I burned my Butzemann, George Alfredson, a little late this year. I waited until the weekend after Halloween. I don’t think that he got taken over by an evil spirit, but it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t wait longer than that!
Before it was time for him to go, we did a little tour of the garden and what we accomplished together this year.
The biggest accomplishment was building walkways around the raised beds in the garden. Before there was grass in-between them, but that meant I was always having to pull out grass that was getting into the beds. I didn’t teach summer classes this year, so I spent most June mornings (before it got too hot) with George building these pathways out of limestone blocks and shredded cedar mulch.
I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but he’s sitting in front of the Jalapeno pepper plants which got loaded with peppers this fall when things cooled off and it started raining again.
I also experimented with planting a second crop of some warm-weather plants this year. I planted more tomatoes and pumpkins in June, seeing if they could mature before it freezes and give us a second harvest. The cherry tomatoes did, but the big tomatoes I planted were still green by the time it started to get cold. Maybe next year I’ll try May.
The Seminole pumpkins were also not quite ripe by Halloween. I planted them in a garden bed, but let them sprawl out into the lawn.
But ripe pumpkins or not, it was time to say goodbye to George, my second-generation Butzemann. When I burned his father last year, I had him carry some notes to dead loved ones with him. I did the same with George this year, and gave him a note for Basil and one for my paternal grandmother who also died this year (my last remaining grandparent). That’s just something I thought up myself, rather than a real Urglaawe tradition, but I don’t see any reason why that would be a bad thing to do.
After George left, the weather started getting much colder, so it certainly felt like the Wild Hunt had finally arrived. We actually had an unusually cold November, and our first freeze was November 13, which is a little earlier than usual. Our usual date for a first freeze is around Thanksgiving, but sometimes it’s later (a few years ago we didn’t have a freeze at all).
If you’re a gardener like I am, you know that the first freeze is a big deal. That’s when your tomatoes, squash, beans, and other frost-sensitive plants die. That’s when you have to run out there and pick whatever you can before the Frost Giants turn them to mush.
I got a good crop of cherry tomatoes, jalapeno peppers (which I ended up pickling), and I went ahead and picked my pumpkins and am hoping they will ripen the rest of the way in the garage.
I know my ancestors feared the Frost Giants, but I kind of welcome them. I know it’s probably because I live in Texas, so it’s rare for it be below freezing for over 24 hours at a time. And even here they can be scary. They do kill all the frost-sensitive plants, leaving their blackened corpses for me to pull up and throw in the compost pile. If we have icy roads, no one knows how to drive on them, so there are a lot of car accidents. Homeless people die. People accidentally set their homes on fire with space heaters. (Though probably more people die from heat than from cold around here.)
But the Frost Giants also kill the mosquitoes and other pest insects, and the death of the frost-sensitive plants clears space in my garden for planting frost-hardy plants like collard greens and carrots. It certainly marks a distinct change in the environment.
So after mourning the dead on Halloween/Samhain, it just felt like good timing to have the first freeze right after that to kill what was left of the summer plants, and right after that came Thanksgiving, which is a time to feast on the harvest we quickly gathered before the freeze.
And now it’s time to look towards the Yule season (even though, as I’m writing this, it’s in the 70’s outside, because that’s how December in Texas works!). I refuse to put up Christmas/Yule decor until AFTER Thanksgiving, but it’s after Thanksgiving now.
I have been known to give offerings to the Frost Giants on the occasion of the first freeze. Maybe with climate change they eventually won’t even come this far South anymore, so I’m going to appreciate them while I still can.
Hail Skadhi and your kin! If you would like to drop some nice, beautiful snow in Texas this year like you did last year, I sure wouldn’t complain!