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Dreaming of Farms

As usual. As always.

I grew up in west Buncombe on what was once a pretty little farmstead, with a lovely orchard, a root cellar, a springhead. My parents were not active stewards, shall we say, and the whole place was run-down by the time I was old enough to remember it.

We had a parade of interesting animals over the years–a cow, a donkey, ponies, a horse, chickens, a myna bird, parakeets, white mice, guinea pigs, canaries and the usual dogs and cats.  One summer, we had three mama cats with their 14 kittens.

Yes, not careful of things, my parents.

But we grew a garden every year and played at self-sufficiency.  And ever after I’ve felt myself to be a country person. Most of you know I garden and have kept bees and all that homesteady jazz.

I’m off the road for a couple of months–doing retreats and classes here at home and renovating a house.  So I signed up for a class from Organic Growers School. It is called Farm Dreams and it was all day today.

We learned about the ins and outs of beginning farming and the participants were from some far-flung parts of NC.  The netw0rking part was really good and the process was good, too. A solid way to think about it and to plan for it.

We did sketches of our farms and listened to local farmers who talked about their lives and their own dreams.

I’m still processing all the info and dreaming some farm dreams of my own.


future cider

radishes for breakfast

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The Mote of History: Dusting as We Go


I volunteered for a few hours today at a local historic home, the Smith-McDowell House. It is set up with rooms indicative of the history of the family—a local and prominent one—and they decorate lavishly for Christmas. My young friend Jenna and I had the 1870s bedroom upstairs. There were two tubs full of décor and lots of photos to show us what went where.

We wore white cotton gloves to protect the artifacts and we squinted at the photos to decide exactly which Father Christmas went where. We moved some china vases into the deep window ledge as a staging area and I noticed how dusty it was. On my next trip downstairs, I asked for a dusting cloth so that I could dust as we went. I really fancied dusting the chamber pot and the wash basin and pitcher.

One of my pet peeves is to go to a museum and see dust, but I understand that most of these places are understaffed or staffed by volunteers, so there are often more pressing matters than whether or not there’s a bit of dust on the marble table. (I often wish I could take a dustcloth with me and help just a bit. When we went to George Washington’s nice place at Mount Vernon several years ago, I hung out in the walled garden for so long, they let me help with the potato digging. I helped with gardening in several places in Britain over the years. Earning my keep, a tiny bit. Feeling as though I belong to that slice of time, this mote of history.)

Microcosm, macrocosm. As I dodged around the young Twins who were setting up the Spiderweb Game in the corner of the room, I also considered what it meant to dust as you go. Why is it so hard for me to tackle a project in increments, a bite at a time? My preference since a mostly-feral child has been to bite off more that I can possibly chew. And then chew it and swallow it, and move on to the next project.

I am a biter and a swallower. And I suspect it is my nature to be so.

Looking at the coming fourteen months, I long to bite more things—fiddle-playing, singing, writing, teaching. I want to visit the places I love—Madron and Carlisle, Slane and Yorkshire, Marshall and Folly Beach—and I want to do that with the people I love.

Bite, chew, swallow.

And just a bit of dusting as I go.


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What I’ll Be Doing For The Rest of the Year

o dear…


So…today I had brunch with my friends Mia and John, and my work-wife, Star.  Mia asked me if I had posted where I’ll be appearing for the rest of the year and I looked at her blankly. Recovering what passes for my composure these days, I allowed as how I probably should do that. Somehow I don’t have a sense that people want to know such things but Mia assures me some may very well.  With thanks to her for her encouragement, here’s where you may see me in the next six months. 

Hang on to your knickers.

June 22-25, Wisteria, Ohio

Midsummer Festival with a focus on primitive skills. Teaching traditional Appalachian herbal healing.

June 28, Ashe County Public Library

A talk on Appalachian folkways with a focus on folk magic

July 7-16, Summerland Festival, Wisconsin

Teaching some stuff, doing some ritual, hanging with friends

July 20-23, Mystic South Conference, Hotlanta, Georgia

Headliner: which means teaching some classes. I will also present an academic paper on my recent research on the roots of Appalachian folk magic. And, shockingly, I will be leading an early morning tai chi class. I know, right?

September 9-10, Organic Growers School, Asheville, NC

Teaching a seminar on Appalachian folkways

September 15-17, Delaware

Delmarva Pagan Pride (and a class at a local shop the night before TBA)

September 22-23, Piedmont Pagan Pride

Teaching and talking; class the evening before (TBA)

October 5-8, Calderafest, somewhere in Georgia

Huge Pagan music festival that you shouldn’t miss; I’m just going to goof off but will be singing in the choir for the performance of Brian Henke’s Raven King

October 13-15  Southeast Wise Women’s Herbal Conference, Swannanoa, NC


October 26-29, Florida Pagan Gathering Samhain Festival

Headlining: teaching, ritualing

November 2-5, FaerieCon, Hunt Valley, Maryland

Teaching, dressing up like a faery, drinking to excess

I think that’s it.  I’ll be helping to train new priestesses for Mother Grove Goddess Temple and continuing my clergy work there, of course.  I plan to have my new book–Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet–off to the editor by Lughnasadh. So a new book by year’s end, if all goes well. Plus gardening, canning, teaching locally, reading tarot. You know..the stuff one does when living a rich and juicy life.

Come see me at one or more of these things. I’d love to see you.

Oh!  And witchery. Lots and lots of witchery.


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Spinning. A Bit.

Gosh, I wish this was about me spinning all that pretty wool into yarn.  Yeah, all that wool in the bag just over there–wool that came from my sheep-friend, Monkey Boy.  Well, maybe it did. It’s been in that bag since shearing season last year.  To be honest, I did spin one big hank of it before summer came and it got to hot to mess around with wool. Plus I began traveling and…

very, very yonder

The good news is that my brilliant and relentless editor Annie Sarac has the text for my new book.  She is poring over it, making it sensible, making it work.  You’ll be able to pre-order it in a couple of weeks–at least that’s my plan.

I went to Pantheacon where I was on a panel talking about death, but where I didn’t teach. I don’t understand Pantheacon.  I’ve been there twice now and still don’t quite get it.  We go through this weird raffle-thing to get a room.  I taught one class last year and it was full-to-overflowing but none of the classes I submitted were picked for this year.  But I went with my friend Maeve and–I had fun.  Go figure.

My friend, the fabulous guitarist Brian Henke, came to Asheville at the beginning of March and played a concert on the night of my birthday.  I enjoyed showing him my town and hearing the music from his new album, the Raven King. We’ll be traveling to some festivals together this summer–Florida Pagan Gathering, Our Haven, Summerland. He and I are working on a couple of projects together. He’s a very fun feller.


The Henke

Then Star and I wandered up to Hunt Valley for the Sacred Space conference, where I taught three classes and sold a few books. But mostly I spent time with a bunch of people I love and respect, which is a great combination. I go there every couple of years and it is always inspiring.

RR Rose Carbinela doctored this photo (original by Shelly Nixon) and gave it to me at the conference. Sparkly.

I’ve started work on my next book “Old Wild Magic of the Motherlands” and I’m getting ready to do an online class with the same title.  You’ll be able to find that offering, as well as a chance to pre-order “Embracing Willendorf,” here on the website in a couple of days.

And now, it is gardening season–finally–in the southern highlands of Appalachia. And did I mention I’m renovating a house?  And singing with a little band?


I’ll talk about that next time.

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Lighting Signal Fires in Tower Time

I’ve written rather a lot about Tower Time. For Cassandra figures like me, there is nothing satisfying about seeing visions come to fruition. We are experiencing the roiling change, the fear, the uncertainty that is almost programmatic in this enormous shift. Many communities are easily seen to be in peril but I say to you that all communities are thus.

Yes, the Veil is so thin as to be nonexistent, so if you are feeling your Ancestors and Descendents close to you, you are experiencing that. If your garden is flourishing and feels delightful, that is because it is filled with beings of delight that you can now perceive on some level. If you are not meeting with like-minded people to figure out where we as a species go from here, you had best get started. Time’s a-wasting, as we say hereabouts. This world is shuddering and shifting and moving out–it is up to all of us to decide the human worlds that will inhabit this physical space.

Perhaps we can refrain from the word-bombs and ego-lightning and get on with the reasons we’re actually here.

Something you may find helpful right now is to ground yourself deeply and shield yourself, too. Do all the self-care we’ve been discussing ad infinitem–hydrating, exercise, nutritious food. Holding fast to the good that you are and that you know.

Remember how strong you are and what you have already been through.

We are shaky now, frightened, angry. Go to your altar and renew your daily spiritual practice. Go outside. Remember, remember who you are and where you are, and your golden wild heart. Find your tribe and sit in circle with other tribes, either literal or virtual.

A thought, in love, from your village witch.

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Garden as Metaphor, Gardener as Priestess

Britain 2013 224

Working in the gardens I tend is excellent exercise, provides healthy fresh food and affords me more opportunities to touch the sacred soil. I came away this morning from a general clean-out of beds in the Summer garden and was a sweaty, stinky mess. The wheel barrow was filled to overflowing with leggy catnip and run-away blackberry canes. A blighted Early Girl tomato went into a bag–because of the blight, she can’t be composted with everything else.

(And as I type this, I’m realizing there’s a mound of green bean plants on the back stoop. I was supposed to pull the last of the beans before they go into the compost. With any luck, the possums and raccoons will be otherwise engaged and I can do that in the morning.)

Last night, the women who tend the Women’s Garden did some planning and dreaming while sitting around the brazier in the Crone’s Courtyard. We laughed and ranted and could almost taste next year’s crops, wondering how we can get the excess out to people in our community who need fresh food.

For years now, I have written and talked about Tower Time. I have this deep knowing that we are living through momentous times, times in which we are experiencing the collapse of ancient systems that have plagued humans and the Earth for far too long. Tower Time is hard and complex and, frankly, a little scary. We have been talking for some time about this as a Coming Attraction.

As I gazed into last night’s fire, I had another knowing. It’s here. The other shoe has fallen. The shit has hit the fan. The Abrahamic god, who has been a cipher for so long, has vanished from the firmament. At last. At last.

The hard work today–in the temple of my garden–was as sacred as setting the altars at Mother Grove. Pitchfork in hand and wheel barrow at the ready–no less the act of a priestess than lighting the incense and replacing the used tealights. My robe is grubby too big pants and filthy garden clogs. My priestess crown a blue handkerchief drenched in my sweat. My holy book is the rich soil. My choir that neighbors’ laying hens.

When we see it all as sacred, we all are the clergy who tend it. When we love it as the Divine, we will be willing to fight for it. In the face of idiotic politicians and greedy investors, we know the worth of this thing we love, that we honor, that we worship.

Take your ordination in the rains from heaven and the winds of change that have gathered around us. Let it come, this new world. As I have written before–these are the times we are made for.

Fear not.

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(I haven’t made a picture of today’s lush harvest–please imagine the fat red globes with the bright eye of your imagination.)

There is nothing in the whole of the wide world as delicious and magical as the first tomato of the summer growing season. And when I write “tomato” you need to know that I refer to full-sized ones, not salad toms or tommy-toes. Blessed Juliette has already given us some of her sweet fruit and the little golden tomatoes at the women’s garden are gleeful in the amount of their fruiting.

I was cleaning up 1/4 bushel of apples–readying them for the freezer and from there to the cider press–when I thought I’d check the summer garden to see if the cucumbers and beans had sprouted after our recent days of rain. (The cukes have, the beans have not.) And what to my wondering eyes should appear but an apronful of warm Black Cherry salad tomatoes and the first of the Early Girls.

Most people who love tomatoes have their own opinion about what constitutes perfect ripeness–I am no exception. The Early Girls are exactly the right combination of redness and firmness.

And tomorrow I will eat them with some rough sea salt, and a side of sliced cucumbers.

Blessed be the First Fruits of the season.