Easter is a festival of sacrifice and resurrection. We commemorate Christ’s sacrifice on the day he died on the cross as Jesus, the man, only to be resurrected as Christ, the son of God and the redeemer of mankind. However, the cross, which in Christian mythology signifies the crucifixion, is a much older symbol.
In pre-Christian traditions, it symbolised the cosmic order: the four directions, the axis of time and space, and the surrender of the ego, which is bound to the material world.
In the symbolism of the ancient world, sacrifice was not a celebration of death, as it may seem, but of life. It was seen as a way of giving back, so life may continue. Death and rebirth were seen as two sides of the same door. Like the Ouroboros, life feeds on itself, thereby continuously regenerating itself.
For a sacrifice to be meaningful, it had to be of value. It had to be something special. Any old rat would not do! This was meant to be a gift to the Gods!
Originally, only the king himself was worthy of being sacrificed. But in time, Kings were not so keen on being sacrificed and instead of themselves, they offered up their first-born. But in time, that too was deemed too much. Animals now had to play the part. At Ostara, when the Earth renews itself, that sacrificial animal was an innocent lamb – which it still is to this day: a lamb roast serves as the centrepiece of the Easter feast. This is a distant echo of an age-old sacrificial tradition.
Easter is a movable feast – a clear indication that this festival pre-dates Christian times. The exact date changes every year. It always falls on the first Sunday following the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox (Worm Moon). Originally, Easter, or Ostara, as it was known, was the festival of the Goddess Eostre, a Mother Goddess that is known by many names: Ishtar, Astarte, or the Great Mother Kali.
Her sacred ‘Moon Hare’ (a symbol of fertility) has become the ‘Easter Bunny’. The eggs symbolise life as unborn potential as well as the promise of rebirth. Traditionally, the eggs would have been dyed red, the colour of blood as a conduit of life. A gift of such dyed eggs is a symbolic blessing: A gift of life and abundance! May your potential unfold and blossom!
The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara G. Walker, HaperCollins, 1983
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The main jobs in April are planting, sowing (both indoors and directly into the beds), and weeding. April is a busy month for gardeners. Hopefully, you have been able to prep your veggie plots in March and they are now ready for action.
Your seed potatoes should be chitted (=sprouted) by now and ready to plant. Now it is time to plant them. If you have a limited amount of space, try growing them vertically in potato grow bags, or towers.
Tomatoes, Chillies & co
Tomatoes, Chillies, Aubergines and Zucchinis are ‘long-season plants’, and they like it warm. That is why we need to start them early, indoors. The best time to sow them is during the latter part of March, from about Equinox, but April is just about okay, too. Start them as soon as possible, under glass.
Alternatively, you can buy young plants at the farmer’s market or garden centre next month. Or, perhaps one of your gardening friends has far more plants than they have room for in their garden and are happy to share.
If you started your tomatoes very early they may begin to look straggly by now but don’t be tempted to plant them out until there is no more danger of night frosts. Instead, pot them up and cover the stem with soil up to just below the first leaf node. This will encourage them to develop more roots and prevent the stem from getting too dangly.
Onion Sets and Shallots
Continue to plant onion sets to extend your harvesting season.
Sow beetroots directly into the prepared plots. or containers. Sow about 10cm apart or thin seedlings out once they are about 3cm tall.
Carrots can also be sown directly into the well-prepared ground. They prefer loose, sandy, well-draining soil. If the ground is too heavy or full of stones the roots will fork. Carrots are very fragile as seedlings and don’t take so well to being transplanted. Starting carrots in a gutter pipe is a nifty gardening hack. The contents of the drain pipe can be transferred directly to the prepared plot without the need to handle individual seedlings.
You can still sow leeks under glass now. Once they’ve grown to about 15-20cm transplant well-prepared soil. Plant them deeply (20cm deep holes) to get a long blanched shaft. Plant approx. 15cm apart. Space rows about 30cm apart.
If you stagger the sowing and transplanting you can significantly extend the harvesting season, which can start as early as August and continue through the winter. It’s best to harvest them fresh as needed.
Sow radishes at regular intervals right through August to ensure a continued supply. The seeds are tiny, so thin seedlings out to about 2,5cm per plant once they are about 3cm tall. They are an ideal ‘gap’ crop or row marker – they grow fast and can be harvested long before a slower-growing main crop develops. Filling gaps with radishes also helps to keep the weeds at bay. Water regularly and keep an eye out for predatory slugs and snails.
Coloured varieties of Swiss Chard are beautiful ‘edimentals’, whether you like the taste or not. They can be sown directly into a well-prepared bed. The nice thing is, they are tolerant of partial shade, so they don’t have to take the prime spot in the garden.
Like radishes, turnips are a fast and easy crop to grow. If you harvest them young they can be eaten raw or cooked, and the leaves can be used as well.
Sow peas at intervals to ensure a continued supply. Unlike most plants, peas don’t mind growing closely together. There is no need to thin them out: growing them in thick bunches keeps the weeds down and increases yields. Keep them moist at the beginning. Later, water deeply once a week, especially during the summer when they start to flower. Mulch to keep the moisture in the soil.
Controlling weeds is a tiresome task, but if you get on top of it early, you will save yourself a lot of time and effort later in the season, when it gets much harder to pull them out without damaging your crops. Mulching greatly helps to keep weeds down and moisture in the ground.
Check out SeedsNow for your organic gardening supplies!
Winter is a tough time for foragers stuck in a northern climate zone. Leaves have fallen and are buried underneath the snow (or, in the mud, at any rate). Berries, if there are any left on the bushes, tend to look wrinkled, blemished, and listless. Nuts have long been gathered and stored for later use. Those that have been left on the ground are now riddled with worms. So, what is a poor northern hemisphere forager to do?
Well, she might make a beeline for the pantry, where hopefully, she will find jars filled with delicious preserves. Jams, pickles, and chutneys will bring back happy memories of happy foraging days spent roaming through the countryside. Picking the gifts of the Earth for drearier times to come – like these drab old winter days.
Each mouthful of these treasures will lead you down a dreamy trail, not just reminiscing about the summer past, but also of the one to come. Winter Solstice has passed. Although it does not seem like it, spring is nearer than we thought. Three months down the road we’ll be off again, picking the first salad herbs and enjoying the first gifts of spring.
Those who do not live in the permafrost zone may be lucky enough to find a few green things hardy enough to withstand the winter. Cresses, for example, have no problem surviving a mild winter.
Take Wintercress, Barbarea vulgaris – a typical cress, easily recognizable by its typical rocket-type leaves and flowers. This tough little plant can be collected throughout the winter. It can even stay green beneath the snow.
Wintercress is rich in vitamin C and A and was valued as an ‘anti-scurvy’ plant until vitamin C became readily available throughout the year, even in northern climate zones. If you have trouble spotting its large-leaved, deeply lobed rosette during the winter months, you will probably notice it as one of the first herbs that pop up in the earliest spring days.
The leaves are best while they are young and tender, before the plant starts to flower. Young leaves can be added to salads much like rocket (arugula), which has a similarly tangy flavor. As they age the leaves turn tougher, rougher, and rather bitter. If need be, they can be used as a potherb, although it would not be the most palatable one. Boiling the herb in several changes of water may reduce the bitterness, but it would also destroy its texture and diminish its nutrient value. Better just to use it sparingly and in combination with other, less flavourful herbs.
The cress family includes quite a number of herbs that are of interest to the forager. They all start to sprout early in the season. Here is a good page to help with watercress identification: Barbarea vulgaris ID
Blend the egg and the mayonnaise to make a paste, add the onion, wintercress, salt, and pepper. If you don’t like mayonnaise try crème fraiche, instead.
Wash and chop the wintercress. Sauté with the minced onion and spices with just a little butter. Add a small amount of bullion if need be.
Chop up the wintercress, slice tomatoes, mince the onion and garlic and cut the mozzarella into cubes. Mix well and serve with a simple vinaigrette.
Plant Profile: Mysterious Mistletoe. This strange evergreen plant has a fascinating mythology and some very interesting medicinal uses, too.
The story of sugar is bittersweet indeed. It’s a tale of brutal exploitation and of environmental devastation and our sweetest addiction.
Fiber plants have long been used for cordage, rope, carpet backing, canvass, as well as for finely woven textiles. Flax, Cotton, Hemp, Ramie, Kenaf, and coconut fibre are among the most widely used natural fibers.
Bold and undeniably conspicuous, the bright red cap with its white flaky speckles gives this fungus away. Every child knows its name.
Since it is nearly Halloween I thought I’d write a post about pumpkins – predictable I know, but nonetheless a fascinating topic.
The Earth Charter is a declaration of 16 fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century.
Jerusalem Artichokes are the perfect edimental, spreading lovely late summer cheer and providing nourishing goodness through the winter. And they are very versatile, too!
Walnut trees (Juglans regia) are acclimated foreigners in our northern latitudes. Their home is in the warm, and fertile regions of south-east Europe, northern Greece, northern Italy, and France, where they are widely cultivated.
Rose hips are packed full of vitamin C and an excellent immune system booster. Most people know the tea, but the syrup is super delicious!
Nothing quite conjures up the magical atmosphere of autumn as the warm, sweet scent of roasted chestnuts. It immediately invokes images of bonfires and harvest feasts.
This article is about various methods to preserve the harvest. Making your own pickles and preserves, jams and chutneys, liqueurs and canned veggies is a great way to celebrate the harvest
What to do with all the excess fruit? Homemade wines and liqueurs may be just the answer to your bucketloads of fruit
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