Today we’ll finish up our posts relating to last weeks Traditional Gardening workshop with Audrey. At the event Audrey demonstrated the construction of an Antler rake, this gift from the Deer spirit comes with many words of wisdom, here is part of the story.
A young woman sat in the very early spring and lamented the plight of her people, even though they worked hard and harvested tea all through the warm weather months, the supply never lasted into the next spring. In the cold heart of winter when hot teas were in most demand the people suffered. She began a vision quest to find help for her community. In the sweat lodge she was blessed by a visit from the Deer spirit, who made her an offer. “Follow me for a year, and you will find your answer.”
She began soon after and learned how the Deer interacted with the plant world around her. She saw how the Deer chose its food, always leaving a few shoots and flowers to live on and only snipping the tender new growth. At first this seemed strange, by always eating the new shoots, how could the plant continue? But a few weeks later when their path led them back to the area, double the number of new shoots had appeared. Where the Deer had left the occasional flower, small fruit were forming and many more flowers had grown for the Deer to eat. The woman had learned that the Deer’s foraging habits produced more food in the long run.
As the months went by both woman and Deer had a growing supply of teas and greens to enjoy, the fruit left growing thrived, but then the Deer started eating the fruit. With nothing to lose the girl ate the fruit too and discovered the seeds inside. She noticed how the fruiting plants grew close to the Deer’s favorite paths and realised the Deer had “planted” them along her journey. She decided to save seeds for the promise of spring. When the night started to become cold the woman looked at her collection of tea for the winter and found she had plenty of spring and summer tea left for everyone. The next morning she looked for the Deer and found instead her discarded Antlers, when she picked one up it fit to her hand precisely, using this tool she managed to find all the fall tea she needed before the first hard frost.
A year had passed and the girl had learned the lesson of the Deer spirit, when early spring returned she planted some of the fruit seeds along the dear’s path to thank her for her wisdom, and she planted some for herself. In return the deer drops her antlers as a gift to the people. As with all oral history we’ve used some “artistic licence” within this tale. Another version of the story feature two young women one follows the Deer and learns these lessons, the other only learns that “all Deer do is eat” and doesn’t remember to save some seeds. This lesson relates to the pruning methods used by traditional gardeners, instead of leaving plants to mature untouched, careful pruning will enhance yields and produce larger fruit. When combined with the moon cycle schedule, it’s laid out for folks in a predictable easy to use pattern. Life is grand!