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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What are you passionate about?

That question has been on my mind this past week, but it's a bit of a round-about to get to why...

Early ;ast week, I was reading the Bangor Daily News, as I do each morning and was attracted to an article under the heading "HOMESTEAD." It was about a "classic Maine farmhouse" in Winterport which, while interesting, really didn't seem to speak at all about anything homestead related, at least in my understanding of the word. The article ended with a call for submissions: Send us stories about your house and land... 

Being me, I immediately put fingers to keyboard and addressed the topic of homestead as I understand it. After I hit "send" I did a little more research and discovered that they were using the term in a different manner... as a rebranding of their "family" section in the paper.  I also seem to remember somewhere, though I cannot find it now, a call for contributors that ask the question I posed as the title of this entry.

I did hear back from an editor, who wanted to speak with me further, and asked for photos to illustrate what I wrote. While we never talked, I did send her some photos from last year and shortly thereafter received a draft of the piece with her edits and captions for my photos, and it appeared in the online edition April 15.

On the same day I was able to answer the question in my own mind. I am passionate about "not losing the old ways." Yes, I am talking about what some call the Old Ways, with capitals, referring to the spiritual ways of our ancestors. But even more I am talking about what might be termed "secular" old ways.... growing, cooking, eating food without the use of chemicals or factories, being provident in the use of resources, being thrifty, fixing and not replacing when possible, sewing, mending, darning and even spinning and weaving to give a few examples.

I am most assuredly not "a prepper," neither am I Menonite or Amish. I don't do this out of fear of impending societal collapse or a sense of doom (though, honestly, I wonder how much longer things can continue to follow the current path) or for specifically religious reasons but out of a belief that "appropriate technology" includes the ability to use both new and old technology and skills.

I love the convenience of the Internet for communication. Social media is like chatting over the back fence or having a coffee klatch with a groups of friends, only not just with the back yard neighbor and folks in your town. I love the ability to research questions at the drop of a hat instead of having to make notes and hold onto them until library day. And I love the ability to quickly communicate via email with most folks in a time that suits me and have them respond in a time that suits them, as well as having a record of what was "said."

I know many consider telephones and mobile devices essential and appropriate; I have never enjoyed talking to disembodied voices on a telephone, not even when I was a teen girl. When I have had one, I have considered that it was a device for MY (not others') convenience and that it was not necessary to drop everything and run just because it was attempting to summon me. Now, using Tractor Guy's telephone account, I let everything go to voice mail and if necessary, return calls at my convenience. But I still prefer to avoid it.

I take advantage of the convenience of a supermarket, but prefer to buy ingredients and hopefully only those that I cannot grow. Even in pioneer days, folks typically shopped for coffee, tea, sugar (though in far less quantity that we do now) and even flour and baking powder. And I am glad that, if necessary, I CAN buy a package of frozen peas or a jar of canned tomatoes, though with luck and proper planning I hope to put up a year's supply of all such things.

I think it is important that we all be able to cook "from scratch" sufficiently to nourish ourselves. It need not be fancy and not necessarily even terribly varied but it should be stuff we like. And yes, if we were raised on packages and boxes and take out and fast food, I think it is important to learn to like foods made from basic, natural ingredients!

I think it is important that we consider waste as an important aspect of everything we do and certainly everything we buy, and strive to waste less. If you are in doubt that waste is a problem, especially food waste, check out this Earth Day offering from MSNBC Wednesday night,  April 22.

On another aspect of waste... who, these days, actually wears their clothes OUT, other than some small children? We do! When buying clothes we look for natural fibers and practical designs and therefore "good" or "town" clothes, when they become worn or stained, get turned into things to wear at home, on the farm. Farm clothes get mended... seams repaired, holes patched... until the fabric gets thin and then they help populate the rag bag. The Rag Bag... do you remember this? Old cotton clothes cut into pieces and used in place of purchased bales of shop rags, dish cloths, paper towels! And speaking of paper towels, there is no need for such things in our house, as tasks like draining bacon can be performed equally well by newspaper or brown paper bags.

I think it is important to, when you must buy, that you buy quality stuff, stuff that will LAST, and then keep it, repair it, use it or not buy at all. And, for me, buying such things already used adds to the value.

I am passionate about mending and darning, about home repair and small appliance repair.  I am passionate about growing a garden (of food to EAT) from seeds you planted to seedlings you grew to plants you transplanted. I am passionate about not letting that effort and those crops go to waste, so I can, freeze, dry and share with friends.

I am passionate about knowing my food, calling it by name, loving it, raising it up and processing it by my own hand. And I guess I am also passionate about sharing these passions. What about you?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Late winter? Later spring? Not really!

I know everyone here abouts -- or so it seems -- has been on the horn to Old Man Winter and Ma Nature about the apparent slow departure of said old man. Like this it is unusual here to have snow, cold, etc. this time of year. While patience may run thin, especially for farmers and gardeners anticipating planting season and with starting racks and greenhouses bursting at the seams, it seems that we are not too far off from last year, truth be told.

April 11, 2014 view of the garden
April 16, 2014 view of the garden
 These two photos, taken mid-month last year, show that we still had snow on the ground, and snow falling and accumulating, in April. When you consider that the AVERAGE last frost date is mid-May, and you remember how an average is determined if you didn't sleep through math class in school, this really should not be very surprising.

April 4, 2015 view of the garden
April 7, 2015 view of the garden
 So, patience is something that we all need to cultivate while we are seeding those soil blocks and flats, in gleeful anticipation of sunburnt days of planting ahead.

We have had a bit of a warming trend, thankfully, in the weather but the lows continue to be below freezing and my soil temperature test this week proved that planting is a way off, as it read 36 degrees at 4 pm on a sunny day. We have had rain and snow, and the rain has taken a bit of the white away but there are still large areas covered, not just the piles and drifts. The melt has, however, solidified the snow sufficiently that I was able to walk without snow shoes to replace lines on the clothes poles and take down the first load of the year, which I left out overnight, but which was thoroughly dry.

Tuesday, Tractor Guy ended up stopping by Tractor Supply for -- no surprise here -- tractor parts and discovered they were having Chick he brought home 3 Rhode Island Red and 3 Rhode Island White chicks. NOT what I was expecting, though he had been in town much longer than expected. Most guys would offer flowers or chocolate in such a case; I got chickens!  LOL  Of course I love the little gals (they are all supposed to be pullets) and they are currently in a tote in the living room under their heat lamp.

Otherwise, things have been slow here on the farm. I continue to work on hex signs, of course. Today I shipped this 36" Protection for Livestock - Horse sign.I was thankful that the rain abated so it could be loaded in to the Subaru and hauled into UPS easily and kept dry! Livestock Protection Sign for Horse

Moving ahead, the next project is an Earth Star Flower in the 2' size.

Friday, April 3, 2015

It's been a slow week at the sign of the Fussing Duck...

Necessity almost always wins. I had planned to talk with my knee surgeon about getting on snow shoes again but not having made my appointment, having missed the scheduled one -- and having broken through the snow multiple times while doing chores on Friday -- made the donning of my big feet pretty much a no-brainer without medical approval. K injured his ankle Friday night, hurrying through the dark and breaking through the snow to check on the fowl after Moose alerted us to the presence of a skunk ( yay Moose! Good guardian dog!)  and glowing eyes shined back at us in the beam of a flashlight shined from the back porch.  When he got to the area where the eyes had been, nothing was to be seen, thankfully. But having injured his ankle, and being pretty sure of being able to do chores with my big feet on now that the snow has melted enough to allow the gates to open wide enough to snow shoe through, off I went. It was pretty much like always, did allow me to move about more easily AND with seemingly less stress on the knees and legs.

Friday, after breaking through and needing assistance to get un-stuck, I iced the right knee for a while (long enough to knit 4 rows on my hat...dunno how long in clock time that is, but I am not an especially fast knitter) and took a dose of Tylenol. Knee felt pretty darn good all day, so I decided to do the icing again today, even though I did not feel especially swollen or painful. We will see if that becomes a routine.
Been trying to focus on being a better steward of our abundance, a department in which I fell far short this winter. Pretty much our entire crop of carrots will be compost; we did not even get them all dug and what was dug and put into bins did not get moved out of the back porch (which freezes solid even in a more mild winter) and into the back bathroom as I had planned. They all froze and are now thawing and rotting.

Saturday I processed two of the varieties of garlic for the freezer. One was pureed in olive oil and the other just frozen, loose, as cleaned cloves. I have one variety left, which seems to be the best keeper thus far; unfortunately I have forgotten who is who. Since I cannot currently get to the deep freeze, which is blocked my indoor laundry drying racks, the garlic and several packs of slightly beaten egg are in the fridge freezer for now. I had hoped to be able to begin hanging laundry as soon as I was able to get on snow shoes again -- and way eagerly eying the warmer, sunny day forecast for tomorrow -- but then I realized that when we quit hanging, it was because the lines were failing and need replacement.  Put that on the list for the coming week, along with another shop light for the
Something like what we plan to install for line drying!
grow rack. We are planning to replace the clothes poles this year with "Maine style" wooden "goal post" ends and relocate it, as part of our updated farm plan. We are looking ahead to relocating the fowl houses and pens in such a way as to maximize "snow drift voids" for the future and our current plan will occupy the space where the clothes lines now stand. But until we get there, new line will at least give me outdoor drying capability again. I hope that Mallside has cotton clothesline rope, otherwise a dedicated visit to Reny's will be in order as I have seen it there on every visit.

Sunday brought the MOFGA seed swap, a chapter pot luck and my first long solo drives, which went quite well. I enjoyed the swap, though I missed one of the friends who was coming there to give me some seeds and thoroughly enjoyed the pot luck, though this time I went solo. Brought back some fruit and a couple of large bags of bagged chips that will be food for us and the fowl. My hosts gather post-consumer food from schools and other institutions for their pigs and often get donated unopened bags of chips and uneaten fresh fruit that is not even close to being past prime, which they set aside for people food and share. This is our second "helping" of chips; we thoroughly appreciated the single serving size packages of the varieties that we enjoy and the fowl have fun picking on the rest. Last time we got several bags of pork rinds, which Stormy has been enjoying, a few a day as a high-calorie treat, as we try to put weight back on our sickly pup. While I was gone, Tractor Guy made short work of the dishes and cleaned the stove for me. I am most appreciative! Now I am thoroughly motivated to get the rest of the kitchen shoveled out to begin making soil blocks to start a wide variety of tomato and pepper seeds. That, and working on the hexen in process will be the projects for the day.

Weather-wise, it looks like we are once again back on a more spring like warming trend. Though the lows remain below freezing, the highs look to average around the low 40s for the next week or so, which should bring and end to the basic snow cover. The massive piles, however, will of course take longer.

I have installed the new 4-tube shop light on the grow rack and made seed blocks for many types of tomatoes ...
tomato - cosmonaut volkov - f - 2012
tomato - bonny best - p - 2014
tomato - glacier - f - 2012
tomato - nova - t - 2013
tomato - mortgage lifter - p - 2014
tomato - oregon spring - p - 2014
tomato - saucey - t - 2013
tomato - heinz 2653 - f - 2012
tomato - san marzano - - 2012?
tomato - peacevine - hm - 2010
tomato - long keeper - t - 2013
and from wintersown:
Liz Burt ND 70-75
Marmande DET 67
Gloria van Mechelen IND 72
Manitoba DET 70
Livingston's Gold Ball IND 70
Golden Jubilee IND 72
Ace 55 DET 75
Brandywine Red  IND 75
Grot DET 65
Coyote (yellow cherry) IND 65
and a few pepper varieties which include some "rat turd peppers" from the MOFGA swap, a hot pepper assortment and a bell. I am hoping that the overnight temperature stays moderate enough that they will germinate without added heat, as our wall propane space heater is out of fuel and I have made the executive decision to hold off filling a big tank until closer to when the cooking fuel will run out. It is chilly, but not overly cold thus far when I get up at sunrise and the kero heater warms the place sufficiently until the solar heating takes over (which by the look of the forecast, we will NOT have during the coming week...) Also soaked the remainder of the asparagus seed that I did not take to the swap, and I shall plant it today. Really wanting to increase the bed, and slowly beats expensively!

12" Mighty Oak hex sign shipped this week to Ohio
I shipped a small hex (left) and have begun working on a couple of Livestock Protection signs, one at 12" for beef cows and a 36" ones for horses. We no longer are getting large piece of cardboard from signage shipping from my former place of employment, so I am looking for a source of good clean cardboard in pieces up to  50" square. If you are in central Maine and have a source for such, please let me know!!

Meanwhile, the temperatures continue to be above freezing in the daytime and the snow is receding. At this point, about half or more of my garden is brown -- but frozen still -- and our driveway is mud and ice. When I went to ship the hex on Thursday, Boo made like an icebreaker!

I am hoping to connect with the replacement clothesline rope this coming week, but am not in a terribly big hurry as it appears we will have rain, snow or some combination every day but one in the 10 day forecast. "April showers" bring mud season!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Out of the World

We were drifted in on Saturday. Our internet connectivity went out Sunday morning. the problem is easy to see... the cable that brings the Time Warner feed from the road to our house is not attached and is looped over the electric wire. Having internet phone, we have not been able to report it, nor to let anyone know that we are also -- once again -- drifted in.

Fergie, as per usual for old diesel tractors, has not wanted to start so we are eagerly awaiting the week's predicted warming trend and hope to find a day soon when we will be able to dig out. As you can likely tell from the photo, shoveling is really not a practical option. Maybe if were were both 30 -- or at least in much better shape -- it would be do-able. I seem to recall digging us out from something like this during one of our early winters here. But when the snow drifts the driveway shut it is never light and fluffy; one uses a shovel to dig blocks to throw, and hopes that the piles are not so high that the block plays snowball and rolls back into the drive.

Fowl seem to be faring well, but Moose, our LGD-in-sort-of-training, has hit his "teen phase" of "disobedience" -- or more like actual teens, his attempts to think for himself -- though they appear to be well intentioned -- fall a bit short as a result of actual experience/training.

Sunday our tom turkey, Tom, had gone walkabout and Moose, knowing that the bird was not where he belonged, attempted to set it right or at least let us know there was a BIG problem (Moose's opinion.) In our opinion, the turkeys have been regularly hopping the fence, walking the fence, roosting on coops and usually come back in to their pen and hut eventually. Eventually is not in Moose's vocabulary, though... so he got himself out and went to make sure that Tom did not wander off and that we knew about the problem. Tom, though, is perhaps a bit too tame and did not recognize Moose as "a boss." When he sees a human, Tom usually heads toward where he needs to be and if he doesn't hop in by himself, he gives no hassle to the human who aides his return home. Moose, on the other hand, he challenged! Ran toward the dog, gobbling like mad with his feathers up to the max. Moose, to his credit, did NOT harm the bird more than by pulling a few feathers, it seems. And when K got out to where Moose could see him, the dog immediately ran to him, seeming glad that he had FINALLY gotten our attention and help.

Moose, during one of his moments of "being good" and
"staying in the dog yard."
Monday he proved to be an escape artist, wiggling out a hole at the gate numerous times. While at one point K saw him head to the west, he all but immediately returned, sat to be leashed, and came inside with me. Later I heard and then saw a crow (so did Moose) and let him out to bark at it. He was good for a while, then I saw him wiggle his way through a place in the fence, into the chicken pen. He is not ready to be with fowl unsupervised, but while K got dressed to bring him in again (we are both beat from fighting weather today and will fix his access port tomorrow with chores) he showed no desire to annoy the birds. Did apparenty snack on some scratch and chicken poo, though. Yuck.

Monday, also, he was in the house for a while to try to thaw some of the bits of ice clinging to the ends of his fur and at one point, for no reason, he began whining. Next thing I noticed, he was peeing on the floor. He is not going to be a house dog, so I have made no attempt to house break him, but it seemed to me that the whining might have been a signal... so i told him "You DON'T pee in the house" while putting a towel down. Before I could put him on the porch, K needed something and so I was distracted for a moment from the dog. Apparently he had also to poo, which he did right by the front door on the linoleum. I just cleaned it up, figured that was as close as he could get to out and that he was trying to understand.

We really need the melt to happen. I need to be able to be out there working him, training him and putting in the invisible fence, which can't happen until the ground is thawed for the posts.  I am sure he IS a good dog and that we will come to be able to work well together.
But spring IS springing! I have been reading some of my fellow travelers' writings, talking about how spring is not a date on the calendar but when one FEELS/sees it happening.  That tells me spring is very different to different folks. To those who see the snow covered ground, forecasts for freezing temperatures and more snow and who long for green grass, swelling buds and budding flowers, spring is a long way off. To those who tap the maples -- or even birch -- for their sap, sping is at their doorstep. To those who raise fowl, spring is springing forth with each egg laid by hens who have been on vacation through the dark, long nights and with every urge of the tom turkey, rooster or drake. Our hens are laying several eggs a day, we have seen eggs from the duck hen and Tom, the turkey, was puffed up BIG the other day, having a conversation with Fred, the young tom. Apparently Lady Grey is not, yet, feeling the urge for she had taken shelter on the chickens' hut roof!

I have been enjoying the digital vacation more than I had expected. It is a little frustrating not to be able to let folks with whom we have appointments know that we are drifted in, but in the end it will all work out. I know the common response would be "get a cell phone" and most folks would. K may even do so, as apparently those receiving Social Security Disability payments have a free option that works here.  I am of another mind.

Long ago, I was much more of an early adopter. Not EARLY early, mind you. I wanted the bugs worked out first. But I found a computer, the internet, a pager, etc.  useful. But in those days I WAS "in the world" even if trying not to be so much "of it." Now, the world has much less appeal. I would love to be able to go to town only once a month but with the hex signs to ship this is less than practical. I have become very picky about even not-town-but-off-farm events I atend. I enjoy keeping up with my kids' and grand kids' and great-grand-kids' doings, and hearing what friends near and far have been up to, but most of this is not of the urgent variety of news that requires an instant response. So most likely I will stay unconnected by the great cell phone conspiracy, not buy into the "gotta have a tablet-stay connected 24/7" gestalt (though I enjoy my kindle and was gifted with a tablet recently by a friend) and maybe even spend less time faffing about on the Internet, especially as winter wanes.
I am considering, though, that it might be good to have a more old-style network in place for times like this -- when communication is down and digging out problematical. "More" old style because it involves actual people being in actual contact but using the Internet as a base.  My thought is to arrange with several friends who are online on a daily basis, that if they do not see me log on or post to one of my usual places by, say, noon, that someone either come by or worse case scenario, call the cops for a "welfare check."  Several friends in various locations, who were able to contact each other would be able to work around local outages that might occur during winter storms, for example.  I would of course be willing to serve in a network of a similar type for others as well.  What do you think? Would it work?

I know there are "life alert" type devices, but in this case, where our phone service is down along with the cable and internet, I do not think it would work. And I would much rather have friends involved that an anonymous voice on the other end of some device -- someone sitting in India, most likely -- who might have a hard time understanding "Drifted in, all is ok but please call Time Warner!"
Tuesday warmed up nicely after a cold night and we were able to fix Moose's escape places. So far (it's dusk) he has stayed in his dog yard all day, though I did go many times to the door to tell him "off" the fence and "good dog" when he was being one.

After swapping Boo's old battery into Fergie and putting the new battery in Boo, Fergie finally started up, but really to no avail. K does not have the traction he needs to move the snow and in trying, Fergie busted a hydraulic line. We had one to replace it with (temporarily... it's longer...) but insufficient hydraulic fluid to bring her up to full and when he tried her out, well there is another leak. So right now we have a driveway blocked by snow AND a tractor. And thanks to our neighbor letting them know we do not have service, Time Warner will be out tomorrow, expecting a clear driveway.
On a positive note, after having started it before I went for surgery, K completed my warping board

filled warping board
today and while he was out fussing with things mechanical, I used it to lay out a 1000 yd ball of crochet cotton for warp. For anyone who may be interested, the board was built more or less after the plan in Foot Treadle Loom Weaving by Edward Worst. I say "more or less" because it was built with materials on hand - except for a few screws -- and the size was based on a piece of 3/4" plywood remaining from my having cut hex signs. It is, I believe, approximately 6' long and a foot wide. After one use, I am thinking that it might be more practical for me -- after a bit more experience with a warping board -- to design one that is a bit shorter and somewhat wider, that could be worked with while sitting down. This one is just a wee bit wide and required me to stand and step/stretch side to side. At this point in my recovery, it was a bit uncomfortable.  I plan to try warping the Weavers Friend (at least partly warping her; at 6 dent I do not know if I have enough thread for a full warp and even with a narrower bit of working I will be able to make something useful (place mats? a runner?) and see if she is working properly. That will have to wait a bit, most likely, as I will be tending critters and then pulling my sled with the "Red Dragon" flame thrower down the driveway tomorrow, hoping to be able to melt off a significant amount of snow.

At 2 moths post op on my knees, I really may not have any business helping clear a long rural driveway, but it must be done. That's tomorrow's project.
Wednesday I did chores in a hurry, so I could get the blue sled out front to K for an experiment using the Red Dragon for melting snow, but I need not have hurried. He dragged the propane and the Dragon down for a "test shoot" and discovered that the flame thrower had little to no effect on our accumulated drift. By the time I got done with chores, he was shoveling.

I changed boots -- the silicone sprayed sheepskin /fleece lined warm foot gear that I have been wearing for chores in back was NOT what was needed in the mud, slush and water of the driveway -- into my muck boots and went out to try to help. I did a bit, but the way I shovel involves pushing against my right leg, which began complaining much sooner than I had hoped. K sent me in to rest as he continued. 

I thought about icing the knee, but as stiff and sore as I was, I really didn't want to walk back and forth to the kitchen again from the computer room, where I plopped down to curl up in my heated throw (Thanks, Michele!) and knit for a bit with my left leg raised on the arm of K's chair with the foot resting on a TV tray.  By the time I used up the remainder of the homespun that I was knitting from, the leg had rested some and I prepared to go back out. It was then I discovered that K had apparently gotten some help and they had completed the job. Our neighbor down the road, John, had come by on his way to visit his wood supplier and stopped to help, taking on the icy and packed "plow gift" at the end of the driveway.

It was lunch time when I walked down the drive and unfortunately our chat with John lasted long enough that K had a low blood sugar issue before he got to the house. Lunch helped, but he went to take a nap in the afternoon while I proceeded to begin putting the warp onto the Weavers' friend and waited to see a Time Warner truck.

By the time I got all the warp threaded through the reed (yes, I thread a loom 'backward') it was time to awaken K and plot our next move, as TW had not arrived. After threading and sliding our way down the drive, we headed to Dunkin Doughnuts in Corinth for WiFi (and snacks). Bad timing, as it was literally supper time but one does what one has to do; eventually I was able to get into chat with a TW rep and get a service tech scheduled. It was not easy, though, as they tried to insist that we had to contact them through a telephone. GRRRR I persisted and was polite and eventually got an appointment time. Also let a friend know that I did need to take him up on a previous offer of ride to the knee doc, but since we are not able to get his response, I will have to wait and see and hope.
It was very nice to no need the heated mattress pad at night and soon it will be time to remove a wool blanket. We have one more night in the forecast of single digit lows, so I am leaving it on for now.
I have to say though, that I think one must need to REALLY love weaving to have the patience to warp a loom. Also, I need to take more care in the laying of the warp threads on the warping board, as despite all my best intentions, I had a rats nest at the reed.

Problem to be fixed
Right one works properly
Ratchet mechanism that changes shed
When I went to begin working the threads through the reed and back to where I could secure them to the warping board, I discovered the first (and I hope only... but not holding my breath as I am working with an antique contraption) necessary repair. The beater bar has a joint at the bottom left that has separated, allowing the rod on which it is supposed to pivot to come out of the metal piece that is the other half of the pivot joint to rotate out of position. I am pretty sure that some long straps and Titebond will execute an effective repair, however, I also think it will be more easily accomplished if we disconnect the ratchet mechanism that attaches to the middle of the bottom of the beater bar. This is the mechanism that replaces the treadles, and allows the loom to mechanically change the shed with two beats of the bar.

So, maybe we will work on this later Thursday, or perhaps save it for Frigga's day and ask Her blessing.

Still not on the Internet, so I have no idea what happened to the proffered ride to the doc, but the time to leave has come and gone. I have a hex late for shipping and the rabbits and dogs need food. Thankfully the tech from Time Warner is scheduled for later in the afternoon, so we completed those errands quickly and got back to find the cable wire already attached to the post across the street. It is good to be able to communicate again and I do look forward to catching up with folks Thursday evening and Friday morning.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Equinox! Maybe not spring but a day to seek balance

Recently my friend Karen Potter wrote: While the Vernal Equinox is tomorrow evening, that means balance not Spring, not for the Northlands. (It might be Spring somewhere) but here? Ice and Wind Frost Giants walk arm in arm ruling the landscape reminding us that Old Man Winter is still in Charge, that the Maiden is dreaming beside the fire.
Our driveway - not passable by Subaru

I had to share her wonderful imagery, which came to her on an early morning walk, here in Maine, with her dog. We have had some warmer days and some snow has melted, but over the past weekend we got a good dumping of around 8" followed by a few more inches late Tuesday and LOTS and LOTS of wind! One of the nighttime gusts hit the house with such force that Tractor Guy grabbed his predator-control flashlight and went to see what had hit the house. It was "just" wind!

In the midst of the cold and windy spell, not only were we running low on space heater fuel but our main unit -- an aging kerosene heater than came with us from NC -- decided to give up the ghost and in a most vexing way... it would not extinguish! It has been giving us fits, but I had high hopes of coddling it along until the end of the heating season. Each night, TG would have to be the one to fuss and fuss to get it to go out. You can't safely leave them to burn unattended, so when it steadfastly refused -- going down to a tiny flame, less than what one would expect on a small kerosene lamp -- but immediately bursting into life when the wick was raised a little, you can be sure my former firefighter stayed on the job...pretty much all night. Finally even he had to cry uncle and came to bed about 4 AM but when I got up a couple of hours later, yep, there was that tiny flame. It DID eventually go out and then refused to work ever again.

With the wind howling, the tractor refusing to start (who would blame her!) and the house staying well below a comfortable temperature, I messaged a friend and got TG a ride to our little town with two propane canisters (for the little propane heaters) and -- much to our surprise -- the little lumber yard still had kero heaters in stock, so we now have a new one. Hope it lasts as long as its predecessor!

Drift filled in the
'dog moat' and
path to the fowl

TG hiked out to the road to meet our friend and they hiked back to the house with the goodies, but before the sun set tonight, the driveway looked pretty much like the photos above (minus kitty prints! you can be sure if the drifting erased multiple sets of human prints, it had no trouble with the pussy-foot track.)

So, going into Equinox, dark/new moon and Frigga's day we will at least be warm. Normally our bit of trash and the recycles are hauled away in the run up to new moon, but -- thanks to the visiting Frost Giants -- that project has been held up this month. If the winds abate tomorrow, so that I CAN walk to the garage, I shall carry the stuff out there as a way of indicating intent.

I need to do some serious work on balance, it seems. Emotionally, I have been totally out of whack as the time passes since my surgery. I am frustrated by swelling in a knee and general muscle stiffness and weakness over all, not just in the legs. I am frustrated by my lack of cold tolerance and the need to wear multiple layers, heavy pants and sweatshirts in the house... makes me feel like a over-dressed toddler when I try to do "indoor things" with stiff leg, soreness and the damned extra bulk. I am getting some of the seasonal stuff done that needs doing -- planted lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach seed this week, and have a 3' hex to ship as soon as we can get out and several small ones being painted. But the less exciting stuff -- sweeping and washing up -- no less necessary -- goes by the wayside.

But the days are longer, and while the swelling buds and puddles of mud are waiting in the wings for future days, we do have solar heating from the celestial orb as it moves along its path towards spring and many little green things on the grow rack, waiting their time in the earth.

May you all find balance and may Spring find you in her own time.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Forward to Spring (...slowly...) but NO "spring forward"

It's been a busy week here at hex central and the home of the fussing ducks. We started out the week deliberately ignoring the clock adjustment silliness. One cannot "save" daylight. The sun rises when it does and sets when it does and to pretend otherwise is to be of the mind that would cut 2 feet off the top of a blanket and sew it on the bottom to make it longer to cover your feet. Even last year, "punching a time clock" I adjusted my work schedule in my mind rather than trying to change everything, from awakening to meals to onset of sleep. It worked well and so this year, again, doing the same thing.  As someone who lives close to the natural world and as a farmer, whose work peaks in the months of longer daylight, it is natural for me to sleep longer in the cold, dark months and to begin to awaken, arise and then as the season progressed, to stay up longer in the end of the day. Yes, I get less sleep in the summer.. but that is what winter is for, among other things!

And the first feelings that spring might actually arrive have been stirring here this week as well. We have had several very warm days (high 40s) and even one night where the mercury barely dropped to freezing. Well packed snow paths to the poultry pens are beginning to soften, which was not so much a good thing for my first attempts on the new knees to help with chores. I did, however, manage to not jar myself badly and even better, to not loose my footing and fall. It has been good that I have been able to help, as the hens are beginning to lay reliably and I am still able to bend sufficiently -- even with knees that are a bit stiff and added height to the ground in the coop from accumulated manure and straw -- to collect eggs. Tractor Guy cannot and when he had to collect, he ends up crawling in the thawing mess. Yuck.
left: Feb 17,2015 Right March 12, 2015
As you can see, the handful of warm sunny days have done a bit to the snow in areas where it was plowed, and on the high spots where it drifted from, as well. "Mud season" has made its appearance and made me, once again, thankful for a Subaru! When we went to the rural home/studio of a local healer/massage therapist yesterday, we were very glad to have had Boo! The town maintained road was a swamp; the private road up to her house, though thawing, was still snow covered and in both cases, Boo did her all-wheel drive thing, with many thanks on my part!

48" Wilkom sign
It's been a busy week in the hex world at as well. I completed the 48" Wilkom sign and hauled it off to UPS. It was interesting and fun to do that design THAT big! Someone is getting a REALLY BIG welcome!

12" Inspiration hex sign
12" Change hex sign
The next day I packaged and posted two 12" signs, Inspiration (Spiritual Rain) and Change.

8" diameter Abundance & Prosperity
I had also been talking with a customer who was looking for a very small sign for her father, who only had a space for an 8" diameter sign where he wanted to place it. I had not cut a circle that small and was not sure how accurate I could be at that diameter, cutting by hand, but I agreed to try and it worked. I still was uncertain as to how well I could paint the design at that size, but in the end -- after digging out some additional small brushes -- it went very nicely. Actually it went so well that I am seriously considering added this size as a standard offering, but only to selected designs. Some of them really would not miniaturize well without significant change. Now, all I need to do is decide which ones, come up with prices and program the shopping cart.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Moving into the Full Moon

It's been a pretty uneventful week, leading up to the March full moon last night.

Few local folk are sad to see the end of February. We set a new record for the coldest month in Bangor, Maine and (thankfully for the plants) though we did not have record snowpack, we still have plenty! At one point during the week, Tractor Guy had to wade out to the turkey hut -- outside of their pen -- to convince a wayward fowl which was the right side of the pen.
They have, for some reason, been wanting to perch ON their hut, which is not a problem until they decide to hop off on the wrong side. Anyway, in the process, he had to wade through fallen and drifted snow that was over his waist! Now, TG is over 6' tall, so I am sure you can understand my love of snow shoes, being under 5' these days!  LOL

Sunday we headed out to the monthly pot luck for our local chapter of MOFGA which had been delayed a week due to weather and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my none-too-accurate scale had not lied and my "skinny jeans" (aka "town jeans" -- the more slim cut flannel lined LL Beans jeans I got as a second pair a couple of years ago -- went on easily and were comfortable to sit in for extended periods, even on the first wearing after a wash. I have even more motivation now to loose weight as it will make my knees last longer. In other knee news, I stood up from a chair (one of my least favorites to stand from, actually) without using my hands at all this week, and have continued to be able to stand more easily much of the time. I still have serious issues with swelling on the right knee, so I am working hard to ice and elevate (elevate is the hard part) more often and am beginning to move away from OTC pain pills by the clock.

I also managed, after much fussing and ripping of stitches, to "turn the heel" on my first knitted sock. Mind you, I am no longer following the pattern for the sock, but after nearly half a dozen tries, following the instructions on the pattern and then graphing the stitches and decreases, I concluded that it simply did not make sense. A friend offered up her way of turning the heel, which seemed straight forward enough, and then I went on to follow her patterns instructions for the gussets. Whether I end up with a sock, or a vaguely sock-like-object is yet to be determined. While I was waiting for clarity on the sock issue, I decided to start a hat from my first, very thick and thin attempt to spin. so, I guess this officially makes me a knitter, eh? Two different projects on needles at once!

Welcome hex sign
Inspiration hex sign
Hex painting continues... the larger signs DO take so much longer, but I am almost done with the "welcome" 4' sign as well as the one foot Inspiration one. Hopefully there will be pix of both next week.  To see more of my work, be sure to visit

While some think of March as "the season of Spring" -- and indeed the equinox will happen this month -- and the days are growing longer, here in the northlands we are still well in the grip of winter. This full moon, though, does seem to be ushering in a change. While tonight is predicted to be well below zero with wind chills even lower (let the faucets drip, bring in the LGD pup) the remainder of the 10 day forecast shows many highs above freezing and lows that get no where near that zero mark. Many are tired of the snow; for me, I am glad to see the temperatures a bit more moderate for winter. Spring will come when it will; I continue to plant (a few more onions, the leeks and celery and a tray of asparagus seed that I saved were added to the rack this week).

May the full moon, as its cycle turns, bring blessings to you all.