RSS

Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Bringing it All Together

24 May

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of how to set up a calendar, I wanted to try and bring everything together by showing you my calendar. Throughout this series, I’ve tried to use various examples that aren’t just from my region, in a hopes of showcasing different ways these ideas can be applied, but the problem is that I don’t know any other region on earth like I know AZ. And so some of my information, in my opinion, gets lost in trying to make it applicable to everyone. So to try and fix that, and show you how the ideas laid out in the past four posts come together, we’re going to go over what I’ve got going so far.

Please keep in mind this calendar is still a work in progress, so some sections may still be incomplete, but hopefully this gives everyone a better idea of what a relatively complete calendar could look like. For where I live, at least.

Direction, Background, Context

There are two things that brought me to want to make a calendar that better reflected my local area. The first is that I’m rubbish at actively planning out my gardening projects. When you’re gardening as a means to try and feed yourself, there are a lot of things that need to be done at regular intervals if you want to be successful. And if there is one thing I’ve found I’m not great at — its being diligent and timely in gardening tasks. My original hope was that maybe I could create holidays or rites or something that would help me to better plan and participate in my gardening adventures.

As such, you’re going to notice that a lot of my holidays and days of importance are tied to gardening, and all of the extra tasks that come along with it. And since the weather isn’t always consistent year to year, you’ll find that a lot of my holidays are more generalized in their placement, since things may vary year to year.

The second reason that I wanted to make a calendar is because our weather is changing every year. I think part of me hoped that by participating in the cycles of weather, trying to perform rites that help to encourage the weather to be as it’s always been might help to ease the discomfort of losing the predictability that comes with not having climate change. From a Kemetic perspective, it was the job of humans to help keep things moving smoothly and regularly. Our participation helped the gods be timely, helped to ensure successful inundations, helped to ensure survival. And while I’m not saying that doing rituals to bring the weather where it needs to be will solve anything, I can’t help but wonder how it may effect me all the same.

As I tried to combine both of these needs/wants, I found that the basic information you use for site assessment in permaculture could translate into making a calendar and eventually sat down to write the process out for everyone here. Ultimately, I think the end goal for all of us is to end up having a sense of place. A sense of being from a location, existing in a particular region or space, and not constantly feeling like we’re dragging something from somewhere else into a land that is ultimately not ours. While also not disregarding the past that led so many of us to be on land that is ultimately not ours.

It’s due to trying to find that sense of place that my calendar doesn’t have a lot of really in-depth ritual work. I’ve had this really bad problem for most of my “Kemetic career” where I seem to believe that if I make something Important and Detailed and Ornate and Involved, I will be more inclined to Get It Done. But if the Year of Rites taught me anything, its that people are what bring me to Get Things Done. The only times I’ve ever been able to genuinely participate in ritual work is when others were involved, even if only indirectly. As such, my calendar is less about ritual, and more about how to find ways to Be Present in my natural surroundings, and also how to get other people to participate in stuff with me. It’s less about sitting in front of a shrine case, and more about doing yard work outside with someone else.

I bring this up to really drive home that your priorities don’t need to be the same as mine, and your methods of celebrating don’t need to look like mine. However, I really wanted everyone reading to have an understanding of the context behind the choices I’ve made in what to include or exclude from my calendar.

And with that, let’s (finally) get started.

List of Holidays

Just to make it easier, here is my calendar without all of the additional information tied to it:

  • January 1: Wep Ronpet the Second
  • Feb – April: The Smiting of Stinknet, weekly to daily
  • Feb 22: Basking in Greenness
  • March 5: Gathering and Drying
  • March 15: Sowing the Seeds for Ma’at
  • Late March – Mid April: Transition month
  • April 10: Gathering and Drying
  • April 12: Return of the Vultures
  • April 25: Desert Hanami
  • First day of 100F, usually late April, early May: The Great Farewell, The Long Dry Begins
  • May 5: Winnowing and Sorting
  • May 15: Seeking Out and Spreading Ma’at through the Land
  • May 20: Gazing Upon the White Crowns
  • June 15: Feasting Upon the Red Crowns
  • June 30: Collecting of the Beans
  • July 1: Enticing the Monsoon
  • Monsoon Season: Greeting the Storm (floating)
  • First week of humidity: The Great Relief, Monsoon season begins
  • First weekend in August: Wep Ronpet
  • Sept 25: Gathering and Drying
  • October: Transition month
  • October 5: Preparing the fields for growth
  • October 10: Winnowing and Sorting
  • October 15: Sowing the Seeds for Ma’at
  • November 20: The Short Mild Begins
  • November-December: Celebrating the First Rain (floating)
  • Dec 15: Sowing the Seeds for Ma’at

I wasn’t sure how to organize the information for this calendar, so I’ve decided to walk you through our seasons, and discuss the holidays as they come up within their seasons. There are a series of holidays listed above that occur multiple times per year. I’ll cover those in the “Transitions” section after the seasons.

A Place of Two Seasons: The Long Dry

The Long Dry usually begins in early May, with a month of transition starting in late March. During a bad year, the Long Dry will start in early April (yes). You’ll know when the Long Dry is here, because our evaporation rate will sky rocket, and everything needs to be watered more regularly. As dry as the Short Mild might be, the Long Dry is, by far, dryer yet. Days are above 90F every day, and during peak season, your nights will be in the 90’s.

The transition to this season is marked by the Great Farewell, which is usually the first day that is over 100F. We call it the Great Farewell because you’re saying farewell to your comfort for the next several months. This day is spent making sure everything is prepared for the heat that’s about to set in; including things like sun shades for plants and animals, extra water bowls for the outside critters, mulch to protect the roots of our plants, etc.

The Long Dry begins with a bang, because everything will be yellow. The short span of transition that leads us into this season is filled to the brim with active life and changes. Things come into flower, bees are everywhere, lizards, vultures, and moths all begin to reappear, and you have to actively watch out for snakes again. The first holiday of the season, Seeking Out and Spreading Ma’at through the Land, is about foraging for local seeds, and dispersing them in the more denuded parts of our area. These seeds are the remnants of the Short Mild, and the first casualties of the Long Dry. As the season progresses, all of our plants slowly begin to die back or hibernate, and only the hardiest desert plants tend to survive without human assistance. One of the first things that is available to harvest and eat are Palo Verde beans and Saguaro fruit.

This brings us to Gazing Upon the White Crowns and Feasting Upon the Red Crowns — the next two holidays that occur during the Long Dry.

The Saguaro is a big deal in AZ. It only grows in the Sonoran desert, and it’s sacred to the indigenous people who live here. Every year, the older saguaros around the state will produce flowers that then turn into edible fruits. These white flowers usually form something of a “crown” on the top of the saguaro, and they can be hard to spot, since they are often open for only 24 hours or so. The first half of this holiday involves simply paying attention to these crowns, noticing which cacti are producing flowers this year, and giving homage to what they provide to our ecosystem.

The second half of this holiday is about collecting the fruits, which are a nice red color. Now, I have the benefit of being able to refer to the indigenous traditions relating to collecting fruit, but I honestly don’t want to appropriate or overstep onto something that isn’t mine to utilize. So for our purposes, it will likely be only a household thing, as I wouldn’t want to attract too many people and overtax our local ecosystem. A lot of animals rely on these fruits for sustenance throughout the Long Dry, and so we won’t be removing too many, just in case. I’m also fairly certain that none of the saguaro around here are claimed or utilized by any indigenous people, so we’ll stick to what is local so that we don’t accidentally take from someone.

Very likely, this will end up being a ritualized form of foraging, where we will utilize our saguaro ribs, go out and look for some pods that are ripe and that we can reach. And then take these home to celebrate and eat as part of a fancier meal. Ideally, I think I would like to find a way to give to the saguaro itself, or the various pollinators that help create these fruits, but I’m not entirely sure what that will look like yet.

The next holiday is the Collecting of Beans, which are the result of the yellow flowers that dot the landscape in April. These bean trees are vital to sustaining virtually everyone through the Long Dry. The beans can be eaten green, or stored indefinitely. They can be eaten whole as a bean, or ground into a flour that has a sugary flavor. There are often milling parties in the summer for people to bring their collected beans and have them ground up.

There is a micro season that occurs in the Long Dry: monsoon season, which is marked by the Great Relief.

Traditionally, monsoon season began in mid-June, but more and more it’s started in late July. You’ll know when monsoon season is here because it’ll be humid (for here), and the dew point will be above 50% daily. This is the only rain you’ll usually get during the Long Dry season (usually half of our yearly average), but with climate change, we’re getting less and less rain. Last year barely even got humid. This is a problem for us, because without this humidity, there is no growing anything outside (easily) until October. Even though humidity is awful, it is a huge relief when the humidity shows up, as it allows both plants and animals to cope a little bit better with the scorching summer sun.

Enticing the Monsoon is meant to be a series of rites that helps to encourage the monsoon upwards to our area. Traditionally, I would create new windchime clappers that go onto a certain set of chimes that only ring when a storm front is coming in (usually). I’m hoping to expand it so that once the Great Relief shows up (if it does,) we celebrate by planting monsoon crops and digging some basins to help make sure they get as much water as possible. I would like to potentially utilize some of the concepts present in the Beautiful Reunion, but I’m still working out details.

Monsoon season usually ends around the second week of September, and the Long Dry will recommence until sometime in November.

A Place of Two Seasons: The Short Mild

The Short Mild is also called snowbird season down here, and it’s when stuff is actually green and you can go outside without dying. Most Kemetics will note that the Mysteries happens during this season, and while most of you get to experience Osiris as nothing but death and coldness, I actually have nothing but greenness and growth occurring during this period. The Short Mild is a respite in every sense of the word, and is one of the main reasons many Arizonans choose to live here: “because the winter is mild.”

The Short Mild is a heavy planting season for us, and most earth moving projects come to a halt to allow as much growth as possible to occur. Traditionally, we would have a spike in cold temperatures between the last week of December and the second week of January, but this isn’t always holding true anymore. We typically have winter rains that help to make up for the other half of our annual water, and I would like to celebrate that first rain whenever it occurs, and potentially every time it occurs, because it allows us to save so much water (and money) because nature waters our plants for us.

The second half of the Short Mild is full of growth, which makes it prime invasive-killing time, since the goal is to pull the plants up before they go to flower in March. Currently, AZ is having a huge problem with Stinknet. This plant was categorized as merely a “noxious weed” two years ago, but after last year’s Super Bloom, there has been a huge push to cull Stinknet wherever we can. In the past year, my property went from having only two plants on it, to having a third of an acre covered in it. As such, it will now be a yearly “thing” to go out and clear out the Stinknet before it sets in.

At the peak of this season, I usually go out twice per day to remove as much as possible. I’ve learned to create something of a ritual out of it, as my household is quite allergic to the pollen, so I keep a separate set of clothes and gloves specifically for this purpose. There are also elements of learning how to lean into “doing what you can”, since its very challenging to remove every instance of an invasive species across multiple acres of land. Next year, we’d like to turn this into a community celebration, where people can come help us pull it out, and we can all have a big meal together.

Basking in the Greenness exists in the heart of the most growth during the Short Mild. This is when almost everything is at it’s prime before the heat and chinch bugs of March kick in. So this is the best time to really enjoy nature’s splendor, and eat from our local area.

Transitions: The Busiest Times of Year

The transitory months that exist between the two dominant seasons in our area are the busiest times of year for us as we harvest and process all of the growth from the past 4 months, and prepare for the changes that will be arriving once the seasons shift. Both of these periods include holidays with similar themes, which I’ve gathered together here.

Preparing the fields for growth | Sowing the Seeds for Ma’at | Gathering and Drying | Winnowing and Sorting

All of these holidays are part of the cycles of growing food. Preparing the Fields for Growth is exactly as it sounds — going out and preparing all of our beds for new seeds and new plants. This would involve adding amendments to the soil, if necessary, setting up new planters when possible, and gathering needed supplies for when we do the next holiday: Sowing the Seeds for Ma’at.

To me, seeds are very much ma’atian in nature. They contain aspects of the Nun: formless creation, the ability to become a thing, but not having embarked on that transition/journey yet. Seeds are the way in which nature helps to take care of us, and by spreading seeds and growing plants, we in turn help take care of nature. By aligning these with ma’at, you create a nice feedback loop wherein you grow ma’at, and then harvest ma’at, offer and eat the ma’at, and then gather it and save it for the next cycle next year.

Gathering and Drying and Winnowing and Sorting are both parts of the harvesting process in our house. I’m not sure how readily known this is, but a lot of the time you can do one of two things with a plant: you can eat its fruit (or vegetables,) or you can collect its seeds. It can either feed you now, or produce seeds that will feed you later. We always let at least a few plants go to seed because we’re always trying to make sure that we’re accounting for future needs. This is also because getting seeds from a plant that is grown in your area means the plant is more accustomed to your climate, and will be more hardy the more generations exist in the same climate. Since most places that produce seeds are not in the desert, its up to us to make sure that we acclimatize our seeds as best as possible. Part of this process also involves giving seeds back to the land. We always leave at least a few seeds/seed pods outside to see how they fare, and to feed the local wildlife.

All aspects of these holidays can be ritualized and involve offerings of the seeds and food harvested to the land or gods. Ideally, the harvesting and processing portions of these holidays will involve other people, and we can have a big meal and seed share to commemorate the changing of a season.

And that is currently what I have for my calendar. It’s not perfect, and there are still a lot of holes in it, but I’m sure that as the years pass, I will notice new things in the area around me, and be able to create more robust holidays that hopefully involve more people.

If you end up creating and posting your own calendar, let me know! I’d love to see how other people interpret these ideas and apply them to their local regions.

Other Posts in this Series:

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

One response to “Creating a Calendar Around Local Ecology: Bringing it All Together

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: