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Category: Festivals and Celebrations

Peace and Love

Peace and Love

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Diwali, Happy Eid (some years!), Blessings of the Yuletide be upon you.  Oh, and Happy Holidays.

There are a lot of words we can say to each other over the course of this dark winter season, I know that bothers some people but I say the more the merrier.  Any chance to share words of kindness, to wish good things for other people, is a good thing.  I don’t have to share a person’s faith the share their good intentions and I love this season for the way it breaks down barriers and gives us the chance to connect to strangers all around us.

I remember distinctly being in Nepal for Diwali, the festival of lights.  Every door way was surrounded by fairy lights and the world seem lit up by colour and magic.  I remember watching a woman making a sand mandala on her front door step, she looked up and smiled at me with warmth and connection.  I didn’t know the history of why she was doing what she was doing but I understood it none the less.  She was celebrating life, making the world a little more beautiful, creating art right there at the front of her house.

I do believe that there are more things that connect us than divide us, when we really look.  We all want good things for the people we love, we all want peace and prosperity for ourselves.  These are good things to want, we are not selfish to want them.  The selfishness comes when we seek to deny these things for others, or switch off our compassion for those in need.

So while I don’t share the faith that sits behind the Christmas celebrations, I can certainly share the intentions behind the words we hear all around us at this time of year.  When someone says Merry Christmas to me, whether it’s an automated response or a sincere and heartfelt wish, I know what is truly meant by those words.  It is the same as any celebration, of any religion, of people around the world.

They mean stay safe, stay warm; I hope you are loved, I hope you are happy.  

To those of us lucky enough to experience safety, family love and peace at this time of year we can rejoice in our good fortune.  We can donate money, time or goods to those who are less fortunate and we can use our words and gestures to remind all around us that most people are good people.  Most of us want peace, most of us want to give love and receive it in return.  It’s pretty simple.

So whatever beliefs sit inside your heart, whatever this season means to you whether it’s a time of faith or simply a time to be off work with family, I wish you only the best.  Stay safe, stay warm.  I hope you are loved, I hope you are happy.

Blessings of the Yuletide from our family to yours xxxx

On Solstice Eve

On Solstice Eve

While I may not have chestnuts roasting on an open fire, I do have pine needles stewing in a pan of water which is still pretty darn festive if you ask me.  I’m always a bit slow to the party when it comes to yuletide cheer, I find December pretty exhausting truth be told; coupling darkness, busyness, pressure and running around does not make for a content Emmalina.

Around this time though, as Solstice Eve dawns damp and remarkably unsnowed upon, I find my cheer emerging.  We’ve done everything we need to do to prepare for this special season, shopping has been shopped (mostly), we have treats ready to be scoffed, we’ve seen friends and attended parties, we’ve laughed and made the most of it all.  Now it’s time to slow.

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I feel grateful to have lovely friends to share this season with, friends who are themselves a gift throughout the year.  I feel grateful for the friendships my boys enjoy, their delight in seeing their pals and in sharing their passions with them.  But mainly I’m grateful for hearth and home, for a place to come back to, my bolt hole of safety and security.  Now that we’ve spent a goodly portion of the last 2 weeks out and about, enjoying activities and time with friends, I’m ready to close the door and turn my focus inwards.

This year has been a busy one, I know I’ve said that before, but it really seems to have been non stop.  This year we made conscious decisions to scale back through the winter, giving ourselves some breathing space, some room for rest.  It feels like now is the time for that to begin, this Solstice Eve where the main tingle of magic is the simple fact of being able to stay at home and share an uneventful day with the boys.  We’ll be doing some chores to prepare for Nana’s arrival this evening (yay!), but mainly I would just like to snatch quiet time, peaceful moments that are meaningful only to ourselves really.

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The solstice means different things to different people, like any festival or celebration.  To me it symbolises the simple truth that people really don’t change that much, that we can stretch our fingers back through time and brush against all those that went before.  Like those who lived centuries ago we turn faces to the darkness and wish for the return of light.  Despite our knowledge, our technology, our advancement, our barbarism, we all turn our faces to that life giving ball and hope.  We all know, that we are no more than creatures of the earth, dependent on her for our survival, our life.  It’s easy to forget that, but I feel at my best when I am closer to the land and remembering that I am part of the fabric of it all.

So this morning, as I rather despondently cruised Facebook, I was inspired by a post by Amber of The Wild Garden, to switch off my screen and go out and do something less boring instead.  So I did.  With secateurs in hand I clipped branches from Cedar and Spruce trees that sit on our driveway, the scent of their needles wafting up at me and clearing my head.  I clipped fragrant Juniper and life affirming Yew from our garden, feeling connected to home as I did so.  Traditionally Yew is planted in sacred places, marking them as special; so we planted one here, in this place that is more special than any other to us, our home.

I snipped the branches and arranged them in vases to be distributed around the house (inspired by my artist friend), twisting them until they were just right, as beautiful as any flower arrangement.  The extra pieces went into a large pan of water, it’s now simmering away filling the house with the scent of fresh pine.  The air smells clean in here, it reminds me of walking through the woods with a carpet of needles under my feet, I feel that I’ve brought a little of the solstice inside for us to enjoy.

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Despite the house being warm I started a small fire this morning, onto it I threw the remaining branches of wood I’d brought in from outside.  As they burned they scented the smoke and turned the fire into something a little magical.  This afternoon I’ll read some solstice stories to the boys, sharing some thoughts about this special day.  Then we’ll clean and tidy and get things ready for Nana, she’s arriving tonight and she feels like the best solstice gift of all.

So here I am, finally able to stop and smell the pine a little.  Able to sit for some quiet moments and enjoy the thought of what’s to come.  Able to finally get in the festive groove and look forward to the family time we’ll share in the coming weeks.  Home cooked, home grown, home loved.  I know, I know how lucky I am.  Sometimes I get too tired to remember, too rushed, too sad or too worried; I never live up to my own standards, I don’t think I’ll ever really be done.  But when the peace comes, when the world slips away a little and I take the time to cook pine needles on the stove, to watch the flames licking around the wood in the fire, to listen to the boy’s laughter as they play some mad game in the basement, then I remember.  I remember and my heart is full.

Bright blessings to you all this Yuletide, wishing you a joyful and, above all, peaceful Solstice.

Getting Medieval

Getting Medieval

In the Kingdom of Osgoode, once more it is medieval fair time!  We are so lucky to live within a few minutes of a great medieval fair that runs for a weekend each summer.  This year, like last year, we attended the fair’s education day with some of our homeschool pals. learning all about medieval life.  But unlike this year we didn’t attend the whole day as we were picking up Stephen from the hospital, so we just popped over for the afternoon.

To make up for it I took the boys to the actual fair over the weekend, something we’ve never quite managed to do.  It was fun to see all the stalls and hear the medieval music being played, and of course we had the chance to watch the jousting.  A hobbling Stephen came with us (he’s an injured chap and taking things slowly after a couple of days of being in the hospital) so we didn’t stay too long, but he did see live jousting for the first time!

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The boys loved the jousting, despite the hot sunshine, and cheering raucously for their favourite knights.  Huwyl was disappointed that none of the knights were unhorsed but other than that is was very enjoyable.  Given that the armour weighs upwards of 160lbs I think the knights were happy to stay where they were.

DSC_0804 DSC_0819 DSC_0823 DSC_0824As we wandered we saw a blacksmith working, tried out archery and castle storming.  Neirin even volunteered to go into the stocks, an excellent invention that I’m sure we could find a use for around the farm.  Ice creams were enjoyed and sword fights engaged in, generally a jolly good boys day out.

DSC_0829 DSC_0831 DSC_0832 DSC_0835Despite his brief interlude as a criminal, Neirin took the opportunity to be knighted by the King of Osgoode and Metcalfe, he took the honour seriously and I was proud of his confidence as he strode into the tent.  This boy of mine can by shy with strangers, but he knelt calmly and happily accepted this new honour.

DSC_0841 DSC_0842 DSC_0847 DSC_0848 DSC_0851 DSC_0853Trying on the armour was, of course, the absolute pinnacle for my two boys.  They spent more time in this tent than at the rest of the fair combined (though they lingered pretty heavily at the sword and dagger tent) and it was lovely to watch them trying to bear up under the weight of chain mail and helmet.  But bear up they did, with comments on how amazing the jousting knights are for carrying the weight of the armour and helmet while piling along the list.

Though only a brief interlude it felt good to get out as a family for a while.  The farm can dominate all of our time if we let it, so we are trying to take breaks and have some down time together.  That said I find myself reluctant to drive far and to leave behind the peace and green of our home.  I was glad to take part in celebrating the Kingdom of Osgoode, but just as glad to be home again afterwards.

The Lull

The Lull

Ok, if I’m honest (and let’s face it I always am) this is the bit I really enjoy about Christmas.  The formal celebrations are over, the rush, the work, the pressure is all done and now we can just be.  We can enjoy time together and days with no major agenda.  We can work on our own projects and take time to build lego sets for hobbits and underwater creatures and spaceships.  Or not.  Or we can just watch a movie.

DSC_0573 DSC_0581DSC_0582DSC_0576This Christmas has been an unusual one for me in lots of ways; for one the homestead/farm is taking up a lot more of our time and no matter what, no matter if it’s Christmas, Boxing day or any other day those animals need looking after.  For another poor Stephen got really sick on Christmas day which made things even more low key.  Making Christmas dinner is usually his thing but this time I did it, with helpful instructions from the pile of poorly on the sofa when it came to cooking the beef (from our neighbour’s farm) and timing the chicken (our own) just right.  Once the excitement of the present giving was over it was a necessarily low key day followed by a similarly poorly ridden Boxing Day.

Not that I’m complaining!  We always plan for quiet days over Christmas so we didn’t feel like we were missing anything as we piled on the sofas and watched movies and fun christmas shows.  Boxing Day dinner was supplied courtesy of Christmas Day Leftovers and after the house had been tided and cleaned post the present mayhem, we managed to settle down and have a peaceful day.

DSC_0589 DSC_0597 DSC_0609 DSC_0610Of course the work of the farm continues, the chickens who are currently camped out in the polytunnel still needed feed and water, eggs need to be collected, pigs need their nosh and buckets of water need to be hauled out to them.  Cows need milking, oats need to given and milk needs to be processed and stored.  Cheese and butter still need to be made and used;  the milking machine still requires cleaning, as do pens and sties and bedrooms.  If we are to stay warm we must make a regular trek to the wood pile and bring in wagon loads of wood, to pile up in the burning heat of the furnace that keeps the cold at bay once the sun goes down.

This regular rhythm of chores, though, has finally settled down to a maintenance level.  We know what needs to be done and can accomplish it relatively quickly each day, especially if both of us are working together.  It is all starting to feel familiar and even the challenges that winter is throwing at us are being woven into the fabric of each day.  I know to a lot of people these responsibilities would seem onerous but to us they are just part of our family life.  There are times when the evening chores seem like a bridge too far but it takes little time in the fresh air for nature to do her work, I invariably come in refreshed and grateful for quiet time ahead.

And that is what I enjoy the most about the Christmas holidays, the quiet lull of time without a check list of how it must be spent.  No where to rush too, no appointments to keep.  The anticipation of starting a new semester is still a little way off and the possibility of projects and fun and even some relaxing grown up time is still all ahead of us.  Today Huwyl is off at riding camp (where hauling water is ‘amazing’ unlike at home where is sucks big time), Daddy and Neirin are working on a lego extravaganza while I sit here in the oddly peaceful and tidy(ish) house listening to their strange tangential conversations.

DSC_0628DSC_0626This afternoon I’m planning on doing some baking with just one boy at my side, indulging in the pleasure of giving him my undivided attention.  I’ll be picking up a tired and horse smelling lad and finding out what other things are ‘amazing’ when at horse camp, looking for the little signs of a growing up boy that seem to be ever present right now.   Tomorrow we are dropping the boys off for their first dual sleep over and Stephen and I will be spending an entire 24 hours together, just the two of us.  All of these things, these details, are what makes this time so lovely to me, regular and routine somehow seem special and lovely.  In the meantime I wonder what Stephen and I will talk about when it is just the two of us…

Ah yes the kids.  And the farm.  And the kids on the farm.  Good stuff.

On Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve

The storm that has been kicking North America’s botty for the last few days has finally abated, the snow and ice rain receding and leaving behind cobalt blue cold.  From Friday to Sunday we battled against snow and ice, trudging through calf deep drifts with buckets of feed and water, feeling the ice pellets slip down the back of our jackets or listening to the tiny hiss of snow landing on snow.

On Friday my friends forged through terrible driving conditions to come and share part of the solstice with us.  Cosily we spent time and watched as the snow fell and fell, coating everything; but we knew the ice rain was coming next, a much more dangerous cousin.  So after sharing our celebrations everyone headed off to hunker down for the weekend.

But this morning, ah this morning.  Bright and clear and (-28C) a tad brisk, but…

DSC_0588 DSC_0591 DSC_0592 DSC_0594 DSC_0595 DSC_0602As the new sun rose, tinting the world with hues of summer, I couldn’t help but stand in awe of this place I have the privilege of calling home.  A shining world made of diamonds and glass, the reward for days hiding and rushing, dodging ice and cold.

DSC_0616 DSC_0628 DSC_0624 DSC_0619 DSC_0617Even the most mundane things were covered in sparkles and light, reflecting the dawn in a way that seemed as if it was shining in each flake at once, transforming summer chicken coops and fences into Faberge creations.

DSC_0628 DSC_0634 DSC_0633 DSC_0632 DSC_0631Last night we finished the last of our Christmas shopping, a few books that still needed to be bought.  We were out after dark, later than we ever normally would be, dipping our toes into the world of commercial Christmas and then heading home again to our cocoon.  But this morning, this is what makes the heart soar and fly.  Crunching through a crystal crust while marvelling at the presents nature has wrought.  Noticing a head of Goldenrod encased in sparkling glass, a magical bouquet beyond our making.

DSC_0636DSC_0639 DSC_0643 DSC_0640Without meaning to sound trite (but of course sounding it anyway) I was reminded that the true meaning of Christmas is not in the gifts we buy, not matter how much we treasure them.  It’s outside, the world that we walk on every day and often forget to be grateful for it’s strange miracles.  It’s the way the sun catches the light on an ice encrusted branch, it’s friends taking time to be with us, it’s long distance Skype calls to those far away but always close in my heart, it’s crazy excited kids, it’s bumping into your beloved on the daily chore run and feeling as full of joy at that meeting as I did 19 years ago.  It’s laughing at the stunning beauty while our faces are pinched hard and our toes protest that it really is time to go inside.

DSC_0637DSC_0622DSC_0647It’s all that and more, lots more.  More than I have words for and quite possibly more than I deserve.  But, knowing that, knowing how chance and luck have worked along side determination and struggle, I grab it with both hands and hold on tight.  I grab it all with both arms and squeeze the joy right to me, right inside me.  I let it sit and fizz away as I watch my wonderful family enjoy this day, as I connect to those far away that I wish I could squeeze close but settle for seeing their lovely faces and hearing their laughing voices instead.

I am blessed and I hope so are you.  Sending everyone rapturous joy this yuletide; stay warm, stay safe and have a very, very Merry Christmas.

8 Years Boy

8 Years Boy

My beloved boy, 8 times round the sun we’ve gone, 8 years you’ve lived beside us.  I can’t imagine life without you.

8 years boy-9377 8 years boy-9391 8 years boy-9394You are full of beans and curiosity, you never walk when you could gallop, you are my little comet zooming through life.

8 years boy-9411 8 years boy-9413 8 years boy-9423You are strong and confident, kind to animals and little people, you are infectiously friendly to everyone you meet.

8 years boy-9427 8 years boy-9443 8 years boy-9160You make me laugh every day; your mind is so full and alive I don’t know how you keep your head on!  You are loved and liked by so many people, your desire to bring happiness to others shines out of your beautiful smile.

8 years boy-9172Happy Birthday my beautiful, silly, hilarious, clever, sweet, loving, crazy, noisy, imaginative, creative, galloping, loving and wonderful 8 years boy.

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day

 

 

While our Canada day was mostly comprised of lovely outside work (there really is nothing like mowing an acre of lawn to give you a feeling of satisfaction!) we did make some time for a bit of celebrating.  Our local town had a bouncy castle and assault course, pony rides were had and new bikes were thoroughly zipped about on.  But of course the highlight of any celebration is the sparklers…canada day 2013-9183 canada day 2013-9188 canada day 2013-9196 canada day 2013-9201Each year I feel even happier to celebrate this special country, the place that has adopted us, the place our children call home.  Happy Birthday Canada!

 

Today we have mostly been…

Today we have mostly been…

Planting tomato seeds…

may fun-8828 may fun-8830building forts…

may fun-8825attending cookery school with Daddy (and making dinner to boot!)

may fun-8823 may fun-8824may fun-8831getting chickens (big and small) onto the green pasture that is leaping out of the earth all around us…

may fun-8832 may fun-8834looking up at the sky and seeing what we can spot…

may fun-8835 may fun-8838taking an evening stroll down by the pond…

may fun-8841 may fun-8844What better way to end a day than that?

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas

Christmas

It was bliss.

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Plenty to eat, much of it from our own farm, time to play, time to rest.  We’ve really been enjoying our family time, even managing to squeeze in some quiet hours for Mummy and Daddy while the children play.  Tomorrow the snow is coming in and I have a special project in mind;  another day of just being together with no special plans.  What could be better.

Merry Christmas and a peaceful holiday to you wherever you are.

Winter Solstice 2012

Winter Solstice 2012

We started the day with bacon sandwiches (our home grown bacon), watching the snow falling heavily outside.  It has continued to fall through the day, the edges of the world becoming plump and round and the thick flakes snuggle on top of one another.  The day is slipping by in pleasant normality, not an apocalypse in sight.  This is our second December living here, but to me it feels like the first.

solstice2012-7291solstice2012-7275 solstice2012-7279 solstice2012-7282On days like this I’m grateful for many things, here are a few:

– A chap who knows how to clear driveways and a new and improved slightly ancient tractor;

– Silly dogs who make me laugh;

– Children being able to spend the day making a ‘snow wall’ outside, life skills at work;

– A truly beautiful bouquet of flowers, sent from my Dad, that are perfuming the kitchen as I sit here writing.

I haven’t ventured out much, a little walk around to check on the chickens (they are resolutely NOT coming out of their cosy coop) and then some supervising as Stephen tries out our ‘on loan’ snow blower (the snow is too wet it would seem).  I’m glad to have a warm house to cosy up in and nowhere that I have to be.

solstice2012-7286 solstice2012-7292 solstice2012-7293 solstice2012-7296 solstice2012-7301 solstice2012-7304The boys are in the bath (actually now I think of it they’ve been there for about an hour now I come to think of it…), Stephen is ploughing the drive and I’m taking the chance for a sneaky and actually hot cup of tea at the kitchen counter.  We have nothing major planned for today, just being together feels like a wonderful celebration all on it’s own.  It’s been quite a year here at the farm, a year of discovery and challenge and lots of work.  I’m looking forward to another one…after a little bit of a rest that is.  Tea anyone?