Saga of Othala: ch. III, Making a Nest a Home

Karma. It all comes around, in and through the body and out into the territory of the soul stuff. It’s like a realm that one builds subconsciously through reputation and repetition of a patterned existence wherein we move from the mundane and instantaneous action and response into mythical time. The space where intentions and services sown now are then repercussed, meted, and dished out in a time of unknown forthcoming. What the Norse called ‘that which should be’, a sort of implicated future woven by one of the Norns, Skuld, but never explicit in detail.

A good deal of this karma has been served to me in the form handouts and budding opportunities for making my name worth something. As I have put a few new growth rings on this body over my adult life, I am partaking in a personalized process of maturation, and entering a new clave of self-conviction. What I believe today is more refined, particular, and invested than what I believed in last year, pre-homestead, and this continues to flux. Becoming the steward of a land base, a home owner, and an active member of an intricate community, while maintaining a sustainable relationship with myself has unpacked a whole new can of worms, and there is no ‘easy from now on’ sentiment adoptions, but instead its like playing a game where the rules are changed a quarter of the way through. Here I am, walking quietly, tracking my own footprints and marking my impact on the surfaces of others, while a new territory of community and communal life is explored.

October in the countryside of the maritimes is a period of hustling to tie up loose knots, finish projects and preparing to cocoon and turn inward. The constrictions of weather faring productive times, and the very real need to stock up your winter pantry is not without a strained inhale, and stiffening of muscles. The nor’easter winds and souther’ storms blow through your land, and remind you that you live in a rustic homestead with kinks and fickle problems, just like any real relationship has. This translates into sometimes serious issues like leaky roofs, chimneys blowing off, a rush to skirt the edges of your abode with new straw bales to cut the draft, and stockpiling enough dry kindling to cut the cold in the mornings of heavy frost. I’ve put the first maple logs through the hearth that have allowed me to be sufficiently comfortable enough to bask by its radiant heat while my eyes are open. Overnighting is a different story, and it is a sign that I may almost certainly need to bulk up the insulating and warming qualities of my cabin, whether that looks like gaining more thermal mass in the empty spaces, recaulking my double paned storm windows and draping them in heavy cloth, or simply wearing more layers indoors.

On a walk at Tomlinson Lake, I was greeted by four Palomino horses in a farmer’s field, who took a great liking to me and tracked me for nearly a kilometer through tall grasses. Their manes matted with the burdock thistles, but seemingly unperturbed. In the forest, a man from the Indian reserve was pounding black ash to make basket lashings for weaving, while a local carpenter, the same who brought the tamarack beams to my land was shingling a pioneer style cabin and filling the seams with moss. This was a day of memories with high resolution for the details, the sights of fallow swampland, historic forests, and the mantle of the earth, coupled with the cool scent of vegetation and the rarified air of moisture laden breezes. With a neighbor, we followed the path the American slaves walked for Freedom into Canada, not long ago.

A new porcupine has been dwelling under my floor, and one night on my front porch I caught him squeezing his way out of the hole under the cabin without ever seeing me standing there. An almost constant trilling sound can be faintly heard when he is around, like a wooden wheel with a squeeky axle. The sound blends with the ambience of the cabin, with the wooshing of the draught from the open woodstove, the rustling of the straw in my bed as I change position while falling asleep, a murmur of the wind and the tightening and loosening of the wood all around me as the cabin groans, swells and constricts with temperature. Not all my animal encounters were with live ones however. I buried a small gray bird in my garden and gave spontaneous roadside funerals to several less fortunate creatures, always placing the Jera runes on top of the body to reform and return to earth. On passing through Coldstream in Bubartown, to have my winter tires put on, a man wearing hunters camo and his female partner donning the hunters orange wheeled up in a country pickup with a doe in the back, fresh out of the bush, they had just killed it. Venison anyone?

The old piano that use to hold space on my eastern wall is now gutted and being used as a pantry with modified shelving. I pried the teak keys out from the featherboard, and saved them for winter kindling, I am curious which will burn hotter, the black or the white. No one will ever hear the songs from that piano again, but at least it has found new life in holding preserves, and my larder is starting to fill up. A wooden potato barrels holds a collection of winter squash, and burlap sacks filled with potatoes, beets, carrots and hardy kales. On the floor next to the piano pedals are sacks of pancake flour, brown rice and turtle beans, spelt and more potatoes. I won’t be famished here, no siree. The shelves are lodged with enough mason jars of nuts to make a winter squirrel jealous, along with indian curry pastes, porridge fillings, loose leaf herbs and teas gleaned from my herbalist neighbor, popcorn, apple rings that I dried on a piece of copper wire over my woodstove, and 44lbs of peanut butter… don’t ask. On another shelf in an old woven picnic basket is chickpea flour, sunflower seeds and black walnuts. I would say gesture it be the scent of the juglones in the nuts to keep the mice away, or my non-violent interaction with them in the past, but I have not seen one for the better part of a month while all my neighbors are at war with them.

As a community, we have been entertaining the idea of an emergency food larder in case of another lockdown. As a collective of twenty, rice and beans and chickpeas were ordered from the Speerville mill, and will be stored in a basement for safe keeping until January, when we may open the containers and weigh out portions if needed. I think the idea is brilliant and further evolves the sustainability side of a community. Grocery stores are a post war invention, and traditional communities including hunter gatherer peoples had stockpiles of food rations for unexpected times, you never know what you might get.

Though I do not own a freezer, the nights are consistently below freezing now, and the snow giants have shaken the snows of their skis already upon us. The uninsulated workshop will be a prime walk in freezer for any meats I may acquire, though at this point I have only stocked various wild fats for leaner times; wild boar fat, bison tallow and camel hump fat, raw butter, coconut oil and hemp seed oil. None of it need be refrigerated, the beauty of most preserved fats. Now, I’m bringing in raw milk once a week and fresh goat cheese made by a couple who also keep alpacas, and a good bond has been kindled with them.

The big episode on the land since my last transmission has been the raising of this great Mongolian yurt. What was two years dreaming up, sourcing, visiting, scraping for, and finally purchasing lead organically into hauling it all the way from Groovy Yurts in Ontario, to my hallowed hamlet in Knowlesville. The Tamaracks that I so love to see lining the country roads, as they hold on dearly to their golden needles form the structure of the platform, while straw bales insulate the spaces in between parallel runners. Silver birch plywood elevates the yurt off the ground, which is stocked together with fireplace flashing. In two afternoons, the ger was raised, insulated, and given its skirting and clear vinyl roof. The first of said working bees was all woman power, as two lady friends came to help set the wall lattices, which are hand split, carved and tied together with camel rawhide. As a trio, we inserted the heavy wooden painted door into the round, and raised the bhagans (pillars) and the toono (central wheel), from earth to sky. This represents the male aspect binding with the female within the yurt circle. The hun (spokes) were set into the toono afterwards which are a base color of sky blue, and painted with symbols and Mongoloid motifs of the Altai mountains, the steppe, tundra winds, and the sea. In this modern age I can watch videos of the actual family that painted my yurt by accessing the internet and searching the right words. This culminated day one and the ger stood naked overnight, but there was no rain, or by the Gods, snow forecasted. The second day, Liam and J.L. opted to play, and we clothed the yurt with the cotton liner, yak wool felt, house wrap, and canvas, then I flew solo for the evening and attached the roof flap with its decorative ‘eternal knot’ design, the braided horsehair ropes around the yurt to tie it together, the clear vinyl urgh (skylight) andthe hiafsch, which is a kind of geometric patterned skirt that prevents goats and sheep from pissing on the yurt. Dirt can be piled up against it for more insulation and cutting draughts from entering the yurt from below. A few days later I added a small curved awning over the door, the stove pipe, and spruce boughs below the edge of the platform and carved a moat surrounding the yurt to channel water away from seeping into the strawbales and swale it towards the apple orchard. A bay window is fitted into one of the wall sections on the south cardinal point for added light and an alternate passage in and out of the yurt. Now I have taken to sourcing woolen rugs for the floor, and hope to make a night in the round before yule time.

This hall has held more company in the last fortnight as well, as neighbors have come to see the progress, and have a snoop around, now there is another dwelling to show on the tour. On Woden’s nights, I meet with a dear friend for dinner and storytelling. We are reading the saga of Gudrid the far-traveler, an epic about an Icelandic woman that sailed to Canada in the year 1000, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a brilliant book about the life of a seagull with some spiritual undertones and rich black and white photography. The vintage cast iron pots are getting much use, and I favor the cook once, eat thrice kind of meals; heavy root veg stews, pig roasts, and I make a mean seafood chowder. I ponder at how many generational meals were cooked in those vessels before I started using them. My favorite so far has been the moose liver and onions roasted with walnuts and cranberries, though my neighbor takes the credit for this feast.

I finally did the reasonable thing and inclined the solar panels on an angle more in facing of the sun. All for want of three feet of cable to extend the reach of the panels. Anchored to the metal roof in four places, and installed with a fair bit of gusto if I might add. The 24v system reads 25v on a gray day and I have seen it peak at over 28v, so the juices are flowing in good order on this one. I should have no problem with it for the winter even during a whiteout, and my long telescopic shovel should reach the panels just fine to cleave off the snow.

One final joy ride on my motorhorse took me off into the farmlands of skedaddle ridge, where I saw a red fox in broad daylight stalking a horse, she didn’t stand a chance, and took off running upfield when she saw me. I find myself arrested by these animal encounters that take me off guard, catch my breath and out of profane time. Today is Midvinterblot, or Samhain in our pagan community, and a shrine in the common field is laid out with pictures of those who could go no further, and talismans of the ancestors. The fires must be lit now, to stave off the dark and the cold, winter is coming and the ISA runes have already carved into the land with piercing force. I look forward to these sub polar nights with the booming of ice on frozen lakes, and the crunch of snowshoes over crusty snow. The heart beats slower and is more insulated. We take a deep inhalation in as the Wolf chases down the sun.

The nights have been warmed by a woman next to me, but she didn’t stay around long enough to even see the plants wither or the frost runes form on the windowpanes… then again, not many would choose this life, and I continue to wait patiently for the bonny lass that will stand by me until it’s all over. Hopefully by that time, a small clan carrying our genetics will inherit the place, and there will be several other heartbeats living in and outside of the homestead. At least that is the dream, but to be honest, the reality is pretty damn fine too.

Skal!

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