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Friday, August 28, 2015

The "Putting-By" Moon

I am trying to get back in the habit of blogging each week on Frigga's day.

This week I have been quite busy dealing with food abundance. As the moon turned a couple of weeks ago with the new moon, I declared this "month" to be the time of the "putting-by" moon, as the garden has begun in earnest to give us lots of things not only to eat fresh or freshly cooked, but also to "put by" in the freezers.

Doing so, though, has meant that I needed to get some of That Pig, the 700 pound boar that I helped OUT of the freezer and into jars. The Flow was with me and I was able to get my pressure canners tested to determine that, indeed, they did both need replacement gauges, as well as being able to find and afford the replacements immediately. When they arrived, Tractor Guy did the installation and I immediately set about cutting one of the large pieces of pig meat to fit into my new extra large crock pot. Big pig = big pieces, especially when the entire 3-person butcher crew was totally worn out by the time the quarters hit the cutting table!
"That Pig" in BBQ (left and center) and plain (right) versions
friends butcher this spring,

I know most folks raw-pack meat, but this fellow was just SO fatty that I really needed to cook him down some in order to most efficiently separate meat from fat, which is being saved for soap making later in the year.

I started the process a bit over a week ago, with a wonderful feeling of being connected to both my own past experience canning meat, but with a thread going much farther back. I completed the round of canning recently, filling two of the jars with chunks of pork and a friend's home made BBQ sauce. I am delighted to be able to say that all of my jars kept most of their liquid, which was a problem I constantly fought in the past. This means that "end of the garden" will likely involve several batches of vegetable soup to be pressure canned! Hard to can soup when most of your jars loose half of their liquid contents!  I also want to can some beets, but my beet crop this year consists of 2 (yes, I did count them) plants, so I will have to hit a farm stand or farmers market soon.

I have been freezing green beans and both freezing and drying lots of herbs. This has been a bumper year for marjoram and basil, and I need to pick dill as well. The cucumber harvest has consisted, to date, of three cukes; the picklers' vines are full of blossoms but, as yet, no fruit. The tomatoes are, finally, starting to turn and I will likely have a good crop by the time I need to worry about killing frost and the peppers are also setting fruit.

Pea vines have been pulled and the dry pods removed, to be processed for seed and I just got the trellis and posts brought out of the garden. I am trying to be more organzed, going forward, so I am stowing the trellis mesh and the posts I used in recycled feed sacks. It will take 2, and I will label both as "100' pea trellis" for re-use next year.

11 "pullet surprises," one turkey egg
and the rest of a day's production
Our new pullets, a RI Red/White cross, have started laying and this week I found where they had been stashing some of their eggs. I "float-tested" and all are good.

Lady Grey, our hen turkey, has begun laying again. We do not want her to go broody again (this year, at least) and it appears she shares our sentiment, as she has been dropping eggs randomly in the turkey yard instead of in the house, in the nest she used for the previous broods. The first one must have surprised her while she was roosting on one of the supports for the poult enclosure, as I found it laying on the ground, inside of the closed baby pen!
The 6 youngest turkeys outside finally!

Young chickens, hatched by Lady Grey
had just landed in their outside pen.
We also are now free of "house-fowl" as the last of the living room brooder crew went outside today. As I was preparing to take the photo of the young turkeys, two of them slipped through the fence and into the chicken yard! I netted them and HOPE I have repaired their exit.

After a week's hiatus, I am finally back to spinning again. I missed the evening's end task and working meditation on Frigga, not to mention progress in working through the Jacob's sheep fleece. The last of it is washed ("scoured") and hopefully will dry during the coming heat spell.

And I have another of the "Pennsylvania Dutch" hex signs in process... this one is a custom job based on the "swirling swastika." (In case you do not know, this symbol is not the same as the one appropriated by the "nazis"  from much older spiritual traditions.)  I am also working on a digital model of a old hex sign, with the intention of recreating it for a potential client. not only paints and sells a line of hex signs both based on the traditional and of my own creation, but also is happy to recreate older signs that were painted on masonite and other less durable media, but which still have special meaning for their owners.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Summer in Maine

We had summer this week -- or maybe August. Temperatures reached and exceeded the 90 degrees (F) mark. I am glad that this does not go on for long, here in Maine. Would be happy to not see that 9 in the tens place ever in a forecast or as a high temperature for the day, but it happens. I AM thankful that (a) it doesn't happen often, (b) go on for long and that (c) it cools off in the evening. I am also thankful that I am no longer working off the farm, so that when I get up before the sun, which I do on these "summer" days, I can have my coffee and hit the garden, instead of the road, as the sun rises over the nearby trees.

This week has been a routine of early mornings, moving soaker hoses from row to row in the early morning fog and dew, followed by a bit of weeding or picking before starting the irrigation and tending the fowl. By the time I am done in the barnyard, I am feeling the heat attacking the back of my neck and I am glad to be able to retire to the house and indoor chores.

This week the indoor chores have been mostly involving blueberries, purchased at the Brewer Farmers Market with the extra benefit of their food stamp matching program which allowed me to buy two 10# boxes for the price of one! One batch was quickly divvied out into quart size freezer bags and tucked into odd spots in the small "meat" freezer. The second batch was divided into makings for blueberry syrup and jam, both "lower sugar" varieties using a 50/50 blend of sugar and Splenda for the benefit of my diabetic. I discovered that I was way short of jelly jars so had to make a run to Corinth since I forgot them on my Wednesday town run. Paid more, of course, but saved gas and driving time. I think, if I didn't count the time, it would be considered a wash, after checking the price in Bangor today.  Some of the berries I just crushed with some sugar on them for blueberry shortcake, as well. I had cake in the freezer, left from strawberry season... good desert and more freezer room liberated!

To get things out of order... the first round of pressure canning of pre-cooked pieces of That Pig was a rousing success! All of the jars kept over 90% of their liquid and most kept most of it. I realized after the fact that I did process them at "too high" a pressure; these guys only require 10 pounds and the weight I have for the pressure canner only does 15 pounds. I now have a variable one on its way, should arrive Monday. Unfortunately the next batch is ready to be canned and will also be done with 15 pounds. Since I am expecting to use this mostly for pulled pork or as an ingredient in stir fry or the like, I am not worried about the over-processing, as it is not a safety issue. I also found out that one of the local meat processing outfits WILL smoke home-butchered bacon... so that big piece will be thawing in the fridge soon and will be sent off to be done. When I get it back, it will be also in smaller amounts which will fit in the freezers more easily and make space. I am glad that most of what remains in the garden is stuff that does not need freezing, but stores "on the shelf" or in a cool, dark location or will be canned.

The heat has, however, set me behind in the hex painting department. I have been taking the time I needed to "just sit" during the heat of the day -- getting out of the heat of the kitchen -- and hopefully will be able to quickly complete the 24" sign that I have drawn and ready to paint during the rainy days predicted early in the week.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Need a Reset?

Do you ever feel like you need a reset? I never really thought about it quite that way, until today, a few minutes ago, while washing dishes.

Week started with the arrival of the customer supplied photo:
last week's hex shipment from installed.
This week has been.... busy.... "off".... and we have been off too, both off the farm a lot and off the routine-that-is-not-a-routine that weaves it way around the turning seasons and quiet farm days.

We spent a day hauling mulch hay, and two more helping a friend move. Tried to put the moving work on cooler days and had to work it around the rain, which meant laundry on Sunday instead of Monday, which always puts the whole week off for me. Somehow, it's not so bad if Monday proves rainy or snowy too otherwise unfit for "hanging out" and laundry day is later in the week. But moving it back a day "for no good reason" sets things a-kilter.

Moving days were long and hard. Harder by far than they used to be, for all of us "no longer spring chickens." The friend we were helping move is my senior by a few years, has asthma to deal with and the upcoming school year breathing down her neck. And she was moving from a roommate situation to a tiny efficiency apartment, which makes having stuff much more of a challenge. I spent considerable mental energy, I fear, longing for the days when I could work even much younger colleagues into the ground.

It really wasn't THAT long ago that I took a long weekend temp job "flipping carpets" for customers to examine at a tent sale. On Friday there were three of us doing the job: me and two college footballers who grunted and groaned through the day. On Saturday and Sunday, I worked solo, as they did not complete their contract. 

It was only 7 years ago, when we moved here, that we loaded a huge moving truck, car and pickup on a tow dolly (full to the gunnels) over night, drove straight through and though the other half collapsed (diabetic who had not been receiving medical care) during the unload, I worked it so hard that the much younger retired veteran that showed up to help took a break to go back home and grab his teen son when school got out and both of them were beat by the end of the day. He says he has not moved anyone since; I know he did not volunteer to help load and unload when we finally found our farm! Instead I got to "work to the ground" a couple of much younger friends and the elderly father, who insisted on helping.    But those days are, it seems, gone for good.

Between all those away missions, and egg and herb delivery on Wednesday (so I can spend time also at my favorite yarn shop, spinning) the kitchen got no attention. It did, however, get inundated with herbs needing processing, pork getting cooked for canning (it's a fat pig and I wanted to remove as much of the excess fat as possible) and general life. I am not a good housekeeper, but eventually it DOES get to me and it had passed that point earlier in the week, though there was no time nor energy to deal.

And this morning, sad to say, STILL no energy. After doing chores, I sat. Just sat, and I guess I dozed while the kitchen called.

It's Frigga's day -- a hearth Goddess -- MY Goddess -- and my kitchen is a shambles, I have no wool carded to spin and it's new moon. 

And the light comes on in the ol' noggin while I am washing dishes after finally summoning the energy to do so.  I need a reset and this is the day for it!

Current spinning project: Jacob's sheep
fleece, AKA sheep of a different color
The "just sitting" was part of it. Too much "going" needed balance.

Washing dishes was part of it. Though I haven't hunted down every last piece, the majority is dripping dry.

Realizing that "all" I need to do is card a little, spin a little, light a fire and lift a glass to Frigga and to Mani and hail the turning cycle and take the time to take the time to allow it all to fall back into place.

By tomorrow, I suspect, the reset will be complete.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Magic, Science and the Natural World

8" diameter Abundance and Prosperity hex sign, painted
since new moon here at
I realize that my background in science -- and the "hard sciences" of physics, astronomy and of mathematics  and engineering as well -- likely give me a bit of a different perspective as a witch. Add to this that I see much of the alleged "common culture" in a different way (see previous post A Manifesto - I am not what you think you see. ) than most folks and I can easily understand when moments of disharmony crop up with other Pagans and witches.

Hence, this entry.

Many online sources have been making a big deal out of the full moon tonight, a so-called "blue moon." I have stated my opinion online that, " There are actually multiple definitions of "blue moon" and I prefer mine to be the least common of all -- when the moon ACTUALLY appears blue, because of particulate matter of a particular size, in the correct place in the air between me and it. THOSE happen "once in a blue moon" in my world. The other two varieties are far too common." Research has shown me that even my take on the potential frequency of the "blue moon" is more often than the term originally was meant to express, as it was used in the same manner as "when pigs fly." Short of being launched by a hurricane (which could arguably be considered to not meet the criteria) visually appearing blue moons are, in my experience, at least possible. I have seen one, just one, in my 67 years. I have also seen a solar green flash but that is a topic for another day.

I, personally, do not consider having two full -- or for that matter, new, first quarter or last quarter -- moons in the artificial construct that we call a month to be of any particular significance.  Although the month (in Old English monaĆ°, related to the word for moon) was originally calculated from lunar cycles, the increasing importance of agriculture (both planting and animal husbandry), upon which the seasons have more effect than the phases of the moon, led to an almost universal use of a solar-based calendar. This calendar has been changed, adjusted and manipulated across the centuries, and continues to be, although nowadays the ongoing adjustments are in the range of "leap seconds" rather than "leap years." Since I farm, using a conventional yearly calendar does help me to keep track of planting schedules, frost dates (both in the spring and fall) and mundane events such as appointments with my health care provider. 
One pea harvest, just after new moon

For other things, such as many "witchey matters" I find a lunar calendar most appealing. I do, given that our solar calendar has given one day of the week to Frigga, Odin, Thor and Tyr, acknowledge them on "their" days. As I observe and acknowledge the moon cycles, however, I am less likely to work with the astrological correspondences (either tropical or sidereal, the type of astrology that I practiced, which works with the actual positions of the planets in the constellations their precessed and therefore current locations ) than I am to tie my working to what's going on in the natural world around me. I understand the various cultures' naming of the moons, though I can not accurately apply any one sequence of names to what I experience. And, if you have followed my writings for any time at all, you will know that my own experiences (also known as UPG) are the basis of my practice and my work. Last month was The Month of the Fireflies. This is The Month of Summer's Coming, which leads directly into the cross quarter coming up early next month: First Harvest. While we do not yet have local corn to celebrate, there are, or have been lettuce and spinach, peas and beans and asparagus, strawberries and blueberries. I can likely harvest some early potatoes soon. None of the poultry are mature enough for the table yet, but the freezer is full of unexpected spring pork and last fall's second turkey. 
Beans and peas harvested yesterday

In my world, there are logical, repeatable and proven scientific truths upon which I base much of my agriculture and my witchey work. This has always been the very foundation of my life and will continue to be so. However much the natural world around me obeys the laws of physics and thermodynamics, though, there are also always variations and surprises. Worlds beyond mine intersect, touch and impact my little world, be they the doings of the Asgardians or of the mundanes.
Helping them to grow: trellis for
pole beans (dried bean crop)

While at least some, if not many folks might find that magic and witchey doings incompatible with science and I find some pagan and witchey folks somewhat out of sync with the actual natural world around them, in my world they all work together for me. That does not imply that anyone else's world's rules are anything other than different than mine. We all, to a greater or lesser degree, create our own realities and I know many folks do share the "common culture" world which I occasionally visit. Your mileage will vary. 
4 chicks hatched by Lady Grey the
turkey since the new moon

6 turkey poults hatched by Lady Grey
since new moon
Ducklings at 5 weeks old
Turkeys from the first hatch!
And here at the sign of the Fussing Duck and Dutch Hex Sign, I will lift a glass tonight to Frigga, light a needfire and toast the abundances coming forth from my fields and flocks and hex work. In addition to the 10 new additions to the flocks shown here, there are 11 young ducklings happily putting on size and feathers out in the barnyard as well as three young turkeys from the first hatch. The summer temperatures have arrived and while they do not make for a very happy worker, I am thankful for the growth on the tomatoes, peppers and vine crops. Hopefully there will be squash and pickles this fall!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Manifesto - I am not what you think you see.

Went to the doc this week, not that I needed to... but when I went in a while back for allergies, the receptionist told me I had need of an appointment for something undefined so I bit. Turns out it was a follow up for my GERD, on account of having to have the prescription renewed. Whatever. I did find out that the doc who had ignored my rejection of his "if the antihistamine doesn't work" back up plan is no longer with the practice.

Skeins of black yarn, spun during the "Tour de Fleece."
Turns out my blood pressure, which has been high since last August-Sept when I started the rounds of dental work necessary to move forward with the knee surgery. It proceeded to stay high, hitting a few reading in the scary-high area over the next few months, including while I was in the hospital after surgery. Thankfully, no one suggested medication, as it came down into the high, but not dangerous level and stayed there pretty much since a couple of months post op. Until a week or so ago, that is... when I got a strange, off the wall, reading much closer to what it used to be... For most of my life it seemed to be fixed at 100/60. For the last week it's been a wee bit above that, but pretty much staying stable, not only with my wrist monitor device but also, today, at the doc's office. Thank you, spinning! Thank you, Tour de Fleece! So she could not fuss at me about my blood pressure... nor apparently my cholesterol, which was "excellent" with the last blood work. So she decided to pick on my weight.

I will admit I weigh more than I want to, at 170 more or less. But, as K says "we are not gaining, and in this world, that is something!"  I have been working on losing but it doesn't seem to happen. The only times I have been able to loose weight I have had to do things that are NOT good.. extreme calorie reduction, "eating funny" etc. I do not drink soda, eat processed or convenience foods as a rule (and seldom even once a week on our town trips now that I usually leave after an early lunch and go solo). I don't keep boughten "snack food" in the house and rarely snack anyway. Seldom buy chips, only have cookies or cake when I make them which is not even weekly.

She wants me to keep a food diary for a week, so I can get a calorie count. Standard good idea, except that when you cook from scratch, not using recipes or even measuring, how the heck are you supposed to find the calorie count of such things as tacos, casseroles, or even tonight's supper of turkey in gravy made from the broth resulting from the cooking in the crock pot and flour, home made stove top stuffing and peas. I could probably easily google the count on the peas, if I weighed or measured my serving , and the turkey as well but... "it's just math" she says... but even if I were to take the time to try to measure everything in a meal as I cooked it this week, I have a pretty good idea it won't be the same next time I make the same dish.

She wants me to walk. Just walk... not going anywhere or doing anything. Yeah right. And that was what got me going on this rant/manifesto.  Because I do not REALLY live in your world, Doc.

 I do not live in a world where I have a job and spare time and hobbies and such. And even when I did have a job in town -- last year... I am coming up on a year of "retirement" from that world -- I did not live in that world, only visited it when needed. That is true, today, as well. My egg delivery, staples shopping, visits to my favorite yarn shop for the weekly Tour de Fleece check ins are just visits to another world, scheduled (sometimes with difficulty) around what I consider to be Real Life. It's a long way from here to there in many ways. Fourty-five minutes for a one way trip is nothing to sneeze at when the price of fuel is up, but the mental distance is even farther and truth be told, I think the distance between the greater Bangor area and the lands of Fussing Duck Farm and hex central is even farther for those who live in town!

Ever hear that saying "You create your own reality?" Despite all those who diss the idea, yes, indeed you can. I did and I do. In my world it is important to DO as much as you can for -- and by -- yourself to keep body and soul together, keep roofs over heads, food in the belly and clothes on the back. No, I
Fruits (actually vegetables) of my labors -
yielded 3.5 lbs shelled peas.
don't live in the 1800s -- and for this I am glad, for had I been born there, I would have actually died. I do, sometimes, appreciate modern medical advances and technology. My pain-free knees, and the medium I am using to communicate these thoughts attest to that. But in my world, most often the old ways get first crack at solving problems: herbs over drug store potions, letters, face to face meetings and at last resort digital communication over electronic summoning of disembodied voices, the fruits of ones own labors over laboring for money to buy fruit. Exercise is not something one stops working to do, but something you get from working. Meditation is not something one stops thinking to do, but something you fall into while spinning or weaving or knitting. Everything, it seems, serves more than one purpose.

Yes, it is hard work. Yes, I am often alone (but seldom lonely, thanks to this little bit of technology with which I communicate.) And yes, as I get older, it gets harder, I hurt more and more often in more places. But it is also just as satisfying a life as it has ever been, perhaps even more so.

In the modern world, where appearance seems to take the forefront and where many try to stand out by dress, or in other ways, you probably would not give me a second glance were you to pass me on the street. Internal differences, attitudes, outlooks don't often show. And I come from a long line of German witches. While we never tried to "fit in" we did not try to stand out, as many do these days. We were -- and are -- the folks that live just beyond.... just outside the routines of the mundane world, just a bit farther from town than you typically go. Those who need and really want to find us will, and do. To the rest, we remain overlooked.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Frigga's Day and Tour de Fleece

Just a quick blog post, for Frigga's Day and in honor of the Tour de Fleece which begins tomorrow in conjunction with the Tour de France cycling event. I started attending weekly knit-and-spin nights at my local yard shop, One Lupine, around about this time last year, and was intrigued by the folks who were busily spinning as part of this event.  This year, though it comes at a busy time of the year, I decided to join in.

Five of 8 bags currently full of FREE fleeces!
I know that, for the yarn shop, sponsoring a team is at least partly about making money. One Lupine sells roving (from which you can spin yarn), spinning tools, etc, as well as yarn. I also know, from having hung out with the folks at the store and some of the customers for a year now, that it is not just about making money or moving products. Everyone associated with the shop is passionate about fiber and eager to share their interest and knowledge whenever they can. As a business person, I also know that this is one of the best ways to build a loyal customer base, of which I am pleased to be a part.
...three bags full! Black, brown and
I don't buy lots of stuff -- and my main focus for my spinning projects for the Tour will involve trying to work up as much of my backlog of free fleece as I can -- but rest assured that I am hoping my current cash flow issues resolve
before the third week of the Tour -- when the "challenge week" at the store will feature a wonderful roving of yak and silk... two fibers that I would love to play with and I know I will never find offered for free -- like my fleeces -- on Freecycle or Craig's list.

Most of a fleece, in the grease,
that I am working on carding.
My first successful attempt at washing wool!
So today, in addition to working in the garden, I am hoping to get the bit of white wool that I have washed and dried processed through my new little baby drum carder. I have a decent start on the black wool which I am working in the grease ( my favorite way to card and spin wool). Above is the contents of ONE of many bags I have that I got for free, spread out on our kitchen table.
drum carder

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Connecting with "The Wild"

On Solstice just past, I attended a wonderful ritual with a local group called The Fellowship of the Wild. We met, in the rain, off a trail on land belonging to the University of Maine. It was a great event with good people, and I have been thinking about "the wild" with at least the back of my mind in the days since.

I was first introduced to the concept of "encouraging" or "allowing" the wild to be part of one's land in the 70s, by a friend who spent some time at Findhorn. This was long before they became an organized foundation and association, not long after the founders, Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean settled in an old Scottish trailer park in 1962 and began to transform the place, under the guidance of the land wights and plant devas, into an amazing garden spot. One of the first "teachings" that I recall my friend sharing, was the spirits insistence on having a spot left un-tended.

Now, I have never been any more fanatical about keeping my garden "Better Homes and Gardens" perfect than I am about keeping my dwelling to those standards, so untended areas were always about on any land I tended. I did, upon learning of the Findhorn protocol, begin deliberately setting aside a wild area and dedicating it to the spirits and wild things. And over time, I have noticed that the plants in my tended garden tend to "talk to me" more and do so more clearly.

Our "proto-forest" wild area as seen from the back field. Note the power lines running behind it; the darker forest behind
is on neighboring land, beyond a driveway.

Proto-forest wild area as seen from back deck.
Here at Fussing Duck Farm, our "wild area" is what we call the "proto-forest" in the back north east corner of the 4 acre plot. Since, as I joke, "we bought the only land in Maine without any trees," it was my intention to allow the "baby" birch, pussy willow and other woody things that were already trying to grow in that corner to continue and to possibly spread. The trees that were, at the tallest, my height in 2008 are now much taller. We use that grove as a place for offerings from our blood sacrifice (from butchering fowl for food) and as a final resting place for farm animals that die of old age or predation, when we find the remains.

Almost anyone who lives in a house on even the smallest bit of land can set aside a bit for a wild place. It really need not be any more than a square foot or so in an inconspicuous corner, deliberately left un-mowed and dedicated to the land spirits, the plant devas and /or the fae. If you feel inspired to do so, adding a flat stone in or adjacent to the wild place, can serve as an altar though even this is more for us than for "Them." It could be a place where you might put a small offering of food, or onto which you pour a libation at the turning of the year.

When I lived in an apartment with a patio or balcony, I found a larger type flower pot and mostly filled it with readily available potting soil. Then, as I went about my wanderings in my neighborhood, I gathered little bits of actual soil from here and there and added it to the mix. Keeping the "empty" pot watered for a while (when and if the rain was not sufficient) I soon had a bit of wild at my doorstep! No one ever complained about, or actually ever said anything about my "pot of weeds"... but if it had been a concern, I would have just become familiar with the botanical (Latin) names of my potted wild things, so that I could rattle them off at anyone who might have commented, fairly sure that would deflect the issue.