Let me introduce you to my new Flickr obsession, Ms. Graveyard Dirt. MGD is a witch living in the UK. Here, she gives us a tour of one day this summer — in ten photos.
When you work at home, a day off is never really a day off. Just because I trade in my mud-encrusted sneakers for a pair of bird-stained slippers (when you cohabit with a disabled crow long enough you eventually learn how to live with its non-negotiable mess; namely, treading over shit — literally — with waterproof house shoes), it doesn’t excuse me from all responsibility that day. Working closely with the land is a full-time job that dictates its own hours, projects and “office spaces”; if the indigenous vegetation and wildlife doesn’t take days off, then neither should I.
The first item on the agenda: exhuming the skeletal remains of #01 (body), #02 (skull and body), #03 (skull), #04 (skull and body) and #05 (skull) from the roadkill altar, and submerging the lot into water-filled buckets to begin the process of bone cleaning via cold water maceration.
Part of my sovereign duties involves rescuing roadkill animals, which I ceremonially skin, butcher, and break down into usable parts. To ensure nothing’s wasted we eat whatever’s safe for human consumption, and I clean and preserve the remains to sell to people who are looking for ethically sourced animal bones, organs, skins, and skulls.
Second day off duty: shaking up the contents of my Hedgerow Hooch. Sticky, but satisfying work. Pictured above is my plain wild necro-raspberry gin, the other batch of gin’s been flavored with a vanilla bean and spices.
One important aspect of working closely with the land is recognizing — and harnessing — the unique characteristics and histories of certain areas. One of my favorite places to pick wild fruits to make hedgewitch liqueur is an old kirkyard (a traditional Scottish term for graveyard) situated near/on two cairns (a prehistoric repository for human remains). I jokingly refer to those homemade libations as my “necro hooch” since the fruit was harvested from a site that’s been exclusively interring the dead for thousands of years.
After soiling myself with dead deer — and accidentally anointing myself with homemade hooch — it was time for my favorite chore: cooking. In this case, it was a very special meal made with homegrown and locally foraged ingredients for a Mercury-talented husband.
Since Poulet Marengo is a braised dish, I swapped the chicken for our first guinea fowl (from Gressingham Foods; if you’re in the UK be sure to check this welfare-concerned company out — most major grocery stores seem to carry a portion of their catalog) but before I could braise anything I had to pan fry guinea fowl portions in olive oil and butter until crisply golden.
Even though I was involved in some serious cooking I couldn’t resist a quick break to admire the rainbow cresting over our crossroads rowan tree through the kitchen window.
I’ve also got to make something dark and sweet to mop up boozy dinner juices. Both Marsala and brandy are featured in this dish, along with fresh mushrooms, tomatoes and homemade vegetable stock. The end result is a sauce that’d ecstatically inspire the heavenly motherfucking host. On the menu for this: a gluten-free quick bread made with buttermilk, brown sugar, and molasses.
Another day off duty: prepping even more recently picked chanterelles for the dehydrator while the guinea fowl braises and the Boston Brown Bread bakes.
The braised guinea fowl’s become so tender that it’s begun pulling away from the bone.
A special dinner requires a special atmosphere, so the kitchen lights were turned off, the stars were turned on and I further illuminated the room with the soft glow of candlelight.
Our ancestors, friends, and roommates with benefits were invited, but their setting wasn’t as grand as the ancestral altars I usually build during special feasts and holy days. On more low key occasions their table setting is just as fancy as ours, but I always situate the bread next to them because I know where I get my ravenous bread appetite from. Ukraine is known as “Europe’s Breadbasket.” In fact, our flag has only two colors: blue for the sky and yellow for the fields of wheat.
And the last day off duty of the day? Sitting down with 30+ cookbooks to yank out every motherfucking recipe that involves gooseberries and black currants since both of those have recently come into season at my graveyard garden.