Giving thanks for our pagan pilgrim ancestors

Thanksgiving, and its nod to the Mayflower colonists, is a perfect excuse to share this post from the New England Historical Society about a little-known episode in our Puritan past. The humans of Seven Trees Farm have ancestors on both sides of this incident, as do many of our readers no doubt.

There is a Rom/Gypsy proverb that says: “He who wishes to enslave you will never tell you the truth about your ancestors.” Here is some truth about our ancestors….

The Maypole That Infuriated the Puritans

maypole 2

Had it not been for his May Day party with a giant Maypole, Thomas Morton might have established a New England colony more tolerant, easygoing and fun than his dour Puritan neighbors created at Plymouth Plantation.

Morton was a well-educated, well-connected, free-thinking Englishman who came to America in 1624 as a senior partner in a trading venture sponsored by the Crown. He sailed aboard the Unity with Capt. Wollaston and 30 indentured servants. They settled in what is now Quincy, Mass., and began trading with the Indians for furs.

Morton wrote that he found two sorts of people in New England: the Christians and the Infidels. The Infidels he found ‘most full of humanity, and more friendly than the other.’

Morton would battle the Puritans over the next two decades using his wit, his pen, his political connections and his legal expertise. He even managed to get the royal charter for the Massachusetts Bay Colony revoked. But his fortunes were tied to the Crown. When the Puritan Roundheads were clashing with Royalists in 1643, America’s first hippie was arrested and thrown in prison.

Pagan Past

Thomas Morton was born in 1576 in Devonshire, England, a part of the country that still bore remnants ot Merrie Old England’s pagan past. He was the son of a soldier, probably a younger son, and he studied law in London at the Inns of Court, the barristers’ professional association.

Morton’s lawyering brought him the connections that brought him to New England. He couldn’t get along with the Puritans at Plymouth Plantation, so he, Wollaston and the indentured servants established their own colony, Mount Wollaston. It grew quickly and grew prosperous.

Morton parted ways with Wollaston in 1626 when he learned Wollaston was selling indentured servants into slavery on Virginia tobacco plantations. Morton encouraged the remaining servants to rebel against Wollaston and set up their own colony. They didn’t need much persuading. The servants organized themselves into a free community called Merrymount with Morton in command. He called himself the ‘host.’ Wollaston fled to Virginia.

Merrymount was a colonial utopia in which the settlers were considered ‘consociates’ and lived in harmony with the Algonquin Indians. The Puritans were horrified that the liberal-minded Morton and his men consorted with native women. They considered Morton an impious, drunken libertine. They also weren’t happy his easygoing colony attracted escapees from the strictness and starvation of Plymouth.


Read the rest of this fascinating tale of how religious extremism shaped our country’s path here – The Maypole That Infuriated the Puritans


All of the older trees at Seven Trees were sheared off about the same height,  most likely during the Columbus Day Storm of 1962. Everything above a certain height is secondary growth, which is never as strong as the undamaged tree. Also, at some point a tree house had been built between two Douglas Firs in the backyard. Long enough ago to have been built entirely out of rough cut lumber, probably milled right here on our place. At this point though, the wood is badly decayed, and the tree house could easily become a hazard in any future wind storms.

The tree house was attached by nails and whoever built it had also seen fit to steel cable around both the trees it spanned to further secure it. The tree closest to the back of the house was badly choked by the cable, and over the years it had begun to lean towards the house as it grew. We had a few tree companies out to look over the situation and unfortunately it was determined the damaged tree would have to come down, along with the rotting, derelict tree fort. Acme Tree Works had been recommended to us by a friend, and we liked the owner Dan’s removal plan best.

The crew showed up on a bright October morning with everything they needed, including an industrial chipper.


No accomplices were placed in this wood chipper.


In no time at all they were aloft in climbing harness, chainsaws purring and dangling close at hand.


The old tree house makes a tricky obstruction.


Soon the rickety platform was dismembered and on the ground in manageable chunks.


The crew carries rounds out of the way and branches to the chipper.

Watch how the tree was limbed down to final fell stage. These guys made it look easy!




After the tree was downed, the Acme tree team sawed everything into 16″ rounds, clearing away sawdust and debris as they worked.


The remaining tree needed to have the steel cable girdling it cut and pried away. We also had the old ladder taken off. Since the remaining tree wasn’t as damaged as the one felled, we’re hoping it will fully recover.


Before and after.

There’s plenty of rounds to split up for more firewood and a nice pile of chips for the yard and garden.

Just like magic, this little tree had sprouted up under one of our gutter downspouts over the summer, so we potted it up to plant in honor of our fallen tree.


The next generation…

“Ask veit ek standa,
heitir Yggdrasils,
hár baðmr, ausinn
hvíta auri;
þaðan koma döggvar,
þærs í dala falla,
stendr æ yfir grænn

Yggdrasil and the Well of Urd

Flip, bounce, or shrub?

Seven Trees:

It’s that time of year again :D Holidays, tradition, and drinking.

Originally posted on Seven Trees Farm:

“The days are short, the weather’s cold,
By tavern fires tales are told.
Some ask for dram when first come in,
Others with flip and bounce begin.”
~New England Almanac, December 1704

Our colonial-era ancestors worked hard. They had to. And after a hard days work, they liked to relax in the company of their friends & neighbors. If they indulged too much, then they had dozens of words to describe drunkenness. Benjamin Franklin collected more than 200 such terms, including addled, afflicted, biggy, boozy, busky, buzzey, cherubimical, cracked, and “halfway to Concord.”

It was also tough being on the road in those days. Travelling meant walking, riding, and if you were lucky a teeth-rattling ride in a coach full of strangers. Before television, the internet, and decent hotels, taverns provided a place to catch up on gossip and news, to debate politics, and to find bed & board for…

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Puca came early

Our berry patches usually give us the first sign of the end of summer. For weeks straight, we’re able to pick more berries than fit in the freezer, usually until the first frost.This year was really tough on the berry plants though. Record heat and drought conditions interspersed with record rainfall, not to mention transplanting all the raspberries right at bloomtime, threw the harvest cycle into a downward spiral. Eventually the day came where the berries looked good from a distance, but on closer inspection were all funky. Some have slug tracks, some are already rotten and dropping off, and some never really get ripe. We call this “berries gone puca”.PucaBerries

What the heck is a puca, you ask?



The Puca (also spelled Pooka, Puka, Puck) is a supernatural creature mostly associated with Ireland, West Scotland and Wales. It can take a variety of shapes, dog, rabbit, goat or goblin, but a large black horse with glowing golden eyes is the most common form. It has the power of human speech, and legends abound in Ireland of people seeking advice from a Puca, which are probably remnants of pre-christian religious rituals. Pucas are also known to abduct unwary nighttime travellers, taking them for a wild ride, then leaving them unharmed where they were found.


An ancient agricultural custom was that any crops left unharvested after Samhain (Oct. 31/Nov. 1) belonged to the Puca, and anyone gathering them would also gather the ill-will of the Puca.

PhoucaBerries“At the beginning of November, the Puca was known—in some locales—to either defecate or spit on the wild fruits rendering them inedible and unsafe thenceforth.” Parents would warn their children not to eat these crops by telling them they would make them sick. In many areas people would proactively leave a small portion of their crops in the field, called the Puca’s share.

If you’d like to read more about this creature, including how one was tamed by Irish high king Brian Boru, check out these links:

Something windy this way comes…

Seven Trees:

This time of year Cascadians’ thoughts turn to stormy weather. And almost on the eve of the Columbus Day storm of 1962, we’re under a wind advisory, with a freakish 69F out at midnight. It shouldn’t amount to much, but we’ve been surprised by weather before.
This post was written in September of 2006, and little did we know what a challenging winter was in store –

Originally posted on Seven Trees Farm:

    We had our first power outage of the season. An old cottonwood couldn’t stand against the rain-saturated soil, and fell onto a power pole, about a 1/4 mile down the road. We only lost power for 4 hours, but it was a good reminder that the weather can send our best laid plans spinning, and it’s time to do winter emergency prepping.

Damage from the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 in Newberg, Oregon Damage from the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 in Newberg, Oregon

Here’s a look at past weather hijinks in Whatcom county. I’m sure most anyone in the PNW experienced these events in their own special way…

(From the Bellingham Herald – link no longer working)

  • Record snowfall of ’98-’99: The winter of 1998-99 will live in the memory of local skiers and snowboarders – that’s when 1,140 inches of snow fell at Mount Baker Ski Area, the most ever recorded in the United States.
    Once Baker opened that…

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Communing with Cascadia


Ozette Island from Cape Alava

We don’t have any road trips on the schedule this fall, but October is often a good time to take a break from choring to enjoy Cascadian scenery up close & personal. One of our favorite places to visit is the Ozette Village site and surrounding areas. So much bang for your travel buck – isolated rocky beaches, old growth rainforest, archaeology, and a chance to stand in the place where Makah people watched a tsunami overtake their village following the last known rupture of the Cascadia subduction fault over 300 years ago.

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery

We shared some history and our experiences there on a site about sacred places in the new world –


Makah village c.1900

On January 26, 1700 a +9 magnitude earthquake ocurred on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, resulting in a tsunami recorded across the Pacific Ocean in Japan, and a catastrophic mudslide that buried six longhouses of the Makah village at Ozette, WA. In 1970, severe storms uncovered these longhouses and spurred an emergency recovery effort. The archaeological record shows that this site was inhabited continuously from 400 BCE to the 1920s, when residents were moved to Neah Bay to facilitate schooling opportunities. The Makah Tribe, who also held inland territory, obtained most of their food and resources from the sea. Economic mainstays were halibut, ling cod, shellfish, salmon and a variety of sea mammals (primarily grey whale, fur seal and hair seal). Spanish explorers in the 1790s introduced potatoes, as well as European diseases and religion.

Slavery was common among the tribes of the Pacific Northwest long before European contact. Among the Makah, slaves were captured in warfare, or sometimes they were purchased from other tribes who had acquired them by capture. In 1833. Hudson’s Bay Company bought shipwrecked Japanese sailors from the Makah hoping to use them to open up trading with the Japanese.


Many Northwest Native legends describe battles between Thunderbird and Whale:

Whale was a monster, killing other whales and depriving the Quileute tribe of meat and oil. Thunderbird, a benevolent supernatural being, saw from its home high in the mountains that the people were starving. It soared out over the coastal waters, then plunged into the ocean and seized Whale. A struggle ensued; the ocean receded and rose again. Many canoes were flung into trees and many people were killed. Thunderbird eventually succeeded in lifting Whale out of the ocean, carrying it high into the air and then dropping it. Then another great battle occurred on land. In light of modern seismic and archaeological findings, these legends seem to describe the massive earthquake and tsunami of 1700.

Ozette archaeological site in the 1970’s

Aiornis, the prehistoric giant bird on which the Thunderbird mythology seems to be partly based, was a carrion feeder known from fossils found near Los Angeles. It is most likely that these birds, which were encountered by the first human settlers of the Americas, would feed on stranded whale carcasses.


Bone Hut interior

Being a native of the Pacific Northwest, exploring the rugged north Washington coast is a rite of passage. The pilgrimage to the Ozette village site involves a drive out to the Olympic Peninsula, a hike on a mossy tree-shadowed boardwalk, then a low-tide scramble up a rugged beach. Following the discovery of the 1700s slide-buried village, modern folk reconstructed a cedar-planked house looking out towards Cannonball Island and the Pacific Ocean. This hut is now a magnet for offerings of whale, seal and otter bones collected from the beach in front of the house. My last visit there, in 2011, still provided a seal rib and otter jaw bone that we brought back to our home altar, plus other bones left in the house as offerings to the local wights.

Bone Hut exterior

The terrain surrounding the Salish Sea very closely resembles that of our Scandinavian ancestors. Fjords, whales, seals, skraelings, raiding, trading, and even potlatches. Heathens travelling in the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest will be greatly rewarded by visiting the Makah Cultural and Research Center, hiking out to Cape Flattery to see Tatoosh Island and the sea stacks and caves at the northwestern-most point of the contiguous 48 states, then makng the trek to Ozette Lake and Cape Alava, where people lived and died to the rhythm of the sea for thousands of years. Explore the middens and tide strands, then find your own piece of bone to leave as an offering for the wights of this unique and majestic place.

Further reading

Native American groups of the Olympic Peninsula

Non-Indians and the Makah, 1788 to 1855

Native American legends of tsunamis in the Pacific Northwest

Searching for Native stories about Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes

Earthquakes and tsunami as elemants of environmental disturbance on the Northwest Coast of North America

The Home of My Family: Ozette, the Makahs, and Doc Daugherty

Changing seasons, changing gears

We haven’t had time to post much lately, as we’ve gone from running around trying to keep crops viable in the record heatwave to running around trying to keep crops viable in the record August wind/rain storm.

In the aftermath of the stormy weather it looks like fall has fallen. Usually that means chilly nights and comfortably sunny days, interspersed with rain showers. But thanks to the dying offshore Blob and the incoming Godzilla El Nino, who knows what’s in store.

We can only hope we don’t get a repeat of fall/winter 2006, with its floods, hurricane-force winds, and blizzard conditions, nearly continuously from the beginning of November to mid-December. Here are a few highlights from that mad-weatherish year. Check out more here – November 2006 at STFBlizzard06

Looking east on the Pole Rd. toward Sumas Mountain, and yes, that’s the corner of a car sticking out of the ditch. Windstorm06

Our lovely fir trees, having a dance in the 60mph winds. One of them to the left of the house will be taken out later this month, as it is leaning perilously close to the house now.


And the raging Nooksack, at the Nugent’s Corner bridge. Seven Trees Farm is only a few hundred yards from the river as the crow flies, but the topography is such that flooding is a fairly remote risk, at least so far. But this bridge is just a couple of miles upstream and usually has maybe 50 feet between it and the river channel. There was about 6 feet of space when we took this photo.

Luckily we are much more prepared for all kinds of weather now, but still….fingers crossed for pleasant and mild, with a wee bit of snow for fun. Mount Baker and friends just got their first dusting of white, which should have the local skiers and boarders raring to go. BakerSnow15