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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Don't Idealize the Seasons, Look Around You

It's been a long, strange winter in many places. The weather has morphed into a long, wet (and in some places, very destructive) spring which follows a rather destructive fall. It's what's happening outside my window. In my garden, which has been planted in fits and starts, plants *are* sprouting and growing, though observations of the bloom cycle of local woody plants is telling me the season is lagging. Normally I have lilacs in full bloom by traditional Memorial Day (nature does not recognize our need to be master of the calendar and lust for 3-day weekends). This year, they are only beginning to bud and the benchmark day arrives tomorrow. This is also the traditional time for "everyone to plant everything" and for me to set out the warm season plants and seeds. But I won't.

I won't wait long, mind you, just until the first of June, to let a predicted overnight low in the mid-40s pass. Things would probably be ok anyway, but as I notice the blooms lagging -- only by a week at most -- I am choosing a bit of a delay.

All of these thoughts bring to mind my frustration, and even anger, at the myriad of folks around me who seem to only listen to the advertisers to mark the seasons. Or perhaps refer to folk traditions from Gods alone know where, or when. Somehow, they seem to think, The Powers That Be have been commanded to adjust the weather programming when Memorial Day (now Memorial Day Weekend... which is even earlier) rolls by. Suddenly, *we* seem to expect warm temperatures, sunny days and mild nights, as if the Gods themselves were chomping at the bit to attend our weekend parties on our newly cut lawns, gathered around the grill and quaffing a brew. As if there was a Universal Digital Thermostat setting for *Summer* that kicked in from Maine to Arizona, around the end of May.
That's as silly as the focus on snow for the December holidays in lands where such weather never happens.  And bears no relationship to reality in many northern or mountain locations. And while I am ranting, have you ever walked into a "big box" store and frozen from the AC in the spring or been driven out by the heat in the fall? That's what happens when the climate in your location is out of sync with that at their main headquarters!

Summer, just to change up the season we are talking about here, begins *astronomically* on June 21. That marks not MIDsummer, regardless of the many traditional midsummer celebrations but the longest day of the year, which is more like the beginning of summer weather, which lags behind the day length.  The lag in temperature occurs because even though the minutes of daylight begin to decrease , the earth's surface and atmosphere continues to receive more energy than just what it receives from the sun.  Average temperatures continue to climb until the sun drops lower in the sky.  (reference

Therefore, come September, while the advertisers have been pushing autumnal images for two months with their "back to school" promotions, and the last things we want to see in the stores are sweaters and heavy coats,  we think "autumn," regardless of the fact that the equinox which opens the door -- tipping the balance toward nights longer than the days -- does not happen until September 23. And again, this is only the beginning of the season as the lag we noted above continues year 'round.  In the words of the poet Ogden Nash: It's Never Too Late to be Uncomfortable, or September is Summer, Too.

And along with our cultural disconnect from the actual seasons, we also seem to value daily weather beyond even what they sang about in the musical Camelot.

I don't expect everyone to like the same kind of climate, but I do get tired of the expectation that I am *also* fixated on a desire for hot days of unremitting sunshine. I am not. In fact, while I know sunshine (or at least bright overcast, which is much prefer) is necessary, it does not seem that there is even close to as much respect for cool days, wind and especially rain. But think about it, folks... without rain, where would your water come from? (And if you say "the store" or "Poland Spring" all I can do is shake my head an offer a "bless your little heart.")

And I hear it now -- regarding the rain -- but there can be too much of a good thing! And yes, it's true... as the storms and flooding attest. But to the contrary, there are few comments in similar vein during prolonged warm-to-hot, dry periods. Even when water use restrictions come into play, the day to day weather comments do not decry the lack of moisture nearly as much as they currently cry for sunshine.

Listen to the world around you, people. Sit on the Earth, with your back up against a tree. Feel his or her thoughts. Run your hand along the grasses... stroke them as you would a cat or dog and learn to know them as well. Walk in the rain, and the wind, and the snow; they are as important to the other beings with whom we share this earth as the sunshine and bathing suit weather are to you.

Monday, May 13, 2019

I love interacting with my clients and customers!

I was up later than hoped last night, waiting for pain meds to kick in enough for sleepy to knock on the door of my brain. A hot Epsom salt soak helped set the sleepy in place and I hit the bed and was out for the count. These spring days, with the extra activity they necessitate, does a number on our aging bodies.

I am thankful for the good rest last night, as today it's time to cut another 4' hex, for which I received the order for yesterday. I also got a delightful email from the client, sharing their intentions in detail. THIS is what I love about this work, which is not just art, but also spirit. The big
48 inch Dutch hex sign being painted
Women's Empowerment hex sign in process
one I am currently working on is not ready to go out yet, but I want to get the next big disk cut and in so, rain or not, things move forward. The current sign I am working on is this 48" diameter version of a sign for Women's Empowerment that I worked up last year, especially for a one-time
PA Dutch hex sign for Women's Empowerment
original 8" diameter sign
local event. Those signs were all painted with artist acrylics on smaller, pre-made disks, like this one to the right. This is the first time that I have designed a sign to be made in a smaller size and then had a request for a large one. Scaling up is a new challenge; I drew grid lines, 3/4 inch apart on a small print of the original and  4.5 inches apart on the large disk and used them as reference to draw the very non-geometric design. It's been years since I used that technique, but I am pleased with the result and hope the client will be as well. He has emailed me recently, inquiring about two smaller copies of a slightly different interpretation of the design, but also for outside display, to be cut from plywood. Of course this delights me, but even more so as I note these signs are being ordered by a father for his daughter. Way to go, Dad!

The remaining smaller versions can be found HERE on the Dutch Hex Sign web site, where there is also an email link to request orders of custom designs or sizes.



On non-related notes, I am crossing fingers that we get the tiller up and running with electric start today, as I could really use to get more seeds in the ground. In many places in our fair land, the time for pushing the early planting season and for getting the cold-loving plants and seeds in the ground has long past.  Here in the northlands,  I am not in panic mode, not even close. Especially not with threats of overnight snowfall which are flitting about on the Internet with folks all a twitter (lower case). Snow, per se, is not a deal breaker and *can* happen even if the temperature on the ground is above freezing. And the "last frost date" for many of us here in central Maine is *not* until the end of the month, later for y'all in "the county" (as folks here say.)

Where ever you garden, learn your hardy crops from the tender ones and make the most of the "shoulder season" without feeling the need to coddle your little green babies with tunnels or the like. Green growing things LOVE to feel the wind on their leaves, real rain around their roots and the sun helping them to create the food they need to feed themselves so they can feed us. When your ground is no longer *soggy* you can plant onions and potatoes, spinach and lettuce, peas, carrots, beets and turnips. Just hold off on the peppers, tomatoes, and all the delicious viney things that we love - melons and cukes and squash of all sorts. They are the tender little ones that need extra time in the house.

Of course, those of you in the southlands will have a very different routine. I remember "summer gardens" and "winter gardens" with the winters being the time for cooler weather crops and the summers sometimes a struggle in the heat for even the most well adapted vines and tomato plants. Now, though, I am thankful for my winter's rest!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Spring Comes (slowly) to the Northlands

The first forsythia blooms outside!
Some of us thought it would never come. Spring, that is. We had a long winter here in the northlands. Many of you across the country have shared this experience. Our snow did not pile up badly, late in the season; instead we got soaking rains on top of snow on top of ice and then as the melt came -- oh, so slowly -- more rain. It is raining, again, as I type this. But ever so slowly, signs of spring appear even here in the country where we have fewer buildings and paving to moderate the climate. The first of the forsythia bushes has burst into bloom. There must be several varieties around, because this one had joined the neighbor's bush in blossom, but the rest of mine, clones of the one that "came with the house" and one sent as a start from a daughter in Utah, are budded but lagging.

 On my trip to town yesterday, I noticed a distinct green tint to the deciduous trees which appeared almost overnight. The birch grove to the north has joined in the display and the ground has warmed to nearly 55F, which means it's time to begin planting! At least that's what the soil says, and I have got some garden work done as the land dried a bit during a brief respite from rain.

The garlic has been up for a couple of weeks, and I have been gazing hopefully at the early seeding of spinach, hoping that the occasional bit of green that I spied was food-to-be and not a weed. In an attempt to keep weeding to a minimum, I have been deploying the paper weed block strips that I make from feed sacks, as you can see to the left. The left-most strip is a walkway between the spinach row and an equally early seeding of some "iffy" lettuce seed. I threw it out when I planted the spinach, hoping that a few -- but not too many -- of the seeds would grow and I would not have to thin them. At this point I am still not sure.  The other two shorter rows of paper are my onion beds; seedling onions planted three abreast through holes poked in the paper.

brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale..)
tomatoes
Brassicas (left) are waiting on the porch for their turn to be transplanted out and a flat of tomatoes (right) push against the lights in the kitten-resistant shelf on the grow rack.

In hex central, I have just completed a new version of the popular Abundance hex sign and two domestic
Abundance hex sign
animal protection signs for German Shepherd dogs and am about to begin construction of a sign for women's empowerment on a 48" diameter disk! 


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The things spring brings

Many small hex signs share table space with
the growing offering of eggs from chicks and ducks.
Spring brings all sorts of busy-ness to the farm and some to the hex painting table as well.  We have had a wet and cold spring thus far, here in the northlands, but with May Day's arrival, things are looking up in the temperature department. The forecast also shows more sun and less rain, which means I will be able to get into the garden and do some serious work.

Because we have struggled with spinach, I pushed the limit of the soil being "workable" and the soil temperature still showing (6" down) at a bit below 50F. Scratched up a bit of a row and threw in some spinach seeds, then a few days later, during another intermission in the rain, a few more feet of them and some lettuce as well. This year, for some reason, I am
Older Troybilt "pony" tiller
struggling to grow transplants and most of the lettuce seedlings did not make it. In the coming week, there is a good chance that I will get my new-to-me "pony" out into the field to cultivate. This is a good thing, in many ways, as Tractor Guy is having health issues and Fergie, the tractor, does not like backing and filing to get into some of the odd corners on the perennial garden. Fergie also needs maintenance, and my being able to till, and start the thing, even (electric start sold me immediately!) means I can work when I need to instead of having to wait on TG's energy and pain levels.

Thus far this year in the hex world has been a challenge, largely due to Google follies. I do not know what part their having killed Google Plus and other features have in the issue, nor how much of it is because my site was never designed to be "mobile friendly." These days, many folks seem to use mobile telephones or tablets for their only tools of Internet access, and my site does not even come up anywhere on a Google search unless you know that I am in Corinth, Maine and search for hex signs in that village! I feel like I desperately need to solve this, but at this point I do not have the skills to re-build the site in the modern mode, or for that matter the time and brainpower to learn, nor the big bucks that it seems to require to hire someone. Oh, for the days when college students who were learning these skills looked for projects like this to add to their practice and portfolio, and offered their services for free... like I did back in the day! LOL 

Somehow, I will work through this, but for now, sales are lagging and the much-needed, small bits of extra income that allowed me to comfortably raise a few extra fowl (chickens, ducks and turkeys.... though the turks are
L-R Rigby, Enterprise, Major Tom
out of the picture this year due to the high cost of day olds of the standard/heritage bronze when you have to buy over a dozen and only want 3) and the three sheep. The wooly crew are looking forward to being shorn soon, and I am looking forward to the arrival of sufficient grass to attempt to pasture them again. Major Tom is an escape artist, so the electric fence may need some extra grounding rods.

But all in all, spring is a hopeful time, and I hope that everyone will make an effort to find DutchHexSign.com and share the link widely. When/if you buy a sign, please add a review on Google!