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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday April 22

Earth Day and Mother Nature has gifted our corner of the world with another light blanket of snow. This seems to make many unhappy, but I still love the late season snows. I will have to change my plans to head up to Dover in search of cardboard to ship the continuing slow stream of hex sign orders, but I have time to do that yet. The one on the painting table is currently awaiting wood dough to fill voids in the edge of the plywood. I thought I still had plenty, but it had dried too much to be workable. So shortly – after breakfast and chores – I will head to the local hardware store to pick some up and then get some more hay for the sheep. They are looking longingly at the bits of green beginning to show in the back field, but it's not time to set up the electric pasture fence … yet. Soon, though!

I have decided to move the anti-deer electric fence in, closer to the fruit and vegetable areas, rather than continuing to try to maintain a longer boundary. Neither of us is young any more, and not having so much fence to maintain, as well as being able to use more strands for the outer fence as well as more string for the inner, visual barrier, will be a good thing. All of my fruit has been nibbled on by deer over the winter.

Miss Kitty, left and Firecat, on the laptop
enjoying the sunshine
Mostly, though, I have spent the day, once again, pushing pixels. I am making decent progress now on the Dutch hex Sign web site updates and with any luck I will be able to begin proof-clicking it tomorrow. It has been fun – and a challenge -- to work with our critters' “help.” Smoke, otherwise known these days as “wide load” has not really been a problem, other than when she gets grouchy and hisses at Firecat for getting too close. If I didn't know she was expecting, and soon, I would know that she was expecting – and soon – by her behavior. One moment she and Fire are sitting so close to each other at the food bowls that their hind quarters are touching and the next moment, though no one has moved, she hissed at Fire for being
too close! Any woman who has ever been pregnant is likely to resonate with that! Miss Kitty has finally really accepted Fire and they have been raising quite the rukkus today with their play and cat chases around the house.

My workstation for this redesign is set up literally right next to the chick's tote, so I have been working to the quiet calls and conversations of the chicks. And have been close at hand to convince Miss Kitty, especially, and the Firecat to a lesser degree, that they do not need to spend all day watching chickie-vision.


As I worked, I watched the snow all but disappear (as the sun set there were small bits clinging to life on the north sides of things) and was treated to another pretty flurry mid -afternoon, though none of it stayed around.

And, after over a year of having it on hold, today I figured out how to migrate the content from my Blogger blog to Wordpress! I have want6ed to do this for some time, as the Wordpress platform is much more robust and flexible, or so it seems to me though I have a long way to go to master it. But I was not going to change platforms until I could take all of the old entries along. When I abandoned LiveJournal a few years back, it was “cold turkey, and I was not going to do that again. 

The blog will be migrating to: https://hexsignhomestead.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Wind, cold front and pushing pixels.

The fucking wind is back again with a vengeance. The wind chimes are clanging up a storm (probably literally... we have forecast of more rain later this afternoon and evening though the mainstream media is threatening snow, again.) I have moved the laptop on which I work at the web edits into the living room to get away from the wind from K's fan (it is not even close to fan temperatures for me) only to feel the wind from outside blowing through the cracks. Grrrr! And to top things off, I worked in this wind, with my legs wrapped in a blanket, most of the afternoon.

It has been so long since I DID edits that I have been running around the mulberry bush to find the latest copy of the current site, and finally did, as well as got it onto the thumb drive so I can finally begin actual work! And work I did. I am feeling thoroughly in solidarity with those of you who are on the “work at home” track for this pandemic. It took a while, but I finally got back into the pixel-pushing groove and have been knocking out edits and additions to the Dutch Hex Sign web site today. I am hoping to have the most of it done tomorrow... but after resupplying filler for the actual hex signs, I will also have to do some filling and sanding, if not priming tomorrow. I know it's gonna be a strange day tomorrow: “computer neck” on top of a body full of muscles that don't like me much in general, and no LMT to fix me. But it is what it is and I can still moan, groan, cuss and fuss and “ignore” the pain to a large degree.

I did take the working woman's cop out and threw one of our commercial frozen lasagne packages in the oven for supper tonight, though I possibly redeemed myself with a side dish of home grown frozen peas. I will have to do some actual cooking tomorrow. Does “Mexican Wednesday” count even if I use store bought tortillas? Since I had 2 more ground beef patties than would fit into a gallon zip bag, that is where my mind is going at present. The larger stash is in a chest freezer now but the two oddballs are still in the fridge freezer.

I made a good call, disconnecting the hoses last night; everyone's buckets had more than just a skin of ice and I could feel it in the hoses as well. I won't have to disconnect them tonight, though, as our low is looking to be well above the freezing mark, especially as the wind has finally abated. We have not, thus far, had a lot of rain and though the temperature is not supposed to warm much above freezing tomorrow, it is not supposed to go much below tonight.

Now that I have logged out of “work” I am thinking about at least a short bit of a hot soak. I won't have a gale blowing through the bathroom and it will both relax me and my computer neck (or so I hope!) and give a little time for the bed heater to do its job. [Unheated bedroom, remember?]

Tomorrow will likely start with a quick trip to our little hardware store after chores though I will leave the “off farm” clothes washing until the evening. I have a replacement part for our fridge supposedly coming tomorrow (nothing mechanical..just the shelf that holds the crisper drawers, which is failing), a hex order to work on and another custom job likely coming. And with any luck, in a day or so K will cultivate so I can plant my garlic (late) and begin other gardening chores. I have lots of weed block made, and it is easiest to lay down when the soil has been recently cultivated and there is little to no wind. If necessary, I will deal with the latter to lay out rows and lay down mulch and then continue planting later.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Monday, April 20

Firecat woke up early this morning and awakened me, playing on and grooming my head. If I go bald, I will know why!

The wind, which never seems to abate this spring, has all the wind chimes singing with vigor and I can hear it blowing around the corners of the house, flapping bits of siding and shingles, as well. I am not terribly happy with the winds *this* spring, though I used to enjoy them. Not sure what has changed. We have sun and it will warm up
some but won't be like yesterday. I am glad that, though I will be going out to get plywood today, and hopefully cutting the blank for the 24” hex that has been ordered, the lumber yard is the ONLY place I need to go. Once I get chores and breakfast out of the way, I will attend to that errand and then be glad to stay home at least for a day.

Having got the sign blank cut and rough sanded, it turned out my wood filler had dried up and is unusable and I do not have a spare. I won't have to venture into “the big city” and my local hardware store is truly taking to heart the protocols that the governor has set in place for necessary businesses of this sort so I am not terribly worried about making a run for this supply. I believe they have the spray finish that I use also, and I know it is getting low, so I will pick up another can of that as well. But all that will wait until Wednesday, when the dump will be open again so I can take the stuff that I overlooked this past weekend to their “little building. Wednesday IS dark moon, so I won't actually be going past my deadline. And the client for the Inspiration hex sign that will go on the wood I cut today, once I can get going again, is very understanding about the challenges of procuring materials in these times.

I spent more time today plotting changes and additions to the Dutch Hex Sign web site and I had hoped to get some of that work started tonight but instead I needed to work on revisions to a request for a custom recreation of an old hex sign, the marriage sign, which is not one that I typically paint. After my first go, the client sent me a photo from a brochure of what he had in mind. I am always a little uncertain about replication of signs previously purchased from other painters, but in this case, they have a good reason. Apparently all they can find now are for indoor display and they are replacing a sign from 40 years ago that was badly damaged, along with the shed it was mounted on, in a storm. Other folks come to my work for the spiritual and energetic forces that they hold. Most other hex signs are mass produced or otherwise painted just for pretty. In any case, it is always a challenge to recreate an old sign as each artist has their own unique take on the work and I often learn when working in a different style.
 
And I am happy to report that the meatloaf yesterday worked well, though it did take about twice as long to bake. It held together and had a good taste. I cut it up into pieces and threw it into a rice casserole tonight, with more tomato stuff, onion and bell pepper. That was good too.

When I did evening chores, I replaced a leaky Y valve on the barnyard hose, (managed to find one at the lumberyard!) but after watering tonight I still turned the water off, opened the valves in the barnyard and disconnected the splitter from the supply hose. We are expecting a bit colder temperature tonight and I am hoping to keep things from bursting.

On the garden front, I took a spading fork to the garden today to check on soil texture, as I am trying to keep K on track to get cultivation done for early planting, and discovered that even though the soil may not be quite warm yet (I did not have the thermometer with me) it IS dry enough to cultivate! Won't be after tomorrow's rain, but it drains quickly and knowing that he could have worked today, had the tractor and implement been ready, is helping keep my Tractor Guy headed in the right direction, despite the increase in his pain levels.

Now just waiting for my night time meds to kick in so I can join the cats, who have already gone to bed. I think the chicks want me to turn off the light, too!







And a fine Sunday it was!

Sunday, April 19
Today would have been a great day to take the weed whacker to the garden – which I had planned for Tuesday – as the wind was not cold and the temperature warmed nicely. However, much as it was needed, it did not happen. I just could not muster the energy for that project. Instead I did more laundry (changing after away missions has been making much more laundry than typical and of course when we both go out, it doubles. Fortunately that is not often!) getting the away mission clothes, including jackets, washed and on the line, as well as the towels we stood on and dried with. Maybe excessing caution, but I am definitely leaning that way.

I did some hex business stuff, answering email queries and prototyping a design, we re-worked the chick brooder set up to make the light more easily adjustable and to make the cat-resistant mesh covering more secure and easier to lay back to feed and water the little fluff- nuggets. I do not know if it was the kind and loving care they got from the first moments they broke out of their eggs, or just the fact that I usually have way more than just 6, but they are so quiet that I have been often interrupting my work to go check on them. I enjoy their quiet peeps and know when I hear a rukkus that there will be a cat in the picture! Yesterday, Miss Kitty managed to fall into the tote (she was on top at the time, watching and I saw nothing that looked like an attempt to do more than watch “chicky vision” up close) as the mesh on the top moved and deposited her in with the chicks. THEY were concerned, of course and the cat was extracted before she really realized what had happened.

Today, with the improvements, there have been no cross-species visits though each of the cats did get on top once and left when I yelled at them.

Large Abundance and Prosperity
sign being installed by its owners.
I spent quite a bit of time this afternoon snagging pix of the newer hex signs and putting them on a thumb drive, so I can work with them on Dellores, using Photoshop and Dreamweaver. The web site needs some serious work. There are a lot of custom signs not shared there, customer shots of the signs after mounting, and pictures of exterior versions of several of the designs shown on my sale page only as indoor ones.

I will be dropping all mention of the indoor designs, painted on fabric. They are not profitable, at all, but more to the point they are MUCH less forgiving. A random drop of paint (they do happen) that falls into a “background” (i.e. unpainted fabric) area cannot be corrected. And on the last one I did, recently as a commission for a friend, it happened on the last color! I told the client that her sign would be late because I had to repaint it but she insisted that I send it as it is. I am still uncomfortable with that, and will be painting another one for her, regardless.

We are getting half a dozen eggs a day, more than we need, so if anyone in the local area would like a mixed dozen chicken and duck eggs every now and then, and would be willing to pick them up, we can do a “safe exchange” by my putting the carton on our porch, along with a clean mason jar for $3. If you are out of work and short on bucks, just let me know. I can give you eggs and consider it the least I can do to help my fellow humans.

I got the frozen brats and beef smoked sausage links into bags (labeled, even!) and pattied out the ground beef for the freezer, with a bit held out for meatloaf, as is my custom when I get 5# or so of the ground stuff. I had to improvise my meatloaf, though, as I had forgotten to thaw catsup and did not want to wait. (It will be thawed in time to use as a condiment, though.) This meatloaf leans a wee bit south of the border (the international one, with Mexico, not with one of our neighboring states!) as I used a bit a salsa for the tomato flavor, along with chopped onion, a bit of chopped bell pepper, a shot of Worcestershire sauce (put on the list for next month, we are almost out!), a couple of duck eggs to hold the runny mess together, I hope,  and a generous helping of crackers. Crossing my fingers! I'll be making mashed potatoes (with butter, not gravy because meat loaf does not make gravy) and my next task is to throw together some French dressing, once the catsup is thawed. I have been wanting some, and with iceberg, green leaf lettuce, spinach, cucumber and tomatoes waiting in the fridge, it will be worth the effort even if the “loafmeat” has to wait a few minutes.

I did cut the eyes off the ends of all of the 'taters that had bits of visible growth, and am letting them sit in the window sill to dry and green a bit before planting, as the instructions for “growing potatoes from peels” which I finally read, suggest.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Caught up at last: chicks!!

18 April, Saturday

We awakened to bad news this morning, as the neighbor's dog did not make it. We all are saddened, our neighbors especially so. It seems that the vet's office was unwilling to begin the necessary surgery until after the folks – working poor like many in Maine – could assure them that they had the money to cover the procedure, which was, as I understand it, in the ballpark of $5000. I understand they need to get paid too, and to cover overhead and supplies. I really do. But this is one reason that I could not be one to be in a position to deny or delay service of a life-threatening nature, to any being. The dog might well have not made it anyway; she was old. But as hard as it is to have “that talk” with your partner or family... one cannot have it with an animal. They cannot say “please, let me go” even if they would and so the decision to treat to prolong life or make them comfortable and allow them to pass is only up to those of use who love them and are not able to think clearly in situations like this.

I heard, just yesterday, I believe it was, a discussion with a palliative care doctor, about the necessity of having end of life discussions now, when we are able to be clear headed. And to understand what hospice is, what palliative care entails, and that it is not just for end of life situations. And for everyone's sakes, do understand the money part, as unfortunately, that figures in to just about everything. Dammit. Maine Public Radio Maine Calling program link

On a more rational note, the Nordic Blessed Year hex is off to Washington state, and another order for a 2' sign has been received (Inspiration) which will require a trip to the lumber yard Monday. We did the dump run as well, but as usual I managed to forget the donations to the “free store” (they call it “the little building” at our transfer station) so I will make another trip out on Wednesday just to drop those donations. This is a well socially distanced event, outdoors, so I do not have much concern. We will be storing our recycles for the foreseeable future, as that service is currently not running.

After our town trips, we headed out to pick up chicks. Yeah, not what one thinks of in this time of social distancing, not to mention chicken hoarding! LOL But my friend Crystal, of Pajamas, Books and Chickens had hatched half a dozen for me –
“backyard run” but having seen her hens and handsome rooster, I am sure they will be lovely. All 6 are home and in a cat-resistant home (we hope... ) as Miss Kitty has been way to curious and has visited them twice thus far. So far, it is just curiosity on her part not a desire for an unauthorized nugget and we plan to keep it that way!

On the way, we took a short digression at the new little IGA store in Brewer, as friend Bonnie had commented positively about the relative lack of empty shelves at the IGA where she shops, in Old Town. While we were in Corinth, I had stopped at the dollar store, having also heard that they did have paper products... which they did, but only plastic wrapped 4-packs of TP and we are not short enough for me to contemplate that option at present. I did want to top off, if I could, and to pick up distilled water for K's CPAP and my steam iron, as they did not make it onto my list earlier in the week. Lo and behold, the IGA came through and I got the three rolls, 2 gallons and a nice bag of lettuce that looks to hold well, as well as a box of terribly out of season strawberries for a treat with the last of the pound cake.


I took a long cat nap with Firecat this afternoon (late to bed/early AM does take it out of me these days) and my first night sleeping with the new little kitty had me awake often, though she spent the night curled up next to me (on the opposite
side that Smoke had adopted, but rarely takes now that she is carrying her wide load and the temperature is staying more mild). She has a delightful purr, which I enjoy, and is currently lying across my shoulders as I type while waiting for the scalloped cabbage to reheat in the oven. This is a re-run of yesterday's supper, since K got back home late last night and just made a sandwich for supper. I did put together an apple-celery salad, though. We will enjoy it shortly.

Catch up #5 - Slow day, but with kitten!

Friday, April 17 Slow day, much needed. Town clothes and shopping bags blowing on the line, and remarkably, *staying* on the line, began the day. Birds and beasts had to make do with left-over water, as somewhere in the supply line was frozen. I have decided that while the overnight lows still dip below the freezing mark a bit, I will water with evening chores. This worked for the sheep, as K topped off their water last night while I fed and their bucket was still full this morning. I will also be looking for another Y connector when I am in the garage tomorrow, digging out necessary supplies to brood the half dozen chicks that Crystal and crew hatched for me. They broke shell while we were off grid (they have one generator for which I am thankful! LOL) and they were as well, I think. Just found out today that I need to pick them up, so in addition to post office and dump runs tomorrow, we will have an outing to pick up chicks.

They will be the second new additions to the domestic chaos in as many days, as Yolanda stopped by today to deliver my little
Firecat meets Miss Kitty. There were hisses
later in the day, but none on the initial
introduction.
Firecat, in addition to some milk. Even if I had not planned for a slow day, this would have been one, as I supervised Fire's integration and served as a kitty couch for several long cat naps. I am glad it is still cooler weather, as she is inclined to scale my leg (not quite big enough to jump from floor to lap) and the sweats I am wearing offered sufficient protection from kitten claws. I am delighted to note that she has found her purr and is generous with it, thus far. She has discovered the water fountain, and it met with her approval, too.

Just as we were about to sit down to supper, K got a call to serve as canine ambulance driver so he is off on that mission at present. One of the neighbor's dogs needs a trip to the ER (emergency vet, in Brewer) so he is off on his first outing (with his mask) since the stay at home order was given. I will heat up supper for him when he returns, whenever that is. I know he will take this mission every bit as seriously as he did his service as a volunteer fire fighter and paramedic in the past.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Catch up #4 - we rejoin the digital world!

16 April Thursday
We learned last evening that apparently the cable guys have been kicking butt in the repair game and our re-connection is to happen this afternoon, rather than Saturday. I will be glad to get the weather web site back and be able to read the news, but I am going to try to use this past outage to help me downgrade the time I spend online. I have been so much more productive in the recent past, especially once the power came on and hot baths were once again available Not being able to sit and wile away time here – the Internet does suck one in, we all know – has contributed to my productivity but also to my pain and stiffness level. Despite my soak last night, I am dragging more than I would like prior to a demanding and stressful resupply mission... but oh, well. 'Tis time and I shall give it a go. I am not going to stop at WalMart, which will change my buying a bit as I am not sure if some of the things I typically buy in larger quantities have ever been available at Hannaford, let alone what I will find today. We could, easily, go another month or more without bringing in anything extra, though the meals would begin to require a bit more creativity. But with the supply line challenges, I really do not want to go that route and I do not think that a once a month grocery shopping trip is out of the question. I will need to venture out again tomorrow, most likely, just to our little berg to post the hex sign, as I did not get the cardboard cut to package it last night.

I'll be heading out shortly to Sam's Club and Hannaford, hoping to catch some of the “senior/compromised” hours for both, though it will be a stretch to do so and I will probably end up at Hannaford with regular folks. I will mask and glove and I will also have K put antibiotic and a band aid on the place on my finger that I cut processing turkeys a while back. It had almost healed up, but the scab caught on something and pulled off, leaving a small but very angry residual owie. 
 
Resupply went off without a hitch. I did not have to wait at either Sams or Hannaford. I got to Sams about half an hour before the end of their Thursday morning special hours and noted that the shoppers, when I entered, were mostly masked though I was the only one I saw that was also gloved. By the time I checked out, the general population was allowed in, I was seeing fewer and fewer masks. The same held true at Hannaford.

Stock continues to be “iffy” with many categories of products showing empty and near-empty shelves. Paper products are still missing and cleaning products are spotty, with limits in place in those categories. I did score a gallon of bleach (of a type I am willing to use, even! I do not like the new fancy scented or thickened versions) but was not able to top off our supply of peanut butter, as I refuse to buy the standard commercial brands with thickened fat and sugar added. I feel sorry for the folks who are not comfortable cooking from scratch, or whose families prefer packaged, commercial products. Many of those options were badly picked over. I had heard, in the past, that potatoes were hard to come by, but Hannaford had two big pallet-size boxes of bags of them. I believe I saw both russets and reds, though I did not look closely as we do not need any yet. I did manage to find a bag of apples (unfortunately plastic) from a local orchard, and some other fresh produce that will be good keepers. There was no shortage, but since I was buying for the month, I had to keep storage life in mind. 

In this vein I have to mention K's diabetic nurse, with whom he had a telephone consult instead of the usual in office visit this week. She was seriously checking in with him about many things, his normal health and pandemic- and storm/power outage-related issues as well. In the course of their conversations, she shared that in recent times she, personally "almost ran out of food" in the house.  I had a discussion about shopping, stocking up, etc with a friend recently who shared the opinion that "we're in Maine, folks keep a stash." I have had a sense that, regardless, an unfortunate number of folks -- even those who may not have issues with food insecurity in other contexts ... professional people, those with sufficient income, etc. -- do not plan ahead for such times. Her sharing of her experience, though only one anecdote, seems to give some confirmation to my perception.

My non-food stop was at Tractor Supply, to search out a hose nozzle of the type K needs. They do not carry them in the regular selection of hose stuff, and the clerk I asked concurred with my observation, but I gave a second, detailed look in the bins of specials that they show when you enter the store, as I had a feeling I might find one there, which I did. I
also found a small stash of the infrared temperature thermometers! There were, on Thursday, about 10 of the units at the Bangor, Maine Tractor Supply store. There was also a customer playing his car radio loudly enough that I passed the time while waiting in the line by dancing along with the beat. When one can, one *should* dance!

Got home, unloaded and sprayed everything down with 10/1 bleach, stripped and bathed. While I was doing so, the cable guy was here reconnecting us and just as I was getting out, the Youngs showed up to do a “welfare check” since they had been following Emera's reports as they reconnected folks to the grid, but we had not been seen online. Unfortunately, there is no way to check on the down or restored cable runs, but they were happy to see we were unscathed... though worried as they heard nothing as they walked up to the porch. Not even Moose had bothered to sound off! I told Bonnie, in the future, just to bark or bleat as she got out of the truck, as if they were there, all would respond in their own way.

I had plotted ahead while I was out and brought home a “take and bake” pizza to augment from our storage and that was supper, along with pound cake and blueberries. I had thought about getting strawberries to go on some cake, but forgot to add to the list, so I forgot. In proper Covid-era shopping protocols, one does not browse or wander.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Catch up #3 - April 15, Wednesday the saga continues.

April 15, Wednesday  I think if I could only have one internet function back for now, or even forever, I would choose Weather Underground. Not having access to what is a most reliable forecast for here, typically, as well as the radar maps they provide, is really vexing. As I was sitting in my rocker this morning, drinking my morning brew and looking out at the world as seen through my front door, I discovered that I am out of touch with being able to read the clouds. Maybe this period will put me back on that path. It looked like it could drop a bit of rain, but I had two loads of laundry washed and plans for the bedding so I gambled that the grey would lift and the winds stay mild, and thus far, my hope is holding. Looking at the weather two hours later, I may indeed gamble farther and throw the hairy quilt into the washer as soon as the sheets are out.

I need to finish the hex in process today, to post tomorrow or Friday. And I need to plant the rest of the tomato seeds in hopes of a harvest this year. Also found a soil thermometer, so when we take out the compost, I'll take it to the garden and after posting the census forms (one entity that I never interact with online is the government) I'll walk back that way to read it.
Breakfast today is scrambled eggs and cranberry orange bread... an odd combination, but in the week or so of up and down electric, which signals “oven unreliability” to me, I did not attempt to make bread and what little we had left has become chicken food.

Laundry, including that formerly hairy quilt, all got dry and was back in by mid-afternoon, courtesy of a wee bit of sun and a large dose of brisk wind. I did manage to keep it all on the line.

Took the soil temp, which read 50F at about 4” down, which means that with a couple more good drying days for the soil to loose moisture to the air, as well as for more of it to wick its way down into the aquifer, I should be able to get K to cultivate for some of my early seeding and the planting of the garlic.

Also planted all of the remaining tomato seeds in hope of having enough growing to satisfy a contract that I entered into for this year's crop and did a complete clean of the fridge and its freezer. We did not loose much food, due in part to very limited opening of both fridge and freezer, plus extending the "coolth" by burying the jug of milk in the snow! I ended up adding some jams that were no longer the proper texture (some very old) and the last half of a bag of spinach leaves to the chicken bucket. I have, in the past, picked through similar “starting to go by” veg when we were really short of green things, but it was a choice not to do so, today. There was actually a small serving of left over green salad, from several days before the first outage, that looked to be edible. No rotted spinach and only minimal brown edges on the lettuce...but there was so little it joined the chicken treats as well. I have downgraded the bit of asparagus that thawed and refroze to “cream it on toast” status, but most of the other foods in the fridge freezer will be usable and marked to “eat first”. I guess tomorrow I head out on a resupply mission. 
 

Catch up #2 - Power returns, connectivity still missing

April 14, Tuesday Power came back on before breakfast today (Tuesday) and with bright sun outside and a brisk breeze (NOT the gale that was blowing yesterday!) I started laundry with some rugs and a large collection of clothes pins from Bonnie, that she said needed washing. She was right. Got the usual first load of heavy, dark clothes, in the machine now with a good prospect to get dry. Still have the light colored load, the bleach load and a load of bedsheets, but some of those will have to wait until tomorrow unless I can connect with a good weather forecast today. I do not trust the one on Maine Public Radio as it is never right for here. And here is, really, the only place I need a forecast for on a regular basis. If it looks/feels like a good drying day tomorrow also, I may try putting the quilt in the wash as well; it is beginning to get very hairy, from the herd of cats that share our bed.

I am beginning to plot out our monthly shopping trip, for later in the week. I have asked K for a list of the things he usually buys, on a weekly or as needed basis, and an estimate of how much he uses in a week. After our discussion about the juice he uses to mix his evening drinks, I am not even going to tell him what the monthly quantity will be. He has never been a monthly shopper and I will admit that often, when you are just beginning monthly shopping, the scaling up causes one of two reactions. One is “gee, that's not very much...” which causes one to over-buy, thinking your estimate is off. The other is the OMFG reaction, as you cannot believe you use
that much
of the item in a month, causing you to under-buy. In this situation, where I am determined NOT to make in-between trips to keep my exposure to “the outside world” to a bare minimum, under-buying will lead to privation. If it was just something for me, chances are I could find an acceptable work-around. For K, though, it is often not that easy on many counts. And in this context, I think it is important that we not feed any budding negative feelings.

With the on and off power issues of late, I want to take a

digression to make a shout out to Pillsbury Grands frozen biscuits. We had 8 remaining in the bag when the electric issues started and the bag had thawed, so I improvised “fried dough” from them as a base to serve thawing “sausage” gravy before it went bad. Knowing that many folks' fried dough recipe uses a quick bread (my family always used yeast breads) I figured it would work, which it did. However, the 4 remaining thawed bits of dough that were once biscuits were still in the fridge, not the freezer, during the period when the power was back on, so they sat, thawed, in the cool for an extra day. This morning, wanting to use up an actual patty of breakfast sausage in gravy, I had planned to try “baking” them on the stovetop in a dutch oven. However, the electric had come back on, so I heated up the oven, threw them on a baking sheet and put them in for 15 min, hoping they would still manage to resemble biscuits more than the hockey pucks we have been known to eat, as a result of my “from scratch” attempts at this southern staple. Boy was I impressed! Other than their odd shapes, the result of my attempts to separate each from its fellows, they rose, looking and tasting no different than their “baked while frozen” kin.

K took a walk-around the farm and discovered that the Internet outage, which had continued even after the power returned, was actually localized at our house. The line from the pole to our garage was down and laying all about in the road. Not a single of the many passers-by had attempted to move it to the side nor did they apparently call it in. K walked next door to let our neighbor, Scott, know and he called it in for us. Later in the day, after we had charged up K's tablet, we went down to our favorite mechanic's shop in search of WiFi to attempt to access the cable company web for a prognosis on when we might see a repair crew. There was no easy way to do this, so we took a “nice drive in the country” (though actually into Bangor) as the web site had shown they were open. There I found out that Scott had indeed got through and a work order was on the books. That was the good news; the bad news was that we would most likely not see their tired and overworked bodies until mid day Saturday!

This really put a kink in the weeks plans. No, not TV withdrawal or even gaming withdrawal but K had THREE remote medical appointments scheduled for this week, which will not only not happen but having a VOIP telephone, there was no way to notify anyone! Eventually I suggested sending each of the providers a postcard, explaining the situation. He wrote them and I carried them to the post office as they were closing. Even if the first one does not get there in time, at least there will be documentation that we TRIED.

I think that my off grid life 'back in the day' with a minimal system that we augmented with oil and propane lamps, and for quite a few years having had to haul water (at least from the hand pump at the cistern in the yard) and heat it as needed for all purposes have given me a different default setting for power outages, that this “2-fer” has triggered. I find myself falling into the habit of planning what to do when, based on how much actual daylight I will have and plotting what I will do once twilight arrives and my only light is from my admittedly large collection of oil lamps. Even 'back in the day' I had the habit of carrying a flashlight in my pocket for the times, twilight and after, that I needed to find something that was hiding in the shadows. I have also found myself thinking “do I need to put on something else before I go out, so I don't get chilled” or mentally fussing at an unexpected sore muscle, until I remember “Oh, I can just run a hot bath tonight!” I still (3 days later as I edit this for posting) have to remind myself to turn on electric lights as twilight falls.

I did not get the fridge and freezer cleaned today, but it's on the list for tomorrow. I have fried up and crumbled the stash of ground deer and turkey patties that were in the fridge freezer and they are getting re-frozen again in one of the chest freezers, to be loose bagged tomorrow. I see no evidence of thawing in that unit and expect none in the others either. They actually last remarkably long if NOT opened at all.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

April 13, 2020 Catch up #1 - Internet outage

April 13 Monday is bringing wind and rain. We got up late, after staying up late and K having a low blood sugar episode. My having to get up to get him a candy cane and then his awakening me later, after having fallen asleep sans CPAP mask (I guess it is no longer automatic for him, after the extended power outage) attempting to lie on his back, sleep and breathe had their effect on me, but we both slept better after I hollered at him to roll over!

Seems the rain has started, but I do not see evidence of a deluge, yet, nor do I hear especially high winds, but the Internet is down though the electric remains live, for now at least. Going to gear up and do chores, then come back in and put the final coat of green on the hex in process and begin washing up the last of the dishes while waiting for the paint to dry. The hex will need a little touch up, but as soon as I can get dry cardboard from garage to house, it will be packaged. 

Also on the "needful things" list is a good round of emptying, sorting and cleaning fridge and freezer. I am sure there will be a few treats for the fowl and likely even the dog, though considering what we *could have* lost had we opened the chest freezers, it's no biggie. I am planning the monthly resupply mission for late in the week and the trash run on Saturday, so we should start the week next with a full supply of provisions and an empty trash can. Oh, the things that bring joy in these days!

While I am thinking of it, I want to note that I do not, off the top of my head, recall more than 2 of our standard food stuffs that we are currently OUT of (that being frozen biscuits and fish sticks, neither of which is essential) so while I will be just topping off the supplies, I do intend to do it. I have never quite had a year's supply, as was the goal under the LDS mandate when I followed that path, but I have always had a goodly stash, even if we did have to "eat funny" during some of the harder times. I know the kids got *really* tired of oatmeal for breakfast at one point. That was, however, before chickens. And the hens, both chicken and duck, are being generous with their offerings. I am crossing my fingers that *someone* will go broody at some time this year. I do, though, have a few "replacement" fowl on order from a friend's incubators and thankfully, they were able to keep the heat going with a generator during the last outage. For a wonderful story of the lengths we go to, to keep our fluffy babies happy, check out a post from Pajamas, Books and Chickens. You will have to scroll down to the April 10 entry about the storm and power outage at their farm.  

Having done chores, I wonder what is up, as our power seems to be solidly on (my computer is the first in the house to crash) but I am hearing at least one generator in the distance.

K got up feeling very cold and requested something hot for lunch, so I am making potato soup. When peeling the potatoes, I was reminded of something I keep seeing on the Internet, about peeling the spuds keeping a thickpeel and planting the eyes that way, rather than cutting the whole tuber into pieces to go into the ground. We have one small,shriveled spud that has been sitting in the window sill for several weeks, wanting to grow, so I sliced off the most prominent eyes on the potatoes I was peeling for the soup, scooped up some potting soil into a pot scrounged from the back porch and planted them all. The whole spud in the middle of the pot, with the slices around the outside. They are on the grow rack and we will see what happens. [added note: I had only read the headlines and had not read a "how to" article, so we will see how my first attempt, indoors, works! I do plan to try more plantings inside, following the directions, as we cook the balance of our stored potatoes!]

Not sure if this
was the one mentioned
or not.
Pole serviced my mechanic's
elderly aunt and has now
been replaced, along with one
in her yard that was all the
way down!

Monday afternoon the electric went down again, joining the Internet which had not yet come back on. Listening to K's scanner while eating supper, we heard a report of a “pole down on the McCard Road in Corinth.” Trust me, you don't want to hear your road on the scanner.

When the electric
actually had gone down, before sundown, I was just getting ready to wash up the last of the most gross greasy dishes and the plates and such that we had used since my first big “water is back on” load of dishes. Not knowing how long we would be off grid this time, I determined to wash them up with snow melt heated on the stove. Of all the "power is down" chores there are, washing dishes in snow melt or stored water is my least favorite necessary task. We do not have a proper rinse side dishpan, and even if we did, rinsing in still water is not my favorite thing. But I got them done.

I know that some of you out there in the wide world enjoy reading about my backwoods -- if not backwards -- life here on the Fussing Duck Farm in central Maine, and so I collected my thoughts in a text file with the intention of "catching up" over the next few days when connectivity was restored. Follow along... we got out internet back mid-day April 16.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Challenge upon challenge!

Much of the northeast experienced a serious late snow over the weekend. We are predicted to have more high winds and another inch or so of rain tomorrow, and we are not -- by any means -- the only area experiencing weather issues on top of "stay at home" orders -- or suggestions -- to help slow the pandemic.

Snow depth on our front deck
after shoveling a path for the
cat to go out. There were birds
looking for food, so Tractor Guy
helped them out.

Here at Hex Central under the sign of the fussing duck, we are usually pretty resilient and cope well with such issues. Our typical concern is water, since we run a grid-powered pump for our well and do not have a creek handy, as a backup supply for at least watering birds and beasts and the inevitable flush. I really never mind power outages as much in the winter, as we can use the porch as a "walk in cooler" and melt snow for non-potable water. I had been fussing all winter because I had not got the chance to do "snowshoe chores." Well, I got my wish, in spades! 13+ inches of wet, heavy snow fell, much of it over night.
Moose, the LGD, says "I
cannot find my food bucket!"
Enterprise, L and Major Tom,
R, wonder if I can find the
hay!
Painted wooden "Easter Egg"
got help hiding from families
in town doing a "social distance"
Easter egg hunt!
In addition to the extra exertion of "breaking trail" in 13" of heavy, wet snow (though I was thankful it was NOT powder... I would have sunk to the ground, regardless of snow shoes!) the snow clung to all of the fences like it did to the step rails by the dog yard, and I had to dig out and right fence panels in two places in the poultry yard. Fortunately, none of the fowl were feeling brave!

Paper feed sacks
recycled into weed
block. Thank you, Blue
Seal
, for still selling
some feed in paper!
After getting some canning kettles filled with snow to melt, and despite arms that were complaining after my fencing project, I tackled the next project on the list: cutting and stapling paper feed sacks from our animals and that a friend had saved for us, into 25' lengths of weed block, to go between rows in the garden.

Two of the worst effects of the pandemic and the power outage for this old farmer/artist are my inability to continue the body maintenance protocols that have kept me moving with relative ease as I continue into my 70s. My massage therapist, Melissa at Don't Worry, Bee Happy Healing is, logically, closed for the duration of the pandemic. I have been "making do" with lots of hot soaks in Epsom salts and applications of CBD salve.
Smoke, L and Miss Kitty, R
But not having the hot soak option after Friday's efforts really took a toll! I knew

I was going to need a slow day, so determined in advance that I would spend much of the day "under a cat." Fortunately it is not hard to find one around here, and since Smoke is currently nicknamed "wide load" (expecting kittens some day soon) she was more than willing to oblige.

We do not have a generator (neither of us can stand the racket) so our power outage protocols include not opening the chest freezers, but focusing on eating up what is in the fridge and its small freezer. Our gas stove gives us burners, but we have to be creative with things usually cooked in the oven, as it required grid elecric to light. During the outage we dined on a slice of ham, which was thawing, with a side of homemade mac and cheese and applesauce, left over fried chicken with instant mashed potatoes and left over home made cranberry sauce and a meal of fish sticks, cooked on top of the stove in a cast iron skillet with more of the "cheater" potatoes and home made apple-celery salad.  Since the package of frozen Pillsbury biscuits was thawed this morning (even after spending years living in the south, I cannot make a proprer biscuit to save my life!) I tried deep frying them and served the left over 'sausage' gravy I had frozen from Tractor Guy's making a couple of weeks back. I had grabbed plain frozen pork patties instead of our home made sausage, so he improvised and ended up making enough for at least two small southern families! LOL I made the biscuits doughnut shape, cutting the centers out with a shot glass, just to make sure they got done all the way through. Worked great!

Two new to me antique kerosene lamps
inherited from my late friend, Morg,
got their first use this weekend. Aren't
they lovely!
Yes, I am more tired now than had we had two "normal" days. But I guess my attitude in these situations is just a matter of "what can we do?" and "how can we do it? And being set up with many tools that do not require electricity.
From my large collection of kerosene lamps, all of which are filled for use, to my spinning wheels and spindles, treadle sewing machine and so on, there is never a shortage of things to do! I learned this weekend, working on the wooden Easter egg, as well as on the current hex in process, that I can paint by the light of a couple of kero lamps! It takes a bit longer and a bit more care, but I should have the most recent project ready to show you tomorrow!




Wednesday, April 1, 2020

In difficult times

By now, many of us have "had it up to here" or more so from dealing the Covid 19 and the fallout there from. Whether you trust the science or not (with a background in the sciences and coming from a medical family, I do) the information sources each of us personally deems to be reliable are all but drowning us in stories and information. People are scared, people are in panic... and understandably. Life is decidedly not normal.

While my business is not deemed "essential" by the state of Maine, which just tightened up restrictions on our going about (which, in my way of thinking should *not* be needed, because we *should* all know better) I have received an order recently and will be shipping the sign this week, while going about "necessary business."  My important mail comes to a PO box, which I try to visit weekly, and the hex will go out while I am there, having been well sanitized before packaging just on general principles.

Six foot diameter sign in process, fall 2019.
I will be cutting and painting several signs for our own place for now, though should anyone be in a position to order, you can be sure your sign will be "decontaminated" to the best of my ability before shipment, though neither of us is ill. While it is not spring yet here, it is coming and I am excited to be able to get back to work on the 6' diameter sign I am painting directly on one of our buildings.

In addition to this big project, I am planning to attach 5 of the typical signs that I paint on plywood, to the south side of the building, facing the road. I will probably make three of the 3 or 4' size and two smaller ones. I am still doing "virtual design" placing pictures of these designs on a picture of the building digitally, to see what I like best. I am pretty sure, at this point, that the very traditional signs like the ones for protection, binding the blessings of prosperity, and natural balance will be featured, as well as some of my own design, like the Earth Blessing and Blessed Year with Old Norse Galdr... a traditional design with a northern tradition pagan "twist."
Protection Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign
Protection
Double Creator's Star hex sign binds blessings of prosperity
binding the blessings
of prosperity
Natural Balance hex sign
Natural Balance
Earth Blessing hex sign
Earth Blessing
Blessed Year with Old Norse Galdr hex sign
Blessed Year with
Old Norse Galdr
We *are* serious about quarantine here, with me being old and my S.O. being diabetic. And honestly, while some of the new protocols for out in the world are a bit annoying, that is all they are to me. As one of my kids said "Mom, you've been training for this for years!" and essentially I have -- unknowingly-- through many years of living in remote locations is many states.

When going to the store requires a trip of half an hour or more one way, just to get to "town" -- and much longer to get to a "real town," you learn quickly to stock up and to find creative solutions.
A "real town" is a concept that anyone who has ever lived remotely will understand at once. LOL A "real town" is one with more than just one small grocery, a post office a hardware store and a gas station. "Real towns" give you options. More grocers to choose from and the grocery you do choose will likely have more variety, just as an example. Living remotely, you are not going to drop everything in the middle of making dinner to take even a hour long round trip to the closest market or to put it on hold while you send your spouse out because you are running short of milk, eggs, or anything else. At least, not often and not for long. Such habits, which work well in a more urban setting, eat up hours and gas budgets quickly in the country.

When you factor in that we were always a one-vehicle household, I had to come to grips early on with being literally "stuck at home" while hubby worked.

Put together, those factors along with my native introvert tendencies, have made the transition to a quarantine situation "except for 'necessary' business" much easier for me than for many. I'm long past the frustration of wanting to go somewhere... anywhere...  even if I don't have a reason, just because I can not, or am not allowed.

I am trying to combine errands to no more than one essential trip out a week, most of which are related to feed and fuel and timelines set in motion long before "shelter at home" and "social distance" became a thing. There are chicks being hatched and a new kitten about ready to come home and we will need food for both. And since I will be pouring the 50# bag of dog food bought earlier into the dog food bin, and it comes from the same place as the chick food (medicated crumbles) which also sells kitten chow in larger bags, well guess what! I'll do a 3-fer at the feed store in the "real town" to the north of us, instead of heading to our equivalent of the "big city" to the south, and will pick up fuel for the space heater and post the hex in our little burg on the way. And yeah, I will to an "order online, pick up outside" at the feed store, though there is where the annoyance factor comes in. They are expecting me to use a cellular telephone to call them from the parking lot, instead of driving up and honking. Yes, I know I am probably the only hold out left, and I intend to keep it that way for multiple reasons. So I have a "creative solution!" Once I have placed my online order and it is confirmed with an order number, I will take a large piece of paper, a heavy marker and go to work, writing "pickup order #..." on the paper and will stand -- at least 6 feet away from anyone I see -- outside the store, waving the sign back and forth until I get someone's attention. Even though the clerk probably won't see me at first, I am sure other customers will point out the crazy old woman standing in the parking lot waving a sign. It will, at the least, give me a chance to wave and smile at the other folks who may be much more frayed, already, than I am.

And that is important... spreading smiles, finding joy where we can. Do it.