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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Eyes, Sheep and Hexen

After first surgery,
eye protection in place.
New temporary
glasses
My journey in the world of cataract removal and
recovery continues. After the surgery for my right eye was completed last week, I fell into a world of the Impressionist school of art. Not as much fun as it might sound, even if you like that school of painting. Nothing beyond the reach of my arm was in focus, which is much more disconcerting, even, than it sounds. It is the stuff that makes a "long term variable periodic housekeeper" into a slob, turns a farmer paranoid (is that black spot in the back field a cat, hunting or is is a loose Langshan chicken or something else that might be hunting both of the above and all but drove me mad.  The good news was that, this week during my one week follow up visit to the doc, I was able to wring an eyeglass prescription out of them AND get they papers for my drivers license eye exam completed and signed! The bad news is that the pressure in my eyes (which leads to glaucoma) was high enough to generate a prescription for more eye drops and a follow up visit next week. The worse news is that apparently the "your vision may take months to stabilize" and/or "these drops can cause blurry vision" resulted in the glasses, that worked wonderfully the day they were prescribed, not working at all yesterday. LOL Fortunately today was better.

Major Tom, left, being carried to the truck by Tractor Guy
and Enterprise, center, in the arms of Dr. Jim Weber
accompanies by Ann Bryant, both of U of ME Orono.
On another happy note, this was the week in which we brought home two new lambs... wethers (former rams) from the University of Maine Icelandic flock. Enterprise and Major Tom (the University naming scheme this year, "stars," was loosely interpreted by the students, as you can see! 
Enterprise, front and Major Tom, back, enjoying a
sweet feed treat in their new home.
Enterprise has proven to be quite a loudmouth... every bit a match for Moose. Between his hollering and Moose's response last night, Tractor Guy did NOT get lots of sleep! I like to give new critters a bit of time to settle in and meet their new housemates through the fence before throwing anyone together, so they will converse with Ribgy though the fence until early next week, when the crazy round of away missions ends and we will be here to keep an eye on everyone.

In the hex world, I shipped out this lovey and hugs Protection from the Evil Eye sign -- a full 4 feet in diameter -- this week as well. It's gone to Indiana and I am hoping to see pictures of it in its new home soon!

Fortunately the mad week of away missions seems to be coming to and end. Sunday is "chicken plucking day" with friends and the local chapter of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association,
so after getting the sheep shelter set up, we prepped for fowl catching after dark tonight. We will head out early tomorrow, with all of the spare roosters, the single remaining meat chicken from our first lot of them and our tom turkey and join in a group effort to butcher, clean and package everyone's fowl. I will be very glad to have the extra roosters out of the way; there have been far too many rooster wars of late and with my vision being less than usual, it has been very stressful hearing their fuss and not necessarily having a clear view of what is going on.




Saturday, June 9, 2018

Finding the Flow

Sometimes a slow day is an "in the flow" day.

Since abbreviating Saturday's scheduled away day and passing totally on the event I had volunteered to attend on Sunday, I have been in a slow flow that seems to really be kicking butt in the productivity department.

It all started with Tractor Guy pushing himself to get the final bit of primary tillage done in the west (perennial) garden. He is a true northerner with a pale completion and knows he needs to stay out of the noonday sun... but like the "mad dogs and Englishmen" of the saying (though don't call him English!) he does it anyway. Then gets overly irradiated and suffers the next few days, which puts him off his flow.

Since I had previously made contact with the owners of the two solar powered homes that interested me (totally off grid, one running 120v AC and the other 12v DC) and plan to, some time in the future, get a chance to see their systems, I just took myself to the nearby home to help serve refreshments, and TG stayed home.

It's a BAG!
I still was not really wanting to spend a day away on Sunday, so I contacted the organizer of the event I was going to help with and found out that even without me, it would have sufficient volunteer support. As much as I had been looking forward to attending -- and had even taken part in a "knit along" project for the event -- I stayed at home.

We had much needed rain  Monday and Tuesday -- along with another unseasonable cold spell. At least the mercury only dropped to the 40s; I have heard of 30s this late in the year for a low, and after all, if mid-May is the average last frost date, there needs to be some much later than that, if my elementary school math is correct! It was not yet time to put the transplants out (and they are still on the porch, awaiting proper weather) but I did get the warm season crops seeds in the ground Sunday, in a whirlwind of gardening! I planted multiple rows of beans, corn, experimented with just throwing heads of wheat that I had used stalks from for crafting and transplanted the boc choy into gaps in the brassica rows.  This was the first day I had spent out in the garden all day long, and I was pleased and surprised that, while I was actually gardening, my back did not hurt!
Pea trellis... just in time. Last year's
sunflower stalks hold the plastic mesh.
I also got the pea trellis finally secured, or so it seems. I tightened up the plastic mesh where it attached to the sunflower stalks and used tent stakes and bailing twine to secure the dry sunflower tripods to the earth.

By the time rainy Monday and Tuesday came around, I was ready for slow indoor days. I planned a baking day for Monday and did it up right! Started off with a pound cake mix (strawberry shortcake!) followed by large batches of medicinal cookies for Tractor Guy and chocolate chip ones just for cookies. Even got all the dishes done... twice! And in between mixing and baking, I continued to sort and putter in the kitchen area, getting stuff sorted to appropriate locations.

9 yards of shirt fabric, blowin' in the
wind.
Tuesday, my organizing took to my work room, as I have to get ready for a big sewing project -- summer shirts for Tractor Guy! Getting the spinning and knitting stuff in a bit of order, kicking things that need to go to the garage out there liberated enough room to move the sewing machine to a more active location for a while and freed up enough space for the small "market table" (6' folding version) which I will use for cutting.

What amazes me in all this, is that on none of these days did I feel like I was working hard! They all, including garden Sunday, felt like "just loafing along, lazy days!" Heck, on Tuesday when I sat down for my morning coffee break, one of our kitties (Little Girl) hopped up in my lap for a pet-and-purr session and both she and I cat-napped off and on for almost 4 hours! If that's not a lazy day activity, I don't know what to call it -- unless it's "just in the flow" as it surely did not have a negative impact on getting stuff done.

Again, on Wednesday, the day started out slow. With his new edibles doing their job, TG slept even later than I did (those of you with chronic pain know how much it saps your energy. I hope those of you who have never been in that space never have to learn).

Some days start out with a burst of energy and then, just slide sideways into frustration.  After getting the hay burners out to their new pasture with LONG grass (picture very happy sheep and goats) I got busy with the next bit of outdoor projects before the rain, again. I cardboarded and mulched 4 more trees -- fruit trees this time, including two pear trees that got taken back quite a bit by the past winter. With the cardboard and mulch around them they no long blend quite as well into the almost equally long grass. Can I say we REALLY need to mow? LOL But between TG's health, needing to cultivate and rain, well the mower is still not on the tractor. I am thinking a walk-behind tiller will be in the future soon, or at least needs to be.

One of the latest hex signs
at its new home in
South Portland, Maine!
After dealing with the trees, and with Dump Day coming soon (new moon is on Wednesday next, but that is also eye surgery day, so dump run will have to be Saturday) and a need for an away mission on Friday to connect with turkey polts, I decided to empty and sort the contents of the old farm truck. It took a while but I have a bag of recycles, one of trash in the garage from behind the seal and all of the tie down straps are organized in an old, almost dead dishpan. I put my tie downs and ropes in their stash place, along with the jumper cables and we were ready to rock and roll Friday, off to the Maine coast to connect up with some baby turkeys and more meat chickens, all of which are now peeping like mad fools under lights in my work room.  Oh, the joys of being an artist/farmer.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Through the Mists, Dimly

I am celebrating the regaining of an hour plus each day, as I no longer have to endure 4 rounds of 4 eye drops a day. One round of non-medicated doesn't seem much bother, now. LOL

I had been concerned that my lack of vision was making me, as in my person, vulnerable. Now, I live in Maine and in the country at that, so this is hardly a serious issue, as it would be in many other places. But not having a clear view of potential issues here on the farm remains disturbing. I mistook a red milk crate in the neighbor's yard for a dead chicken, which is funny... but on the other hand all but 2 of our 14 meat birds have gone missing in the last two days with no sound from either the fowl or the LGD. This IS concerning. On the other hand, it appears my intuition is alive, well and taking up the slack, as I was confident enough in the "recognition" of a neighbor and her car (her from the back, car by color and general shape) when we passed them, with hood up alongside the road, that I had Tractor Guy, who was playing chauffeur, turn around and go back to offer aid.

48" Abundance, Prosperity and Smooth
Sailing through Life sign destined for
South Portland Maine.
 In the hex world, it has been a bit of challenge to get signs cut and painted around "no dusty environment" cautions from the doc and the impressionist painting that is how I currently see the world, with or without my glasses, but this big sign, a standard design with custom colors, was picked up by its new owner here at hex central this week, and I shipped out a 24" Welcome to Massachusetts early in the week. I have a 24" Protection sign in process, a 48" blank cut for the Protection from the Evil Eye which is next on the list and another 24" sign on order as well. With my next, and last surgery on June 13, I should be able to complete these two and get a good start on the third before then.

Pea trellis, using last year's sunflower stalks!
After the wet and cold early spring, late spring has turned bone dry. I thought for sure that the seeds I had soaked and planted the same time as the peas -- which germinated quickly -- had all given up the ghost, or that my vision at ground level near by feet was bad enough that I could not tell their spotty germination from the emerging weeds. I knew the peas could use a drink, so I had Tractor Guy haul the garden hoses (it takes two, 75' lengths, to reach the area of this year's garden) and added a 4 port hose manifold, with Y splitters on a couple of the ports, to try to maximize efficiency. With many soaker hoses to deploy, I attacked the watering issue and on that particular trip to the garden I was surprised -- and rewarded -- to see seedlings! Every row showed germination, even the spinach, though it is spottier than the beets, carrots and chard. My brassica is still struggling and I will either have to try to start more seedlings or buy some starts. Likely I will do both this coming week. We continue to have occasional lows in the 40s, with Sunday night's forecast low predicted to be 41F so I am loath to transplant the tomatoes and vine crops. Maybe next week. #hopeforagoodseason


Sunday, May 27, 2018

I Do Not Support Vulnerability

I do not support vulnerability.  The dictionary defines it as "the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally," and I honestly do not understand how folks can say that is a good thing.

I have heard or read discussions that suggest that it is necessary for compassion and empathy. I am really not sure about that, either. Now, I may not be the most people-oriented, touchy-feely human on the planet -- let me rephrase that, I know I am not the most people-oriented, touchy-feely human on the planet -- but from in here, it has always seemed to me that I have sufficient compassion and empathy to at least pass as a fair-to-middling example of a decent human being. And as far as I know, I have never been even close to having been mistaken for a sociopath or serial killer. Your mileage, of course, may vary. But I am writing here about myself and my experiences.
This is how I see the world at a distance right now
with or without my glasses.
 I come to this topic as a result of nearly two weeks of feeling, for the first time in my life, extremely vulnerable. This has been caused by my recent eye surgery and will become more extreme, most likely,  in another 2+ weeks, for some time after that. My eye surgeon did warn me that my vision would be negatively impacted for some time, but the emotional aspect went totally unaddressed. 

I suspect it is very different for those who choose the "distance vision" option for the implanted lens. My guess, considering how well my left eye works at the close vision distance at which the lens is designed to focus, is that -- had I chosen that option -- I would be able to cover one eye and have decent focus, though a lack of depth perception which would make some difficulty. Instead I see almost the entire world as an impressionist painting. 

I cannot quickly locate the source of a sound that may indicate a problem (where IS that dog the neighbor is shouting at, from the road in front of the house? Was that chicken picking on chicken or do we have a stupid one in the dog yard or a marauding domestic pet?)

I cannot quickly distinguish a potential threat unless it is moving quickly (in this case, bees in the dandelions and I realized the issue before I actually stepped on one) but -- sitting in the truck in a store parking lot in town a few days before a holiday weekend -- I felt like I needed to make sure I did all the necessary errands while K was with me. I was just that much off my game... me, who has never been afraid to walk or drive anywhere, in any city, by virtue of my ability to "read" people and react to defuse or avoid what might be dangerous situations. I guess I have to see them to read them; it seems my ESP is off its game as well

If emotional vulnerability is anything like the physical kind I am currently dealing with, all I have to say is "no wonder 'everyone' out there is terrified of everyone and everything!"

I am expecting to get decent functionality back as a result of all this... eventually. But I also know that one's senses often decline as we age. If that happens to me, I will likely become even more of a recluse than I am. So for those of you who are concerned about elderly friends and ccc
Even inside the house
things have an
impressionist
feel.
ccc relatives that seem to stay at home and not want to go out and about even if they used to enjoy it, perhaps this is why. And perhaps, even if they aren't comfortable "out and about" they might enjoy having the "out and about" brought to them from time to time... as a visit from a friend bearing take out from a favorite "greasy spoon" and a six pack of their favorite brew, or a skein of yarn in a favorite color from their local yarn shop, in the hands of a friend who also likes to sit and knit. Or even a small basket of tomatoes straight from the garden, or a pail of peas with the warmth of the sun still on them in the hands of a gardening friend for a session of "sittin' and shellin' " or just a swapping of "back in the day" stories of gardens and plants from the past. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Slow and steady? More like slow and frustrated!

Gods has this been a strange month so far!

I'll Pack a Cowl
for Rhineback
pattern, Ravelry
While I typically do more knitting in the winter than in garden season, I took a (for me, very expensive) class on color work the middle of April and have been hard at work on the cowl that was the class project. While it was touted as "Fair Isle," my research indicated that traditional Fair Isle includes small, more detailed patterns instead of the larger, pictorial areas of color in the cowl. I will follow that thread (or yarn, as the case may be) later. For now, I need a repeat attack on this pattern to solve my tension problem. The shaping, while it does work (I lucked out and the central part is still large enough for me to get my head through!) is not intentional. It has been suggested that knitting "inside out" is a way to address this issue and I will be following up on that shortly.

meat chickens read to
go outside!
Meat birds outside home.
Our meat birds, which arrived on April 5, have been growing like weeds! But with the damp, cold spring, they had to stay inside much longer than typical for us. 

Red Rangers, discovering grass.
We finally got a warmer, dry spell and set up our old easy-up shelter with chicken wire around the perimeter, and the metal dog crate -- sans bottom tray -- for their outside home. This will be the last hurrah for this shelter, as one of the metal supports failed almost immediately, not the metal, but the plastic connector. I had considered sewing a replacement fabric top -- as it has had threadbare places and leaks for years -- but I will not bother since it is really not worth it with the structural failure. Starting today (after I am done planting the flax and wheat, of course! The bird run to me when they see me -- two legged feeder syndrome, I guess -- and the seeds would not stand a chance) I will begin letting them range during part of the day.
Custom 16" Earth Blessing sign

In the hex world, I completed this custom 16" Earth Blessing sign. It will hang on the door of a lady with Alzheimer's, so I am told. This was a short deadline job, but I felt blessed to be ask to do this work.

48" diameter Abundance, Prosperity
and Smooth Sailing Through Life
Below is a traditional Abundance, Prosperity and Smooth Sailing Through Life sign, in custom colors which I just completed. This sign will hang around here on the farm until the end of the month, as its new owner will be picking it up in person. It will live here in Maine!

I have two circles cut, sanded and primed, ready to be drawn and painted. I made sure to get these ready, because I had eye surgery this week, to remove the first of two cataracts. The doc said to avoid dusty environments! LOL Like this is even possible here... But I am doing my best to not make more dust and I have a pair of goggles to wear when I am outside in the garden, the coop or when it is windy (... like most of the time!)

I am being very frustrated by this surgery thing, as necessary as it is. Unfortunately the doc to whom I was referred is only in the office I go to every other week. While I got on the schedule for the first eye very quickly, I have to wait until the middle of next month for the second eye to be done, and then there will be some time after that before I can get a new prescription for my glasses. I am glad that the doc saw the rationale behind giving me a bionic lens that was set for close vision, rather than for distance. I cannot imagine how disturbing it would be to me to have to use glasses to do needlework, read or paint, as I have always removed my glasses for such work. But at this point, while my distance vision is currently sufficient for me to drive -- at least on familiar routes -- it is not good enough for me to
Not quite the pirate look
the shield is only for bed
time now.
distinguish baby asparagus shoots from the weeds and grasses while standing, nor can I easily make out emerging seedlings (if there are any!) of the spinach, beets and carrots I planted. Fortunately I can see the pea plants and know that I need to get their trellis up ASAP. With this strange lack of clarity -- think of it as looking at the world as Monet saw it -- I am having strange dreams and am less than fully functional, even inside doing daily house chores. This is going to be a STRANGE summer!







Friday, May 4, 2018

What a long strange month it has been!

It's been almost a month since I last blogged, despite my best efforts to the contrary. I guess I got derailed by an unexpected trip to Boston last month and have been scrambling to catch up and try to at least catch the wave, if not get ahead of it since then.

One of my daughters was, once again, running the Boston marathon and I was able, at the last minute, to arrange a trip down to Beantown to visit with her, my son-in-law and her eldest daughter. It appears I do not travel as well as in the past, as planning for, taking and recovery from the trip seems to have eaten at least two weeks. Not that I regret going, far from it. It
They are in there somewhere!
B.A.A. 5K start.
was great to see Mandy and to watch the three of them take off on the 5k race that the B.A.A. put on the Saturday before the famous marathon.

My daughter contacted me before the trip and said that they had planned to visit Salem, MA on this trip east, and wanted to see the town with "a real witch." How could I not find a way to go!

While we were in Salem, I got the chance to see the Witch Trials Memorial, which was especially moving because a friend of mine is an 8xgreat granddaughter of the last person hung during that incredibly barbarian time. I paid my respects at the stone
bench dedicated to Samuel Wardwell and used a few bits of reed I found on site and some yarn I had been spinning on my trip to make the solar/Brigid's cross that I left as a blessing.

While I was in Boston I had to make sure to visit the Make Way for Ducklings statues in the Boston Commons. In the week leading up to my trip, I had been busily knitting a scarf for Mrs.
Mrs. Mallard and me.
 Mallard, from local wool, which I carded, spun and knit in the grease to help keep her warm and repel the cold snow and rain that fell during my visit and plagued the race.

I was pleased to discover that, along with the Easter hats that mama duck and her brood were sporting upon my arrival, that my scarf seems to have stayed as part of the tableau for some time, as evidenced by photos found with the #makewayforduckings hash tag.

And on an additional fiber note, I can report that it is indeed possible to use a suspended spindle on a Greyhound bus, and to "twiddle-spin" with a supported spindle as one of three passengers in a ride provided by an Uber driver!

Friday, April 6, 2018

All about April

April is often a strange month, neither winter nor spring here in the Northlands. It often feels like it takes hold of that strange day, which may have started when we changed the calendar so many eons ago and made the year start in January, and channels it all month long. Those "April showers" that are sung about as the precursor to May flowers... well they are as likely to be white as wet. When wet, as they were this week, they often don't feel like spring. They do contribute to mud season, though, and make puddles which seduce the sleepy farmer, attempting chores before the coffee has completely kicked in, into thinking the paths are muddy instead of brown skating rinks.

Regardless, the mostly rising temperatures and sunny days have been liberating the fields from their white blankets. When I hauled compost to the garden this week, it was in muck boots, with the wagon instead of snow boots and a sled. And the hens and ducks have begun laying in earnest.



I started the week by shipping an order of three hex signs by UPS. I am still working to get things in order after the large sign was completed and out the door. Its place in the domestic chaos was taken by a new-to-me spinning wheel.

Between spinning, working on several knitting projects and getting the current crop of meat chicken babies in the house yesterday, it's been a busy week. The current hex project is the completing of a series of 5 small signs like this digital proof, for Strength Through Community (in this case, Sisterhood) for a client and her sisters.

Here's hoping that spring is, indeed around the corner. My calendar notes that I should be able to direct seed early crops like spinach and peas in a week or two.  I ain't holding my breath.