Saturday, December 27, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
The wise traveller falls down at once in the middle of the road, face down. (The Hunt leader spares only those who remain in the middle of the path. Therefore he often calls out to travelers, "In the middle of the path!") If he is lucky, he will take no harm other than the cold feet of the black dogs running over his body. More foolish folk are swept up, coming to earth far from home or left dead behind the furious host. Those who join in the Hunter's cry may get as their share of the booty a piece of human flesh.
This is the Wild Hunt of Germanic folklore. It is known by many names -- Wutan's or Wuet's Army in the southern parts of Germany, the family of Harlequin in France, the Oskorei in Norway, Odensjakt in Denmark and Sweden -- but the basic description is always much the same. A great noise of barking and shouting is heard; then a black rider on a black, white, or gray horse, storming through the air with his hounds, followed by a host of strange spirits, is seen. The rider is sometimes headless. Sometimes, particularly in Upper Germany, the spirits show signs of battle-wounds or death by other forms of mischance. Fire spurts from the hooves and eyes of the beasts in the procession. The horses and hounds may be two- or three-legged. Often the newly dead can be recognized in the train. The furious host is always a peril to the human being who comes into its way, though sometimes it leaves rewards as well.
At the root of the myth lies the Teutonic god Woden, or Odin, to use his Norse name.
Odin, in his guise of wind-god, was thought to rushing through the skies astride his eight-legged steed, Sleipnir. As it was thought that the souls of the dead were wafted away on the winds of a storm, Odin became regarded as the leader of all disembodied spirits - the gatherer of the dead. Eventually, storms became associated with his passing. In this role he was known as the Wild Huntsman. The passage of his hunt, known as Odin's Hunt, the Wild Ride, the Raging Host or Asgardreia, was said to presage misfortune such as pestilence, death or war. Odin, followed by the ghosts of the dead, would roam the skies, accompanied by furious winds, lightning and thunder. To the believers, the tumult must surely have been evidence of the god's passing.
Throughout the years, the mythology of the hunt adapted to suit the geographical area and the time period. In the Middle Ages, for example, the lead huntsman included Charlemagne, Frederick Barbarossa and King Arthur.
Traditions of a Wild Hunt also existed in areas away from Norse influence.
In Wales, for example, the leader of the Hunt was Gwynn ap Nudd. The "Lord of the Dead", Gwynn ap Nudd was followed by his pack of white hounds with blood-red ears.
These red-eared hounds are also found in northern England, where they were known as Gabriel Hounds. Their appearance was also a portent of doom.
In southern England, it was Herne the Hunter who led the hunt, while elsewhere it is also referred to as "Herlathing" - from the mythical King Herla, its supposed leader.
As recently as the 1940's the Hunt was reportedly heard going through the English countryside near Taunton on Halloween night. And the unlucky visitor to the West Country of England may still meet the Hunt upon the moors.
But whether in chronicle or legend, in folk practice or personal experience, the Hunt's underlying meaning and message remains one of remembrance: remember the dead, your kin, so your crops may grow by ancestral blessing; honor them lest they come like warriors to the field claiming tribute.
Much more detailed and fascinating information about this terrifying event at the links below:
Penance, Power, and Pursuit:On the Trail of the Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt - from the Orkney Isles
Wild Huntsman Legends
The Folklore of the Wild Hunt and the Furious Host
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
The snow that fell never melted. It hasn't been above 20 degrees since Saturday here, so it couldn't have. The snow has mostly been blown away by the gusting winds. The wind has also brought a steady shower of pine branch debris, and innumerable pine cones from our seven big trees as you can see below.
Since we are to continue with arctic winds, snow and single digit temps for the next week or longer, looks like we'll have to postpone the Seven Trees Wassail until another TBA date. Sorry folks. Hard to have a bon fire with wind gusts pushing 60mph!
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
The name Krampus comes from the Old High German word for claw, apparently referring to just one of this being’s scary attributes. Other less-than-friendly features include a long, long tongue, shaggy black hair/fur, goat's head with horns, and cloven feet. Krampus was usually equipped with a bundle of birch twigs (for beating naughty children), chains (for capturing naughty children) and a pack basket on his back (for abducting naughty children).
Depending on who you believe, Krampus is very old indeed. Some say the tradition stems back to the pre-Christian era, and that the Krampus known and feared by Austrians today is a version of an ancient god incorporated into Christian holidays.
The ceremony was widely practiced until the Inquisition, when impersonating a devil was punishable by death. In remote mountain towns the tradition survived in violation of the church's edicts. In the 17th century Krampus made a comeback as part of the Christmas celebrations, paired with St. Nicholas as the jolly fellow's dark alter ego.
In the mid-1950s, well-meaning educators feared that the frightening apparition might scar children for life.
One anti-Krampus pamphlet distributed in Vienna was earnestly entitled "Krampus is an Evil Man." As with most old traditions, Krampus has been somewhat commercialized and toned down. Today the tradition often devolves into a mid-winter bacchanal, where scaring kids takes a back seat to heroic bouts of drinking. The town of Schladminger is home to a sort of Krampus convention, with more than a thousand goat-men roaming the town's streets, harassing the town's young women.
There are a few books available (and many online sources) detailing these rather disturbing images. They run the gamut from scenes of children being menaced, beaten and abducted to scenes of older girls and women being sexually harassed (some even feature a voyeur Santa, peeking through the window at the Krampus & victim).
We hope you enjoyed this creepy look into a traditional European belief. I'd much rather find a lump of coal in my stocking than have a visit from the Krampus!
Friday, December 05, 2008
Ratified December 5, 1933
Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
There were a lot of wildfires that summer, which made some of the pictures hazy. This is taken halfway up Helens, on Monitor Ridge. It's not a technical climb, but it is fairly strenuous. I've made 7 attempts with 4 summits. The failed attempts were weather related. It doesn't matter what time of year you climb or what the conditions are at base level. Sometimes you get part way up and encounter a blizzard, or soaking rain, and there isn't much point in risking life & limb for a 50ft view of fog at the crater rim. One year a party had gotten lost, one of them seriously injured, and my party nearly met the same fate the day after. I was lucky to escape with mild frostbite & hypothermia, and definitely learned a lesson on when to turn back.
We'll consult the calendar, and on February 1st, 2009, recommence the age-old ritual of submitting a permit app to climb the Old Lady. Maybe August or Labor Day Weekend, if we're lucky. One downside of the permit system is that there is no do-overs if you get bad weather on your day. And the other tough part is getting in shape. But it is so worth it! On one of my climbs, a young woman was helping her even younger nephew gear up at the Biv. She mentioned it was her 7th time up, and I laughed, thinking you'd have to be crazy to climb the same mountain that many times. Now here I am, planning my 8th ascent.....
Monday, November 24, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Here's a picture of one variety of sunchoke being harvested. And below is another. Moose Tubers (a sub-company of Fedco Seeds) has 3 kinds of sunchokes for sale. Ronniger's has a few as well.
Some "technical" info:
Helianthus tuberosus is a type of sunflower that is grown for its edible tuberous roots as well as its pretty yellow flowers. This is a large, gangly, multibranched perennial with rough, sandpapery leaves and stems, and numerous yellow flowerheads. It can get 10 ft (3 m) tall and its branches can spread to nearly as much. They sometimes break under their own weight, and often fall over. The leaves are ovate (broadest below the middle) and 5-10 in (12.7-25.4 cm) long. The flowerheads are 3-4 (7.6-10 cm) across and have 10-20 bright yellow rays. Jerusalem artichoke is quite showy in bloom during late summer and early fall. The edible tubers are produced just below the ground on thin white rhizomes. They are segmented and knobby, 1-4 in (2.5-10 cm) long, and have crisp, white flesh. More than a dozen cultivars have been selected and named. 'Fusau', a French cultivar, has fewer knobs and is thus easy to clean, but some say it isn't as flavorful as knobbier types. 'Maine Giant' produces dense creamy white tubers. 'Golden Nugget' has elongated, carrotlike tubers.
1 pound Jerusalem artichokes, unpeeled, scrubbed, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter
Combine Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes in large pot. Pour enough cold water over to cover; add 1 tablespoon coarse salt. Bring to boil; reduce heat and boil gently until all vegetables are tender when pierced with knife, about 18 minutes. Drain, reserving cooking liquid. Return vegetables to pot. Mash vegetables, adding reserved cooking liquid by 1/2 cupfuls to moisten until chunky mixture forms. Stir in butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Transfer mash to large heatproof bowl. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in same bowl set over simmering water, stirring occasionally, before serving.
For more info on sunchokes:
Monday, November 17, 2008
More neighbor bounty... this in the form of a concord "type" grape from a friend of our neighbor M's grape vines. No one knows anymore exactly what variety grape they are as some old homesteader planted them originally. We decided to turn the lot of them into juice for fresh or canning, and will make a small amount into a batch or two of jelly. M picked them and brought them to our doorstep... how cool is that??
Check out the body in this juice in glass? Whoa, this is concentrated food... not just juice! Grape juice, particularly concord is beneficial for the urinary tract, digestion, and packed with antioxidants. Salut!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Magnus, showing off his master sleeping skills. No box goes un-filled on his watch.
It's been a very busy week here. One of us had a minor surgery which involved a trip to Seattle, having a critter-sitter, lots of house cleaning and shopping, etc. That went well, so spring should have us back in the mad project mode.
We finally retired the 10 year old Dell and got a spiffy new one. Of course that means I am struggling with Vista, plus trying to figure out how to reload all the stuff from the old computer. Craigslist provided us with a nice oak table to put all the electronics on, and it actually matches some of our furniture!
Also, we decided to take a bit of a loss on Ryder and swap him for a Dexter steer. He's going to the breeder who we rented bulls from, and his bloodline will carry on. We were going to steer him for ourselves, but it just didn't seem right to waste all that potential. So Sunday we'll say goodbye to Ryder and hello to a nice red Dexter steer.
The garden still has lettuce, chard, beets, carrots and broccoli, but not for long. Even though I can't seem to find a free moment, it's time to get the beets pickled, chard blanched & frozen, and so on. The lettuce was planted in September and is under a plastic sheet. It sure is nice to go out and pick a salad in November. We also have some chard starts in the greenhouse.
We're hoping to have our 2nd annual Apple-Tree Wassail on December 20th. More info as the time draws near....
Friday, November 07, 2008
I'm sure most gardeners are familiar with coldframes - they create microclimates, that provide several degrees of air and soil temperature insulation, and shelter from wind. Hotbeds go one better by using a bottom-up heat source which encourages plants to grow in even the depths of winter. But where does this heat source come from?
The illustration below is of a "walk-through" hotbed. The manure bed is a lot deeper than in smaller hotbeds, but the convenience of a covered work area must have been worth the effort. The text this is from mentions building rows of them back-to-back, and I imagine the result would have been much like a greenhouse, only heated from below. We may end up experimenting with ways to move pony poo into the greenhouse to heat it, but only if we can also figure out how to easily move it back out again when it cools down.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Here's the two canine boys, napping. Notice Fergus' choice of pillow....