The Alchemy of Ritual!

SONY DSC

A recent thunderstorm caused our power and internet to go out. The farm got quiet and calm, even during the storm.

Alchemy: (Noun)

  • The medieval forerunner of chemistry based on the supposed transformation of matter.
  • A seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.

Ritual: (Noun)

  • A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.
  • A series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone.

“Life is the ceremony. How we live it is the sacred ritual” — Wind Hughes

SONY DSC

Oops! There’s a peeper in my tea cup.

I was recently chatting with a friend of mine over a cup of Earl Grey tea and munching on some tasty scones. We were laughing over some of the habits we find ourselves doing as we move through our days. For instance, I often turn on  music when I am doing my housecleaning, even though I can’t hear it over the vacuum cleaner. And she rubs her Saint Christopher medal she keeps in the console of her car before driving to the city (for protection), even though she’s not Catholic.

As we sat there shaking our heads and sipping our tea, we both paused at the same time. “What if we looked at our daily habits and practices and called them rituals? How magical would those moments in each day feel?” my friend asked.

A few days later, I paid attention to my daily chores and routine and looked for the rituals in each moment.

Sunrise close-up

Sunrise on the farm.

I am almost always up and stumbling around at the (ass) crack of dawn. Ginger-roo, the rooster, usually crows until he sees that I am upright and semi-alert. The first ritual I perform is to look out the door and check the sunrise (or cloud layer), shush the rooster, and determine how I’m going to dress that morning. Then, I fill the tea kettle and put it on the stove medium-low so the water will be hot by the time I get back from chores.

After all my morning jobs are finished, I always sit down with my hot cup of tea, light a candle, and write in my journal. This is my daily writing practice, no matter what. It does feel more sacred when I call it my daily writing ritual.

Bella insists on helping me with my farm duties.

Bella has her own rituals. Each morning she greets me as I step out onto the side porch and follows me everywhere I go. She enjoys helping with the chickens. Although she can make the rooster a bit nervous, she can be counted on to participate in the feeding, watering, and cleaning of the chickens. We have two working coops at the moment, and she takes her responsibility seriously.

Her most import ritual as the farm cat is to rub against my legs and make sure I admire her soft fur and fill her cat dish full of kibble.

SONY DSC

The fresh baked apple pie ritual.

I didn’t realize it until my daughter Kayla pointed this out to me one day, but whenever I bake, I usually hum. Nonsensical humming. It doesn’t matter if I am kneading bread dough, rolling out pastry pie crust, or scooping cookie dough, I hum. Kind of like a baked goods humming mantra. I especially enjoy the repetition of kneading bread dough and often find my mind wandering through a possible blog post or story plot while I push the dough back and forth. And hum. It’s therapeutic.

The ritual of baking: turning yeast, water, and flour into a fresh loaf of bread. Alchemy at its finest.

SONY DSC

My writing nook.

Writing, for me, is practically a ritual all in itself. Mostly a forced ritual, if truth be told. I have to actually talk myself into placing my butt in the chair and working on a project. Half of the time, I am staring into space. The other half, I am putting words on paper or on my computer screen and hoping that somewhere in all of these sentences and paragraphs there is actually a line or a thought that lights up my imagination. Or sounds profound. Or at least, makes sense.

Writing consists of much pacing back and forth, furrowing my forehead, and copious amounts of ice tea. Or coffee. It just depends. And I can find so many other things that need my immediate attention beside actually meeting the page head on.

The thing is, I have found when I take a moment to light a candle, have my beverage of choice already in place, and give a quiet nod to my muse, I create an inner space around my writing nook that kind of transports me to this notion that it is now time to write. This ritual of preparation sets the focus for my writing. Usually it works!

SONY DSC

Sunset on the farm.

The alchemy of ritual is finding the magical transformation that each moment can possess when we look at our day with renewed perception. Who knew that humming, or pacing, or even greeting the morning with a hot cup of tea could take on the quality of a delightful ritual? Certainly, there are some days that are full of tedium and frustration. I can easily succumb to gloom and doom. But when I find myself humming while I roll out that pizza dough, I can practice the magical art of ritual, right in my kitchen.

 

Please take a moment to gander at our hand-crafted herbal soaps at whimsicalmoonfarm.com.

 

A little side adventure:

Several weeks ago, I found a most amazing sight right there in the parking lot of our local Tractor Supply store. I don’t usually get all giddy over such things as this, but when you are used to seeing beat up farm trucks, tractors, or hauling-ass grain trucks rolling along your narrow rural road, something just lights a spark of delight when you espy such a sight as this (well, it does for me):

BEAUTY!

This gorgeous, mint condition, 1977 Chevy Corvette belongs to Randy Hill. He was most generous in letting me drool (on myself, not the car) and take pictures. He told me it has a factory 4-speed 350 under the hood, but assuredly the headers, cams, and other enginey things he’s upgraded gift it with 450 hp.

Big thank you to Randy and his companion Jessica for letting us enjoy (while ogling) this treat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herbal spotlight: Echinacea (purple Coneflower)

SONY DSC

Bumble bee on one of our Echinacea blooms.

Here at Whimsical Moon Farm, we grow many of the herbs that we use in our handcrafted soaps. We also grow herbs for culinary uses, health and healing, and for the pollinators. We enjoy attracting honey bees, butterflies, and many different bird species. Among the herbs you can find in our gardens, we grow sage, rosemary, oregano, parsley, thyme, chamomile, lavender (lots!), and Echinacea.

SONY DSC

Echinacea purpurea flower with butterfly.

One of my favorite herbs is Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia. It loves the sun and is a native wildflower here in the United States. Not only does it produce beautiful flowers that attract all types of pollinators, but it is an excellent support for the body’s immunity. Tinctured roots and teas made from its leaves and stem help strengthen the body’s ability to resist infection.

With flu season upon us, I always try to have on hand Echinacea capsules, teas containing Echinacea, and lots of tincture from last Fall’s root harvest. At the first sign of a tickle in my throat or a drippy nose, I begin taking the capsules as directed on the bottle or dosing myself with a dropper-full of tincture with each meal. (Dose 1 – 3 ml, up to 5 times a day.)

The roots of the plant can be harvested around the second or third year. I usually take a piece or two off of each plant in the Fall when I divide the root clumps. The fresh root can be chopped up and placed in a pint or quart mason jar. I cover the root pieces with 80 proof, or higher, Vodka making sure the pieces are completely covered. I cap the jar tightly and store in a cupboard, away from sunlight. I try to give the jar a shake each day for 14 to 21 days. When it’s time to decant, I pour the liquid through cheese cloth into a clean bowl, making sure to press the remaining pulp to get all of the good medicine.

I prefer storing the tincture in small brown or blue bottles with dropper caps. These can be purchased from many sources, but I usually get mine from Mountain Rose HerbsBe sure to cap tightly and label with what the tincture is and when it was bottled. The shelf life for the tincture is 1 to 3 years, but many herbalists believe it stays good for many years, if kept tightly capped and stored in a cool, dark place.

I often dry the flowers to use in my handcrafted soaps as they add beautiful bits of color to the bars. But more often than not, I allow the flowers to remain on the plant for the butterflies and bees flitting around the gardens in the Fall to enjoy.

echinacea

Echinacea purpurea

May this season be a healthy and vibrant time of year for you!

Please check out our handcrafted soaps at Whimsical Moon Farm.

 

 

Mischief, Mayhem, and Chaos on the Farm!

The three Furies (although furry, as well) Ichabod, Ozzy, and Piscus.

Yes, it has been a busy Autumn. Beside the usual fall chores around the homestead, we have acquired a few new residents to our farm. When Bella lost her sister, Pookie, a few months ago, she seemed inconsolable. Of course, I figured she needed a buddy. We visited our local animal shelter, and well….found a sweet little kitten. With two other siblings we just couldn’t separate.

A few weeks later, there was a knock at the door and two young ladies stood on my porch with a tiny black kitten. “Is this yours?”

SONY DSC

Ophelia. The little princess that rounds out the bunch.

As soon as she was placed on the floor, she claimed our home as hers. She immediately made her way to the food dish. The boys clamored around her and impatiently waited for her highness to finish eating. She licked her paws, cleaned her face, and promptly fell asleep in the dog’s bed.

The kittens grow daily, it seems, as they create chaos, mayhem, and mischief all throughout the house. Bella is fine, as long as they stay out of her way. She has taken a special liking, though, to the little princess, Ophelia.

SONY DSC

Bella, the matriarch of the bunch, seems nonplussed with the new additions. As long as they stay out of HER chair.

Early in August, we noticed a sign at our local Tractor Supply store. Fall chicks are here! We had already considered adding a few more chickens to our flock as we wanted to continue our small egg business next spring. I already had an idea of what breeds I would like to try, and we were happy with the chicks available. We came home with six new additions.

We purchased 3 Silver Wyandottes (or so we thought!), 1 Black Austrolorp, and 2 Brown Isas. Good future egg layers with sweet temperaments.

As the chickens quickly matured, we realized that our Silver Wyandottes were displaying unusual feather manifestations on the top of their little heads. After considerable research (thank you Google), I discovered our Silver Wyandottes were not what they seemed.

SONY DSC

They are actually, ahem, Silver Polish chickens. The ‘punk rockers’ of the chicken world.

https://www.mypetchicken.com

This is what our chickens will eventually grow up to look like. (Image from mypetchicken.com)

Not exactly what I originally had in mind, but I laugh every time I go out to their chicken coop to attend to them. They are flighty, erratic birds with friendly dispositions when they settle down. They lay white eggs, instead of my favorite brown eggs, and are not known to be as productive of layers as I had hoped, but they certainly do bring a particular ‘Whimsy’ to our farm.

SONY DSC

The young pullets graduating to their new home.

So, Whimsical Moon Farm continues to grow with each season. Signs of Autumn surround us as the raised garden beds slowly get cleaned out and orange and red leaves fall from our maple and locust trees around the property. Mornings are cool and misty and the days grow shorter and less intense.

A fat, pumpkin colored spider, bumblebee on a late Echinacea bloom, and Mosey inspecting newly harvested corn field.

Autumn has always been my favorite season of the year. As always, I look forward to the cooler weather, sitting around the fire pit drinking hot cocoa of an evening, and finding quiet, less frenzied moments to curl up with good books and write in my journal.

Here’s to a Whimsical Moon Farm Autumn season.

SONY DSC

Autumn, ready for Autumn.

Take a peek at our soaps! Whimsical Moon Farm

 

 

 

Summer Wanderlust!

img_20150703_182354039

Mosey letting me know it’s time to get up!

It is definitely going to be another scorcher today. Early morning and the temperature is already wavering around 74 degrees. I am so ‘blessed’ to have a 175 pound alarm ‘clock’ let me know when it’s time to rise and shine and honestly, I want to get moving any how.  We are in the middle of high summer, and I need to get my farm chores done early; beat the heat.

Watering and feeding all the animals has its own rhythm, and it doesn’t take long to get them cared for. I check the gardens for ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and summer squash. I had just picked several baskets-full the day before, so the pickings are pretty slim. For now.

I survey the farm and the animals with satisfaction, and realize I have a good hour or so before I have to get Kayla up for her breakfast. I have been wanting to take a hike to the pond and figure, why not? Wanderlust has been whispering in my ear for several days now and I am excited to finally oblige. I grab my point and shoot camera and a handful of almonds, and set off across the barn lot.

016

The path leading to one of the ponds on our farm.

This particular path is just wide enough for Farmer Matt to drive his Gator in between his acres of soybean. Matt leases this acreage from our landlord, who just happens to be my room-mate’s mom, Joy. Our little farm sits on about 4 1/2 acres which is situated within the 200+ acres Mindy grew up on. The land has been cultivated with corn and soybean even before Mindy was born.

It doesn’t take long for my pants to get soaked from the knees down as the grass and wildflowers are still covered in morning dew. I find myself high-stepping over the uneven ground, and concentrate on the path ahead of me.

It feels good to be out in the open, arms swinging, as I listen to the birds call and the buzz and flutter of jumpy, flitty, insects as they cross my path.

Weedy wildflowers grow all along the path, including creeping morning glory, Queen Anne’s lace, clover, and black-eyed Susan.

The path narrows as I continue my trek. I know I am close to the pond as I hear red-winged blackbirds call back and forth. I also hear the recognizable skronk of a Blue Heron, as it takes flight from the creek that runs just to the west of the pond. And the first soldiers of the mosquito brigade begin buzzing my head.

I make my way through the scrubby brush and wish I had remembered my Deep-Woods Off.  But the panic of being eaten alive by creepy mosquitos is quickly replaced by the breathtaking view of the pond.

022

The pond located on the back north of the property.

I immediately hear the splash of turtles as they slide into the water from the fallen trees they had been sunning themselves on. Another skronk across the pond, and I hear the heavy flap of the large heron’s wings. It takes flight, circling once over the pond and heads south across the fields.

I wish I could sit and enjoy the calm coolness of this nearly hidden pond, but the skeeters are pretty much driving me crazy.  I take one last picture of the serene water, and high-tail it out of there.

019

The pond dappled by the sunshine.

As I make my way back down the path, I decide to cut across one of the soybean fields (don’t tell Farmer Matt) and take a peek at the creek. Just a few weeks earlier, it was running over its bank, but now it looks almost passive and behaved.

037

Middle Fork Creek.

I scamper up the bank and decide to walk the road back to our farm. Our farmhouse looks sleepy and quiet as I make my way across the front yard. I pause to enjoy this time with myself, just a pocket of solitude that energizes me the rest of the day. I know, as soon as I open that front door, kittens will be hanging from who knows what; the dogs will greet me, tails wagging; and Kayla will be stretching herself awake, ready for her morning oatmeal and berries.

My wanderlust sated for the time being, I open that door and continue my farm day.

039

Ye olde scruffy farmhouse!

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.” — Buddha

 

Please take a moment to check out our cottage business at Whimsical Moon Farm.

Harvesting Gratitude on the Farm.

“Tears are the summer shower to the soul.” —Alfred Austin

SONY DSC

Lightening bugs on a hot summer night after a storm.

It has been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and write a blog post. It has been a difficult summer so far. Outrageous thunderstorms with incredible wind and crazy rains; the bitter loss of a beloved farm cat who was hit by a vehicle and left on the side of our road; and battles with our intermittent satellite internet have all heaped frustration and stress on our farm and household.

Our creek has flooded its’ banks several times this growing season, destroying crops and causing undue wear and tear on our land bordering it. Standing pools of water in our large garden area rotted the newly planted strawberry rows and compromised our asparagus beds. Thunderstorms came rolling in one after the other causing power outages, messed up satellite reception, and downed tree limbs the size of a goat shed. Such a mess!

Kayla planting asparagus in the big garden and Kayla holding a gnarly rhubarb root about to go into the ground.

The most difficult part of farming for me, I think, is finding the positive in these difficult times. So, after taking off my grumpy-pants, Kayla and I decided to plant gratitude along with the seeds and roots we re-planted in the garden and raised beds. We created opportunities to discover reasons to be grateful (even without internet. HaHa!)

A baby cardinal in our maple tree, dandelion fluff, a bullfrog in our impromptu pond, beautiful sunsets, and the first strawberry growing in our pots on the front porch.

One afternoon, while barbecuing cheeseburgers, we discovered a baby cardinal newly fledged from its’ nest. A tiny mohawk crest on its’ head.  We listened to the bullfrog chorus each evening calling back and forth in the ‘pond’ that had formed in Farmer Matt’s soybean field. Kayla was thrilled when she discovered the first tiny strawberry growing in one of the pots on our front porch. And the summer sunsets are gorgeous.

We made it a point to slow down on our walks and listen carefully and observe deeper. We were thrilled when we discovered a cicada hiding in a basket near the chicken coop and the farm cats continued to amuse us in so many ways.

Cicada in the basket, kissing kitties, tree frog on the porch.

This summer season continues and we are grateful for satellite internet that currently works. We are thrilled to see vegetables on the vines each time we go out to the raised beds to harvest. Cucumbers, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, lettuce greens… the list continues and we are thankful for tasty summer salads. We enjoy stacking new rows of canned sauce and jam jars on the pantry shelves. We love the sunshine and we love watching the chickens peck in the tender grass for bugs and tidbits.

Living on the farm can be tenuous and difficult at times, but isn’t that just part of being a curious soul in these human bodies? That’s what Kayla and I believe.

Sunflower, romaine lettuce, cherry tomato, and Ginger-Roo, our resident rooster.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” —John Lubbok, ‘The Use of Life’.

 

SONY DSC

In loving memory of our beloved farm cat, Pookie!

Please check out our website at Whimsical Moon Farm!

 

Molly Mooching!

Morels

Freshly picked morel mushrooms.

My roommate Mindy and I picked our way through the woods, carefully stepping over fallen tree limbs and budding brambles. The morning was warm and the sound of bird call echoed through the trees. Mindy knew these parts of the woods well, pointing out a slight rise as she explained to me what I was looking for. You see, Mindy has been roaming these woods since she was knee-high to a grasshopper and she was about to share with me one of her family treasures: the coveted morel patch.

The previous evening we had a warm Spring rain and this particular morning was clear and bright. Perfect conditions for the tasty morsels to make their appearance. Mindy explained to me that they were a rare find because they require such specific conditions including old growth hardwood forests; the deer enjoy dining on them, often before we can find them; plus, they are only harvestable for about three days.

Mindy showed me areas around the rotted wood and spongy lichen where they are usually known to grow. Dried brown leaves from last Autumn still littered the forest floor, so we gently pushed the leaves aside as we walked hunched over like a couple of elderly nuns.

Suddenly, Mindy let out an excited squeak as she reached down between some flowering wake-robin and pinched off a small, wrinkled, knobbily gnome shaped fungus. “Got one”, she said as she held it out for my perusal.

Within a few minutes, she had discovered four or five more of the mushrooms in the vicinity. I had yet to find one myself.

Molly mooching, as morels are often called in the Appalachians and West Virginia are actually Morchella esculenta. They are a highly prized delicacy by both professional chefs and home cooks. Currently, you can purchase 16 ounces of these dried mushrooms for $305.40. From Walmart.

I had read earlier that mushroom ethics mandate a mesh bag for gathering the gems, so the spores can scatter to the ground as you carry home your harvest. This time, we were not quite as technical as we carried our small bounty back to Mindy’s mom’s house in a grocery bag. Mindy’s mom, Joy, submerged them in a bowl filled with water and placed a plate on top of them so they would stay submerged for a period of several hours. This was to purge them of dirt and crawly things.

When it was time to cook the mushrooms, Joy placed a couple of eggs lightly beaten in a shallow bowl and whole wheat flour in another bowl. She melted half a pound of butter in a large skillet on medium low heat. The morels were sliced in half and Joy first dipped them in the eggs then dredged them in the flour before placing them in the skillet to fry. She seasoned them with a little salt and cracked black pepper and allowed them to cook just until golden on one side before turning them over. She then cooked them a few minutes more on the other side, until lightly browned, and then scooped them onto paper towel to drain.

Fried morels

Fresh batch of butter fried morels. YUM!

There is nothing I can compare these tasty butter fried mushrooms to in flavor. They are uniquely mild and earthy with a savory umami deliciousness. Crispy and crunchy, they are a delightful treat.

Our harvest this time provided Mindy, Joy, my daughter Kayla, and I a taste of an elusive prized delicacy. After we were done licking our fingers and exclaiming our pleasure to one another, Mindy informed us she would be going back out again tomorrow morning.

SONY DSC

Nessie’s pond located in the middle of the woods where we picked the morels.

We would love it if you took a gander at our handcrafted herbal soaps made right here on Whimsical Moon Farm.

A Bump in the Road!

SONY DSC

The bridge over Middle Fork Creek creating a slight bUMp in the road. This picture was taken late this Winter from our barn lot.

Many people consider a ‘bump in the road’ to indicate misfortune, a detour, or an obstacle to overcome. Here on the farm, we consider it to be a windfall or an opportunity.

You see, we live on a narrow rural road, straight and flat for miles, running East and West from one state road to another. Large grain trucks, a few commuters, and beat-up old farm trucks run up and down this road, often at indecently high speeds. The little bridge spanning our creek creates a slight bump in the road, and if you don’t slow down, may cause a jolt to the driver, and in some cases, loss of cargo in the back of the truck bed.

For instance, one day I was bemoaning the lack of straw that I needed to line the chicken run area. Lo and behold, there on the side of the road next to the newly planted soybean field, I saw a straw bale tilted at a funny angle. Huh! Where did that come from? I peered up and down the empty road looking for the owner and realized it must be up for grabs.

SONY DSC

My scavenged straw bale found on the side of the road.

So, I fairly sprinted down the road pulling my favorite garden wagon, hefted the bale onto the wagon, and made my way back to the chickens, my loot in tow.

It was probably a few months later when we were coming home from grocery shopping and found  three rustic wooden crates stamped with One Bushel Bean Crate  on the side. They were scattered across the road and the side ditch just past my now favorite bump in the road.

SONY DSC

Battered but useful green bean crate. 

One of the crates was damaged beyond repair, but we now use the remaining two as storage and porch tables for holding chilled ice tea. Perfect ‘farm chic’ decor.

Opportunity and fortune continued to fall on the farm (literally) when one morning, while savoring a hot cup of coffee on my front porch, I noticed a wood pallet sitting right square in the middle of the driveway. Seriously, I can’t even make this stuff up.

SONY DSC

The scrounged wood pallet.

As of this writing, we still haven’t figured out what we will use it for, but rest assured, it will find its purpose and destiny right here on the farm.

Another recent addition to the farm probably didn’t fall off the back of a wagon, but it did wander onto the front porch one evening meowing and purring, all cute and cuddly. Cats often show up out of the blue and soon move along, but this cat decided to adopt us as his own.

SONY DSC

Luna Kitty stretching in the early morning sunshine.

We made him a home on the front porch with our critter cage and moving blankets until we can get him ‘fixed’. Kayla named him Luna because he has a round, moonly face. It has taken a lot of hissing and meowering from our girl cats to finally warm up to him, but they seem to have worked out some sort of agreement and tentatively get along.

Last but not least, for the moment, the latest edition to the Whimsical Moon Farm menagerie is a fine young rooster named Ginger.

SONY DSC

Ginger Roo is an Easter-egger with beautiful shiny feathers and a robust singing voice.

Ginger came to us from my daughter, Chelsie one early morning via parcel post. Chelsie has a small flock of laying hens in her back yard in Seattle, WA. One of the two recent additions to her flock grew up to be a rooster. With a heavy heart, she called me one evening and asked if I would be able to take her rooster. The city, and her neighbors, frowned on his newly developed vocalizations.

Several days later, I received a call from the local post office at 7:08 am. “Hello, is this Terri May? Yes, well….we have your rooster here. When can you pick him up?”

A nice postal worker greeted me at the back door and allowed me into their ‘inner sanctum’. I could hear Ginger, plainly it was him, as the worker had me sign a form and quickly placed a large shipping box with a handle and air vents into my waiting hands.

 We got him set up in his temporary cage with fresh water, chicken crumble, and a few slices of his favorite apple. After a few days in a separate cage next to the hens, we slipped him in the roosting area late in the evening while the hens were sleeping. The next morning, the ‘girls’ woke up to a new dude in the chicken coop. What a pleasant surprise.

When Ginger-roo crows early in the morning, I always have to smile. It feels like we are really a ‘farm’ in the capital F sense of the word.

What is that saying? When life hands you lemons, make lemonade? Well, faced with a ‘bump in the road’, we find it quite easy to see it as an opportunity. The universe saying, “here, I bet you can use this straw bale”.

409

Life on the farm!

We would love it if you found a few moments to check out our hand-crafted herbal soap cottage business at Whimsical Moon Farm.