Encounters with Deer

Deer have played a significant role in folklore and mythology, in partnership with cultures around the world, and throughout most of our known human existence.

Many European cultures equated deer with woodland deities, including Greece. Artemis, the Greek goddess of wilderness played the role of virgin huntress. One time, a man named Actaeon witnessed Artemis bathing nude in a pool. She transformed him into a stag and his own hounds tore him to pieces. Talk about revenge!

The Iron Age Celts also have stories of people and deities who took the form of deer. Finn mac Cumhail, leader of Ireland’s heroic band, the legendary Fianna, was out hunting, and his hounds cornered a beautiful white deer, but they refused his order to attack. That night, Finn was visited by the goddess Sadhbh who explained how she was that deer, under a magic spell from which the only chance of her release would come about by his declaration of love for her. A beautiful story, but a tragic tale.

Moving on to the 6th century, Saint Gregory of Tours wrote chronicles of the Merovingian rulers. His Historia Francorum contained a legend concerning King Clovis I, who prayed to Christ in one of his campaigns so they could find a place to cross the river Vienne. Considered as sign from the divine, a huge deer appeared to the king’s army and showed them where they could cross the river, and that’s (supposedly) what they did.

Deer appear in art from Paleolithic cave paintings , and they have played a role in mythology, religion, and literature throughout history, as well as in heraldry.

Their economic importance includes the use of their meat as venison, their skins as soft, strong buckskin, and their antlers as tools, including handles for knives. Deer hunting has been a popular activity since at least the middle Ages.

According to the many different interpretations of deer as animal messengers, including totem animals from the Native American traditions, a deer represents gentleness and suggests the use of kindness in each of our endeavours.

In addition to that, if a deer crosses your path, you are likely a compassionate person who gives and receives unconditional love.

In any case, it’s always wonderful to witness a visit from the deer, and to know what depth of their nature is revealed to us and included within each encounter.

Feathered friends and winter wildlife

Somewhere online I read an article on feeding birds throughout winter, and the ornithologist suggested it’s more beneficial to us (humans) than it is for the birds.

That’s likely true!

Like many people, I don’t offer food to wildlife spring through fall, (well, except for hummingbirds & the local fox kits), but it does feel wonderful to witness a few feathered friends during the dark depths of winter, when most others have migrated to warmer climes.

Perhaps it just feels good to think we’re nurturing wildlife in some small way. 🙂

Along with birdseed, seed heads from perennial plants left uncut in the fall will provide food and shelter for all kinds of birds and small creatures during winter.

A few examples of these plants include echinacea, asters, rudbeckia, and ornamental grasses.

Not only is this uncut fodder great for wildlife, it’s nice to have some structure in the garden over the winter when everything else is hiding out until spring. Ornamental grasses look especially lovely covered in fresh fallen snow.

The temperature has now dipped well below zero, (currently -14 Celsius).

Combine that with a blanket of snow, (not quite as much in that photo below -> last winter), I do think it’s time to make some suet for the hardy wee birds who choose to stick around all year, so I can enjoy watching them gather outside my window.

 

 

The first snow of the year always feels magical

Why does the first snowfall of the year always seem magical? 🙂

The First Snowfall

The snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.

~ By James Russell Lowell

(An excerpt from his poem, ca 1855)

 

A Great Blue Heron, dwarfed by the surrounding forest – Wordless Wednesday

Vermicomposting – Let worms do the dirty work!

When it comes to vermicomposting, earthworms will do the ‘dirty’ work for you.

Most people know worms turn waste into beautiful compost outdoors, but this can be done indoors, too. It’s an easy way to compost much of your kitchen waste.

Worm castings, the black gold by-product resulting from vermicomposting, contains 5 times more nitrogen, 7 times more phosphorus, and 11 times more potassium than ordinary soil; some of the main minerals a healthy growing plant requires.

Castings are also rich in humic acids. This soil conditioner offers a perfect pH balance. It contains plant growth factors similar to seaweed. What could be better for your garden?

Here in Canada, snow covers outdoor composters and gardens for several months at a time. It might seem easier to take compostable kitchen scraps to land fill. However, for a small investment, vermicomposting can reap benefits far and above the 40 bucks initially spent, and it can be done year round, right in your kitchen!

Here’s how:

  • Purchase 2 plastic storage tote bins from the hardware store.
  • Drill ¼-inch holes in the bottom, sides and top of the box, not just for drainage but for aeration. You don’t want to smother the worms. The box should be approximately 1 square foot of surface area for each person in the household. – e.g.: A 2′ x 2′ x 2′ box can take the food waste of four people.
  • Bedding materials can include shredded newspaper, corrugated cardboard, peat moss, and partially decomposed leaves.
  • Worm boxes should be filled with bedding to provide the worms with a mixed diet, as well as a damp and aerated place to live.
  • Tear newspaper or cardboard into strips before first. Bedding material should be moistened by in water for several minutes. Squeeze out excess water before adding it to your worm box.
  • Cover food waste with a few inches of bedding so flies won’t become a problem.
  • Make sure the worm box doesn’t get too wet.  Worms will not survive and fruit flies will appear. That’s when it will smell. -> Troubleshooting worm bins
  • Red wigglers are considered the best worm to use for vermicomposting. They thrive on organic material such as yard waste and fruit and vegetable scraps.

Do feed them:

  • Coffee grounds or filters
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Small plant material
  • Tea leaves with bags

Do NOT feed them:

  • Bones
  • Milk and Dairy products
  • Fish
  • Greasy foods
  • Meat
  • Peanut butter
  • Pet/cat litter
  • Vegetable oil/salad dressing

To Harvest castings, feed one end of the box for about a week. The worms will find their way to that side to feed. Remove two-thirds of the worm castings from the opposite end and apply fresh bedding. Start burying food waste in the new bedding, and the worms will move back. The cycle continues!

Tip: Save the casting in a bag to spread on the garden, and top dress some of your indoor plants. They’ll love you for it.

Here are more great links to get you started… Have fun! : )