Musings of a Village Witch - August by Ness
1st August – It is Lughnasadh/Lammas - the first of the harvests. Today the sky is blue and it is warm. I walk around the fields with my dog and a combine harvester is cutting the barley. In another field, the straw is being collected from the wheat being harvested and made into bales. Autumn is my favourite time of year, and as I look around, I see elderberries ripe, black and shiny, sloes – that dusky bloom to their skins, almost ripe and blackberries by the thousands this year – some ripe, some still very small and green but ready to soak in the last of the summer rays..
9th August – Today is very hot and sunny as it has been for a couple of days now and it is set to continue for a few more yet. A last blast of summer I feel. Everywhere is dry and dusty – the wheat and barley has been cut – yellow stalks poke out of the dry ground and chaff and straw take the place of the long golden crops. Burdock is flowering now and the blackberries are ripening fast in the hot sun.
13th August – We have had some very welcome rain. You could almost hear the earth breathe a sigh of relief. It's been so dry and dusty here – the grass has gone from lush and green to crispy and yellow. That green fresh feel that we had at the start of the summer has gone – everywhere there are signs of nature’s turn of the wheel.
Plants of summer are spent. Blackberries, sloes, apples and crabapples ripen in the hedgerows and surrounding trees and thoughts turn to the approaching change of the season. Warm cozy knits, boots and scarves and kicking up crisp leaves on a morning with a definite chill in the air will soon be upon us. Personally, I can't wait!
17th August – heavy rain today but I take a walk across the fields with my dog. Oh, how different it looks than it did a couple of weeks ago...grasses are brown and flattened and the fields after the harvest look like they’ve had a rather crude haircut! Blackberries are still ripening in different stages and I’ve picked a bowlful of sloes to make some sloe gin and some sloe port for Yule. Leaves are starting to fall from the trees and other hedgerow plants are starting to decay. It is a strange time between Lughnasadh and the Autumn Equinox – sometime there is a definite sign that autumn is on its way, other times like now, the rain has given way to blue skies and summer-like warmth again.
Balance Spell Pouch
I’m not sure why, but the word ‘balance’ keeps cropping up – there is obviously a message there to perhaps take stock of my life at the moment and balance things out. I feel like I’m either full on busy or procrastinating, I definitely need to spread things out a bit equally throughout my week, so I don’t feel overwhelmed. I was drawn to make a pouch to either carry with me or place on my altar, depending on when I feel that I need it most:
I used a grey piece of felt for the pouch. Grey is a combination of black and white, so felt this a perfect colour for balance. I filled it with the following:
Begonia flower and leaf
Rose quartz – not to be too hard on myself
Red Jasper – for balance and for grounding
Dagaz rune – for balance and harmony
I sealed the pouch with two pins – one black and one white, held the pouch and focused on the intent of balance.
Rosemary Focaccia Bread
This lovely recipe from Rachel Patterson's book ‘Practically Pagan – an alternative guide to cooking’ conjures up thoughts of warm summer days, lunches in the garden or a picnic in a wooded area. I love rosemary as a herb for magical properties and for cooking, and it was in the 'August recipes' section, so felt it would be perfect for this month's blog.
500g/1lb strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
7g/2 teaspoons dried fast action yeast (1 sachet)
3 tablespoons olive oil
300ml/10 ½ fl oz warm water
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped
Olive oil, rosemary sprigs and sea salt to drizzle
Pop the flour into a large bowl and add the salt and rosemary. Stir in the dried yeast.
Pour the olive oil in along with the warm water and mix together. The dough will be slightly sticky, a wet dough makes a good focaccia! If the dough appears dry, add a dash more water.
Oil a board with a little olive oil and turn the dough out. Knead for about 10 minutes (5 minutes if you use a mixer with a dough hook)
Pop the dough back in the bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for an hour to 1 ½ hours, until doubled in size.
Grease a baking tin (approx. 20cm x 30cm) with olive oil. (I used a baking sheet as didn’t have a tin).
Turn out the dough and very gently press it into the baking tin. Try not to handle it too much but lightly push the dough into the rectangle shape of your tin, it doesn’t need to be precise. Now push your finger into the dough at regular intervals to make dimples. Tuck a few bits of rosemary into the indentations. Cover and leave to rise for a further hour (believe me, it will be worth it!) 😊
Preheat the oven to 425F/220C/Gas 7
Uncover the dough and drizzle over some olive oil and give it a sprinkle of sea salt.
Bake for about 25 minutes until it is a lovely golden brown. Turn out of the tin as soon as it out of the oven. It doesn’t keep very well, so I advise eating it warm on the day of baking.
Note: This was absolutely delicious! My hubby fried some sliced tomato, mushroom and garlic in a little olive oil with some oregano and we had that on the focaccia (lightly toasted) that was left over the next day!
Recipe by kind permission of Rachel Patterson.