Celebrating the Constants

The first Sunday in Advent is upon us and we celebrate the constants in life:

A candle for each season each week between now and Christmas

Each candle sitting on a slice of apple wood from the fallen Kaiser, the circle of life.

Fruitful symbols of nature’s bounty.

Our Three Wise Ones (Question Everything, Think for Yourself, Trust in Yourself)

And the little folk who survived the Great Cupboard Disaster.

Enjoy the symbolism: Happy Advent!

The Winter Solstice and the Festival of Winter

What a fine finale to the Festival of Winter we enjoyed yesterday, 6th January, all in one bike ride back from the wintry orchard:

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   The winter solstice is upon us and with it the “Mittwinterfest”, or Yule – celebrating the rebirth of the sun as we (slowly) turn the corner towards the light half of the year again…

It is an ancient festival featuring countless legends, rituals and symbols, not to mention the many omens – each of the twelve days of Yule are said to predict the weather in the corresponding twelve months to come, for instance. In the Germanic and northern European tradition, the twelve days of Yule therefore had to be a time of peace, as well, and a time of no work so that there would be less work to be done in the new year. Spinning and weaving, in particular, were forbidden and all the flax had to be spun before the start of Yule. Only the Goddess Frig (Frigg, Freyja), the Germanic goddess of love, was allowed to weave together the threads of destiny for the coming year… No work involving a circular motion was permitted at this time either, because the wheel of time was at a standstill during Yule and so every other wheel had to remain motionless too…

Our German Gingerbread Gallery

All quiet in the orchard at this time of the year (but Hermann the German is sharpening up his specialist tree pruning saw for the winter pruning due to start any weekend now…) so we (mainly me and sometimes Mini-Kraut) have been busy in the kitchen creating some more exhibits for our gingerbread gallery.

This year’s main creation has to remain a secret for the time being until this year’s Christmas Guests of Honour have been able to peruse and applaud it live, but we have been busy baking building components for lucky recipients in the neighbourhood, complete with building instructions, in German:

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Here are a few flashbacks to past creations where we have gained all this skill and experience 🙂

2016: Recreated in gingerbread, the little village in the Wiesent Valley, close to Erlangen, where we like to spend our holidays and long weekends

 

2015: The tree house that collapsed and became a forest hideaway (Waldversteck)

 

 

 

2014The Forest Gnomes’ Railway

Snow with copyright

 

2013: Nutville, or Nußdorf in the vernacular

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2012 was when we started expanding from single buildings to gingerbread urban development:

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2011: was our very first attempt.

Lesson 1 was: make sure the roof weighs less than the walls 🙂

But it all came right on the night!

 

 

Happy Christmas!

 

Advent, Advent

Featuring four candles representing the four seasons enjoyed during the course of the year, the candles on the Advent wreath are lit one at a time on each of the four Sundays preceding the “Wend”, the Winter Solstice, now ‘Christianised’ as Christmas Eve (in Germany) or Christmas Day (in the Anglo Saxon realm).

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In our family we celebrate Advent as a four week festival of remembrance of all the good things the four seasons have brought us in the past year.

Join us on social media for a daily stroll through the seasons this Advent: TheOrchardScribe

 

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Sugar & Spice & All Things Nice

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Cardamom

A fragrantly warm winter spice – I love it and the cardamom season is getting into full swing in my house where two of our top seasonal favourites flavoured with freshly ground cardamom are:

Winter Fruit & Spice Cake

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and

The BEST Gingerbread Biscuits

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Sloe Gin Time

This post is for Chris & Debbie, gin connoisseurs of note. You know who you are!

Sloe Gin glass with copyright

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness will soon be making way for frosts and mellow indulgence: get the sloe gin going in time for you-know-what (begins with C…) 🙂

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  • Pick as many sloes as you fancy (either after the first frosts or when ripe and then freeze overnight before using – the freezing/frost breaks down the sugar in the fruit making it easier to release its flavour).
  • Prick them all over with a pin.
  • Pour a bottle of gin into a large (sterilised) jar with lid (or two large jars), add the sloes together with one (or more depending on your taste) slit vanilla pod.
  • Leave in a cool, dark place for at least 6 weeks (can be left for much longer too) before filtering and bottling. Will keep indefinitely and matures with age.

Cheers!

 

 

Twelfth Night in the Orchard

The Twelfth Day of Christmas, or Twelfth Night, depending on which strand of this ancient European tradition, marks the end of the “Mittwinterfest”, or Yule – celebrating the rebirth of the sun as we (slowly) turn the corner towards the light half of the year again…

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It is an ancient festival featuring countless legends, rituals and symbols, not to mention the many omens – each of the twelve days of Yule are said to predict the weather in the corresponding twelve months to come, for instance. In the Germanic and northern European tradition, the twelve days of Yule therefore had to be a time of peace, as well, and a time of no work so that there would be less work to be done in the new year. Spinning and weaving, in particular, were forbidden and all the flax had to be spun before the start of Yule. Only the Goddess Frig (Frigg, Freyja), the Germanic goddess of love, was allowed to weave together the threads of destiny for the coming year… No work involving a circular motion was permitted at this time either, because the wheel of time was at a standstill during Yule and so every other wheel had to remain motionless too…

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The English tradition of wassailing in the orchard on Twelfth Night has its parallels in other European traditions as well when the remains of the Yule festivities (bread and cake) were laid at the foot of the fruit trees as offerings in return for a good harvest. The English tradition sees the fruit trees showered with cider while bread and cake are hung from the branches. The tree trunks were sometimes beaten with sticks in a symbolic act intended to encourage the sap to flow, while the villagers would sup on mulled cider and serenade the trees with the Wassail song:

Old Apple Tree, we wassail thee

And hoping thou wilt bear

Hatfuls, capfuls, three bushel bagfuls

And a little heap under the stairs

Hip! Hip! Hooray!

(Source: Orchards, by Claire Masset 2012, Shire Books)

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We refrain from beating our trees from sticks, but the mulling and the cake … and perhaps the serenading … do feature while the winter pruning is going on!

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