Dirt-Witching: Introduction

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Bread formed into an Inguz rune as a thank you for a harvest a few years ago.

This is probably going to be a series; I’ve been feeling the need to lay down what my practice entails and how I do it. I should probably be putting a book together, maybe – if I had the energy I’d consider it! – and I know it might end up getting torn off the internet and all the credit lost, but hey, if someone really thinks it’s a good idea to rip off the work of a witch who has zero issue cursing the crap outta fools, collect that danger money, son…

I haven’t really had a name for my Woo till now. It’s part ‘Grey-Witch’ as per Amythyst Raine, part Gallery of Magick, part stuff I learned over the years and glued together from a thousand different sources. Mostly, however, it’s what feels right at the time. I don’t have an ordained title or training from anywhere; I’ve never been in a coven for longer than a few weeks. There won’t be explanations about cardinal directions, rhymes or prayers that sound like something from a Hallmark card in any of my series on Dirt-Witching. It’s a practice cobbled together with a piece from every part of my diverse ancestry, from a popular book series or two (Headology: it works), and a fair bit of bashing my head against the wall. I don’t have a fancy title or double-barreled spiritual name; I’m just Sindr, the spark.

But for all that, the practice works.

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Grandmother Hellebore; she oversees the ‘wild bed’ and the barrier between my garden and next door. I’ve had to ask for her help the past few weeks. It’s been effective.

Now, with that caveat out the way, I have to try and figure out what my practice IS – and that’s harder for me to define. It is mostly (almost entirely, to be honest) instinctive. It comes from the bones and the blood – I never plan out rites or write prayers in advance. Everything is spur of the moment, by what feels right. A sprig of this, a touch of that, these words, this tone, just so. It means I’ve had to learn to trust my instincts; not second-guess, not allow myself to think “Maybe I should cross-reference from five different books and confuse myself for a bit when they all contradict each other”. My instincts have the right of it, I just need to be able to tune into them.

Tuning into instinct means finding something one can do as a form of meditation, a way to get out of your own head and listen to your bones and spirit. I know people who trance out jogging. Or maybe listening to their favourite music and meditating. For me, that’s gardening; the kitchen-witch/green-witch work that grows out of the soil, gives me somewhere to put whatever is messing with my brain into another spot so I can focus. It also gives the added benefit of something right under my hands I can put energy into as I raise it up and make the seeds grow, tend my crops, harvest my herbs. If something feels right to use, I use it. If the problem I’m mulling over while gardening triggers a sudden prayer to direct into the ground for the landwight to solve, I do that. A certain herb says ‘Pick me’, I pick it and use it for something that day. It’s hands-on practice; spur of the moment and often done while sweating, with dirt under the nails and sore muscles. It’s practical and low-key without badly made robes in crushed velvet, as the focus is on the Work, not in the visuals.

But isn’t this a problem? Without candles in the cardinal directions, in the appropriate colours, under the right moon, how do you know it will work? That is where you have to learn to be able to trust your instincts and not shoot yourself in the foot by second-guessing what your bones are telling you.  Yes, you certainly could decide to use candles in the appropriate colours, and work under a full moon, but whatever spell you’re trying to cast would work even if you moved the candles around, or worked under a dark moon, as long as your head is in the space where you aim the energy. That’s where the ‘headology’ comes in. I’ve done spells that were perfectly effective even though I didn’t know which way was north, I used herbs for one purpose even though one of my reference books said something else entirely. The results were the same, because I listened to my gut, and I believed what it was telling me.

That’s probably the hardest, most important lesson of Dirt-Witching; you have to trust your instincts know what they’re doing. You cannot doubt, you cannot second guess. As soon as doubt creeps into your Work, the woo fizzles out. I firmly believe this is why so much emphasis is placed upon cardinal directions, the importance of certain constellations and colours, and many books make such a big deal about them; solidifying these truths into everyone’s mind makes the Woo work. However, I think we’ve forgotten these things are effective because people truly believe they are effective, and have worked with the energies collectively to make them so. Therefore, if you can apply your belief in your instincts, it’s just as effective as a big ceremonial magick invocation.

This is one of the points made regularly through the Gallery of Magick’s books; proving to yourself that the magick works means your spells become more effective over time. If you start small and get results, you can eventually get bigger and better results because you know your spells and rituals will work. But they also bring up another point; go around telling people about your practice and you will dilute your work. Why? Because people invariably will feel the need to question your practice, your technique, and raise doubts. Sometimes those doubts may be founded, but for the most part it’s nitpicking and niggling – something the pagan community tends to do in spades. Remember, instinct cannot be questioned, or it all falls apart. Get enough people asking ‘are you sure?’ and you invariably won’t be. This kind of Witching really needs to be kept quiet, to allow your instinct to develop and create your practice to fit within your own personal experience and gnosis.

However, there should be a fair bit of caution involved here – headology won’t help you fly off a cliff, and it won’t save you if you’re doing some monumentally stupid. Research is still important to my practice; I have 20+ years of herblore under my belt, and I’m still amazed at the stuff I don’t know about working with herbs. If I have a doubt, I cross reference, and then sit with my choice. This is partly so I don’t do a stupid error which could be harmful (especially if ingesting), but also because if I feel a doubt in my knowledge, that will affect my woo, and that cannot be allowed to interfere with my instinct.

Dirt-Witching definitely doesn’t mean ‘stop learning’: I learn new things about how I do my Woo on a regular basis – even retired, I find myself streamlining my practice down to the most effective workings in ways I hadn’t foreseen. I’m always learning. There is no enforced blissful ignorance in the practice – develop your trust in your instincts and you can explore different paradigms and expand your knowledge base.  If you find a paradigm or practice that resonates with you (even if it falls in the modern common issue of being ‘problematic’), that’s because it gets right down into your bones and triggers your instincts. In my opinion, that is precisely what you want, even if your practice doesn’t have a lineage, or is completely anecdotal and ‘made up’.

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Altar Setup a year ago to honour the blessed dead. Something I just did at the time, drawing from a few sources and what felt right.

At the end of the day, all paradigms were created out of the aether, none more legitimate than the next. If you let yourself get caught up in the More Legit Than Thou wars,  you’ll spend so much energy debating about your practice, you won’t have the energy to do any work.  Do not let a lack of lineage/impressive titles/’authenticity’ kill your instinct. I have incorporated a lot of practice and work from sources from the 80’s and 90’s that no younger modern witch would want anything to do with.  I still use it, because I know it works. The morality argument of whether it’s inclusive/safespace/intersectional enough is an argument for debate – it is not an argument about effectiveness. I’ll let greater minds than mine blog about how crap witches were in the 90s and how pathetic ‘fluffy wiccans’ are – in the meantime, I’ll keep drawing down the moon, thankyouverymuch, because that shit works.

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Last year’s first strawberry of the season. This year’s berries will be a month late due to freezing temperatures and snow in April (!!) but they’ll come

Finally, and most importantly for me, the reason I feel Dirt-Witching is a bit different from Chaos Magick  and other forms of magick is due to the ‘rooted’ emphasis for me. Dirt-Witching for me is about community; it’s about doing the work that other people may not want to do. It’s stewardship and conflict management, and sometimes means you’ve got to do the hard graft, unthanked and unspoken. When I garden, I move a lot of manure around; there’s an astounding amount of rot and poo involved in garden work. There’s weeds and slugs and rainy days and floods. There’s wilt and blight and chickens that scratch up all your seedlings. In other words, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes for that image of a beautifully grown strawberry that most people didn’t see…and for me, that’s what being a Dirt-Witch is about.

In my experience with Chaos Magick, Goddess paradigm or other forms, I usually did results for myself. With Dirt-Witching, I’m doing service for the community at large, and often (more often than I’d like to admit), it’s the gritty, dirty, shovelling-the-poo type of work. It’s greeting the dead, it’s hexing and cursing. It’s bending a binding curse on a poorly behaved neighbour, it’s clearing the way when bureaucrats try to snarl people up in red tape. It’s doodling a sigil on a letter sent to the council to get the road fixed leading to your village. It’s calling the winds of change into a situation and knowing no one would thank you for it if they knew you had done it, even though it has to be done. It’s forcing change when need be, even if the initial stages will be downright catastrophic.

Dirt-Witching doesn’t have lofty goals of praying for world peace or raising the level of consciousness; it’s on the ground work, blood and bones everyday kind of work. It’s muck and elbow-grease; more often than not it coincides with doing actual, physical stuff. I’ve donated money anonymously to various local causes, I’ve written letters or visited a MPs surgery when needed – I think my council dreads my coming, now, but they respond quickly to my complaints these days. It’s all well and good to work that bind spell against someone’s abusive partner, but you also should get on the phone and offer to help devise an escape plan.

No one is going to thank you for Dirt-Witching, because if you’re doing it right and leaving your ego at the door, it’s doubtful anyone will know you were doing it. If you have a driving need for people to know how awesome you are at witching, Dirt-Witching will leave you disappointed. Dirt-Witching is quiet service; take your comfort in seeing the results bloom, seek your payment from your Powers That Be for doing the work then move on to the next thing that needs doing. And there’s always something that needs doing.

Yes, seek your payment. I have a unique take in my practice because I don’t think of my work as charity – it’s just as the word implies; work. The days of the village tending the local wise woman (if those days ever existed) are long gone, and if you want to have a roof over your head and your bills paid, you need money. Money is not the root of all evil, and I will definitely be making a post eventually about why you need to be paid in one way or another for the work you do, and why in my practice, Dirt-Witchery expects to be paid. But it’s all a part of Dirt-Witchery for me. Services rendered may not be spoken of directly, but it still gets sorted. If you think this doesn’t happen in the mundane world, contemplate your toilet for a few moments. Those pipes weren’t laid for free, and no one deals with what you flush merely out of the goodness of their hearts. Sewer and water is covered in your bills, though you’ll never see the faces of the people who work on the infrastructure. “Unsung” doesn’t mean “unpaid”!

So this is the basic groundwork of my woo – based on instinct, experience, need, and recompense. It’s a job – it’s business, but it’s deep, it’s fulfilling, and it comes from a part of me beyond words. Once you find that place, it will enrich your soul in ways you never thought possible.

It’s the Simple Things

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Cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting cooking in a rectangular pan. The Dutchman approved, hence why one is missing…

 

Beltane used to be greeted with much pomp and ceremony in my house, as well as other holidays. I used to stress myself out trying to remember to get altar spaces cleaned, cloths ironed, displays arranged. Sure, it looked pretty and I felt as if my P.T.B were honoured, but it exhausted me.

Nowadays, I’m a lot more zen about how I greet days of importance. Today I pottered about in the garden and moved around some plants, potted others on, cleaned a bagful of unwanted items and clutter out of the living room, let the Henz out, and baked a red velvet cake (with son happily enjoying the leftovers in the bowl, only about 10% of it ended up on his face or clothes). I’ve said a gentle, quiet thank-you to the silent spaces between one task and the next, admiring the budding blooms on the plum tree for the first time, counting the buds on the rest of the fruit trees, and planning installing the hazel hurdle fence. The peonies I planted over the past few years are finally coming up and maybe will bud out a bit. Sunflowers are being sown, corn and beans are in the ground beneath a protective layer of black fabric. The Dutchman and I plot and plan for the curing and smoking season (I think I might have managed to get him hooked on home-smoking food) – and we take tentative steps to meet each other’s family, and go through the mental and emotional gymnastics to introduce our children to each other and hope no one gets wounded in the process.

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The ‘pink tree’ as son calls this Japanese Maple, in early morning light

This year, Beltane falls on Mercury Retrograde – it seems to me this would be a time when things coming to fruition will meet a lot of roadblocks and crossed wires. I know a lot of people try to soften Merc Retrograde up as a ‘lesson’, but they’re almost as annoying as the people who see the Retrograde as a time of disaster. A shitty time is a shitty time, no matter how much you may want to make it sound better by calling it a ‘journey’.  And guess what? It’s ok.  It’s ok for a period of life to suck so badly you wonder what the hell you did wrong. It’s ok to be angry about it, and resentful. But then, once you’re doing being pissed off, it’s time to do something about it. I’ve had to get irritated and fight my corner this week when I really didn’t want to. I’ve had to face the music with my energy levels and decide to get donate or give my art supplies to artist friends and/or my son’s school who can’t afford materials. It was hard to say goodbye but it’s also kind of nice to not be stumbling around over clutter, too. Just as it wasn’t fun to have to complain about something I didn’t really want to cause trouble over..but was needed in the end.

Things progress. Bounty unfolds, as I find ways to juggle tasks to fit into my unfolding year. May we each find our abundance and be blessed. Waes hael.

 

How I Do My Woo

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Shelf fungus growing from fallen birch tree.

My personal Woo has gone through a lot of transformations over the years; love-light-and-fluff, hedge witching, Dreamwalker, Sacred Mourner, vengeance-bringer and psychopomp, Chaos magecraft, and so on. These days while I consider myself retired from doing Work for the world at large, this doesn’t mean I don’t ever do Woo at all. I’m just a lot more particular where I’m aiming the Woo.

I’ve definitely found I’ve discarded a lot of the trappings I used to use. No more altars, parchment printouts of sigils, charged jewellery or the like anymore. Now, I tend to just focus, using my mind and imagination as my best visionary tool for whatever I need to happen. I have a particular ritual for clearing obstacles or dealing with bureaucracy (which I have to do on a teeth-grindingly regular basis). I have a few herbs here and there for performing Work for banishing and protection, a small vial tucked away in a forgotten corner of the house for bringing wealth and good fortune, herbs for healing….and that’s pretty much it. Anything I do, I do with the idea of focussing upon my hearth and home in mind.

I’m able to focus on myself now and my small radius of loved ones, and I enjoy it. The pressure is off to create results a client will approve of, of wondering if I can really do what I’ve been asked to do, and worrying about if there will be results. That time was difficult and the Imposterphobia was pretty intense, but I learned a lot about what worked, what didn’t, and how to refine my techniques – as well as how to say no if I knew it was out of my experience range.

Every book I remember reading as a young person just taking the first tentative steps into the Craft was pretty spot on: if you ever see an older person casting a spell and getting results with apparently little effort, it’s due to years of practice. In the neopagan paradigm, I’d be heading into my Crone years now – something I wasn’t sure I could apply to myself, but if we’re talking about experience rather than age, I guess it fits. The Woo I do now looks and feels effortless – sometimes I actually surprise myself with how little I need to do in order to get the result I want.  It’s due to years of Work, basically; I found a system that did what I needed to do, I refined it, and I honed it. So now, Work does what I need it to, when I need it to, without trappings or extra bits – bits which, to be honest, are more about convincing your headology to believe in the Woo in order to help things along. Get to a point where your headology believes anyway, trappings or not, and you’ll get results, or so has been my philosophy for years.

However, being able to do Woo in what feels a completely offhand, casual way is a bit of a mental brain-trap for myself.  The ridiculous argument runs: if something isn’t rather difficult, it probably isn’t worth doing. I have found myself literally being in a situation where I knew I could push the result I wanted, and considered devising something elaborate with candles, moon cycles, and specially ground incense from my herb collection. ‘Or,’ thought my more intelligent part of my brain, ‘I could just do this particular thing here without needing to do anything but sit still for five minutes.’ Heaven forfend! I actually found myself thinking I needed to either go big or go home and not do anything at all, and so the situation would drag on and on and on (and on and on) until I finally got a clue, breathed in deeply and focussed for a few minutes on the results I needed.  Job done. I’m getting better at trying to make things stupidly difficult for myself when I know a simple thing will do.

Is it always successful? No, of course not; I’m still chronically ill and using a wheelchair when I go on outings. Strong I am in the Force, but not that strong. Still, when I need to get things done, when my household needs a resolution, an edge, a nudge in a better direction, or a block cleared, or when friends need a bit of help, I can get the job done very well with just a few minutes of alone time, and a cup of tea and a nap afterwards. Not because I’m some great arbiter of Woo, but because I’ve been doing this kind of thing for a hell of a long while and I know what works for me. I’m pretty certain we all get to that particular point in time after decades of Woo.

Progress!

Woot! Xavier is here, delivered by a very put-upon engineer who was on his day off, but he Xavier.jpgknew the chair better than the salesman I’ve been talking to, and he adjusted it to a nicety for me. I still need to do a bit of cosmetic fuss and faff (I have three different colours I can put on the chair, none of which are purple, but hey, blue will do), adjust the way the arms sit, the headrest needs a bit of moving about, the rear view mirror needs tightening but I have allen keys and there’s a pouch to put them in along the side of the chair…but, but but, my new legs are here! I am ridiculously excited and if the weather wasn’t bloody horrible I’d take it for a spin in my tiny village, just to see what it can do. This chair is half the battle for my mobility.  We still have a good month before the car is ready due to long delays, but at least it’s getting sorted now, and will give me time to get some other things done.

Spring is doing its best right now on my patch of Mum Dirt, but we’re still getting a curve ball here and there – last week it snowed one county over, and a really nasty frost took out the beans and corn I had grown indoors and planted out. Frustrating! Not entirely a disaster as I still have seed, but this time I’m waiting a few weeks and I will just do a direct sowing instead. I haven’t been well enough to move the raspberry canes like I wanted to – I’m on antibiotics now for an ear infection – and they’re about to bud out, so I’m not sure whether I will move them or leave them as they are (I suspect I’ll have Dutchman help me dig them up out the ground). Moving a bit of money about, I’ve freed some up for new fence in the back to restore a bit of privacy. I’m deciding what I can do, facing up to what I can’t, and finding alternatives whenever possible.

In the meantime, Mum Dirt awakens – my microclimate is behind the county’s climate by about a month, so I have to remind myself not to look at the calendar, but at what is going on outside. Trees here are only just starting to bud out, and the bluebells are only just starting to form – in other areas in the country, bluebell viewings are in full swing. The apple tree is starting to put out leaf and the first of its flower buds, but I’m a bit concerned about the pear (the pot is too small and I never did get it out of it). It will need a lot of watering and attention if I don’t want it to shed all its fruit again this year. I did a harsh prune on the plum tree and I don’t know if it will bud for me this year, but the prune was needed to get stronger limbs for fruiting as the Opal variety has a tendency to overfruit to the point of breaking its own branches.

The edible hedge is looking very strong this year – the annual rankings from the chicken run as a mulch layer has been doing wonders for it. Elder grows strong and I’m encouraging it to branch, wild cherry trees are thick and expansive, blackthorn looks lovely with its pale pink early blush in the leaves, the rosa rugosa is filling out nicely and I may even get some hips this year. I jammed jostaberry cuttings in between to fill in the gaps, and they’ve taken nicely and will provide plenty of food for the birds. Honey berry – very misnamed, it’s terribly bitter in my soil – provides once of the first berries for birds to feast on, and it grows prolifically.

The lower beds, which I broadcast all sorts of greens into, are showing good promise. Now it’s just a matter of keeping the slugs at bay. I put all kinds of leaf lettuce, year round lettuce, seeds from the chard I allowed to seed last year, divided up skirret from last year’s harvest, chicory of several different varieties, kale, and mustard greens. One of the beds is in shade for a good 50% of the day, so the lettuce would be better there, I figured. The other bed has some of the perennials in, such as the red sorrel, the Turkish endive, more skirret, peas, and parsnip which I will allow to bolt for next year’s supply of parsnip seed (parsnip seed doesn’t keep well, so it’s best to reserve a couple to seed over every year).

Tomatoes are in the mini grow houses – I only lost one to wilt, but the other five are growing strong and well. I’m keeping them under cover this year to fight the blight which pretty much took out my tomatoes in the back garden last year – the front garden toms were fine, so I think this will be the best option. I’ve sown some red onion sets along with the toms, and there will be some basil and calendula seed put in there as well, using as much space as I can. I’ve got one remaining grow house which currently has some peas and little else. The plan is to place two Eggplants inside, but the seedlings I have aren’t growing very quickly. I’ve fertilised them to see if I can get them more interested in growing for me. They’re temperamental plants and I suspect the overcast days just haven’t helped much, even though they’re in a window for maximum warmth.

My winter squash is started indoors and I will direct-sow some courgettes for the flowers, which is something the Dutchman has always wanted to try and cook with. I’ve also got a Tiger Melon I want to experiment with – it’s pretty thing, very small, and therefore a good choice for the short growing season of the UK climate. I’ve never bothered growing melons here due to the growing season being so short, but these are such a lovely looking variety, I have to give it a try.

This year’s garden is an exercise in doing as little actual gardening work as possible. Sounds weird, I know, but by using layered up beds with lots of cast-off wood from the wood-clearing that was done in my area recently, I’ve put down long-lasting layers of nutrient for the plants I grow to access for a while. There’s other supplies on hand I can use throughout the year like comfrey, chicken-manure wood chip, compost from two composters, so there’s plenty of ways to feed the plants I have. I’ve got as much ground covered as I can, which can hopefully deter weeds; if there’s no room to grow, there’s no space for weeds. In the front garden I’ve started using pot trays beneath the plant pots, which stores water from rain and so far has cut down on having to water much out front, and it’s something I’ll keep doing throughout the year as I add more pots of sunflowers, herbs, daisies, nasturtium, melon and squash – allowed to trail around on the ground elder and give it a fair bit of competition for space.  While the wood chip and cardboard I’ve put down hasn’t done much to control the ground elder, it’s at least adding some nutrient to the soil which will eventually break down well.

The garden is starting to give us food; I have volunteer shallots from last year all over Mum Dirt, which can be used as spring onion. Wild garlic is turned into pesto and tossed with asparagus. The first of the perennial greens are sprouting – small leaves of perennial tree kale gets added to rice, risotto, and gratins. Red sorrel goes into salads, the last of the chard before it bolts sautéed with mushrooms and bacon. The celery is growing, and my beloved mugwort recovered from its near-death experience last year and will be ready to go into another pot (it’s too precious a herb to me to lose it somewhere in the garden, I like knowing where it is). The catmint growing over Morgan’s grave will thrive again this year, and the blueberry bush I have outside already looks like it’s getting ready to give me a big crop of fruit. I’m not seeing much happening on my grape vine this year – I hope the frost didn’t kill the roots! But knowing my microclimate, it just isn’t warm enough to bud yet. As per usual, the mulberry is doing the same kind of looking-like-a-dead-tree. It’s always the last to bud out, so there’s time enough before I need to be concerned. The strawberry crowns made it through another winter – I stopped trimming back all growth in fall, allowing the leaves to form their own mulch and frost-cover. It’s worked well for several years, and now all I do is cut off old growth and plant down runners in late March, then they fend for themselves. Jacob’s Ladder is growing in several places in the garden – I’m very fond of the plant, and I think I’ll move some to the front garden this year so I can enjoy it when I look outside my window.  Soon, I’ll sow calendula, nasturtium, a form of ‘brussels-sprout kale’ that looks rather interesting, more carrots and parsnips – I can never have enough of these – and maybe some more peas somewhere, if I can find a place to cram them in. Why do I never seem to grow enough peas?

I continue to keep my end of the bargain going here for the landwight – I feed the birds (and sometimes the new resident squirrel), I keep the cats indoors during the day whenever possible. I don’t take from the forest, but I try to put things back provided they’re not invasive or problematic. My P.T.B take the offerings given, and abundance continues in my life as a result. I’ll do a post in the near future of how my Woo has changed, and how I do Work now – it will probably be a series as there’s a lot of ground to cover, but I’m still as much a witch as I ever was, even if I don’t do anything Woo for a week…I just find I need to do less for the same or even better results.

All well, all well. The year rolls out, and I sow what needs to be sown.

 

 

Convalescence and Roadblocks

 

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Two black cats (Voodoo and Jester) sleeping on my bed with me.

For the past couple of weeks (month?) this has been my view, Comfort cats and my bedroom window with light filtering in. Sometimes I feel a bit better and I push my luck and wander around with the Dutchman for outings. Then he comes to my house with a irritating cough and a bit of a sniffle, and back to the bed I go for another fortnight stint. I’ve been sick off and on for months. We’ve had to change our Rules of Engagement, and I think just how ill I truly am is starting to dawn on both of us. Yes, both of us; I live with this kind of thing and for me it’s just life, but when I see it through another person’s eyes, I realise eventually none of this is what most people consider ‘normal’.

I’ve had a lot of obstacles thrown at me of late, and I’m not sure what they mean. Usually, obstacles are challenges to teach me how to get over, under, round or through. But then, there’s the roadblocks, the washouts which remove the bridge I’m so stubbornly still trying to cross, the dead end off the cliff the P.T.B seem to put into place in order to stop me from forever trying to slog forward on a useless path. The delays to my wheelchair, vehicle and house works are astounding – so much so, I know I’m supposed to giving it a look in and figure out why. What’s the lesson here? Is this just a test of endurance, like the 2+ years fighting for my son’s education? Or is this a lesson that it’s time to STOP? But stop what?

I have my suspicions; I’ve known for a while I won’t be living in these woodlands for the rest of my days. There are things which are falling into place for this change to occur, even though I have resisted it, but from the mouths of many of my friends who have gone through similar, their encouragement gives me strength. One friend put things very succinctly “Think of how FREE you’ll be; you’ll be able to do whatever you choose without constant scrutiny!” I honestly hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s true; I’d lose a fair bit in government support, but I’ll be gaining my independence from it as well.  Freedom…to do what, per se? Well, I’ve considered teaching my particular way of Woo, or maybe writing some books, sprucing up the website and doing something because it’s a contribution to the world, and not because I’m desperate to survive and need an income.

I’ve had to remind my P.T.B that delays in various areas won’t help – regardless of whether I move from here or not, right now I need adaptations, accessible transport, better mobility. While I’ve been feverish in bed with comfort cats (and, let’s be frank, I’ve also been incredibly bored) I’ve had plenty of time to have a word or two with my P.T.B about the delays and roadblocks. I’ve examined what I could have done, or what I haven’t done to allow the delays. I’m dredged through the shadow-work of my own guilt and feeling like I’m Not That Sick and therefore am making a fuss for aids I maybe don’t need (and my OT would snort in disbelief if I even uttered that phrase aloud). I’ve explained I acknowledge change must happen, and I’m grateful for all which has been placed before me, but if it’s not actually getting done it’s as good as not happening at all.

The results?  On Friday I got phone call after phone call; bathroom start date, update on chair, post with dates for fitting hoist, pin numbers for car and chair. A flurry of activity, even though it seemed Motability was as bewildered about the delays and problems as I have been, and I imagine they had a quiet word behind the scenes. Over a month of delay came to a head all at once…so as per, my P.T.B delivered when I needed them to.

These are all temporary measures, of course – at the end of the day if all things go as they seem to be steering towards, I’ll be giving the car back in a year, I’ll be leaving the house and the adapted bathroom behind and nearly all the income I have will disappear. But the end result will be its own reward…and even so, it’s a year away.

For now, I think, another nap and an internalisation that, maybe, the lesson was to remember I am a witch, and there are things I can change, if I’ve the will for it.

Kitchen-witching and Delegation

toms

Tomato seedlings sprouting in coir pots – these were last year’s. This year’s seedlings are ready to plant under cover.

I’m a kitchen-witch; always have been, even when I’ve done my main work of Woo in psychopomp or spells, Dreaming or herblore, Green-Witching and animism. At the end of the day, all my work eventually ends up in the kitchen. I’ve made meals for the Dead, baked bread for the land-wights, poured beer for the sacred trees in my garden, dried herbs and preserved crops for use either in cooking or herbal blends for health, teas and tinctures. I pride myself on being a bit of a foodie in the kitchen, and being able to make meals from scratch is something I’ve always been very keen upon.

However, my health sometimes has other ideas. Sometimes I find myself eating more ready meals than I’d like, due to fatigue. I may struggle to find anything that tastes good – my sense of taste and smell has been off for weeks and is only just now starting to recover. I’ve had to bend on quite a few of my principles as I didn’t have the equipment or energy to do what I love best, and it’s been rather depressing.

My principles needed revision this year. To be truthful, this isn’t always a bad thing; it’s okay to let things that no longer work fade away, and revise and improve on other things. It’s a reminder my life is not in stasis, and I need to adapt (something I still tend to find difficult in many ways).

brittle

Chocolate swirled toffee brittle I made for Xmas last year. Child snuck into fridge overnight and ate entire box full.

As per usual, returning to my principles of being able to be more self-sufficient boils down to money and energy; unlike many people who go the self-sufficient/frugal route, I cannot do any form of DIY consistently. I bought baked goods and stopped making my own sausage due to fatigue, or not being able to hold a hand mixer or knead bread by hand. While bread is cheap in the UK, I prefer making my own – but the bread machine I purchased some years ago seems to do nothing but consistently ruin bread.

So I’ve been changing how I do things; a new food processor for cutting veg, a new induction hob which can be timed so I don’t burn food, a combo-oven with the same features in timing, and a standing mixer/grinder will be a new kitchen addition. I’m boggled at all the tech in my kitchen! I’m also very thankful for the privilege I have to be able to afford all this stuff just so I can continue to cook, bake, preserve and dehydrate everything from my garden.

It’s been a weird mental adjustment; in order to do the more self-sufficient-y type things round my house, I need more appliances. While a good sharp knife and a cutting board used to serve me just fine, that’s no longer the case; I don’t have the hand strength and I can’t stand for very long any more in the kitchen. The purist in me wants to turn up my nose at rice cookers, food processors, dishwashers and standing mixers, but the reality is I wouldn’t be able to cook anything at all anymore without help. I tried to just stick it out – the end result was a garden I didn’t harvest much from last year as I couldn’t figure out what to do with any of it once I brought it inside! If the choice is to cut some corners in preparation or go without…well, I already went the ‘go without’ route, and that pretty much sucked. The use-a-gadget route has been much better in the long term.

It also is great to have an enthusiastic person in the house who enjoys food. The Dutchman loves cooking as much as I do, and I’ve been introducing him to all the wonderful things around my patch of Mum Dirt; I’ve shown him where the wild garlic grows and how to harvest and cook with it (he made a delicious risotto with ramps, lemon, and truffle oil). The Dutchman measured up the kitchen in order to make some more shelves for me – because the one thing I never have enough of is storage space for jars! We’ve been plotting and planning together on smoking meat this summer – something I rather enjoyed doing but didn’t have the energy levels last year to continue with I’m going to teach the Dutchman how to brine, prepare, and smoke meat, and he’s helping me purchase a more efficient smoker system. He’s also getting a crash course in brewing beer, making carnitas in a slow cooker, and using a chest freezer (he has a pathological fear of freezing food – yeah, I know, weird, but we’ll work on it). I’m growing vegetables he has an interest in, and he’s enjoying the eggs from my Henz – he’s not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s enthusiastic about the end results, and we’ve spent many a conversation planning new meals and experimenting with new ways to make food for our households.

I don’t have the energy to do a lot of what I was able to do before – this entry has taken me two days of revision and fussing about to make, as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say, nor had the energy to brain capacity to say it. but I still retain the know-how in my head, my notes, my copious books with bookmarks and notes in margins. – so if I can pass it along to someone more able than I am, I count it as a positive.

Golden Hours

2016-02-24 17.25.33The Dutchman prefers to be the one taking photos, but I managed to catch him in what photographers call the Golden Hour for taking sunset photos. I took him to one of my favourite views, and he worked on getting his new camera to focus and take shots. I don’t know damn thing about photography but he is happy to explain what he looks for and why, and it fascinates me to watch him, try to figure out what he sees and why he sees it.  Also, attempting to understand how a view looked at with one’s eyes is extraordinary, yet perfectly ordinary through a lens.

The Golden Hours is a window of opportunity when the sky turns everything a brilliant yellow-golden hue. It doesn’t last long – maybe a half hour, but it’s the Holy Grail of landscape photography. So I took him to one of my favourite spots and we waited for the light conditions. There is a lot of ‘Sit and Wait’ in photography, and the locale rapidly turned cold enough we could see our breath within a half hour. The view was beautiful and he loved looking at it, but behind the lens he said it was ‘boring’. Go figure.

It was a matter of perspective – which I think happens a lot in photography – trying to get that perfectly emotive shot which stirs a reaction in people. Very srs bsns, especially when distilling things down for internet posts which only gives a ‘in the lens’ view of life. I sometimes imagine how long it took for some photos posts people make online to be completed – how many times did you pose for a selfie, arrange an image of a plate of food, force a pet to sit in a certain position and try to pretend it was all ‘just something I caught at the right moment’?

My garden looks lovely in photos – but no one really sees the difficult graft, or the years it took to get it to where it currently is. I know my garden is the envy of many a person, but they didn’t see it before – when it was just bramble and empty space. Or even before that, when I bought trees and put them into pots, some died, so I bought more until I got the rhythm right.  The ground elder and the gossiping neighbours, the aches and pains when I know I’m doing too much but I HAVE to get those seeds into the ground, the seedlings the Henz destroyed or I forgot to water. I don’t take photos of the rotting decking, I don’t tend to go into detail about the mucking out, or the current struggle to figure out how to put up some fencing as I have new neighbours who feel the need to keep trying to have conversations and ask me 20 questions (and for someone with a social anxiety issue, this is a NIGHTMARE).

I’ve got tonnes of seeds I still need to plant, but it’s not time to sow them yet. I’ve got things I need to get done, but thanks to catch the respiratory bug that’s doing the rounds in the UK, I’m more than likely going to be laid up for the next week or so. I’m impatient and ready to Get Shit Done, but I’m waiting for my golden hour.  The danger of doing that is forgetting I’m looking at a very nice view: instead, getting caught up in trying to create the Perfect Image, and stressing about the behind the scenes details.

I’ve been feeling very negative and stressed out lately – the government is being its usual nasty self and there’s been talks of further cuts and issues. I’ve got a respiratory bug so I spend most of my time feeling like I’m coughing up a lung, and there’s not a lot I can manage to take on the immuno-suppresants I’m on. The wheelchair was supposed to be delivered but the order is wrong, so there’s a delay in it arriving. The car has also been delayed due to mistakes the dealership made on the form. The bathroom? Delayed, for reasons. The Dutchman is getting a crash course in disabled bullshit at the moment and he’s annoyed and horrified…and I’m hoping not too horrified to decide he’s made a terrible selection in girlfriends. I have no energy for anything and I’m caught in wanting to do everything, prove everything, make everything happen, but the timing is off. I’m waiting for the Golden Hour, but it may not even arrive.

So I’ve had to sit, and stop, and actually look around. I have a wonderful garden which grows all the food we need. I have fresh eggs and a brand new kitchen tailored to my requirements. I have money for whatever I require, when I require it, because I live frugally as I can and pay attention to where my money needs to go. I have tea at hand, a duvet, cats, crocheting, and no need to do anything this weekend that can’t wait, till I recover and then feel like doing it. I’ve an amazing Dutchman who calms my panic and need to regularly lose my shit – he’s my recharging port when I feel run down and low. My son is doing well in school and thinking about what he wants to be or do when he grows up, showing new interests in new things, and learning to take care of himself so I don’t have to push myself to care for him when I’m exhausted and feverish.

Things are good, things are good, and I can send the What-If Braingremlins away for another little while, and just enjoy the view.

A photo makes for an amazing image when it works; and the Dutchman has taken plenty of good photos, but a lot (a LOT) went into capturing that one moment. For every photo he’s proud of, he’s taken over a thousand he threw into the recycling bin. But as the Dutchman was fiddling and muttering at his camera, I reached over and squeezed his hand, and he looked up and smiled at me, then looked out at the valley below.

‘It really is very nice here, let’s just sit a while and enjoy it.’

And, camera forgotten, we did exactly that.