August Agriculture

One day in the last week or so, I noticed, or more accurately, felt, a change in the air. It was a hint of fall weather, just a whisper, really, but it was there. The garden is growing and an abundant harvest is at hand. The cucumbers, beans and summer squash are numerous, and the tomatoes are starting to come in. the small crop of ornamental wheat I'm growing is showing its amber waves, and I am reminded of the passing of the year.

August 1 is half-way between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox, and was known as a cross-quarter day by ancient peoples. The Celts refered to this time as Lughnasadh, named for Lugh, the Celtic god of arts and sciences. It was one of the four fire festivals of the year. Bonfires were lit, adding to the strength of the waning sun, and the first of the harvests were celebrated. Anglo-Saxons called this harvest festival Lammas - from the word hlaf-mass or loaf mass. Their custom imcluded bringing a loaf of bread made with wheat from the first harvest to the church to be blessed. The bread wad then broken into four pieces and placed in four corners of the barn - a sacrifice intended to protect the grain for the ensuing year. Tradition in some areas also dictated the commencement of warrior games - how interesting is it that the Olympics occur at this time?

I first heard of Lammas at a visit to Caprilands, perhaps 30 years ago. Adelma Simmons was big on herbal history, and she often displayed figures such as Ceres (the Roman goddess of grain and harvest) and her luncheon talks and food reflected the interest she had in old traditions. Her book "Herbal Harvest" is a great source for information about the Lammas festivals, harvesting herbs and delicious bread recipes. She was certainly ahead of her time, searching out old prayer books and herbals to  learn about agricultural traditions from long ago. Now, you can search the internet and find lots of articles on Lughnasadh, Lammas and the like. I counted no less than 5 facebook posts on August 1 of friends wishing all a happy Lughnasadh.

The last two weeks have found me alternating between working in the garden and putting up the harvest. Cucumbers need to be pickled, beans need to be frozen for later use, and squash needs to be shared. I am unable to keep the plants in bounds - they spill over their beds into the paths. At least most of the weeds are in control - there is simply not any space for them to take hold!

Though I feel a sense of urgency - fall is coming - I am also beh=ginning to make peace with the fact that I will not accomplish all that I had set my mind to do. It is a pleasure to gather the elderberries before the birds do, and to think of creative ways to use the glut of veggies. The next month will find me harvesting heavily, and giving thanks to Lugh for the bountiful feast.

Happy Harvest,

Karen