Summer Solstice

Happy summer solstice! As always it’s been far too long since I have written. I truly need to learn that I don’t need to write quite so much when I make a post.

Streamlining my writing is hard. I want to say every little thing, I want to fix every spelling error right as it happens, I want to include only the very best images. But I really need to get past that and learn to just write more regularly.

Today, being the summer solstice, is one of the handful of pagan holidays I celebrate. It’s a tough one – there’s no corresponding holidays on the American calendar. The only corresponding religious holiday is “Midsummer” – or a celebration of the birth of St. John – an obscure and rarely noted celebration that almost nobody knows about let alone celebrates. But in pagan cultures, celebrating the seasons and especially the solstices is a big deal. There’s just no culture available for the summer one in the US. There’s not a single major holiday that makes it easier or is even close to the date. Want to decorate your house in lights, stars, and have a fire for Yule? That’s easy! That’s stuff that got absorbed into Christmas from paganism so it’s available commercially everywhere. Want to have a golden cloth or summer herbs for making an amulet on the summer solstice? Tough out of luck. You’re lucky if garden centers are even still carrying the herbs you need so late in the season.

But pagan celebrations always make me happy. They have such a deep focus on being spiritual, feeling happy about your world, celebrating with people… Not to mention their deep connection to agriculture and the seasons. It always makes me feel a little more at peace to celebrate them, and a little more hyped for homesteading. Being pagan often lends itself to a desire to create and build and maintain with one’s own hands. Fae, deities and spirits generally appreciate things made with old-timey love, rather than a purchase. You can’t exactly give a fairy a gift card to Starbucks. So I find a thread of homesteading and older skillsets tends to run deep through people drawn to pagan faiths and the corresponding celebrations always make me feel a deeper connection to both nature and those old skills passed down for thousands of years. Skills on which our society is built and in which handiwork and love shine.

Today, as I said my prayers at noon (honoring the power of the sun, and welcoming the slow rebirth of winter) I thought a lot about my plants, the lifestyle I want to maintain, and why I want to maintain it. It was a good time to review what I hoped to get out of the year and reflect on my love for this lifestyle.

And speaking of this lifestyle, while we’ve had some setbacks this year I would say that the experience has generally been more positive this year. Of course terrible things still exist in the world, and even in my life… And I likely give a great deal more time and energy to such things than I can easily spare… But the homesteading has been improving over last years struggles. The garden is lush and flourishing. We may have finally resolved our Evil Groundhog problem with the capture and ultimate demise of not just a baby groundhog but the mother as well, leaving our garden in a more peaceful state. Our berry canes are just beginning to reach fruition and the garden is recovering from the attacks by said groundhogs. We’ve even stayed on top of the problems more than usual this year, such as making sure every tomato is staked and tied before they even reached 2′.

The chicken flock is slowly making it’s transition into a breeding flock of wheaten ameraucanas. I continue my search for good stock, but it’s slow going and difficult. The best stock is in Texas – on the other side of the country – and very little is available in this area. Next year I hope to have my own breedings of birds for my flock. Right now, we are still an easter egger flock and I even have a broody hen on some eggs.

And my efforts to gain tri-color rex continue to advance, admittedly slowly but present. Over the next two years we may have rapid turnover in both of our livestock stock. I hope we see real and dramatic results from that!

All around things continue to advance in the deliberate and more positive way. Though some aspects continue to provide difficulty, I hope we see better results this year than ever before!

Dirty Filthy Heathens

As a homesteader, I know I exist in a primarily christian conservative dominated field, and I am blessed enough to have a few people close in my life who are also Christians who respect that I simply am not. I follow an earth-based pagan faith that I don’t talk about a lot, celebrate old religious holidays based on the seasons, and try to live in harmony with the earth. I generally don’t talk about it much, as it’s my business and not something I want to press onto others.

But every once in a while I really, truly struggle with the willful ignorance of people with the privilege associated with mainstream Christianity when a simple, mild correction results in offense and insult.

Now I will preface this with the fact that I am biased. I grew up with a semi-catholic house, but we weren’t strict. When I was young I went to a Presbyterian church for years because I wanted to sing in the choir. My dad is very Christian and a student of many faiths, so it wasn’t that I had exclusively negative experiences, but they add up over time when you just don’t believe in that faith. For example; going to swimming lessons as a child and being told that you were going to hell by your peers for not going to church. Lectures from your older sister about how dragons and wizards were magic and the devil, and that magic is sinful. Inquiries from your friend’s family wondering why you stopped going to church. Comments from people about how they would pray for you to find god. People telling you that it’s just a “phase” or you are “lost” or just “don’t know any better”. Disgust, hate, fear, people shouting about how awful you are, how sinful you are… You behave differently… So you are simply a MONSTER.

This belittling attitude is especially prominent in homesteading where out of over 2 million farmers (defined as primary farm owner/operators), women account for only 14%, blacks account for only 30,000 farmers in the US. We don’t take religious data on farmers in the US, but in Canada nearly 40% of farmers were roman catholic and only 10% made up EVERY non christian religion, including Muslim and Judaism. There’s a strong possibility that those numbers would be even more skewed in the USA. Farming is NOT a very diverse field and bigotry runs amok.

There was even one point in my career, early on, with a somewhat respected farmer in a semi-distant community who wanted to purchase some rabbits from me. We discussed cages, nutrition, and ideal conditions for rabbits online for some time before he came out and bought some rabbits. Upon meeting me he was floored. He said because I sounded smart, was experienced and confident, and knew what I was doing that he had expected me to be an old white christian man. His words were along the lines of “I was expecting an old geezer sitting on his porch after church”. When he found out I was a young, pagan, woman all of my experience on everything was dismissed. Everything I said as advice he suddenly had to confirm with his “buddies” in the country. Eventually he posted a very offensive post against freedom of marriage online, and blocked me. He proclaimed that marriage was exclusive to Christianity and that nobody from other religions got married because he had never been to a wedding that didn’t say “under god” in the ceremony. I informed him that his scope was limited and he’d clearly never been to a non-christian wedding, as I had never been to a wedding where they DID say under god. This was enough for his to declare I was nothing but an ignorant christian hating child and tried to slander my name in homesteading circles. It didn’t spread far, but could have been much more serious.

It can make someone sensitive, and not everyone is just aggressive. There’s a lot of passive aggression as well, a lot of quiet distaste, frowns and whispers, and things not-quite said. We believe differently than you but we are still humans, and we experience these things. We get edgy. We get sensitive.

So in a discussion about nosy neighbors in small towns when you are a homesteader, someone complained that being nosy was “neighborly” and their cousin was very rude to people who presumed their religion. This was primarily experienced in having moved to a small town and being asked “what church do you go to?”. While this might seem innocuous to people with the privilege of a mainstream faith some of us have a history with the Christian faith that’s not so pretty. We’re never quite sure… Are you ignorantly trying to make friendly conversation, or do you really mean something along the lines of; “We didn’t see you at OUR church… But you DO go the church, right? You’re a Christian, right? You aren’t just skipping church like a dirty, filthy, heathen, right?”. Woe be unto you if you DO follow a heathen faith, as in my experience about half the time this will result in someone informing you that you are a horrible person for it.

Upon attempting to explain these things to this person, (an attempt to explain that the cousin may not see it as a friendly greeting, but rather a passive aggressive attack), I explained that many of us have experienced attacks from that situation, and people should try to be more sensitive to strangers because religion is personal. I hoped they would be a bit more forgiving towards their cousin as they’ve likely experienced suffering from it.

The result was not anything new. I totally expected it. Homesteading circles are primarily white Christians after all. But today it especially frustrated me.

Comments about how dare I say that, and about how I shouldn’t be posting such words (even though it was just a different perspective) because I was just being over sensitive. The comments continued about how people who thought that we were just petty and hated Christians, and how childish it was to feel offended by a “polite invite” to go to their church. How very WRONG I was for being upset by something legitimately upsetting and thoughtless.

Well, I hate to disappoint, but you are absolutely being offensive, and we have every right to protest it. Like asking a black mother with a light skinned child who they are babysitting for. It might be innocent on the surface, but that may very well be THEIR child, through birth or adoption. Or perhaps on a more aggressive example, the word “negro” means black in lots of languages. It’s just a word that means “black” which is not inherently offensive, but I dare you to tell me that calling someone with a dark skin tone “negro” isn’t offensive because of how it’s been used in the past.

For those of us who have actually, legitimately, suffered at the hands of Christianity with “innocent questions” like “what church do you go to”, we are absolutely getting ready for a fight when you ask us that because we have a history of that being nothing but a lead in to an attack. At the very least it’s a slight against the potential that we might not be christian… As in, of course you go to church and are christian, how odd or quaint to not! At the worst, it really is a lead in for an attack.

If someone tells you that something you do upsets them, and it’s not like they are asking you to do anything terribly special it seems reasonable to me to expect you to oblige, but almost to a man (or woman) people refuse, saying they are Christians, they are Americans, and they will behave how they want! How very christian of you to deliberately continue to do something that causes someone else pain, which would cause no expense to you to cease save for being a bit more thoughtful.

Please. We don’t ask you what coven you attend, we don’t ask you to celebrate our deities, we don’t tell you that you are bad people for your faith, we don’t wish you a “Happy Saturnalia”, we don’t proclaim that there is a war on our religion when we are denied religious liberties (even though we have more claim to it than anyone else, as there actually, realistically has been for hundreds of years), and you will not go to hell or be shunned from our community if you don’t follow our faith… We certainly won’t shout at you, insult you, disrespect you or even become violent just because you chose a different path. We just ask for basic, human respect and to put aside your willful ignorance for ten seconds just long enough to give us that respect, and that’s not really so much to ask.

If you’re a homesteader in a minority; I can only genuinely wish you good luck! The cards are stacked against you. You’re the REAL homesteader, you are breaking largely untrodden ground, and you have the biggest fight ahead of you. Don’t let other people make you think you can’t do it because of some twisted form of hate and bigotry. You go!