Friday, 18 July 2008

Where are the Butterflies?

Today, while walking, my brother noticed how beautiful and luscious the budlia is this year. He also missed the butterflies. Where are they? I looked at one website that says we should be worried.

I'm worried about the bees as well. Not sure whether it's mobile phones or killer viruses but I know that when I go for a walk I hear traffic rather than bird song and humming bees. Should we be worried? Yes, I think so.

Here's an idea or two. Walk rather than drive whenever you can. Use your mobile phone sparingly. Plant a wild life space in your garden. Eat more chocolate..... (well, mabe not the last one)

Thursday, 17 July 2008


One of my favourite times of year is LAMMAS or LUGHNASAD (Pronounced Lunassa)
(1st – 2nd August)

Lammas is the feast and celebration of the fruits and harvest of the life force. We greet Lammas with a mixture of sadness and thanksgiving as we celebrate the harvest of our work through the year and we recognise the solemnity of the death of John Barleycorn, the Lord of the Sun who, having given us his strength, is now cut down.

August would have been a time of harvesting barley oats and wheat. Lammas derives its name from the Old English “Hlafmas” or “loaf-mass” or in Scotland, Lughnasad, the Feast of the Celtic Sun God, Lugh who was the spirit of the growing corn. In Britain this was a time when as many people as possible were brought from their normal work and children from their schools to help with the harvesting. Today the holiday remains as Bank Holiday Monday. The last sheaf of corn would be woven into a Corn Dolly. This would be kept at home on the hearth or alter until next spring when the seeds would be sown again. The harvest season was, and to some extent still is, the most critical of the year.

This was also the traditional time of year for craft festivals. The medieval guilds would create elaborate displays of their wares, decorating their shops and themselves in bright colours and ribbons, marching in parades, and performing strange, ceremonial plays and dances for the entranced onlookers.

Lammas is also the feast of the first fruits. Depending on when the ‘first fruits’ are for you, celebrate this season with gathering them in.

As we don’t have a garden with our own crops to harvest my daughter and I often chose this time of year to go to ‘Pick-Your-Own’ farms and gather lots of luscious fruit and vegetables to eat raw, cook or preserve. We try out different recipes for bread and once made a large wheat sheaf shaped loaf for our local Unitarian group (a religious group which draws inspiration from many faiths). As both of us are allergic to wheat, coming up with good, wheat free recipes is not always easy but we have discovered some that make the results edible!

The sun is high, the days are long and hot (if we’re lucky in England), the wheat is golden and ready to be cut and we sit within our harvest reflecting on all that we have done and all that has grown as a result. It is a good time to reflect on what is good in our lives and celebrate those things. It is a good time to invite friends round and share wonderful, seasonal meals with all the glorious vegetables and fruits that are available at this time of year.

With the development of modern farming methods it is hard to imagine the reapers in the field, all in a line under a warm sky but maybe we can look at the rhythm in our lives and enjoy the natural cycle that produces such a harvest.

O three men they did come down from Kent
To plough for wheat and rye
And they made a vow and a solemn vow
John Barleycorn should die

O they ploughed in the furrow deep
Till the clods lay o’er his head
And these three men were rejoicing then
John Barleycorn was dead

They left him there for a week or so
And a shower of rain did fall
John Barleycorn sprung up again
And he proved them liars all

Then they hired men with sickles
To cut him off at the knee
And the worst of all they served Barleycorn
They served him barbarously

Then they hired men with pitchforks
To pitch him onto the load
And the worst of all they served Barleycorn
They bound him down with cord

Then they hired men with thrashels
To beat him high and low
They came smick-smack on poor Jack’s back
Till the flesh bled every blow

O the next they put him in the maltin’ kiln
Thinking to dry his bones
And the worst of all they served barleycorn
They crushed him between two stones

Then they put him into the mashing tub
Thinking to scald his tail
And the next thing they called Barleycorn
They called him home-brewed ale

So come put your wine into glasses
Your cider in tin-cans
But young Barleycorn in the old brown jug
For he proves the strongest man.