Monday, 31 January 2011

Creative Natives

Littleun loves books and he has started to read fairly nicely coming home from school with prizes for getting better. As such having a few pence left on a book voucher card I got given at Yule I thought I would treat him to something from waterstones. His choice, anything he wanted (well excluding those blood thirsty things he seems intent on having nightmares with!). I do love wandering about the bookshops and as he does too was looking forward to a good hour or so browse. This time though Littleun surprised me and found something within only a few minutes.

Creative Natives is a book I’d recommend to anyone but those who already love nature will really enjoy it too. Written By Sam and Steve Sullivan and illustrated by Maggie Sam it is a short story following the day of a family and their friends. The story works through the woods and tells them about things they find, how to make a den, animals in the area and working together. In the margins of the pages are beautiful little drawings of all sorts ranging from different types of bark, leaves, berries, animals to help you teach the basics to your littleun. It also shows via the story how to make things like mobiles out of twigs, leaves and other similar debris and how to respect each other and nature as well as talking about the seasons.

Well worth the read and a good reference point with a fun story I was more than happy to get it for Littleun and will definitely be watching out for any more that might come this way.
Creative natives ISBN: 978-0-9558023-0-0

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Imbolc: How to make a Priapic wand

We, as I mentioned yesterday, make a new wand every year, taken from the strongest branches and scavenged from the offerings dropped to the ground, plus the odd bell or two! It’s an easy and fun thing to do with Littleuns and involves them in the process of the new growth for the new year.

(Last years, I have a broken camera so can't get a photo of this years!)

If you fancy making one this is how we did ours:

You will need
a good stick, strong and about 2/3rds inch in diameter
an acorn
some ribbon, any colour but we tend to use those of new growth, browns, greens and yellows
some bells
craft glue or hot glue gun (but if you are using that make sure Littleuns are safe!)

Strip the bark, sometimes people strip the bark all the way down before hand but we tend to only strip about 2 inches. Cut a notch into the tip of the stick, glue the acorn to the tip. Wrap the ribbon around the top and glue into place. Add bells either to the ends of the ribbons or like we did as the bells were already on a strip of wire we added it as one independent item.

Once the wand is made and dry take it and the children outside. I have explained to Littleun about the God of the forest in our case Cernunnos, and a little bit about things in the earth need to grow to the light in order to produce our flowers and food (waking the earth). Littleun then waves the wand and does his chant as we give thanks for the (hopefully) forthcoming shoots!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The allotment and with Imbolc around the corner

Well just when I thought it was getting warmer the cold is back. Which is a bit frustrating as we have been preparing for the new season up at the allotment and now the ground has gone from soaking to frozen.

We celebrate Imbolc a little differently than some might. We tend to use it as a way to start new with the shoots of the bulbs we put in around Samhain time now showing. We have planned out what we want to do with the allotment and now is the time to start clearing greenhouses in readiness for the seeds to be sown.

It’s a lot of hard work and as I am still learning sometimes it can be frustrating. The ground has some sort of strange long grass which instead of a root mat structure seems to have bulbs and is a devil to get out. This all needs to be cleared before I can dig over and as I’m not that fit plus trying to get it done around work means that it is a lot slower going than I hoped it would be. But we are getting there. The diagram below shows what we are hoping to grow in the season and we are about half way across the potato patch (about 2½ metres). Little has a spade and fork just the right size and mixed in with playing with the toys comes and digs over for me. Though more often than not get sidetracked by the fascination of watching fat worms dig back into the earth!

Last year for Imbolc we made a Priapic wand and at Samhain burnt it as part of the turning from old to new by creating light for the forthcoming nights. So we have spent today making a new one. Which after a lot of thought and care Littleun took up with us to help the bulbs and we will be taking it with us to the green house in a few weeks when we start the seedlings. Littleun has already waved it several times over the potatoes out to chit and has made a chant of his own as he does this:

“Grow and grow and grow so I may grow and grow and grow. Thank you very much”

Which I was pleasantly surprised at, it would seem he does listen when I explain to him about Cernunnos. It’s a much simpler chant than the one I use but it sums it up, and the way he adds the thank you is very funny, in this little voice as if to say oops must not forget that bit!

Anyway that’s enough rambling for today, my bread is yet to be kneaded for the second round and there’s a toyroom to inspect!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Cherries Galore

It’s that time where I start to bake again. Having dragged myself out from under the 31days of Hades (otherwise known as the Tax Return season) I am now free to do a bit more of my things. This is a recipe for a friend who only likes cherry cakes. Unlike most that seem to use glace cherries this one uses fresh so would be better for the summer months but I am splashing out (I know goes against my live within season thoughts but he is worth it) and getting them now.

250g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
350g fresh cherries
8tbsp granulated sweetener
5 eggs, separated
1tsp almond extract
150g ground almonds
100g self-raising flour
You'll also need:
20cm loose-base cake tin or spring form tin

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a loose-base cake tin or spring form tin. Grease the paper. Halve and stone the cherries.
2. Using a hand-held electric whisk, whisk together the butter and all but 2tbsp of the sweetener until pale, creamy and very soft. Whisk in the egg yolks, almond extract, ground almonds, flour and 1tbsp warm water.
3. Whisk the egg whites in a thoroughly clean bowl until they form soft peaks, then whisk in the remaining sweetener. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold a quarter of the egg whites into the almond mixture. Gently fold in the remainder with half the cherries.
4. Turn the mixture into the tin and spread it out in an even layer. Scatter the remaining cherries on top. Bake for about 50 mins until the cake has risen and firm to the touch. Test by piercing the centre of the cake with a skewer, it should come out fairly clean. Leave to cool in the tin then transfer to a serving plate. The cake can be stored for a couple of days without drying out.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Wassail Chant part two

Well they sang it in rounds, not sure they meant too but it was fun. The film is wobbly sorry, difficult to keep a littleun away from the draw of flames whilst filming at the same time! But hopefully you'll like it.

Was a fantastic evening, catching up with friends, new and old. Celebrating the apple trees. Oh and the smell, of the hot ciders, the fire, the hog roasts just lovely. Littleun enjoyed it, dancing away to the drum beat, watching the Morris sides (only Borders though not sure why) singing the tunes. Beats Saturday tv anytime!

Wassail Chant

Oh Apple Tree we honour thee,
In hope that you will bear
The Blessed fruit of Avalon,
At harvest time each year.

Each golden apple you bring forth,
A gift to Aphrodite,
Has at is heart a pentacle,
The symbol of her mystery.

Your blossom heralds Springtime,
Your leaf brings summer shade,
Let Samhain's harvest cup be filled,
With Cider freshly made.

When winters cold envelopes you,
In wind and rail and hail,
Then we'll return each year to bring,
Our grateful thanks,

Guess where we have been tonight...