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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.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Post Solstice Post

I had a wonderful experience on Sunday, celebrating the summer solstice with a group of Bangor area Pagans who call themselves the Fellowship of the Wild, and who are focused on DOING things and doing them OUTDOORS and for REAL.  Now, I have no issue with those who, for whatever reason, cannot spend much time outside, whose bodies no longer allow walks, cannot tolerate chills/wet and so on. But along the way on my path, it's been my experience that most of the folks I have met prefer to do their spiritual workings indoors. There is definitely a time and place for that in my world (the dark of winter, in the northlands, calls me to long sessions by the hearthfire, indoors, for study and contemplation and spinning and weaving), it is my considered opinion that those who avow an "earth- or nature-based spirituality," who do not spend at least SOME time in outdoor ritual, meditation, contemplation and simple observation are really missing the boat.

They remind me of Christian friends who seem to think that attendance in the church of their choice on Sunday -- at least some of the time -- is sufficient to cover their spiritual needs. Maybe it is, I am not them and do not walk in their shoes. However I have read in entirety their Book -- more than once -- and my "take away" was that their Gods want them to DO stuff... walk their talk, as is sometimes said. It is, I think, one think that my Gods have in common with theirs. They want me to DO STUFF.

There are probably those who scratch their heads and wonder, though, because the more I step into the Crone, the less inclined I am to do those things out in the world, in public and focused on collecting like-minded spirits and attempting to educate the masses. I have walked many miles on my path, over many years and much of my younger life and energy WAS outwardly focused as an environmental activist in the '60s and 70s, in community organization and in community organizations through the "mommy years." During those years, it seemed like I had the ability to tap into a boundless pool of energy, to just keep going and sharing and doing... Now, looking back, it seems like I was borrowing that energy from the Universe and not getting recharged, as many, if not most of the people I "served" in my activist days, took the energy for granted and did not in fact allow it to balance by sharing as well.

So now, by and large, I have pulled my energies back to focus on these four acres, on my own health and that of my partner, the creatures and the plants we tend. From our little homestead I share what and when I feel inspired with those to whom I am inspired to share. And as I age, I am finding that I must increasingly accept #OneStepAtATime as sufficient. 1/3 of the long row of peas weeded, one variety of trees, of which there are three waiting (10 of them) planted, manured and mulched... and so on.

Yeah, the garden looks weedy. I am doing things differently this year, as we and our equipment both age and change. Rather than allowing, needing, expecting the weed control between rows to be managed by Tractor Guy and Fergie (both of whom are having increasingly long down times) I have planted closer together with the intention to hand-weed. And yes, #OneStepAtATime it is getting done... between the paper weed block and hand work when the soil is damp. While I am working between the pea and onion rows (onions with weed block paper) I am pulling the weeds that are fighting to compete with the onions by poking up through the onion planting holes. The first planting of lettuce has been weeded, the second is holding its own, thanks to my having turned the soil manually before planting and the third planting is just beginning to sprout, under a light in the kitchen.

The spinach second planting is doing good, as well. These crops -- peas, onions, lettuce and spinach -- were all planted in soil that had not seen plow or cultivator since the previous year. Fergie was down and things NEEDED to go in, even later than usual on account of our prolonged early damp and cold spring. So the weed pressure on this early part of the garden is much worse than "it should be."
As you can see from this potato patch, which was planted in soil that Fergie worked with her cultivator, which was then loose enough for me to easily hit with the scuffle hoe early on as the potatoes were just beginning to emerge and the weeds were only 1/2" tall, the later plantings in turned soil are doing much better in the weed department.

Because of my massive allergy attack which did its best to emulate the viral illness that has been plaguing folks here abouts this spring, I lost a good two weeks of productivity -- and mis-allocated over $200 towards a small drum carder, when I allowed myself to order it while I was ill, not firing on all brain cells and therefore failed to notice that the check for the electric had not cleared. Ouch! Hopefully, more hex orders will come next month, as I am finally managing to complete the last of the current backlog with the intent to ship them this week.

And as I sometimes struggle to put one foot in front of the other (both literally and figuratively on some days... though the knees work well -- and I can even use my step stool now that I have continued to gain strength -- the rest of the body is still old, arthritic and stiff and lets me know a day or two after I plant 10 trees or spend hours with a hoe.... as I struggle I appreciate the efforts of my younger colleagues to step outside of their comfort zones and stand in the rain, on a cold day in June, in a woods in Maine, to welcome the turning of the wheel of the year yet another notch. We all struggle with something. Being out in the rain is not "natural" for town-raised youth. Finding one's place in the chain of life -- between the ancestors and our progeny; finding one's way through the middle years, through the mommy years, into and through aging... there are no directions and the few signposts that our forebearers may have left are hard to find and falling by the wayside as the rate of change in the world tries to make them irrelevant. May we all continue.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Grouchy, Selfish Witch

For years I have wanted to be that old crone, living off the beaten path, pretty much in solitude, and happily so... tending her flocks and gardens, picking herbs and concocting potions, spinning up fiber and thoughts of AllMother... and pretty much leaving the world to its own devices.

That seems like a selfish thing, although I cannot put words to why. In my imagining, said witch might, if someone found their way to her clearing, be willing to "try for them" as those of my tradition say... I say "might" because of course it is not only her choice but influenced by her perceptions of their commitment and motives, the input from the Gods and -- this is a witch, after all -- the phase of the moon. And of course, if they caught her in a good mood. LOL  Even good witches have bad days, you know.

Now that I have my 4 acres and a garden, flocks of chickens, ducks and turkeys, spinning wheels and looms, more wool that "Baa Baa Black Sheep" and no requirement to hit the town regularly for a paycheck, it seemed that I had almost become that witch in many ways.  Oh, my acres are far more open and visible to the naked eye of the passer by than in my imaginings, but the wards, and the electric fence, keep most wanderers at bay.

I have been working this past year towards a goal of no more than once a week trips to "town" (Bangor) and hoping to bring that down to an even lower number, including trips to our little town center, if it could be called that, with the post office and grocer and such.

There are things that I DO want to share with those who would hear and appreciate ... things about my spiritual path, about the homestead and such... and I appreciate having the Internet for such a purpose. But, at the same time, I feel I have gotten drawn too far into too many other people's lives. And having been so drawn, I guess it feels selfish to back away from friends -- both those I know in person and those I only know, though I fell I know them no less, though the miracle of electronics.

But I need to. I, more than anyone I know, gather strength and energy from my solitude; from hours of silence broken only by the calls of the birds (wild and domestic),  the whirr and buzz of passing wings, the rush of the wind through the grass and the trees. Solitude allows my thoughts to first unwind and then coil up around a stalk of grass or the tendril of a breeze and realign with the earth and the Gods.

In the busy-mess (I had intended to write busy-ness but my typo seems more accurate) of the world, Hearthfire Hill and the Fussing Duck Farm stand apart. While we are becoming a part of a widely dispersed community, sharing blessings as eggs and produce from time to time, it seems that I need to continue to move further into solitude for my physical and spiritual health. I am no longer the young woman, the mother, who could just keep drawing energy and keep going seemingly endlessly. I have limits and they don't just make themselves known gently. Like me, (since they ARE mine, after all!) they kick butt.

This is not to say that I do not need, want, and appreciate my larger community. I do... and in many ways I need it more than I want to admit. I could really use a couple of friends with trucks and a bunch more with shovels for a "shit slinging party" that would not involve politics but instead actual manure -- and most likely beer and burgers on the grill. Or, maybe an easier to come by group with hammers and pry bars for a less messy "nail pulling party" to help prep the recycled wood for our barn. The beer (or wine... this is me, after all!) or sweet tea and burgers or bbq pork are a given.  If you are local and interested in helping a sometimes crotchety old crone, shoot me an email.  Meanwhile, I'll be here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How I "Pagan"

A chance conversation at my knitting group recently -- one of the members trying to figure out how I knew some folks (not knitters) that we have in common on social media -- the subject of gaming and a conclusion of that being the commonality caused me to correct the assumption. No, not gaming... though I do know a lot of folks who play, I am not part of that community. The commonality, I said, is Paganism, which brought a bit of a puzzled look. Since I do not regularly attend events in Bangor, neither the quarter and cross-quarter rituals held at the UU church, nor the moon cycle events at the Temple of the Feminine Divine, I am not associated with that brand of spirituality.

This got me to thinking about why I do not travel to these events regularly (I have never, actually, been to the Temple though I have attended several rituals at the UU's facility since 2008) and exactly how it is that I do my Pagan thing. 

First off, while I DO drive and DO have (usually, at least) a running vehicle at my disposal, I do not LIKE being in town. Bangor is not bad as towns go, but I have spent lots of time in towns over my life and really would prefer never to have to go there. Town folks just seem to have different priorities, a different sense of time, not to mention the fact that towns are filled with people and cars and such.

I also have a very busy, crowded life here on the farm and time is always at a premium. When I was working in town (mostly mornings and usually early mornings at that) the last thing I really wanted to do was hang around for hours (usually with nothing productive to do) until evening came and it was time for a scheduled event. Town folk don't usually think about the fact that a 2 hour event that may require 15 minutes travel time for them turns into close to a 4 hour event when you count travel from an outlying town. The timing likely pushes supper time early and/or bed time late which not only affects the attendee, but also the rest of the family if they are not involved.

There is also the fact that I work with very specific Deities, who have some very specific ideas about how their followers need to live. I know many Pagans are actually quite satisfied with rituals that invoke an unnamed God and Goddess; many others are not even actually Deists, but more follow the lines of animism or other related paths, which they are welcome to do. However, generic ritual format, especially for "seasonal" rituals, when the season being celebrated or welcomed is weeks from its actual appearance in the Northlands, really does nothing for me. And, more importantly, nothing for my relationship with my Gods.

Frigga would much prefer that I be honoring her by cleaning my stove than by chanting in a circle. Mani (moon) and Sunna (sun) are not even viewed in my practice as having the same gender identification as is accepted in most Pagan circles. And while my practices are in a Northern Tradition, I am not of an Asatru community either, nor am I looking for one. There is too large an element of UPG in my practice (not surprising considering that the beginnings of my journey involved nothing more than inspiration -- or direct communication if you will -- from the Elements, celestial bodies and various Gods and Goddesses.) I began my journey, as I continue it, solitarily and based in my home and on my land. Have there been other people, books, etc. from which I have learned along the way? Yes, there have.. starting with a philosophical conversation with a young friend in which I first heard the word "pagan" applied to what I thought, believed and did. Have those people, books, etc been at the core of my practice or learning? No, never.

I "Pagan" by what I do, day in and day out, it's a "chop wood, carry water" kind of thing I guess. My Gods guide my mind and my hands as I tend my flocks and fields. I honor them as I harvest and preserve, as I spin and knit and weave and sew. Blood sacrifice? ...every time a fowl goes to "freezer camp," yes. Offerings to the spirits of the land? With every bucket to the compost, yes; with every "first harvest" pick of fruit or vegetable held aloft, the call of "Hail! and Thanks Be!" most definitely. With every Friday's Needfire and time of communing with Frigga, and fire at the dark and full moons (wind willing!) I honor the incremental turn of the earth, and the Powers That Be that guide us and I give thanks. With every dawn's greeting "Hail to the sun..." and "penny dance" abundance ritual that follows "From the Gods to the earth to us, from us to the Gods, that there might be much for many."

There are, I think, as many ways to "Pagan" as there are to "Christian" (and possibly to do other paths, though those are the two with which I am most familiar.) I was raised as what I call a "Christmas and Easter Christian." We regularly attended church at those times. Sometimes more often and my mom taught Sunday School for a while, but as I grew up, I learned that the church in which I was raised was a compromise for my folks and mostly they joined because it was socially required to be associated with a denomination. There was no prayer, typically, in our home; the Bible was not read regularly. There was no religious paraphernalia nor icons about. I know other Christians for whom Sunday attendance was mandatory, but little else was involved and even the ethics of following that path were ignored regularly. And I know still others for whom daily prayer, study and Christian ethics of charity and compassion take the forefront of their practice.

I am equally sure that there are Pagans for whom attendance at regular rituals is all that is required. I am also sure that there are many who include daily practice along with public or private group ritual.

Do I think, sometimes, that it would be nice to have a friendly Pagan neighbor just down the street, who might drop by and join me on a Friday night if s/he heard the drum or saw the flicker of my fire? Occasionally, yea, I do. But mostly I do like being alone, far from the madding crowd: the witchey crone surrounded by fields and fowl.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Asparagus Week!

setting up "nursery beds"
crowded babies into new digs
I am calling this "asparagus week" 'cause the early spring veggie has been front and center most of the week. I started out improvising nursery beds for my seedlings from old cardboard boxes. Friends who live close to the river -- with a very high water table -- showed me many vegetables successfully planted in this sort of improvised raised bed. They are, of course, not permanent, but their boxes lasted through the season and I think I can get these through the winter if I properly support and mulch them. At least it gives me a place to give my abundant crop of saved-seed-grown plants a start. I had to buy a bale of potting mix (about $30) but at current prices, that would not buy many started roots! I have been recycling the little soil cubes to which I initially planted asparagus seed and keep finding baby "spear-grass" in all my other starts! Below, you can see some coming up in the larger blocks into which I transplanted the marjoram. These babies will go into the beds when I plant out the herb. There are some in some of my other seedling trays as well.

...and they WANT to GROW!
...and be harvested!
 And I am happy to report that the first -- and now second -- small pickings have been made from the existing asparagus patch. I have the second picking in the fridge and will look tomorrow for additional spears. I am looking forward to a second lunch of creamed asparagus on toast as a birthday meal!

I have not been planting this week; we had a nice bit of rain early on and I did spend some time digging the dandelions and runner grass out of the garlic bed that I had not mulched before winter. I am glad to see it survived (I was concerned it might not have) and hope to get mulch laid down this coming week. The bees finally have become active as well; I worked around them digging the 'lions.

I spent Thurs afternoon running around Bangor to do the major grocery resupply. Went down after having a wonderful massage and some energy work and will NOT do that again! "Massage brain" and efficient errands do not go together. I ended up frustrated and stressed, not finding everything I had on the list, going nuts having to wander stores looking for things I do not typically buy and then forgot to pick up and put away some of my groceries, so the dog dug in my bag for string cheese and somehow dragged the bag of turbanado sugar all over my work room, spreading tan sugar on a tan carpet, which K did not discover on his way to bed (lights off and shoes on...) but I did when I got up. UGH!


36" Heart Chakra hex sign, shipped this week to TN
This is the hex that I shipped this week.. a 36" Heart Chakra design. Now I am working on a 30" Mighty Oak, with others to follow.

With my birthday coming tomorrow and new moon on Monday, I am looking forward to the hearthfire this evening. Thankfully the wind has abated.

Friday, May 8, 2015

So many projects, so little time!

Now that spring has finally arrived (with unfortunate hints of summer already...) we are both pushing to the limits.

Tractor Guy got Fergie back into running order, with her hydraulic hose replaced and her flat front tire taken to the nearby garage to have an inner tube installed.  Good thing, because making furrows into the untilled-since-last-spring ground was highly problematical. I did a row for the carrots and beets, swinging the hoe like it was a mattock. Put Tractor guy to work making the furrow for the peas. His choice was to use the Wheel Hoe, which resulted in it getting some repair work done, as the plow blade just would not stay put. But the row is done and the seeds soaked and in the ground. Ditto for the spinach. I finally got the catch pan cleaned out from under Rufus Rabbit -- it has been far too long -- and hand dug and then manured, re-dug and planted the seed. Hoping the rain this weekend will be in time as we have not been able to find the soaker hoses yet. Grrrr.

I did finally complete the three small hexen I have been working on: two custom indoor signs and a small Abundance, Prosperity and Smooth Sailing through Life.
Custom indoor sign for prosperity
and love, on bleached muslin.

Custom indoor sign for prosperity
and love, on bleached muslin.
Abundance, Prosperity and
Smooth Sailing through Life.

I also received photos from one of my customers, showing the large signs he recently orders as they are displayed on his metal building!
The 36" Blessed Year sign, right and the 48" Welcome ("Wilkom") sign, left, are hanging in Delaware. The customer has recently ordered yet another sign! Yay for repeat business!!

Mulch hay bales
I am currently painting on a 36" Heart Chakra sign and have a 30" Might Oak waiting in the wings. It is wonderful to have weather that is amenable to sanding and painting the primer and background coats outdoors!

Other farm projects recently have included getting the 75 new strawberry plants in the ground and getting the strawberry and bush berry (cranberry and blueberry) areas re-covered with cardboard as needed and mulched with some of the mulch hay from the 4 big round bales we hauled last week. It was pretty much one bale to an Artie-load but well worth it. I was able to roll out a bale and pull off
Highbush Cranberry
Mulched berry bush rows
sheets of hay to place around the strawberries and with the help of Tractor guy, roll the bales along next to and between the berry bushes to have them lay down a blanket as they went. It was good to have his help in the berry bush area with the cardboard, too! While I love the almost-constant winds as a bug repellant, it makes it hard to keep large sheets of cardboard in place while you work. With one of us to place the stuff and one to stand on it to hold it down, it pretty much stayed put. Hopefully this will keep the weeds down and the moisture in and the two layer approach definitely has a nicer visual appearance than just the cardboard.

TG also got a confinement pen put together for the 6 young layers and they went outside this week.  They are in a small pen, inside the chicken pen as they are still too small for the general population. Moose, our guardian dog pup, was QUITE confused at first by the new stuff and new critters but thankfully settled down before the day was done.

"The Hussy," our hen who seems to want to flee the coop each year, and Lady Grey, the hen turkey, are both hard at work sitting on eggs. Mama duck seems to think she
Lady Grey on the nest, Mama duck
looks on.
is broody too... and started out sitting on the turkey eggs but it seems LG got the idea and took over, so now the hen duck is just setting on an empty nest in the turkey pen. I hope to connect with a few more Khaki Campbell hens before long, so I can put our lone hen back with the ducks. Two drakes and one hen is NOT a good mix.  Fred, the single turkey from last year's hatch that survived the wild raiders, has taken up position outside the poultry fence, along with "The Looster," our spare roo. Fred seems to roost at night on the fence or the top of the hen house and so far has survived just fine. I cannot even think about putting him in the freezer at present, as there is literally no space.

I went last Sunday to help friends process their boar, who had become intractable. Apparently he chased the farmer around a tree a day before, as the final straw to his having gotten more attitude than necessary. I often help them on pig day as a meat cutter, but this was the first time we had done such a big beast! I was told he weighed 700 pounds after they gutted him and removed his huge head. Even the hide, which I was lucky enough to be able to help remove, was too heavy for just one person to move! The pieces of pork are huge and between filling my friends' freezers to capacity, and mine, they had more meat to share with the folks who helped with the killing part. Even that had to be delivered the same evening as the project, as there was no place cool left to store it until the morning. Processing meat in the spring is not optimal, but neither is not being able to mend fences because of a mean animal. I bought an 8 quart crock pot this week, in hopes of being able to cook the larger pieces of pork and still have fat in the refrigerator to render down. Hopefully I can get that into a roaster pan in the oven today; the temperature is supposed to stay cooler and having the extra heat will not be a burden.

And that's life in the slow lane...