Fall Traditions on the Homestead

You can feel it, right?! The changing colors of the leaves, the chillier mornings and turning in of the evenings. There might even be pumpkins on the store shelves, Halloween stores are popping up and for some folks this season brings dread, dread for the winter days ahead. However for others, tis one of the greatest seasons of the year, it’s Autumn, Fall or for modern witches or pagans it is also the season of Mabon (May-bon). For many, this time of year is a sacred and special time, a time of reviving long ago traditions, reflection, preparation for the shift in seasons and readying the home and homestead for winter. So let’s dive into Mabon traditions for Witchy homemakers, fall practices for homesteaders and celebrations for honoring the harvest.

A series of cut out from fabric showing fall colors.
A craft depicting fall colored leaves cut out from fabric.

What’s in a name?

The harvest season and equinox that occur during this time of year is known by several names, commonly autumn or fall. In British English Autumn is the name referred to this wonderful season, it is derived from the Latin word autumnus. Fall is used commonly in North America in both American and Canadian English and was spoken to refer to the season of the falling leaves.

Mabon is the name given to the festival celebrating the the Autumnal equinox. It is a Sabbat for those who observe the Wiccan Wheel of the Year as well as a harvest festival , the first harvest festival is typically Lammas, with the second being the Mabon celebrations. This is a time of year traditionally to give thanks for the harvest, give thanks to the Earth for providing and for some, rounding up the final harvests before the winter season.

Practices for Mabon

There are some practices that people can so to honor and recognize Mabon, if they wish, as well as wider traditions and homestead practices one can do in the fall in the next section!

If one wishes to observe Mabon, this year, it falls on September 22nd-23rd, the date of the Autumnal Equinox. During this time, or even through this whole month people will make a Mabon altar in their homes. This is a space, that not only looks beautiful and seasonal but can also serve as a functional space to give thanks and honor the harvest.

On a dark wooden dining table sits dried herbs and flowers in a vase, several beeswax candles also sit on the table, beside a jug of flowers and some fabric pumpkins.
A small Mabon altar, doubling up as a centerpiece for a dining table. Dried flowers and herbs to recognize and honor the harvest as well as candles that were made with local, seasonal beeswax. Pic is from @the_northern_grower

Mabon altars can have virtually anything on there that is appropriate and suits the person’s needs who is crafting the altar. However typically, an altar can have harvested items such as pumpkins, apples and corn. There may also decorative items that represent the fall season such as leaves, candles that have fall scents. The altar could also include seasonal flowers such as sunflowers or even dried flowers or herbs which also represents the preserving of the harvest. In our household, our altar serves as the seasonal centerpiece on our dining table. As well as being crafted from seasonal decor and goods, we will gather items from our walks and time spent outside. This allows us to recognize the changes in the natural world as the seasons shift.

Much if the Mabon altar can be personal to you. Think of what is significant and important for you during this time of year. Remember intention is a key part of altar making so follow your intuition and instinct here!

Fall Traditions on the Homestead

Arguably, the beauty of homesteading and slow living is the seasonality of life. It is choosing to observe and uphold the changing seasons, to slow down and appreciate what each season has to offer and to work with, not against, the natural world around you. For many, myself included, Fall brings the arrival of certain crops such as apples, squashes and pumpkins.

Slow, simple, seasonal traditions often revolve around the food of the year. What is available, what is being harvested, what is the food that must be gathered and preserved during this time. Nothing says traditional living than observing a seasonal diet. Embrace the foods that are in bounty at this time and create memories of foraging, canning and feasting on these foods.

A picture full of red apples l, picked from a tree and sitting in a box.
Apple picking and preserving can be a wonderful tradition for the homestead. Pic from @the_northern_grower.

Gathering apples or apple picking can be a delightful fall tradition to start in the household. It’s a day spent outside, indeed enjoying the warmer fall days, the kast few vestiges of time in the outdoors without having to dress in multitudes of layers! Take the apples home and spend an afternoon processing with other’s then sit back and enjoy the smell of cinamonny, nutmeggy apple butter cooking in the crock pot or the warm spices of a sweet apple crumble.

This is the time of year that I also start enjoying pumpkin recipes. Whilst it has become the norm to see pumpkin spice flavored everything, before then it was homesteaders enjoying their pumpkin harvest in their food! I regularly enjoy adding pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon to overnight oats or of course, the classic pumpkin pie.

So if you want to nurture some fall Traditions on your homestead, have yourself learn seasonally appropriate recipes and host a harvest feast. Gather with friends and family and reap the rewards of a summer’s work of gardening and foraging. Perhaps even, enjoy the last chances to dine outside before the snow and cold settle in.

Display your foraging or harvesting goods through creating a delicious dinner on the Autumnal equinox or the Harvest Moon which is the name attributed to the September Full Moon.

Another fall tradition for homesteaders during this time can be candle making. Many homesteaders will have access to honey whether from their own bees, a neighbour’s or source some from the local community. All you need is to source some wicks and Mason jars and you are set for making. There are many great resources for learning how to make candles with beeswax online (perhaps I will make one in the future)! However with the darker mornings and evenings, it is easy to appreciate the light a candle brings and simple candlemaking is a timely skill and a revival in some part of the “old ways”, a rekindling of bringing light into the home during the darker part of the year and a very appropriate craft for the Fall.

Prepping the home and homestead for winter

There are also some tasks that must be accomplished before snow blankets the ground and the plants take to their winter slumber. The fall is a good time to get some final gardening jobs done as well as organise some aspects of your home.

For the garden, I like to “put the garden to sleep” for the rest of the year. Whilst we may be thinking of harvesting and gathering, some garden items actually need to be planted now in order to get growth the following spring.

In zone 3, for my area in Alberta, I plant my garlic, tulips and some perennial seeds can be sown such as sunflowers, wildflowers. I have a podcast episode on no fuss easy peasy planting garlic guide for beginners ( https://thenortherngrower.ca/podcast/ ) if you wish to try your hand at one of our fall homestead traditions.

Several dried garlic bulbs still attached to stems lie on the ground.
Garlic can be planted as part of fall/winter prep on the homestead. Note-this image shows garlic that has been harvested in order to plant, it must be cloves that are planted.

For the most part, the garden is being pulled. We pull the beds and compost what cannot be utlised or eaten, we then like to fork the beds, loosen the soil and add compost and leaves to feed the bed some nutrients come the spring.

In terms of home organisation, now is a good time to sort through the pantry and clean the kitchen cupboards. I tend to find as we are in the kitchen more, cooking more warmer meals and preserving food that I really notice the kitchen cupboards have ended up in a state of dissaray and generally need a clean. Sort through the pantry, move older or close to expiring food near the front so you use it and place your newly preserved food towards the back. Take stock of your supplies and see what is needed to order so you get nice and stocked up for the new season. I do find in my area, food does tend to go up in price in winter so I like to stock up on basic pantry staples and supplies if necessary, such as salt flour, baking powder etc.

I will be making a more detailed post on readying the home and garden for winter later this fall so stay tuned for that!

So overall, be ready to enjoy the harvest and embrace bringing in warmth and light into the space. Try creating some fall Traditions such as apple picking, family feasts and candle making as a means to reflect upon the business of summer, connect to the lands bounty and have gratitude for the changing of the seasons.

References:

The Origins and Practices of Mabon

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/autumn-vs-fall

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