Saturday, 23 March 2013

Earth Hour


Today is Earth Day. This evening I shall be observing Earth Hour as I do each year. I invite you to join me. It is quite simple - at 8.30pm local time (no matter where you are on the planet) just turn off your lights for an hour.

I usually go the whole hog and turn off all the electricity at the main switch. I reckon an hour isn't going to be enough for the freezer to do any serious defrosting, and having all the electricity off helps me to really savour an hour by candlelight. Instead of whiling the time away surfing the net, vegging out in front of the TV, distracting myself with radio or watching a movie, I can really be 'in the moment'.

I will light candles, and the woodburner will keep IB and I, the cats and the house cosy. In previous years I have spent the hour meditating, chatting, playing chess, knitting... Today, my dear friend Donald's wonderful blog post on 'Family' has me thinking about my loved ones, near and far. I plan to use Earth Hour tonight thinking of them all, wherever they may be: blood family, heart family (or hearthkin as Donald calls them), ancestors, descendants, Mysterious Ones. I hope that many of them will also be observing Earth Hour, and I love the sense of connection that brings.

Tonight, for one hour, won't you join us? Take some time out to honour the world. Light the candles, turn out the lights, and feel the connection to all your fellow Earth-lovers around the world. We are all interconnected and that is a great responsibility, a great strength, and a great gift.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

ThriftWitch: Magical Spring Cleaning

As you may have realised from my Clean Start Soap Spell, I am a great believer in the power of magical cleansings. They clear away the metaphysical cobwebs, make space for new growth and keep the energy flowing. Whatever is going on in our lives there is always some stuff that we have outgrown, got saddled with or need to let go of - and what better way to get that process going with a magical spring clean? And of course at this time of year - the Spring Equinox, as the days become longer than the nights and everything goes into growth overdrive - a good spring clean is most appropriate.

What makes a spring clean magical? As with all things, it's in the intention. Do your spring clean mindfully, keeping your thoughts on those things in your life you wish to clear away, or on making space to draw in that which you desire.

You can also make your own cleaning products, which have the advantage of being cheap, effective, environmentally friendly and can be tailored to your magical intentions.

My favourite natural cleaning products are bicarbonate of soda (mildly abrasive and a natural deodoriser), white vinegar (disinfects, cuts through grease), and a selection of aromatherapy oils (depending on which you choose these can be antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal, aromatic and can have magical associations).

Here are some ways to use your natural cleaning products:

  • Use a few drops of vinegar in a bucket of water to clean windows, mirrors or glass surfaces with a damp cloth, then polish dry with a sheet of scrunched up newspaper - guaranteed to give a streak free finish! While doing so you could be asking your deity or ally of choice to help you see clearly that which you need to see.
  • Sprinkle baths, shower stalls, sinks or tiled surfaces with bicarbonate of soda and scour clean with a damp cloth. I say 'scour' but though it's very effective, it is actually quite gentle. Rinse clean and polish any chrome fittings with a dry cloth until they sparkle! Take the opportunity to meditate on whatever you wish to wash away out of your life as you do so.
  • Use a few drops of essential oil on a damp dishcloth to wipe down surfaces around the home. Almost all essential oils have disinfectant properties and they smell great.

If you're not sure which essential oils to choose, some of the best for killing germs around the home include thyme, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, lavender, tea tree or pine. Tea tree is also antifungal, so can be used to tackle any mould in damp areas like bathrooms or around windows. Do note though, that some of these (particularly thyme, oregano and cinnamon) can irritate sensitive skin, so consult a good aromatherapy book if you're not already familiar with essential oils. If you want to choose your oils for their magical associations, a good magical herbal (such as 'Herbcraft: A Guide to the Shamanic and Ritual Use of Herbs' by Anna Franklin and Susan Lavender) will help guide your choice.

Or, if you'd just like a good-smelling general purpose oil, you could try one of these. The first blend is favourite of mine, a zingy citrus-floral blend, perfect for spring: 

  • 10 drops lemon oil
  • 10 drops orange oil
  • 10 drops geranium oil
  • 5 drops rosemary oil

A delicious spicy blend for the winter:

  • 15 drops orange oil
  • 5 drops cloves oil
  • 5 drops cinnamon oil (optional - personally I like the simplicity of the orange/cloves version, but adding cinnamon is a nice variation.)

A refreshing herbal blend for summer:

  • 10 drops thyme
  • 10 drops rosemary
  • 10 drops lavender
  • 10 drops tea tree

In all cases mix the oils together and store in a tightly lidded glass bottle. Use a couple of drops on a damp cloth to wipe down kitchen surfaces.

Vinegar is a great non-toxic disinfectant to use around the home, and although the smell is not to everyone's taste it doesn't tend to linger once it's dried. But if you'd like to get a better fragrance you can infuse the vinegar with citrus peel - chop up lemon, orange or grapefruit peel and use to loosely fill a wide-necked jar with a tight-fitting lid (a Kilner jar is perfect). Pour in enough white vinegar to cover the citrus peel and leave in a warm place for at least a fortnight. Strain the vinegar and bottle.

Alternatively, you could try making the legendary 'Vinegar of the Four Thieves'. The story goes that a group of thieves were able to rob plague victims during an outbreak of the disease by protecting themselves with this disinfectant brew. There are many different recipes for Vinegar of the Four Thieves, but the version I've used involves steeping sage, rosemary, wormwood, rue, lavender and thyme in cider vinegar. Garlic is an ingredient listed in many versions of the recipe, but I opted to omit it for house-cleaning purposes as I didn't want the place smelling like a pizzeria!

So throw open the windows to let the spring air in, grab your besom and start sweeping away the literal and spiritual dust and dirt (widdershins, naturally). When you have finished, before you sit down for that well-earned cup of tea, take a few moments to light a candle, naming as you do so those qualities that you wish to draw into your newly-cleaned space. Nature abhors a vacuum after all, so make sure you not only clear away what is no longer needed, but that you consciously invite in those things that you hope to nurture through the coming summer months.

Blessed Be!


Saturday, 2 March 2013

Chickens As Pets

...And in other, unrelated news, I have just discovered that my photo of Morag and Daisy on the garden wall has won me a signed copy of the bestselling book 'Chickens As Pets'. Woot!

The Garden Beckons...

Gosh, how can it be March 2013 already? I've barely got used to it being 2012!

After weeks of cold, frosty weather it is suddenly spring here at Halfway Up A Hill. It is mild and sunny this morning. I have let the chickens out of their run onto the grass and they are wandering contentedly, scratching up the lawn and dust-bathing in the sawdust in their favourite spot under the saw-horse.

I am seized with the urge to get out and start planting. The garden needs a major overhaul and I had planned a fairly minimal vegetable plot this year while I finish re-configuring it and building new raised beds. But on days like this I just want to get my hands in the earth, and I can feel the urge to plant just a few more herbs, add a few more veggies to the plan, squeeze in some extra seeds here and there... I probably need to reign these ideas in, as it will be all too easy to raise way too many seedlings in my enthusiasm and then have no room for them when it comes to planting out.

But oh, on days like this, the call of the garden is so strong. I'm going out now, and I may be gone for some time...