expenditure, but it shouldn’t be nearly that of a commercial grower).  Most of my apples were gathered within 3 miles of my home, or were gathered where I was already heading (e.g. I went to campus for the day, and stopped at the orchard on my way home to pick apples for an hour before heading home).

 

Coring and Peeling your Apples

You can core and peel your apples by hand. I used to do this until I discovered this great little device called an “apple peeler and corer.”  I found mine on Etsy for $10. I don’t actually know why anyone would do anything else–this is SO fast.  I can do enough apples for a huge pot in about 45 minutes–and its a lot of fun to use.  The one thing I will mention is that you want fresh, firm apples to use this little device. If they are too soft or mushy, they will fall apart and cause frustration.

Apple Peeler, Corer, and Slicer

Apple Peeler, Corer, and Slicer

The peeler, corer, and slicer works like magic, and it creates these awesome little apple spirals.  It also creates a great deal of apple peel, which I dehydrated and have been using for tea.

Apple peeled, cored, and sliced!

Apple peeled, cored, and sliced!

Cooking Your Sauce

Now that you have some cored, peeled, and sliced apples, you are ready to start cooking down your sauce.  One word of warning – applesauce easily burns!  Stir it frequently! The one thing that can do you in is having too high of heat and ignoring your applesauce.  I bought a beautiful long wooden spoon from a local craftsperson at the farmer’s market, and I use that spoon to lovingly stir my applesauce so that it doesn’t burn.

To speed up the cooking process and make sure my apples on the bottom don’t burn, I usually use my immersion blender to chop up the apples  (otherwise, this can be a really long process!)

Apples being processed

Apples being processed

Now how much you want to cook your applesauce down is a matter of personal preference. I prefer really chunky applesauce, so I cook mine a lot less than some others do (the store-bought stuff is all way overcooked, IMHO).  Here’s what mine looked like about halfway through the cooking process:

Cooking down the applesauce!

Cooking down the applesauce!

At this stage, I added a bit of freshly ground nutmeg and cinnamon to the sauce.  I also added a little honey for added sweetness–but my apples were pretty sweet, so not much was needed.  Once I had it tasting exactly how I wanted it, I was ready to can!

 

Canning Your Applesauce

Standard hot water bath canning applies here–you hot water bath can your applesauce for 15 min. One of the important things to remember is that applesauce EXPANDS A LOT during canning, so you want a full 1″ of headspace on your pint jars.  I have not had applesauce explode on me yet, but many people I’ve spoken to about it have!

When you are finished, you will have some of the most amazing applesauce you have ever tasted.  It is likely you will be unable to eat the drivel that they call “applesauce” in the stores ever again. And you’ll be one step closer to self-sufficiency and more sustainable living!

 

Enjoying your Applesauce

Canning any kind of food preserves that food at its peak freshness, saving it for you to savor in the cold, dark months of winter.  As I finish this blog post, I eat a bite of my most delicious applesauce straight from the jar, and look back with fondness on those wonderful apple-filled months leading up to Samhuinn.  I think there is real magic in making and preserving applesauce–apples are such an abundant gift from the wild and we can preserve that gift for years to come.

 

Ode to the Apple: Harvest, Pressing, and Fermenting Apple Cider March 9, 2014

Crab Apples ripening at Bittersweet Farm in Clarkston

Crab Apples ripening

I’ve been meaning to write a series of posts on the apple tree for quite a while, and here in the depths of winter, I have finally found time to do so!  And while my timing is off season, I think it also gives us a look forward 8 months to a wonderful harvest in the year to come.

 

Ode to the Apple

Last year,  I was introduced to the  introduced me to the blessing and magic that is the apple tree.  This process started with an Apple Wassailing in early January in 2013 (which we again did in 2014).  But it wasn’t till later in the season, in early spring, that one of my friends really introduced me to the blessing and incredible nature of the apple. As my friend and I would be driving around or out on a foraging expedition, he’d point out the apple tree and say “Look, there’s an apple tree!”  While I smiled and nodded, I didn’t quite understand his fascination with the apple tree early in the season. I enjoyed apples, I cooked with them,  I ate them regularly, but I hadn’t spent much time communing with those trees.  So while it was clear I didn’t have his level of reverence for the apple at that point, I was excited to learn more.

 

My reverence significantly deepened and changed as the season went on, and I began to understand the sacred majesty that is the apple tree.  As we explored the landscape of

Harvesting crab apples at Bittersweet Farm

Harvesting crab apples

South-Eastern Michigan through the summer months, I realized just how many apple trees there were, and I started noticing them in every yard, on every street corner, even all through my campus.  As we watched the trees go from blossom stage (with their tasty blossoms and forage for bees) to fruit stage as the season went on, the magic of the apple tree continued to manifest. Apples were literally everywhere–their abundance ripening for the harvest!

Harvesting Apples

This past year, we had probably the most abundant harvest of apples that anyone I spoke to had ever seen–bushels and bushels and bushels of apples, so many that the trees were heavy laden with fruit (and in some cases, such as my neighbor’s home) succumbed to the pressure and cracked under the weight.  2013 was certainly the year of the apple!  And so, when apple harvest began in September, we harvested. We harvested every chance we got–there were so many bags and bags and bags of apples! Apples of all kinds–crab apples, sweet apples, yellow apples, green apples, red apples, apples from my campus, apples from the neighbor’s house, apples from friends and families, apples from abandoned orchards deep on the edges of parks, apples in the middle of town….everywhere we went, apples were to be found!  We harvested right up into November, even after frost when the apples went soft, they are still good for cider making.

Late Season Cider Apples (and a small bag of tiny, very tart crab apples)

Late Season Cider Apples (and a small bag of tiny, very tart crab apples)

One of the things about harvesting apples, I learned, is that when the apple tree is ready, she gives her fruit freely.  A simple tug will have the fruit falling right into your hand.  If you tug, and tug, and the apple still is not coming off the branch, it means that the apple is not ripe and you may damage the branch by trying to harvest it.  When you see apples starting to fall to the ground around the tree, you know the tree is ready to give her bounty.

 

The second thing I learned about harvesting apples is that location of the fruit on the tree matters.  Fruit located in the south will ripen and be ready for harvest before fruit in the northern part of the tree (same with sunny/shady locations).

 

The third thing I learned about harvesting apples is that different kinds of apples make different kinds of products–you can make a good fresh cider out of sweeter apple varieties–any variety with a high sugar content will do the job  (crab apples work well for this, but require a lot more work because of their smaller size).

 

A final thing I learned about harvesting apples is that cider apples don’t really have to be perfect–you can pick up ones on the ground, that have blemishes, and so on, because they will be pressed anyways!

 

Pressing Fresh Cider

And then came…the pressing and the fermenting!  I’m going to walk you through the stages of pressing with lots of photos.  The press and apple grinder (scratter) were both handmade by my friends (commercial options are also available for those of you who want to press but don’t have the skill to build your own).

In order to effectively make fresh apple cider or plain apple cider (which refers to the hard stuff traditionally), you need a few things: 1) a lot of apples, which can very likely be procured for free; 2) a grinder to turn apples into pulp; 3) a press; and 4) some means of fermentation.  Let’s start with the pressing process.

Grinding up Apples

Grinding up Apples

Adding Apples to the Grinder

Adding Apples to the Grinder

The grinder chips up the apples into small pieces so that they will press better.  Apples of any size or kind can be used (we also pressed some quinces that day).  After the apples are ground, we add them to the press.

Press setup before pressing

Press setup before pressing

Adding Apples to the Press

Adding Apples to the Press

The press works in layers–each layer of apples is added and then wrapped up in a cloth.  (In previous times, these presses could be very large indeed, and instead of cloth, which was too valuable, people added layers of straw between each layer of apples).

Adding apple pulp to press

Adding apple pulp to press

Layering fabric around apple pulp

Layering fabric around apple pulp

After each square of apple pulp and fabric (which holds the apples in the press), boards with groves are added.  The groves allow the apple cider to run out into the bucket.

Adding boards to the press

Adding boards to the press

After the press is setup, you simply crank the jack and it slowly presses the liquid out of the apples.  Since apples are up to 80% water, you can get a surprising amount of juice through this process!

Pressing!

Pressing!

You can see that my friends strain the apple cider as it leaves the press–they are collecting it into a food-grade bucket. At this point, its customary to enjoy the fruits of your labor with a taste of the fresh cider.

Best taste ever--fresh cider!

Best taste ever–fresh cider!

Some of pressed cider is frozen for enjoyment year round (I still have quite a bit in my freezer!)  But the rest is put into carboys for fermentation into hard cider.

Finished cider

Finished cider

The pressings, after we are finished with them, are returned to an orchard and placed around the trees.  This way, as many nutrients as possible are added back to the trees.

Old pressings are returned to trees (compost)

Old pressings are returned to trees (compost)

I am still learning the fermentation process, so I’ll save that for another post when I understand it better and have more experience (I’ve only made dandelion wine so far!).  But I recently helped bottle up some of the finished cider, and I am storing more of it for my friend in my living room!

Fermentation after several months

Fermentation after several months

Bottled hard cider!

Bottled hard cider!

I was honored this year to be introduced to the incredible nature of the apple tree–in Michigan, the apple is so abundant, so giving, so gentle. And the fruits can be turned into so many amazing foods–fresh eating, fresh cider, hard cider, cobblers, pies, applesauce, and so much more!  I’d also like to acknowledge my friends for allowing me to take part in this process and for introducing me to the sacredness that is the apple tree.

 

I think that the process of realizing how much the land–right outside our doorstep–has to offer us and how much free bounty is there for harvesting, we can’t truly appreciate the trees and the wisdom they offer.  Without my experiences this year in seeing the apples go from dormancy (wassail) to flower to fruit and being part of the harvest, I wouldn’t have understood the apple as it changed through the growing season.  Had I just bought apples from a farmer when they were ripe, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to commune with the trees during harvest, to learn how to harvest from the tree, and to give back to them.  I had grown up with apples nearby, but it wasn’t until this year that I was able to understand why the apple was such an important part of so many cultures, why it was such a sacred tree, and how it is one of the trees that can help us substantially make the shift back into a sustainable relationship with the lands around us.  These opportunities represent learning experiences on many levels, and I am honored to have been able to have this experience.

 

Four Sacred Trees Brew (Druidic, Magical Tree Tea with Hickory, Pine, Birch, and Maple) November 10, 2013

This recipe is derived from an Algonquin recipe that I found in a few places and adapted. It pays homage to the hickory as its star (with birch, pine, and maple as delightful support characters).  Its a perfect drink for Samhuinn, and as the weather grows cold, the plants die off, and the days become dark.  It tastes…like nothing else you’ve ever experienced.  Slightly piney, slightly minty, very nutty, slightly sweet….all the good flavors in a kind of “tree chai”.  I served this at our grove’s Samhuinn ceremony and it was very well received!

 

I’ve also found this brew to be a most excellent energizing, clearing, and grounding drink.  If I’m feeling a bit schizophrenic, trying to balance the demands of the consumerist world that I inhabit and my own spiritual connection to the land (that is being destroyed by that consumerist world), this brew brings me back to where I need to be.  It gives me inner peace and grounds me, healing me.  This beverage is particularly uplifting if I’m having a difficult day, in need of healing, etc.  I think its because it has so many good trees with different energies, and they are very balancing.  Nature is always a wonderful healer.

 

If you don’t have access to these plants and want to try this brew, I sell it in my etsy shop.

 

1.  Obtain your ingredients. For about 6 cups of this brew, you’ll want a handful of white pine needles (without branches), a 6 or so black birch twigs (dried or fresh is fine; I’m using dried cause they are rare around Michigan but bountiful in PA where I gather them when I see my family), hickory nuts (about a cup and a half) and maple syrup (or honey/sugar if you don’t have any). If you don’t have access to any of these ingredients, you can omit them (except the hickory). You can also substitute wintergreen berries or leaves for the black birch and hemlock needles (the tree, NOT the plant) for the pine. But in most Midwestern forests where hickory grows, you should be able to find these.

Ingredients

Ingredients

 

2. Crush up your hickory. You want to take the outer shell off of your hickory (its usually in four or five pieces, easy to peel once the nut dries out for a week or so after it falls from the tree).  To make the brew, you want to crush up your nuts (inner shell and all) with a hammer and then throw them into a pot.

Crush up hickory - shell and all!

Crush up hickory – shell and all!

 

3.  Add the rest of the ingredients (except maple). Break up your black birch a bit and add your white pine needles to the mix. Add about 6 cups or so of water (more if you want it weaker, less if you want it stronger). I’m making a fairly large batch here, so I added some extra hickory nuts.  Extra nuts are always good!

Ingredients!

Ingredients!

Adding water!

Adding water!

 

4.  Boil for 30-40 minutes. Let the alchemical fires transform your ingredients into a sacred, magical brew. You’ll start to smell it, and then the water will eventually get cloudy as the hickory releases its magic into your tea. The longer you boil it the stronger it tastes.  Its really good. You’ll also notice little oil droplets on the top of the brew–these are from the oil in the hickory nuts, and are full of good nutrients.

Brew finished!

Brew finished!

 

5.  Strain into cups, add maple syrup to taste, and enjoy! Enjoy one of the most delightful and unique beverages you’ll experience. Use it as a sacred, magical drink for many purposes and share it with friends.

 

Tree Profile: Hickory’s Magical, Medicinal, and Herbal Qualities November 7, 2013

Shelled shagbark hickory nuts

Shelled shagbark hickory nuts

I am going to do a series of posts on trees–I started a second 3rd degree Adept project for the AODA, and its on expanding the traditional Ogham to include plants native to the Mid-west/mid-Atlantic region. This project will also take me three years, but its work well worth doing :). The first tree I want to focus on as part of this work is the Hickory tree–which is a bit of an elusive tree in terms of Western knowledge, but when we look to native American traditions, we find a wealth of information.

 

Physical Properties: Hickory trees typically produce a good crop of nuts every third year after they reach 30 or 40 years old (depending on the sub-species).  Hickory wood is extremely tough, and was used by natives and settlers alike in the USA as a wood for axe handles and other tools (a practice that continues to this day). The Ojibway used the wood for bows due to its elasticity and strength. Hickory wood remains one of the most efficient woods in North America for burning (only Black Locust, a non-native tree, has a higher BTU).  Hickory also makes an excellent charcoal (and savory smoke).  In Michigan, we have a number of hickories, including red hickory, pignut hickory, shellbark hickory, and shagbark hickory.

 

The Doctrine of Signatures:  The Doctrine of Signatures is used in traditional Western herbalism and suggests that the plant itself and its physical qualities help us understand the qualities that it helps heal. I’d like to propose, also, that we can use the doctrine of signatures to understand the magical properties of trees, especially those that are not traditional to the western magical literature, like hickory.

 

So let’s take a look at its physical properties and the magical lessons it might teach us:

  • Patience: Hickory is very slow to grow. A typical hickory tree takes 30 or 40 more years to produce nuts.  Furthermore, after you’ve waited the 30 or 40 years to see the tree produce nuts, if you’ve ever tried to get at hickory nutmeats, you’ll know its hard to get the full nutmeat out easily.  Both of these qualities lend themselves hickory being associated with patience.
  • Strength yet Flexibility.  Hickory wood is prized and used for tools, bows, and furniture because is nearly as strong as steel but very flexible.  It burns very clean and makes a long-lasting fire.  Both of these qualities inherent in the tree lead to its qualities of strength and flexibility.

Traditional Western & Magical Herbalism.  Very little in the traditional lore books speaks to hickory, neither traditional herbals (Wood, Grieve) or magical herbals (Greer, Beyerl). I was expecting to see something from the Hoodoo tradition, but it, also does not appear in Yronwode’s Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic. Cunningham, who I don’t always like to trust, has something about the tree focusing on law/keeping away the law, but I have no idea where he derived his information.  I’m not seeing it repeated anywhere else, and its not consistent with the doctrine of signatures nor the native lore.

 

Unshelled bitternut and red hickory

Unshelled bitternut and red hickory

Native American Lore/Myths: Native American mythology sheds some substantial light on the magic of the hickory. The Seneca discuss hickory trees at length in their mythology (as described in Seneca Indian Myths, collected by Jeremiah Curtin).  The hickory is featured prominently in these myths is  connected with the dead and bringing the dead to life.  In “Okteondo and his Uncle”, “Man-Eater and his Brother,” “Owl and His Jealous Wife,” “Uncle and Nephew” and “Hodadeio and His Sister” the bones of the dead are  placed before a great hickory tree (usually after being eaten by cannibals) and, typically,  the living person who placed the bones pushes against the hickory and shouts “Rise up or the tree will fall on you” the dead rise up and become living again.   In “Hodadieo and his Sister”, after Hodadieo’s sister rises up from the dead under threat of being crushed by the hickory, Hodadieo throws a hickory nut to the west and commands the other nuts to follow, which they do, and all the nuts end up in the family’s stores for the winter.  In other tales, the hickory is made into canoes (Wishakon and His Friend Visit Plethoak) for travel.

 

Native Herbal Uses:  The sap of the Shagbark hickory was used by the Iroquois as a sweetener and, when mixed with bear grease, a bug repellent.  Shagbark’s young shoots/leaves were used by the Ojibway for headaches.  The Potawatomi boiled the bark and applied it to tender muscles for arthritis pain.

 

My Hickory Nut Experiences: I have been having a difficult time this year, as I mentioned in an earlier post about blight and the magical garden. I have found myself really, really drawn to the hickory tree during the last few months. A friend and I have been gathering an abundance of hickory nuts this year–more than either of us have ever seen (see photos, lol)!  We probably have over 100 lbs of hickory nuts we are now shelling. One night, despite the fact that I had lots of other things to do, I found myself shelling hickory nuts for a long while.  It was peaceful, relaxing activity, and the more I shelled, the more I was at peace.  A few days later, I went back down to this amazing pignut hickory tree at the corner of my property, where I had been gathering the nuts.  I sat with my back against the tree (this is a practice described in John Michael Greer’s Celtic Golden Dawn curriculum, which I’m working through) and did a tree meditation.  It was incredible.  I watched the sun set, and I felt the hickory tree healing me and calming me.  I’ve also been making a “four sacred trees” brew using hickory nuts and some other trees–I’ll blog about that shortly in my next post :).

 

Samhuinn Magical Crafting – Making a Magical Herbal Hawthorn Tincture November 1, 2013

Samhuinn is the final holiday that is connected to harvests in the Druidic Wheel of the Year, and this is a time of apples, pumpkins, hawthorn berries (haws), nannyberries, rose hips, and rowan berries.  I always like to do some kind of magical crafting in relationship to the holidays, and this Samhuinn, I made a magical hawthorn tincture.  I’m going to walk through the steps of making a tincture for healing and magical work.

About Hawthorn: Hawthorn is a fantastic healing medicine for the heart in all its forms (physically, emotionally, and spiritually).  It is also an incredibly sacred tree, with a rich history within the Celtic lands and throughout the world.   Sometimes this tree is just called a “thorn” (such as the Glastonbury Thorn); the berries are called “haws.”  It is also known as the thornapple tree. It has strong connections with the fairy realms and underworld work.

Haws ready for tincture making!

Haws ready for tincture making!

Seeking out the Hawthorn and on Magical Timing:  I take hawthorn tincture each day; and I’ve been taking hawthorn tincture that a friend made me.  I decided it was time to make my own magical hawthorn tincture and the right time to make it is on this glorious day!  On Samhuinn eve, I spent the day with a friend visiting some local sacred sites in Michigan, including the Michigan Petroglyphs and White Rock.  When we went to the Petroglyphs (which were closed for the season) we were greeted with a great many hawthorn trees.  I found the right tree, left an apple as an offering, and gathered up many beautiful haws from the ground.  On Samhuinn day, I was back home and set about making my tincture.  The timing of these was critical–I gathered the ingredients and completed the process during the height of the Samhuinn energies, so I am imbuing my tincture magically in that way.

The broader principles here include finding a day or time of magical significance for gathering and/or preparation. I often will select events of astrological or astronomical significance, such as full moons, holidays, solstices, equinoxes, and the like so that I can add the energies of those days into the herbs.  You can consider using the planetary day and hour to craft your tinctures as well.

Opening a Magical Crafting Space: On Samhuinn day, I setup a little altar in my kitchen before beginning the magical crafting process.  I generally use the AODA Solitary Grove openings and closings when I do my own work; I find these quite effective for magical crafting (as the Sphere of Protection, which is performed at the end of the grove opening calls in elemental energies and banishes negative/harmful imbalances of energy). I’ve been working these rituals for a long time, and while they take some time to learn (especially the Sphere of Protection) they are absolutely wonderful for magical crafting work–or any other work for that matter :).

Regardless, to do the magical crafting work, you want to open up a grove of some kind with both the necessary clearing work and energy raising work–this keeps your space protected and energized. If you aren’t up for large ritual, even doing something as smudging the area, casting a circle, and invoking the elements will work.  I also like to have a small altar for crafting setup (even if its temporary, like the one in my kitchen was) so that you have the elemental energies (or whatever other energies you work) present.

Samhuinn Kitchen Altar

Samhuinn Kitchen Altar with Rowan Berries, Rose Hips, Hawthorn, and Hemlock all gathered on Samhuinn Eve

 

Wash and inspect your ingredients for tincture making.  For a hawthorn tincture, the best ingredient would be fresh, blight-free berries.  You can also make a very nice tincture with dried berries (in this case, just craft your tincture on an appropriate day for your work).  Here are my lovely haws being washed–I pulled out any berries that looked wilted, browned, or wormy.

Haws being washed!

Haws being washed!

 

Prepare your plants/herbs. For either dried or fresh hawthorn (or any other herb), you want to crush up the herb as much as you can.  This allows more alcohol to penetrate the herb and extract the herb’s healing qualities.  For hawthorns that are fresh, I prefer to cut them up fresh.  I really strongly encourage you to process your herbs by hand–you add your energies into the herbs as you do so.  As I chopped up my haws, I focused on healing qualities and said a small chant as I did so.  If you are using dried haws, you’d prepare them using a mortar and pestle.   I actually used both fresh and dried in this recipe–I had gathered haws from Strawbale Studio before the trees were cut for the oil pipeline and also from an energetic line near here, and I wanted to add those haws into the tincture as well.

Chopping haws

Chopping haws

Cut Haws

Cut Haws

 

Add Alcohol to Your Berries. Organic grain alcohol, if you can afford it, is a great choice.  I don’t quite have those kinds of funds, so I’ve tried two kinds of alcohol for making tinctures — high proof Everclear (190 proof) and high proof vodka (160 proof).  The Everclear produces a weird, strong taste, and I’ve found the Vodka to be more netural and allow the plant taste to come out more.  I’ve used Devil’s Springs Vokda and I think its a good deal for the price. I usually buy it by the half gallon for tincture making.

In terms of ratios, Cech suggests in Making Plant Medicine that tinctures should have the following ratios for fresh herbs: 2:1 and dried herbs 5:1.  These are basic formulas that you can follow for most herbal tinctures–and loosely what I followed for my hawthorn tincture.

I added the alcohol and haws to a canning jar and sealed the lid tightly, then shook up the herbs.

Finished Tincture!

Finished Tincture!

Magical Empowerment. At this stage in my crafting, I shift back to my altar and do some additional empowering work with the elements.  I left my herbs sitting within the circle of the elements and stones for some time before closing my grove.

Blessing herbal tincture

Blessing herbal tincture

A Period of Dormancy.  Just like the land entering its cold and dark period, your magical hawthorn tincture needs a place of darkness to macerate. Find a place where the herbs won’t be in direct sunlight, but where you’ll remember to check them (I use my walk-in closet in my bedroom for this purpose, since I’m in there every day and its nice and dark).  Once a day, shake up your herbs and continue to put that positive energy into them.

 

Strain herbs and enjoy. After 4-6 weeks (or longer), you can strain your herbs out and use your tincture.  I usually put it in a little amber bottle with a dropper and take drops as needed.  Since this is a magical tincture, I will strain this tincture at one of the other holidays, most likely, the Winter Solstice/Alban Arthan.

 

Taking Magical Herbal tinctures. Tinctures are typically meant to be taken orally; you can take 5-15 drops several times per day (check an herbal book, like Cech’s or Matthew Wood’s Earthwise herbals for specific dosages based on the herbal tincture you are making).  You can carry them with you, use them for cooking, and so forth.  I like to take my hawthorn tincture as part of my magical work for the day–I do a few different magical exercises each morning and evening, and I’ll take my hawthorn tincture both in the morning and in the evening as part of that sacred activity. I also will use very small amounts of it for other kinds of healing.

 

Cover Crops in the Fall Garden: Winter Rye and Red Clover October 25, 2013

Clover cover crop (seeded 1.5 weeks before)

Red clover cover crop (seeded 1.5 weeks before in early October 2013)

One of the practices that has been central to my work in my annual (vegetable) garden is the cover crop. In nature, we very rarely see bare soil–the ground is always green and lush most times of the year (and no, I’m not talking about the American lawn–I’m talking about wild, natural areas!)  If you’ve ever seen a construction site where the soil was disturbed–it quickly sprouts up with all kinds of greenery.  This is nature’s way of making sure no nutrients are lost, the compacted soil is broken up (which is what dandelions are good for) and so forth.

 

The cover crop works on the same basic principle–we are growing it to benefit the garden and improve the soil quality in the long run. While you can grow cover crops at many times during the year, I usually use them in the fall to keep my beds nice over winter and give my animals some nutrients. These crops, often consisting of various grains or other helpful plants, have numerous benefits:

 

  • They suppress weeds (called a “smother crop” like winter rye)
  • They hold in the nutrients so that nutrients in the soil doesn’t leech nutrients  when they are tilled or turned back into the garden in the spring, the nutrients are released as the cover crops rot into the soil
  • They add nutrients (different crops add different nutrients; all clovers add nitrogen, for example)
  • They also add food/nutrients for livestock in the winter (called “fodder”)–both my rabbit and chickens are quite happy to have a good crop of winter rye for the four coldest months: December, January, February and March. Winter rye is the only green thing in my yard during these months, and when I let the chickens out, they make a beeline for the rye!
  • They can give land a “rest” in between intensive plantings.
Red clover seeds

Red clover seeds

I planted some winter rye in a small part of my garden last winter; I was amazed to see how successful those beds were this year with increased soil fertility and less weeds.  So I’m expanding my cover crop usage this year, and I’m also experimenting with growing some specifically for feed for the rabbit and chickens.  We’ll see how those experiments turn out!

Fall Garden Bed Prep & Cover Crop Seeding

Fall, especially mid to late October and early November as the leaves are dropping, is the best time to prepare garden beds for the coming year. An abundance of leaves and other mulch materials combined with the possibility of adding cover crops and cooler weather makes it just so wonderful to be outside digging in the dirt.  To prepare your beds for the upcoming season, you might do any number of things, like sheet mulching, adding amendments, using a garden fork to aerate the soil, and so forth.  The basic process you can use is as follows:

1) Slash down your crops once they are done for the year.  I cut them at their bases and leave the roots in the soil (this also helps prevent erosion, and for nitrogen-fixing crops like beans, ensures that the nitrogen remains).

2)  Weed your bed, removing grass, ground ivy, and so forth.  Depending on how vigilant you’ve been, this could be a big job or a small job.  For me, it was a bigger job this year…lol. Luckily, I had help!

3) Add amendments (green sand, azomite, lime, etc) and compost; work this into your soil a bit (but only on the top layer; I usually just work it in a few inches as to not to disturb the soil ecology).  I don’t use any synthetic or even organic fertilizers, although, following Elliot Coleman’s advice in the New Organic Gardener, I do use various rock amendments as well as composted manure (from my chickens, rabbit, or a local farm) and finished compost.  I may also add mulched up leaves depending on the humus/organic matter content of the soil.  A soil test can help you determine what your soil needs.

4) Aerate your bed using a garden fork, shovel or pitch fork; anything that will allow for air to flow in a bit and deal with compact soil.  You can just stick the fork down into the soil and move it around a bit.

5) Once you’ve aerated and added amendments, level out your bed using your rake.  The back of the rake works particularly well for this.  I described leveling out soil with the back of the rake a bit more in my recent post on garlic (with photos).

6) You can take your rake then and use the tongs to make little divots all through your bed–this will help your cover crop seeds sink in a bit (this is not necessary, but is helpful so the birds don’t eat them all).

6) It is at this stage that you add your cover crop.  The cover crop seeds have suggested seeding rates.  Clover are several per inch, while rye is 1 seed per inch or so. I usually cover crop it, then use the back of my rake to work the seeds into the soil a bit.  Then I add a thin layer of straw mulch just to deter the birds.

WWinter rye seed on bare earth

Winter rye seed on bare earth

7) Watch the magic unfold! In a week or two, you’ll see the first sprouts of your cover crop.  If you plant in early/mid October, your crops should have some time to grow before going dormant for the winter.

Winter rye, two weeks old!

Winter rye, two weeks old!

Lima eats winter rye with snow on the ground last winter!

Lima Bean eats winter rye last winter!  Its still covered in snow, but she’s enjoying it.

Chicken and Rabbit Food/Winter Fodder – Winter Rye

I allow my chickens into the garden in the winter to enjoy the cover crops (their manure ends up in the garden either way, so I don’t think any loss of nutrients that they might be eating up with the crops is a problem).

Winter Rye - chickens love it!

Azuki enjoying winter rye last spring!

My rabbit, on the other hand, doesn’t really have the benefit of the cover crops in the garden.  This year, I decided to sow some winter rye for him in his area and covered most of it up with plastic plant trays so that he couldn’t’ eat it down too quickly.  My plan, then, is to give him access to small patches of the winter rye all winter by removing the plastic plant trays.  Once the project is a little further along, I’ll post pictures here.

 

Garden Update & Permablitz: Many Hands Make Light Work October 21, 2013

I wanted to post another update from my garden and update from our Permaculture Meetup, which blogged about some time ago (Here’s our meetup group site: Oakland County Permaculture Meetup).  Recently, I hosted what we call a “permablitz” or a work day where people come to help and learn.  We have 10-15 permablitzes per year, and they are always a great way to meet people, learn, and help our community with various projects.

 

Resiliency and Community-Building through Permablitzes

Its an incredible thing, seeing people come together to work hard. I talked about this a bit with my barn raising post a while ago. We live in such an individualistic culture; the idea of community aid and community projects are still new to me, and to most of us, and thus they are always special. And truthfully, I can’t stress enough the importance of community in sustainability work. One person can build something small, but several people together seem to get much more than three individuals’ work done.  We became a team, a tribe, a group of individuals working towards one goal.  Its a powerful and magical thing.

 

There is another side to bringing people together to engage in good work–resiliency.  Resiliency is a term used within permaculture design and, according to Peter Bane, refers to the degree that one “takes responsibility for one’s own household needs as part of a resilient local economy” (3). Permablitzes, community building, barn-raisings and the like can lead us to more resilient communities, where we are working together for common goals and becoming more responsible in providing for ourselves and our community. Those that came here didn’t just work–they learned something about fall garden bed prep, how to use tools, how to plant cover crops, how to sheet mulch, and so forth. They learned something about soil ecology and worked with others to enact change. The more we are able to come together and help each other, the more we are all able to learn, grow, and accomplish. This is the big picture of our meetup group, our sustainability work, and our permablitzes.

 

The Permablitz

 

We had 9  people out to work on the fall garden as well as remove some more of my lawn in the front and replace it with a “medicine wheel” bed.  We started with harvesting beans and squash and beans from my main garden and cutting back sunflowers as more people arrived.

Harvesting Beans

Harvesting Beans

After that, we finished up out 3 of my 20′ x 4′ beds plus three of my friend’s 3′ x 15′ beds.  With this work, we cut out old vegetable plants (keeping their root systems in the soil to not disturb the soil biology) and added all other parts of the plants to the compost pile.  We weeded out grass and ground ivy, added finished compost to the beds, and finally, added cover crops of red clover or winter rye.  Both cover crops help retain nutrients in the soil and prevent runoff (we have sandy soil, so this is a particular concern for the winter months and “empty” beds). The clover also adds nitrogen; the rye is a fabulous winter food for my chickens.  The rye stays green all through the winter and provides them nutrients, even in January and February!  Here are some photos of our work:

Cover cropping

Cover cropping

Adding compost!

Adding compost and mulch!

Garden before cover crops and mulch!

Friend’s garden before cover crops and mulch!

This was the conclusion of the “vegetable/annual” garden project.  We decided also to tackle removing a bit more of my front yard and put in a “medicine wheel” inspired garden for perennials and herbs.  To do this, we started by moving a bunch of wood to our fire pit (I had two dying spruce trees cut down last month that were in danger of falling on my house).

Wood stack!

Wood stack!

Then we began pulling out the grass, tilling, and building the bed.  Looking back on it, we should have just sheet mulched it, but we went for it the hard way.  Lesson learned, lol.  Here we are in some of the final stages of the bed….

Adding mulch to the bed

Adding mulch to the bed pathways

Adding more mulch as the bed takes shape!

Adding more mulch as the bed takes shape!

The process you see us doing here to establish the walkways is to put down a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard (at least 1/4″ thick to supress weeds) then add the wood mulch on top.  The mulch comes from the trees I had cut down.  The compost I purchased finished from a local company who recycles yard “waste”; all of the compost I made myself ended up in my garden and I was in need of more!

Setting stones (in a sunwise pattern, of course!)

Setting stones (in a sunwise pattern, of course!) (I am in the dark blue shirt!)

We gathered up the stones from the front of my property to make a stone edge around the beds.  Here we are setting the last of the stones….

Setting the last stones!

Setting the last stones!

And…in a few short hours, another 50 or so feet of lawn gone and an amazing and sacred place for me to plant culinary, magical, or medicinal herbs.  The weekend after this, a friend (who had been at the permablitz) came back and we expanded the bed using sheet mulching  form a circular pathway around this central medicine wheel garden. I’m going to probably put a thick layer of leaves over these beds to help keep them from eroding or compacting too much in the winter months–then plant in the spring!

Finished bed!

Finished bed!

We also enjoyed each other’s company, and had a bunch of good food!

Enjoying fresh pressed apple cider and good food!

Enjoying fresh pressed apple cider and good food!

Relaxing and enjoying the day!

Relaxing and enjoying the day!

After the permablitz ended, four of us went on a fall leaf run (we got about 40 bags of leaves for my chickens and gardens) and another two of us went foraging for hickory nuts and pears. All and all, it was an incredible day and incredible experience, and I am so thankful to have everyone’s help. This work would have taken me probably till the middle or end of November…now I can work on some other projects and go to other permablitzes this month :).

 

For those of you who are feeling isolated or overwhelmed with what you want to accomplish–please remember that there are others out there looking to lend a helping hand.  The amount that we can accomplish together, rather than divided, is amazing!

 

Planting Garlic: How to Guide October 15, 2013

Tis the season to plant garlic (at least here in South East Michigan)!  This post will talk about some tips and techniques for planting garlic in your organic garden.  I planted garlic for the first time a year ago, and it was a very easy crop–no hassle, no pests, and tasted amazing. I learned quite a bit more about planting garlic this year from my good friend and Oakland University Student Organic Farm manager, Jared….so thank you, Jared for teaching me about garlic this season!

Garlic is a crop planted in the fall, and typically harvested in July (for bulbs, the scapes come about a month earlier).  In my region, the best time to plant garlic is now–in mid October.

 

1.  Read up on garlic. One of the things you want to spend time doing when you are preparing to plant any crop is to read and learn about the plant.  One place to learn this is from High Mowing Seeds, where they describe things like plant depth, row spacing, days to harvest, etc.  From their site, we learn a lot about row spacing and mulching, which are important for our work now.

 

2. Prepare your bed. You should try to prepare your bed a week in advance; this allows your soil to settle in preparation for planting.  For my bed, I weeded it and pulled out all the old material (I had amaranth and malabar spinach growing in the bed previously), then I added compost and aerated the soil a bit with a garden fork.  I let the bed rest for one week.

 

3. Obtain some garlic. Like potatoes, when you plant a garlic clove, you will actually be cloning the plant.  I have a few varieties of garlic that I plant each year–all of it was obtained either from friends or from the farmer’s market.

 

4.  Split your garlic into cloves. Your cloves should have as much of the skin as possible; this protects them.  There is a garlic “root crown”, or the thing that attaches the garlic to the base, should be preserved.

Garlic cloves ready for planting!

Garlic cloves ready for planting!

5.  Prepare your trenches.  I planted my garlic every 6″ in rows 12″ apart.  You can use your rake to make nice long trenches.  Since I have 4′ garden beds, I created three rows of garlic (I am planting a 4′ x 10′ area).

Creating trenches

Creating trenches

Trenches finished

Trenches finished

6. Plant your garlic. I used the back of a rake to get down 2″, then sunk the garlic into the bottom of the trench (root crown down).  You can use “finger spacing” to plant your garlic easily–you’ll see me measuring with my fingers (since I know their length is 7″ across, so slightly less than their full length) to plant each garlic bulb.

Finger measuring

Finger measuring

Planting the garlic

Planting the garlic

7. Cover up your garlic.   You can use the back of your rake to fill in the trenches and smooth out your bed.  When you smooth out the bed, you make sure there aren’t pockets where water will lay or run off.

Smoothing out the bed

Smoothing out the bed

7. Mulch your garlic. I straw mulched my garlic with about 4″ of straw—this gives it a wonderful barrier for the snow to come and also helps hold moisture in and prevents erosion from blowing, etc.

Garlic mulched!

Garlic mulched!

8.  Wait and watch. Your garlic is planted, and other than a bit of compost early in the spring, doesn’t really need much attention throughout the season.  In approximately 150-200 days, or sometime around July, your garlic will be ready!

Garlic is certainly a lesson in patience and planning ahead…but its a wonderful way to start your garden for next season.  I love the fact that I am already planting my garden for next season!

 

Wild Food Profile: Dryad’s Saddle Mushroom October 2, 2013

Dryad’s Saddle, also known as Polyporus squamosus, is a delightful mushroom that you can find the spring and fall cool weather.  I first learned about this mushroom earlier this spring, and I must say, I gorged myself on it quite a bit because its easy to find, easy to spot, and relatively abundant here in South-East Michigan.  You can often see them growing on trees, even from the road as you are driving. I found another huge mushroom flush recently this fall, after we had some good rains.

The name, Dryad’s Saddle, harkens back to the dryads of Ancient Greece.  Dryads are tree spirits, usually female, with “drys” referring to “oak”, so most literally, the dryad is an oak tree spirit (although the name is more broadly used today).  Of course, you can find Dryad Saddle on trees that aren’t only oak. I rather like the name, and when I find the dryad’s saddle mushroom, I know there is a strong spirit in that tree, one that needs a saddle to ride or a nice strong mushroom to sit upon!   Pheasant’s back is another name sometimes given to this mushroom.

Dryad's saddle growing from a stump

Dryad’s saddle growing from a stump

Dryad’s Saddle is not considered a “choice” mushroom within the mushroom hunting community; I’m starting to think that people who don’t eat them have never actually tasted them, or don’t know how to harvest them properly.  I like the taste of these mushrooms a lot; the mushroom has a nice flavor reminiscent of a cross between a tangy peanut and a portabella mushroom, and if you get it when its young and tender, it doesn’t require that long of cooking.

Choice dryad's saddle

Choice dryad’s saddle – small size, all edible!

I’ve found Dryad’s Saddle mushrooms both out in the open and under full shade in the forest–always growing on hardwood logs, sometimes living trees with a dead spot, and sometimes fully dead trees or fallen trees.  As they get larger, they do start to look like a saddle, and the inside of the mushroom becomes very tough (although I bet you could still make a nice broth of it–but I haven’t tried that yet).  When they are young, you can pretty much eat the whole thing (see photo above).  When they get larger, to harvest them, you only cut off the first 1″ or so of the mushroom–cut the mushroom off in a ring around the outer edge, leaving the rest.  This is also a very sustainable method for harvesting them.

When you find one bunch of them, there are often others.  The same tree doesn’t seem to flush more than once a year–I went back to my earlier spots this fall, and they aren’t growing, but I did find many new ones in other spots nearby.  So look around, remember where you find them, and keep checking new spots to find more mushrooms.  The photo below shows the two layers the mushroom has–the top is solid and the bottom has little pores.  If you find them too late, worms will eat into them, and then you might have to cut around the worms.  The particular batch I harvested and took photos of was prime, however, and had no such insect damage!

Cut up Dryad's Saddle

Cut up Dryad’s Saddle

I do suggest once you’ve harvested them, you want to eat them within a day or two.  I cut mine into fine slices (see below) and then fry them up in some butter or olive oil and add fresh herbs.  I try to eat them within a few hours–if you wait too long, they seem to get harder and tougher.  You can use them in any dish that would ask for mushrooms–I like them by themselves or on salad or in scrambled eggs.  They are really quite delicious, and really easy to find.

Awesome salad with Dryad's Saddle Mushrooms!

Awesome salad with Dryad’s Saddle Mushrooms (and greens from my garden)!

 

Finding the Balance in Providing One’s Own Sustenance: The Time-Intensive Example of Canned Corn September 13, 2013

I’ve not been blogging as much as I did a few months ago for a simple reason–the harvest is upon us.  Starting with the black raspberries in June to seeking out wild mushrooms the start of apple and autumn olive season in early September (I will blog on both of these soon!), I’ve been harvesting and preserving food at a feverish rate. One of the things I wanted to spend time talking about today is finding the balance of time and energy to work to preserve food.

 

In my last post, I talked about the sacred relationship that one is able to develop when one grows one’s own food–this sacred relationship is built over time and with much effort and love.  Today I want to spend more time talking about the pragmatics–the sheer work–involved in being self-sufficient, even in limited ways.

 

A few years ago, I went what I called “tomato independent.”  This meant that, at minimum, I was going to grow and preserve all the tomato products I needed through the year. This is my third year as “tomato independent” although since a blight got a good chunk of my tomatoes this year, I did break down and buy some from local farmers to make sure I had enough. Now I’m trying to expand my independence to other foods I eat a lot (egg independence, jam independence, herb independence, and so forth).  The challenge is, each time I add a new thing, I add a substantial amount of new work. Because here’s the truth–growing and preserving food is hard yet rewarding work, just as any other relationship-building is hard work. Any kind of preservation takes dedication and commitment.  It can be tiring and exhausting, especially if you are trying to do it at the end of the day after you’ve worked full-time at your career (like I am). But my thinking is this–I need to learn these skills because they will be needed soon, and I need to be in a place to teach others how to do these things (again, I’ll reference John Michael Greer’s new Green Wizardry book, who argues that we need “green wizards” who can do these things to help us transition into a post-peak oil world).

 

This isn’t to say that the work isn’t important or valuable–it certainly is. But for someone who spent the better part of her adult life hitting the books to get advanced graduate degrees, and now, grading student writing and teaching in the classroom, its work that requires a different perspective on time.

 

Example: Canning Corn

I’m going to illustrate the hard work of food preservation with a recent and unexpected bounty of corn.  My neighbor has a few rows of corn planted at his farm–he had way too much. Last week, he said that I was welcome to come down and pick some corn after I indicated that I was really interested in canning some of it. I went down to his house and I picked for maybe an hour, and came back with a car-load of corn.

So much corn!

So much corn!

Now, this is a LOT of corn. Probably 200+ ears. I ended up using about 1/3 of this corn for my canning, and the rest went to two other families for their own corn preservation. So I’m going to walk you through the process of canning 20 pints of fresh corn–and the time it takes!

First, I spent about an hour and a half shucking the corn and cutting it off the cob. My chickens came and ate the cobs (and I put the rest into their coop to compost).  When I was done, I had a ton of corn.

Corn ready for canning!

Corn ready for canning!

Next, I spent another hour loading the canner, sterilizing the jars, setting up my towels and tools, and following my instructions to prepare the corn for adding to the jars (which involved adding 1 cup of water for every four cups corn, bringing it to a boil, and  boiling it for 10 minutes).

When the jars and corn were ready, I spent 30 minutes ladling the corn into the jars, making sure they were all full, wiping the rims, sealing them back up, and adding them back to my canner.

Corn is a low-acid food, and it requires pressure canning.  I was canning pints, so this was a 55 minute pressure can (10 psi, for those of you who have worked with a pressure canner before). My canner took just under an hour to reach 10 psi, and by that time, it was late and I was tired.  I spent the next hour and a half monitoring the canner to make sure it stayed at or slightly above 10 psi.  It was now well past 11pm, so I set my alarm for 2 hours later so that I could get up and pull the jars out after the canner was finished naturally depressurizing (which I did around 1am).  Here are my 20 pints of canned corn.

Canned corn!

Canned corn!

So from start to finish, including my “getting up in the middle of the night” time, I probably spent 6 hours on this process.  I got home from work, immediately went to the neighbors’ house, and then continued on till the wee hours of the night till I was done.  All this was done for 20 pints of fresh corn (which I will enjoy IMMENSELY in the winter months and which will be much more tasty and healthy than anything I could buy in the supermarket).  This is all very much worth it.  But it does beg the question–how am I going to balance work with homesteading activities?  I am really starting to see why (as I described in my previous post) Laura Ingalls and her family spent all their time preserving food.  The work of self sufficiency is a full-time job, and holding down a full-time job to have my land/home to be self-sufficient….the math just doesn’t add up.  Its a balancing act that is difficult.

 

Managing Time for Food Preservation

I guess if I have any words of advice it would be this–if you have to make decisions about what you will be preserving, think carefully and make sure you get the most out of your limited time.  So let’s look at the options:

1) Freezing is much quicker than canning, but it does require that one have a continuous supply of electricity (and out here on the edges of Metro Detroit, that isn’t always the case).  I don’t do much freezing at all because its depending on the system, and the system, more and more frequently, can’t handle the strain and we go for 2-3 days several times a year without power.

2) Canning is my go-to food preservation method. It takes a lot of time, so I limit my canning usually to only a few low-acid foods, or find ways to can low-acid foods in high acid environments (like say, pickles). Canned foods will keep for years and everything but the lids are reusable (apparently there are completely reusable lids out there too, but they are quite expensive and I have already invested a ton of $$ in jars this year!)

3) Drying is my other go-to food preservation method. I like to make fruit leathers, dry kale chips, and do dried tomatoes/herbs/fruits. Right now, I’m using a little electric dehydrator, but next year, its my plan to build a solar dehydrator so I can stop using the electricity to preserve these foods. I store my dried foods in canning jars because that keeps the moisture out!

4) Fermenting is another area that I’m just starting to explore. I made some dandelion wine, which is still in process, and I’ve also got a batch of sauerkraut that finally worked out (after 4-5 failed attempts). So these are small steps into the world of fermentation…I want to try making my own miso next.

All of these methods take varying degrees of work–and finding the balance of being able to preserve your foods and do some homesteading/self-sufficency and still hold down a career (all while being single) is a really tough thing indeed!

The Importance of Time Investment

I want to close by discussing the value of time.  My canned corn took no less than 5 hours of time–and I believe that’s time well spent.  Could I just got to the store and buy mechanically canned corn for less than $1 per can? Sure, but that changes my relationship with my food quite a bit.  It means that I’m purchasing and supporting a system that I no longer have faith in.  So, like everything else, how we spend our time is an important thing–by spending this time on corn, I’m making the clear choice of what has value to me.  This is no different than taking the time to support one’s spiritual path, and develop good relationships with our communities and landscapes.  What we value is reflected in how we spend our time.

 

 
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