The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.


Winter camping

If you're sick of winter, today's the day to celebrate.  In some traditional cultures, the February cross-quarter isn't just a time to watch groundhogs, it's considered the first day of spring!  Countries that are now part of the United Kingdom used to celebrate today as Imbolc, referring to the pregnancy of sheep.  Some customs that could still be relevant involve lighting candles or fires to represent the increasing warmth, eating butter and milk to celebrate the birth of farm animals, and divining the weather.

Coleman tentDivining the weather?  Yep --- Groundhog's Day probably derived from the belief that a supernatural hag gathers her firewood on Imbolc to stay warm for the rest of the winter.  If it's going to be an extended winter, she needs Imbolc to be warm and sunny so she can bring in lots of wood.  That's why if the groundhog (or snake or badger, depending on who you talk to) sees its shadow, you're in for more cold weather.

Another tradition involves holy wells (any small water source with healing folklore attached to it).  Imbolc was considered a good time to visit these holy wells, leaving offerings, using the water to bless things, and walking sunwise around the well.

I preemptively celebrated on Saturday by setting up my new tent on top of Beech Hill and basking in the sun.  The jury's still out on which other celebrations we'll come up with today.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Over the years, I've come to dislike the lack of durability of modern plastic tents. When I was out camping in New Zealand in Januari (which is part of the local summer, mind you), I noticed on the tent's label a warning to "prevent long exposure to sunlight". Now that's useful when you're out camping in the summer!

My brother (who goes camping for a couple of weeks every year) told me they get about three years use out of a modern tent. By contract, their canvas tent has already lasted 19 years...

Comment by Roland_Smith Sun Feb 2 11:06:33 2014
I enjoy reading your posts because I learn so much from them. Winter is my favorite time of the year because I think it is a time we can slow down and rejuvenate. But, I imagine it was a scary time before electricity, running water and when food was not so easily obtainable. So, it is interesting to read about how people have helped to address their fears through myth, etc. This year I so wanted Punxsutawney Phil to not see his shadow...
Comment by Lee Wed Feb 5 14:15:13 2014

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