What does a year look like?

Does it look like
Twelve coloured pictures on a wall,
And 52 pages with numbers to call?
And is it a circle divided by four,
Showing cardinal points, the elements and all?
Two lists of people come with the tide,
Of those just born and those who died.
But maybe a year’s a butterfly,
A rose, a twig, a yellow leaf,
Or shows itself as yet
Another wrinkle in my face.
It looks just like a bag of tears,
And like a secret sold.
Looks like a child, a man,
A woman, young and old.
It’s also in the many smiles,
Returned a hundredfold.
And when I pass a mirror
And catch the person’s eye,
I see that I’m the year, that I am life.

© jsmorgane (June 2010)

Rotation & Planning

Forrabury Stitches, Boscastle

Crop rotation is a technique used in vegetable gardening and farming. The four-field system was introduced to Britain in the eighteenth century as a way of minimising pests and encouraging the soil. It follows on from the ancient strip-field farming is still visible in places, for instance on the cliffs above Boscastle in North Cornwall there is still an ancient field system, called The Stitches. Much of the land in and around Boscastle is owned by the National Trust, including both sides of the harbour, Forrabury Stitches, high above the Boscastle and divided into ancient “stitchmeal” cultivation plots. The National Trust encourage their local tenants to continue farming in the old rotation system on these mediaeval strip fields.

The usual rotation is a four year one, hence the four-field system

–        brassicas or heavy feeders,

–        followed by legumes that fix nitrogen,

–        followed by roots that are lighter feeders,

–        and finally a year of fallow.

It certainly works to keep pests like club root out of the cabbages. Growing a different family of plant in the next succession also encourages those plants to take up the goodness left by the previous ones.

I still basically use this system but I don’t get overly religious about it. There are times when, because of space or the season or the weather, things just have to go in were they can. Catch-cropping is something most gardeners do, if you don’t catch the time, season and weather Mother Nature doesn’t wait for you LOL, you can miss out completely if you don’t work with her.

My planting and rotation also comes under the influence of what plant-protection systems I have. I love butterflies … but NOT cabbage whites on my brassicas! I love rabbits … but not munching my salad. I use netting and mesh to screen insects and wildlife off my plants so some veg, like the brassicas, have to go in beds that can be covered and protected from the darling butterflies. I must say, I also grow a cabbage or two for them, and nasturtiums and such that their caterpillars like to eat. We have and “arrangement” … most of the time!

Then there are parts of the garden – it was an old farmyard 100 years ago – that don’t have deep soil because of the soak-away the farmer put in. good idea in man ways but it now restricts what I can grow over it – no carrots, swedes, turnips parsnips nor beetroot, and certainly no spuds! Onions and garlic are possible as they all rise up anyway. I mostly use those spaces for salad, spinach and such that don’t have a massive root system.

So my rotation is restricted by various practicalities. It happens to us all. The books tell us to things a particular way but Life hasn’t read the books! Life and Mother nature just carry on in their own millennial way not worrying about the very new and short-lived humans who’ve only been around farming and gardening for 25,000 years – a mere hiccough to the goddess LOL.

Rotation is a “good thing”, as it says in 1066 and All That, but everything should be done in moderation and with common sense … except perhaps making love LOL.

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather taleneted cat …
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Peace between faiths

So much conflict in the world is underpinned by religion, and has been through history. Partly this is because religion is often closely tied to cultural identity, so religion takes the blame for what is, really speaking, a larger culture clash. The other big problem is that religious people (whether we admit it or not) do tend to feel that we have the monopoly on truth and the right way of doing things. Of all the religions I‘ve encountered, Druidry is one of the ones most willing to acknowledge that there is no one true way and that we don’t have the monopoly on truth, but we have a share of hardliners too.  After all, why take up a belief if you don’t truly believe it? Most religions simply do not include any conceptual space in which other religions can be perceived as valid.

It doesn’t help that there can be a lot of money and political power tied up in religion – and historically that’s been even more true. This gives extra reason to use religion in political contexts and to give extra justification for war. People seeking after power, status and wealth have, through history, been known to take religious routes to gaining this. None of this is really about the heart of what any religion means, but people are messy, complex entities and we don’t keep different aspects of our lives neatly compartmentalised. Religions of all shades, politics, money, power, wealth and status all get tangled up together in all kinds of unhelpful ways.

If our current set of world religions took more peaceable, accepting and co-operative attitudes to each other, we would as a planet be one big step closer to peace. As individuals, this is something we can get involved with.

Interfaith is a fascinating, frequently challenging area of work, but many pagans do get involved with it. It can bring you into contact with all kinds of people, some who will be welcoming, interested and supportive, others who will see you as heathens to be converted. However, getting involved with interfaith is a way of getting paganism taken more seriously, and of reaching out to other religious groups. 

Even without joining an interfaith forum, it’s possible to do positive work for inter-religious peace. We all of us come into contact with all kinds of different people in our lives. Taking a peaceable, relaxed attitude to other people’s faiths is a way of contributing to the process. As with all other peace related issues, respect and care are critical for establishing good and peaceful relationships. The problems come when you hit issues that it’s not ok to be tolerant of, and from a Pagan perspective, many of the other big faith groups have these – attitudes to gay people and human sexuality are frequently points of tension. Handling these without creating conflict and causing problems, is a minefield, and not something I can explore today (I may well be back).

None of us can put the world to rights in an afternoon, but any dialogue, any honest and careful communication contributes. Every move we can make as individuals, towards peaceful co-operation, is well worth making.