Mid-winter doldrums

January at Seven Trees Farm isn’t terribly exciting, which is a good thing. We’re just barely done with fall harvest processing (luckily onions and garlic are forgiving) and trying to decide what to plant now. daffodils

The random weather is making it tough to call, since most domesticated garden veggies were developed for specific growing conditions. Tonight is a perfect example. It’s late-January, 8pm, and 60 degrees. If this were normal we could count on fresh greens all winter, but just a couple of weeks ago it was in the teens and the ground was hard frozen.2016hatch

Any plants newly-started don’t have a clue what to do, and often give up and die, or just hunker down and wait for true spring like so many other living things.2016boxopeeps

The first hatch of the season was very exciting, with 63 peepers in the baby coop this week. We’ll have a full grow-out pen and some extra chickies for sale soon. Our new roo, Kendall, a hefty, handsome French black copper Marans has earned himself another season as main guy, given his laid-back disposition and awesome fertility rate.peepdrink

We are taking advantage of the relative calm to get some bids on much-needed upgrades like new windows and possible flooring. We looked at options for a new heating system (our ‘official’ heat source is electric baseboards but we never use them), but our tiny old farmhouse is so well-insulated that wood heat remains our best bet. Now to get some bids for prettying-up the old brick chimney stub that was left behind when previous owners got rid of the original wood cookstove.hotplatepeeps

February is almost here though, and that means Imbolc. Time to celebrate winter’s waning and the approach of spring :Dpartypeeps

Here are a few posts we’ve written on ancestral observations of this tumultuous transitional time:

St. Distaff’s day means work and play

We’ve been blogging Seven Trees Farm for 10 years now! As we celebrate the arrival of 2016 with coffee and tiramisu for breakfast, let’s read about the return to work our female ancestors anticipated at the end of the holidays.

Seven Trees Farm

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.

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Celebrating winter

This time of year the Seven Trees Farm blog gets a lot of hits from people searching for information about the Krampus, the Wild Hunt, apple tree wassailing, and the Tomte. So to save a little effort, and also to better share our favorite winter solstice traditions, here they are in one list:

We hope you find some fun new ideas amongst all the history for celebrating the return of the sun to share with your loved ones.


Raise a glass to Repeal Day!

It’s repeal day!! Raise a glass to the so-called Noble Experiment and it’s joyful demise :)

Seven Trees Farm

December 5th marks the 82nd anniversary of the nationwide repeal of prohibition – Utah was the 36th state to ratify the 21st amendment, achieving the requisite three-fourths majority of states’ approval, and effecting the repeal the the 18th amendment which had prohibited the sale of recreational alcohol in America. gal-prohibition6-web-jpg

Proponents of the so-called “Noble Experiment” had touted the National Prohibition Act of 1919 (commonly called the Volstead Act) as a panacea for many social and economic woes. In the early 20th century, women had limited rights to divorce, retain child custody, or even control their own wages. Men would often disappear into saloons on payday, coming home broke and violent. Temperance groups capitalized on the assumption that a woman’s role was to preserve family well-being, and were a huge player in the push to criminalize alcohol production and consumption.

Another major pro-prohibition force were religious organizations. Like many extremist groups…

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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?

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

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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