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Today is Beltane!

April 30, 2011

Tags: Water, food, herbs, movement, order, annihilation, annuals, bacterial life, Beltane, blooming, broomstick, celebration, chemicals, cherry blossoms, children’s children, chives, daffodil, desert, Earth, fall, Gaia, gardening, gardening methods - unorthodox, global warming, green, leaves, May Dance, May First, mutations, Nature, nature religion, neo-paganism, non-turning of the soil, nourishing, novel, nuclear devastation, ozone hole, paganism, perennials, political, radiation, renewal – yearly, rite, ritual, science, Sebastian Kneipp - Water Doctor, soil, spring, spring rites, stepping stones, summer, Today Is Beltane!, tulip, walking, water tables, Wiccan, witches

Beltane is the ancient rite of greeting and revering spring, celebrated on the night that leads into the First of May. I don’t believe in witches riding on broomsticks – or, to rephrase this, modern science interprets the broomstick a bit different. But in my novel “Sebastian Kneipp, Water Doctor” the broomstick and Beltane play a major role. For that reason alone, Beltane is special for me.

The most amazing features of Nature are that she brought us forth and nourishes us, and that she renews herself yearly.

This force of renewal is enormous – but it is not inexhaustible. We can come to a point of no return if we are not careful with old Gaia, and that point of no return could come in several scenarios, all not pretty: Nuclear devastation – and in the past we have come close to several political annihilation situations. Lowering the water tables so that wide parts of the Earth would turn into deserts until nothing green grows anymore. Biological mutations in our genome, started by chemicals we deem safe now but might find out too late they are not. Overheating of the Earth – global warming; there are still people who deny that this is happening, in the face of science. Overexposure to radiation by increasing the ozone hole (we are working mightily on that one).

In my garden I practice what I call non-turning of the soil – it’s a leisurely and useful form of gardening. I leave the leaves on the beds in the fall (the neighbors got used to my untidy garden and seem to have forgiven me because they Oh! And Ah! in spring, summer and fall at the blooming results of my unorthodox gardening methods. - If one doesn’t step on the soil, one doesn’t compact the soil, so one doesn’t have to turn the soil. Between perennials, annuals and bushes my garden the stepping stones. I never, ever step on the soil because I know it is teeming with beneficial bacterial life that will be trampled and choked if I do.

So, I don’t care if you celebrate Beltane with a Wiccan ritual (be aware that most of this nature religion is less ancient than we usually think – most comes from nineteenth and twentieth centuries’ revival of old paganism) or with a Dance into May or with a walk under cherries blossoms or along daffodils and tulips or with a salad sprinkled with the first chives from the garden. But l do care that we not trample and choke our good old Earth and preserve her for our children and children’s children.

The thought haunts me that one day nobody might be able ever to celebrate spring anymore – either because Spring has ceased to return, or nobody is left to celebrate …

Composting Is Renewal of Life

July 4, 2010

Tags: order, birds, chipmunk, composting, Composting Is Renewal of Life, compost bins, fauna, fox, fruit, garden clippings, grapevine, herbicides, kitchen refuse, nightshade – deadly, pesticides, raccoons, raking leaves, soil bacteria, soil – compressing, squirrels, stepping stones, turning soil, vegetables, vine, weeds

Years ago, we moved into a house with a garden. The very next day I bought five composting bins. My husband declared that didn’t have my priorities right – with not a single cradle and box unpacked. I could not imagine what could be more important than starting composting.

You know what to throw in, and what not: No proteins – no fish, no meat, no cheeses. But all fruit and vegetable scraps can go in. Books (and better blogs than this) tell you how to layer kitchen refuse with garden clippings. My method is easier: Throw everything in, and let time do its business. With five bins, one is always ready with crumbly dark humus.

Another easy rule governs my gardening: No turning of the soil (except establishing a new bed). I don’t rake leaves in the fall; why would people take out of their garden what would nourish next years’ growth – and even pay to have this garden gold hauled away? The main point is to never ever step on the soil directly to not compress it. There are stepping stones all over my perennial beds and berry patches. That way, the soil bacteria have breathing room to do their good work.

Does my garden look tidy? Surely not. Some neighbors made sneaky remarks the first few seasons. They have long given up. Now everybody stands and stares and comments on the beautiful wild bloom of my garden. Because we don’t spray pesticides or herbicides, all kinds of fauna appear year-round: birds, skunks, raccoons, foxes, chipmunks, squirrels. Non-poisonous weeds I use in the kitchen – for instance the invasive wild vine that has more resveratrol in its leaves than red wine. Just be very aware that Nature can be fierce: deadly nightshade looks confusingly similar to the untrained eye. Know your stuff before you eat it!
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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