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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Money - the Most Impersonal Medium of Exchange

I have been thinking about energy exchange of late... of gifting, the concept of "a gift for a gift," and how money fits into this paradigm.

Those of you who know me at all IRL (in real life) probably are aware that the acquisition of money has never been high on my list. I have always had a strange relationship with it, and while I am pragmatic and in the world enough to understand that having some of it available is necessary, and even a good thing at times, it has never been a focus. I have always found it easier to make do with the supply of the stuff that finds its way to me, than to figure out how to acquire more.

You may even have heard me tell about my "ah-ha" moment, many years ago, when I heard a young reporter on NPR ask one of the Rockefellers, at the end of an interview, the pivotal question "how much is enough?" At that time, I was raising a family in poverty, well below the so-called poverty line, and my monthly challenges included budgetary triage of the sort that involved deciding between replacing the kids' underwear or socks and fretting over the winter coat hand-me-down ritual, should someone be between sizes and two "new" coats, instead of just one, be required for the winter.  My thoughts on money often ran along the "just a little bit more" track.

When the affluent, if not actually rich interviewee responded "just a little bit more," his response hit me like a ton of bricks and totally changed my outlook. After all, if he did not have "enough," how could I -- who had never been either focused on the acquisition of money, or much good at hunting it down, get there! I did, however, have lots of practice in "making do" and somehow that monthly budgetary triage always managed to work and with that realization, I stepped firmly on the path of "make it do," upon which I walk today.

Yes, occasionally there are wants,  but the needs always seem to be met and I am content on this path.

Other folks mileage does, obviously, differ, and as I interact with others, sharing of my skills and knowledge, I know that sharing does, of necessity, involve a two way exchange. I do, of course, also sell stuff -- mainly my art -- and yes, that does involve money. It's my one foot into that realm of commerce and I have come to terms with it. I will say, though, that the clients who contact me about their signs, beyond just clicking the "add to cart" button on the web site, sharing stories of their lives, farm and homes and reasons for picking that particular sign do give me much joy. The conversations and the exchange of energy really fuels me in a way that an anonymous order does not, though I attempt to fill them all with equal energy and respect.

On another thread, I have become more aware, of late, of weekend and even week-long events focused on various paths and aspects of paths of witchy tradition or fiber arts (and probably other things, as well, but these are the universes in which I dabble). It is not something I can do at this point in my life, would I want to. I am connected to "my" land and the life I live here on these four acres in ways that keep me close these days. This crone likes her own warm bed and cool pillow, the sounds of roosters learning to crow and the herd calling, and these old bones no longer take well to lying on the ground or even on unfamiliar bedding. But what sets me back even more than this is the monetary price that organizers put on these weekend or week-long retreats.

Yes, folks need a place to lay their heads at night, food for the belly, and so on but... hundreds of dollars? Brings to mind the (mis-) quote from the beginning of the digital era that naturally stuck in my mind: information wants to be free.

From my perspective these days, I guess I would say "information wants to be shared" with the emphasis on the exchange. And while money is a medium of exchange, it feels to me like the lowest common denominator It feels to me like the other party, offering money (regardless of the amount) is saying "yeah, I want you to think what you are sharing is important and valuable to me, but I am not going to really get involved, not sharing anything of myself, my soul, my energy... just this soulless paper and coin that we all need."

And on the flip side, for those allegedly sharing real knowledge and spiritual insights, as opposed to goods -- food, clothing, manufactured wares -- I can't help but think the message is "I want you to value what I am teaching, but really, we are not having an exchange. I am keeping my distance by only accepting "gifts" of the mundane and not from your center, your soul, your being.

Monday, October 2, 2017

How do YOU Define Affluence?

How do you, in your world, define affluence? I really do want to know.

For years now, I have been saying that I have the challenges of poverty down pat. That I have "used it up, worn it out, made it do and done without" long enough, and in enough circumstanced that I have become well qualified to do anything with nothing. And that I really would like a chance to have a go at the challenges of affluence for a change. And though I say, and write it, with a joking tone, there are many grains of truth there.

This year, though, I got one of those "whacks 'long side of the head" that I recognize and being administered by the celestial 2x4, wielded by a member of the Powers That Be, and I know I have been looking at it more that a little cockeyed. Because, you see, the abundance of abundance that I am dealing with right now (which I am deliberately not saying "I am plagued by" though I will admit that feeling is rather close to the surface) really does constitute affluence.

I have enough money to get by. Every month, I get to the end of the month before coming to the end of the money. Admittedly, sometimes it's as I come to the end of the money, but it always reaches. I have wheels to get me to town when needed, a flock and herd that give me joy, and food as a side product, and right at this moment, I have more abundance in the food department, almost, than I can cope with.

tomatoes being processed
into sauce
We had our first "killing frost" a couple of nights ago. Killing frost, for those of you who do not live in the northlands, is a phenomenon when the temperature drops below freezing for the first time in the autumn, killing the leaves of tender plants like beans, squash, basil, tomatoes and peppers. The summer crops are now through producing food for the season, though all of the fruit on these plants is still good to eat. The ripe, and mostly ripe tomatoes got harvested and made into juice to turn into sauce (it needs to be cooked down -- evaporated -- to the proper thickness) and I have close to 7 gallons of this liquid. That will make about 3 gallons of tomato sauce... eventually. I don't have enough burners to cook down sauce and make meals, so two smaller pots are waiting in the freezer while the 5 gallon pot is cooking.

But that is not even close to all.

sunflower, mid-August
The rodents were eating sunflower seeds and leaving us with nearly empty heads, so we cut most of them prior to the frost. That means I have 50+ sunflower heads, some very large, laying

around because I haven't yet found time or places to put them to dry so that the seeds can be removed.
Then there are those squash and pumpkins... a garden cart load of them are currently sitting on the front deck, waiting to be brought in. (Can't leave them there... remember those rodents?) They need someplace to be, until we eat them or I cook and freeze or can the flesh. But everywhere is covered in sunflowers.
And it is also potato harvest season (though not on account of frost). Also, even though they will stand quite a bit longer, the rest of the garden will need harvest soon, so it can be cultivated before winter. That means 100' of potato row (though some were dug this evening) and 50' each of carrots and beets. There are still sunflowers out there, as I did not get them all, and a few tomatoes that were left on the vines, to possibly ripen in the next few days. There is some chard, plenty of kale, a few Brussels sprouts (though they did not do well this year) and other odd ends. And I have 150' worth of pinto bean plants that I completed harvesting the day after the freeze that are hopefully drying their pods, to make for easier harvest, as they lay in the bed of one of our project trucks.

I have an abundance of abundance... and the challenge is to find the time, energy, space, containers, etc. to turn it into food. And all the while the hens and ducks have not yet stopped laying for the season, and I have hex sign orders to fill.

So, I must, I think, redefine affluence. It has nothing to do with wearing designer duds and driving a Mercedes Benz (wouldn't hold much hay anyway!) and everything to do with all this good, wholesome, organic food that seems to be covering every available surface.

Thank you, Powers That Be. I got this!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

To Maximize Happiness (and Productivity) Find Your Flow

Nothing could be more peaceful than
sitting on the back steps, listening to
the quiet sounds of our "lawn crew"
at work.
I'm pretty sure we have all had moments when we are hit with the realization that, right now, at this moment, everything just feels perfect. We may not remember them as long as some of those days, when it seems like we are channeling Murphy (the one with the law named after him/her). They are the counter point, but I have found that being aware of my feelings, the energy levels of my body and the world around me and looking at it all from a somewhat analytical mindset from time to time is helpful.  Over time, this process has enabled me to spend more time "in the flow" as I say: when things are going along as they should, with more ease and less interference, as it might be if one was floating down stream with the current.

Of course, like that current, the flow is ever changing. When I was a young woman, I enjoyed the abundant energy of a "type A" personality, could -- and often did -- go "at mach 3 with my hair on fire" for hours, and sometimes even days on end. And balanced this out, as all things must be, with days of essentially complete collapse/rest.

Then I became a mom, and everything changed! Even a breastfeeding, "baby-wearing" (though the term had not been invented yet) family-bedding mom of one really can't sustain that pace. Before I went crazy from "not being able to get anything done" I managed to analyze the situation and realized:
  •  prioritizing tasks, based on what was actually important to me and my family helped -- beds did not have to be made, for example 
  •  priority #1 was going to be the kiddo -- which should be a "d'uh" but one never really realizes the extet to which babies change things
  • breaking tasks into 10-15 minute bites was both possible and worked.
This routine worked through the mommy years until my husband and I divorced, he ended up with the kids (long, sad story) and moved far away. Gradually I fell back into the "mach 3" routine as I tried to find a balance between work and passion. Eventually I worked my way around to life and livelihood being congruent, as I worked in graphic design, a career path that just longs to suck one into the rhythm of 24/7 and total collapse. It is said, only partly in jest, that many take to drink, and the art directors drink whiskey. I did manage to avoid the whiskey, but not a trip to the ER with a devastating headache. What I thought was a migraine proved to be "only" a tension headache and produced the advise from a wise young doctor: quit the job or get used to it. I quit on the spot. This issues was not the work, but the boss, who would not let me DO what needed to be done.

My solution to that conundrum was to start my own company. From the frying pan to the fire? Not really. I have always been willing to take risks when I was betting on myself and have never lost one of those bets. I was still, during those years, willing and able to make a "no matter what" commitment, and having given that commitment to myself, I set about making it happen. At one point, early on, I found myself without transportation, having lent my truck to a boyfriend who proceeded to break and refuse to fix it. We were living in a small community, with no jobs and no alternative transportation to the nearby towns where I could have sold my services or applied for other work. I was lucky enough to have a friend with an extra car who was willing to loan it to me -- but it was several states away! I took the first payment for the first job my fledgling company completed, bought a bus ticket to pick up the car and prayed for enough left to buy gas to get it back "home."

"Home" in quotes, because the next thing that happened was I made myself homeless by moving out of the now-former boyfriends home and into a camp ground. I was only there a few days, when an acquaintence, who happened to have been that first client, caught wind of my situation and suggested I qualified to go to a woman's shelter, which I did. Before I even got there, while living in the camp ground, I grabbed a local paper (from out of a trash can... I was broke, yanno?) to look at the classifieds and began applying for anything that had a hint of possible. Before the first week in the shelter was up, I had employment in my field, riding herd on 6 web sites and doing advertising for a local realty company. With a job nailed down, and a paycheck just a couple of weeks away, my focus turned to housing. I needed something cheap where I could run my own business after hours and live as well. I found a former fish house -- cement building with electric, water, sewer, sink, toilet and shower -- that the owner was willing to rent under my conditions and moved in the day I had my first paycheck in hand. I was in the shelter less than a month. 

Things were hand to mouth from then on for years, but that is how "no matter what" commitments work. You do what it takes. But riding through cycles of working pretty much 24/7 (between a 9-5, M-F and my "off hours" contracts) and periods when I initially got really scared I would never get another contract -- and paying attention to the ebb and flow -- showed me that there WAS an ebb and flow. The lesson I needed to learn was to take the down time as the necessary R&R between the times of total immersion.

Once I learned that lesson, I was on a roll! For years I happily rode the roller coaster, and even added to the chaos by beginning to paint and sell the "Pennsylvania Dutch" hex signs of my family heritage and tradition.

Eventually the realty office closed when the principals retired, I took my unemployment check on the road, moved to Maine,
The "old homestead" the month we
moved in.
eventually found a homestead and "retired" to another life -- and another flow -- one which revolves around the planting, growing and harvest cycles, around season and weather and yet still must encompass the hex sign orders, which increase from year to year.

It is amazing how much things can change in 9 years. Now I am pushing 70, and although healthy and active, my energy level and stamina is not what it was when we arrived at our hilltop home.
Despite having two new knees (which I had needed for years but could not take the down time to have replaced until after retirement) I often joke that I need a new body to go with them. Arthritis is beginning to plague me, I run out of steam more quickly and do not have the strength I had even a few years ago, despite continuing to do all the same stuff. Once again, the flow changes and I must change with it. Is it easy? Heck no! But by staying aware, analytical and conscious, it is happening and I continue to continue. My y'all be able to do so, as well.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Dark Moon Magic in the Day

 Eclipse of the sun! If you were one of the lucky ones to be in, or to have traveled to, the path of totality, I hope you thoroughly enjoyed the celestial magic. To those of you who, like me, watched the phenomenon from the much larger partial eclipse path, do not let the amazingness of the fact that it even happens at all, gets lost. I think it might be easy to do, in the wake of the excitement of its path of totality crossing a wide swath of the country.

Eclipses -- both solar and lunar, are phenomena based in the imperfections (not sure what word would work better, but that doesn't feel right) of the orbits of the earth around the sun and the moon around the earth. 

The path the earth takes around the sun and the one the moon takes around the earth are not both "flat" -- that is that they are not on the same plane. The Earth's orbit, known as the ecliptic, is by definition our reference point at 0 degrees inclination. The Moon's orbital inclination with respect to the ecliptic varies, but it is, on average 5.1 degrees. 

Think about this for a minute. The Moon's orbital inclination varies and most of the times that it goes 'round the earth, we just get the standard "new moon" (what I call dark moon) when it spends its days positioned more or less between us and the sun. As it moves around its orbit, we begin to see a small sliver of lit moon in the sky, the waxing crescent that appears in the western sky at sunset. As the moon continues around its orbit, it moves farther from being more or less between us and the sun and shows up later in the night until we see it fully illuminated at full moon. And then it continues around the orbit, rising later and later (or earlier and earlier by reference to morning, until we can only see that small sliver of waning moon, in the east just before sunrise.

We think of a lunar cycle as being 28 days, but while the moon completes its orbit around the earth in 27.3 days, due to the Earth's motion around the sun it has not finished a full cycle until it reaches the point in its orbit where it is in the same position with reference to the sun.

With the offset in orbital planes, not to mention the variation in the moon's orbit, the fact that they EVER line up is amazing... astronomical, in fact! 

Add to all of this, that for a solar eclipse to be total, the relative positions of sun and moon need to be just right for the moon to appear the same size as the sun. It's only by chance that the Moon and the Sun each take up approximately half-a-degree on the sky as seen from Earth's surface. Because both the Earth's orbit around the Sun and the Moon's orbit around the Earth are ellipses rather than circles, sometimes the Moon appears larger than the Sun, casting its shadow all the way down to Earth's surface, (a total eclipse when viewed from those locations on earth where the alignment is precise, but as a partial if viewed from other places nearby) while at other times the Sun appears bigger, with the Moon unable to completely cover the solar disk. This latter phenomenon is called an annular eclipse, and while nearly all of the suns's disk is obscured, we see a ring of sun around the moon, rather than the apparent flaming tendrils of the coronasphere that makes total solar eclipses so dramatic.

I am looking forward to the potential opportunity to see a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, right here in Maine. According to this image from Accuweather if the weather gods smile on us (April... Maine... start praying now!) we will only have to travel to northern Piscataquis, Penobscot or southeastern Aroostook
projecting the eclipse
counties. At the same time, I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to attempt to project this partial eclipse with a pair of binoculars, out in front of the house. Somewhere, I have an image of myself, as a teen, doing the same thing with my 4" refractor telescope, which I had recently completed. Believe me, I was longing for the good, solid mount for it that my dad built to go on a heavy, wooden surveyor's tripod that we found in one of our raids on the local surplus stores. By the time 2024 rolls around, I will have a more stable mount for whatever optics I use!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Moon Wanes and the Harvest Builds

It's been a very busy week here at the sign of the Fussing Duck and Dutch Hex Sign. I shipped not one but TWO large hex signs today, destined to grace a barn in Zionsville, PA.
48" Abundance and Prosperity sign

36" Wilkom (welcome) sign
These are the last two of a three sign order and will soon be mounted on a newly painted barn.

I am finally getting caught up with the backlog (only three signs in the queue at present, not counting the one I paint for our MOFGA chapter to donate to the Common Grounds Country Fair grounds. It is nice to have the kitchen table back for a few days!

Out on the farm, the meat chickens continue to grow. In fact, one was so big that I thought it was a wayward hen from the layer flock, which I have been culling down to a more reasonable size for 2 people, and culled it late last week. I realized my folly when I found no evidence of it having ever laid. I can attest to the fact that it made a delicious Sunday meal, regardless. I do intend to let the balance of this flock mature, though. I am not used to getting only one meal and a half from a bird (though to give it full credit, there is still a back and neck to use for chicken and dumplings.)  We are down to 4 hens and a roo (so I think the last count was) plus 4 turkeys, 2 duck hens and a drake and two guineas in the mature fowl department... plus the replacement layers and banty chickens "just for fun."

Broccoli and lettuce
Tall corn!
Garden harvest has picked up, and I have moved from "take a basket when you go to the garden" to "take a BIG basket..." LOL  We harvested the first broccoli (ate some tonight and half of the head is in the freezer) and a good size cabbage. The green beans continue to offer pickings, though the peas are essentially done. I am leaving the vines to harvest seed. Tomatoes are starting to come on, and the second variety of flint corn has given me flashbacks to my younger days, visiting family in Iowa "where the tall corn grows."

We keep having decent amounts of rain, mostly as late afternoon/evening thunder storms and we remain thankful that Thor graces us with the thunder than marks His presence but no hail.

As a former astronomy student and long time hobbyist, I am looking forward to the solar eclipse on Monday. It will be partial here, and I aim to project and photograph it. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Crazy, distracted week

It's been a crazy, distracted week here at hex central, under the sign of the fussing duck.

I have not done any painting this week. I needed to... there are two hex blanks hanging fire in the house and the replacement mail box within reach of completion....but I have been focused on the garden, on culling fowl and on getting rid of STUFF.

Downsizing the homestead to a HOMEstead size takes work; the duck pen got de-commissioned, two more ducks culled and the balance are running with some of the chicken flock. But that left fence panels to be moved/repurposed and other parts of their former enclosure to be dealt with..some will go to the dump, hopefully today and some will be moved elsewhere for re-use.

There are two more chicken hens to be culled. One will be easy to capture some evening. The other has been running with the meat birds and is currently in their "chicken tractor" as they were all locked in at dusk. Tomorrow after a trip to town, I plan to get Tractor Guy to help me get INTO this pup tent size and shaped structure to capture the wayward hen, who will then become food. the other...well later in the day, most likely, will join her. Then the fowl culling will be done and I can focus on merging flocks and making one confinement pen for them all, with two sections and one shelter.

Rigby, out to pasture
I am happy that the goats and the sheep seem to be making a.. flock?? herd?? together. They happily go to pasture and share the former goat house at night. Rigby, the sheep, even trots to and from pasture easily, following me. The goats... well I have leashes for them! One of these days I will get Tractor Guy to shoot video of me bringing everyone back in the evening. It's crazy! One sheep following like a fairly well trained dog and two goats, on leash, both trying to go everywhere but WITH me and a flock of Red Rangers under foot!

We have also been working to make space in the garage... this and the decommissioning of the duck space has called for an extra dump run. I am aggressively offloading stuff scrounged for projects that have been hanging fire for some time and TG has brought the two free bookcases we scored a while back, into the computer room, to help organize stuff there.

I am hoping to get back to painting this weekend. The forecast is for two more rainy days to follow this morning's rain and thunder. There are peas still producing, the green beans are coming on and the tomatoes are beginning to ripen so in addition to the dump run early this afternoon, I will have to get to the garden to harvest. I would like to bring in some beets, as well, but as I pulled some of the larger ones to share with a friend yesterday -- in trade for a bag on perfectly good lemons from the waste food stream -- they can wait a bit.

The cleaning and organizing that I am wrapping up for the week, I am dedicating to Frigga, All-Mother and the Lady of the Hearth. It seems very appropriate to do so as this week's projects wind down on Her day. I will, as always, hold my Needfire tonight. At this point I am not sure if the ritual will fall before or after I make my way into the turkey pen to find the final hen for culling, but I am hoping to complete both tasks tonight. As folks who have tried to catch a chicken that does not want to be caught soon discover, it's easier to sneak up on a sleepy hen than to catch one in broad daylight. Unfortunately, this does not work on ducks or guinea fowl, though guineas are easier than ducks. At least I hope so, as I need to catch our two and clip their wings in hopes of keeping them out of the pen so they don't beat up on everyone else (especially the young layers, who will soon join the flock). If they insist on being bullies, and getting in with the other fowl, they will need to find a new home or will become dog food.

Gotta love life "in the slow lane."

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Thou Shalt Not Get Sentimental About Old Plants

Long, LONG ago, when I had barely achieved my majority, I was attending a party with my BF, a PhD candidate in upper atmospheric sciences. This was an after-finals/before summer blowout attended, primarily by a large crowd of doctoral and masters candidtate, a post-doc or two, a few odd dates and a handful of younger students, in '69 or '70, which might explain why I don't, actually, remember too much of the evening. LOL However, I recall vividly entering into discussion with a group of ag students, as I was, even back then, growing a large organic garden alongside the rural home the BF was renting. These students, I suspect, were well in the clutches of "big ag" as it was configured, but not yet named at the time, as they made me promise "not to get sentimental about old plants."

Looking back, I am not exactly sure what they meant, but this memory bubbled up a bit ago, as I was out in the garden pulling up the first planting of peas and combing the vines, as I did, for the ones that had not yet gone by. There were plenty, and while I pulled and searched, I contemplated my usual gardening tactic of hanging on to the bitter end. As long as the plants were blossoming and trying to produce, I usually let them do so. I pick small batches to add to a casserole or soup, as the end of production pickings are never enough to make even two servings for a supper. Is that, I wondered, what they meant, letting the plants finish a natural life cycle? They had just met me, so would not have known that hanging on to the bitter end -- tenacity to those who like me, stubbornness to the rest -- is one of my super powers.

I suspect, though, this was not what they meant. Those days and those times, I think, lead into more hybridzation and then into the genetic level modifications that stir up such strong feelings these days. They were grad students... in the sciences... where research drives the game and having the luck of being named in the paper your research allowed your advisor to write would have been a feather in your cap and a springboard to greater things.

They would not have been concerned about genetic diversity, even had I known to mention it. But, speaking back through the ages, I will tell them that supporting genetic diversity is far from the same thing as "getting sentimental" over old plants, and their seeds and their genetics.

While my mind was playing with the time machine, another somewhat related memory from the same era popped up.   "Grab hold tightly, Let go lightly." Yea, like I said tenacity has always been strong in me, the letting go, not so much so. 
The Moment of fullness

Grab hold tightly,
Let go lightly.

The full cup can take no more.
The candle burns down.
The taut bow must be loosed.
The razor edge cannot long endure
Nor this moment re-lived.
Grab hold tightly
Let go lightly
--- Timothy Leary
 I have been working on this lesson since I first encountered this bit of poetry. So, in the spirit of things gone by, the pea plants have gone by to the fowl, a batch remain to be shelled and the second planting to be picked later today.

As I was pulling, I noticed a new pea plant growing; it is about 6" tall, so was self-seeded a couple of weeks ago, but it reminded me to make a note in the calendar and to try planting a short bit nearby this volunteer, to help pin down the timing for a fall harvest of peas for fresh eating... something for which I have not yet not the planting date figured out.

I love my garden meditations and even more when it talks to me.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Let the Harvests Begin!

This week ushers in the tide of First Harvest. Also known as
Lammas, Lugnasad and Freyfaxi, it is a major holiday to this homesteading Northern Tradition witch.

Here in the USA, Pagans often focus the celebration around the harvest of maize ("corn" here, though in the rest of the world I believe it is more commonly known as maize and "corn" is either wheat or a generic term for all grains) though here in the northlands, it is not yet even tassleing, let alone ready to harvest as sweet corn for eating, not to mention as a grain, dried to grind for bread.

Winter wheat, though -- planted in the fall and overwintered under Mother Nature's blanket of snow -- IS ready to harvest here on Fussing Duck Farm. This year, one of my experimental projects was to be growing several varieties of wheat, so last autumn I planted Banatka and Sirvinta, two heritage wheats which I have been harvesting for crafting and hopefully to have a wee bit of grain to grind for flour for a ritual bread later on. I also planted a variety of spring wheat, which is just now heading.

2016 YuleBock was quite skinny!
My main goal for planting wheat was to see if I could... and if so, to have fodder for crafting. Last year I attempted to make a Yule Bock but even after buying wheat at the Common Ground Fair AND from a craft store, he turned out kinda skinny. And I enjoy trying wheat weaving projects so having long strands with wheat on was something I wanted to play with. And over the past few weeks I have been harvesting it. First I cut any green stalk that "lodged" (what it's called when stems of wheat blow to the ground in wind and rain storms) and then continued to harvest as the stalks and grains dried. There are still a few standing in the garden ( or I hope they are, after the thunder storms of this late afternoon!) which I will harvest tomorrow.

I won't have the grains all sufficiently dried, threshed, winnowed and ground yet, for sure... but I am looking forward to seeing this whole process on miniature scale.

In process; I used cable ties to secure the
stalks until they dried.
I do, however, have a delightful wheat craft that I completed last week, a pentagram constructed from stalks of wheat and braided with a wreath form for support. Wheat weaving, like basket making, requires that the stalks be soaked in warm water to make them flexible and I was waiting for the project to dry completely before removing the black cable ties that I used to help secure things while it was being constructed.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

When the Garden Talks

I often get insights while doing common repetitive tasks like washing dishes, ironing (yes, I still do some times), weeding, shelling peas. This morning while washing dishes I realized that my garden has been talking to me, guiding me, teaching me.

This is a different garden, though in a part of what I have been gardening since I got here, eight years ago. It is different in how I planted it and therefore how I work it, but I never expected the changes to be so dramatic.

I have only twice before had the space for what I consider a large garden, something measured in a hundred feet or more on a side rather than tens of feet on a side. One was in virgin sandy soil, along a stream bed in western Colorado and the other was a wonderful, existing and previously small commercial organic garden in eastern Washington state. The first flooded and we moved shortly thereafter and the second had been well established and was easy to tend with just the family to help.

Garden at 100'x100'
June, 2015
Moving onto this 4 acres, with Tractor Guy wanting to help, but being unable to work for reasonable periods, while standing or bending to use hand tools, I laid out the garden with very widely spaced rows. The plan was for him to control weeds (many were the ubiquitous runner grasses that had claimed this former potato field long ago) by cultivating between the rows with his tractor while I weeded in the rows by hand and by hoe. We struggled with this plan until last year, when I cut the garden size in half and the row spacing as well. My plan was to weed the smaller garden by hand and it worked almost as well as the previous widely spread/with help set up. Which is to say, not well.

Most of my gardening life, though, I have had to make do with smaller plots, tucked into back yard corners and worked around existing trees and bushes. In these smaller plots, every square foot of earth was valuable beyond measure and because of the smaller size, I could easily add sufficient compost and manure to keep the plants well fed. At the peak of the season, a visitor to the garden would have speculated that I harvested by suspending myself from a hidden crane or had mastered levitation, as there were no visible paths or places to stand. The were there, though, under the leaf canopy. You just had to have seen the garden earlier in the season and learned where the virtual stepping stones were placed.

This year, as I continue to move toward subsistence farming and become aware that my energy is a finite substance, I downsized the garden dimensions again. This year's plot is a nominal 50x50 feet and, in an effort to squeeze in all the species and varieties that I wanted to grow, I pushed many of the rows closer together than in the recent past.

I have been applying truck loads of manure regularly, as well as the tractor-bucket loads that Tractor Guy brings from the horses next door and the soil is showing me that it can adequately support the increasted plant load.

The smaller garden and shorter rows has also meant that it has been much easier for me to keep up with the weeding. At present about 1/3 still needs serious attention, and will get it in the coming week.
The weeded section; except for garlic
(left) more recently planted

needs weeding - earlier plantings
 Much of the section that has been weeded is the most recently planted; herbs, some grains, lettuce, beets and carrots.

But what really spoke to me over dishes this morning was a result of the time spent tying up tomato plants recently. I have a new tomato trellis, made from metal conduit and the tomato plants are secured in an upright position, keeping the fruit off the ground, by
Tomatoes secured to trellis
means of string and small clips. The tomato row is on the west side of the garden, placed there so, if necessary, we could secure it in place with guy wires against our sometimes considerable west winds.
Between tomatoes
and sunflowers!

To the east of the double tomato row is a row of "flowers" that turned out to be mostly sunflowers, which yo can see peeking over the tomatoes in the picture to the left. Now, remember I said I was cozying up the rows, closer together? The photo to the right shows what I saw when I started up that row, securing the tomatoes new growth to the strings. On the ground there were very few weeds, and to the east of the sunflower row, the spring wheat is starting to head up in the afternoon shadow of the tomato/sunflower rows.

A bit farther to the east, the pea row (badly supported by plastic step in posts and plastic mesh) which will be getting its own metal trellis next year, also gives afternoon shade to carrots and beets in the next easternmost rows.

“Full sun” means at least six hours per day, but some plants such as vegetables really need eight to ten hours per day. “Partial sun” or “partial shade” means that the plant needs 3-6 hours of direct sun per day. Here in the northlands where I live, all the plants west of the crops providing shade easily get the required hours of light in the morning to early afternoon, so what my garden has taught me this week will impact how I plant next year. 

With tomato, sunflower and pea rows producing shade, I shall experiment placing my lettuce and spinach, at least -- plants that really do not like the heat and do not especially require extra sunshine -- directly next to the taller crops. 
"Three Sisters" traditional
inter-cropping: dent corn,
beans and squash

As you can see, the traditional pairing of corn, beans and squash/pumpkins seems to be quite happy. The corn in the foreground is Darwin John, an heirloom flint corn for which I was gifted 12 seeds, which is also traditional.

Which brings us to native American wisdom, and to connections that came up this morning. Back in May, I spontaneously decided to attend a talk by Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. As a result of attending her talk, I purchased the book, though as is my tradition, a study of it will wait until the dark season. However, her talk prompted me to consider how I look at, and talk to, and listen to my plants. And I attribute my insights today to this change.

The garden is always willing to talk; we have to be willing to truly listen.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Day Without Women -- looking ahead

Tomorrow is International Women's Day and here in the USA, many are calling for "a day without women, a protest to highlight "the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system—while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.”

I no longer work for "the man," as we used to say. I am retired from that life, on a minimal pension which is at least partly because of lower wages due to being female. It is also (full disclosure here) because I chose to work only in jobs where I was able to wear clothing that was comfortable to me, thus eliminating the "hose, heels, power suits and makeup" drill required to rise in the work place, if you are female. I am not
Welcom sign which
I painted and ship tomrrow
putting blame on "the patriarchy" or even the common culture because, had I been male, I am honestly not sure I could have dealt with the suit, long sleeve shirt and tie wardrobe required of guys in the same arena.

Anyway, and regardless of all that I do still work. Anyone who knows me (and especially my massage therapist, who I will be seeing tomorrow -- more about that farther on) can attest to that. I am a folk artist and I WILL be going to the post office to ship off 2 pieces tomorrow. Yes, I could put that off, but to do so would require a special trip and I have been
Natural Balance sign
which I painted and will
ship tomorrow
prioritizing "living lightly on the Earth" for years. So I will ship off the work of my hands, wearing a red turtleneck shirt (for those who do not actually strike, wearing red in solidarity and support is encouraged) and my "pussy hat," symbolic of the Women's March.  

And before that, I will tend the critters on my subsistence farm. Could I ask my partner to do that? Yes. Would he? In an instant DESPITE the fact that he really should not because when he was carrying water to the goats this morning, he fell hard and flat on his back and is currently under concussion watch. And it will be no less icy tomorrow, with rain on top of it. So, no, I will not put another human, or the critters, at risk for this.

What I will do is take my poor, old, working-class self to a woman-owned, woman-run business (Carpe Diem Salon in Dover-Foxcroft where my friend, Melissa Veraldo, will work her massage and energy medicine magic to put me back together again (after 6 weeks of hard work, snow shoveling and a good ol' Maine winter.) Missy won't be striking either. Why? Like many families, hers depends right now on her income while her wonderful hubby does battle with cancer.  I am happy to be one of her clients all the time, and especially happy to be able to support her tomorrow.

We're kinda in the backwoods of Maine, but I will be keeping a lookout for a group of women standing or walking their strike and if I see any, you can be sure I will join them for a bit. Because the issues are valid ones, and maybe even more so for those who are less privileged than I; for those who hold more than one job and still can't quite make ends meet; for those caught in positions where they dare not complain but cannot quit.

We, all of us, must do what we can, when we can and where we can -- for those who can't and most need to.

Monday, March 6, 2017

This winter I became A Knitter

I am declaring this winter to be The Winter I Became A Knitter. Decided this last night, as I picked up my third WIP (that's "Work In Progress" for those of you who don't speak knitting acronyms any better than I do).

I learned to knit as a girl, from my grandmother. I knit my way through 6th grade, thanks to an understanding teacher, who knew I was a quick study and only knit when my work was done. Other students wanted to know why I was knitting and they were not, and she told them that any time they got their work done early, they could knit. My best friend, Connie, joined me from time to time. I was knitting a sweater for my dog, Mitzi, a Boston Terrier who -- in Michigan -- appreciated the extra insulation.

Then I pretty much gave it up for years.

Picked it up again as a mom of several kids, who all got wool mittens. Yeah, I went from two needles to double pointed (DPN in knit speak), just like that. Thumbs, no sweat. Blue ribbon in the fair even.

Then I pretty much gave it up for years.

But I got back into spinning and hanging with knitters so...

I picked it up again. I have a young friend who likes to knit socks and I like socks, so that was my project of choice. Circular needles this time (dunno the knit speak for them). Ended up with a sock-like object (right shape, right length, VERY wrong diameter). One not two. Friend Beverly, a knitting guru, talked about knitting two at a time, from the toe up. "Not a beginner technique" she said, but she
Socks! Knit two at a time,
from the toe up! Love this technique!
was willing to hold my hand and agreed to teach me. That was last winter. This autumn I finished them. They were socks and they fit.

Meanwhile I had been spinning Elenor's wool. Elenor is an Icelandic sheep, part of the University of Maine flock. Love her wool...had enough spun to start a sweater, so I did. Circular needles... somewhat larger... wooden, like the ones from the socks. I found I love wooden and bamboo needles.

Modeling the "pussy hat"
Then I decided that I needed a "pussy hat" after having attended the Women's March in Augusta, so I picked up an inexpensive set of regular bamboo needles and knit one. Yes, I finished a project... in a month or so rather than a year or so.

And it fits. And I wear it, pink and all. Made it with Peace Fleece yarn from One Lupine in Bangor, ME.

But winter will not last forever, not even in Maine, so I decided I needed a cotton pussy hat, picked up some commercial cotton yarn and started it. Along with the sweater. Two knitting projects at the same time.

Then I decided I would attend a local March for Science in April and found someone had designed a pattern for a hat for that march. It has "color work" with a pattern that shows resistors and a battery. After fussing with test swatches for gauge, I got a set of interchangeable circular needles from my daughter and set to work.

Three projects on kneedles (intentional typo).

Then a friend gifted me with a bucket full of T-shirt yarn, and I had the wild idea to try to knit a small rug. Grabbed some old size 13 Boye metal needles, cast on and away I went.

Four projects on needles.
Four different needle materials.
Four different manufacturers.
And I am trying to decide if I really like one more than another.

The gifted needles included both a very smooth shiny metal and  wooden ends, two length cables and such from Knit Picks. I started on the metal, changed to the one size smaller wooden, as the metal was SO slippery... much more so than my Boye metal needles. And the wood was slippery too... much more so than the wooden double pointed ones, brand forgotten. All of them have a bit of friction, as does the bamboo. Right now I am knitting with all of them and trying to decide if I have a favorite. Or if the needle material, for me, needs to vary with project, fiber or phase of the moon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sustainability and the Weather

"It is infinitely more "sustainable," to use the currently popular buzz word, to let life's activities revolve around the weather, rather than to expect the weather to bend to mankind's activities." Me, February 15, 2017

If you live in the northlands -- or any other climate where extremes of weather happen -- sooner or later you are bound to have plans that get derailed by it. Here in Maine, of late, we have had some serious ice storms (not necessarily typical winter weather and certainly not on anyones "most favorite" list) and more recently, some serious snowfalls, nor'easters and even a blizzard. Regardless of some of the memes on social media, we DO close schools, town halls, businesses and reschedule meetings at these times.

Yes, there are those who must go to work, regardless. My mom was a nurse; I understand this. Essential services are, well, essential and folks working in those fields figure out ways to cope. Sometimes they stay nearby to their work place, take extra shifts, crash in the break room or whatever it takes. My hat is off to them.

"Back in the day" I sometimes ventured out just to see if I could. I took buses when I lived in towns that had them, and at times ended up walking a few blocks to my destination or to a different line, when a bus couldn't make it up or down a hill. Sometimes I drove (with chains on and very carefully) to a friends house for a "snow day" party... but regardless, life did not go on as usual.
View down the 200' driveway
after the February 13 blizzard
Feed and water sled
going down shoveled path

Path to chicken coop is
3' deep and not at
ground level!
Recently we had a major snow storm/blizzard that dumped up to a couple of feet of the white stuff, with winds that re-sculpted the landscape. Since we accumulated the layers of ice last month, our trusty old tractor, Fergie, has been unable to get traction. We were blessed to have a neighbor plow us out after one
Ducks, in a row, led
by Newton, the old
red rooster

storm. After that, I opted to park my old pickup, Artie, out closer to the road so that at least we could shovel him out for town trips.  A previous year's BIG snow, like the one shown in these pictures, took the use of heavy equipment from a local dairy -- with a $100 price tag -- to get it cleared. Lacking the big bucks, we won't be doing that in the future. Instead, Tractor Guy shoveled paths for chores, and then we attacked the end of the driveway . While I can do chores with snow shoes, getting IN the gates is often an issue.

The town plows had thrown snow and filled in the entire area between Artie, the truck, and the road, including throwing some onto his hood. Working together, we managed to clear a large enough space to pull out and headed into town for our monthly provisioning run for staple foodstuffs that we do not grow and to top off the stash of kerosene, since the forecast at that time was predicting more blowing snow, up to an additional 12", to fall today.

Well, the "weather guessers" have changed the forecast several times since then and the snow is supposed to start tonight and end mid-day tomorrow.

And this is where my opening quote factors in.

Because of the major storm last week, a monthly meeting that I usually attend was rescheduled for tomorrow. I had already taken the initiative to contact the meeting organizer and let them know that I would not be attending. I knew, from previous experience, that regardless of additional snowfall, after helping clear after the big blizzard, I would not be up to either clearing again the day of the meeting (even if the snow stopped near nightfall, as was predicted) and then heading to a meeting. And, at that time, additional snow was supposed to fall during the time I would be traveling to, and attending, said meeting. There is NO place to pull off the road anywhere nearby and with folks still taking this road at fast, unsafe speeds, and a turn quite nearby, I was not going to park our only vehicle IN the road to shovel at 9 pm.

As the forecast for today/tonight became more firm, another attendee asked if the meeting was going to be rescheduled yet again. Seemed to me to be a reasonable question, as many attendees have a ways to travel over country roads to get to the location. A third member of the group shot back a smart alec comment, as apparently their area is only being quoted a couple of inches of snowfall -- or so they claim -- and seriously put down the previous questioner.

I might have just written it all off to "some folks are just jerks, regardless" but the organization calling the meeting is one in which the word "sustainable" colors many of our discussions and decisions and whose members skew towards those living in rural areas, farming and even living off-grid. . Giving the "smart alec" the benefit of the doubt that their forecast does call for only a dusting of snow (in "Mainer-speak") I would think s/he might realize this is not the case for everyone. Living in town with a 10' driveway is one thing. Living in a more rural area, with a longer drive is quite another.

Yes, most folks probably do practice the common, but much less "sustainable" options, to deal with winter: hiring a 'plow guy," or using their own large fossil-fuel powered equipment to quickly move the impediment to normal daily life. Some of the probably have to, in order to get to work. Or to protect their rather considerable investment in a late-model vehicle. Gods alone know, such a rig could not bear to sit, like Artie does, at the end of the road and be pelted with plow gift! But we -- all of us -- need to begin re-thinking everything. We need to find ways to live more lightly on the planet, to not just do as we always have done, to (I really hate to jump on the buzz word bandwagon) have more sustainable lives... especially when we are actively working for and with organization that promote these changes.  
Snow shoe and wagon path
to and from the truck. Even
an old woman can handle this!

I like this year's solution, and not just because it hasn't cost me a hundred bucks that I don't even have. Yes, it has saved money, and will continue to. While we won't see our driveway again until spring, we will be able to run necessary errands. We will get exercise and fresh air. And we will be living in closer harmony to nature.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Voting with your Wallet and Gowing Hope

It's a wild time out there in the larger world beyond the farm and
My sign, center bottom, in display
at local Women's March art show.
Photo by Gibran Vogue Graham.
hex central. Along with painting, growing fruits, vegetables, meat and eggs, this allegedly retired old woman has, of late, become an amateur lobbyist. Like many others, I joined in the Women's March and other actions in support of the Water Protectors, against the DAPL and in support of Medicare and Social Security.

I have instituted a practice I call my "15 minute activism" in which I write emails, post cards, letters or send faxes to my legislators, both federal and state, and to various legislative committees on issues that are important to me.

There are many, many actions going on everywhere. Many folks are upset because the president, already a wealthy man (as they all have been, at least in recent times) appears to not have divested himself or his family from their business interests and perhaps is even working to leverage political issues for his own profit. Backlash against the family has brought his wife's consumer goods to the battle lines, with some consumers and stores boycotting her lines of ladies wear and cosmetics and others urging their purchase. "Voting with your wallet" has been a thing for some time. And even if my wallet was sufficiently flush to afford what I consider to be the highly inflated prices for the goods that bear her name, they would not be on my radar. So my "vote" there is pretty much irrelevant.

However, the larger issue, to my mind, is the greed of the mega-corporations and conglomerates that have their fingers in almost all of the goods we buy and use. In case you didn't know, greed is built into the corporate structure; because of something called fiduciary responsibility, corporations are required to maximize profits and therefore returns on investment (ROI) of their stockholders.

As a small businessperson, I know that making a profit is important. There is nothing, in my mind, wrong with a reasonable profit for one's efforts and, honestly, all of the small business owners I know are on the same page. Stay afloat, keep your customers happy and make some money... we could all live with that. But that is not good enough for the corporate world.

So, I "vote with my dollar" in a little different way: I buy from local small businesses when I can and if I must patronize the corporate world, I do my best to stay as far down on the "value added" ladder that I can. If I buy the least handled products -- for example, grain or one step up the ladder to flour -- and add the value myself when I make bread or other baked goods, or pasta or breakfast food, as my grandmother called cold cereal, I feel that I am not only depriving the corporate world of a bit of profit (yes, it's probably negligible to their eyes) but I am also keeping more money in my wallet. To my way of thinking, buying prepared foods, just like eating out for every meal, is equivalent to hiring a chef -- or at least a short order cook and I don't have the budget for that.

Likewise, being conservative of energy and raw materials -- be it the electrons that come down our wires, or the water out of the tap and down the drain, even for those rural dwellers like me who have a well and septic tank -- is voting with your wallet, at the same time as conserving both resources and cash.

Long ago, in the first blush of the environmental movement, I heard the saying "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." And in my mind, that is the most radical form of resistance I can practice. Just 'cause someone advertises something on the telly, the computer, in a magazine or you just find something new in the store doesn't mean you NEED it. "Back in the day" those who did not grow their potatoes bought them from the farmer down the road or from the grocer in town... in big bags, most likely, 'cause they were a staple... at least in my family. We bought them by the 5 or 10 pound bag, or maybe bigger. Maybe we paid a little more for the nice big ones or in the summer we picked up a bag of slightly smaller, freshly dug "new potatoes." The small potatoes, typically, were... "small potatoes," unimportant, left to the last if you had grown them, hard to peel and not at all desirable. Thanks to the bright idea (?) of a marketing agency somewhere along the line, though, these same small spuds have become "gourmet" and are priced at three times, or more, the price of the just plain old 'taters. Why? They are really just small potatoes, still. Do we honestly need them, especially for the much higher price?

So, if you want to change the world, start thinking "do I need this?" and then "do I really need this?" And don't loose hope, grow some instead. Spring IS coming!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Icy Dark Rain Moon retrospective

Over the course of this year, I am working with a local group, and the Perennial Course in Living Druidry. No, I am not abandoning my path, or my Gods; I am walking with friends to learn and sync even more with the natural world around me.
We observe and contemplate the changes from dark moon to dark moon, and then gather to share what we have seen and learned.

This past "moonth" -- a word I have coined for the moon cycle, ran from December 29 through January 27. One of the things were were taking note of was what one might call characteristics of this moonth that might be used to name it. Like many of my colleagues, I noted the preponderance of rain and ice during the past cycle. Normally we do have a "January thaw" so there is usually ice that happens, but this year it was very present both on the ground and as "icy rain" and sleet. I also noted that this period seemed darker than usual, not only because of cloudy skies (night and day) but also because of several, multiple hour long power outages. For me, the physical darkness echoed an emotional darkness that I felt from many around me due to the political situation in our country.

Mixed branches against
the sky in our NW grove.
Being a Druid thing, of course we have been paying attention to the trees as well. This time of year, I always notice the birch -- sacred to my lady Frigga -- and the beech as well; they stand out in the skeletal forest as I go by, with their light brown leaves still firmly attached to their branches. Many of the birches hae bent double in the wind, bowed by layers of accumulated ice and with their branches now firmly affixed to the frozen ground. Because they bend, and mostly do not break, once the ground thaws they will once again stand tall. Their lesson to me was "Sometimes you need to bend." The beeches, still holding leaves despite the wind and coating of ice, say "Hold on tight!" One of my colleagues noted that he saw the birch trees' bark texture as wounds, which goes along with their lesson to me: even 'beaten' they bent but did not break.

Another thing I noticed and have been watching is the play of the shadows of house and garage, with a shaft of light between them, which appear in the back yard as the sun rises over the trees. In order to document this, I have been taking photos out the window from my desk. It's not a terribly clear view, and I was not consistent in shooting even close to the same view, so only the first and last images in my small series (winter means many cloudy sunrises here) aligned well enough for video comparison. It has been interesting to note the changes, which are increasing rapidly. The rate of change of day length speeds up remarkably the closer we get to equinoxes and slows to a crawl closer to solstices. The rate of change of the length of the day is not constant but rather sinusoidal because of the tilt of the earth's axis, more extreme the closer to the pole. You can see a visual representation of this here.

 One of the other attendees mentioned that the hazel nut trees/bushes will be blooming soon and said one would have to look closely, as the flowers are very tiny. Since I have planted hazelnuts, I decided to do a little research and check out my plants. What I found was very interesting!  See those tiny lighter brown things hanging from two of the upward pointing twigs on the photo, above? These are the MALE flowers. Some plants have both male and female individuals (like American Bittersweet) and you must plant both to have berries develop. Many other plants have both the male and female parts in each flower; the wind or insects move the pollen from the stamen to the pistil. Hazel is a tricky one! It has both female and male flowers on each plant. The male flowers called catkins, develop in the fall and hang on the plant through winter, becoming more open and eventually developing a yellow tint. The female flowers look like small reddish brown buds, usually at the branch tips, through the winter. The blossoms, tiny magenta sunbursts, appear early in the spring, before any sign of leaf, and after the catkins have elongated and can move freely in the wind, which distributes the pollen to the pistils. See the entry on "The Natural Web" for more pix and information.

Despite the characterization of this period as the Icy Dark Rain Moon, I still observed, near the end of the moonth, the beginning of the cross quarter tide that some call Imbolc and I term Spring Finding. I do not use electric lights to extend the day for my fowl, as I choose to encourage their natural habit of winter rest. As the days grow shorter, egg production drops. This year I have been getting one egg a day thrugh the late fall and winter, as last year's spring chicks matured. During the last week of the moonth, the hens surprised me with two eggs on several days! So however inappreciably to us humans, the days are getting longer.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Of Pagans and protests: an easy balance

Local protest on Saturday, January 28, supporting the Water Protectors
and against TD Bank, with its ties to the DAPL.

I almost had myself double-booked Saturday. I planned to attend a meeting of a group of local Pagans for our first monthly gathering to discuss what we had learned observing nature from new moon to new moon. We are loosely following The Druid Network's Perennial Course in Living Druidry. The same day, at an overlapping time, local activists planned to gather for a 3 hour protest, as noted in the caption, above. I contacted the organizer of the Pagan event to let him know that I would be coming in an hour late, and would do so with as little interruption as possible. The organizer, a Druid and very earth- and nature-oriented fellow, instead polled the group and in the end, chose to delay start of our discussion so that the others of us who also wanted to attend the protest, could do so.

I spent what was actually a delightful three hours, standing in the cold, holding my "Water IS Life" sign and flexing my knees in rhythm with the drumming being done by the Penobscot tribe, who were instrumental in organizing the event. Lots of exercise for bionic knees and I knew they would tell me about it today. As they have.

The Druidry discussion focused on inspiration, awen in their vernacular, and where and how we found it in nature during this past month of attention. With 11 participants of varying ages, backgrounds and locations, both urban and rural, the discussion ranged far and wide. One participant chose to pay attention to how he spent his time, keeping a log to compare with his impressions of what he did each day, and he was surprised to learn that in a day when, for example, his perception told him that he had spent a good day cleaning house, in actual fact, he was only occupied with that task for an hour! He discovered that he was unaware how much time he "wasted" watching TV, as an example.  Another theme of the month's observations was to have been "soil," but here in Maine there is not much of that to be seen this time of year. I noticed that I could see it in some places most of the month (even the nor'easter did not manage to cover the place where my truck normally parks) and that I had made a deliberate decision to stand on it, as opposed to on snowy or icy places, during the demonstrations that I have been attending. Soil, even frozen, is much warmer than ice! But ice turned up as the theme as well, not surprisingly, as this month's weather has been much more about ice (both falling and as rain, falling and freezing) than it has about snow. Many saw the ice as a protective shield. And ice factored in to most of the names for this moon cycle, another task that we were to focus on.

One participant had a very different take on the idea of "naming the moon" though. She sees the moon as a Goddess, and felt that naming Her appearance each month was not something she wanted to do... so she named the sky! Whether one chooses to say they are "naming the moon" or the moon cycle, or as I sometimes think of them, the "moonth" (differentiating from month) it will be interesting to look back from this time in future years to see how well the naming holds/how it needs modification. My choice for this moonth was Icy Dark Rain Moon.

With the long day off the farm yesterday, and the extra exertion, I was not surprised to find myself a bit "down" today. I declared a "self-care sunday" and have not done much beyond chores and a bit of walking about outside. 

Thankfully my pain pills DID take the edge off, and allow me to do some extra wandering, as I had a full sled of compostables to slide out to the garden. The heavily laden sled took itself over the compacted snow and ice layers, and with my cleats on, I was able to walk easily along on the top of the "snow." Coming back up from the garden, the baby fruit trees got my attention and I parked the sled in a flat location (so it would stay put!) to take a quick walk around them. This is the time of year when one thinks about pruning, so I cast an analytical eye at each one, looking for potential problems. Since they are young and small, pruning is a minimal event, but each tree showed me at least one place where a branch should be removed. I also noted that -- thus far -- our anti-deer fence is working. There was no "wild pruning" to be seen!

After bringing the compost buckets back to the house, I visited the apple trees along the driveway and the cherry tree there, as well, then I picked up the sled again and brought it around back before visiting the butternut and hazelnut trees. I specifically had wanted to visit the hazelnuts because one of the participants at the Druid meeting had mentioned their blooming and it seemed a bit early to me. Well, it is... sort of. Apparently these trees (or bushes, as I know them) have both male and female flowers, bloom in early spring before they leaf out and their male flowers "are visible from fall through winter, hanging stiffly from the hazelnut branches" [The Natural Web - Signs of Spring] and indeed they were! I did not have a camera with me on my walk, but I will take one next time out, when I plan to prune.

Walking out back to the "old apple tree" I did see a couple of places where something had done some "wild pruning," as well as getting a good look at where I need to do more work. There were, surprisingly, no deer tracks around this tree either, though it is well outside the fence. I DID see a couple of deep depressions in the snow (obviously old, made before the freezing/thaw cycle) where it appears something winged made a serious impact, likely attempting to grab some prey. No signs of blood though. 

Other than that, the entire back field was free of tracks of any sort, until right along the back property line, where deer and other tracks were frequent. There were lots more beyond the locust tree row and this side of it, and all were moving mostly in an east-west direction. There were a couple of places where it looked like something had been dragged... the marks were about 4" wide, one about 18" long, the other more like a few feet. I only saw two piles of deer sign and neither looked recent. One was in the "proto-forest" grove, the other alongside. I also got a good look at the crab apple tree we found late last summer and I will have to spent a LOT more time thinking about pruning it!
Abundance, prosperity and smooth
sailing through life sign sailed
off to Texas this week!

A gift to friends in OK
I find that farm stuff and nature stuff is an excellent way to balance out and shake off the frustration that comes from dealing with politics. That, and knitting, and painting, of course. The first "Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch)" hex sign of 2017, is shown at left, in its official portrait.  And the last of 2016, which was actually completed this month, arrived at its new home (right).