Fall weekend at De Uelenspieghel

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With fall coming to a windy end, I thought I should share these pictures with you now or forever hold my peace. I always have so many things I want to post here but somehow too rarely get around to it. My current obsession being textile dyeing, most of my free time is spent doing witchy things with pots and pans, plants and flowers. And knitting, painting (still planning to post those photos, too), writing letters (more photos I owe you), and so on and so forth.

The pictures above show the last borage flowers fallen from the plant, which caught my eye last Ocrober when we spent a weekend volunteering at the beautiful Uelenpieghel. The old farm was converted to a cultural and spiritual centre and welcomes visitors throughout the year. In summer I spent an elfish art weekend there with the children and we had the most wonderful time. This weekend in October, however, was spent collecting apples…

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And more apples…

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After which we had the privilege of sipping freshly made apple and elderberry juice, still warm, tasting like a divine gift from the earth.

We also went mushroom gathering in the beautiful woods surrounding the farm’s grounds. My girls call it the fairy forest, with the pines rising from mossy soil, so soft and springy you wish you could lie down and have a nap. All of it studded with jewel-like mushrooms in so many colours, a light shroud of mist, and such peaceful quiet… 

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Although the picture is not sharp, unfortunately, I still wanted to show you these ‘dead man’s fingers’ looking like bits of charred bone sticking out of the forest floor. Pretty creepy, aren’t they?

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A beautiful little fairy circle or, as the Dutch call it, heksenkring (witches’ circle).

In front of our house there is a small field of grass, a fairly steep slope that runs up towards the road. It is lined with beautiful big trees that have lulled me to sleep with their swishing wind dance many a night. Every fall and sometimes in spring, too, a wonderful witches’ circle arises magically from the grass. As if this earth already knew what took me so many years to figure out and issued a standing invitation…

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This pretty little thing occupied a mossy old tree stump all on its own, while those below seem to cluster together in a fairy village…

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Catching the light and drawing attention in her beautiful autumn frock…

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These, apparently, make a wonderful dye bath for textiles. I wish I’d known earlier although I’m not sure I could have torn them from their perch on this lovely silvery tree trunk… 

Below is a pretty yellow stagshorn (Calocera viscosa), which the Dutch call ‘sticky coral mushroom’. Doesn’t it make you smile just looking at it?

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In the evening the girls were exhausted from their day outside and fell asleep within minutes, giving me leave to join the tango workshop downstairs. I took some lessons years ago and amazingly much of it was dredged up from my body’s memory banks very quickly. It was lovely to dance, I’d forgotten how much I love it. Even better to hear the teacher say I should to take up dance again because I have a dancer’s body (underneath those childbearing pounds I never managed to shift, at least…). It was one of the loveliest compliments I’ve received these many years.

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The place is permanent residence to a changing group of sculptors, healers, seekers and finders, all gathered here by the lovely Annette whose parents believed in self sufficiency and walking lightly upon this beautiful earth, raising their children here. Annette lives in the original farm and has turned it into a welcoming sanctuary for the weary of heart and soul as well as a gathering and replenishing well for those who have already found their natural place in this world.

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This beautiful apple tree looks like it would up and walk away if it ever got bored in its current sunny spot.

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It was a magical weekend. There are places like this that make your heart peaceful and your head quiet, that heal your aching heart with every moment you spend there. The Uelenspieghel is such a sacred place to me and I already know that I will return there again and again…

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http://www.uelenspieghel.nl/

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A table

I have rediscovered a craving for good food – real food, not the kind that has never seen the sun nor felt the rain. Amsterdam has a lovely eco market at the foot of the Noorderkerk, nestled amid old canals and narrow streets with old-fashioned cobblestones. It attracts the usual eco nuts, people so obsessed with eco that it has leached the joy from them, but there are also many people who simply love food and believe the best food is not just cooked but also grown, harvested and made with love.

It is a perfect Saturday morning passtime… A bottle of sweet olive oil that, when you close your eyes and breathe in deeply, still smells of the hills and trees it came from, a few onions in soft, papery skins and a perfect bulb of fragrant garlic. A beautiful bright orange pumpkin that makes you think of the sun. A generous helping of coriander and Italian herbs, some freshly ground salt and pepper. A couple of earthy potatoes and, if you like, a few sweet carrots, still covered in little chunks of the soil that nourished them.

I like to softly sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil before adding the pumpkin, potatoes and carrots, cut into hefty chunks. After letting the edges of the pumpkin soften in the oil, I add a generous measure of water and let everything cook on a low fire until tender. Blend and you’re done!

One night, when my children were in bed and my boyfriend was away for the evening, I felt like really, truly savouring my food for the first time in a long, long time. So I unwrapped a beautiful ball of soft goat’s cheese rolled in herbs and a cup of olives from the same olive grove that produces my favourite olive oil, added a few chunks of yeasty, chewey French bread (remind me to tell you where to buy the best bread in Amsterdam), a bottle of eco cider, all the bountiful harvest from my morning’s market ramble, and sat down to savour, in my opinion, some of the best things mother nature has to offer.

I could not resist taking a picture to remember the moment. Since I could not find my camera, I used my iPhone – not the best of pictures usually. However, as has happened before, the imperfectness of the picture adds a lovely vintage feel to match the mood of the moment…