A while ago, I started working on a circular calendar based on the seasons and the moon rather than the weekdays and months. It led me to look at the seasonal celebrations in different parts of the world and relating them to the traditions I know. One of the more significant ones today here in Aotearoa seem to be Anzac Day, so I thought I’d write today about my reflections on this specific time. I don’t know enough yet to understand the traditional meaning of this season of different iwi, but I’m working on it – please forgive an immigrant!
In pre-christian Europe (where I trace my ancestry) at the same season between autumn equinox and winter solstice – around 1st November in the northern hemisphere – Samhain was the seasonal celebration. Later, it transformed into All Hallows Day and All Saints day and now halloween. The dark part of the year begins, it was the time when livestock was taken down from high pastures in the mountains and culled for winter meats, as well as to make sure there was enough feed for the remaining animals over winter. Themeat was first offered to spirit guides for protection over the dark months – a way to also honour their lives ending in order to feed us.
Then, a feast was held to give thanks for the harvests collected and stored, and empty seats were left for the recently departed. People showed love and connection to loved ones, putting candles and lanterns, often carved in pumpkins or turnips, aroundthe house to guide the spirits of defunt friends and family home, to act as guardians. Remembrance and connection, in all ways, was the seasonal “feeling”. A great turning inwards, just like the garden and nature in general. It is for me a time for honoring and showing love for dead and far away people as well as for the growing season ending now.
So even though I’m not feeling very connected to the sacrifice of many young men for the profits of the few (which I consider the essence of war), I’ll integrate this special weekend in my own perception of the seasons passing as being a time of remembrance and gratitude for what has passed. I’ll put out lanterns around the house, eating some well raised meat with something of each plant that I’ve grown and stored, to mark my appreciation. Seasonal calls to friends overseas and letters for dead friends and family will also be on the agenda this weekend.
And in the garden, what’s to do? Most of it is sleeping now, green manures sown and mulch covers the bed where I didn’t get the seeds in early enough. I cleaned out the hothouse last week and now I’m filling it with winter salads: lettuce, radish, all sorts of leafy greens in big containers (my hothouse is on a wooden terrace, with no soil). The moon is waxing again and we’ll reach full moon on Monday 4th. This will be the last sowing day before spring for me, in the hothouse.
- I still haven’t got my garlic in the ground, but the bed is ready – if it wasn’t I’d prepare it now with plenty of compost, garlic is a hungry crop!
- Keep an eye on snail population – they’ll multiply, and it’s fine to have them around as they provide food for predators but if they’re too many they may wreack havoc on your winter plants. If the plants are strong enough, they’ll cope with it. If not, feed them now and use some form of organically certified snail pellets – EcoStore is a good brand, sold at Commonsense Organics.
- Seeds for spring flowers can go into pots now, and previous sowings can be pricked out.
- Bulbs for spring flowers can go into the ground as well.
- Clear the ground under fruit trees and plant a good understorey (if you don’t have one, or regenerate the one you’ve got
- Start cleaning all tools, sharpen and oil them
And that’s about it! My broad beans are in the ground (otherwise I’d sow them now) and there isn’t much more to do. Reading, deciding on next years rotations and checking I’ve got enough seeds… this is exciting, I like planning as much as actually pottering around in the garden!
So let’s give thanks and call on the protection of friends and family and ancestors and spirits for the dark months to come. Remembering and recording what we did this year will help us make informed decisions for next – both in the garden and in life in general.
And remember the Urban Food Forest workshop 9th May! Registrations are open, firstname.lastname@example.org