Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Very Hot Lammas

There were three men come from the West
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three made a solemn vow:
"John Barleycorn must die."

They plowed, they sowed, they harrowed him in,
Threw clods upon his head,
'Til these three men were satisfied
John Barleycorn was dead.

- "John Barleycorn" English folksong

Now the people increased and became numerous. They lived by hunting, and the more people there were, the less game they found. They were hunting it out, and as the animals decreased, starvation came upon the people.

First Mother pitied them.

The little children came to First Mother and said: "We are hungry. Feed us."

But she had nothing to give them, and she wept. She told them: "Be patient. I will make some food. Then you little bellies will be full." But she kept weeping.

Her husband asked: "How can I make you smile? How can I make you happy?"

"There is only one thing that can stop my tears."

"What is it?" asked her husband.

"It is this: you must kill me," she said.

"I could never do that," he said.

She said, "You must, or I will go on weeping and grieving forever."

Then the husband traveled far, to the end of the earth, to the north he went, to ask the Great Instructor, his uncle Kloskurbeh, what he should do.

"You must do what she wants. You must kill her," said Kloskurbeh.

Then the young man went back to his home, and it was his turn to weep.

But First Mother said: "Tomorrow at high noon you must do it. After you have killed me, let two of our sons take hold of my hair and drag my body over that empty patch of earth. Let them drag me back and forth, back and forth, over every part of the patch, until all my flesh has been torn from my body.

- "Corn Mother" Penobscot legend

I know it might look like a harvested grain field, but this is really a picture of the dead, scorched earth of my backyard. If you think this looks bad, you should see what "exceptional drought" has done to the nearby cornfields. Half-grown stalks, withered and dead and crumbling to dust.

You can see why I'm thinking mostly of the Death aspects of harvest time right now. Of course, in all those legends of dying harvest gods (and goddesses!) from around the world, there is the promise of resurrection and new life coming from their sacrifice.

What happens when that harvest never comes? What happens if John Barleycorn is slain prematurely, not by the sickle, but by drought and scorching heat? What happens if First Mother is killed, but nothing grows from her flesh?

What if this is how things are now that we have sent the Earth's climate into chaos? What if my civilization goes the way of the Anasazi, driven from land that was already marginal for agriculture anyway by lack of rain?

This is what air-conditioned Cabin Fever does to my mind.

Yeah, I ended up making Lammas bread anyway. Well, I needed something to do! The AC is working overtime already with it being over 100 degrees every day now, what will a little baking hurt? Maybe some day I should build a solar oven to bake outside. Feels like an oven outside anyway.

I used this recipe for Honey Whole Wheat Bread. It's a wonderful recipe for a nice, sweet whole wheat bread with molasses and honey. It made the house smell wonderful. It also makes four loaves, so I can eat one right away, and have three frozen for later. That'll make this one baking session more worth it. I made two rectangular loaves in baking pans and cut double Fehu runes into them, and made two round loaves on the baking stone and cut Inguz runes into them (both runes for abundance, and they look good on bread). That night for dinner my celebratory feast was some of this bread with Brie cheese, and some of the pears I got from my CSA. It was delicious, and having a cold dinner seemed to make up for the baking.

Just to keep my spirits up, and keep hope alive that the drought and heat will someday end, I planted a tray of fall crops today. I had lousy luck trying to plant fall crops in August last year, but I'm giving it another try. I planted cauliflower, broccoli raabe, chard, and collard greens. It's sitting on the kitchen table for now. I'm not sure if it will stay there. Depends on if it gets enough light from the kitchen window, and whether the cats decide to mess with it. I'm kind of afraid to put them outside in the heat, or in the stuffy, hot garage, but I don't have a lot of room in the house for them (and no growlights). Since this is all so iffy, I only planted seeds I have plenty more of. Good luck little seeds.

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