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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

From cat in box to childhood poems to the history of tableware and made up words we go!

Random morning wanderings.

cat in box
different cat,
different box

It started with a cat. A cat in a box, as they often like to be. This box happened to be a clean, dry litter box, waiting to go back into the stash, to be used next time we clean boxes. We have a lot of cats, 9 to be exact, and find that having spare boxes ready to fill with litter and place as we collect the dirty ones works well. But I digress. This cat was not curled up in the box, asleep, but lying there, looking over the side, “like a commander in a tank” my SO said. Or like a captain in a boat, my mind added. Even though boats are usually not painted blue, the blue litter box on the different blue linoleum of the front hall evoked that image in my mind.

And with the idea of a cat in a boat, on the water came the first lines of a children's poem “The owl and the pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat.” My mind flashed to the seasonal d├ęcor animals that sit around the house: a frazzled black Halloween cat we call Fradie, the equally black bird from the same holiday a few years later, “Nevermore,” and others. Many critters,

Random owl
Do I have your attention?

but much as we both like them, not an owl in the bunch. I voiced that thought. “If we had an owl, we could put it in there with her and I could take a photo. It would be easy to Photoshop the “boat” to make it green.” “Do you know that poem?” I asked K.

In response, as he had come back into the computer room where I was relaxing, he pulled it up on screen and read it aloud. “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Leer. It was not one I had ever memorized but as he read the familiar lines, things caught my attention now, as an adult, differently than when I was a child.
When they“went to be married” they first sailed away “for a year and a day” – by which time in some old traditions they would already be wed. And then I wondered about the “bong tree” and wonder if some folks censor this line if reading to their kids of the new millennium, who might well have heard of a bong that does not grow on a tree. Nothaphoebe umbelliflora, is a tree in the laurel family that is commonly called (English) the bong tree. It is also called the yang bong tree (Thai) and grows in southeast Asia.

And after being married the next day, there is the question of that runcible spoon with which they ate “mince and slices of quince.” Most sources consider this one of Lear's many made up words, with which I concur, as the only reference to the term I can find prior to the 1800s – Lear published that poem in 1871 as part of his book Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets – is as it is applied to an antique spoon for sale online, dated to before 1800 by the current seller. Most entries associate the term with a modern tool known to those who frequent fast food establishments as the “spork.” I have long had a dislike for that allegedly multi-use piece of plastic "table ware" – to give it a term much more dignified that it is entitled, in my mind. But now, seeing them made from sterling, I might have to give the runcible spoon a nod.

Runcible Spoon - Fiddle Pattern
London 1839 by William Eaton
14.9cm long; 31g

And so went the random musings of a couple of old homesteaders after deciding the conditions outside were a bit too hot and humid for attacking the project of the day.

Now back to painting a custom hex and washing a pile of dishes – no runcibles involved.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Finally it is DONE

The story of the Resistance Hex, which took over 4 years to complete.

I first conceived and designed the first comp in early 2017. 




The building end was not prepped, painted and ready until early

September of 2019, when I put down the white background color. A couple of days later, I drew the design. 



Mid month, Sept 2019 I began applying the first colors, the green border and the outer blue star.

On the 25th of September, its outer blue star was complete, but then work stopped for some time. On Sept 27 I became very sick. For several weeks I did nothing and it took more than a year to recover more than a fragment of my previous health and energy. In retrospect, my doc agrees that I had many of the classic symptoms of Covid 19 (before it had been mentioned in the media) including not only the extreme fevers and shaking chills, but also dramatic changes to my ability to taste. I have never had a reliable sense of smell. 

By the time the end of March, 2021 came, I not only had energy back but the early spring allowed me to recommence, applying the color to the inner red star and the heart-shaped center for the body of the watchful wild turkey.

Then came the brown for the turkey's body and wings and finally, on April 13, 2021, the
black of the heads and necks, outline for the wings and tail. 

Today, April 15, 2021, I called the hex complete
after giving the black a second coat and painting both costs of all three colors for the resistor symbols.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Hope, and Spring, eventually!

 I used to love the blog format and then the real time interaction of social media seduced me, I guess. But I really want to keep this going so... once again... I am starting again. The tide seems to be flowing this way, as the "hex season" seems to be beginning once again. I had thought that perhaps, with the pandemic chaos of a year ago and many small businesses feeling the brunt of stay at home and social distancing orders, that this might be the time that would fade away. That did not happen and now, after what I have come to call the much appreciated winter slowdown, orders are beginning to roll in again.

In the rest of life, the flow seems to be right on schedule for many things. The hens are laying again. More warm (translation: above freezing, sunny and little wind) days and bouts of rain are happening more often, though still punctuated by days and nights of BRRR that require leaving the bathtub faucet dripping and make us thankful that the electric has stayed on to keep the barnyard water tubs liquid. 

two pups, Bella and Toby
Bella & Toby
Change is, as always, the only constant and this last fall brought us two new dogs, Bella and Toby, brother and sister from a friend's dog's litter. They are a challenge, a love and actually getting along with most of the cats. They were raised in a chicken-raising household, so they do not bother the fowl and they have been told who is boss by the sheep.

The first seeds have been put in soil blocks and under the lights.
winter lettuce under lights
Onions, red and brown, have joined the two parsley plants that I brought in from the garden last fall and the lettuce I seeded under the lights to supplement winter salads. The parsley have been happily cooperating with me as indoor plants thus far all winter, giving us fresh leaves for parsleyed potatoes thus far and showing no desire to give up the ghost. In fact, one of the plants is making its move to bolt, as is to be expected of a biennial plant. Those seeds will not be ripe in time to start indoors this year, though, and I have not had success with a self-replacing parsley bed here, like in some past gardens.

Sheep with their new,
almost complete shed.
Despite looking out at a snow covered garden and barn yard, the earlier rising of the sun is giving me spring-like vibes. I just hope I am up to doing the garden again this year. And that I remember to hunt down and bring in the other things that we do not grow in sufficient quantity, yet. I totally overlooked making and putting up applesauce this year and have been really missing it.

I also need to continue culling roosters, so I will check the weather for tomorrow before I do evening chores today and if it looks to be suitable, I will catch and confine two more roos. That should leave only one "extra". I will be checking their skin color and culling those with the Silkie gene for dark skin and flesh. I know Alli-roo is cool and think the other mostly white one is, as well... but all of the roosters with darker plumage will definitely get a good thorough inspection.

So, between hexen, sewing, spinning, getting the seeds started -- I deliberately put in my seed orders as soon as the catalogs were in hand, this year -- in December -- as a proactive response to the supply chain issues that have been plaguing everyone during the pandemic, and I am glad I did. I got all of the seeds and varieties that I needed to supplement my stash of saved and previous years left overs.

Here's to a hope for a good season!


Saturday, November 14, 2020

Fowl Deeds, Indeed!

 After a far-too-long hiatus (in my opinion, I have not asked the hens!) my young hens have begun to lay. They were all hen-hatched here except for 6, supplied by the Pajamas, Books and Chickens flock and one female bantam hen from my friend Yolanda. That flighty gray bantam was the only hen of the 6 she shared to help keep my first, single hatchling company. The 5 roosters now reside in the freezer, stand-ins for "cornish game hens" for future meals. We call these small, unexpected offerings Pullet-surprises ... the cognate of which I will never receive if I keep writing run-on sentences like I am inclined to do, no? LOL 

I am hoping that they will be happier in their new coop. Their old housing was a pallet and tarp construction which held up well for several years but was, among other things, hard to clean out and even harder for my 6' tall partner to deal with. You see, at its best, it was the height of a pallet and two pallets by two pallets in size. This aging camper trailer which was a gift from a friend, is just barely 6' tall, but even with the extra stuff on the floor to help keep the birds warm and absorb their droppings, he only has to duck his head, not crawl on hands and knees when searching for eggs.

In their new digs, the fowl have three layers of roosts and as you can see, they seem to want to go high. They have repurposed kitty litter packaging for nest boxes (photo above), which they have yet to use and the plywood and cement blocks at the back of the camper, when open, are the chicken door. 

I had everyone shut in the camper while I repaired and moved fence panel sections for their yard, and I can report they are VERY happy to be able to go back outside now. The ducks, as ducks are inclined to do, prefer to stay outside, even in most winter weather.

Monday, November 2, 2020

A Ritual for These Stressful Times

Are you feeling out of sorts? A bit off from the pandemic, the issues surrounding it? Is the election and all of the crazy uncertainty around that also coming to a head in your life? Let me offer a ritual that has helped me, today, to calm, ground and center myself.

I washed a window.

Now, when you stop scratching your head in confusion or laughing, hear me out.

First off, I am not talking about just washing it. And I am not talking about a major big deal house cleaning project. Just One Window. And if the weather is bad, don't fret about not being able to do the outside; that can easily be for another day.

Secondly, it does not matter what spiritual path you follow, which candidates have your vote (and if you haven't done so yet, please DO go and vote!) or whether your windows just got washed -- or by whom -- last week or even yesterday. This is a Ritual and while it involves cleaning and is, somewhat, about cleaning, it is about much more than that.


First, select your favorite window. You do have one, right? And not the one with the interior decor and window treatment that you finally got just right. This is about the view that you see through this window, so it should be your favorite window because it has your favorite view. It doesn't have to be something the Realtor would tout in an ad and maybe no one else in the world would ever see what makes it your favorite. Maybe it shows you just the right bit of sunrise or sunset at a particular time in the year. Maybe it shows you a favorite plant in the garden, or if you live on the umteenth floor of a high rise, is the place you sit to watch the clouds roll by on a summer eve, while you share a beer with your partner. But make it your favorite one.

Select your cleaning tools (I use a blue window cleaning spray and newspaper to wipe. Sometimes I have steeped an herb or two in the solution, but that is not necessary, even if you are a witch. You see, the Intent is the thing.

Before you start washing, take a few minutes to look out, contemplating what you see, both on the window and beyond it. For me, the "long term variable periodic housekeeper" that I am, let's just say that my first priority was removing the unintentional Samhain/Halloween decorations. LOL My local spinners had been busy this fall, but were no longer being seen so away went the webs. Then I went to work on the actual dirt.

This is my favorite window because it not only looks North, it also gives me a good view of my poultry and sheep, as well as the guardian dog. I often stand here, when movement catches my eye, just watching the sheep in their pasture during the spring and summer, and the chickens and ducks busily doing chicken and duck things year round.

As I began washing, I was reminded that my house likes clean windows; she likes to have clear eyes with which to look out at the world. It is part of her way of protecting us, being able to see and seen and unseen challenges beyond the walls and beyond the gates. And she is ever so appreciative of the washing. She says so, in the squeaks of the newspaper against the clean glass.

So my Intent is partly nesting and partly strengthening the protections on the place; wiping away the clingy bits of detritus that seem unavoidable these days. It's symbolic, yes, but having reassembled the window, even I feel cleaner now.

Being a witch, I will mark a sigil on the panes, top and bottom, with my saliva-dampened finger and call it good. One could end it, as well, with Words of thanks, of prayer.

However you do it, I suggest you try. Maybe tomorrow, after you vote. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Has it really taken a year?

 I have been looking back on my posts on Facebook from last year, since Sept 27. I do wish it was easier to look back, on that platform, other than on the exact day in previous years, but as they say, it is what it is. On that day I was feeling great, looking forward to spinning with one of my favorite groups in the morning and then heading out to help officiate at a wedding in the afternoon. Or so I thought. I was less than a week out from my work at the Common Ground Fair, and while I was looking forward to some reenactment spinning the following weekend, I was also very much looking forward to a week on the farm. Common Ground was always a bottleneck in the farm work flow, as the three days away, plus the recovery time, always set me back some.

My plans went well awry, though, the next day when, sitting in the dooryard of the couple to be wed, I tried and failed to push through *something* that was beginning to wrack my body with fever and violent chills and sapped my strength to almost nothing. I never got out of the car in that dooryard and barely made it into the house when I got home.

A week later I posted *nothing* on FB, but the following day's entry indicates that I had gone to the doc and had been swabbed for the 'flu but they did nothing to alleviate any of my symptoms. Turned out I did not have the 'flu and neither did I have a diagnosis. For at least a week, all I can remember is sitting in my recliner, not wanting to eat much of the time but managing to take fluids and dozing on and off with kitty Smoke in my lap much of the time. FB shows that I did do some stuff... puttering about... but K took the brunt of life and chores, as the sheep were sheared, birds and beasts tended and so on.

Eventually I did feel like doing stuff, but the fever -- off and on -- and chills (strong enough shaking that it put my back, which had been hurting from spending 3 days spinning while tending my tent at the fair, got put back in!) persisted for much longer than expected. My stand out memory was one morning, accepting a piece of buttered toast to eat -- not the first and not the last -- the flavor hit me like I had never ever tasted anything before. Heaven in a bite of commercial bread and butter would satisfy a description! I had one more day of such enhanced taste and then my sense returned to normal. I have no explanation for this, other than to note that normally I have no sense of smell and I wonder if perhaps it kicked in for a bit then. Who knows.

I do know that, while I called myself "back to normal" after a bit, this entire past year has been a struggle, totally regardless of the pandemic. Everything from the garden, on seemed to be "behind schedule. Garlic did not get planted until spring... and it was even a late, very short spring this year and winter hung on, and summer came on hard and early. My energy reservoir is not as deep as it used to be, takes longer to refill and is depleted more quickly. And things have felt "off." I put it down to social changes due to the pandemic and my changing the routine a bit, with fewer, longer trips to town and a bit more "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" than usual. But honestly I do not know.

I do know that, a few weeks back, on a regular doc visit, I voiced a thought that had been floating around in my head, thinking back on my symptoms: could I have had a very early case of Covid 19 or something like it, a precursor? I expected the doc to gently disagree and turn the conversation elsewhere, but -- with my symptoms up on the screen before her at the time -- she not only agreed but allowed as how it sounded likely.

I also know that, planting garlic yesterday, in the freshly tilled soil where the multi-strand deer fence had been, somehow felt like a key to putting everything right again. I hope so.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Neglected Garden

Do you think your garden is looking a bit neglected? Has it got away from you on account of life getting in the way? Do you see pictures of perfect rows of bountiful produce, marching in unison across a lovely, weed-free ground and sigh, convinced that your garden will never be "good enough?"

Well, stop right there and let's take a virtual visit to my garden through photos I took today. 

We finally have had some rain, enough to make it not only possible but easy and actually FUN to pull weeds! And as you will see, I need to spend lots of time out there, doing just that! 
But, you know, life is still happening. I have a huge backlog of order for hex signs to complete, I am finally getting my act in gear and attempting -- with support and instruction from a neighbor -- to complete a project to put vinyl composite tile that I snagged for free a couple of years ago, on the back porch floor. I should hate to admit it, but the porch flooring project -- starting with adding 3/4" plywood over the original underlayment after removing the carpet that was originally there -- started 6 years ago. This year it WILL get done. But we still need to eat, so out to the garden we go.

This will give you a good idea of the status of the garden. Thanks to the paper feed sack weed block in the walkways, at least I DO know where the rows are supposed to be! You can't tell much from this image, left of the first two rows I began attempting to weed soon after the beginning of the rainy spell. The row on the left was seeded to lettuces (a few barely visible lower left) and carrots. The ones at the far end of the bed failed to germinate but as I weed toward the lettuces, I am beginning to find tiny carrot seedlings hidden in the much larger, dense grass. Fortunately, I do not mind "fine weeding" in this situation. It is
use time consuming and requires much care. A couple of hot days dried the soil enough that I had to let this bit go for a while and move on to other projects, as I was just pulling the tops off the grass plants. The bed on the right in the photo above was planted to beets with some germination, as you can see in the image on the right. I soaked the remainder of my beet seeds overnight and re-seeded the portion that I had managed to weed day before yesterday and will keep an eye on them, irrigating if needed. I have a friend who looks forward to my supplying her with beets each year, and with any luck we will both get some.

When I was out in the garage recently, I unearthed a mostly full bag of diatomaceous earth. I had read that one could dust potato plants "liberally" with the stuff to help with the potato bug problem. While I am not inclined to use chemical sprays, I am comfortable using DE, so I made a larger shaker, filled it up and
took to the potato beds last evening. I was a little short of the stuff to treat them all, so I have a "control group" of about 16 plants at the end of one bed that were not treated. As I walked the beds, dusting, I also squished any bugs (larvae) that I found. We had a wee bit of dampness last night and a brief shower while I was working in the garden today, but not enough to remove the stuff from the plants. I have not checked for bugs yet today, but I will this evening, as this is a once a day routine here in potato bug season.
Looking at these images , do you see a theme here?? No soil to be seen... and no, it is not especially deliberate. but I am not in panic mode either!
 When I got to the end of the first potato bed last evening, I continued down into the area where the vine crops are planted, doing some rough weeding to remove the taller hogweed and lambs quarters and once they were out, pulling the grasses that were up close to the hills. Eventually I will need to go back and work more on the grasses... or try to smother them some with spent hay. The vines like to have the soil kept moist.

The project of the day, though, was getting the tomato plants excavated from the sea of weeds (hogweed, lambs quarters
and grass) and securing them to the strings I added to their support system. I had to improvise a bit because, in the chaos from both the back porch project and the multiple signs I am painting, the
official tomato clips (left) have vanished. I looked in all the likely places in both house (where I think they are hiding) and garage, but it needed doing NOW, so I improvised with one of the
more useful and inexpensive homestead solutions: cable ties! I dislike using single use plastics, but in this case, it seemed a reasonable compromise. Look closely, they are GREEN. Not my favorite choice of color for things in the garden, especially things that I need to FIND again (like these things, to make sure I did not tighten them too much and to easily remove at the end of the season). I would have preferred red, or even blue... but green was what I found when I went hunting.

So now you know; my garden is far from weed-free and will remain so even once I get the "weeding" done. While I have no proof of this, it seems to me that having other plants in and around your target species (aka food) might help confuse some of the bugs or have other benfits that we have not noticed. I have, in the length of time we have been here (going on 12 years next month) declared war on bindweed (wild morning glory) as they are most invasive and do not play well with others. It has worked, and now I seldom see one! Of course it gets pulled immediately. I do wish I could figure as good a solution for the runner grasses, though.