Black Beauty Breed

Hildegard is just over 10 months old now and while she is becoming a grown up in some ways, she’s still a silly puppy in others.

We have been exceedingly careful with socializing and training her because of her breed. She went through a 6 week puppy kindergarten class and about a month or so later another 6 week “Grad school” all with Thinking Dog, trainer Laura Berger at Northwest Kennels. We highly, highly recommend Laura and her purely positive reward methods, if you are looking for a trainer in the Bellingham area.

Even trained dogs like the recliner

Even trained dogs like the recliner

When not in class we trained Hilde at home and took her on outings with us, to experience other places and people. Lots of people.

What we discovered is that she is a highly sensitive, intelligent, playful, at times down right goofy, and exceedingly attached kind of dog. She’s great inside the house, quite mellow even, but we always take care of her zoomies with walks, ball throwing, tug, and of course romps with her older brothers plenty.

Hilde has always been very interested in kitties and the chickens, but she was raised to treat them respectfully from day one, so that’s pretty much what she does, barring a few stolen licks or butt sniffs like any other dog would. She really likes Bismarck kitty and they seem to have achieved a certain simpatico.

For the most part she minds well, in fact far better than either of our older boy dogs, consistently being the first to sit, do a trick, or line up for dinner when asked to.

She’s also very attentive, and seems to love doing dog jobs at our little stead like helping us gather eggs or patrolling the yard for squirrels with Stewart and Fergus.

Hilde is so attuned, so much a family member, that I can see where someone who thinks a dog should get shut out in the backyard and ignored, could get in trouble with a Rottweiler. I have no doubt like so many other dogs, they aren’t born to be a problem, but are made that way by humans when they fail to train them or take care of them.

It hasn’t been all easy, we have had challenges along the way, but the work we have put in to this wonderful girl has been more than worth it. This breed takes consistent positive training, and a serious commitment, so we wouldn’t recommend them for everyone.

To the point of this post title… there is a new movie about the Rottweiler called, Black Beauty Breed. It is a documentary about the positive character traits & inherent working ability of this dog told by people who have Rott’s and love them. There are some amazing stories and dogs in this movie. It’s out on DVD now, and we highly recommend picking up a copy to learn why so many people wouldn’t consider another breed of dog after having one.



And I must confess this now includes us!

We are starting Hilde on scent games training next, just because she is so eager to do and work. It should be a fun adventure for all involved.

Charming of the Plow – another flavor of Imbolc/Candlemas

Depending on where you’re located, winter is showing its age and spring is on the horizon. This transition has always been marked by local traditions. In modern East Coast America we have Groundhog Day, Christian Europe has Candlemas, Pagan traditions celebrate Imbolc, and descendants of Vikings and Anglo-Saxons welcome the new growing season in yet another way – the charming of the plough (also known as Disting).

A team of transformed oxen driven by the Norse goddess Gefjun.

A team of transformed oxen driven by the Norse goddess Gefjun.

In Sweden at this time, a religious festival was held called the Disablot, to honor the disir – female gods, landspririts, and ancestors. Included in this observance was the governing assembly called the Thing, where laws were made and interpreted, grievances were adjudicated, contracts sealed, and so on. The combined gathering was called Disting, and marked the start of the growing season in that part of the world.

Engraving of a Disablot by J. Malmsrom, a Swedish author.

Engraving of a Disablot by J. Malmsrom, a Swedish author.

A Scandinavian legend describes early ‘land-taking’ customs in the story of the goddess Gefjon. Like many ancient tales, there are conflicting versions from various sources, but the gist is that a Swedish king promised Gefjon as much land as she could plough in a day with four oxen. She transformed her four sons (fathered by an unnamed jotunn) into supernaturally strong oxen, and: Gefjun‘s plough “cut so hard and deep that it uprooted the land, and the oxen drew the land out into the sea to the west and halted in a certain sound.” Gefjun there placed the land, and bestowed upon it the name Zealand. Where the land had been taken from a lake stands. There has been an association of women and ploughing since time immemorial. Folk traditions in some areas of Russia (where the Vikings settled as Rus) call for women to plough the borders of a community to ward off sickness or calamity. Anglo-Saxons held the Æcerbot or ‘field remedy’ ritual, to heal land that was yielding poorly and return it to full productivity. The ritual called for anointing the plow with herbs and oils, for cakes to be placed in the fresh furrows, and for daylong incantations and songs.

Erce, Erce, Erce, Earthen Mother! May the Allwielder grant thee, the great Drihten, acres waxing and covering, increasing and strengthening. A sheaf betokens the reaper’s produce and the broad barley’s produce and the white wheat’s produce and the produce of all earth. Grant to them, great Drihten whose hallows that in heaven are, that his farm be fortified against all fiends, each one, and it be bordered against all baleful things, each one, that through the land is seen. Now I ask the Wielder, that this world shaped, That there be no such cunning woman; no such crafty man, That with a word of power changes what is said.

While thumbing through all those seed catalogs, take a moment to think about the earth that grows our food, and how best to care for it. At Seven Trees Farm, we add to the health of our land by adding back manure, lime, composted livestock bedding, etc. We also use as few chemicals and toxins as possible, not just for our own health, but to keep the natural bug-filled ecosystem thriving.

Another way we show respect for our bountiful Earth is by leaving some areas ‘un-plowed’, so that our own landvaettir have an undisturbed place to inhabit. The wild birds also appreciate the thickets and brambles, as do the myriad frogs which will start their spring peeping soon. plough

For more information about ancestral early spring traditions, check out these links -

On Candlemas Day

Charming the Plow: Disting

Holy Tides – Charming of the Plough and Disting

Plough Songs

Late winter warm weather weirdness

While most of the US is battling extreme cold and snow, Seven Trees Farm has been basking in record warm temperatures. It hasn’t gotten us off the hook for the flu epidemic making the rounds of our area, but being able to step outside for some fresh air that is actually warm and dry is big winter treat.

Lucky and Percy, our resident Quaker parrots, also enjoy treats – of the edible variety. treatconeOur shore pines produce cute little cones that are perfect for stuffing with peanut butter, rolling in bird seed, then hanging for them to ‘forage’ on. The parrots are usually fairly lazy, but they shinny right up their play ladder to get to this nugget of goodness. parrotsnackNaturally, what goes in must come out, so a nice day means cage cleaning time. Having a hot water faucet installed outside makes dirty jobs a lot more comfortable. cagewashYou can see by the dark clouds to the north that the sunny day was just a brief interlude in our normal chilly dankness. Bismarck decided to show up on the jobsite for an inspection. He’s not called Busy B for nothing! cagekittySince there was no chance of freezing temperatures or sudden windstorms, it was time to see what our forlorn hope of a winter garden was up to. rowcoverEvery fall we start discussing how best to grow food year round. As the climate changes, there are some winters with bonus warm spells long enoough to allow hardy greens to survive. It would be a great investment in time, money and labor to build a cold frame/hot bed, but something always seems to come up before we can. My late fall starts ended up getting popped under a quick row cover with a healthy sprinkle of sluggo…then winter set in.

We had a lot more windstorms than we expected, and pulled back the row cover before one of them. It’s much better to let the poor plants fare for themselves than pick shredded polyester out of the trees and sticker bushes. Unfortunately, the wacky weather has been helpful for the varmint population, and it didn’t take long for the ring neck doves (which we mistakenly thought had flown elsewhere for winter) to pillage the ‘bounty’.rowuncoveredWe ended up with some parsley, two spinach and one wee little devil’s tongue lettuce…no cold season salads for us.parsleyspinachlettuce

But the sneak peek of spring was enough to prompt the ritual unearthing of the seed-starting apparatus, and so the 2015 growing season commences.

The afternoon sun also illuminated the enemy…plump and observant doves perched behind the garage, just waiting for our tender seedlings to sprout. I’m thinking pigeon pot pie might be tasty :Dthieves

What’s the matter? Thorramatur!

The holidays are over, spring is just a date on the calendar, and the weather outside (if you’re in our neck of the woods) is frightful. A perfect time to take a break from pre-spring cleaning to explore the mid-winter Viking festival, Thorrablot. The Thorrablot, or Feast of Thor, is held in Iceland, on a Friday, between the 19th and 25th of January every year, and signals the beginning of the snowmoon, or month of Thorri.

There isn’t much agreement as to just when this festival started (any time from the Viking era down to the 19th century) and likewise some confusion as to its namesake (Icelandic king Thorri, ancient jotun (giant) Thorri, or Heathen god Thor). Where modern people agree is on the traditional menu of food known as the thorramatur.

The recent popularity of this festival is said to derive from Icelandic emigrants returning to their home country after working overseas. They had lost connection with their native traditions and thorrablot was a way to reconnect. A common thread of the mostly meat-based menu is preservation. Pickled ram testicles, fermented shark (hakarl, a lot like surstromming – hilarity and history at the link), soured blood sausage and the like are not for the faint of heart (or stomach) but these foods helped the hardy Vikings make it through winter.

“…It’s all a real adventure, although the spectre of rotted shark does seem to dominate proceedings somewhat, with veteran diners visibly gagging as they attempt to keep the dish down. It’s hardly surprising – once you’ve got past the freshly-scrubbed locker-room stench, the burning at the back of the throat and the stinging eyes, you’ve got to swallow something Anthony Bourdain described as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he’d ever eaten (this from a man who once downed a shot of cobra bile), and a snack that had Gordon Ramsay retching uncontrollably. And the taste itself? If you can bear to not swallow it right away, to let the shark settle on the tongue, to linger on the palate… well, it’s urine-soaked cheese that springs to mind...

Whenever possible, some form of goat’s meat is included, as homage to the god Thor, who considers goats one of his sacred animals. Thor is also invoked to beat back winter with his mighty hammer Mjolnir. We mortals are encouraged to beat back the taste of singed sheep head and rotten fish with many toasts of Brennin (aka black death). The humans at Seven Trees will be celebrating ancestral food traditions, and beating back winter, with our own thorramater next week. Time to get the freezer ready for the hoped-for bounty of 2012 by turning all those assorted cow & pig parts into preserved treats like blood sausage, liverwurst and kielbasa. And we’ll wash it down with our own version of Icelandic black death, Linie akavit.

(More details about the traditional thorramatur here –

St. Distaff’s day means work and play

Distaff Day is January 7th, the day after the feast of the Epiphany. It is also known as Saint Distaff’s Day, since it was not really a holiday at all. In many European cultural traditions, women resumed their household work after the twelve days of Christmas. (Men didn’t return to work until Plough Monday - go figure!)
The distaff, used in spinning, was the medieval symbol of women’s work. Often the men and women would play pranks on each other during this day, as was written by Robert Herrick in his poem “Saint Distaffs day, or the Morrow After Twelfth Day”:
Partly work and partly play
You must on St Distaff’s Day:
From the plough soon free your team;
Then come home and fodder them:
If the maids a-spinning go,
Burn the flax and fire the tow.
Bring in pails of water then,
Let the maids bewash the men.
Give Saint Distaff all the right:
Then bid Christmas sport good night,
And next morrow every one
To his own vocation.
This mirthful observance recalls a time when spinning was the occupation of almost all women and girls during the intervals of other and more serious work, and while caring for children, cooking, minding livestock, etc. Spinning was so integral to a woman’s workload, that in England and its colonies, spinster was a recognized legal term for an unmarried woman—the spear side and the distaff side were legal terms to distinguish the inheritance of male from that of female children—and the distaff became a synonym for woman herself.
Five hundred years ago, Chaucer classed this art among the natural endowments of the fair sex in his ungallant proverb:
‘Deceit, weeping, spinning, God hath given
To women kindly, while they may live.’

It was admitted in those old days that a woman could not quite make a livelihood by spinning; but, says Anthony Fitzherbert, in his Boke of Husbandrie ‘it stoppeth a gap,’ it saveth a woman from being idle, and the product was needful. No rank was above the use of the spindle. Homer’s princesses only had them gilt. The lady carried her distaff in her gemmed girdle, and her spindle in her hand, when she went to spend half a day with a neighbouring friend. The farmer’s wife had her maids about her in the evening, all spinning.
Women still carry on this skill, some by necessity, and many by choice. As the picture below of a Romanian woman with her distaff and drop spindle shows, the tools of the trade have remained the same for centuries.
More recently, modern day fiber art & crafts groups have taken up St. Distaff’s Day as a celebration of this ancient practice.
There is an excellent book, Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years : Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, which goes into fascinating detail about the importance of women’s work involving all aspects of cloth production in the greater economy.
Other sources for information about St. Distaff’s Day:

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Chickens are NOT House Pets

Seven Trees:

Now that some creepy strains of bird flu are making their way into our area, this post is a must read!

Originally posted on TBN Ranch:

Chickens live in coops and barns, people live in houses. A rule that should be followed for good reason… but it isn’t.

Keeping a chicken in the house is absolutely definitely not okay! Nevertheless, people do it all the time. While you enjoy the benefits of backyard chickens and other poultry, it is important to consider the risk of illness, especially for children, which can result from handling live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam.

I’ve seen chick brooders in kitchens, family rooms, even in bedrooms where a children sleep. Worse yet, there are pics of mature chickens all over the internet roaming free in family households. Even a short visit from a curious chicken that wanders through an open back door tells me there are serious flaws in a chicken keeper’s set-up.

There should always be what I call a clean area between the…

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