Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Home Harvest

When I was first starting out, it was pretty much a given thing that if you were walking some kind of Pagan path, you would celebrate the Sabbats.  Not many people were questioning how well these agricultural celebrations fit our modern lives.  There was an awareness of Northern versus Southern hemispheres, but beyond that little was done to adjust the Sabbats to your local climate or seasons, it was just expected that you would celebrate whatever Sabbat the calendar said to celebrate and do 'seasonal' activities and workings to fit the season that particular Sabbat focused on.

But many Pagans are now starting to leave behind the wheel of the year celebrations, either in part or entirely.  They might have adapted the suggested eight festivals into less, moved them about to fit their local weather patterns or chosen to celebrate more cultural aligned festivals instead (picking the festivals of their chosen path or their personal cultural identity).

I still feel drawn to the structure of the wheel of the year, but I do find that there are struggles there for me.  I am not a grower of things, in fact I have a pretty bad track record of things I've tried to grow.  For all that I live in a fairly rural area, our produce really isn't that great, even during times when I think it should be.  And with the modern shipping industry and big chain grocery stores, I see many fruits and vegetables year round, so that makes it even harder to feel the changing of the wheel through the harvest.

As it is harvest time now in the wheel, I have been thinking about harvest lately.  And to me, harvest is not only about reaping the benefits of the hard work you have put in previously, but it is also about shoring up for the hard times to come.  When the crop harvests are brought in, they aren't all used up immediately.  They are stored and used to make it through not only the lean times of winter, but also through the growing season...pretty much until the next harvest time.

It is a time to look around and see where our bounty is, but also to let go of the old to make room for the new.  While you can absolutely do this for any area of your home and life, I think it is a great time to look at our pantries and do a clearing out.  If you are anything like me, things get bought and stored...and forgotten about.  I often treat my pantry (and freezer) like my closet.  My favorite things get used often, but there are lots of other things that get lost in the back or out of the way places.

I also have a bit of hoarder in me.  I like to save things 'just in case'.  Especially with stable shelf foods, it makes me feel very secure to know I have lots of food in the cupboard, and if some kind of emergency were to happen, whether it was a financial one or a logistical one (snowstorm, power outage) my family would still have food to eat.

Personally, I also like to save nice things 'for special occasions'.  I catch myself buying things that are treats, and then not wanting to open them.  Sometimes this means that special things will be past their prime because I was so reluctant to indulge.

While I do try to get rid of things I find that are no longer viable, I also find it very useful to do a big pantry purge, and this is a great time to do that!  I will go through my cupboards and look for things that are seriously out of date.  It always surprises me when I find canned goods that are past date, because the dates on most of those are several years, but they end up shoved in the back of the cupboard and forgotten about.

When I'm doing this, I also try to really be honest about whether or not I'll actually USE that thing I found on sale or got on a whim.  It's kind of like the closet question (get rid of anything you haven't worn in a year), if I have actually thought about making a food but decided against it because it just didn't sound good, I will probably let it go.

Of course one of the main reasons to do this time of a clearing out is to get rid of food that you won't eat (or that might not be good anymore).  But another reason is to open up options.  If my cupboards look full, I don't always think about what needs restocked.  And if they look full because there is a bunch of things I don't want to eat, then I find that my choices are actually much more limited than I thought they would be.

Clearing out my cabinets also is a great time for me to clean and organize things.  Over the years, the foods we keep in stock has changed, and we may have started off using an entire shelf for one type of food that we now barely buy, while another food may be spilling out of it's designated area.  By weeding out the stuff we aren't going to keep, we can truly take stock of what we have and where we should keep it.

Thinking about how food habits change, I also find this is a really great time to take stock of what foods we have been eating more and less of.  Sometimes, I'll not be paying attention to what we have been using, and will just shop like I normally do, buying things we 'typically' use, and when I go to put them away, I'll find that I have way more than I thought I did.  Or I'll assume that we have something in our pantry, and then realize when I go to cook dinner, that we are actually out of it and I'll have to scramble to substitute something else!

Part of this process of going through the cupboards lends itself perfectly to paying attention to the bounty in your life and giving thanks for it.  Even when my cupboards have been very bare, we were able to keep some food in them.  I am thankful that there has always been something that I can feed my family, even if it was a simple, cheap meal.  But when I find myself with extras, I give thanks for that as well.

I try not to let foods go bad, because it makes me feel wasteful.  I know that sometimes things are out of my control (especially with produce that starts to spoil within days of purchase...boy does that make me angry!), but when it is just things that we bought and then never bothered to use, I find myself more resolved to only buy foods that I will use, no matter how good a deal something might be. And if I have food that is good but just something that I wouldn't use, I try to donate it to someone who might be able to use it. 

This is also a great time to take stock and clear out your magical cabinet.  While many magical stores are shelf-stable, some may need to be checked on.  I have had some materials I have collected that I didn't store properly and they needed to be tossed.  I tend to just stick new things I acquire in my magical bookshelf or my end table, and it is always good to go through and actually organize things.  Not only does it make it easier to find the specific things I want, it helps me see what I have.

I have a bit of a different standard for my magical tools and supplies.  There are some books and other tools that I rarely (if ever) use.  But some I will never get rid of, either because they have strange sentimental value to me or because they are something I would never inflict on someone else (I have a couple of pretty horrid 101 type books that I keep for that reason).  But I also do often find that I've picked up things that either I intended to pass along when I got them or that I got just because I thought they were kind of neat and I never figured out a good use for them (or they just weren't a good fit for me).

I love taking these things to magical gatherings and putting them up for trade or sale.  I like knowing that they are going to someone who would use them and love them.  I have traded oracle decks before, as well as different tools and books.

And of course, our magical cupboards can experience the same flux of supplies that our kitchen cupboards go through.  Especially with commonly used ingredients...for me that is most often candles and incense.  I am always looking for good sales on these things, or for new types of incense that I might like...or interesting birthday candles (I love the little tiny ones for simple everyday workings, and they come in all kinds of fun shapes and colors now!)  But I do sometimes find that I've recently bought a bunch and now I have a dozen packets of candles waiting to be used.

Harvest can mean a lot of different things.  It is easy to loose track of the bounty that exists in our lives, when we don't stop to really see what is around us.  Time passes in the blink of an eye, and we look up and realize that we have things we haven't used for years.  Take the time to pause and appreciate what you have.  Take stock and let go of the things that don't serve you.  And honor the harvest, in whatever form it manifests in your life.

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