Posts Tagged ‘traditions’

Lammas, hmmm. I didn’t know much about it until Alexandra suggested it for one of our Sunday Photos themes.

As I think about Lammas, I think about growing up in a small town in Wisconsin with all the farms nearby. I think about how important the harvests were and how, not that long ago, neighbors and families would get together to help each other with the harvests.

Look! ZucchiniI think back to how things were done just one hundred years ago, here in the U.S. and even centuries ago in Europe and other areas. Things where very different. People just didn’t drive into town to buy everything they needed; they were growing it. Whether it was wheat or corn, or something else, it was very important for survival. With these harvests came traditions, like Lammas

While many things are really getting crispy in the garden (ahhh dead!) I can still honor the things that I am harvesting right now, and give thanks to the grain in my cupboards that I use to make bread and other things. I can think about the harvest and Lammas, as I mix up a loaf of bread.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am also be thankful for the things I am harvesting and putting into our meals every day. Peppers, Kale, Okra. Cucumber. I can also preserve some things to grace our table another time. I will save seeds for another planting and look forward to another harvest. Traditions continue. Plans are made.

Are there any organized Lammas celebrations happening in your area?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.



Read Full Post »

Lammas, or August 1, is the first of the harvest festivals. You’re probably picking more than you can eat all at once starting now.


For me (Alexandra), Lammas marks the moment when the gardener is forcibly reminded that she is not actually in control. Plants go wild, as if they know (and I suppose they do), that summer is coming to an end, and they better get all their growing done!




When ever I (Sincerely, Emily) visit my parents up in Minnesota this time of year, I am always amazed at the lush, full, green garden. In our area we are starting to plan our fall planting. I cut back my tomato plants a few weeks ago and they are growing, but I don’t seem to be harvesting much or anything. The Armenian cucumbers are still growing well and the okra is starting to produce. Just patiently waiting for some cooler temps so the pepper plants will start flowering again.

Star of David okra

Star of David okra


What are you harvesting?

Read Full Post »

Over the past few years my daughter and I have developed a seasonal tradition of working on a craft a day. I’ve found that this is a wonderful way to keep her involved in the daily activities of the holidays; especially when so many of us tend to get overwhelmed with the shopping, gatherings, weather, cooking, and baking.


sugar plums

Since we’ve begun homeschooling this year I’ve tried to incorporate our crafts into her lesson plan. We’ve made Sugar Plums while discussing the Nutcracker Suite and “The Night Before Christmas”, learned songs while making Christmas trees, discussed science while making Cranberry Coffee Cake, and so on.



Do you have a seasonal tradition to keep your children involved in the daily workings of the holidays?

Jennifer can also be found at Unearthing this Life blarging about her experiences living in rural Tennessee.

Read Full Post »

September collage
So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule plus or minus two weeks or more.


September is the time of year that we begin to feel the crisp air of Autumn moving in. Evenings are chilly even though afternoons can be very warm. Autumn fruits are beginning to ripen and the thought of spiced cider seem to warm spirits. September is the time for clear skies, bonfires, and wrapping up Summer’s last duties. It’s a big month for tidying up the garden, so hold back those nesting instincts for another month and enjoy the clear, bright skies and cool air.


  • Be sure your root cellar is ready to accept produce. If you’re using boxes with sand or sawdust make sure they’re clean, sanitized, dry, and critter-proof.
  • Be sure your deep freezer is cleaned out. Remove past date items and make room for Fall’s harvests.
  • Complete any chores that require you to keep your windows open. Painting, cleaning carpeting, cleaning ovens and so forth should be finished before it gets cold during the daytime.
  • Wash items that require long, outdoor drying times or those that can only be taken care of outside. Litter boxes, garbage pails, sanitary pails, area rugs, pillows, and so forth should be washed while the remaining warm air can help with drying.
  • Air out winter clothing, blanketing, and other items you may have kept in storage over the warm seasons.
  • Be sure your fireplaces are in working order before you need them. Check that wood stacks are staying dry and are easy to get to.
  • Check fire and carbon monoxide alarms before lighting up your furnace or fireplace for the first time.


  • Be sure your cold frames and greenhouses are airtight and ready to go for the cooler nights. Daytime temperatures can become very hot in these locations, so be sure to open and close windows as needed. Consider investing in a self-opening elbow for your windows. They can save many trips back and forth throughout this fickle weather.
  • Leaves will begin to fall soon. Make sure your compost bins or piles are ready to accept fresh materials.
  • Give one last inspection to your windows and doors in case you didn’t get to them last month. Be sure that they’re air tight and sealed before cold weather really sets in.
  • Change air filters on furnace.


  • Herbs can be cut and dried for saving. Remember to bring some in to create a window garden for a fresh Winter source of Summer’s flavors.
  • Seed saving and dead-heading can begin once again. Remember to allow some of your perennial seeds to self-sow by leaving only a few “dead heads” or by sprinkling some seed. Save some seed for finches (they adore Echinacea) and other seed lovers. Too many dead heads can lead to disease.
  • Don’t prune rose hips yet if you plan on saving them for jellies or medicinal purposes.
  • Bring in your more sensitive plants as the nights get cooler. Stevia, ginger, and other tropicals don’t like colder weather. Many other herbs can stay outside until the first frosts.
  • It’s a good time to take cuttings of woody plants and shrubs.
  • If you’re planning on dividing or planting bulbs for next year now is the time to do it! Also divide shrubby herbs like lemon balm, oregano, mints, sage, fennel, tansy, and marjoram.
  • Harvest frost-sensitive plants and Winter keepers before your first frosts. Put green tomatoes in paper bags to ripen slowly and use later. Potatoes, onions, and other keepers should be kept in a cool dark place.
  • Cut back dying foliage. Burn diseased foliage as soon as possible. Healthy plants can be put into compost as long as they are seed-free. As fun as it is to have a surprise potato plant sprout from the compost bin, you don’t want those plants (or weeds) to use up all that energy you’ve been saving for your garden!
  • Green manures for cool seasons can be sown.
  • Strawberry runners should be rooted and transplanted by the end of the month.
  • Shrubs and trees, fruiting or not, can be planted now that the cool weather is setting in. Fall is an excellent time for transplants since most trees are storing or spending energy in and on their root systems.
  • Speaking of fruiting trees and plants, remove mulch and prune those that need it.


  • Put in your orders for Winter supplies of food, straw, and hay.
  • Give a good cleaning to coops and barns to try to avoid housing mice and other small, unwanted critters.
  • September and October are good months for building. If you’re planning on adding to the animal family next year, consider any outdoor units that may need to be added.
  • Repair coops, lean-tos, stables, and other shelters before cold weather sets in. Keep your animals happy and warm at night.
  • Start considering mating sheep and goats for Spring kids and lambs. They’re both on about a 150 gestation cycle so a late month conception would lead to a late February birth.
  • With birth also comes death. Start planning for cold weather slaughters. Animals are best harvested when the weather is below 40 degrees. The cooler the better, especially if you’re inexperienced or have a lot of work to do. Research your product and begin gathering needed items. Mise en place. Have stock pots, seasonings, casings, sharpening stones, recipes, packaging, and tools all ready prior to harvesting.


  • Continue to feed your hummingbirds and other songbirds. Migrations will begin this month and you may have a few unusual visitors to your feeders.
  • Like us humans, wild critters are beginning to stock away for the colder seasons. Allow seed heads to remain on natives and refrain from too much tidying up of acorns and other nuts, seeds, and berries. Skunks, squirrels, rabbits, birds, and other small animals need to fatten up to keep warm through the Winter.

Read Full Post »

Some of my fondest memories are of cooking with family members. In our family everybody cooked, even the fellows. Grandparents took their time, allowing me to be part of the process. I remember how slowly and perfectly Grandma Dorothy sliced onions and potatoes, and how we peeled tomatoes for canning. Grandmama was the queen of braided bread, chicken and noodles, and all things sweet. She taught me to savor food. Poppy was the ultimate breakfast cook, preparing eggs, bacon, and pancakes or toast every morning. The younger generations like to experiment a bit more: Mom introduced me to crepes; my stepdad is the reigning champion of baking desserts; my uncle, in his own disturbing way, got me to sample deer and rabbit; and my brother, well, let’s say he was one prime reason I was a vegetarian for some time.

kidhelp collage

It’s amazing the memories that food invokes. If a smell can trigger a memory, then the impact of food has to be tenfold. These are some of the reasons that I love to cook with my daughter – so that when she leaves this nest that she’ll have the knowledge and good memories of family and food.

There are some keys to cooking with children. Allow plenty of time for play and mistakes, let your child experiment, and never tell your child that something’s gross unless it’s unhealthy for them. My daughter’s favorite foods include eel, oxtail, squid, and spinach because we’ve tried not to negatively influence her relationships with food.

orange peel scraping

Let your child play with the tools except for those that can be dangerous. One way to allow your child to explore kitchen tools is to make “Bathtub Soup.” We like to gather sieves, strainers, ladles, slotted spoons, measuring cups, bowls, pans, and so on and dump them all in the bathtub with her. It’s like a science kit for the bathtub. She gets to see firsthand how many bubbles fit in ½ cup versus 1 cup or how the turkey baster sucks up water into its bulb.

butter making

To reinforce the importance of the family dinner, I involve my daughter in every meal. She has the responsibility of setting out the silverware and napkins. As she gets older she’ll have more responsibilities. On weeknights I’ll allow her to help stir or pour things into a pot, but our biggest experimentation comes on the weekends when we have more time. I allow her to help make decisions, like deciding on a side dish. On Friday nights we make pizza and she’s allowed to help with the dough and decorate her own dinner. She is also a big part of our garden. She helps to harvest our fruits, vegetables, and herbs, giving her ownership of what we’re preparing. She was 5 years old the first time I allowed her to use my chef knife – and I taught her the first time how to use it properly and without fear. Cleaning up is included in her responsibilities to dinner, and as she gets older those responsibilities will all increase.

Common sense comes from experience. I have had to remind my daughter every time we cook together the three most important rules before anything begins: 1. Fingers away from the cutting board while cutting utensils are in use. 2. Never assume that the stove is ‘off’ 3. No cooking without a grownup (one day I’ll share the story of a certain 5-year old that tried to make oatmeal all by her big self in Mommy’s new pan). I occasionally add a few extras like keeping hands clean or enforce the no double-dipping rule. Now that we’ve cooked together on many occasions, my daughter knows these rules exist and that there are no exceptions.


Above everything else, remember to have fun and don’t let mistakes discourage anyone. Involving your children in cooking will teach them a skill, build creativity, and create bonds and special memories – each of which will last a lifetime.

Read Full Post »

Last week I posted on my blog about making butter at home. Alan and I had a chat about how our grandmother’s would have known how to do it without even thinking, not to mention measuring the temperature of the cream. They would have learned from a young age how to do a lot of the things that we are trying to learn now, the lost arts. My grandpa tells some great stories of his childhood, things like storing potatoes in a pit filled with straw outside and going out in the winter to retrieve dinner. I did grow up in a household that had a huge garden and canned all summer for winter. My dad is an avid hunter so our freezer was full of venison and my mom loves to bake, knit, and sew. I learned a lot of skills growing up, but there are things I had no idea how to do until recently. Today we’re sharing photos of things that we see as Lost Arts.

I’m sure our great grandmother’s were expert sourdough bakers. I have to read up on it and look at recipes when I make my sourdough. I’m starting to get the hang of it though, soon enough I’ll be doing it without the cookbook nearby.

Hunting was something my grandpa had to do to survive. He passed his skills down to his sons and my dad is currently teaching Mr Chiots about hunting. We have a freezer full of venison thanks to Mr Chiot’s hard work during deer season this past November.

My grandma, being of German descent, would have been an expert at fermentation. My mom made sauerkraut when I was growing up, so this art wasn’t necessarily lost. But I did have to read up on it when I decided to do it to make sure I was doing it right. Making butter would have been a quick chore as well. I make butter every week, so now I can do it without checking temperatures and it comes out great every time.

Butchering is definitely something that seems to have been lost along the way. I watched a You-tube video on how to portion this rabbit when I got it. It’s something that definitely fascinates me and I want to learn more about it. Perhaps someday I’ll butcher a deer Mr Chiots gets during hunting season.

The area I think I’m most sad about not having a lot of knowledge is in traditional medicine. Using herbs and foods for medicinal purposes. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading up on this to regain some of this knowledge. This was perhaps something my grandmother knew about as a girl but lost as she grew older and conventional medicine became more available.

Hi Kim here…When Susy suggested a post on lost arts I was excited… and then perplexed.  I figured I had covered all of those with my posts on bread baking, animal tending, vegetable canning, etc., posts.  But then I remembered that I do something that I haven’t shared here.  I sew most of Sweet Girl’s clothing! 

I learned to sew at my grandma’s side with an old black Singer sewing machine.  I learned to baste, tuck, pleat, and rip under the patient and watchful eye of a wonderful seamstress.  Now Sweet Girl and I go fabric shopping and planning together and at 6 she is beginning to learn to do the sewing too…but the wearing is still her favorite part!

Mostly we make simple little frocks with aprons or flowers…many times the garden is our inspiration…like this pumkin.

Or this sunflower…

Sometimes we even use a favorite book as inspriration…recognize this?

And sometimes…just sometimes I go all out and make something out of vintage fabric with hat, hand beaded flower and all, like this Easter dress!

Sewing for one’s children is not as easy as running to the local mall and grabbing something off the rack but it is rewarding and after 4 sons…sewing for a little girl is an old-fashioned pleasure I cherish!

What are some of the “Lost Arts” you want to find?

Read Full Post »

“Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer…. Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously?”

~Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

There are a lot of influences in our lives that try to tell us how to live, what to buy, what to wear, what to drive, where to live and what to eat. These influences are particularly strong during the holidays with people telling us how we should celebrate, what we need to buy, how we need to decorate and what we need to do to ensure a happy holiday season. It can be tough to back away from the mainstream influences and to keep and develop meaningful holiday traditions for your family.

Mr Chiots and I watched a special on PBS a week or two ago and it highlighted he different Christmas traditions in the countries and regions of Europe. We were delighted by all the different traditions people held and celebrated just as their ancestors had for centuries. We talked a little about our traditions and the traditions here in the United States and how it seems like we’ve lost a lot of what makes the holidays special in a traditional and cultural way. Perhaps it’s because we’re a country of many cultures, or perhaps it’s the influence of consumerism.

I grew up in Colombia, their Christmas traditions are different than the ones here. Since we were Americans, our celebrations became kind of a mix of Colombian traditions and family traditions. Since my family was very religious, our Christmas celebrations always centered around religious traditions. We always had a nativity set out. We always lit a the angle chimes and read through the Christmas story on Christmas Eve. We enjoyed eggnog and Christmas cookies while opening our gifts on Christmas Eve. We never were a big gift giving family, a few small gifts were it, and generally they were useful items. On Christmas morning we’d wake up to stockings filled with candy and a few small trinkets, then we’d enjoy a big meal of ham and all the usual sides.

Mr Chiots and I have tried to establish a few traditions of our own along with a few family traditions. We set up a nativity set and a few decorations, we exchange a few small gifts, which are generally useful. We enjoy a big breakfast on Christmas morning and always keep the day to ourselves, watching vintage James Bond movies all day. This year I’m planning on incorporating a few Colombian traditions, like eating buñelos with hot chocolate, which are traditional Colombian food for Christmas. My nativity set is handmade from Colombia, and it was our family nativity set. We would love to develop more traditions or pick up some from around the world.

What are some of the holiday traditions that you keep or have developed for your family? Are they family traditions or new ones you’ve developed?

Read Full Post »

It’s Traditional

As Christmas approaches, we prepare, as most parents do, to pass along Christmas to our kids.  I suppose it sounds a bit odd to pass on Christmas, but the season is typically so complex for most families that I do not think that any other words describe what we do.  When I was a kid, it seemed as if we prepared for Christmas for months.  In elementary school, we glued together enormous paper chains that wound all through our classroom and into the halls.


I grew up in Pennsylvania near Lake Erie so we usually got snow early and heavy.  In my memory, almost every Christmas was a white Christmas.  Sometimes, it seemed as if we had a white Halloween.  Anyhow, the buildup to Christmas to my child-eyes was immense and exciting and just as it was supposed to be according to all of the Christmas carols, which of course, we listened too all of the time.

At home, we strung together strings of popcorn and cranberries to wind around our Christmas tree.  We threw way too much tinsel all over the tree and made every type of cookie imaginable.  I remember picking different varieties of cookies from a large black water-bath canner which was packed full of cookies (talk about a dream cookie jar!).

On Christmas Eve, my family went to my aunt and uncle’s house where our family gathered for what seemed like a fairly formal meal (though, as I now think back on it, the meal was not formal, just different from what we normally did at home).  My brother and I ate every last bit of candy we could find laying around in the numerous candy dishes around the house.  The meal seemed to never end as we anticipated opening the large pile of gifts that were always under the tree.


Once we finally got home, we hurried off to bed so Santa could come.  The rule in our house was that no one could leave their bedroom until 6am.  I truly do not know how we survived the time between waking and 6am.  Surely a cosmic quantum time shift happened which caused time to slow to 1/20th normal speed.  Anyhow, we raced to the living room to see what was under the tree.  It’s funny but Santa never wrapped our presents.  I don’t think my brother and I ever noticed that Mom and Dad never gave us presents…all the presents were from Santa.

So, flash forward to now.  My wife, of course, had her own set of traditions in her growing up.  When we married, it was not terribly hard to merge our traditions, but when our children were born, the traditions we established as a family seemed to take on incredible importance.  I know the kids will not turn into serial killers or hermits or <gasp> politicians if we don’t get our tradition just right, but I do believe it is important to keep the kids out of politics…I mean, help the kids look back on their childhoods with fondness.

At first, we tried to mix the traditions with which my wife and I were raised.  It just didn’t work.  And, though it took some time to figure out, we realized that the traditions we impart to our kids have to be wholly ours….MY family’s traditions, not the traditions of my parents or my wife’s parents.  So, while I have such wonderful memories of the traditions surrounding the celebration of the Christmases of my childhood, I think that the responsibility to impart such memories to my children is even more special to me.  So, while the traditional things we each do to celebrate Christmas is special and important, I think the more important tradition is having traditions and seeing those traditions come alive in the eyes and hearts of our children.

So, what are your traditions?  How do you ‘do’ the holidays?  Of course, my take here was Christmas related, bt I am curious about how folks do Hanukkah or whatever holiday you may celebrate in your home too!

Warren can also be found at My Home Among the Hills writing about the adventures of life in WV.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: