And so the harvest festivals begin, when we get three good reasons to celebrate!
The first being Lughnasadh (or Lammas) - 1st August.
Hailing from the Gaelic tradition (Calan Awst in Wales).
A time to thank the Sun for its energy, we gather the first grains and celebrate with bright sun-coloured flowers.
The Calendula (Pot Marigold), shown here, was abundant this year, so I have been gathering them to make Calendula Oil, which is so good for the skin. I prefer to dry the flower heads before use, as I find there is less tendency for the oil to go off.
For 1 jar of oil I will fill the jar 3/4 full with flower heads (or 1/2 full with petals). Then I simply top up the jar with grapeseed oil, leave it in a warm, sunny place for min. of 4 weeks (or longer if poss.) until the oil is a rich golden colour. Once it's ready I strain the oil through muslin cloth and store in a dark place. It can be used as it is, directly onto the skin for soothing and moisturising, or added to ingredients such as lotions, salves, balms etc. It can even be used as a dressing on salad (so long as you use an edible oil). I find grapeseed oil to be the best one to use for general purposes as it is the lightest. Check the 'use by' date on your oil to give some indication of how long the oil will store (I have found it lasts for ages).
I placed some of these beautiful, sunny flowers on my Lughnasadh altar outside, together with Yarrow from the field and bellflowers from the edge of the wood.
I was also determined to bake a Lammas loaf in my Dutch Oven this year (a first attempt using this type of cooking pot). I used a basic bread recipe and added fresh cut herbs; sage, rosemary, thyme and chives.
I chose to use lumpwood charcoal to bake the bread, as it is easier to control the heat than with fire. It takes a little longer than in a standard oven, but it's all part of the pleasure and adds to the connection with the spirits of the place. Cooking outside, feet on the earth, fresh air, wildlife all around....makes it even more special for me.
Some of this bread would be left as an offering...so I was anxious for it to be good
(and tasty for me too of course!)
40mins later the moment arrived....
It looked like a loaf of bread, smelled like bread (impatiently waited for it to cool).....
And it tasted AMAZING! I did a little happy dance when I cut the first slices, a little butter and MmmmMmmmm!
I was very pleased indeed, and felt sure it would be a suitable offering for the Spirits of Lughnasadh.
I celebrated that night with a fire, a fine supper and a glass of homemade Gooseberry and Mint cordial/lemonade (recipe below), with sparkling spring water. Feeling blessed indeed with the first fruits of the harvest, home-grown and gifted by friends. Time to reflect on the year so far and start to consider Autumn, gathering wood for the fires, drying and storing herbs. It is my most favourite time of the year (maybe because I am August born?)
Inside the wagon I lit beeswax and yellow candles on the altar and scattered some of the grains and flowers I had gathered as offerings.
Now to prepare for Mabon .....
Mabon - Mid Harvest, the Autumn Equinox (this year 22 September in UK).
A time of equality and balance, with day and night of equal length. We start to gather the hearty and wholesome foods; pumpkins and squashes, apples and pears, berries and nuts. A time to give thanks and show gratitude for all that is good and nourishing in our lives. It is also a period when we can acknowledge the dark side, of the season and of ourselves.
Mabon is the time of the Crone, the dark Goddess, bringer of Autumn and Winter.
Grape and Vine are popular decorations for Mabon, along with hops. Many folks will collect the wild (or cultivated) fruits to make wine, a favourite and ancient offering to the Gods. Others may gather the barley or hops for ale. The apples and pears are ripening, elderberries, blackberries and plums are fat and juicy. Hazelnuts are browning (though I always have a race with the local squirrels and rarely get many nuts for myself!)
So begins the Season of "mists and mellow fruitfulness".
I shall continue to add the golden hues of Autumn to my altar spaces and begin sorting and cleaning jars, bottles and pots ready for storing the harvest herbs, roots and fruits.
The night air will be cooler then, I will probably need to light the wood-burner in the wagon and start to get used to the shorter days and longer nights as they creep in. I love the sense of cosiness, of change, of quiet time. Autumn is the time of year when I get a lot of crafting and artwork projects underway, when I read and study more. I contemplate Winter and my readiness for it - grow the woodpile a little higher, gather in the remaining pine cones, kindling fungus and barks.
It is my time of year, my Season, when I thrive. I rejoice in the abundance of nature and celebrate the turning of the Wheel of the Year - the rise and fall of the leaves.
My days will be spent foraging and preparing my outdoor space for Autumnal and Winter weather. My nights will be lit by candlelight (and one small led light for my workspace). A small fire may be crackling in the stove....and I will have a faintly smug, contented look upon my face as I work at my desk.
Autumn - It's not too hot, not too cold, it's........ just right. Exactly how I like my porridge!
The 3rd and last of the Harvest festivals will be the biggie! Samhain - the Witch's Season! Halloween. BRING IT ON!!! But that deserves a blog all of its own (so watch this space!).
Finally, as promised, recipe for my Gooseberry and Mint Cordial/Lemonade:-
250g caster sugar
3 lemons (to make approx. 100ml juice) and zest
approx. 350-400g Gooseberries, topped and tailed, cut in half.
Mint leaves, 3-4 sprigs. I use a mix of peppermint and spearmint leaves (and I sometimes add extra because I love the minty freshness!)
*Optional Extras* - if available, a few heads (2-3) of elderflowers (pulled from the stems) can add a special note to the flavour. Alternatively, a couple of handfuls of Rosebay Willow Herb flowers (bright pink) will add a sweet tone and make pink lemonade! (I will be making Rosebay Lemonade very soon, so watch out for that recipe).
Add sugar to water and heat until dissolved (stirring).
Add the prepared gooseberries and mint leaves, zest strips from 1 or 2 lemons and about 100ml squeezed lemon juice. *(Add optional extra flowers at this point too).
Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for approx. 15-20mins until gooseberries are soft.
Use a potato masher if you have one to mash down the fruits to a pulp.
Allow to cool, then strain through muslin into a clean jug. Pour into clean bottle and seal with lid, then chill! Best stored in a fridge, which I don't have, so I just keep it in a cool, dark place and drink it all over a period of a few days!
Great with chilled sparkling spring water or sparkling white wine and ice. To serve, use approx. 4-5 tablespoons cordial to 100ml water or wine, add ice, slice of lemon and couple mint leaves. Adjust according to your taste. Enjoy the tangy, minty fresh taste and celebrate the turning of the Seasons.
If you have enjoyed this blog spot, I welcome comments, shares and likes. I also invite suggestions for subjects you would like to read about or topics to discuss about the craft, herbs or wild-living/simple living.
Many blessing to you.
The Wagon Witch.