Happy Solstice – The Return of the Light

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Up here in the North, the skies are dark even at mid day.  Clouds and rain add to the gloom. [update]  How dark is it?  My dusk to dawn lights came on before noon.

But that is all about to change (albeit slowly) for tonight is the longest darkest night, and the light will begin to return.

Happy Winter Solstice! (Of course, it is only Winter Solstice for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere; happy Summer Solstice to our friends South of the equator)

Winter Solstice 039

Winter Solstice is the promise of new life; we really won’t notice the days getting longer until closer to Candlemas/Brigid/Ground Hog’s Day.

Tonight, a group of friends and loved ones will gather in my back yard for a bonfire (we may need rain gear this year). We will write down what we want to leave in the darkness as well as what we want to bring with us into the light and put those into the fire (which was of course, the yule log) The smoke from that fire will send our wishes to the heavens. (in a wish lantern, weather permitting)  We will then, “pass the light”, candle to candle whilst listening to (and in many cases, signing) Dar Williams, “The Christians and the Pagans”. We then all sang along to “Here Comes The Sun” a Solstice classic. We will then share food, drink and merriment through the darkest night.

It doesn’t matter what religion you are or aren’t. It doesn’t matter what you believe. The Solstice is an astronomical event that draws everyone together at this time of year to celebrate light, love and hope.

Each year, I love to post the Northern Exposure video to the story Raven Steals the Light being told (I’ve used it for the children’s story at Solstice rituals in years past)

It is a traditional story from the Northwest Coast and Alaska.

I like this Northern Exposure version.

Not everyone knows this, but the town of ‘Cicily Alaska” is about an hour and a half from where I live, and is in fact Roslyn Washington (yes, I’ve been to The Brick)

and here’s another wonderful story of light in a magical part of the world (the Great Pacific Northwest)…

And of course, my traditional Solstice post/greeting…

On this night, around 3,000 years BC, a very special event unfolds at a place we now call Newgrange. A group gathers around a large circular stone structure. A drumbeat resounds across the mist-shrouded hills of ancient Ireland, bump bump… bump bump… bump bump…; The heartbeat of mother earth. The scent of incense mingles with moss, moist earth and the burning torches. All gaze hopefully towards the eastern horizon. After what seems like an eternity, it happens, the rising sun begins its ascent. Once again all attention is turned to the structure with great anticipation. Suddenly an intense shaft of light pierces the innermost chamber of the structure, illuminating a stone basin adorned with carvings of spirals, eyes, solar disks, and other sacred symbols. A joyful sound rises from the crowd, who then begin to dance ecstatically. For the darkest darkness of winter has passed, and the light has returned. Soon: the hills will be covered in fresh green grasses and wildflowers, trees will bloom and set fruit, animals will give birth, the songs of birds will fill the skies. The cycle of life will continue. The world, once again, has been reborn.

Tonight we celebrate an event, which predates our modern religious celebrations, an event as old as time its self. Just as events like this were observed at Newgrange Ireland, we find similar ancient architectural wonders based on solstices and equinoxes all across Europe, Asia, The Americas, Indonesia and the Middle East. Thousands of years ago, these monolithic structures were built and elaborate ceremonies held, out of reverence for the cycle of life, and perhaps the fear that without human intervention, the sun would not return.

At the winter solstice, the tilt of the earth on its axis, is such that our hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, our days are shortest and the sun is at the lowest arc in the sky. For thousands of years, our ancestors honored the cycles of life: solstices, equinoxes, harvests and plantings. The winter solstice is perhaps the most sacred of these celebrations. So sacred in fact, that modern religious observations all over the world take place on or near the time of the solstice. Solstice observance is not a celebration that excludes or dismisses any other religious celebration; rather it is the common bond of many modern and not so modern religions.

The time of the winter solstice represents death and rebirth, just as corn stalks wither and die in the fields in the fall, so does the symbolic god give his body to nourish the earth, only to be reborn of the goddess again on this darkest night. The original divine birth. Is it any wonder then: that the Christian church chose this sacred time of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Hebrew people to celebrate the Festival of Lights, or Native Americans and other aboriginal peoples to celebrate their sacred events?

Solstice is not only a time to celebrate the retreat of darkness and the return of the light, but it is a time to look inward, at the darkness within ourselves and to embrace it. For without darkness, there would be no light. Without challenge, there would be no triumph. It is a time to celebrate the death of old habits, thought patterns, and difficulties, a time to celebrate a spiritual renewal. The darkness gives us all a chance to embrace and work through our own darkness, so that like the earth, we may also be renewed.

L. Lisa Lawrence
Copyright 1998

Here’s our observance from 2007 (the video is just too much fun!)

Here’s one from two years ago, in my back yard. For the last several years, the weather has cooperated for a bonfire even when the forecast is for a 100% chance of rain. Last night, the howling winds stopped just before we were ready to move outside.

Here are the songs from the video, my favorite Winter Solstice songs…

“The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said, “We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay.”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style,”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been a while.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning,” and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, you’re cousin’s not a Christian,
But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from , I think magic’s in the learning,
‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother.”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here.”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve,
Saying, “Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “We’ll discuss it when they leave.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
And making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold…

And of course, the required Solstice tune…

“Here comes the sun” by the Beatles

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right
It’s all right…

Just now, it just now… happened…

Blessed Solstice all, let’s look to the light.

~L



stat tracker for tumblr

The Day Before Solstice

The day before solstice
Dark… gray…
oppressive

Reflections on a cycle of pain for many
Death… suicide…
suffering

Concerns swirling through their minds
Out of work… cancer…
overwhelming

Bearing witness to it all
Sadness… pain…
helplessness

Obligations to fulfill
Parties…. cards…
ritual

Doing what needs to be done
art to create… words to write…
busyness

Tomorrow
home full of loved ones… the light returns…
Hope

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Dog On The Street Tacoma Snow Report

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Frodo the Wonder Corgi and his human took a little jog on Tacoma’s Hilltop over to Wright Park to check out the snow.

This is what we found…

It was a winter wonderland of kids sledding and building snowmen.

Stay tuned tomorrow; it’s only going to get better.

~L



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Light, Love and Hope

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Last night, a group of friends came over to celebrate Solstice.

These friends were from a wide variety of backgrounds: Unitarian, First Nations, Eclectic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Wiccan, and those just seeking; all of us drawn together by the season.

We gathered around the bonfire in my back yard to celebrate the shared theme of the season: Light, Love and Hope.

We burned what we wanted to leave behind in the dark, and offered up what we wanted to bring with us into the light.

We passed the light, sang a rousing rendition of “Here come’s the Sun” and set our hopes and dreams afloat on a Wish Lantern.

After that, we went back into the house where I cooked up my infamous once a year, Solstice only treats, Crab Rangoons and stuffed mushrooms. (which were devoured in short order)

We had music (guitar and song), food, drink, friendship and a wonderful start to the season of light.

I posted video of the observance (even edited down, it’s long, so you might want to get a snack or beverage)

Tonight after doggie class, I need to get my fire stuff together and head over to another solstice observance and spin some fire! (in sub freezing temps, so much fun!)

How wonderful is it, that so many traditions gather at this sacred time of year to celebrate Life, Love and Hope?

~L



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Here Comes the Sun! Winter Solstice 2011

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Happy Winter Solstice (to those in the Northern Hemisphere; happy Summer Solstice to our friends South of the equator)

It’s only Solstice today for those of us in the US Central Time Zone and West. It will be at 9:30 PM tonight West Coast Time and it is 5:30 AM GMT/UTC).

Winter Solstice 039

The days will slowly get longer again. For those of us in the far dark, frozen North, this is a big BIG deal!

Winter Solstice is the promise of new life; we really won’t notice the days getting longer until closer to Candlemas/Brigid/Ground Hog’s Day.

Tonight I will gather with a group of friends to celebrate the solstice. There will be food, drink and friendship as part of our annual observance. (the cool thing is, the event will occur while we are gathered 🙂

We will burn the Yule log (log from my friend Patricia’s yard, a bit of last year’s tree, boughs from this year’s tree and herbs from my garden) in the fire pit outside and pass the light from that fire to a circle of friends, we will put our wishes for the new season into a wish lantern and then we’ll return inside for more food, fun and drink.

It doesn’t matter what religion you are or aren’t. It doesn’t matter what you believe. The Solstice is an astronomical event that draws everyone together at this time of year to celebrate light, love and hope.

Each year, I love to post the Northern Exposure video to the story Raven Steals the Light being told (I’ve used it for the children’s story at Solstice rituals in years past)

It is a traditional story from the Northwest Coast and Alaska.

I like this Northern Exposure version.

Not everyone knows this, but the town of ‘Cicily Alaska” is about an hour and a half from where I live, and is in fact Roslyn Washington (yes, I’ve been to The Brick)

and here’s another wonderful story of light in a magical part of the world (the Great Pacific Northwest)…

And of course, my traditional Solstice post/greeting…

On this night, around 3,000 years BC, a very special event unfolds at a place we now call Newgrange. A group gathers around a large circular stone structure. A drumbeat resounds across the mist-shrouded hills of ancient Ireland, bump bump… bump bump… bump bump…; The heartbeat of mother earth. The scent of incense mingles with moss, moist earth and the burning torches. All gaze hopefully towards the eastern horizon. After what seems like an eternity, it happens, the rising sun begins its ascent. Once again all attention is turned to the structure with great anticipation. Suddenly an intense shaft of light pierces the innermost chamber of the structure, illuminating a stone basin adorned with carvings of spirals, eyes, solar disks, and other sacred symbols. A joyful sound rises from the crowd, who then begin to dance ecstatically. For the darkest darkness of winter has passed, and the light has returned. Soon: the hills will be covered in fresh green grasses and wildflowers, trees will bloom and set fruit, animals will give birth, the songs of birds will fill the skies. The cycle of life will continue. The world, once again, has been reborn.

Tonight we celebrate an event, which predates our modern religious celebrations, an event as old as time its self. Just as events like this were observed at Newgrange Ireland, we find similar ancient architectural wonders based on solstices and equinoxes all across Europe, Asia, The Americas, Indonesia and the Middle East. Thousands of years ago, these monolithic structures were built and elaborate ceremonies held, out of reverence for the cycle of life, and perhaps the fear that without human intervention, the sun would not return.

At the winter solstice, the tilt of the earth on its axis, is such that our hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, our days are shortest and the sun is at the lowest arc in the sky. For thousands of years, our ancestors honored the cycles of life: solstices, equinoxes, harvests and plantings. The winter solstice is perhaps the most sacred of these celebrations. So sacred in fact, that modern religious observations all over the world take place on or near the time of the solstice. Solstice observance is not a celebration that excludes or dismisses any other religious celebration; rather it is the common bond of many modern and not so modern religions.

The time of the winter solstice represents death and rebirth, just as corn stalks wither and die in the fields in the fall, so does the symbolic god give his body to nourish the earth, only to be reborn of the goddess again on this darkest night. The original divine birth. Is it any wonder then: that the Christian church chose this sacred time of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Hebrew people to celebrate the Festival of Lights, or Native Americans and other aboriginal peoples to celebrate their sacred events?

Solstice is not only a time to celebrate the retreat of darkness and the return of the light, but it is a time to look inward, at the darkness within ourselves and to embrace it. For without darkness, there would be no light. Without challenge, there would be no triumph. It is a time to celebrate the death of old habits, thought patterns, and difficulties, a time to celebrate a spiritual renewal. The darkness gives us all a chance to embrace and work through our own darkness, so that like the earth, we may also be renewed.

L. Lisa Lawrence
Copyright 1998

Here’s our observance from 2007 (the video is just too much fun!)

Here are the songs from the video, my favorite Winter Solstice songs…

“The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said, “We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay.”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style,”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been a while.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning,” and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, you’re cousin’s not a Christian,
But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from , I think magic’s in the learning,
‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother.”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here.”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve,
Saying, “Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “We’ll discuss it when they leave.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
And making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold…

And of course, the required Solstice tune…

“Here comes the sun” by the Beatles

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right
It’s all right…

In a little under thirteen hours, the world is reborn again and will be filled with exciting possibilities!

~L

Mood: Here Comes the Sun!!!



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Making the most out of the SUNSHINE

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Yesterday was the last sunny day forecast for Grit City for a while, so as soon as I got home from work I hit the yard.

What I WANTED to do was sit on my sunny front porch with a tasty beverage and enjoy the view of the park across the street.

Seriously, who wouldn’t want to sit and enjoy the beautiful day we had today?

My daffodils want to bloom oh so badly.

Garden, February 2011 002

and my tulips are coming up as well

Garden, February 2011 003

Instead of sitting there enjoying the glorious afternoon, I sucked it up and got to work.

The first thing I did was fire up the chain saw to FINALLY take care of my Yule tree. Tomorrow is yard waste pickup and the last few yard pickup days, it’s been snowy or rainy or otherwise unsuitable for being outside cutting up a tree.

*note for those who don’t live in Tacoma, there is no Christmas tree pickup here (unless you pay the Boy Scouts) if we want the city to pick them up and mulch them, we have to cut them up in pieces small enough to fit in our yard waste containers.

Garden, February 2011 005

I was cursing the cheap consumer grade saw I settled for (I got spoiled by big, burly professional saws when I worked for the Forest Service) as I was trying to start it. Then I noticed that the switch was set to “off”. UGH!

Once I got it started, I made short work out of the tree.

Garden, February 2011 006

The tree filled one yard waste container completely and the other partially. I filled the rest of the 2nd container with some other various tree and plant bits from the yard.

After this was done, I had another project. My greenhouse shelves arrived.

They were easy to put together and fit perfectly. They aren’t up against the plexiglass; there is plenty of room to walk around and I have room for my tomato containers when I move them into the greenhouse in the fall.

Garden, February 2011 007

and yes, there was MORE (although this was an inside job)

My “jump start” grow light arrived today (this was a package that UPS claimed was delayed by severe weather/natural disaster in Seattle, when if fact, it arrived well ahead of schedule and they put it on the wrong truck)

This is a GREAT setup. The light fixture can be raised and lowered according to the size and light needs of the plants. Several of the little mini greenhouses and/or bigger plants will fit underneath. I’m going to order another.

Garden, February 2011 010

My potting bench (which will arrive on Saturday when it’s snowing, raining or both so I’ll build it in the basement) will go just outside the greenhouse.

Since it’s supposed to start raining this afternoon/evening and through the foreseeable future (and maybe some snow), this will be the last gardening post for a while (until something blooms, germinates, arrives in the mail or gets planted 😉

~L

Mood: Tired



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I have an Itch and I’ve got to Scratch it

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Just because there have been some rain, snow and ice free days, and the sun stays up long enough for me to have some daylight to start prepping the yard for spring after work, does not mean I can even think about planting yet right? Oh not true. In addition to bare root roses, berries, fruit trees and fall flowering bulbs, I can start growing things.

Indoors.

I’m in full on spring mode (yes, we have sub freezing temperatures (right now as a matter of fact) and some snow in the forecast) which means I’ve got the itch, BAD and have to scratch it.

I get this way every spring (OK, I get this way every winter when bare roots plants and fall flowering bulbs fill the nurseries) It’s an illness really. I have got to dig in the dirt and plant things.

Fairly high on the list of “best things evah” are the little Jiffy 7 seed starter/mini greenhouse sets; they come with 12 peat pellets included and it’s easy to get refills for later plantings or subsequent plantings (see the refill bag next to the kit)

starting the garden indoors 001

starting the garden indoors 002

Yes, you can start plants in egg cartons or other re-purposed items and cover with plastic, but these are super slick, cheap (you can find them for $2.50 each) are just the right size to set on a window sill (the larger “mini” greenhouses are more difficult to place and rotate) and last forever if you take care of them-buy them once, treat them well and store for use the next year.

An advantage to using peat pellets is that you don’t disturb the roots when you transplant a peat pellet; you just bury the whole thing so you can get away with transplanting things that normally don’t like to be transplanted because their roots are delicate. If the plant starts to get too big too soon to plant, just plant the peat pellet in potting soil in a larger peat pot and you’re good to go for a few more days/weeks without disturbing the roots.

These are super easy to use and not messy. Just add about 1 ¾ cups of warm water to the pellets and in about a minute they puff right up and are ready to plant.

starting the garden indoors 003

Since I buy these once, treat them well and reuse them, I label what I’ve planted with sharpie on scotch tape (interestingly enough that’s the way I mark wine glasses for folks at large parties 😉 I put the name of what I planted, how many are there, and the date I planted. It’s easy to remove the tape and re label for subsequent plantings. You can then put the scotch tape on a plant marker or popsicle stick which will go with the plants.

starting the garden indoors 004

My heirloom veggie seeds haven’t arrived yet (soon, my precious soon…) and not everything should be started quite this early, but I do have some flower seeds I just had to plant.

I started some lavender (not all my plants out front survived our deep freeze) and some fabulous poppies that a friend sent me.

She sent me three different kinds, but the ones I chose to plant first are “Drama Queen” I planted them just because I love the name.

When I looked them up on line, I knew I made the correct choice; these are truly stunning.

Drama Queen Poppies

Drama Queen Poppy

I planted six pellets with lavender and six with poppy, set the lid on to hold in warmth and moisture, and put them near a window to germinate. It just doesn’t get any easier than that (the big bulb you see is a Red Lion Amaryllis I got for Christmas, I also have some paper white narcissus that my friend Anna gave me growing next to it.

starting the garden indoors 005

I will put them under grow lights in the basement once they’re sprouted and have leaves.

In a few weeks when it’s a bit warmer out, I’ll move them out to the greenhouse.

My grow light should be delivered today. It should have been here yesterday. UPS used the excuse “extreme weather/natural disaster” for the delay AFTER it arrived here in Seattle (which probably has the least severe weather anywhere right now) and got put on a truck and driven THROUGH Tacoma down to Hermiston Oregon, then back up THROUGH Tacoma again to Redmond. Now it’s back in Tacoma on a truck for delivery.

My greenhouse shelves should also be arriving today (unless of course something weird happens with them)

Spring.

Bring it!

~L

Mood: Excited



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The Poop on Gardening in Tacoma

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Today, I had a cubic yard (that’s 27 cubic foot bags worth) of TAGRO delivered.

For those who aren’t aware of what TAGRO is, it’s an EPA award winning product made from bio solids from our waste treatment plant.

The thought of using human poop creeps some of the less “earthy” among us out, because they don’t understand the composting process (the “composting/cooking” occurs at a temperature that kills all pathogens. It’s also pasteurized.

Another concern that some have is that it might contain metals. We have several superfind sites here and most of our soil is contaminated by copper, chromium arsenic and lead from the Asarco Smelter. It contains way less metals than our soil does; as a matter of fact, it contains less metals than most commercial products. (*luckily, we have pretty much the cleanest soil in Tacoma up here on the hilltop due to the elevation and winds, but I still prefer raised beds)

To me, it’s the ultimate in recycling. I eat the food, my waste goes down the pipes and it comes back to help produce more food.

It’s FREE if you go pick it up and shovel it yourself and it’s only $8 a cubic yard (that’s 27 cubic feet) if you have it loaded into your truck or delivered (it’s only $15 to have it delivered in Tacoma)

You can also get the potting soil (slightly more expensive per cubic yard). If you don’t want an insane amount of the soil, you can get it in one cubic foot bags at Gardensphere, Portland Ave Nursery or Gray Lumber (just down the Street on the Ave… YAY!)

Poop!!! (for the Garden silly) 017.JPG

I was fighting the weather (it had been violently windy all night/morning and thunderstorms were threatening to pound me and turn my pile into wet mush.

Poop!!!  (for the Garden silly) 004

The first thing I did was top dress my blueberries that run along the North fence.

Poop!!!  (for the Garden silly) 002

Then I finally hacked out all the old corn stalk stubs from the bed I grow my corn in (amazing 7 foot corn stalks which were bigger and better than the commercial growers had this year thanks to the TAGRO) and top dressed it.

*there are tree bits all over the yard from last night’s wind storm.

Poop!!!  (for the Garden silly) 009

Then I topped off all the other garden beds. Some weren’t all the way full and others had been filled with lesser quality potting soil as I’d already used up all my TAGRO before putting in the second set of smaller beds.

I had to work around some herbs and berries that survived the winter so as not to smother them.

I found one of my artichokes resprouting.

Poop!!!  (for the Garden silly) 008

and the Egyptian Walking Onions my neighbor Steve gave me are doing well.

Poop!!!  (for the Garden silly) 014

After taking care of the beds, I top dressed my grapes and fruit trees.

Poop!!!  (for the Garden silly) 010

My last chore for the day involved a run to Gray Lumber for a few bags of TAGRO potting soil to fill containers. (I didn’t need a full cubic yard)

I like to grow my tomatoes (ordered some heirlooms today) in containers is so that I can put them in the greenhouse around the time of first frost to extend the growing season well into November. (they’re also easier to manage when not in a bed crawling all over everything else)

Poop!!!  (for the Garden silly) 016

As you can see, I moved a LOT of poop…

Poop!!!  (for the Garden silly) 015

It didn’t start to rain until I was done and in the house.

Over the next few days, I’ll need to weed, relocate some strawberries and spread some more bark around the garden beds, planters and on top of the raspberry beds.

My potting bench and shelves for the greenhouse are on their way, as are several heirloom/non GMO/organic seed catalogs (ordered some from Urban Farm today) a grow light and some little jiffy peat pot mini greenhouses to start seeds in.

I had a pretty awesome garden last year, even though I didn’t get started until mid-late June due to not moving into the house until the very end of May.

I am SO excited that I’m able to start from seed this year; I’ll have so much more variety (and no damn Monsanto seeds)

My trees and berries will have been in the ground building fabulous root systems for a full year (I did get apples, cherries, raspberries and blueberries last year) and it’s going to be GORGEOUS when it all blooms (three apple, three cherry, one plum, one pear and one peach as well as the Hawthorn tree which should be healthier and happier this year)

Now I think I need some dinner, advil and a soak in the hot tub.

~L

Mood: Tired



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Solstice on the Hilltop

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I was super excited to host my first Hilltop Solstice instead of having it at someone else’s house or trying to cram people in that tiny apartment as I had to do for the last several years.

This was truly the best solstice ever, entirely because of the wonderful friends and neighbors who came to celebrate (32 people showed up, OMG that’s awesome)

I drug the fire pit out of the basement and set up the Yule log on the lower branches cut from the tree.

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Of course, a huge log, even when surround by combustibles can benefit from the liberal application of tiki torch oil (citronella and cedar oil type).

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And away we go…

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It took several tries to get the first candle lit.

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Once we got the light from the Yule log (comprised of a log gifted to me my by friend and neighbor Jim, a bit of last year’s yule log, a cutting of the base and some branches from this year’s tree, the piece of the pear tree that blew down in the wind storm a few weeks ago, holly, bay laurel, lavender, sage, mugwort, hawthorn berries and roses from my yard and ashes from the 13 indigenous grandmothers) we carried the “solstice light” inside the house.

I did the annual reading talking about why solstice is a sacred time for so many world traditions and the commonality they all share.

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We then “passed the light” candle to candle around the circle (or rather an amoeba shaped circle that encompassed two rooms) while “The Christians and the Pagans” CD played. (singing, badly is not only allowed, but encouraged)

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When all the candles were lit we raised them to symbolize the return of the light and the light we hope to bring into the world in the coming season.

Then while the CD played, we sang a joyful rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” and went back into party mode.

I made my traditional solstice Crab Rangoons and stuffed mushrooms

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It was a fight to even get them out of the kitchen an on to the table. I was getting mugged trying to get out of the kitchen.

(although out of foucus, this picture cracks me up… I’m yelling “HOT” and Patricia looks worried that rangoons will fly)

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I LOVE Z’s eyes in this picture.

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The rest of the photos are available by clicking here

Or as a slideshow by making with the clicky clicky here if it doesn’t embed properly in our reader/browser

Here comes the sun baby… here comes the sun (and it’s gonna be allright 😉

~L

Mood: Exhausted, but in a good way



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Solstice!!!

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Happy Winter Solstice (to those in the Northern Hemisphere; happy Summer Solstice to our friends South of the equator)

I typed this up last night, but wanted to post it today, the day of the actual event which is 3:38 PM Pacific Standard Time. (11:38 PM GMT).

This is the darkest dark of winter. This is IT! The days will slowly get longer again.

Winter Solstice is the promise of new life; we really won’t notice the days getting longer until closer to Candlemas/Brigid/Ground Hog’s Day.

Tonight I will gather with a group of friends (in my new home… YAY!!!) to celebrate the solstice. There will be food, drink and friendship. We will do our annual observance. I will have to burn the Yule log in the firepit outside, but that’s OK. (note to self, drag fire pit out of the basement before company arrives).

I will carry the light inside so that it can be passed to everyone in the circle. And then there will be more fun, food and drink.

Each year, I love to post the Northern Exposure video to the story Raven Steals the Light being told (I’ve used it for the children’s story at Solstice rituals in years past)

It is a traditional story from the Northwest Coast and Alaska.

I like this Northern Exposure version.

Not everyone knows this, but the town of ‘Cicily Alaska” is about an hour and a half from where I live, and is in fact Roslyn Washington (yes, I’ve been to The Brick)

and here’s another wonderful story of light in a magical part of the world (the Great Pacific Northwest)…

And of course, my traditional Solstice post/greeting…

On this night, around 3,000 years BC, a very special event unfolds at a place we now call Newgrange. A group gathers around a large circular stone structure. A drumbeat resounds across the mist-shrouded hills of ancient Ireland, bump bump… bump bump… bump bump…; The heartbeat of mother earth. The scent of incense mingles with moss, moist earth and the burning torches. All gaze hopefully towards the eastern horizon. After what seems like an eternity, it happens, the rising sun begins its ascent. Once again all attention is turned to the structure with great anticipation. Suddenly an intense shaft of light pierces the innermost chamber of the structure, illuminating a stone basin adorned with carvings of spirals, eyes, solar disks, and other sacred symbols. A joyful sound rises from the crowd, who then begin to dance ecstatically. For the darkest darkness of winter has passed, and the light has returned. Soon: the hills will be covered in fresh green grasses and wildflowers, trees will bloom and set fruit, animals will give birth, the songs of birds will fill the skies. The cycle of life will continue. The world, once again, has been reborn.

Tonight we celebrate an event, which predates our modern religious celebrations, an event as old as time its self. Just as events like this were observed at Newgrange Ireland, we find similar ancient architectural wonders based on solstices and equinoxes all across Europe, Asia, The Americas, Indonesia and the Middle East. Thousands of years ago, these monolithic structures were built and elaborate ceremonies held, out of reverence for the cycle of life, and perhaps the fear that without human intervention, the sun would not return.

At the winter solstice, the tilt of the earth on its axis, is such that our hemisphere is leaning farthest away from the sun, our days are shortest and the sun is at the lowest arc in the sky. For thousands of years, our ancestors honored the cycles of life: solstices, equinoxes, harvests and plantings. The winter solstice is perhaps the most sacred of these celebrations. So sacred in fact, that modern religious observations all over the world take place on or near the time of the solstice. Solstice observance is not a celebration that excludes or dismisses any other religious celebration; rather it is the common bond of many modern and not so modern religions.

The time of the winter solstice represents death and rebirth, just as corn stalks wither and die in the fields in the fall, so does the symbolic god give his body to nourish the earth, only to be reborn of the goddess again on this darkest night. The original divine birth. Is it any wonder then: that the Christian church chose this sacred time of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Hebrew people to celebrate the Festival of Lights, or Native Americans and other aboriginal peoples to celebrate their sacred events?

Solstice is not only a time to celebrate the retreat of darkness and the return of the light, but it is a time to look inward, at the darkness within ourselves and to embrace it. For without darkness, there would be no light. Without challenge, there would be no triumph. It is a time to celebrate the death of old habits, thought patterns, and difficulties, a time to celebrate a spiritual renewal. The darkness gives us all a chance to embrace and work through our own darkness, so that like the earth, we may also be renewed.

L. Lisa Lawrence
Copyright 1998

Here’s our observance from 2007 (the video is just too much fun!)

Here are the songs from the video, my favorite Winter Solstice songs…

“The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said, “We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay.”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style,”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been a while.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning,” and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, you’re cousin’s not a Christian,
But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from , I think magic’s in the learning,
‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother.”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here.”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve,
Saying, “Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “We’ll discuss it when they leave.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
And making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold…

And of course, the required Solstice tune…

“Here comes the sun” by the Beatles

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes…

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it’s all right
It’s all right…

In a little over eight hours, the world is reborn again and will be filled with exciting possibilities!

~L

Mood: Here Comes the Sun!!!



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