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21 Sep 2008

Autumn Equinox 2008 News



The air is crisping…leaves are turning…and…

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If you have something to sell and are interested in finding out more information about (or better yet, participating in the planning of) the upcoming Hex Folk Market — an online market in celebration of European Folk Ways and sustainable living — please respond to this email stating your interest, and I will add your address to a seperate list just for merchants. I depending upon your opinions and your participation! cheers, ~Arrowyn

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Our wall of hops destined for beer…

The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and joy, with pinions light, roves ‘round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight
; but left his golden load.

- William Blake, To Autumn

With crisper nights and waning days, the trees, bushes, and flowers hang laden with the last of their bounty — the fruits of a long season of labor. The frenzy of summer slows and a quiet melancholy descends upon the earth. Being midway between the longest and shortest days of the year, the Equinox is ripe with both grief and joy.

“Harvest Month” lasts from mid-September until mid-October, where the final crops are pulled and prepared for storage. It is a time for taking stock. For our ancestors that mostly included making sure that there was enough food stored for winter and that all outside tasks had been completed or set aside for another season. While the echoes of those agrarian concerns still effect us directly or indirectly, most of us feel this change symbolically. In this teetering moment between Summer bounty and Winter thrift, reflection is useful. We are called to evaluate what is worth keeping and to let go of what is not. Taking the long view is necessary to make sure that the things you decide to nourish yourself with aren’t “empty calories,” but instead will feed you for the long winter. We have grown over the last year, and our intentions may have changed. When we adjust to reflect the new course, it is natural to mourn “what might have beens,” and the season reflects this sadness. Blue skies turn to grey. The beauty of Autumn is the beauty of death. What is not needed falls back to the earth to nourish new possibilities. The circle has been completed and begins again.

~Arrowyn Craban

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“In this month falls the Autumnal equinox, assumed as the symbol of equality and justice. In the north it was the custom to suspend all feuds during the harvest, and a solemn Thing was held yearly at this season.”

~  A Manual of Scandinavian Mythology
by G. Pigott and A Oehlenschlager

By September the days are getting markedly shorter and eventually lead us into the Equinox on the 22nd. This also marks an end to the summer harvest season – and the end of the mess in the kitchen left from it’s preservation as well! Storing summer’s energy is no easy task, it requires planning, hard work and seemingly lots of pots and pans, and special strainers, and funnels, and utensils, and well, you get the point – a mess.

When it comes to harvest today, many say we are some of the luckiest people ever to live on earth – especially those in the more affluent areas of the world. Why? Because we are able to find nearly any food known to man at almost any local grocery store at almost any time of day or night. However, we are also learning that this luck comes with a heavy price – a carbon footprint. Apparently this “footprint” is the measuring tool used to calculate the energy it takes to make and/or grow, process, transport our commodities from their origins to our dinner table.

Everything is pretty much made of carbon, and our means of processing and transporting food, uses a lot of energy. Energy is created by breaking certain elements down into other forms, and this releases carbon into the air. Carbon that was chemically secured is now being released back into the atmosphere of earth. The earth isn’t used to all that carbon and its release is beginning to change the environment of the world we live in. Almost as if the fires of Muspellhiem were winning out over the Ice of Nuflheim.

What can we do to help hold back the fires of Muspellhiem? How can we reduce our carbon footprint? One way is harvesting our own homegrown food and then preserving it for future use. Some of those foods we are so lucky to have may well have traveled thousands of miles to get to your table, imagine the shrinking of your carbon footprint when you grow that same food at home. Though preserving food can also add to the carbon footprint, it can be controlled much better in our own kitchen. In the old world of Northern Europe, and elsewhere, foods were preserved usually by pickling, drying, and various forms of fermenting. All of these methods are still relatively easy to do today.

Some foods reduce those carbon footprints better than others. The foods that preserve easily through drying and that require little labor are mostly crops you can plant once and harvest year after year; fruits and nuts in particular, but also certain vegetables like asparagus and rhubarb.

In our own garden we get a few apples, pears, blueberries, and persimmons each year. And some day we’ll get pecans and figs – but the grape vines this year are the star in helping us to lower our carbon footprint. I’d estimate our grape harvest topped 30 lbs or more from Southern native varieties – purple black muscadine and golden green scuppernong. With such a large harvest preserving became really important. Most went into making mead, or “pyment” which is the term for wine made with honey and grapes. A few pounds have gone into eating out of hand and the 3 or 4 cups my granddaughter picked went home with her.

With various stages of mead/pyment bubbling around the house I decided that I’d try some jelly this year as well. Making jelly is a handy way to preserve many foods that might otherwise go to waste.

Jelly is a twice-cooked formula; the first step, as with mead, is to cook the fruit, to break it down and release it’s juice. Then the second step is to cook the juice with the sweetener and pectin. Jelly is very easy to seal into jars, and so is a good way to get to know the canning process as well; with the jars processed in a boiling water bath instead of a pressure canner.

Further reduction of carbon footprints come from the jars which can be re-used, and if we truly are lucky, honey from bees, even the pectin can be harvested from home grown apples. I used a low sugar variety of ready-made pectin that required 7 cups of juice to 3 1/2 cups of sugar. My harvest was 7 1/2 mighty tasty half pint jars of purple jelly.

I just picked another 5 lbs or so of scuppernong and at least an equal amount remains on the vines. I know most of this will go into wine again, but I think I’ll try some white jelly this time.

Making juice from fruit for wine and jelly:
Using any size pot, fill half full with clean fruit then add water just until you start to see it reach the top of the fruit. Bring to boil and stir often otherwise sugar from the fruit may burn easily. As the fruit begins to break down start mashing it carefully with a sturdy potato masher. When you think all the fruit is mashed and most of the juice is released very carefully strain through a colander – mashing lightly to get out as much juice as possible. For making mead, the juice can be used at this point while it still contains some fruit. For jelly strain further through a clean cotton cloth, like a t-shirt or cheese cloth. When measuring juice for jelly, be precise or you will risk making a runny jelly. Feed the left over fruit bits to the chickens or other animals around the homestead or give it back to Nerthus in the compost pile.

~ Teresa Luedke

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Torc’s Goetta

Here in Northern Kentucky and Southern Ohio, this is a popular food. I first came across it while watching the show Made in America and looked into it. It originates from German immigrants in the19th century.

2lbs bony pork (we use neck nones)
2 quarts water
2 tsp salt
16 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp dried marjoram (optional)
1/8th tsp mace
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
2 cups steel cut oats
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the first six ingredients into a deep pot. Brinf to a boil, then reduce heat, simmering for 1 3/4 hours. Remove meat, cool slightly then chop finely. Strain the broth and refrigerate overnight. The next day skim off the fat from the broth.

Measure 1 quart of the broth and bring to a boil. While waiting for broth to boil add the meat, sage, marjoram, and mace. When the broth boils begin adding the oats slowly and stir until thick and also add salt and peppar to taste. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and cook, covered, for 30 mins, stirring now and then.

Meanwhile, oil a 9X5X3 bread pan. When cooking is done, pack the mix into the bread pan, cover and cool in the refrigerator until set.

Tip: Once the Goetta is set, slice it into 1/2 inch or so slices and wrap individually in plastic wrap, then stack those in a ziplock bag and freeze. Then you can have Goetta any time you want!

To cook, toss on a oiled or buttered griddle (before cooking anything else) until cooked to desired consistency, then cook what ever you would like with it.

We eat it in a variety of ways. I like to buy corn meal mush and biscuts. I fry up slices of mush and Goetta  while baking the biscuts. Stack Goetta and mush with cheese between a biscuit. I sometimes also fry up Goetta and eggs omelette style, wrap the Goetta in the egg, and then fold in a tortilla.

~ Skallatorc Thunorson

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Need is tight in the breast; but it often
Happens for human’s children to help and to save
Each, if they lis
ten to it early.

Need is a bondswoman’s yearning
And a difficult c
And drudging work.

Need renders little choice;
The naked will
freeze in the frost.

~ Rune poem translations by Sweyn Plowright

Nauthiz is Need, when things are not what we desire them to be. Things cannot go on the way they have. It has to stop, or else we will be stopped instead.

We like to think (or at least are often told to expect) that things are always going to be sunny, happy, convenient, easy, and to our liking. With Autumn’s arrival, summer’s shield begins to crack and shatter, and like the natural world around us, we begin to find ourselves facing the prospect of cold, stagnation, hard bloody work, and perhaps even misery.

It is temping to respond to the Need that Autumn induces by rolling up into a ball. It is also tempting to punish ourselves for our failures at this time (even when these failures are beyond our doing, and perhaps reflect the season itself).

Of course fighting against such negative feelings and thoughts will likely just feed them, but they are sending a helpful message nevertheless. In the face of loss and struggle we re-discover the things that actually matter. It is like brushing the dust of trivial concerns from an ancient relic.

Listen to the message Need offers and it might become a gift, albeit perhaps a not so pleasurable gift. Our human nature bestows upon us all sorts of vulnerabilities, and vulnerability is a doorway into rich worlds and wild horizons.

With Autumn we can begin shedding the scars and armouring that have been necessary throughout the year. So that at midwinter, softened and fluid, we may begin to reforge ourselves and move perhaps a little closer to our ideals.

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Until Samhain, may you and your
household be blessed and kept. Hail!

~ HEX Magazine

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