Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Tale of Sarah's Forgotten Flower

Once upon a time, there was a tiny village nestled in an emerald-green valley. Of all the children in the village, Sarah, Owen, and Paul were the best of friends. They did all the things you can imagine country children doing: in the Summer they fished and swam in the river; in Autumn they told secrets in the tree fort; in Winter they built snowmen and raced down white hills on sleds; and in Spring they caught frogs and got delightfully muddy. 


Sarah could have been mistaken for one of the boys, and was often the dirtiest and bravest of the three. But there was one thing girlie about her: she loved flowers. Her mother let her keep a small corner of the garden where she tended herbs, peas, and pumpkins. But especially flowers. 


Owen and Paul teased her for liking flowers, but not too much. She was, after all, a girl.


As they grew older, and Sarah grew more beautiful, both Owen and Paul couldn't help but fall in love with her. Of course, neither of the boys said anything. Though each carried a burning hope in their heart that some day, Sarah would fall in love with them, and be their wife. 


Eventually they were all too old for netting butterflies and catching tadpoles in mason jars, and so it happened that they saw less and less of one another. Owen went to work on a ranch, while Paul went to study law in a near by town. It was pretty lonely in the little village, and nothing much happened, so Sarah decided to be adventurous and travel accross the ocean to a distant land. And there she stayed.


The three friends wrote letters to one another as the years passed. Paul grew very wealthy, while Owen worked very hard for very little. Both remained secretly in love with Sarah. And both were heartbroken when they received letters from Sarah, telling them that she had grown very ill.


She told them that she missed the emerald green valley, the little village, and her family. She missed Owen and Paul, and thought of their childhood with such fondness. And she said that there was one flower from her home country which she longed to see, which did not grow where she lived now. She couldn't remember the name of the flower anymore, it was so long ago. But she said that it was blue, and very special.


Paul immediately notified his assistants to find all the special and rare blue flowers in the country. One by one he sent them, very tediously packaged in glass, to Sarah, who lay in her bed by the window. One by one she opened them...wild orchids, irises, and flowers so rare that hardly anyone knew their name. 


'No,' she wrote to Paul each time a new flower arrived, wilting from the long journey overseas. 'This isn't the flower I mean.'


Again Paul would have his assistants pour over books, modern and ancient, to find every rare blue flower in the country. Again he would have the specimens packaged in glass, and send them off on ships  where people were payed in gold to tend to them carefully. But to no avail. Paul grew very impatient and bitter, and concluded that Sarah must have lost her mind. There existed no such rare blue flower!


Meanwhile, Owen had put together all of his meager savings and boarded a ship headed for the far-away country where Sarah lived. He had hardly more than the clothes on his back. He didn't even know how he would pay for the journey back home. But he knew he had to see Sarah again.


Finally he arrived, half starved and quite filthy from the long journey at sea. He hurried to her bedside where she lay, pale and listless, but very happy to see him.


"Owen....it's you," she whispred. "You've come all this way!"


They spoke of their memories, talked and laughed long into the night. The more she laughed, the more color shone on Sarah's cheeks. Eventually the sun began to rise, and Owen remembered something.


"Sarah, I brought you something from the little emerald valley. It's not much..." He opened her palm and poured something out a small leather pouch. Sarah leaned and strained her eyes. 


"What are they, Owen?" She asked.


"Forget-me-not seeds," he replied. "I remember how much you loved them in your little garden. I thought maybe you could try to grow them here."


Sarah wept. "Forget-me-nots! Yes, these are the ones. These are the flowers I have missed so much. You remembered."


Owen stayed with Sarah and nursed her to health. He planted forget-me-not seeds in pots and barrels and window boxes where they flourished. And one day, Sarah and Owen married.


When word of this came to Paul, he was furious. 


'Forget-me-nots?! But you said the flower was special! Forget-me-nots are as good as a weed! They are neither rare, nore are they special!'


'They are special,' Sarah wrote back. 'They are special to me.'





xoxo country girl





Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gathering Herbs for 'Baby, Come!' Tea



The other day my friend Gerit sent me the photo you see above. She told me she had found these flowers in her garden, and that the light pink blossoms, called Robert Geranium or Geranium robertianum, were an important part of an old recipe for tea called 'Kindlein-komm!' Translated to english, 'Baby, come!" As the name states, it's meant for women who are hoping to have a visit from the stork as soon as possible. Women have claimed to have gotten pregnant within weeks or days of drinking this tea three times a day! Well, naturally I needed the recipe.


Baby, Come! Tea Recipe:

Lady's Mantle 50 g
St. John's Wort 50 g
Lady's Bedstraw 50 g
Robert Geranium 50 g
Yarrow 50 g
Yellow Sweet Clover 50 g
White or Yellow Dead Nettle blossoms 5 – 10 g

Instructions: 
Gather and dry these herbs, preferably during the waxing moon and before noon for the highest potency.  Grind into a tea. Drink 3 cups a day, beginning on the day after your period has ended or if your period is late. During your period, abstain from drinking this tea, and substitute with another, such as raspberry leaf, or mugwort, which supports ovulation.

I began gathering this morning, although it is very wet out (it's been raining on and off for over a week now), and most of the ingredients haven't yet blossomed (herbs tend to be more potent when they are in bloom). But I knew where I could find lady's mantle and yellow dead nettles and thought I would get a head start on making my Baby, Come! tea. 

When it's wet like this, you rarely see a single soul while out in the woods or fields. Which I admit, is how I like it best. It's very quiet...


...just the sound of the creek running, the birds singing, water dripping from leaves, my footsteps through tall damp grass, and Kiki behind me, sniffing and sometimes digging.

I came to the field where I had found lady's mantle once before and began treading slowly, parting the high blades of grass carefully; my sneakers were soaked through by now. I finally spotted some leaves of lady's smock, glistening with rain drops.


There is something about gathering your own herbs...you feel connected to all the women before you who did the same, picking leaves from stems on still mornings, with intentions of healing, or a heart filled with hope. And there is that closeness with God, with nature...that gratitude for the miraculous fact that every growing thing has it's own unique properties, some of which hold the power for healing, or nourishment. And there is this feeling I get when I see an herb I was looking for...the feeling that it is there, growing and existing only for me to come and discover it.


I ended up finding a whole handfull of lady's mantle, and then moved on to yellow dead nettles, which are a favorite of bumble bees and ants for their sweet and plentiful nectar. I had to shake a few insects off of the ones I picked. Yellow dead nettles have a mild and pleasant fragrance. I kept breathing it in while I gathered.

I also found some wild strawberry, and decided to harvest some of their leaves, which, when dried, make a lovely tea. Strawberry leaf tea is good-tasting tea which helps to ease an upset stomach.


On my way back home, with my hand full of herbs and Kiki with a muddy snout from poking it into mouse holes, I stopped to admire this woodpile.


Yes....I admired a woodpile. And I was glad that a neat, tawny stack of wood could bring joy to my heart.

My herbs are drying now. And I am taking time to notice the small, simple things that make me happy...


...like a wild rose in an egg cup.



xoxo country girl 

p.s. thank you, gerit, for the herblore and wisdom you share with me!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Rainy Day with Mrs. Appleyard's Year



Kiki and I agree on many things. One of them is that rainy days are something to be enjoyed, not endured. When I wake up to a rain tapping on the window, I think of books, a singing kettle, ironing, warm blankets, and baking. This morning was one of those times, and I was glad. 




I was especially glad when the doorbell rang and it was the mailman with an Amazon delivery: Mrs. Appleyard's Year, by Louise Andrews Kent. My dear friend Kary, whom you all know from her blog My Farmhouse Kitchen, had recommended it to me a while back. 

What a perfect day to get a new book! One look at the worn cover with a painting of the four seasons and I was smiling. Then I read the dedication and my heart beat quickened; apparantly I've found a new kindred spirit! "To E.T.A; Because while she and the author disagree about politics and the way to make lemonade, they like each other's families, hold the same strong views on shellac and asparagus fern, cherish curly maple bureaus with cats to match, and laugh at the same jokes-twice if necessary." How endearing! I thought immediately of the wonderful friends I have been lucky enough to make here, from all walks of life and all different opinions. It is truly the things people have in common which are most important, and being able to share simple joys and laughter.




The first few pages already have me chuckling to myself. I love this book, and I love Mrs. Appleyard! There's something so very satisfying about discovering books like this one. They usually don't even feature a photo when you order them on Amazon or AbeBooks. It always feels like something of a treasure when it arrives, tattered, worn, old, with that musty vintage smell I have grown to love. I think about the author, long gone, sitting at her type writer all those years ago, writing the words I am now reading. Words on paper are timeless, and it's a thrilling thought that you are reading what was in someone's mind before you were even born. I end up wondering about the author, about her home, about the desk at which she sat and wrote, and if they ever imagined that seventy years later there would be a curious girl reading their words on a rainy morning in the Austrian countryside. Probably not. 


I want to thank Kary for recommending this gem of a book to me! As always, I appreciate book recommendations from you, my readers...rare, old, funny, heart-warming, country, home, nature, cooking, friendship, farming....those are the features I adore in a book.


Aren't these letters wonderful? They are vintage stencils on heavy cardstock which came from an estate sale of a sign writer from the early 1900's; almost 100 years old! I ordered them from an etsy shop called Finding Fabulous....click here to have a look. I also ordered stencils which spell out LOVE. You can see a picture of all the letters I ordered here. Last I heard from the shop owner, she has quite a few of these stencils, so don't hesitate to contact her if there's a word or initials you want to spell out in your home. Makes such a simple but personal decoration. 

Is it raining where you are? 

xoxo country girl

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hope Renewed through Vedic Astrology

A few years back, a very good friend and mentor told me about Vedic astrology. Specifically, he recommended having a reading done by a certain Robert Koch, adding that he had never experienced any reading as spot-on and informative. I was immediately intrigued by the idea of having someone dissect my life and give me some insight into my future. The enthusiasm of this greatly-respected friend of mine exceeded any skeptisism I felt, and I decided to get a reading done.


I had never heard of Vedic astrology before and wondered what the difference was to Western astrology. Turns out that the Vedic zodiac, which pre-dates Christianity, is much more accurate, and all of the planets in a Vedic horoscope, including the rising sign, will be about 23 zodiacal degrees earlier than they would be in a Western chart. For example, in Western astrology I am an Aquarius, but in Vedic, I am actually the previous sign which is Capricorn.

You can read a detailed description of Vedic astrology and the differences to Western astrology on Robert Koch's website, here. To summarize the defining difference, I quote his site: "Western astrology emphasizes the psychological nature of the individual, but lacks reliability for predicting future cycles and events. Although Vedic astrology also defines a person’s psychological nature, it gives more focus to understanding when certain events are likely to take place."


My mother decided to get a reading done first, and was baffled by the things Robert was able to say about her past and reveal about her future, including the approximate age and circumstance of death. He was able to describe details about her life and her personality to a T. I had to get a reading done.


It was February 2008 when I finally had my appointment over the phone. I had just quit a terrible job and had an empty slate ahead of me. I was bursting with creativity and enthusiasm for my new life. Ramon and I had married the previous fall and life seemed to be opening a new chapter. Indeed, once I got to talking with Robert, he told me that, just a few days before, and one day before quitting my job, I had ended a 6 year major period of the Sun, and entered a ten year major period of the Moon. The major periods in ones chart are like chapters in the book of your life; each one has an overall theme, whether it be spiritual growth, career, family, etc. The major period of the Moon meant, among other things, motherhood, creativity, and domesticity...all the things I had felt welling up inside of me and begging to be recognized and lived!


What followed was a 90 minute reading which left a big impression on me. Robert was able to read my life to me like a story with a beginning, middle, and end. He saw the constant moving in my childhood, the emotionally unavailable father and unreliable mother; he saw my specific talents, writing, singing, painting, cooking; and he told me about what he saw in my future, including a major change of residence in 2018, success in a creative career between the ages of 43 and 61 (this surprised me), and a well-situated and pleasant lifestyle between the ages of 61 and 77. My favorite part was when he told me about my main purpose here on this earth, to uplift and inspire people. This had always been my biggest goal! He spoke of motherhood being an intense desire of mine, of a great love and need for nature, and of a marriage which was 'pure unadulterated joy' and which would remain intact all my life.


One thing he repeated quite a few times was that the close proximity of Jupiter and Saturn in my chart would result in some kind of delay in pregnancy or childbirth. He kept saying this, and I have to admit, I kind of ignored it. He mentioned seeing a birth somewhere between 2013 and 2015, and later, nearing the end of our session, I heard a rustling of papers, and he said he wanted me to know that, looking at my chart again, there was also a big possibility of a child being born as early as 2011. 


When I got pregnant in 2009 I thought, "Well, I guess Robert Koch was wrong about the baby dates and delay in pregnancy." And then, when we lost our little Blueberry, I immediately thought back on my reading, and knew he had seen the miscarriage but didn't want to call it as such. Listening to the recording of my reading again, I was struck by how often he had told me that there would be a 'delay.' 


Overcome with grief and fear of another miscarriage, Ramon and I both agreed that it would be a while before we could consider trying again. Then, in April, I began having this intense longing again for a baby, and Ramon confided in me that, after seeing a father with his three young daughters at an airport in Spain, he, too, was overcome with the strong desire for fatherhood. I decided to consult with Robert Koch again. 


Robert promptly took a second look at my chart, and a first look at Ramon's, with an emphasis on children and conception. He sent me an email which blew my mind, telling me things about the miscarriage which I had felt in my heart to be true, and, to my astonishment and joy, giving us specific dates of when we would best conceive....and even the genders of our future children. His words and clear information left no ifs or buts. He wasn't guessing or pretending to be psychic...he was reading this information out of the books of our lives. I was filled with new hope, and felt better than I had ever felt after losing our sweet, deeply loved Blueberry, who according to my chart, was destined to come and go in such a quick and painful fashion. After being assured that this was to be a one-time occurence in my life, I had new clarity, new joy, and a new start. 


I am sharing all of this with you because it was such a big help to me, Ramon, and my mother, who consults regularly with Robert on matters of the heart, work, and life in general. I respect that everyone is free to their own opinion about things like astrology, but I would ask that you open your mind to the possibility, and not make a snap judgement before having experienced Vedic astrology and its astounding accuracy for yourself. 


Some exciting news is that I am going to be interviewing Robert Koch here on my blog! His work and ability facinates me, and I would love to pick his brain and understand more about what he does and how he helps people. And there's no better place to do that than right here with my favorite people!


If you are interested in a reading with Robert Koch, click HERE to be directed to his website, where you can read all about him, Vedic astrology, and his offers.


I hope I've piqued your interest! 


A glorious day here in the Austrian countryside...it's a holiday and all of the shops are closed. The day started with a jog with Ramon and Kiki, a hearty breakfast, and a little family cuddle. What luxury!


xoxo country girl

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pieces of Paradise


"God, I can push the grass apart and lay my finger on Thy heart. "
-Edna St. Vincent Millay









Sorry for my absence lately. I've been busy enjoying pieces of paradise.
I can't help but spend hours walking through the green of Spring.
And I forget about computers and 'inside.'
But then I remember YOU, and think how much I wish I could share all of this beauty with you, in person that is.
Pictures will have to do.
Sending a tender green hug to all of you!

xoxo country girl

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Journey to Rabenstein

I am so glad you all loved Mrs. Fischer as much as I did. It was such an experience to meet her and see the little farm where she lives, hidden behind an orchard in a secluded valley.
After we had finished our apple drinks and bread, we set out to see Rabenstein, a very old farmhouse which was now in ruins, but still very beautiful. It was growing cooler as the afternoon wore on, and there was delicate light pouring through the new leaves.


We found a caterpillar, and beautiful sea of woodruff and ground ivy. 




I recently watched a film called Cargo; in it, the world has been destroyed and the surviving people live in a huge spaceship under terrible conditions. A lucky few are able to go to Rhea, which is like earth...in other words, paradise. With wheat fields, falling leaves, bountiful gardens...And ever since I saw that film, I feel even more in love and appreciative of nature. This planet is so amazingly beautiful. I hope to keep on enjoying as much of it as I can, while respecting and cherishing it. Just look at Maria and Anna in the middle of this enchanted forest...so small in all of that magestic green.




Eventually we came to a clearing where the sun shone warm on our faces. Kiki and Gömbi ran ahead. We were very close to Rabenstein now. As with many open spaces here, there was a hunter's look-out.


We finally came to Rabenstein, with roses and vines taking over. I admired the brick walls which were exposed underneath the crumbling exterior.


One part of it still had some of the paint, yellow and green, classic Austrian. I noticed that accross from this building there were some phlox flowers in bloom...they must have been part of a garden long ago.


To the right of the building there was a pathway marked 'Jakobsweg,' which is the German name for the Way of St. James which leads all the way to Spain. It has always been a dream of mine to make that pilgrimage. 

The state of the building made me wonder about the future of Mrs. Fischer's home, and I hoped that her farmhouse doesn't fall to ruins when she dies. It would be such a shame if it became just another crumbling building, which, over time, no one knows the history of. I don't know the history of Rabenstein, and I wish I did. It must have been such a beautiful home. There were lovely single blossoming trees and old fences surrounding it. Pieces of what used to be a farm.






It was time to head back home. We had seen so much beauty. Almost too much for one day. Our tummies were rumbling and we had a long journey home. But we were happy. So was Kiki.




That evening, with tired bones and joyful hearts, we ordered pizza and watched a movie, while the sky broke and it poured rain on the windows. What a day!


Tomorrow, weather permitting, I am off an another adventure. Camera and Kiki in tow, of course. What a very lucky gal I am!


xoxo country girl

Monday, May 3, 2010

Journey to Old Mrs. Fischer

A couple of years ago my friend Gerit told be about the Fischerhütte, or Fischer cottage, where an old woman lived with chickens, cats, sheep, and cows, in a farmhouse tucked into an orchard. Hikers who found the place could stop by and have a glass of apple wine and buttered bread. The thought fascinated me. And yesterday, Gerit, Maria, Anna, and the doggies joined me on a hike out to meet old Mrs. Fischer.
Dirt paths, silver birch trees spreading the greenest of leaves, and perfectly mild weather. The entire afternoon was magical.




Through the woods, talking about wild herbs, work, family.

We filled our bottles at the fresh water spring. Supposedly there is a water nymph living there. Carved on the right side of the stone, you can see the year it was discovered: 1890.

"This is the road that leads to the Fischer cottage," Gerit said. I had passed it many times but never gone down that road. It was very still; just us and the birds. It was quite a long way, but finally, Gerit led us to an opening in the woods. And like magic, a field appeared...

The sheer beauty of this place made my heart pound. This small photograph hardly does it justice. The view over green hills into the hazy blue distance was breath-taking. We trudged down the field and I wondered where the cottage was, as there was no sign of a house or a road.

We neared a blossoming orchard and Gerit told us it was right past these trees. I kept wishing I could walk in slow motion, or hold onto this moment longer. The beauty was almost unreal. I felt this was a place that only existed if you stepped into a faery ring. I kept trying to convince myself that this place was real, that it was just an hour long hike away from my home. Now I was getting very curious what old Mrs. Fischer would be like.

We passed a barn and a shed. Blossoming trees everywhere. And a few sheep. Maria tried to give them some of the wild mint we had found on the way, but they were afraid of the dogs and stayed in the shade of their shed.
Past the sheep we came to the farmhouse; chickens and roosters everywhere...dozens of potted plants and trees...and a couple of wooden tables and benches where we sat down and waited. And then she came. And my goodness, look at her! Her dress! Her apron! Her little woolen shoes! Her smile! Old Mrs. Fischer. I was in love.

We ordered apple wine and juice, and bread with butter and cheese. Her son brought it out for us while Mrs. Fischer talked with us. She seemed quite pleased to have guests, and it was such a fine day. I snuck photos of her and hoped she either didn't mind or didn't notice.

We took turns asking questions...it seems we were all fascinated by this woman who lived in a hidden valley with no street leading to it, who looked like she belonged to another time. She was kind enough to answer our questions.
She told us that the house where she lived was the house she was born in. Her grandfather, a Slav, had bought it over 120 years ago. It had been built for the men who worked in what was at that time a stone mine. Her grandfather bought it as a summer house for his family. Eventually it became her parents' home, and hers.
She told us that the sheep weren't giving milk now because there was no ram. When she had a ram, they made lovely milk, and she made cheese with it and sold it to people who stopped by.
One of us asked what it was like to live here with no street and no car. She answered: "A car isn't important"
She said that she has two stoves, and they gave enough heat in winter. She said she didn't need any electric heaters.
When asked about her animals, she said that at some point there were 67 cats living in and around her home. Now there was only one. And a very old blind dog.
The duck and the chickens roamed free. She said they come when they want and go when they want. There was one particularly proud and beautiful rooster which I managed to catch on camera while Mrs. Fischer spoke.


Mrs. Fischer was so wonderfully bright. She could hear everything and could speak in clear sentences. I loved watching her talk. She was so incredibly content. When she said, "I was born here, and I've been here ever since," her face was glowing. When I asked which kinds of fruit trees she had and she answered, "Every kind there is," she had a little chuckle in her voice.
Another small group of travellers arrived, and when we finished our drinks, we said goodbye, and set off, refreshed, into the green.


As we made our way back up through the meadow, I stopped to look back at the flowering trees which hid the treasure that is Mrs. Fischer. I felt so blessed to have met such a soul. That there are still people like her. And I was grateful that I had had the chance to talk to her, and take a few photos.
I was overcome with the strange feeling that I might never go there again, or that if I did, it wouldn't be there anymore. It was such a magical little piece of this world. And I am just so glad I saw it, and met Mrs. Fischer.

I'll share the rest of the beautiful hike with you in my next post. It was quite a day.
xoxo country girl

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Beltane, Wild Herbs, Warm Fire, and Old Tales

Yesterday, the last day of April, I was fortunate enough to take part in a Beltane celebration. My friend Gerit and her partner Brigitte organized an herb walk, after which we would build a fire and cook a soup with wild herbs. I took my friend Tini along, and we both brought our dogs. It was a nice group of people, about 13 of us, and we set out into the green, listening along the way as Gerit and Brigitte taught us about various plants and herbs. 


We were told about the Celts, about their way of dividing the year into eight parts. We were told that the herbs were strongest at the full moon, and it was true...the woodruff picked on the full moon smelled the sweetest and strongest. We picked leaves, rubbed them between our fingers, smelled them, tasted them. Spicy, mild, bitter, sour. Then we headed to the outdoor kitchen, where a fire was burning and a soup pot was waiting. Our witches cauldron.


There were herbs to be washed and diced. Some people peeled potatoes, some spoke of witches and fairy tales, others wrote down spells or wishes that they wanted to send up to the gods on the smoke. I chopped onions and ate bread.


Once the pot was hot, the onions were tossed in and stirred with an ingenius handmade tool: a fork dug into the end of a long stick. 




We gathered around the fire as the sun sank; there were benches and tree stumps to sit on...I lay a blanket on the ground and the dogs curled up around me. Gerit told us old stories of witches, the Celts, Beltane, and poisonous plants used in a salve smeared on witches feet to make them fly.




As I looked around at the faces in the firelight, blue smoke rising, soup bubbling, I felt how good it was, how natural, for a group of people to sit around a fire and tell stories and share a meal. We ate the soup, delicious, with trees around us, and moon and stars above. It was beautiful.


 xoxo country girl

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