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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Money - the Most Impersonal Medium of Exchange

I have been thinking about energy exchange of late... of gifting, the concept of "a gift for a gift," and how money fits into this paradigm.

Those of you who know me at all IRL (in real life) probably are aware that the acquisition of money has never been high on my list. I have always had a strange relationship with it, and while I am pragmatic and in the world enough to understand that having some of it available is necessary, and even a good thing at times, it has never been a focus. I have always found it easier to make do with the supply of the stuff that finds its way to me, than to figure out how to acquire more.

You may even have heard me tell about my "ah-ha" moment, many years ago, when I heard a young reporter on NPR ask one of the Rockefellers, at the end of an interview, the pivotal question "how much is enough?" At that time, I was raising a family in poverty, well below the so-called poverty line, and my monthly challenges included budgetary triage of the sort that involved deciding between replacing the kids' underwear or socks and fretting over the winter coat hand-me-down ritual, should someone be between sizes and two "new" coats, instead of just one, be required for the winter.  My thoughts on money often ran along the "just a little bit more" track.

When the affluent, if not actually rich interviewee responded "just a little bit more," his response hit me like a ton of bricks and totally changed my outlook. After all, if he did not have "enough," how could I -- who had never been either focused on the acquisition of money, or much good at hunting it down, get there! I did, however, have lots of practice in "making do" and somehow that monthly budgetary triage always managed to work and with that realization, I stepped firmly on the path of "make it do," upon which I walk today.

Yes, occasionally there are wants,  but the needs always seem to be met and I am content on this path.

Other folks mileage does, obviously, differ, and as I interact with others, sharing of my skills and knowledge, I know that sharing does, of necessity, involve a two way exchange. I do, of course, also sell stuff -- mainly my art -- and yes, that does involve money. It's my one foot into that realm of commerce and I have come to terms with it. I will say, though, that the clients who contact me about their signs, beyond just clicking the "add to cart" button on the web site, sharing stories of their lives, farm and homes and reasons for picking that particular sign do give me much joy. The conversations and the exchange of energy really fuels me in a way that an anonymous order does not, though I attempt to fill them all with equal energy and respect.

On another thread, I have become more aware, of late, of weekend and even week-long events focused on various paths and aspects of paths of witchy tradition or fiber arts (and probably other things, as well, but these are the universes in which I dabble). It is not something I can do at this point in my life, would I want to. I am connected to "my" land and the life I live here on these four acres in ways that keep me close these days. This crone likes her own warm bed and cool pillow, the sounds of roosters learning to crow and the herd calling, and these old bones no longer take well to lying on the ground or even on unfamiliar bedding. But what sets me back even more than this is the monetary price that organizers put on these weekend or week-long retreats.

Yes, folks need a place to lay their heads at night, food for the belly, and so on but... hundreds of dollars? Brings to mind the (mis-) quote from the beginning of the digital era that naturally stuck in my mind: information wants to be free.

From my perspective these days, I guess I would say "information wants to be shared" with the emphasis on the exchange. And while money is a medium of exchange, it feels to me like the lowest common denominator It feels to me like the other party, offering money (regardless of the amount) is saying "yeah, I want you to think what you are sharing is important and valuable to me, but I am not going to really get involved, not sharing anything of myself, my soul, my energy... just this soulless paper and coin that we all need."

And on the flip side, for those allegedly sharing real knowledge and spiritual insights, as opposed to goods -- food, clothing, manufactured wares -- I can't help but think the message is "I want you to value what I am teaching, but really, we are not having an exchange. I am keeping my distance by only accepting "gifts" of the mundane and not from your center, your soul, your being.


Monday, October 2, 2017

How do YOU Define Affluence?

How do you, in your world, define affluence? I really do want to know.

For years now, I have been saying that I have the challenges of poverty down pat. That I have "used it up, worn it out, made it do and done without" long enough, and in enough circumstanced that I have become well qualified to do anything with nothing. And that I really would like a chance to have a go at the challenges of affluence for a change. And though I say, and write it, with a joking tone, there are many grains of truth there.

This year, though, I got one of those "whacks 'long side of the head" that I recognize and being administered by the celestial 2x4, wielded by a member of the Powers That Be, and I know I have been looking at it more that a little cockeyed. Because, you see, the abundance of abundance that I am dealing with right now (which I am deliberately not saying "I am plagued by" though I will admit that feeling is rather close to the surface) really does constitute affluence.

I have enough money to get by. Every month, I get to the end of the month before coming to the end of the money. Admittedly, sometimes it's as I come to the end of the money, but it always reaches. I have wheels to get me to town when needed, a flock and herd that give me joy, and food as a side product, and right at this moment, I have more abundance in the food department, almost, than I can cope with.

tomatoes being processed
into sauce
We had our first "killing frost" a couple of nights ago. Killing frost, for those of you who do not live in the northlands, is a phenomenon when the temperature drops below freezing for the first time in the autumn, killing the leaves of tender plants like beans, squash, basil, tomatoes and peppers. The summer crops are now through producing food for the season, though all of the fruit on these plants is still good to eat. The ripe, and mostly ripe tomatoes got harvested and made into juice to turn into sauce (it needs to be cooked down -- evaporated -- to the proper thickness) and I have close to 7 gallons of this liquid. That will make about 3 gallons of tomato sauce... eventually. I don't have enough burners to cook down sauce and make meals, so two smaller pots are waiting in the freezer while the 5 gallon pot is cooking.

But that is not even close to all.

sunflower, mid-August
The rodents were eating sunflower seeds and leaving us with nearly empty heads, so we cut most of them prior to the frost. That means I have 50+ sunflower heads, some very large, laying

around because I haven't yet found time or places to put them to dry so that the seeds can be removed.
Then there are those squash and pumpkins... a garden cart load of them are currently sitting on the front deck, waiting to be brought in. (Can't leave them there... remember those rodents?) They need someplace to be, until we eat them or I cook and freeze or can the flesh. But everywhere is covered in sunflowers.
And it is also potato harvest season (though not on account of frost). Also, even though they will stand quite a bit longer, the rest of the garden will need harvest soon, so it can be cultivated before winter. That means 100' of potato row (though some were dug this evening) and 50' each of carrots and beets. There are still sunflowers out there, as I did not get them all, and a few tomatoes that were left on the vines, to possibly ripen in the next few days. There is some chard, plenty of kale, a few Brussels sprouts (though they did not do well this year) and other odd ends. And I have 150' worth of pinto bean plants that I completed harvesting the day after the freeze that are hopefully drying their pods, to make for easier harvest, as they lay in the bed of one of our project trucks.

I have an abundance of abundance... and the challenge is to find the time, energy, space, containers, etc. to turn it into food. And all the while the hens and ducks have not yet stopped laying for the season, and I have hex sign orders to fill.

So, I must, I think, redefine affluence. It has nothing to do with wearing designer duds and driving a Mercedes Benz (wouldn't hold much hay anyway!) and everything to do with all this good, wholesome, organic food that seems to be covering every available surface.

Thank you, Powers That Be. I got this!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

To Maximize Happiness (and Productivity) Find Your Flow

Nothing could be more peaceful than
sitting on the back steps, listening to
the quiet sounds of our "lawn crew"
at work.
I'm pretty sure we have all had moments when we are hit with the realization that, right now, at this moment, everything just feels perfect. We may not remember them as long as some of those days, when it seems like we are channeling Murphy (the one with the law named after him/her). They are the counter point, but I have found that being aware of my feelings, the energy levels of my body and the world around me and looking at it all from a somewhat analytical mindset from time to time is helpful.  Over time, this process has enabled me to spend more time "in the flow" as I say: when things are going along as they should, with more ease and less interference, as it might be if one was floating down stream with the current.

Of course, like that current, the flow is ever changing. When I was a young woman, I enjoyed the abundant energy of a "type A" personality, could -- and often did -- go "at mach 3 with my hair on fire" for hours, and sometimes even days on end. And balanced this out, as all things must be, with days of essentially complete collapse/rest.

Then I became a mom, and everything changed! Even a breastfeeding, "baby-wearing" (though the term had not been invented yet) family-bedding mom of one really can't sustain that pace. Before I went crazy from "not being able to get anything done" I managed to analyze the situation and realized:
  •  prioritizing tasks, based on what was actually important to me and my family helped -- beds did not have to be made, for example 
  •  priority #1 was going to be the kiddo -- which should be a "d'uh" but one never really realizes the extet to which babies change things
  • breaking tasks into 10-15 minute bites was both possible and worked.
This routine worked through the mommy years until my husband and I divorced, he ended up with the kids (long, sad story) and moved far away. Gradually I fell back into the "mach 3" routine as I tried to find a balance between work and passion. Eventually I worked my way around to life and livelihood being congruent, as I worked in graphic design, a career path that just longs to suck one into the rhythm of 24/7 and total collapse. It is said, only partly in jest, that many take to drink, and the art directors drink whiskey. I did manage to avoid the whiskey, but not a trip to the ER with a devastating headache. What I thought was a migraine proved to be "only" a tension headache and produced the advise from a wise young doctor: quit the job or get used to it. I quit on the spot. This issues was not the work, but the boss, who would not let me DO what needed to be done.

My solution to that conundrum was to start my own company. From the frying pan to the fire? Not really. I have always been willing to take risks when I was betting on myself and have never lost one of those bets. I was still, during those years, willing and able to make a "no matter what" commitment, and having given that commitment to myself, I set about making it happen. At one point, early on, I found myself without transportation, having lent my truck to a boyfriend who proceeded to break and refuse to fix it. We were living in a small community, with no jobs and no alternative transportation to the nearby towns where I could have sold my services or applied for other work. I was lucky enough to have a friend with an extra car who was willing to loan it to me -- but it was several states away! I took the first payment for the first job my fledgling company completed, bought a bus ticket to pick up the car and prayed for enough left to buy gas to get it back "home."

"Home" in quotes, because the next thing that happened was I made myself homeless by moving out of the now-former boyfriends home and into a camp ground. I was only there a few days, when an acquaintence, who happened to have been that first client, caught wind of my situation and suggested I qualified to go to a woman's shelter, which I did. Before I even got there, while living in the camp ground, I grabbed a local paper (from out of a trash can... I was broke, yanno?) to look at the classifieds and began applying for anything that had a hint of possible. Before the first week in the shelter was up, I had employment in my field, riding herd on 6 web sites and doing advertising for a local realty company. With a job nailed down, and a paycheck just a couple of weeks away, my focus turned to housing. I needed something cheap where I could run my own business after hours and live as well. I found a former fish house -- cement building with electric, water, sewer, sink, toilet and shower -- that the owner was willing to rent under my conditions and moved in the day I had my first paycheck in hand. I was in the shelter less than a month. 

Things were hand to mouth from then on for years, but that is how "no matter what" commitments work. You do what it takes. But riding through cycles of working pretty much 24/7 (between a 9-5, M-F and my "off hours" contracts) and periods when I initially got really scared I would never get another contract -- and paying attention to the ebb and flow -- showed me that there WAS an ebb and flow. The lesson I needed to learn was to take the down time as the necessary R&R between the times of total immersion.

Once I learned that lesson, I was on a roll! For years I happily rode the roller coaster, and even added to the chaos by beginning to paint and sell the "Pennsylvania Dutch" hex signs of my family heritage and tradition.

Eventually the realty office closed when the principals retired, I took my unemployment check on the road, moved to Maine,
The "old homestead" the month we
moved in.
eventually found a homestead and "retired" to another life -- and another flow -- one which revolves around the planting, growing and harvest cycles, around season and weather and yet still must encompass the hex sign orders, which increase from year to year.

It is amazing how much things can change in 9 years. Now I am pushing 70, and although healthy and active, my energy level and stamina is not what it was when we arrived at our hilltop home.
Despite having two new knees (which I had needed for years but could not take the down time to have replaced until after retirement) I often joke that I need a new body to go with them. Arthritis is beginning to plague me, I run out of steam more quickly and do not have the strength I had even a few years ago, despite continuing to do all the same stuff. Once again, the flow changes and I must change with it. Is it easy? Heck no! But by staying aware, analytical and conscious, it is happening and I continue to continue. My y'all be able to do so, as well.



 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Dark Moon Magic in the Day

   
Eclipse!
 Eclipse of the sun! If you were one of the lucky ones to be in, or to have traveled to, the path of totality, I hope you thoroughly enjoyed the celestial magic. To those of you who, like me, watched the phenomenon from the much larger partial eclipse path, do not let the amazingness of the fact that it even happens at all, gets lost. I think it might be easy to do, in the wake of the excitement of its path of totality crossing a wide swath of the country.

Eclipses -- both solar and lunar, are phenomena based in the imperfections (not sure what word would work better, but that doesn't feel right) of the orbits of the earth around the sun and the moon around the earth. 

The path the earth takes around the sun and the one the moon takes around the earth are not both "flat" -- that is that they are not on the same plane. The Earth's orbit, known as the ecliptic, is by definition our reference point at 0 degrees inclination. The Moon's orbital inclination with respect to the ecliptic varies, but it is, on average 5.1 degrees. 

Think about this for a minute. The Moon's orbital inclination varies and most of the times that it goes 'round the earth, we just get the standard "new moon" (what I call dark moon) when it spends its days positioned more or less between us and the sun. As it moves around its orbit, we begin to see a small sliver of lit moon in the sky, the waxing crescent that appears in the western sky at sunset. As the moon continues around its orbit, it moves farther from being more or less between us and the sun and shows up later in the night until we see it fully illuminated at full moon. And then it continues around the orbit, rising later and later (or earlier and earlier by reference to morning, until we can only see that small sliver of waning moon, in the east just before sunrise.

We think of a lunar cycle as being 28 days, but while the moon completes its orbit around the earth in 27.3 days, due to the Earth's motion around the sun it has not finished a full cycle until it reaches the point in its orbit where it is in the same position with reference to the sun.

With the offset in orbital planes, not to mention the variation in the moon's orbit, the fact that they EVER line up is amazing... astronomical, in fact! 

Add to all of this, that for a solar eclipse to be total, the relative positions of sun and moon need to be just right for the moon to appear the same size as the sun. It's only by chance that the Moon and the Sun each take up approximately half-a-degree on the sky as seen from Earth's surface. Because both the Earth's orbit around the Sun and the Moon's orbit around the Earth are ellipses rather than circles, sometimes the Moon appears larger than the Sun, casting its shadow all the way down to Earth's surface, (a total eclipse when viewed from those locations on earth where the alignment is precise, but as a partial if viewed from other places nearby) while at other times the Sun appears bigger, with the Moon unable to completely cover the solar disk. This latter phenomenon is called an annular eclipse, and while nearly all of the suns's disk is obscured, we see a ring of sun around the moon, rather than the apparent flaming tendrils of the coronasphere that makes total solar eclipses so dramatic.

I am looking forward to the potential opportunity to see a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, right here in Maine. According to this image from Accuweather if the weather gods smile on us (April... Maine... start praying now!) we will only have to travel to northern Piscataquis, Penobscot or southeastern Aroostook
projecting the eclipse
counties. At the same time, I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to attempt to project this partial eclipse with a pair of binoculars, out in front of the house. Somewhere, I have an image of myself, as a teen, doing the same thing with my 4" refractor telescope, which I had recently completed. Believe me, I was longing for the good, solid mount for it that my dad built to go on a heavy, wooden surveyor's tripod that we found in one of our raids on the local surplus stores. By the time 2024 rolls around, I will have a more stable mount for whatever optics I use!


Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Moon Wanes and the Harvest Builds

It's been a very busy week here at the sign of the Fussing Duck and Dutch Hex Sign. I shipped not one but TWO large hex signs today, destined to grace a barn in Zionsville, PA.
48" Abundance and Prosperity sign

36" Wilkom (welcome) sign
These are the last two of a three sign order and will soon be mounted on a newly painted barn.

I am finally getting caught up with the backlog (only three signs in the queue at present, not counting the one I paint for our MOFGA chapter to donate to the Common Grounds Country Fair grounds. It is nice to have the kitchen table back for a few days!

Out on the farm, the meat chickens continue to grow. In fact, one was so big that I thought it was a wayward hen from the layer flock, which I have been culling down to a more reasonable size for 2 people, and culled it late last week. I realized my folly when I found no evidence of it having ever laid. I can attest to the fact that it made a delicious Sunday meal, regardless. I do intend to let the balance of this flock mature, though. I am not used to getting only one meal and a half from a bird (though to give it full credit, there is still a back and neck to use for chicken and dumplings.)  We are down to 4 hens and a roo (so I think the last count was) plus 4 turkeys, 2 duck hens and a drake and two guineas in the mature fowl department... plus the replacement layers and banty chickens "just for fun."

Broccoli and lettuce
Cabbage
Tall corn!
Garden harvest has picked up, and I have moved from "take a basket when you go to the garden" to "take a BIG basket..." LOL  We harvested the first broccoli (ate some tonight and half of the head is in the freezer) and a good size cabbage. The green beans continue to offer pickings, though the peas are essentially done. I am leaving the vines to harvest seed. Tomatoes are starting to come on, and the second variety of flint corn has given me flashbacks to my younger days, visiting family in Iowa "where the tall corn grows."

We keep having decent amounts of rain, mostly as late afternoon/evening thunder storms and we remain thankful that Thor graces us with the thunder than marks His presence but no hail.

As a former astronomy student and long time hobbyist, I am looking forward to the solar eclipse on Monday. It will be partial here, and I aim to project and photograph it. 


Friday, August 11, 2017

Crazy, distracted week

It's been a crazy, distracted week here at hex central, under the sign of the fussing duck.

I have not done any painting this week. I needed to... there are two hex blanks hanging fire in the house and the replacement mail box within reach of completion....but I have been focused on the garden, on culling fowl and on getting rid of STUFF.

Downsizing the homestead to a HOMEstead size takes work; the duck pen got de-commissioned, two more ducks culled and the balance are running with some of the chicken flock. But that left fence panels to be moved/repurposed and other parts of their former enclosure to be dealt with..some will go to the dump, hopefully today and some will be moved elsewhere for re-use.

There are two more chicken hens to be culled. One will be easy to capture some evening. The other has been running with the meat birds and is currently in their "chicken tractor" as they were all locked in at dusk. Tomorrow after a trip to town, I plan to get Tractor Guy to help me get INTO this pup tent size and shaped structure to capture the wayward hen, who will then become food. the other...well later in the day, most likely, will join her. Then the fowl culling will be done and I can focus on merging flocks and making one confinement pen for them all, with two sections and one shelter.

Rigby, out to pasture
I am happy that the goats and the sheep seem to be making a.. flock?? herd?? together. They happily go to pasture and share the former goat house at night. Rigby, the sheep, even trots to and from pasture easily, following me. The goats... well I have leashes for them! One of these days I will get Tractor Guy to shoot video of me bringing everyone back in the evening. It's crazy! One sheep following like a fairly well trained dog and two goats, on leash, both trying to go everywhere but WITH me and a flock of Red Rangers under foot!

We have also been working to make space in the garage... this and the decommissioning of the duck space has called for an extra dump run. I am aggressively offloading stuff scrounged for projects that have been hanging fire for some time and TG has brought the two free bookcases we scored a while back, into the computer room, to help organize stuff there.

I am hoping to get back to painting this weekend. The forecast is for two more rainy days to follow this morning's rain and thunder. There are peas still producing, the green beans are coming on and the tomatoes are beginning to ripen so in addition to the dump run early this afternoon, I will have to get to the garden to harvest. I would like to bring in some beets, as well, but as I pulled some of the larger ones to share with a friend yesterday -- in trade for a bag on perfectly good lemons from the waste food stream -- they can wait a bit.

The cleaning and organizing that I am wrapping up for the week, I am dedicating to Frigga, All-Mother and the Lady of the Hearth. It seems very appropriate to do so as this week's projects wind down on Her day. I will, as always, hold my Needfire tonight. At this point I am not sure if the ritual will fall before or after I make my way into the turkey pen to find the final hen for culling, but I am hoping to complete both tasks tonight. As folks who have tried to catch a chicken that does not want to be caught soon discover, it's easier to sneak up on a sleepy hen than to catch one in broad daylight. Unfortunately, this does not work on ducks or guinea fowl, though guineas are easier than ducks. At least I hope so, as I need to catch our two and clip their wings in hopes of keeping them out of the pen so they don't beat up on everyone else (especially the young layers, who will soon join the flock). If they insist on being bullies, and getting in with the other fowl, they will need to find a new home or will become dog food.

Gotta love life "in the slow lane."


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Thou Shalt Not Get Sentimental About Old Plants

Long, LONG ago, when I had barely achieved my majority, I was attending a party with my BF, a PhD candidate in upper atmospheric sciences. This was an after-finals/before summer blowout attended, primarily by a large crowd of doctoral and masters candidtate, a post-doc or two, a few odd dates and a handful of younger students, in '69 or '70, which might explain why I don't, actually, remember too much of the evening. LOL However, I recall vividly entering into discussion with a group of ag students, as I was, even back then, growing a large organic garden alongside the rural home the BF was renting. These students, I suspect, were well in the clutches of "big ag" as it was configured, but not yet named at the time, as they made me promise "not to get sentimental about old plants."

Looking back, I am not exactly sure what they meant, but this memory bubbled up a bit ago, as I was out in the garden pulling up the first planting of peas and combing the vines, as I did, for the ones that had not yet gone by. There were plenty, and while I pulled and searched, I contemplated my usual gardening tactic of hanging on to the bitter end. As long as the plants were blossoming and trying to produce, I usually let them do so. I pick small batches to add to a casserole or soup, as the end of production pickings are never enough to make even two servings for a supper. Is that, I wondered, what they meant, letting the plants finish a natural life cycle? They had just met me, so would not have known that hanging on to the bitter end -- tenacity to those who like me, stubbornness to the rest -- is one of my super powers.

I suspect, though, this was not what they meant. Those days and those times, I think, lead into more hybridzation and then into the genetic level modifications that stir up such strong feelings these days. They were grad students... in the sciences... where research drives the game and having the luck of being named in the paper your research allowed your advisor to write would have been a feather in your cap and a springboard to greater things.

They would not have been concerned about genetic diversity, even had I known to mention it. But, speaking back through the ages, I will tell them that supporting genetic diversity is far from the same thing as "getting sentimental" over old plants, and their seeds and their genetics.

While my mind was playing with the time machine, another somewhat related memory from the same era popped up.   "Grab hold tightly, Let go lightly." Yea, like I said tenacity has always been strong in me, the letting go, not so much so. 
The Moment of fullness

Grab hold tightly,
Let go lightly.

The full cup can take no more.
The candle burns down.
The taut bow must be loosed.
The razor edge cannot long endure
Nor this moment re-lived.

So...now
Grab hold tightly
Now...
Let go lightly
--- Timothy Leary
 I have been working on this lesson since I first encountered this bit of poetry. So, in the spirit of things gone by, the pea plants have gone by to the fowl, a batch remain to be shelled and the second planting to be picked later today.

As I was pulling, I noticed a new pea plant growing; it is about 6" tall, so was self-seeded a couple of weeks ago, but it reminded me to make a note in the calendar and to try planting a short bit nearby this volunteer, to help pin down the timing for a fall harvest of peas for fresh eating... something for which I have not yet not the planting date figured out.

I love my garden meditations and even more when it talks to me.