Ostara, Easter, and the New Beginning

crocus-spring-equinoxToday is a celebration of hope.  The indigenous cultures of old and the modern spiritualists and witches of today will be celebrating.  So will gardeners everywhere.  ‘Tis the Solstice, also known as Ostara.

Seeds in hand, faces to the sun, coffee hot, hose at the ready, we are grateful and joyous that the days will now be growing longer.  Oh, happy day.  More sun.  More Vitamin D.  More outdoor play.  Spring brings with it baby animals and freshly turned soil and new life.

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Ostara celebrates life conquering death.  It had been celebrated long before organized religion did it.  The word “Easter” comes from the word “Ostara.”  Now, Pagans were nothing if they weren’t artists.  Eggs were symbols of new life and fertility and were painted in beautiful colors.  The Ukrainian folk art depicted on eggs is a fine example of art.

Ostara, the Greek goddess of fertility, loved the painted eggs so much that she asked the rabbit to distribute them all over the world.

The Solstice on the agrarian calendar was the date that seeds began to be planted and new life was born.  The death of winter was past and new life has begun.

Our bodies and our lives are a part of nature as much as they ever were, we just kind of hid away behind screens and modern lives and forgot.  You will find that death and new beginnings are prevalent right now.  The Universe may have a bright new beginning for you.  That means death comes first, but know that the sun is shining every day and that life always conquers.  Welcome your new beginning.  Happy Solstice!

Meeting the Easter Bunny

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I am one to get the photograph no matter what it looks like because these moments of innocence and childhood are just too precious to try to make “perfect”.  Lord, look at that smile!  This was one happy girl as she has requested bubbles from the Easter Bunny.  The really big smiles with the lower teeth protruding are just too much.  How lucky I am that we get to do this all a second time next to Emily.  Being grandparents is the best.

Happy Easter!

The Easiest Easter Eggs Ever

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I wrote about how to make the perfect hard boiled eggs a year ago around Easter and Passover but it deserves a second writing for all you new folks because this is the very, very best way to make hard boiled eggs!  One could use a super fresh egg straight from the coop or one that has been in the fridge for three weeks, it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter that we live so ridiculously high above sea level.  The egg peels perfectly, every single time.  Of course, we aren’t boiling them at all.

I learned this trick in one of those hard core homesteading magazines that are so full of beautiful glints of information.  Place eggs in a steamer basket above boiling water, put the lid on and let the water boil under those delicious farm eggs for 35 minutes.  Remove from heat, let cool a smidge so you can handle them and then put them in the fridge.

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Maryjane Rose will be at her dad’s Sunday and the Easter Bunny will be hopping by his house but tonight is Grammie and Papa’s night!  There is a charming Easter basket above the fridge (hiding from the cats) with a monkey, some chocolate, and Easter bunny ears.  I am steaming eggs this morning and we will play with color tonight in her first Easter egg dying extravaganza and we are going to pay a visit to the Bunny himself.  I will share a picture with y’all when I get it.

I hope some of my tips make your farm (or city) life a bit easier.  Wishing you a very happy Easter!

Face to the Sun (early crops and prayers)

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This is my favorite sculpture.  It was created by Roxanne Swentzell.  I could not bring the statue home but I was able to obtain this greeting card from her gallery in New Mexico and I keep it on my secretary.  It emanates my favorite feeling.  Face upturned, worries decreasing as I feel the warm sun on my face.  Even the pumpkins speak to me as my farm’s name is Pumpkin Hollow Farm!

Today will be seventy degrees here in Kiowa, Colorado and I intend to do just this.  To lift my face to the heavens whispering prayers of thanks and soaking up that beautiful sunshine and warmth.  I will plant the early crops today.  Radishes, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and lettuces I will give extra fervent prayers to as I need them in three weeks for our first farmer’s market.  The bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli will take a bit longer.  Spring peas, snap peas, snow peas will go in buckets up against the house with a makeshift trellis behind them to give them something to play on.

With my hands once again in the dirt, the worries and sorrows of winter will be past and the present power of nature and new beginnings will pour forth as the water showers the awakening soil.  I will breathe deep, be thankful, and infuse life into the soil as it infuses life into my soul.

Happy Easter everyone.  This was my favorite song as a child sitting in church in my hat and beautiful Easter dress, content.

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it…..”

Steamed Easter Eggs (and Seder Eggs and Egg Soup)

The higher in altitude I move the harder it is to get perfect boiled eggs.  Add in fresh, pastured eggs and forget it.  Last year I posted the Perfect Boiled Egg but that only worked with Ethel’s eggs.  I know, weird, but for some reason her white eggs just peeled perfectly every time.  We would like to have more than two eggs to hard boil though.  Easter is coming up, you know, and I have these fabulous colored eggs to work with!  Browns, some dark chocolate and some light tan, spring pink, crisp white, and sky blue…these eggs don’t even need dyeing!  But no matter how pretty they are, when I go to peel them and they are either slimy inside or by the time I take the shell off there is nothing left but the yolk, I start to get a little steamed.

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I read in Countryside magazine where a reader had written in that she steams her eggs.  I remember steaming my eggs when we lived in our first house in Parker.  The old steamer that my grandma had bought me for graduation stood on the counter with it’s timer letting us know when our eggs were done.  They were perfect every time.  When we moved to Elizabeth and then Kiowa, the altitude threw it for enough of a loop that I had to adjust the settings.  But no matter what I did, the eggs never turned out quite right.  The steamer found a new home at the Goodwill.

But here was a homesteading type gal saying to put them in a steamer basket attachment in a pot.  Which I happen to have.  So I gave it a shot.  The reader/writer had recommended thirty minutes until the perfect egg.  They came out undone and rather slimy.  I upped it to forty minutes and most of them cracked and peeled perfectly with only a few stragglers.  This week, as I prepare for Easter brunch and Maryjane’s first Easter egg hunt, I will steam them for forty-five minutes.  Perfect?  I do hope so!  I have deviled eggs, and egg salad, and egg soup in my future!  (More on that in a moment.)

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Shyanne works at a tea shop and how they peel their eggs quickly is by tapping the hollow part on top with a spoon.  Then they slide the spoon under the skin and peel it off effortlessly.  I tried and loved this.  My fingers always get a bit raw after several eggs.

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Now what the sam hill is egg soup?  My husband grew up calling it Egg in Saltwater, but somehow over the years the kids and I started referring to it as egg soup.  It is one of the first courses at his family’s Seder.  Steam and peel with a spoon a perfect farm fresh egg and place in a bowl.  Lightly cut it up with a spoon and add a half a cup to a cup of warm water and top with salt or smoked salt and pepper if you’d like.  We eat this for breakfast often.

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There are many ways to dye Easter eggs.  I am afraid that we have always used the box from the grocery store of dyes.  How very uncreative of me.  How will you dye your eggs this year?

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Signs and the Perfect Egg

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Signs of spring.  Signs of rain.  Signs are everywhere if we look.  Doug and I pray for signs.  Nice big, clear, fall out of the sky, and hit us on the head signs of what to do.  We need it spelled out for us.

When I was ready to move to Santa Fe when Doug had his nervous breakdown three and half years ago we travelled there to find a house and see about moving.  Prayed for a sign.  No one, and I mean no one, called us back.  No one called us back about rentals, there was a waiting list for herbalists to get into the farmer’s markets down there, and there was already a dance company in all the schools!

Doug went to summer camp in Elbert county for many years and has always liked it around here.  How about I look in Elizabeth? Not quite New Mexico, but I would give it a shot if It was what my husband wanted to do.  I prayed that if a house was meant to be that I could come right out and tell the landlord that I have nine, count ’em, nine indoor cats.  She didn’t even flinch.  We moved to Elizabeth.

Eight farmer’s markets a week later and rather exhausted and not sure how we were going to survive the winter a shop comes available.  The night before we were to move in the landlord decided that we could not have the shop after all as her insurance agent told her not to trust us because we are secretly (even to us) pot dealers.  He has never met us in his life.  We were so devastated.  The next week the shop next to it came available.  It was never even posted for rent. The owner’s daughter had seen us at farmer’s markets and liked us and we were offered the most ridiculously low rent.  The tenant moving out bartered his beautiful display cases for medicine.  We were in business.  (The shop next door is perpetually empty as the front door does not face the street.  It is also a third of the size of our present shop!)

At the end of a long season of farmer’s markets last year, not making too much, we prayed for a sign to tell us if we should quit the markets for the season.  The back of the truck opened up on the way home and everything dumped out on the highway!  I pointed to heaven and said, “Got it!”  Not a single thing was broken.

I prayed that if the dance company was going to be too much and if I shouldn’t do it to not let the phone even ring once.  I sent out a hundred and fifty fliers in the school folders here.  Not a single phone call.  Not even from previous students.  Now that’s a sign!

Doug says that when we pray for a sign we get hit with a sack of nickles.  We need clear, precise instructions.  So when I prayed for a clearer sign on the homestead, I got a phone call.  Peter was surprised himself that his wife was entertaining an offer on the land.  Someone came out of the blue and offered to buy it.

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I understand doors closing.  I understand not meant to be.  I do not understand tease.  Why would it even be dangled in front of us then swiftly out of our grasp?  I feel like a cat right now being toyed with!  Doug and I talked about it last night and we can only guess that it is going to trigger another event.  A trickle down effect.  If this hadn’t happened, this couldn’t have happened, etc.  We will look back and see the path clearly marked but for now we wait…again.

Easter Eggs 

On a lighter note, this is the sign of a perfect egg, if it drops to the bottom of a glass of water it is perfect.  If it floats ever so slightly, eat it sooner, if it floats, pitch it.

The perfect high altitude boiled egg:  Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with an inch or two of cold water.  Bring to boil.  Once it starts boiling, time it for fifteen minutes.  Remove from heat.  With a slotted spoon transfer eggs to a bowl and place in refrigerator.

When it comes to farm eggs, white eggs peel easier and make the better boiled eggs.  Which is great because it is almost Easter and we have been harboring Ethel’s eggs for weeks to color!  I have heard many different ways to make an egg peel easier.  Keep in water, peel while hot, use older eggs, but I have found that Ethel’s eggs peel perfectly every time.

I was going to hard boil the eggs using a can of beets and a touch of olive oil.  I suspected that this would create a lovely, naturally colored, marbled, pink egg.  But alas, the kids were horrified that I would color the eggs without them.  So they are being saved for Easter.

However you celebrate, may your Easter eggs be bright and beautiful, the day be bright and beautiful, and the day be blessed with great food and joyous friends.  Happy Easter!