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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Divining the Cabbage

The Cabbage
There are at least as many traditions for New Years Eve as there are cultures, though when we mark the new year, does, of course, vary a bit.

In many places in the USA, folks eat cabbage (or in the south, collard greens) on New Years Day, as these green cruciferous vegetables are considered representative of money. Although I did not grow up with any particular traditions for this time of year, I have adopted the cabbage, and serving pork for the meat in January 1 supper (with 'kraut for me) along my travels. Usually I end up buying one, but this year I had two heads still lingering in the fridge. Both were harvested late and therefore had suffered some from the ravages of the late season weather. As I worked through the dry layers and underlying moldy leaves, a thought came to me.

There are many traditional forms of divination, also practiced on New Year's eve, preferably at the stroke of midnight. You can light a white candle and drip the wax into cold water, or you can poke a hole into the end of the first egg laid on New Year's Eve day (not something practical for us northern farmers who believe in giving the ladies a season of rest) and let the drips fall into hot water (or, I might suggest a clear chicken broth, as after completing the divination, you could eat egg drop soup as the chicken* scratches the old year into the past!) I have also read of a German tradition of melting lead, or possibly in recent times, tin and dropping it in water. This ancient form of divination, known as Molybdomancy, has been used for 1000s of years in many cultures.

If you read cards (playing cards or Tarot cards can be used by those in the know) there is a layout known as the "Clock" or "Circle of Years," in which you place the cards one for each mark on the clock in a cirle, and the last in the middle. You read them, one o'clock for January and so on, and the one in the middle for the whole year.

Now, I have never been good at divination, or really terribly interested in seeking to know what is around the corner. However, as I was working on this cabbage, without seeking for anything other than clean, edible vegetable matter, it spoke to me. 

"I may not be a very big head," it said, "and yeah, my outside is pretty bunged up and gross." "But, look!" She continued as more and more edible cabbage was revealed, "I prevailed!"

This tiny cabbage, echoing an oft-heard and repeated message over this year, will stay in my mind over the next one. Its lesson blends in my mind with many throughout the book, Braiding Sweetgrass, that I finished last night.

I honor her for her tenacity and for the lesson, and nutrition, she has brought. And set the Intention, going forth, to take time to just sit, and even lie in the garden, to continue to notice each plant. And to persevere. Little Cabbage reiterated another recent awareness: little bits matter.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

On turning the Calendar

It's almost that time again, time to take down the tattered old calendar hanging on the wall, and put up a new one. Mine has tractors on it, and soon the page with the Oliver brand machine will be extracted for its trip to my grandson, Oliver. I don't this year, have a replacement though! I will have to go hunting; I usually get mine free from the feed store but last time I was there, I only saw their horse ones. I like horses well enough, but usually they have both and I forgot to ask or search for the tractor version. But I digress.

2017 was a pretty beat up year, all 'round, I think. But since I count the year as beginning in the spring -- and it's all just a continual spiral anyway -- I don't normally make a big deal out of "Change The Calendar Day" or the Eve before. But it seems like everyone else does, so the energy is there to piggyback a bit of Working... and why not!

I am also not a big fan of spending tons of time and energy on looking back and reflecting over the past months. Personally, when I have, I seldom find anything new to discover. Lessons and insights come as they come and I do my best to learn and carry the insights forward as I go. And I know from past experience that if I don't, the Powers That Be have no issue with another round of instructions. Usually I manage to "get it" before the bring out the Celestial 2x4 for the whack 'long side the head, thankfully! 

I am also not a big fan of loud noisy parties (period), getting sloshed (deliberately) and the usual shenanigans that accompany the mainstream Change The Calendar Day Eve. While these past months seem good ones for a rousing farewell, on the national and world stage for sure, our lives here at hex central with the
Stormy, not long before
her passing
critters that share our lives -- fussing ducks and all -- was really not that bad. Several passed on, ones we loved as well as the ones I thanked and deliberately sent... you know, the ones we eat. The plants did their best to cope with the strange seasons and I did my best to tend,
onions
harvest and store them. This was NOT a good year for storage onions, though. Not like last year, when we were still eating the bumper crop long after planting this year's seedlings. This winter, we will be lucky to have them for much longer. The harvest, which was adequate in quantity, is proving to not store well, despite being the same varieties as we planted last year. I am cutting and freezing them; mostly they are used in cooking anways, but it's always interesting to me to see the changes from one year to the next.

So rather than a massive celebration of having survived 2017 (which, considering everything that went on outside our four acres this year, I can, kinda, understand doing) I will, as always, spend this weekend moving forward in the way I would like the next bit of time to move. I had hoped to attend a "setting Intentions" ritual with friends, but because of the arctic temperatures and my truck's wimpy heating system, I have decided just to stay at home and work with them in spirit. This IS something new to me... the deliberate setting of intentions. I have for many years, paid attention to some threads that I wished to encourage, mostly by spending the evening cleaning and organizing my abode. It's been some time since I was last able to do a complete house cleaning in a day, though, so while I will be continuing to work on that
Organizing the fiber stash so I can
actually work with it.
project, I have also thought a bit about other threads that have surfaced recently, and I will spend some time today trying to make sense out of that, and to find ways to organize and prioritize giving them attention.  Note, this is not a plotting, planning, setting goals or resolving to do this or that, beyond the level of "paying attention" and "listening to and following" prompting from those Powers That Be.

And following my tradition, we will eat pork on Monday (and saurkraut for me) and there will be a cabbage in prominent display (from the garden! It's been in storage.) and greens of some kind to be eaten as well (likely spinach, raw from the store for Tractor Guy, cooked for me for the symbolism they bring.

May this Change of the Calendar find you all moving forward with abundance and joy!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

So it wasn't a bank robbery, just weather.

Today is Thursday, and as you can tell by this graph, it's rather chilly here at hex central, under the sign of the Fussing Duck.
To be truthful, this prediction is a bit off... as I was sitting at my desk this morning, before dawn, I checked the remote-reading thermometer and it said -17F. It was predicted to bottom out at -11, but in the end, neither of those numbers was correct, as it fell to -20 just before sunrise. Yeah, BRRRR!

I had planned a day in town, to finally meet up with online friend and fellow blogger Crystal Sands who was doing a reading from the book of poems for kids penned by her talented hubby and illustrated by their equally talented son. Tag-teamed with that bit of fun was a necessary run for feed and kerosene, the last of which was loaded into the "spare" heater this morning, to take the chill off the unheated bedroom and bathroom. Unheated, in this case, meant the cats' water was frozen in their bowl, in the bathroom, when we went to bed. It was frozen again this morning. Not surprising as the room temp -- surveyed by a digital thermometer I hauled along when I headed to bed last night -- was 35F.

Yeah, it did need a bit of a warm up... but thus far I am pleased to report that, by leaving serious drips going on all the faucets, we still have running water, hot and cold.

What we did not have when we got up this morning, was a working propane wall heater. You know the one... it's attached to the living room wall and it's sole fuction is to keep the place warm enough, overnight, so that it doesn't freeze. Well, it didn't freeze, thankfully, didn't even approach the bedroom's overnight low, but it did need to be dealt with. Fortunately, when we previously swapped what we thought was an empty big tank for a full one, we did so in error. The problem had not been lack of fuel, but lack of flow. The pilot needed addtional link and beast hair removed by proper application of canned air, and ran just fine after first refusing to acknowledge that the canister we had just filled, and knew to be full, indeed was full. So we were able to swap the empty for a partial, getting the heater back on line and buying us some time. With the addition of some more kero, we could put off the big propane fill for a day, thankfully.

The driveway was, as of this morning, still filled with snow. While it is not hard to drag an empty large propane tank down a 200' long driveway over/through the snow, pulling it back UP again -- even though the rise is slight -- is another matter, and one left for its own day.

I was lucky to have Artie start right up...kudos to a 27 year old truck, on a day when my mechanic had spent the morning responding to "won't start" calls. After several trips down to the truck with sled loads of fuel containers, I headed off to get the winter tires put on and then headed to town.

Of the many errands on my list, one was to stop at the bank to pick up cash which I will need this weekend. I was making good progress, so I made my quick run through the grocery store, then figured I'd hit the bank, gas station and feed store and end up at the library just in time for the reading.

Oops... think again. When I got to the bank, which shares a building with several other businesses, there were alarms sounding all over and many folks standing around outside. The front door of the building was open, so I went in, only to discover that the doors to the foyer, from which one entered the bank, were locked tight and no on could be seen inside.  Being on a schedule, I decided to head off to get gas and while pumping I heard sirens responding to that direction.

Hummmm... I was, by this time, almost late to the start of the reading, so should I try to get there or go check out the bank? I realized I had no camera with which to capture any action, and went to the library, had a great time finally meeting Crystal and her family in person, and then headed by to complete my errands. Turns out the problem was not a robbery, but a broken water pipe. It seems any issues like that set off all the alarms and when the alarms go off -- even for cold weather problems or "acts of God" -- security measures go into effect. The tellers were glad that it was just water, which had been restored.

And I got back home, all errands complete, to discover that my mechanic had done a good deed and plowed us out! Not only did I not have to haul several sled-loads of fuel, food and feed up to the house in what is currently -5F with a wind, but we will be able to load and unload the big propane tank about 10 feet from where it needs to go.

And there is wine, and Epsom salts in the house, running water for a nice hot bath and "feel good" meal of creamed dried beef on toast and a green salad in the offing.  It may be going to be the coldest week on record in Bangor for 40 years, but life is good.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A Pagan Practice over Time

An online Pagan friend recently posted a series of questions that grew out of her reading of a post on patheos.com and I have felt motivated to use them as a writing prompt today.

She began by asking: What is your practice? Has it deepened or become less? Do you maintain a personal altar/ritual space and when was the last time you physically cleaned it, or decided which objects stayed or needed to go? 
My practice has evolved over time, but remains experience-based. I came to my path being taught directly by the Gods (not all of Whom gave their names initially) and as much, if not more, by the Elements and the natural world around me. I was living in a remote, off-grid community at the time and I think that made it easier, both to hear the quiet voices and to follow thier promptings. It was at least a year from when I began talking with the moon on regular occasions and from when I populated my first altar -- to Earth -- before I labeled the path as Pagan. That epiphany was the result of a philosophical conversation with a young, Pagan friend, who was astounded by what I had *not* read.
 Along the way, various Gods and mostly Goddesses led the way: Artemis, Athena, Hecate who handed me off, after my Croning, to Frigga, with whom I still work. Things have, indeed, changed and I believe deepened.
I do have a personal altar, and have recently added and subtracted to it, as well as having spent a good long time going through the objects in my "magic chest" in which I keep sacred things that are not currently in use. As a result, a few things have gone away, a few more are awaiting shipment to a Pagan daughter and even more were used to follow up on a prompting I got at the time, to establish Elemental altars outside, on our property lines, to each direction and element, which I set on Mothers' Night.
 Do you journal? Do you maintain a connection with the Moon (as well as the Sun)? Do you still have rituals even if you're without a group?
 I have tried to journal at various times, but have never been able to keep it up for long. Now, I often write here on this blog, as well as on Facebook, both of which seem to be longer-lasting habits. And I do keep connection with both Moon and Sun in their cycles. I do this at least in part by building bridges of magical/mundane connections and empowering necessary chores with magical intent. An example of this is my monthy trash/recycle/bottle redemption/charity donation run, which I do shortly before the dark moon. Our dump/recycling center is only open a few days a week, so I designate an open day just prior to the dark moon as our monthly trash and recycle disposal day. We don't generate much, and are looking to further minimize waste, but this ritual is tied to the concept of getting rid of unneeded things, so that there continues to be a "hole" into which abundance can flow. And being a subsistence homesteader, the yearly cycles are easy for me to keep.
I have always been solitary, so of course I have rituals. One of the bedrocks of my practice is a greeting to Frigga each morning that begins with a few lines from the Poetic Edda:
"Hail, day! | Hail, sons of day!
And night and her daughter now!
Look on us here | with loving eyes,
That waiting we victory win....
And ends with a greeting to Her and her Ladies, followed by a "penny ritual" for abundance. Each Friday, as well, I hold a fire to honor and petition Frigga and her Handmaidens.
I do not regularly read through old writings and only occasionally look at some of the Pagan books that I do have on my shelf, though I do when one speaks to me. 
Are you a life-long learner or do you think you've figured it all out?
I certainly do not have it all figured out, but my "ah ha" moments most often come from not-particularly-Pagan sparks, the most recent of which was a talk by indigenous botanist Robin Kimerer.
How are you being mindful of the world around you? What is it saying to you? How are you learning and reflecting, and how can you look at your circumstances through a spiritual eye? Have you tried doing things in a new way? Why not?
Part of my "mindfulness" these days is an increase in political actions. I have started a "15 minute activism" protocol in which I take at least a few minutes each day to fax or email legislators to support or oppose proposed actions. Following some of the awareness that has built as I read Kimerer's book, Braiding Sweetgrass, many of which build on things I was taught while "sitting under the Zen pine" in the beginning of my journey on this path, I find that I am more aware of the plants and animals around me as individuals and populations with whom I can speak.
Having long had a "chop wood, carry water" foundation to my practice, pulls me into a non-mundane point of view often. For me, new ways grow out of old, sometimes as the result of a conversation or something I have read, but always "proven" against my personal experience.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Mothers' Night, the Night before Yule

Since I am still counting days as starting with sunrise, rather than sunset, Today was the day before Yule, for me; traditionally Mothers' Night (Mōdraniht) and a night to honor the disir, All-Mother Frigga, our female ancestors and even the landwights. It is also the day that I renew the protective talismans that I place to surround our land. 
Six little talismans all in a row.


This year, I also had been moved to collect some of the altar items that are no longer in my regular rotation, to populate elemental altars on the appropriate sides of our acreage. I felt that today was the day to do this, also. 

It has been a while since I had to break trail on snow shoes to do this ritual, and using only one walking pole so my other hand could pull the sled full of materials made it awkward. Even worse, I lost one of the 'shoes along the way and did not notice it until I had likely walked most of the length of the east side of the land. Breaking trail is hard, walking unevenly as I was made it harder, so I chose to not go back in search. I will get out there in the next couple of days to track it down. 

North Altar
I started out walking North, making my way through the electric fence (turned off before I started) and set up my altar for the North/Earth near the boundary of the field.
After placing the North altar I turned East, greeted the little young grove in the north-east corner and tied the first talisman to a birch tree growing there. 
Crab apples
against the
cloudy sky

  
Talisman in place in the NE corner
Then I headed south, along the east boundary. I greeted the neighbors' horses and said hello to the volunteer crab apple tree that we discovered and identified a year ago last summer. 

East/air altar

The east/air altar came next with feathers from our turkey and a bird's nest with a pecan in its shell standing in for an egg. As I continued, I saw issues with the electric fence, and began working on them as I went along...until I found a place where the lines were broken and I had taken up too much slack as I worked my way along to be able to reconnect them...even if they had not been totally encased in ice! So I proceeded just on the ritual path, making a mental note to tend the fence later. 

South-east talisman.
When I placed the south-east talisman in the evergreen, I noted a faded bit of ribbon hanging just left of center near the bottom of the photo...a left over from last year's ritual. As I turned and continued west along the front and road-side of our land, I took in several of the trees I have planted as a visual screen, and several more places that the fence needed attention. 

I hung talismans on both sides of the drive, and placed the
One of two talismans
beside the driveway.
south/fire altar there. It is small and sparse, with just a bit of charcoal and some twigs to represent the fuel for the fire and I forgot to take a picture of it. 

Along the south-west boundary I greeted more of the young trees, ending up in the southwest corner, where the bush that I
Talisman in baby oak tree.
had been using to support the talisman had gone, so the young oak tree, one of many I planted a few years ago, stepped up to the task. 


As I turned north again, along the west boundary, I found many things of interest!
icy pine tree
Two of the pine trees from my earlier planting had been blown/bowed over the fence and were still encrusted with ice and snow! I gently whacked the branches to remove most of the ice and made a mental note that I will need to look at

them early in the spring.  I also found what appear to be buds on
witch hazel
my witch hazel shrub! I will have to keep an eye on this and catch it in bloom!

The west/water altar and the north-west talismans were next, but I cannot up load any more pictures for this post, so you will just have to imagine them.

All in all, it was a good working, though my body is -- and will likely continue to -- offer complaints from the workout. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Falling into the Flow

I love it when I seem to be in sync with the energies of the universe. It doesn't happen all the time, and especially during the time of maximum change in day length at spring and autumn, I struggle. Finally, though, it seems I have once again fallen into the flow for winter.

I look forward to winter, more maybe than some of the other seasons. While I love the busy days of spring promise, seedlings and new birth, tolerate - more or less well - the summer heat for the abundance of produce and growing critters and enjoy the winding down of autumn, with its crunchy leaves and often awesome color displays, I need the rest that winter brings. I relish the short days that call me to sit by the fire, to study, to knit, to spin by lamplight or the light of the low, cold sun. The slower days, I think, makes it easier to find the flow. There is less daylight (and as you know if you have read my blog for any time at all, it is my nature to take my cues from the sun, not from human clocks and electric "man-light."

Being on the farm, our work is often guided by the weather and the short days, coupled with bouts of cold rain and hopefully eventually snow, have an impact. Dry days, when the mercury rises just a bit, call us to work quickly on outside projects and today we did just that. Tractor Guy spent the morning laying out extension cords to power two "heated dog bowls" of 6 quart capacity which will hopefully eliminate our need to break ice, and therefore allow watering of fowl with the hauling of less water. We may have to haul morning and afternoon, if they prove to be heavy drinkers, but if so, so be it.

6 foot long "tip"
I spent the afternoon gleaning more greenery and making our wreath. I had planned to "go tipping" on a friend's place earlier in the week, but missed them on my visit. On the way home, I realized that our past storm had felled sufficient trees that I would be able to gather sufficient branches from those down along the road, and that realization came as I passed what I thought was a small bit of tree in the roadside ditch. I stopped and loaded the bit of greenery, left, into my truck. LOL I dropped it in back, by the picnic table and the goats have been looking longingly at it ever since.

Since I prefer wreaths with different textures, I took a walk yesterday, to find other bits from our road to go with. I had learned my lesson, though, and walked down the road with just my small cart, not the pickup truck! I was only planning to make a few wreaths at best, not to go into production! As I walked, with eyes and mind open, I found three other types of evergreen and several other plants that wanted to be included: red dogwood twigs, bit of birch, with the catkins still attached, and bit of moss and lichen, some still attached to downed dead branches.

With the addition of the birch, a tree sacred to Frigga, I knew this wreath would be more than just decoration. Then I discovered that moss has a floral meaning of charity and maternal love, which fits nicely into a project for AllMother.
I have not yet got the bow on it, though I will do so. It is my first attempt at a two-sided wreath, as it hangs on our glass front door. I hung it immediately on account of the itty bitty destruction committee, kitty version.

And in further keeping with the flow of the season, I realized that, with the payment in hand from last month big design project, I could easily afford to haul my collected non-Icelandic wool to the mill for cleaning, carding and turning into roving. And furthermore, doing so would be in tune with the tradition of finishing fiber projects before the 12 days of Yule commence (or else risk displeasing the Goddess (Frau Holle by some traditions, Frigga in others), as this is the one project that I have been wanting to complete for some time. I have collected many bags of free fleece, which are being stored here, there and everywhere about, taking up space and as I have been organizing and sorting, I determined that it needs to be made into an effecient to use form. I do enjoy carding and working "in the grease" but will reserve that for my special wool... the fleeces from Elenor and her offspring, Rigby, who came to live with us this year.

So, skirting the wool will be a project for this next week, along with making more cookies (which will be fun, because I was planning to use the kitchen table for both projects... just not at once!)  Current plans are to take Tractor Guy on a day long explorationg and rambling drive, now starting with a visit to the mill, then on to visit Liberty Tool Company, whose stock I fell in love with at the last Common Ground Fair, where I hope to find a drawknife for a Yule present for TG, then on to Unity for a visit to the Amish Charcuterie and nearby Community Market and ending in Belfast, for a visit to The Green Store and an art gallery where a friend has a large work currently on display. It will be a long, tiring day on the road, but I am hoping it will be fun for both of us.




Sunday, November 26, 2017

"Stick Season"

"Stick season" trees in silhouette against the sunrise
I discovered the term "stick season," an appellation apparently borrowed from Vermont, in an article in the Bangor Daily News. It is so appropriate for our northern late autumn days, after most of the leaves have fallen from the trees and before snow appears and stays. It works well as a counterpoint to Maine's infamous "mud season" in the spring.

I was thinking about sticks, branches, and of trees silhouetted against the sky, the Standing People to our indigenous neighbors, as written of in Robin Kimmerer's book, Braiding Sweetgrass.

Standing bare against November sky
I seem to see the souls of trees,
With life force safely underground,
Their essence etched against the sky.
One stretches up and spreads
delicate branches in joy, an arched crown overhead.
One reaches out in all directions
calling "come, light on me." "Someday there will be shade again."
One gestures downward, towards the earth;
head upward bound, it seems to say
"Look, I can show the way."
And so he can, if we but watch and listen.
A row of youngsters, pruned this year
(power lines, you know, and planted by humans
who did not watch or listen)
show off a thicket of a adolescent enthusiasm.
"We're here to GROW! You see! We know!"

I need to learn them all, by shape, at least those left to natural growth. And so, as I was sent to Dr. Kimmerer's talk by the corn totem on the hex sign I was painting, I have been sent to a talk on Winter Twig ID by the Bangor Land Trust a week from today. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Back to 2017


 Where to start? Over Samhain/Halloween-tide we had a nor'easter. What a storm it was... winds up to 60 mph and an inch of rain... which doesn't seem like much water until you take into account the four inches that saturated the ground a week earlier! That much water is almost enough to cause unbalanced, shallow rooted trees to fall without other factors. But other factors were in play, including the clearing of a large lot down the road from us, which allowed many of the trees around the boundry of the clearing to topple. One, as seen to the left, laid suspended by our electric line for nearly a week. Just "up stream" from the tree, two transformers were also damaged. So for nearly a week, I got the opportunity to revisit -- more or less -- my off grid days.

It was nice, actually. I did miss having a reasonably close source for water, as our well pump is on-grid and during my off-grid days we had running water in the summer via pipes from a creek and in the winter from a cistern with a hand pump. Other than that, and my curiosity as to why most of my kerosene lamp wicks needed daily maintenance instead of being tended weekly, as back in the day, we were pretty much both content. I have added to my "to do" list, the task of repairing or replacing the burner noses on at least two of the lamps. They have not adjusted easily for some time and got worse this week. If you have not used a kerosene lamp, it is essential that the little knob on the side of the burner turn freely so you can quickly and easily adjust the height of the flame. The wicks need to be turned up to light, but then quickly start to smoke. Unless you get the flame turned down before you replace the glass chimney, it soots up as well and you loose much of what little illumination they provide.

Our freezers survived well; I lost the meat that was in the fridge-freezer and some ice cream melted and re-froze, but over all, our food is fine. I can cook just as well by lamp light as I ever could, and can spin also and did a bit of both after the sun set. I spent much time during the quiet beginning my reading of Braiding Sweetgrass, a book that I bought for my winter study after hearing the author, Dr. Robin Kimmerer speak at the local university back in May. I encourage everyone to read it, and I will be writing more with her discussions as a theme later on.

Much of what she writes about more than strikes a chord with me; many of the places she has come to through following her heritage are things I learned, long ago, in somewhat similar fashion. While I do not have blood that is native to this soil, many hours spent in contemplation, leaning on "the zen pine" while listening to the teachings of the land, the elements and the sky did their job and helped me to begin to be able to listen to the land and the plants and animals upon it.  They are easier to hear when it is quiet, which may explain why they are so little heard these days. In many places, the drone of canned music, radio, TV and now the constant summoning by mobile devices pretty much precludes hearing the quiet voices of nature. Trust me, even the best nature documentary is no match for the real thing.


While the somewhat distant sounds from neighbors' generators did, much of the time, break the natural background sounds, it seemed to me that, annoying as they were, the absence of even the quiet sounds of a still house (we don't run media unless one of us is actually paying attention to it, but the computers, refrigerator, freezers, and so on, are seldom all slient at once) made a big difference in ways that I cannot really communicate. It makes me wonder, if being surrounded by wires carrying electrons -- not just when I am in the house, but outside, with other homes nearby and the wires that feed them as well -- is something I sense at some level. This power outage again reminded me of the striking feeling of space that I felt when I first stepped into the canyon that was our off-grid home. I felt, psychically and psychologically like I could s-t-r-e-t-c-h for the first time in my life.


But now the power is back on, and while we aspire even a bit more strongly to work towards being less reliant on the power grid, the adjustment to the faster pace and longer duration of the day -- thanks to "man-lights" is taking a while. There was much left awry from projects in process and just completed, that I did not get to tend to during the outage and now... several weeks later... I am still catching up. Either I will or I won't, but winter will come and so our focus changes.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Magical, Mundane Ritual

Sun breaking through
clouds during October
nor'easter storm.
-- Started writing in October --
We are well into autumn, and the time of year when darkness no longer creeps slowly into our awareness, but rather arrives, early and unexpectedly, on the doorstep. On days like today, with hard rain, wind and overcast skies, it is even more obvious. The Winter Nights Tide is upon us. I appreciate the return of the dark season, even as I hurry to prepare next year's garden soil and worry about the final harvest of this year's crops. Leeks, beets, carrots and red cabbages are all that remain in the garden at present.

I am gearing up, as it were, to do something I have never done before. I have called on a group of friends, of various spiritual paths, to help me perform a "magical, mundane ritual." House, in whom we live, is unhappy. We have been unable to keep up with keeping her windows clean and last year at this time, though we did what we could, only the insides got washed before we applied the plastic to keep out the drafts. She is sad, because the dirt and cobwebs on her windows, like cataracts on human eyes, cloud her vision.

Most folks, I guess, think of washing windows "to let the sun shine in" but for in her awareness, the sun shines in regardless... but she sees the outer world through cloudy vision. She wants to see the beauty of the wider world, the trees as they drop their leaves and then after a time, regain them in varied hues of green. She wants to be on guard, as a house should be, to protect her occupants... but with clouded vision, she is worried.

So I am convening this ritual, with trusted friends, to clean the lenses of her vision and help put up the clear plastic that helps her block drafts and protect her family.

It has been ages since I have "had friends in" in any capacity. And even though these are all trusted friends, I am still concerned. I am far from a conventional person -- though I suspect that the depth and breadth of my differences often are not noticed, as it is not my habit to wave that flag. And therefore House is far from a conventional house, and even more so from a conventional trailer.

She does not see herself as a trailer, even though there are still wheels underneath her. She has roots. She lives, she is planted here, by her choice and ours. But her nods to her more conventional house sisters are few. Her small kitchen, designed -- if we can even use word-- more for simple recipes, heating up cans and frozen meals with a small place for a small family to eat, is home to more cooking and food-related activities than most houses have seen in many years. And it has to do triple duty a canning kitchen and an art studio too!

The "master" bath lost its tub years ago, to leaks and only one sink has full functionality. Her owners scratch their heads, though, at the idea that a house really needs more than one bathroom, and at that more than one sink for hand washing per bath, so this long-neglected room is bathroom to cats more than humans, and is also their dining hall and one of the humans' storage areas. Poor house was not blessed with much storage space, as she was designed -- there's that questionable word again -- for humans who don't spend much time with her and when home, mostly sleep and watch a small magic box.

Her humans, on the other hand, seem to have a myriad of pursuits... they bring in many raw foodstuffs to store, they make things from cloth and even make cloth from fibers that they collect and need to store somewhere. They make things from wood and paint, and during much of the year there is sawdust in her long-neglected carpets. Oh, how she longs for real wood floors that can be cleaned, like those of the workshop she says she is playing on TV!
-- Continuing mid-November --
I am pleased to report the ritual work day went well. The first to arrive, and workhorses of the window project, were my Christian friends, Bonnie and Galen. These folks truly live their faith and are always ready to "put their shoulder to the wheel" as one of my favorite hymns from the LDS church admonishes. While Tractor guy was cutting cardboard, Bonnie and Galen got quite the routine going, hitting the windows outside with the hose to wash away the worst of the grime and webs and attacking the inside with equal vigor. I had determined not to try to snug the plastic well, and to shrink it. Previous years this has proven not terribly necessary and on the most leaky windows, the need for a bit of "give" showed itself more than once, so the plastic went up quickly as well. We were surprised to find that the window that we thought had a broken or missing storm pane was, instead, simply open! Silly us! I had a plan in mind to apply a piece of plexiglas to the outside using silicon seal, but was glad not to have to do it, as my silicon gun was MIA.
 
The extra heavy vinyl from the fabric store, which I bought to use on the west facing windows -- which have no storms -- also seems to have worked well. The Force was with me when I bought it, as I had added extra length in case it was not possible to cut the three pieces needed for those windows from a single width. The added bit was exactly enough to go over the kitchen sink window, which actually did have a broken/missing storm pane.

Pagan friends showed up in the afternoon. I joked with the first young mom, Jessica, who dashed in after a frazzled morning...  typical in a family with 3 energetic, curious, busy youngsters, as we were just sitting down to have lunch. "Of course, it's lunch time! The kids are here!" Because they did not get to help much with the windows, which Bonnie and Galen had amost completed with their amazing efficiency, Jessica insisted on helping with something else. The only thing that came to mind was my next proejct: clearing storage totes out of the back (cat area) bathroom and doing a much needed clean and sanitize after the demise of our old kitties, who both had developed incontinence at the end of their lives. I had cleaned up their messes as they happened, but had not had the time to do a thorough, this is NOT happening any more, cleaning. It did not seem like a job anyone else would want to tackle, but when presented, Jessica jumped in with both feet for an amazing, top-down cleaning! Heck just the floor was more than I was willing to ask... but from mirrors to counter tops and fronts, places on the walls...and yes, that gross floor... looked like the "after" view from a cleaning product commercial when she and the kids were done!

Missy arrived shortly after Jessica. I knew she would be late, as she had been committed to officiate at a wedding in the morning. Apparently the wedding had half an hour of unexpected drama, so she was running later than expected and she jumped in to attack the kitchen and living room floors.

Tree down on the electric lines
4 properties up-stream from us.
Before I could complete writing this -- and before we had the chance to complete the sorting and rearranging that our need to move things around for the project had brought to light -- we got WEATHER!  A major nor'easter storm, with an inch of rain (on top of 4 inched the previous week!) and strong, sustained winds proved to be too much for many to many trees.

This one, in a nearby town, missed the wires
but nearby, two trees lay on the same section
of electric line.
We were without power for nearly a week, which was not that much of a big deal, but did prevent me from completing and uploading this post! I will write about that week soon! Stay tuned for the further adventures of the Hexeri and Tractor Guy.



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!
 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
Cabbage
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.

So...now
Grab hold tightly
Now...
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.