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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Yes, I DID do something today.

Ever have those days, when you are busy and doing all day long but by the end of the day, you feel like you have accomplished nada?  Well that's it for me today.

I had a nearly-full day at the store, which was -- for once -- not totally chaotic and insane. Apparently there was not a big last-minute rush on movies and music, as the department was a quite reasonable order for any time of the year, let along after a holiday. We did not get a huge pile of additional stock to be shelved just as I was leaving, instead we got a very small quantity of stock, mostly titles we actually needed, in plenty of time for me to get them to their proper places and to move some of the 20 or so copies of seasons 1-3 of Gilligan's Island onto the sales floor. Yes, I said Gilligan's Island. For some (unknown to me) reason, the movie powers that be seem to think this is a hot series this season. LOL

I stopped at the Sams Club pharmacy on the way home, having had to wait half an hour for it to re-open after lunch. It annoys me no end, when I get off work at 1:30, to have to pick up meds on account of the pharmacy lunch schedule. Ah well... I could have picked up the additional tarp for the poultry on the way TO the pharmacy instead of after, but seeing the line of cars waiting to turn left onto another street and blocking what would have been my left turn into the place we gets tarps told me that even with the wait, it would be more efficient to buy the tarp second, avoiding two left turns across traffic.

So I picked up meds and a 20' long tarp and the mail from the PO box and sent a movie off to a friend's daughter... one of the gift pack from work that we had less than no interest in watching. And came home.

K helped me deploy the tarp over the three poultry "tents", adding extra pieces of 1x3 as support for the tarp between the tops of the cattle panel A-frame units, and carrying several old wheels and brake parts over to hold the tarp in place until there is sufficient snow to freeze it to the ground.

Now, mind you, I am not at all sure that our strange and strong-willed fowl will actually shelter there. They have been bedding down on the mulch hay insulation between the shelters for the past month. But it is there if they are willing. That's the most I can do at this point.

Ducks and chickens are still off their laying and we have yet to find the lights I used to wake them up, last year, when I left for work. I had put the light fixtures and switched cord in a visible box in the garage, but K has been organizing. I'll leave it at that. I suppose they can use the vacation and I am getting a dozen eggs a week from a friend whose hens live in a well lit, heated barn.

After I got in, I washed a passel of dishes, put finish on more sections of the spinning wheel and made supper -- spaghetti with "American style" sauce, a la my grandmother, but using my home canned yellow tomatoes instead of the usual red ones. Next time I try this (and there will be only one "next time" this year, as I canned only two jars of the yellow and orange fruit) I would like to use both green and red bell peppers, as the colors of the veggies show nicely against the lighter colored sauce.

I have to semi-short work days left in the week, and tomorrow is supposed to begin a storm with serious wind and snow accumulation. We have yet to get chains for the tractor, so K will clear the drive cautiously. For the first time since starting this job, though, I will not feel too bad if, for any reason, I cannot get out to be at work on time Friday. There are no special projects scheduled, no "special new release" movies to my knowledge (which is typically the reason we are scheduled on Friday) and thanks to a visit from a colleague on Monday, the shelves look great and we don't have a lot of back stock. So "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cycles and Balance

I see life as a series of cycles. They should not be the "running around in circles" kind, but they will be unless you are willing to grow and learn. If things are proceeding as they should, I think, then the cycles will be a spiral; when you come back to a point in the cycle, you will be in a different place, in time, space and mind.

This past year was a year of not really being "here and now" for me. It was a year of putting one foot in front of the other, of being very much not here, of diagnosis -- a long process -- and of healing -- another long process. It was, in many ways, "a year out of time."

But with the arrival of theYuletide wave, I feel like I am coming back, here and now, ready to start a new cycle.  I am once again feeling the tides of the moon, dark to full and full to dark. I am feeling the tides of the seasons -- light to dark, dark to light and what for me are the appropriate activities for each round of these cycles.

I have been looking forward all summer to the revival and setting up of spinning wheels and loom, of having time to spin with my drop spindle until the wheels were ready, and then to sit and spin, sit and weave. Those are, for me, activities of the dark months. And I have felt a serious push to once again look at the garden with a production-oriented eye. Of course, a friend's connection to a local buying club in need of new local suppliers -- a way to sell produce on a reasonable scale without spending multiple days and many hours sitting in a parking lot -- helped that. The fact that this info came on the new moon, putting extra "oomph" into my "work what you want to manifest" side of the lunar cycle was .... coincidence? Maybe not, but make of that what you will.

Finding a short term discount from one of my seed suppliers on Facebook set the garden planning/seed ordering in motion. That order has been placed, and the list for orders from some of my other suppliers started, as I researched varieties and prices to place that first order. I'll have the majority of it done before the full moon this week. And hopefully, one of the spinning wheels will be finished as well (it came in pieces... a birthday gift earlier in the year that has been waiting for me to find the time and space to apply a proper finish to the wood and assemble the parts)


With the moon turning to the waning side, it will be time to focus more on cleaning, clearing and de-junking. This needs done because (a) I was terribly lax during the "year out of time" and (b) there are other projects that I cannot begin until the areas have been cleared and (c) soon it will be time to once again assemble the growing racks and start the early seedlings. But those are projects for the waxing moon. See.... cycles and balance returns.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Yuletide!

It's beginning to feel a lot like Yuletide
Everywhere you go
Now that it's winter time the darkness slows its climb
and everywhere the land is cloaked with snow.
It's beginning to look a lot like Yuletide
Wreaths on every door
But the thing that makes it real are the changes that you feel
Deep within your soul.

A glass full of mead and a log on the fire
and the ritual's soon to begin.
Folks trickle in, neighbors, good friends and kin
With their drums, and some cookies and cake.
And soon the energy's raised high, the magic spell is spun. 

It's beginning to look a lot like Yuletide
Everywhere you go
Everyone has a tree, the lights are up to see
and cheerful greeting ring from every voice.
It's beginning to feel a lot like Yuletide
Soon the light returns
but for now, though, greet the dark, sing and drum and strike a spark
as the season turns.

This just came to me, out of the ethers...

to be sung to the tune of... well I think you can guess. I croak that song badly so there will NOT be an mpg file to download. LOL

Sharing is fine, with credit to Jj Starwalker, www.dutchhexsign.com

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Becoming Yule

I never had felt that the seasonal markers should be affixed to just one day. Looking out to the past, I sense that in the far gone days, we were not so tied to clock and calendar and moved, planned, plotted and planted more from a sense of when it was right. Years of watching the weather and the signs given by the plants and animals around us and the sky above -- without the distraction of an overabundance of "man-light" and technologies of entertainment -- would have, I think, given my ancestors a good sense of the cycles. And, as they reached the fullness of the dark of the year, their senses would have prompted them to begin the rituals of the season, calling back the sun, turning the wheel on towards summer and taking whatever steps they felt necessary to protect their homes, families, kin and communities against the cold and dark (and whatever wild or evil lurked there and plotted harm). They had survived thus far, so perhaps a small feast of thanks for the abundance put by might have been in order.  I do not know, for of course I was not there, but my spirit says this reads as truth.

In my own life, I am thankful that my path leads me easily to incorporate things of the spirit into the everyday doings of life. Squeezing all of one's spiritual life into one day -- or a few hours of one day -- just never worked. I chuckled, once, upon hearing a friend... the wife of a Christian minister... talking about her husband having shared his thoughts about some of his congregants, who came to the Sunday meeting, paid their tithes and perhaps -- but not terribly likely -- sometimes attended a mid-week meeting and seemed to expect their pastor to "be holy for them" the rest of the week.

No, holiness is not something one can delegate. So "as above, so below" and the converse as well. And following spirit, the run up to the rituals of Yule and the daily doings of the dark side of the year move at their own pace. Some years, spirit moves me early on and there is a flurry of activity that might rival a more contemporary celebration of the season (minus the consumerism and conspicuous consumption, which have never been big in my life). Other years, like this one, I wonder if Yule will pass unmarked and the days all get eaten up with more mundane, yet no less necessary, aspects of life.

This year we will, it appears, have no tree. We had wanted to start a tradition of decorating a potted tree to plant outside once spring came. However, it appears at this point I have waited too late to find such a tree. In any case, the house is in upheaval with renovation projects, the living room crowded with new tools (spinning wheel and loom) and work space for my hex painting and even a bank of cages for our newly acquired fiber bunnies (lacking a barn or sufficient outside shelter against our winters, they will be inside this winter) and were I to find a tree, I am not sure where I would put it! 

However, "happenstance" brought me to a source of mistletoe. Ordered and delivered, it told me that this year the wards would be renewed and talismans placed once more at the corners of the land and entry ways to the property and our home. I stuck a pair of pruners into my bag and after a couple of days of being carried around, today I had the time, energy and "push" from above to clip the necessary twigs from our birch trees. This is something that, typically, I do each year. However last year I was so weak from anemia from an (at that point undiagnosed) issue that walking that far, even with my staff to lean on, was out of the question. Thank the Gods that my problem was found and the medical community was able to address it and I have returned to reasonable health... at least for an old woman with bad knees.  LOL  I will post a picture of the talismans when they are completed.

Commercially available Julbock
I have also been prompted to make a Julbock and bought several small (and surprisingly expensive!) bunches of wheat for that purpose. However, the time has not yet been right for me to begin soaking the straw or to print out the instructions and attempt this new craft.And yes, I will post a picture of this first attempt as well. I would love to learn to do it well enough to produce instruction with pictures and a video as well. All I have found thus far are written instructions and, of course, many pictures of the completed Julbock.

Today, however, I began to feel "Yule" coming, and coming together. I have to work that morning at my mundane job, so the rituals and events of the day will be less than were I to have the entire day. I an still not sure about the supper meal, but feel it lurking just beyond the reaches of my mind. I know, though, that there will be mead to toast the Gods. That came to me today, as I stopped by the natural foods store to resupply oats for my breakfast and was prompted to browse a bit, not sure why until I turned a corner and saw a display of local Maine mead! It is not commonly available, as are some of the other local wines and beers, so when I see it, I know to buy a bottle.

I also know that I will be doing some garden planning this Yule season. Quite "coincidentally," on the new moon last week, I took the first steps toward becoming one of the local farmers to supply a buying club in a nearby town. My friend, who is a member, had notified me of the potential opportunity earlier, when he found out that one of their supplying farms would be bowing out, due to the farmer's health issues.

I had been "truck gardening" and supplying our needs, as well as taking produce to several farmers markets as a collaborative venture with a friend. Last fall, my lack of energy and issues with the collaboration led me to draw back from that thread. I committed to growing only for us last year, hoping I would have the energy to do that. Now, with my health back, I was wondering what I would do with the extra produce. Being at my morning job 4 or 5 days a week means that I really need to spend more time here, working the land and doing other necessary things. Farmers markets take a big bite out of the day, not only picking and processing the food, loading and driving to the market and setting up your booth... then you spend hours "babysitting a  parking lot" as my buying club member friend says. So, when I was given the opportunity to meet with club members and see a bit of the operation, and especially when the scheduled meeting coincided with the Yule New Moon, I saw the hands of the Powers That Be at work. 

At First Quarter, this week, there is another meeting (day before Yule) in which they will officially set things up for the coming year and I will be at that meeting. So, I suppose the first order of seeds (catalogs seem to have begun arriving earlier than usual this year, also!) will be placed in another week, with serious intent!

And thus far, thus goeth my Yuletide forth, into the coming year. So Be It.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Wild Disney-esque Morning

...and I missed it.

I had put in a nice chunk of work day by mid-morning, when the pace indicated a pausing place and a few moments to sit, have a snack, take a moment to wrap my knees, check emails, relax...

Email revealed a strange message from home, prompting a call. Something I very seldom do from the break room at work. Something about K possibly going back to bed if he couldn't get warm, don't worry if he didn't answer the phone...

Now, I knew the place would be cold. I had put off too long taking the grill tank for the office space heater to be filled, and the empty one sat there staring at me, even as the spare that we were using sputtered to an end of gas and heat before I had a chance to dress in the cold very early morning darkness this morning. Ok, add "take tank to fill" to the after work list and be thankful that the kerosene for the living room space heater wasn't QUITE that empty. There was fuel in the tank (thankfully, as it had warmed the end of the living room sufficiently for me to dress for work, almost comfortably, in a house that had seen overnight lows near zero with no overnight heat) and a bit remaining in the 5 gallon kero can. Yeah, get kero goes on that list too. Bring home the propane from town and load up for kero and diesel for the tractor (snow's a'comin' and Fergie will be our snow removal gal this year) as one should keep the tank full, especially in the winter.

Ok, so I knew there was SOME kero... enough that K should be able to keep the chill off... so what's up?

This is the tale I heard when I called home.

The kero heater was running. K had fed the dogs, done chores and come back in... was in the kitchen, getting his breakfast when the following transpired, all in about a minute. Coffee, the brainless St. Bernard who loves to lay by the heaters, apparently wagged near the kero heater, and somehow got the hair on her tail (which has a matted spot) caught on a prong on the protective grate around the device. Which WAS RUNNING, remember. She felt something on her tail, moved, panicked and ran smack dab into the stacked wood and wire rabbit hutches in the corning of the living room, careened off that (heater in tow, which thankfully had GONE OUT, courtesy of the tipping sensor working as it should. Amazing right there!  LOL) and into my 3' square solid oak butcher block table next to the stove in the kitchen, bonking her head. And then careened off that into the fridge, to her left.

All at scared-dog-speed, mind you. Took much longer to write than happen, I am sure.

Fortunately, K was standing there and he was able to grab her (no small task in its own right, as she is not currently dressed in either harness or collar) and hold her with one hand while eventually extracting heater grate prong from tail. Took several tries, he said.

She did spill some small bits of kero in the house and knocked the heater about, but it still works (K tested it after getting the dog calmed down and letting her out for a bit) and after I got home, he checked more closely to make sure the wick and all was still seating properly. It is.

Strange thing is, (remember I said she was the BRAINLESS St. Bernard?) she still insists on laying right next to the heaters. Fortunately, we have not smelled any more singed doggy hair. And I will be cutting that matt out, as soon as it gets warm enough in here, now, for me to change out of my town work clothes.

Dogs!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finally, a day to think about Yule!

With the coming of the new moon, my cleaning and organizing binge is abating (not DONE with what needs doing, mind you... the backlog was great... but done enough that I can feel my mind clearing a bit) and a day off from having to be at the town job, I finally can put a bit of energy into prep for Yule.

I still have hex signs to get painted and ship before the holidays, but one must wait for the paint to dry and in the between times I shall turn the altar, such as it is, from its fall plumage to a more seasonable tone, looking forward to MotherNight, Yule and the wonderful dark, less busy days that will come as the "crazy season" passes in the mundane world (and at work) and before Candlemas (or as I often call it "spring finding") when the first of the early garden plants get started on the house plant racks and the garden plan gets seriously worked out.

I have several Odin-esque representations of "Father Christmas," fabric with a background of dark blue, dotted with snowflakes, and a veritable miniature forest of tiny trees... evergreens, bare birch (for Frigga) and a wonderful wire sculpture of a bare deciduous tree I have decided is an oak, and hopefully places for all.

I have ordered and received a most excellent small box of mistletoe from a little Pagan shop in southern Maine -- Phoenix Rising in Biddeford -- so I shall visit my favorite birch tree to seek the favor of a small branch or two which I use with the mistletoe to make protective amulets for each corner of our land and over our doors. That may or may not get completed tomorrow.


I DO intent to try my hand, for the first time, at making a Julbock. I have done some wheat crafting before but have never make this traditional goat. (A popular theory is that the celebration of the goat is in connection to to the Norse god Thor, who rode the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnj├│str.)  I have also seen, online, these figures made as large yard ornaments using a wood frame to support evergreen branches, but this year did not even go "tipping" for boughs for my wreath... so this is being filed on the back burner for a next year project. Also on the next year project list, as I was speaking of gardens a bit ago, is a plan to grow my own wheat for crafting. I did a test planting a couple of years back and know I can get a crop, and at $5 for a meager bunch, it will be well worth putting in some effort!

So I shall begin by soaking my wheat straw tomorrow morning whilest I get the chores and some more laundry done and out (taking advantage of a few bright days, some of which are predicted to be above freezing, AND my single non-town day this week) and then work on the altar, the Julbock and the hex signs during the majority of my day.

I need to get the dough for Leibkuhen started, as well, but that will have to wait for later in the week.

In the late afternoon, I have a meeting with a buying club in a nearby town. A friend informed me that one of the local farms that had been supplying club members with fresh produce in season is downsizing due to health issues with one of the farmers and that there was a good chance that I could fill the void. If it works out, this will be a great opportunity to supply food to folks who want it without having to spend hours "babysitting a parking lot" (i.e. setting up, manning, and taking down booths at various farmers markets)  As I am told, suppliers let the members know one week what is available and orders are taken over the Internet for delivery the next week. So, every other week I would need to spend a day getting produce picked and ready, and make a delivery to town. I'll know more soon, but I am optimistic.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Finally, Winter

I've been remiss in my blogging... again... and again will try to pick up the threads.

Working "part time" in town has turned to full time plus hours for what I call the "crazy season." You know, that time between when we supposedly give thanks for our blessings and when we mount a new calendar on the wall... that time that appears to be given over to greed, conspicuous consumption, worry, stress and ... oh yes... blamed on the birth of a religious icon many years ago whose followers co-opted the long held traditions of much older religious traditions. Yes, I am a bit of a cynic about this time of year, at least as it is portrayed and appears to be dealt with my many folks.

For me the "season" is winter, the reason for it is the way the earth is slanted on its axis and the observances I make related to this particular cycle have as much to do with commerce as the rest of my life does... that being "not much." Other than the fact that I work "part time" in retail which means that I work full time at present, with little time left to do any of the needful daily tasks, prepare hex signs and such, let alone ramp up for a major celebration. So we don't.

I will set up my altar, soon, in a winter mode. I have several representations of "Father Christmas" or as I call him, Odin, to bring out. The dark time of the year calls me to spend quiet time reading, studying, spinning and weaving... and planning... things best done by the hearth fire. And yes, come January and February, that will be the mode. For now, I chip slowly away at the backlog of things undone from the busy times of autumn and the backlog that comes from the big design projects that this season still (thankfully) brings.

THAT had been made a bit more stressful this year because Tractor Guy got a good deal on a new computer for me and bought it. Yes, I needed one; doing major design projects (a 100 pg yearbook layout, for example) on a laptop is decidedly non-optimal. However, introducing a new and very different operating system in the middle of a major project is worse. My new machine uses Windows 8 and I do not recommend it. I am not sure what the target market is for this OS, but it does not seem to be aimed at those of us who constantly use multiple programs and use the machine mainly for projects, as opposed to communication. It seems to want to be a tablet or - as I am more familiar with the interface -- a "smart phone"... a device which naturally and understandably focuses on communication and sharing of various media in multiple ways. Yes, it will do what I need, but it takes jumping through an extra screen. At least I presume it will, once I get a software upgrade. My professional programs are several versions old (dammit, they still work JUST FINE!) but upgrades have been purchased which are supposed to work better with this OS.

It has been hard for me to get into winter mode this year at least partly on account of the weather. We have had rain, damp, fog and more rain. Some seasonal temps for the location but mostly above average. At times I feel more like I am back in the Pacific northwest than in Maine! Thankfully we had a bit of snow today, accompanied by ice which is not quite so nice but at this point I will take it. It is not supposed to stick though, as we have rain in the forecast for tomorrow and then a run of temperatures well above freezing again. It felt really odd last week to take the wash out to the line on one of the rare, almost passable drying days, as I could tell the ground was frozen a ways down but I was walking in soupy mud, the very top layer of the ground.

We did get our carrots out of the ground, topped and stashed in bags in the fridge and the rabbits are enjoying the tops, as they are doled out over time to keep bunnies from being runny. I need to do some serious grooming on the fiber bunnies as at least one of them was ready for her first major shed during my first peak busy time this late fall. I am anxiously looking forward to the next couple of weeks, when once again I have only one full day of work in town with the balance of the days being 4 or 5 hours of work. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get caught up before spring!