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Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Garden Emerges!

Garden, February 6, 2014
It is hard to believe how quickly the snow is departing, now that it has finally decided that spring has come. Until just recently, the garden looked pretty much like it did in this picture from early February... though the snow pack did build up a lot after that date. We had a good 24" and much higher drifts.

Much of the snow pack was sufficiently dense and packed that I could walk on it without breaking through, though I often grabbed my snow shoes for traction and a bit of insurance against stepping into a weak place. Breaking through a 2' snow pack is no fun with short legs and wimpy knees! ... No, don't bother to ask me how I know that! ;) 



April 11, 2014 -- serious melt happened since yesterday!
Yesterday late afternoon, the picture was very different, as you can see! Over the past week, daytime temperatures above freezing, though it fell to freezing or a bit below over night, was gradually eating away at the ground cover. I could tell when hung the wash; at the peak of the snow cover, I was reaching DOWN to pin things onto the clotheslines and getting very creative when I needed to hang bed linens. Earlier this week, though, the lines were almost back to their regular height and where I broke through the snow, it wasn't even boot-high on my faux Uggs.

April 12, 2014 -- what a difference a day makes!
When I arrived home from the East Sangerville Grange today, after the Cultivating Community 2014 meeting, I was not terribly surprised to find that the garden had totally emerged from its winter blanket, as the temperatures were in the low 60s today! Mind you, it's still likely frozen just below the surface, and we still have Mud Season to deal with, but soon, very soon, we will be able to cultivate and plant! I'll start taking soil temperatures this week, twice a week to start, I think, since an accurate reading requires early and mid-day readings to be averaged. I'll take the thermometer down before I head into town for work in the early morning on Tuesdays and Fridays, and check it again mid-afternoon.

Grow rack today... some of these guys are getting anxious to go out!
The onions and leeks (top shelf) need to be trimmed again! The celery (middle left) and many of the other seedlings will be glad when it's time to go outdoors. And I'll be glad to get them out there; it's time to start the second batch of lettuces and all of the tomatoes!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hanging the Wash and Other Domestic Rituals

I have been thinking of late about the common threads in blog and Facebook posts among friends and acquaintances and those I follow.

I have more than one friend who used to write extensively about her work and entrepreneurial adventures, but who have of late gone more silent or taken to writing almost entirely about recreational pursuits -- trips to Florida, visits with family and friends, sporting events and fitness goals.

I have other friends who write at length about movies and tv programs which they follow. It honestly baffles me how, as a mature person, one can go totally fangirl or fanboy over comic book super heros, whether on the printed page or on screen.

And in contemplating these posts, I realized that I must, to many, seem totally boring and devoid of "real" interests, as many of my writings mention doing the wash and hanging it out, cleaning and organizing the house and other similar domestic chores, along with stories of fowl antics and garden successes and frustrations. In the view of the common culture, I guess, I "have nothing to talk about" since I am not "into" movies or music in a fan sort of sense, nor TV... nor even books, though I do watch a movie from time to time, tune into a TV program once it hits Netflix and read -- and occasionally even buy -- books. For me, though, they are digressions. The important things are what happen during the rituals of "everyday life."

I am honestly not big on Ritual -- the one with the capital letter -- despite being a Pagan of many years. Lifting a glass of home made dandelion wine to the moon, recognizing the quarters and cross quarters with an appropriate meal and activity -- most likely one that fits in with the (lower case r) rituals of daily life suffices most often for me.

But the lower case r rituals... now THOSE are the ones, in my mind, that count. It is from their repetition that the warp and weft of daily life are woven. The fabric of everyday life, as it were, is built from hanging the laundry, hoeing the row, washing the dishes and sweeping the floor. It is built from them, that is, if such tasks are tended with Intent and Consciousness, with a reaching back to the energies of our ancestors as they washed and hung, planted, tended and harvested, cooked and cleaned and swept. And if we put out the energies of thanks and connectedness with the Universe and the future as we go about our chores.

I am not a natural homemaker. I'd rather be knee deep in the garden or wrangling fowl or four footed critters, or even turning the produce of the garden and increase of the flocks and herds into food to sustain us through the year. The laundry and cleaning and organizing -- as much as it must be done -- is not something to which I naturally gravitate. It was with some concern and a bit of dismay, I must admit, that I first greeted Frigga when she came to me. A HEARH Goddess? Yeah, right... a hearth Goddess wants ME to work with her.

But as I learned quickly, Frigga does not just stay at home and tend the fires. She is not, as I once quipped, "your mama's hearth Goddess," modestly staying at home. This Lady I could easily respect, follow and learn from...

And I am thankful that she forgives. I still tend to be much more of a "long term variable periodic housekeeper" than She would like, but She has not left and I keep at it.

And so, yes, I do talk a lot about laundry. And I don't always make the larger connections when I write, but they are there regardless. The Ancestors know. The Gods know. And now you do too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Halfway point

The "Year of Transition" is at the halfway mark, and I can feel the tide turning.

Every fiber of my being has threads that pull it to stay on the farm. As I add to my new routines -- connecting more strongly to the natural cycles of sun and moon, of sun and storm -- it is slowly becoming less desirable to run life by the clock and the schedules of commerce.

Admittedly, I was never as strongly tied to the common culture markers of time. At times in my life I tried to learn to wear a watch but it never lasted for long. The ebb and flow of the sun and moon always had a stronger call, and even when living in the city and working a typical 9-5, 40 hour a week job, I could tell the time -- accurately enough for my purposes -- as well by the light levels and positions of the orbs as I needed. And once I was no longer responsible for the social obligations of a family living in the mundane world, most of the man-made holidays faded from my gaze.

It is not easy making progress with the things that require monetary income with the fewer hours on my town job schedule, but looking at the 3-day weeks coming, and the two day week I am in at present, the next two days (and the coming Wednesdays-Thursday off combinations) have a sense of growing familiarity. This is what life soon will be like! And I am liking it!

I have almost always had "many irons in the fire," but being able to juggle them with fewer constraints by artificial and imposed schedules allows me to pursue many interests and projects without stress.

Stress has been a BIG factor the last few days. There have been hangups with the repair of my truck (yes, yet again!) and the car had to be pulled from service for an emergency brake job. This is a big deal, as something made at least one of them begin to self-destruct. Big deal in the working and bigger deal in affording the parts and stressful because with no working car and no working truck and no third-level backup, and living way far from work... and needing to get to work... well I think you get the drift. It took time (which it didn't really feel like we had) and money (that it really didn't look like we had) and help from friends (which, thankfully we DO have some of... but, being me, yanno, I hate asking....) to get to where we can slowly begin moving forward again.

And the inevitable waiting, of course, when in this sort of pickle, just makes it hard to even try to move forward.

I had hoped to post the Love and Happy Home hex that I just completed, and had hoped to pick up plywood to cut the 4' sign that I have on order, but neither was to happen today. Despite having loads of cardboard in the garage, I did not have the gumption to fight my way back to it and drag it into the house through the rain, so I hauled the hex to town when I went to work in the borrowed truck, hoping (as is most often the case) to be able to grab a large piece of cardboard from the warehouse at the store... but as luck would have it today, of all days, there was none. And the parts payments might have left enough money for plywood since I didn't have to spend any on shipping today -- except that getting all the right stuff at the parts store (never my most favorite job) left me so frazzled that I didn't even think to stop at the big box lumber yard, where I could have got the wood cut in half so it would fit in the truck bed (full size pickup, but the bed contains a huge tool box and would not have easily carried an 8' sheet of plywood). I was thinking of "just picking it up" at my usual source for better quality wood, a local yard that is on a road near where i was returning the truck. Silly me, they only sell full pieces, which at least I remembered before stopping there.

Sigh

Well, soon we will have wheels again, I CAN strap plywood on the roof of the Subaru, can post the hex from here in town after the brakes are done and I will have dry and warmer weather in which to extract the packing material from the garage.

Meanwhile, I have a 1' hex order, and am designing one in trade for some young ducks, as well as reworking one that got slightly damaged on the edge in transit and was returned for replacement. that sign, and several of my earlier works -- painted on barn boards and cheese boxes -- will go up on the web site this week, "available for immediate delivery." I have also started drawing my new design for the year, a Maine themed hex for sweetnees and smooth sailing in life, and the quiet strength to make it so.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Too Much, Too Little

Feeling very "in between" these days. Oh, not like lots of folks, who have been going on about wanting it to be spring for weeks... or maybe months. I will say, though, that the warming trend that all but cleared our driveway yesterday -- after the end of the week storm that "only" redistributed enough snow to all but drift it shut again and made me thankful for an all wheel drive car, a straight driveway and much experience in judging how and when to just power through it all (it had been promoted as a major snow producing nor'easter) and dropped the overall snow pack visibly against the unofficial markers -- clothes lines now higher above "ground" and our can-on-a-stick for target practice no longer is in danger of being actually buried -- has made me antsy a bit.

Yes, anxious, even, for "mud season." and it looks like we will have a good one this year!

Shortly, I'll swap out the pic on my Facebook account to reflect crossing another month off the countdown in the Year of Transition. I have to make the "6" image today. Half a year down, half to go. No wonder I am feeling between, eh?

I was thinking this week that I really want a slower pace of life. LOL Not that the good ol' rat race has caught up with me here in the wilds of the Northlands, mind you... but never the less I need fewer irons in the fire and the sooner the better. I fear, though, that I am projecting that a little TOO hard, as the hours from my part time "day job" continue to be cut to almost a level of "why bother." Unfortunately the work load does not also shrink. Less money and less stress might be more tolerable; less money and more stress is decidedly a downer.

The hex orders are down. Truck is still not fixed, though at least the engine which ate up all of my meager reserves is here, missing some necessary parts and I have to go tomorrow to deal with the mechanic on that... and listen to his "I told you..." And then, of course, figure how to get, and afford, the extra parts.

And to add insult to injury, many of my last years seeds have decided not to germinate. Apparently the cabbages and their kin do not hold well; I have zero germination on cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and only a few cabbages. Crossing fingers that I can score some replacements at the seed swap later today. And finding a reason to give thanks for the later spring.


Brewing Beer at Rural Living Day
Pasture Management at
Rural Living Day
This weekend will be a whirlwind of going and doing. And as much as I learned yesterday at a Rural Living Day (classes on egg production, pasture management and beer brewing) and as much fun as I had carpooling with some friendly farmer ladies, and as much as I need, and am looking forward to the seed swap (and more classes) and regular pot luck today, I think the timing was off, for me.

It doesn't help that our car, the well used Subaru, Boo, is continuing to develop issues that need to be addressed. She needs new shocks and most recently began making a terrible "my brakes are gonna fail, fix me damn you!" sound. And we have no backup for the backup, with Artie the truck still tarped in the mechanic's back lot.

And it all takes money (which is in short supply) and time (ditto) and energy (double ditto -- 'cause both of us are feeling the strains of getting older, at the least).

So yeah, I'm whining, bitching, complaining, ranting... hoping that getting it out and sharing my frustration with the dark moon today will allow me to move forward, enjoy the day and the weeks to come, empower more hex sign orders, make productive use of the extra time-on-farm that my 10 hour work week this week provides, and allow that spring inside me that somehow got over-wound to release that potential energy in a spring FORWARD move.

Friday, March 21, 2014

"This I Believe..."

Darning a sock.
I believe in mending.

We have lots of sayings that mention mending: we mend fences, broken hearts, friendships.... or so our language says at this point. It seems, however, that we may well loose the meaning in the word as we loose the original meaning.

Farmers I know still mend fences, but how many of use actually KNOW a farmer these days. "Back in the day" everyone mended... cobblers mended shoes, homemakers mended all sorts of things... socks (which is what I was mending today when I was contemplating the act), and every manner of clothing. Every town had a fix-it man who mended broken appliances and tools, if the man of the house didn't have the skill. Most folks had a hammer with a mended handle (at least my folks did) that worked well until it -- the handle that is -- finally could only be helped by replacement.

Mending takes time. It takes caring about the object being mended. It required a mind set that believes things are worth mending... extending their useful life to the maximum... rather than just being discarded before they are totally used up. Yes, the mended shirt or pants won't be "Sunday-go-to-meeting good again, most likely. Most folks can't re-weave a patch that will pass as "good as new" but they will do just fine for a trip to the grocery store, housework, mowing the lawn... everyday use. But instead, we have special clothes for this and special clothes for that and discard them when they develop holes, or stains, or look less than new. It's a pity.

Folks say they "can't afford" to buy good stuff, made from good natural fibers and made by folks -- in this country or others -- who are working for a decent wage. And instead they buy inexpensive, poorly made things of inferior materials -- often produced under sweatshop conditions -- and (a) complain because they don't last and (b) make no attempt to repair them.

I know many, many folks who do not even have the minimal skill to hand sew a small seam that has ripped (even if the fabric is undamaged) or sew on a button that has fallen off! And yet, our language still asks us to "mend" friendships. Where, may I ask, do we get the practice in this skill, if not by taking the time to mend the much easier to fix inanimate objects around us?

Yes, I believe in mending. And in using up, wearing out and making do. I darn socks, patch jeans, fix collars and cuffs, replace zippers, and when all is done, the rag bag is filled with the remains, working zippers and random buttons salvaged, and only bits and pieces go to the landfill. And the rag bag keeps us in cleaning materials. Paper towels need not apply.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Comes to the Northlands

Yes, it does. Every year, in its own time. That is not the time of the calendar, nor, really, of the sun. Not of man (or woman, for that matter) for sure... but it comes. Every year.

It comes first with the rising of the sap and the tapping of the maples. Buckets and taps and snowshoes for some, and lines of tubing for others, running down hill to the gathering spot. And fires in the sugaring house, cooking down the thin sweet sap into honey colored syrup for pancakes and waffles... and flavoring bowls of snow, scooped up from early spring snows.

For yes, it does snow in the spring, here in the Northlands. Most years, it does so more than once, even as the temperatures rise and the ice and old snow pack from winter storms (hopefully) slowly melt and find the aquifer and flow gently into the awakening creeks and rivers. We won't see "ice out" of many rivers and lakes for some time yet, though most of the ice fishing shacks have been removed. Better safe than sorry, though each year someone misjudges the strength of the ice and puts their snowmobile (sled to most folks) or pickup into the water.

Even in the years when spring comes earlier, many folks have been calling it for weeks. But for folks like me, who are here because we chose to be, or need to be to feel our spirits to be whole, the wheel turns in its own time and we do our best to stay in sync.


I am not sure if I will have leggy and overgrown seedlings this year or not. It's always a gamble... farming itself is always a gamble, after all... if the soil texture and temperature, the air and the winds, rain and sun, will cooperate to bring actual transplanting dates in line with the guesstimated dates upon which we base our seed starting. But as the sun moves north along its path, giving us longer days, we move -- sometimes imperceptibly -- into the days of spring, with green things spouting on the growing racks, a change in the altar... and early spring snows (like today) to add to the ground water.

Soon everyone will know spring is on its way, but for now, be open to the more subtle signs. They are out there.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sugar(ing) Moon

Many cultures name the full moons. The name I most often see associated with the March full moon is "worm moon." While worms may begin to become active or to be noticed in March in other places, here in the Northlands, they are still asleep deep underground, under (today) a deep white blanket.

Some celebrate this as "the last full moon of Winter" ...which I truly understand...

Plowing out after the snowfall, March 13, 2014
No, Winter – Old Man –
you won’t crush me!
Try to bury me with
your white mantle!
Like the squirrel,
I have stores beyond your reach.
Make all creatures hole up (to die?)
I have a shovel! Now
the deer walk on human trails to feed.
Freeze the water!
I have fire,
and you give in abundance
the stuff of drink.
Fade Earth’s colors
to sap my spirit!
I have paint, and threads and Summer,
captured in celluloid and glass.
No, Old Man,
though you try your best –
and may claim others –
you won’t have me!

       Jj Starwalker   3/7/93
and give thanks for surviving the season. But to me, this is the Sugar Moon.

Those who have trees of sufficient size have tapped their maples and the sap is running. We have had what we call the Sugar Snow, a storm which temporarily interrupts the awakening trees and sends the sap to earth again, which only serves to prolong the surgaring season by delivering a longer run of sap for the taps, the boilers and eventually for syrup for our pancakes.

One might even look at the Sugaring moon as a metaphor. Even as the snow continues to blanket the earth, and even to fall in great abundance, the calendar moves relentlessness on towards spring. We see it in the lengthening days and periods of sun and in the above freezing temperatures that periodically shrink the snow pack, thus sweetening our days with thoughts of emerging flowers, returning birds and busy days of starting seeds for later transplant.

So, hail, Sugar(ing) Moon! Hail to the late snows of the turning of the seasons and to the slow awakening of the trees. We welcome the increased production of eggs, with their bright sunny yolks. And give thanks for the sweetness of life and having wintered well.