Cheeky Red Fox – Often maligned, they’re not so different from us!

Looking out the kitchen window this morning, I spotted several turkeys in the yard running up the hill. It was then I saw what they were running from. A lone fox on their tail!

She didn’t have a hope in hell of catching one, though I give her points for trying! Everyone has to eat.

The birds are bigger than her, and can be pretty vicious if need be. They have big claws used for digging, and can peck like a hammer drill.

Turkey in our yard

Contrary to what many think, (remember that WKRP in Cincinati episode where turkeys dropped like wet bags of cement?), turkeys can fly. They would have taken to the trees if they thought that vixen was a real threat.

The turkeys roost in the trees up that hill overnight for protection against any predators. I see them out all the time, walking down our road and through around our property like families do, a group out for a stroll. 🙂

What I don’t see often enough these days are foxes. The few I’ve seen, with the exception of this very healthy looking lady, have contracted mange, which I suspect has to do with their low numbers in this area.

As a gardener, I’ve noted the rise in number of mice, voles, and chipmunks this past year around our property. I imagine the tide will turn again, and when it does, foxes will have plenty to eat.

Red foxes feature prominently in folklore and mythology. In Greek mythology, the Teumessian fox was a described as a gigantic fox destined never to be caught.

In Celtic mythology a red fox is a symbolic animal and a shape-shifter. Some folklore in England states how witches were thought to take their shape to steal butter from their neighbours.

In European folklore, the figure of Reynard the Fox symbolises trickery and deceit. Many of Reynard’s adventures may stem from actual observations on fox behaviour; he is an enemy of the wolf and has a fondness for blackberries and grapes.

Chinese folk tales tell of fox-spirits called huli jing that have nine tails. They’re known as kumiho in Korea, and Japanese mythology offers the kitsune, a fox-like spirit possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom.

The cunning Fox is commonly found in Native American mythology. It’s portrayed as a companion to Coyotes. Fox, however, is a deceitful companion that often steals Coyote’s food.

In light of all the folklore and myth surrounding these experts at survival, except in today’s case of my friend vixen thinking she could take down a turkey, it seems to me, we humans have been projecting our fears on to foxes and other animals since time began.

Perhaps in the case of a fox, that’s because humans share many of its traits….

Afterall, they’re creatures who seek food, shelter, and want to survive, thrive, and take care of their families, just like us!

I can’t fault them for that. 🙂

Valentine’s Day herbs – Divination for the pursuit of love, and for escaping love, too.

There’s an old Valentine’s Day custom that was anxiously awaited by potential would-be lovers each year. It took place on the eve of February 14th, and this harmless process of divination incorporated bay leaves as a way to dream of one’s future beloved.

Described in a newspaper article, a late 16th century periodical called the Connoisseur, it went something like this:

“Last Friday was Valentine’s Day, and the night previous I got five bay-leaves, and pinned four of them to the four corners of my pillows, and the fifth to the middle; and then, if I dreamt of my sweetheart, I was told that we should be married before the year was out.”

I’m not sure if that practice was ever successful, but I don’t think it would hurt to give it a try if one is seeking a suitable mate. 🙂 I imagine one’s pillow would smell nice at the very least, and it would be easy to purchase bay leaves at the grocery store in order to give it a try!

Apollo and Daphne attributed to Piero del Pollaiolo, 1480

On the flipside, the story of Daphne and Apollo, introduced to us in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, bay leaves, or a tree really, is used as a method for escaping the pursuit of love (lust is more likely), instead.

In this tale, perpetual virgin Daphne, the river nymph, while pursued by Apollo, the Greek sun god (who could be considered a stalker and one who wouldn’t take no for an answer) was transformed in to such a tree to escape his clutches, and not a moment too soon, either!

Daphne’s metamorphosis into a laurel tree may have been a form of escape from Apollo, but he later crafted a wreath out of her laurel branches, keeping her within his grasp afterall.

Michael Drayton, in his “Muses’ Elysium,” heralds the Bay leaf like this:
“The garland long ago was worn As Time pleased to bestow it:
The laurel only to adorn The conqueror and the poet.”

In any case, love isn’t always a bed of roses, back then or now. Sometimes it’s a bed of bay leaves. 😉

 

Saving seeds and sowing seeds goes hand-in-hand

Spring is just around the corner. That happy thought leads me to my happy place; being outside in the garden.

Here in central Ontario Canada, there are still a couple of months before that can happen. After all, it’s February and the only thing growing in our yard are the piles of snow, and if I want to wander through my garden, I’ll have to shovel a path first. But that’s not an unhappy thought as it means I have plenty of time to plan this year’s plot and start germinating seeds.

Starting seeds indoors is the perfect way to get a head start in a shorter growing season, and the seeds I’ll sow this spring include tomatoes, peppers, Swiss chard, along with some tender herbs and annual flower varieties, were harvested last summer and into the autumn.

Scarlet runner beans

I’ve been a seed saver as long as I can remember. That’s not exactly true. I remember when it first occured to me that I could save seeds. It began with the sale of our family farm. While cleaning out the kitchen, I discovered several varieties of flower seeds in the top kitchen cupboard, right at the back, likely placed there decades before by my Great-Grandmother.

Mrs. Woman & Sweet William

The old tin I discovered contained Sweet William, Hollyhock, and others heirloom varieties, a real treasure. I immediately planted them in my garden back in Toronto, and still grow flowers from those original seeds, 20 years and two houses later.

The Farm

All of that might make me a seed sentimentalist, but I’ve since learned other reasons for saving seeds, and one of those reasons might convince others to give it a go.

Here’s my list of reasons. Please feel free to let me know if you can think of anything I may have left out.

1.) Saving seed appeals to my motto of “waste not want not”.

I hate to see anything good go unused. The economical reasons alone, especially in today’s financial climate and pandemic, makes a ton of sense. Seed savers know that by gathering up seeds and storing them carefully away for next year’s garden is preservation for next year’s crop, and less money to fork out. (Pardon the pun!)

2.) Personal selection.

Saving Nasturtium seeds

I like the thought of developing my own vigorous strains over several seasons of selective seed saving. Saving seeds from the plants with the qualities you most prize, you will soon have varieties that are ideally adapted to your garden and growing conditions.

3) Maintain bio-diversity.

Fewer and fewer old varieties of food crops are available, so seed saving keeps vegetable varieties and the world’s food choices diversified. Think Irish potato famine.

Today many of the world’s food plants are disappearing, including vegetables, grains and fruit varieties. Approx. 70 % of the world’s major food plants have already been lost. This is because modern agriculture practices require high yield, uniform plants, so the genetic base of the world’s food plants has been greatly reduced. This has left the world dependent on a few, closely related varieties of each crop.

4) Historical value. (For the sentimenatlists like me)

Many plant varieties we save or trade are living links to the past. Seed saving is a way to link with our ancestors. As gardener’s this is a responsibility and opportunity to pass these wonderful heirlooms to future generations.

5) Sustainability.

We don’t need big corporate seed companies taking care of us and choosing the foods and flowers that we can grow. Many of these companies sell varieties that are tasteless, but travel well. That’s not a good enough reason for me. Self reliance is very satisfying. It is our right to save seeds and make sure that there is enough variety on the planet. Bio-diversity is part of the cycle of life.

6) Covid-19

This year especially, I’m relieved I took a bit of time last year to harvest, dry and carefully store my seeds. I don’t have to rely too much on trying to locate any of the varieties I already have on hand when supplies are short, and like toilet paper, they may be hard to locate.

In any case, if you can save your seeds this fall, next spring you may thank yourself, too. Happy Gardening!

February thoughts, folklore, Imbolc offerings, and social media.

Theo van Hoytema – February 1915
Public Domain

February! We’re one step closer to spring! 🙂

Like most gardeners, what usually gets me through any ‘normal’ winter involves plotting and planning the next steps in the yard, (divide and conquer), and thoughts of spring bulbs shooting up from the ground, even when they’re surrounded by pockets of snow hanging about on the lawn and in shadier nooks of the property.

February 1st marks the festival of Imbolc, or St. Brigid’s Day. It’s a celebration to mark the beginning of spring, a cause for celebration if ever there was!

Imbolc’s possible origin may come from the Old Irish word, imb-fholc, ‘to wash/cleanse oneself’, referring to a ritual cleansing.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Brigid, patroness of poetry, smithing, medicine, arts/crafts, cattle, and Spring, shares many mythological traits with St. Brigit of Ireland.

The saint, with the same name as the goddess is likely derived from the Proto-Celtic *Brigantī “high, exalted”, and they both share today with Imbolc, which generally speaking, is about a new year and new beginnings.

I thought about that ‘ritual cleansing’, today. I’ve considered how the past year has affected me, at least psychologically, and maybe what we all need right now is some sort of ritual cleansing, no matter how small the act, to rid ourselves of the negativity heaped on us all during the past few years, and especially 2020.

Like many people, the pandemic and the politics (of anger) have proved to be a major distraction against any ‘creativity’ with which I’d normally involve myself. That includes writing, photography, and making wee nature sculptures. Sure, I’ve made some little fairy houses and furniture, but I can’t seem to focus too long on any one activity.

I thought at first I may be experiencing some sort of depression or melancholy, and inhaling too much of the angst in this world has deprived me of the oxygen normally sustaining any creative pursuits.

Because of that, of late I’ve stopped watching the news so often. I don’t want to be ignorant of what’s going on, but I don’t think being obsessed by it has been helpful either.

The melancholy may in part be true, but winter affects me in general, but being aware of that now, I tend to get outside more often for fresh air and some excercise, which really helps. I’d love to hear how others are feeling affected by all of this, and how you’re coping with it. I’ve used art as therapy for most of my life, but have hardly posted anything here of note in the past 6 months, with writer’s block seeming to win the day everytime I sit down and try to type.

I’ve felt many flashes of inspiration, when the snow is falling, or when I see a bird or animal, or find an interesting bit of history I’d like to share, but when it comes down to putting thoughts into words, along with any photos, garden related or not, everything I want to post about seems so trivial and unimportant when I consider what’s going on in the world now; how so many people are suffering.

So instead I’ve been sitting on my hands.

Even though I’m an introvert, I really like people and set out to understand what makes them tick.

I love to read about people, especially artists and writers from the early to mid 20th century, but I’ve never been one who requires people around me all the time like some extroverts might.

Perhaps because I have so much going on in my head, which has in the past, energized my creative bents, I don’t have that need, and find parties and big social affairs draining. After all, my studio is called Wall Flower Studio!

I’m totally freaked out by Covid19. I only go out if I have to, which means the bank, the grocery store, gas (not so often because I’m home so much), and when out, I do everthing I can, (while trying not to appear rude) to stay at least six feet away from people. This can be challenging however when others seem oblivious to the danger Covid poses, or are perhaps they’re handling the pandemic by ignoring its existance altogether… I’m not judge, jury or hangman, but will continue to keep my distance whenever possible.

Eduard Marmet, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons

But, even I have my limits with all of this homebody business. I can’t wait to go on a trip to anywhere, or to a big, loud, busy shopping mall & spend some money, buy a new pair of shoes, and do some serious people watching.

Until then, I’ll continue to (happily for the most part), read and research the many topics of interest I’ve been digesting for the book(s) I’ve been trying to work on during the past few years.. I”ll get there eventually!

Perhaps the reason I’ve been finding it difficult to write, and address my feelings about the past year, and overcome them, is in part because I, (like many of you) feel powerless to do anything of value that might bring about positive change, especially under lockdown conditions.

I certainly don’t mean to depress anyone. I’m just happy that this is all finally spilling out of me after months of trying to pin down the exact feelings on how I’ve been handling events beyond my control, which truth be told, is something I’ve never been good at..

I suppose supressed feelings, along with a side order of inaction, are my best defense, with the addition of browsing the interent, baking cookies, shovelling snow or cleaning my house, which by the way is immaculate right now, and yet nobody can come over and see.  😉

However, in a  strange way, what’s really helped take my mind of the pandemic, (as long as I avoid political/pandemic posts), is Twitter.

I’m on the fence about social media, ( and somedays I want to dump Facebook especially), and in a postive way it brings people & ideas together who might otherwise never find one another. But in the same vein, it’s proving to have a destructive side, too.

I’m appalled at the misinformation & far-out conspiracy theories people are engaging in and accepting as fact; ones that harm and erode democracy around the world. Or the people who justify their hate and ignorance while participating in racially motivated entitlement and violent acts against others like it’s was some sort of religious rite.

I’m also ambivalent about social media. I see people sharing way too much personal information, which goes against privacy concerns I have about how all of our information is extracted and used.

But, having said all this, I do think in some way Twitter has helped me continue to dabble in writing during a time where I’ve felt it difficult to even post Happy New Year on my blog, (which I do retroactively wish all of you!) I might not think this of Twitter down the road, but for now, it’s been a positive outlet at this time.

Every day thousands of people join forces on Twitter behind different #hashtags. (I’ve explained the purpose of hashtags in a previous post, so I won’t get into that, but suffice to say, it’s a way for people to share common ground, artistic ideas and interesting bits information.)

In a sense, my whole week is built on these hashtags. Here’s a sample of some I’ve come to look forward to:

#MythologyMonday, #FairytaleTuesday, #WyrdWednesday, #FolkloreThursday, #FaustianFriday, #SuperstitionSaturday, #Caturday, and #ShakespeareSunday.

Each hashtag is self-explantory, but to make them even more interesting, every week involves a different theme on those hashtags. One can share tidbits about a theme with like-minds and learn from others on topics that interest them, too. For example, #MythologyMonday might be about horses one week and Witches or Norse goddesses the next.

Sometimes I’m keen to share a line or two on the subject matter I’m familiar with; one that will fit in the box of characters allowed by Twitter. Other times I have to investigate and research the daily theme, which means spending time locating a quote, picture or painting, (in the public domain), that fits with the subject matter of that day.

One might say this Twitter excercise is completely shallow and an effort to practice avoidance of the outside world, but I think of it as an enjoyable practice and perhaps a bit of self-presevation in defiance of the world we’re all living in right now.

I’m glad to have spurted all of this out. I feel better for having written at all to be honest, like it was some sort of ritual cleansing. To put my thoughts out there and just accept them for what the are at this moment in time is an act of cleansing. And really, isn’t that a big part of any art? To convey and communicate ideas that one may be feeling/thinking/experiencing?

So, if you made it this far, I thank you! If, like me you feel a need  for a writing outlet that’s not too suffocating or overly taxing at the moment, wander on over to Twitter and find a hashtag or two that suits your interests!

I’m looking forward to better times for us all and do know they’re coming, along with more progress with my book, and spring flowers in the garden.

Hang in there everyone. The prize will be all that more sweet once it actually arrives. There are better days ahead.. Be well & stay safe!

Sharing an Autumn Bouquet on #WordlessWednesday