Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Yes, I DID do something today.

Ever have those days, when you are busy and doing all day long but by the end of the day, you feel like you have accomplished nada?  Well that's it for me today.

I had a nearly-full day at the store, which was -- for once -- not totally chaotic and insane. Apparently there was not a big last-minute rush on movies and music, as the department was a quite reasonable order for any time of the year, let along after a holiday. We did not get a huge pile of additional stock to be shelved just as I was leaving, instead we got a very small quantity of stock, mostly titles we actually needed, in plenty of time for me to get them to their proper places and to move some of the 20 or so copies of seasons 1-3 of Gilligan's Island onto the sales floor. Yes, I said Gilligan's Island. For some (unknown to me) reason, the movie powers that be seem to think this is a hot series this season. LOL

I stopped at the Sams Club pharmacy on the way home, having had to wait half an hour for it to re-open after lunch. It annoys me no end, when I get off work at 1:30, to have to pick up meds on account of the pharmacy lunch schedule. Ah well... I could have picked up the additional tarp for the poultry on the way TO the pharmacy instead of after, but seeing the line of cars waiting to turn left onto another street and blocking what would have been my left turn into the place we gets tarps told me that even with the wait, it would be more efficient to buy the tarp second, avoiding two left turns across traffic.

So I picked up meds and a 20' long tarp and the mail from the PO box and sent a movie off to a friend's daughter... one of the gift pack from work that we had less than no interest in watching. And came home.

K helped me deploy the tarp over the three poultry "tents", adding extra pieces of 1x3 as support for the tarp between the tops of the cattle panel A-frame units, and carrying several old wheels and brake parts over to hold the tarp in place until there is sufficient snow to freeze it to the ground.

Now, mind you, I am not at all sure that our strange and strong-willed fowl will actually shelter there. They have been bedding down on the mulch hay insulation between the shelters for the past month. But it is there if they are willing. That's the most I can do at this point.

Ducks and chickens are still off their laying and we have yet to find the lights I used to wake them up, last year, when I left for work. I had put the light fixtures and switched cord in a visible box in the garage, but K has been organizing. I'll leave it at that. I suppose they can use the vacation and I am getting a dozen eggs a week from a friend whose hens live in a well lit, heated barn.

After I got in, I washed a passel of dishes, put finish on more sections of the spinning wheel and made supper -- spaghetti with "American style" sauce, a la my grandmother, but using my home canned yellow tomatoes instead of the usual red ones. Next time I try this (and there will be only one "next time" this year, as I canned only two jars of the yellow and orange fruit) I would like to use both green and red bell peppers, as the colors of the veggies show nicely against the lighter colored sauce.

I have to semi-short work days left in the week, and tomorrow is supposed to begin a storm with serious wind and snow accumulation. We have yet to get chains for the tractor, so K will clear the drive cautiously. For the first time since starting this job, though, I will not feel too bad if, for any reason, I cannot get out to be at work on time Friday. There are no special projects scheduled, no "special new release" movies to my knowledge (which is typically the reason we are scheduled on Friday) and thanks to a visit from a colleague on Monday, the shelves look great and we don't have a lot of back stock. So "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!"

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cycles and Balance

I see life as a series of cycles. They should not be the "running around in circles" kind, but they will be unless you are willing to grow and learn. If things are proceeding as they should, I think, then the cycles will be a spiral; when you come back to a point in the cycle, you will be in a different place, in time, space and mind.

This past year was a year of not really being "here and now" for me. It was a year of putting one foot in front of the other, of being very much not here, of diagnosis -- a long process -- and of healing -- another long process. It was, in many ways, "a year out of time."

But with the arrival of theYuletide wave, I feel like I am coming back, here and now, ready to start a new cycle.  I am once again feeling the tides of the moon, dark to full and full to dark. I am feeling the tides of the seasons -- light to dark, dark to light and what for me are the appropriate activities for each round of these cycles.

I have been looking forward all summer to the revival and setting up of spinning wheels and loom, of having time to spin with my drop spindle until the wheels were ready, and then to sit and spin, sit and weave. Those are, for me, activities of the dark months. And I have felt a serious push to once again look at the garden with a production-oriented eye. Of course, a friend's connection to a local buying club in need of new local suppliers -- a way to sell produce on a reasonable scale without spending multiple days and many hours sitting in a parking lot -- helped that. The fact that this info came on the new moon, putting extra "oomph" into my "work what you want to manifest" side of the lunar cycle was .... coincidence? Maybe not, but make of that what you will.

Finding a short term discount from one of my seed suppliers on Facebook set the garden planning/seed ordering in motion. That order has been placed, and the list for orders from some of my other suppliers started, as I researched varieties and prices to place that first order. I'll have the majority of it done before the full moon this week. And hopefully, one of the spinning wheels will be finished as well (it came in pieces... a birthday gift earlier in the year that has been waiting for me to find the time and space to apply a proper finish to the wood and assemble the parts)

With the moon turning to the waning side, it will be time to focus more on cleaning, clearing and de-junking. This needs done because (a) I was terribly lax during the "year out of time" and (b) there are other projects that I cannot begin until the areas have been cleared and (c) soon it will be time to once again assemble the growing racks and start the early seedlings. But those are projects for the waxing moon. See.... cycles and balance returns.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Yuletide!

It's beginning to feel a lot like Yuletide
Everywhere you go
Now that it's winter time the darkness slows its climb
and everywhere the land is cloaked with snow.
It's beginning to look a lot like Yuletide
Wreaths on every door
But the thing that makes it real are the changes that you feel
Deep within your soul.

A glass full of mead and a log on the fire
and the ritual's soon to begin.
Folks trickle in, neighbors, good friends and kin
With their drums, and some cookies and cake.
And soon the energy's raised high, the magic spell is spun. 

It's beginning to look a lot like Yuletide
Everywhere you go
Everyone has a tree, the lights are up to see
and cheerful greeting ring from every voice.
It's beginning to feel a lot like Yuletide
Soon the light returns
but for now, though, greet the dark, sing and drum and strike a spark
as the season turns.

This just came to me, out of the ethers...

to be sung to the tune of... well I think you can guess. I croak that song badly so there will NOT be an mpg file to download. LOL

Sharing is fine, with credit to Jj Starwalker,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Becoming Yule

I never had felt that the seasonal markers should be affixed to just one day. Looking out to the past, I sense that in the far gone days, we were not so tied to clock and calendar and moved, planned, plotted and planted more from a sense of when it was right. Years of watching the weather and the signs given by the plants and animals around us and the sky above -- without the distraction of an overabundance of "man-light" and technologies of entertainment -- would have, I think, given my ancestors a good sense of the cycles. And, as they reached the fullness of the dark of the year, their senses would have prompted them to begin the rituals of the season, calling back the sun, turning the wheel on towards summer and taking whatever steps they felt necessary to protect their homes, families, kin and communities against the cold and dark (and whatever wild or evil lurked there and plotted harm). They had survived thus far, so perhaps a small feast of thanks for the abundance put by might have been in order.  I do not know, for of course I was not there, but my spirit says this reads as truth.

In my own life, I am thankful that my path leads me easily to incorporate things of the spirit into the everyday doings of life. Squeezing all of one's spiritual life into one day -- or a few hours of one day -- just never worked. I chuckled, once, upon hearing a friend... the wife of a Christian minister... talking about her husband having shared his thoughts about some of his congregants, who came to the Sunday meeting, paid their tithes and perhaps -- but not terribly likely -- sometimes attended a mid-week meeting and seemed to expect their pastor to "be holy for them" the rest of the week.

No, holiness is not something one can delegate. So "as above, so below" and the converse as well. And following spirit, the run up to the rituals of Yule and the daily doings of the dark side of the year move at their own pace. Some years, spirit moves me early on and there is a flurry of activity that might rival a more contemporary celebration of the season (minus the consumerism and conspicuous consumption, which have never been big in my life). Other years, like this one, I wonder if Yule will pass unmarked and the days all get eaten up with more mundane, yet no less necessary, aspects of life.

This year we will, it appears, have no tree. We had wanted to start a tradition of decorating a potted tree to plant outside once spring came. However, it appears at this point I have waited too late to find such a tree. In any case, the house is in upheaval with renovation projects, the living room crowded with new tools (spinning wheel and loom) and work space for my hex painting and even a bank of cages for our newly acquired fiber bunnies (lacking a barn or sufficient outside shelter against our winters, they will be inside this winter) and were I to find a tree, I am not sure where I would put it! 

However, "happenstance" brought me to a source of mistletoe. Ordered and delivered, it told me that this year the wards would be renewed and talismans placed once more at the corners of the land and entry ways to the property and our home. I stuck a pair of pruners into my bag and after a couple of days of being carried around, today I had the time, energy and "push" from above to clip the necessary twigs from our birch trees. This is something that, typically, I do each year. However last year I was so weak from anemia from an (at that point undiagnosed) issue that walking that far, even with my staff to lean on, was out of the question. Thank the Gods that my problem was found and the medical community was able to address it and I have returned to reasonable health... at least for an old woman with bad knees.  LOL  I will post a picture of the talismans when they are completed.

Commercially available Julbock
I have also been prompted to make a Julbock and bought several small (and surprisingly expensive!) bunches of wheat for that purpose. However, the time has not yet been right for me to begin soaking the straw or to print out the instructions and attempt this new craft.And yes, I will post a picture of this first attempt as well. I would love to learn to do it well enough to produce instruction with pictures and a video as well. All I have found thus far are written instructions and, of course, many pictures of the completed Julbock.

Today, however, I began to feel "Yule" coming, and coming together. I have to work that morning at my mundane job, so the rituals and events of the day will be less than were I to have the entire day. I an still not sure about the supper meal, but feel it lurking just beyond the reaches of my mind. I know, though, that there will be mead to toast the Gods. That came to me today, as I stopped by the natural foods store to resupply oats for my breakfast and was prompted to browse a bit, not sure why until I turned a corner and saw a display of local Maine mead! It is not commonly available, as are some of the other local wines and beers, so when I see it, I know to buy a bottle.

I also know that I will be doing some garden planning this Yule season. Quite "coincidentally," on the new moon last week, I took the first steps toward becoming one of the local farmers to supply a buying club in a nearby town. My friend, who is a member, had notified me of the potential opportunity earlier, when he found out that one of their supplying farms would be bowing out, due to the farmer's health issues.

I had been "truck gardening" and supplying our needs, as well as taking produce to several farmers markets as a collaborative venture with a friend. Last fall, my lack of energy and issues with the collaboration led me to draw back from that thread. I committed to growing only for us last year, hoping I would have the energy to do that. Now, with my health back, I was wondering what I would do with the extra produce. Being at my morning job 4 or 5 days a week means that I really need to spend more time here, working the land and doing other necessary things. Farmers markets take a big bite out of the day, not only picking and processing the food, loading and driving to the market and setting up your booth... then you spend hours "babysitting a  parking lot" as my buying club member friend says. So, when I was given the opportunity to meet with club members and see a bit of the operation, and especially when the scheduled meeting coincided with the Yule New Moon, I saw the hands of the Powers That Be at work. 

At First Quarter, this week, there is another meeting (day before Yule) in which they will officially set things up for the coming year and I will be at that meeting. So, I suppose the first order of seeds (catalogs seem to have begun arriving earlier than usual this year, also!) will be placed in another week, with serious intent!

And thus far, thus goeth my Yuletide forth, into the coming year. So Be It.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Wild Disney-esque Morning

...and I missed it.

I had put in a nice chunk of work day by mid-morning, when the pace indicated a pausing place and a few moments to sit, have a snack, take a moment to wrap my knees, check emails, relax...

Email revealed a strange message from home, prompting a call. Something I very seldom do from the break room at work. Something about K possibly going back to bed if he couldn't get warm, don't worry if he didn't answer the phone...

Now, I knew the place would be cold. I had put off too long taking the grill tank for the office space heater to be filled, and the empty one sat there staring at me, even as the spare that we were using sputtered to an end of gas and heat before I had a chance to dress in the cold very early morning darkness this morning. Ok, add "take tank to fill" to the after work list and be thankful that the kerosene for the living room space heater wasn't QUITE that empty. There was fuel in the tank (thankfully, as it had warmed the end of the living room sufficiently for me to dress for work, almost comfortably, in a house that had seen overnight lows near zero with no overnight heat) and a bit remaining in the 5 gallon kero can. Yeah, get kero goes on that list too. Bring home the propane from town and load up for kero and diesel for the tractor (snow's a'comin' and Fergie will be our snow removal gal this year) as one should keep the tank full, especially in the winter.

Ok, so I knew there was SOME kero... enough that K should be able to keep the chill off... so what's up?

This is the tale I heard when I called home.

The kero heater was running. K had fed the dogs, done chores and come back in... was in the kitchen, getting his breakfast when the following transpired, all in about a minute. Coffee, the brainless St. Bernard who loves to lay by the heaters, apparently wagged near the kero heater, and somehow got the hair on her tail (which has a matted spot) caught on a prong on the protective grate around the device. Which WAS RUNNING, remember. She felt something on her tail, moved, panicked and ran smack dab into the stacked wood and wire rabbit hutches in the corning of the living room, careened off that (heater in tow, which thankfully had GONE OUT, courtesy of the tipping sensor working as it should. Amazing right there!  LOL) and into my 3' square solid oak butcher block table next to the stove in the kitchen, bonking her head. And then careened off that into the fridge, to her left.

All at scared-dog-speed, mind you. Took much longer to write than happen, I am sure.

Fortunately, K was standing there and he was able to grab her (no small task in its own right, as she is not currently dressed in either harness or collar) and hold her with one hand while eventually extracting heater grate prong from tail. Took several tries, he said.

She did spill some small bits of kero in the house and knocked the heater about, but it still works (K tested it after getting the dog calmed down and letting her out for a bit) and after I got home, he checked more closely to make sure the wick and all was still seating properly. It is.

Strange thing is, (remember I said she was the BRAINLESS St. Bernard?) she still insists on laying right next to the heaters. Fortunately, we have not smelled any more singed doggy hair. And I will be cutting that matt out, as soon as it gets warm enough in here, now, for me to change out of my town work clothes.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finally, a day to think about Yule!

With the coming of the new moon, my cleaning and organizing binge is abating (not DONE with what needs doing, mind you... the backlog was great... but done enough that I can feel my mind clearing a bit) and a day off from having to be at the town job, I finally can put a bit of energy into prep for Yule.

I still have hex signs to get painted and ship before the holidays, but one must wait for the paint to dry and in the between times I shall turn the altar, such as it is, from its fall plumage to a more seasonable tone, looking forward to MotherNight, Yule and the wonderful dark, less busy days that will come as the "crazy season" passes in the mundane world (and at work) and before Candlemas (or as I often call it "spring finding") when the first of the early garden plants get started on the house plant racks and the garden plan gets seriously worked out.

I have several Odin-esque representations of "Father Christmas," fabric with a background of dark blue, dotted with snowflakes, and a veritable miniature forest of tiny trees... evergreens, bare birch (for Frigga) and a wonderful wire sculpture of a bare deciduous tree I have decided is an oak, and hopefully places for all.

I have ordered and received a most excellent small box of mistletoe from a little Pagan shop in southern Maine -- Phoenix Rising in Biddeford -- so I shall visit my favorite birch tree to seek the favor of a small branch or two which I use with the mistletoe to make protective amulets for each corner of our land and over our doors. That may or may not get completed tomorrow.

I DO intent to try my hand, for the first time, at making a Julbock. I have done some wheat crafting before but have never make this traditional goat. (A popular theory is that the celebration of the goat is in connection to to the Norse god Thor, who rode the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnj├│str.)  I have also seen, online, these figures made as large yard ornaments using a wood frame to support evergreen branches, but this year did not even go "tipping" for boughs for my wreath... so this is being filed on the back burner for a next year project. Also on the next year project list, as I was speaking of gardens a bit ago, is a plan to grow my own wheat for crafting. I did a test planting a couple of years back and know I can get a crop, and at $5 for a meager bunch, it will be well worth putting in some effort!

So I shall begin by soaking my wheat straw tomorrow morning whilest I get the chores and some more laundry done and out (taking advantage of a few bright days, some of which are predicted to be above freezing, AND my single non-town day this week) and then work on the altar, the Julbock and the hex signs during the majority of my day.

I need to get the dough for Leibkuhen started, as well, but that will have to wait for later in the week.

In the late afternoon, I have a meeting with a buying club in a nearby town. A friend informed me that one of the local farms that had been supplying club members with fresh produce in season is downsizing due to health issues with one of the farmers and that there was a good chance that I could fill the void. If it works out, this will be a great opportunity to supply food to folks who want it without having to spend hours "babysitting a parking lot" (i.e. setting up, manning, and taking down booths at various farmers markets)  As I am told, suppliers let the members know one week what is available and orders are taken over the Internet for delivery the next week. So, every other week I would need to spend a day getting produce picked and ready, and make a delivery to town. I'll know more soon, but I am optimistic.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Finally, Winter

I've been remiss in my blogging... again... and again will try to pick up the threads.

Working "part time" in town has turned to full time plus hours for what I call the "crazy season." You know, that time between when we supposedly give thanks for our blessings and when we mount a new calendar on the wall... that time that appears to be given over to greed, conspicuous consumption, worry, stress and ... oh yes... blamed on the birth of a religious icon many years ago whose followers co-opted the long held traditions of much older religious traditions. Yes, I am a bit of a cynic about this time of year, at least as it is portrayed and appears to be dealt with my many folks.

For me the "season" is winter, the reason for it is the way the earth is slanted on its axis and the observances I make related to this particular cycle have as much to do with commerce as the rest of my life does... that being "not much." Other than the fact that I work "part time" in retail which means that I work full time at present, with little time left to do any of the needful daily tasks, prepare hex signs and such, let alone ramp up for a major celebration. So we don't.

I will set up my altar, soon, in a winter mode. I have several representations of "Father Christmas" or as I call him, Odin, to bring out. The dark time of the year calls me to spend quiet time reading, studying, spinning and weaving... and planning... things best done by the hearth fire. And yes, come January and February, that will be the mode. For now, I chip slowly away at the backlog of things undone from the busy times of autumn and the backlog that comes from the big design projects that this season still (thankfully) brings.

THAT had been made a bit more stressful this year because Tractor Guy got a good deal on a new computer for me and bought it. Yes, I needed one; doing major design projects (a 100 pg yearbook layout, for example) on a laptop is decidedly non-optimal. However, introducing a new and very different operating system in the middle of a major project is worse. My new machine uses Windows 8 and I do not recommend it. I am not sure what the target market is for this OS, but it does not seem to be aimed at those of us who constantly use multiple programs and use the machine mainly for projects, as opposed to communication. It seems to want to be a tablet or - as I am more familiar with the interface -- a "smart phone"... a device which naturally and understandably focuses on communication and sharing of various media in multiple ways. Yes, it will do what I need, but it takes jumping through an extra screen. At least I presume it will, once I get a software upgrade. My professional programs are several versions old (dammit, they still work JUST FINE!) but upgrades have been purchased which are supposed to work better with this OS.

It has been hard for me to get into winter mode this year at least partly on account of the weather. We have had rain, damp, fog and more rain. Some seasonal temps for the location but mostly above average. At times I feel more like I am back in the Pacific northwest than in Maine! Thankfully we had a bit of snow today, accompanied by ice which is not quite so nice but at this point I will take it. It is not supposed to stick though, as we have rain in the forecast for tomorrow and then a run of temperatures well above freezing again. It felt really odd last week to take the wash out to the line on one of the rare, almost passable drying days, as I could tell the ground was frozen a ways down but I was walking in soupy mud, the very top layer of the ground.

We did get our carrots out of the ground, topped and stashed in bags in the fridge and the rabbits are enjoying the tops, as they are doled out over time to keep bunnies from being runny. I need to do some serious grooming on the fiber bunnies as at least one of them was ready for her first major shed during my first peak busy time this late fall. I am anxiously looking forward to the next couple of weeks, when once again I have only one full day of work in town with the balance of the days being 4 or 5 hours of work. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get caught up before spring!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

We thought we were making progress... Tractor Guy got the mower deck back on Fergie and took to mowing around the garden in preparation for cutting down the weeds and old plants before putting the tiller back on. He was motivated, the weather was right and he was hard at it when he put the mower deck down and heard an unexpected sound... BANG... the pin that hold the contraption that allows the tractor to raise and lower the deck had disappeared.

After looking about behind where he stopped and finding nothing, he backed the tractor up so I could look under the deck, a likely place for the pin to have ended up. Nope, still no luck. Well, at least it is a relatively inexpensive part, easily replaced on my (extra) trip to town tomorrow.

Frustrated, as he likes being able to do when he has the energy and cooperative weather, he headed the tractor back up to the house until I got the part tomorrow. I had walked down to the garden to ask him a question and had been helping look for the missing pin, and he offered me a trip back to the garage, where I had been setting up to work, in Fergie's bucket. Before I could sit, though, one of the hydraulic lines started spewing fluid! Lack of hydraulic pressure means the that bucket would not stay up, even enough for it to clear the ground for him to drive the machine up to the house. Tractor ended up. front wheels a bit off the ground, leaning on her bucket! Well, at least it could roll backwards and sit normally, but now in addition to the pin, there is hydraulic line on the list. Damn.

I was, at least, able to make some progress on the construction of the chicken coop. Not as much progress as I would have liked, as I ran out of light and nearly out of nails at about the same time... but three of the 4 walls are built, wood is cut for the final one, and a plan is in hand for the peaked part that supports the roof beam. Rain is predicted for tomorrow, at least by mid-day, so I am hoping that I can find enough nails to complete the final wall construction and use the rainy afternoon for a town run (though I hate to head in when I do not have work in the morning). There are two hex signs completed to package and ship, and a trash run, to the dump in our little town, would also be a good idea. So we will hopefully get parts to get Fergie up and running again, get nails and ship hexen.

I have plenty of web jobs to work on during the rainy parts of my "days off" and, as always, house work and home renovation projects in various stages of completion.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On Getting Caught Up

Sometimes -- heck, around here OFTEN -- life is like that. The best of intentions get digressed from for the best of reasons. The best thing to do it pick up the thread again when you find it and got to weaving, spinning, knitting, sewing... again.

My off-the-farm work has been kicking my butt with longer hours and yet not a bit of progress in getting caught up. They just keep adding more projects and then along comes stock that was not properly price stickered to be in the place is it destined for so additional work not only to re-sticker, but to document the necessity for the task so that my company can recoup the expense by billing the ones who supplied the improperly labeled products.  Documentation requested more than doubled the time to do the job. GRRRR.

However on that front (fingers crossed) it looks like I will be in a good position tomorrow to finally get a lot of the backlog of stuff onto the shelves. That will take a load off my mind, as I really dislike being behind in what seems to be just about every aspect of my life. If I am reasonably caught up at work, having hex orders waiting, home improvement projects in process and general housekeeping undone does not vex me nearly so badly. I always have too many irons in the fire. Always have. So NOT being behind is not an option, but keeping it in balance is a constant goal.

Everything in my life has to dovetail around things that CANNOT be moved in time and space.  When seeds need to be started and seedlings planted out; when weeds need to be pulled, crops harvested and put by... those are controlled by the seasons and the weather variations and they set the rhythm of my life. Certain big design projects continue to come back year after year (and I thank the Gods for faithful clients!) and in each of their seasons, they add to the non-negotiable tasks (and the bank account!) The season for one of them is at hand, the yearbook for the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center. This wonderful project is published every year, in time for the museum's yearly festival, Waterfowl Weekend, which happens the first weekend in December each year. The festivities kick off with a special Friday night preview for members and guests with a wonderful buffet of local seafood and game dishes and this year the project time line is scrunched a bit as the preview night is November 30. The museum director, staff and I work collaboratively (they are in North Carolina, I am in Maine) via a blizzard of emails, a few faxes and lots of large file transfers. Putting together a book that will run over 100 pages... in less than a month... is not a job for wimps!

Edited to add: I also realized today that laundry is another task that keeps me in tune with my environment but is also driven by the unnatural schedule of work. Since I have chosen to only "hang out" ... or on racks inside if necessary... I time my laundry days around "good drying days" and hope to find them on days when I do not have to work first. Sometimes I end  up doing a load the evening before and having my Tractor Guy hang it out. I don't like to do this because (a) he is not as in tune with this chore as I am and can forget and (b) walking is very difficult for him and the line is not near his regular morning chore route. Today, though, I had a load for him (sheets) and then did my white work shirts and the rest of the wash when I got home. I needed the shirts to get dry, because not only do I not own a dryer, I don't even have an electric iron right now, nor a decent way to heat the old fashioned metal, non-electric "sad irons" that I used in my "beyond the sidewalks" days. Yes, I still have them and yes, push come to shove I COULD iron white with them. Used to regularly iron a white hospital uniform for the kids' dad, back in the day. Good news is that the flannel sheets were dry when I took my whites out and the white shirts (and likely other things, but the shirts were the only essentials) were dry before the end of the day. I love my new, efficient washer! Not only has it had a very significant positive effect on the electric bill (and with only the two of us, and not doing more than a few loads a week, this is remarkable) but as it uses much less water, and therefore calls for much less soap.. and will make use of the soap/borax/baking soda/washing soda mix I make up, it is economical all round. Plus is has an "extra good spin" cycle addition that I have been using when I need to hang indoors or on days that are less than optimal.. cool, not sunny, etc.

And, of course, the tide of Winter Finding is upon us, pushing me to get proper housing built for the ducks and hens, pushing me to push Tractor Guy to get the big machine (which has some overheating problems we have yet to solve) up and running sufficiently to mow and till, and in general to get things set right so we can winter comfortably.

So that's what been up. Hopefully I will have a better track record on the blogging as we roll down to Halloween.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The work week begins

For me the work weeks begins at 6 AM Sunday, getting everything set at the store to align with the corporate ads published in the Sunday paper.  Sometimes this is a  big job, sometimes it is huge but seldome does everything go smoothly.

Today was a seductive day; I thought when my lunch break came, that I had things pretty well in hand. there were some titles I had not yet found to put where they needed to go, but with other folks helping un-box my materials, it gets a little chaotic sometimes.

Got back into the fray after lunch, thinking I would have time to catch up on a bit of  backlogged backstock when I ended up discovering a problem that had "run down hill" so to speak and the I needed to make time to correct what the folks who send my the products had messed up. No biggie.. we re-sticker products often. This time, however, I was instructed by my "help desk" (are these things always named by the law of opposites?? ) that I needed to use one of my devices to photograph each of the items that had the incorrect code on the price sticker before re-stickering it!  That doubled -- at least -- the time required. Was necessary, though, to document the need for the work so they could bill additional hours. I understand that, but DAMN!! Made a long day ever longer...

I was glad to get home to the simple chores of picking lettuce (way more than we needed, of course.. I still have "market brain") and cleaning it for this weeks suppers, washing and prepping the carrots dug yesterday (had been sitting in water in a bucket; washed them in the bathtub with the hand held shower head... once again, market head rules!) and cleaning after the cats.

I find these simple food storage tasks grounding and I love putting by for the season.

I managed to share all of the surplus of duck and hen eggs, so that the fridge is no longer backlogged with eggs. Only one tested "old" and I shall cook it for the dogs tomorrow. We got one hen and 4 duck eggs today; I hope their productivity will be more in line with our needs soon... a few more ducks heading to "freezer camp" may help that, but it will be a while before that happens. I ended up with extra hours this week and a full week coming next as well. I don't mind the extra bucks, but I am hoping for decent (translation: non-rainy) weather soon so that I can put time at home after some of my not-quite-so-long workdays into building winter housing for the fowl.

Now, though, there are hex signs that still need paint and a good night's sleep, I hope, in the works. A bit of grocery shopping is on the list tomorrow, before I get home. I used the last of the rice today, and all but dregs of the oatmeal. I have been working hard to use up the bits of meat that tend to accumulate here... the odd bits of fatty ham, single chicken breast, etc... but am not quite through it all, so the resupply of bulk meat will wait. I found a small pork roast and a single chop which are now in the fridge, thawing, for a session in the crock pot tomorrow. I wish I could cook them with kraut, but K does not like it, so they will be cooked with apples and I'll add kraut on the side for me. Some of our potatoes and a salad should complete tomorrow's supper .

Catching up on little stuff at home

When I get a chance to stay home all day I love to take it; I look forward to retirement and immediately scaling back to, at most, ONE trip to town a week. that should make my tank full of gas last a month.

I made great progress on the hex signs in progress today, got "caught up" on sleep ( though I know one really cannot do that, it felt good to be able to sleep until after dawn), had a late breakfast and concentrated on dishes and laundry while waiting for the paint to dry.

It was unseasonably chilly and very windy today, though the wind did not blow nearly as much as yesterday.
The view above is yesterday's storm rolling in. The wind was so severe it moved the duck "tent", flattened the upwind side of their pen and moved both the hens' tent and pen several feet.

Today, it was just sufficient to make a cold and only partially sunny into a "good drying day" for the laundry.

I was glad to have stopped up most of the holes around the newly installed door yesterday. It kept the living room much warmer and allowed the kerosene space heater to do its job this evening.

Now, time to do a bit of spinning in Frigga's honor before I bid her good evening, extinguish her candle and head to bed.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pagan Pride

Once again I find myself wishing, just a little bit, for folks a bit more in line wTheith my spirituality. I am not Asatru (that path is too hard line and too focused on tribe/community/family for me) nor am I Wiccan ( nothing against these folk but it is not my path.

Pagan pride was an event. I followed up on a request for Pagan-friendly businesses who were not wanting to be vendors to deliver brochures or business cards to a representative for display at the event. This happened a month or more ago. The brochures I delivered were left on the organizers kitchen table. They "made it up to me" by offering me an unclaimed vendor table. I had the foresight to drag along a few completed hex signs and a passel of eggs which I set out. Sold or gave away the eggs, had interest in the hexen but no sales (these local events seldom generate any) but I need the brochures back for some other purpose (which I cannot remember now, but I do remember thinking that the timing of getting remainders back at the end of the event was a good thing) but I fear getting them will be like pulling hairs.

There were a few interesting people that I talked to at the event (not about spiritual topics, admittedly) and th people watching kept me awake. The one workshop I attended was ok. The ritual, put on by a long-standing Dianic group, was... unfocused, chaotic and wimpy. I have attended several of their regular rituals and was not impressed. Still not. At the end they closed the ritual by howling and one male attendee howled longer and harder than the rest of the assemblage and, in my perception anyway, balanced out the totally female energy of the ritual and grounded the event. Yay for him!

I have carrots to clean and refrigerate, and cat boxes to clean but I am going to bed after tending the rabbits. Tomorrow is a major work day and energy and focus will be required.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

End of the work week

I am being most thankful for the end of the in-town work week this week. And glad that, for once, we were allowed extra hours as needed to complete the huge pull of old stock. I often feel more than a day late and a dollar short trying to keep the department organized, looking good and well stocked, with the extra projects that we get handed.

My day in town therefore went longer than scheduled, but since I knew there was the potential to actually get the job DONE by keeping at it, I made sure I had a lunch so I could see it through. Then a quick trip to the store for a couple of odd ends and to cash in the change that has been accumulating in the cornucopia.

Each morning I do a ritual ... greeting the day, invoking Frigga and her Handmaidens and making an offering -- a coin or two into a cornucopia basket with the words "From the Gods to us and from us to the Gods that there might be much for many." This is my variation on a Feng Shui prosperity ritual (I believe) that I learned long ago called  "the penny dance."  When the basket gets full, I change the change into folding money and use it for something appropriate in the name of the Gods. This time, it shall go to buy food which I shall offer at the Pagan Pride day. They, in turn, will donate their offerings to a local food bank. I have $20 which will be turned into non-perishable, basic food on my way to the event on Saturday.

I was so beat after work today that I ended up using most of the remaining afternoon in a nap. I did dig out the silicon seal and "Great Stuff" canned foam insulation and filled most of the cracks around the new door. K brought in the kero space heater and the bit of remaining kerosene and hopefully I will acquire more on my running Saturday. The bit we have should get us through tomorrow and overnight. We have a predicted low of 30 tomorrow night, our lowest predicted low thus far this year. We still do not have insulation and drywall around the door but that will come.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Delights of Fall

I was going to post a pic of the wonderful yard full of leaves that I got to scuffle through on Monday, going to and from my massage appointment, but it appears that Blogger won't let me upload from my system or from a URL any more! So I'll just give  you a link to the picture and hope they get this worked out later.

I really don't feel like it's a proper autumn until I have, at least once, walked, scuffling my feet, through masses of dried leaves. As wet as the autumn has been, I had all but forgotten about this joy. That, and the fact that until this week, there was little FALL to the fall; many of the trees in my area were still green and the ones that were changing were, well, wimps regarding color. Not too far away, when driving to a friend's farm, I drove into autumn and truly enjoyed the colors though they were still somewhat subdued.

Well, over the weekend the local trees got the idea and pretty much changed and began to drop leaves all at once. My friend and massage therapist had not raked and I think the leaves did a nice job complementing her fall and Halloween decor.

We have hit a cool spell that has been great for the Tractor Guy in his working to get the tractor up and running. In fact, he was about ready to install the mower today when ... surprise, surprise... it started raining.... again. Tomorrow is forecast to be sunny and dry, so hopefully he can make some progress before the next damp day.

I am beginning to feel that this small visit from the Big D (depression) is finally getting put on the run by my St. John's Wart treatment. I usually note that an improvement in my mental state accompanies a time of being less than regular about taking my mid-day capsule and I have made that mental note today. Despite the exhaustion of two full 8 hour days at work this week, and the accompanying knee pain, I realized I was feeling great after work Yeah, I hurt (but I had not had to wrap my knee until only an hour was left in the work day) but I had a positive attitude; the extra errand of getting mail out via the post office and coming home to a chilly house did little to dampen my spirits.

It has gotten cool enough that I installed the heated mattress pad this evening and will turn it on low. Tomorrow will finish off the work week, with a day of painting to follow and attendance at the local Pagan Pride Day on Saturday. I am planning to construct my chicken house next week (have Wed. off) or at least give it a good start. Still not sure about inexpensive, durable and available siding for it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tired Tuesday

Work is kicking my butt. And of course, being in a retail environment, it is only going to get worse. I am SO counting the months... 24 as of the end of October... until I can tell them to "take this job and shove it" though actually I won't. Not a bad job, just bad knees.

I had a long day today, but managed to clean out the rabbit cages (actually under them) and while I was dumping bunny presents in the garden, noted that a duck had gone walkabout (or would that be waddleabout?) and that there was a hole in the fence. Hole has been patched and the silly fowl finally herded back into the pen. She walked PAST the open gate three times, stopping and looking at her flock inside, and then walked on by, to try to get through the fence farther down the line.

She had been hunkered down under the forsythia bush, and when I chased her out, I also flushed most of the chicken flock as well. They headed down to the "tent" that is home to the Silkie chickens, to steal laying ration (tastes better of someone else's plate, don't you know!). I whacked the tent and sent them scurrying... on down to their pen. They put themselves up, so I shut the door and went back later to let Henry, the rooster in.

Spent a bit of time working on the hexen on order (I need to spend much more time on this but falling asleep in my paint can is not a good thing!) and then made enchiladas for supper. I need a bath, and more drawing and painting time after supper, I hope.

Another very long day at work tomorrow, as we are returning lots of products after a month long promotion tomorrow, so I am expecting to be rather tired and not have much of a day tomorrow either.

Late Monday Post

I was totally beat from work yesterday, intended to blog and just ended up going to bed. Long days at work do that to me, especially when I get startled out of my wits as I come into the house, staggering on dead, hurting legs. Lost the rest of the day to trying to calm down from the adrenaline.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Long day

Long hard day at the store and a scary arrival home which I will not talk about left me reeling. Hopefully the morrow will be a more productive day.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Finding an Old Thread

I view life as a tapestry, with each person, animal, object... from the blades of grass and grains of sand, to the computer on which I type and all its components... as threads woven together in a complex pattern by those called the Fates, the Norns and even the Goddess Frigga. As a hexeri -- a designer and painter of the spiritual folk ark designs known as "Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch)" hex signs -- when I am working for my clients and customers, it is as if I am sitting on the weaving bench alongside the Weavers. The work of the hex does not create the threads but "tweaks" them with subtle pushes of the energy to move things in the direction for which the sign was painted. Think of this as an application of the "Butterfly Effect."

As the tapestry of our lives is woven, there are threads that run in associated close proximity for long periods... those of our family, we would hope; those relating to objects of serious interest often hang close for years as well. Sometimes, though, a thread will hop, skip and jump though the weave as we pick up a hobby, for example, then let it go by the wayside for a time as other concerns take our attention.

The various threads of fiber art constitute one theme that keeps returning, in various forms, into my life. In the 1970s I was introduced to spinning and weaving by a friend in Colorado. I made a Navajo spindle for spinning (which I still have) and first borrowed, then purchased, a loom.

Life took some turns. Marriage, small house, children and the threads in my life were of embroidery floss and boughten yarn for knitting and crochet.

Many years later, far along the Pagan path, Frigga and the other Gods and Goddesses of the northern tradition came calling me home. Home, as in back to my beloved norther latitudes after many years in climates where "winter" did not even come close to feeling right for me. Home, as into the fold of the Gods of my ancestors. And home, as back to the traditional fiber arts of spinning and weaving and yes, even knitting and crochet.

Acquiring the tools for these pass times ... well that is a story in itself. I have often said that to do anything in life requires a threefold application of  Time, Money and Hassle. With sufficient money, of course, the time and hassle components can often be minimized. In the absence of abundant capital -- a state I know well -- liberal application of time and hassle can usually reach the same objective.

My spinning wheel came after many months of haunting online sale sites;  not from any of the sites, but from a friend who was downsizing for a major move. The lovely Indian Head spinner (admittedly on a less than lovely base) came all the way from California to Maine, being carried by fellow travelers of our spiritual and fiber tribes.

I continues to haunt the sites, looking for looms. There are always lots of looms for sale, if you have money. Last year I found a small table loom -- missing parts -- for free. Have not gotten it repaired yet as much for lack of table space on which to put it as anything! But I still wanted a floor loom, but needed to allocate the hundreds of bucks -- minimum -- asked for such tools for true needs, when the funds were available. Somehow, though, I just never stopped clicking on my two regular sites and this past week found a huge old rug loom -- the Weaver's Friend -- for only $50. THAT I would spend, especially as the loom was in working condition.

The loom is huge! Over 50" wide and deep and weighs in at 300 lbs. We live in a smallish (and it just got smaller!  Ha!) 2 bedroom mobile home. If we had not just finished replacing the front door with a large sliding door, it would have been pretty near impossible to get it in. However, the doors were installed a couple of weeks ago and the porch replaced this past week so the project was on! First task was to clear a large enough space for it!

We did not pick it up until 4 pm, so the seller's husband could help load it and got home as the sun was getting low on the horizon. We tarped it against the dew and possible rain (which did come in a brief shower this morning) and brought it in today.

Ramps from my pickup to the porch and a come-along working from a 4x4 spanning the width of the slider door opening pretty much brought it right up.

First it balanced on the porch ...

...then over the threshold and in!

Now it is in its place of honor, waiting for the fall projects to be completed so I can spend more time inside, getting the loom and the wheel ready to go full speed ahead!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hail Frigga! and a LOOM!

Late posting today as I have been busy getting space cleared for the behemoth of a rug loom that I found for sale on line recently, and went to pick up today.

It is an old Weaver's Friend (Pg 4 of the linked PDF file) that appears to be in usable shape. The thing weighs 300 lbs and is over 50" in both length and width and is currently sitting (covered with an "easy up" tent cover) in the back of my truck waiting for daylight to unload and bring into the house. We were not able to pick it up until 4 pm and by the time we got home, the sun was getting low. The best part of the whole thing is that I only had to pay $50 for it! At that price, I would have expected something in pieces and likely with parts missing. This one does have a couple of makeshift parts (what appears to be a length of coat hanger wire is used for a connection to the brake and the brake crank handle is a handle from an old wood stove, but they work.

As large as the thing is, we will need to remove both of the sliding glass doors to get it inside and I needed to clear a seriously large space in the living room (the only room we can get it into!) for it to sit. My formal altar, which used to be set up on the lid of my dad's Navy footlocker, has been trimmed down and now occupies two quarter-round shelves on a taller shelf unit, the extras packed away in the truck (in which I store out of season altar decor and witchey items I am not currently using) which has been moved to another room. My sewing machine also had to be relocated to the bedroom, where my "work in progress" spinning wheel is living for the moment.

I DO intend to get the back room refurbished this winter (flooring, and possibly floor replaced and a  built in work bench made for the north wall, on which I can draw and paint the hex signs.) and when that is done, the altar and other things can return to that dedicated sacred space. That will allow the spinning wheel and possibly even the sewing machine, to return to the living room.

Meanwhile, since my spinning and weaving is something I dedicate to Frigga, I am pretty sure She will have no issues with the location of either of the tools, or the more formal altar.

Hopefully all will go well tomorrow and I can post pictures of the progress.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Weaving Life

Strings, threads, weaving, warp and weft... spinning, carding... spiritual concepts all, at least in my world. As a follower of Frigga, the Norse Goddess who is often pictured as she "diligently plied her wheel or distaff, spinning golden thread or weaving long webs of bright-coloured clouds." The more I walk this path, the stronger my urge to card, spin and weave. I have only this year acquired a spinning wheel, having previously used a drop spindle and -- long before -- a Navajo spindle, for which sitting on the ground is required. None of that for me, now, sad to say, though this large tool often graces my altar.

Unfortunately, even used spinning and weaving tools are often quite dear, even those that do not have all their parts. I looked at many "antique" spinning wheels that were missing all of the essential ingredients to make the them actually tools and most of the sellers were not even aware the wheels would not work. My first wheel came cross country, the gift of a friend who was downsizing prior to a major move. And then, shortly after that wheel started its cross-country journey, being carried "underground railroad style" by an assortment of fiber and/or spiritual fellow travelers, I was able to buy a simple, new, wheel kit, which I am working to assemble.

Still I had hopes for a loom but these things run 10 times the price of the wheels and far beyond any budget item. Always the optimist, I kept looking on the online sales sites for our local community papers and such and yesterday found a floor loom, rug loom to be exact, offered for only $50. I jumped on calling, left a voice mail and got a phone call back from the owner of the number, saying they had no placed the ad and had no loom! The ad did give the option for email (though here in Maine, if there is a phone number offered, it is best to use it, for the average Mainer seems to be less obsessed with checking email than average. It took a day, but the owner did get back to me today and sent pictures of the loom. It is huge, heavy and hopefully MINE soon! Since we just put in the sliding glass door, we SHOULD be able to remove the non-sliding panel and get it into the house. Where it will go then is anyone's guess, but I am promising myself this is the last BIG tool I will acquire.

Other threads of life are coming to an end and getting tied off. Yesterday I dug beets and today carried a large bag of them to a friend, fulfilling a promise made after she gave me a ride to and from town when the car was in the shop. One of the beets was a bit odd... Yes this is ONE beet with TWO tops!
While I am writing about threads getting tied off, one that is close to that stage is the porch and door/window replacement. You can see the new (to us) slider. It came from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore last year, a good, solid Anderson unit for around $50! The panel at the right is our old door; yes, it is held together with tie down straps (K's answer to duct tape) and it survived that way through the winter, as he was not up to the door install last fall, winter was too cold, spring too busy with the garden and summer too hot. With the help of a friend, though, we got the "replacement" slider in and soon the failing panel will be replaced with a reasonably solid twin (currently hanging on a makeshift shed built by the previous owner) which will be mounted as an un-opening window. The deck needs railing and handrails on the steps as well, but as you can see it already is hard at work as a plant platform (that's my bay laurel and a couple of planters of herbs) and loading dock.

I spent a good day after work today in errands and visits (though just realized I forgot the post office box trip) and it's now time to think supper, painting and maybe a bit of work on the fowl housing design.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Catching Up Days are Good for the Soul

I love "catching up days." Days off from work (usually an extra one) when I don't DO any particular projects but merely catch up on lots of things hanging fire from having to do bits here and there, working around the weather, time and energy constraints.

Sometimes I don't feel like I "accomplished" anything (and sometimes I don't actually get to the END of any of the "catching up" projects, but sometimes -- like today -- I feel like I have done as much if not more than my sore body indicates.

The first thing I "caught up" on (though I know science says one cannot truly do so) was sleep, or at least rest. No matter how hard I try to get to bed early on work nights, I just cannot seem to get more than 7 hrs at the most, usually less, of sleep. And often, even on days off, I wake up frustratingly early, unable to turn off the mind and find sleep again. This morning, however, I DID get to rest. Neither dogs nor cats decided to disturb me. Score one for me!

I got in a good online chat with an old friend who happened to be online at the same time. Almost an old fashioned "over the fence" chat over coffee while I gathered steam. Excellent way to start the day. Had a great breakfast, too, even though it was late. I miss my egg breakfasts (just not enough time on work days; I settle for thick cut oats cooked the night before and heating in the micro, usually with milk and wild Maine blueberries or strawberries.

I got the dishes caught up also. Somehow, I never got into the "do dishes right after supper" mode of my mom, and I don't have time in the morning on work days, so sometimes they collect a day or so. I wash and K puts away; that also puts me behind sometimes, as there are days when he is not even up to this small chore and it makes him feel bad if I do it.

Next up was progress on some of the hex signs I have on order. I painted the first coat of green on one and drew the design on the next larger one, then painted the first coat of yellow. My temporary work space is shown in the photo, above. You can see the small sign in process on my painting altar, with the next larger one on the floor (painted white) and a 4' diameter that also needs painting to the right.

While the paint dried, it was time to complete the current round of the Fall Clothing Shuffle. I took two laundry baskets of summer clothes to the garage, sorted them into the appropriate boxes and stacked them in the wardrobe. In the back and forth garage goings, other stuff that was needing to go in both directions got carried (and what went into the garage, stacked on appropriate shelves.).

I unloaded the garden cart, which we had used to haul stuff away from the porch project area, so I could use it to haul produce, leveled the dirt at the bottom of the steps and went to the garden to dig the beets (a big bucket full) and collect the last of the onions (another bucket full, 5 gallons). I found a good serving of broccoli to pick for supper as well as harvesting some lettuce for salad tomorrow (likely rain would make picking not exactly fun). Also moved the chickens run to the garden area. they had been shy of it since the skunk's visits and I am hoping that a new location swapping out the "tent" shelter will allow them to relax a bit.

Came in for a rest and remembered... the laundry!! Two very full baskets later, all the laundry is in the house. Let it rain... again...

Time to take a pic of the newly completed deck, put the fowl to bed, make supper and have a bath to be ready for my 3 hr day at the store tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rituals of Life, the Year, and Especially Autumn

Well, folks, I have read the "writing prompts" for NaBloWriMo and please excuse me if I continue to follow my own path. NEVER am I at a loss for words, voice or in print!  LOL

After over a week of damp, wet and totally rainy days the weather pattern has shifted for a day or so. We have had sunny and partially sunny skies today and tomorrow is forecast to be equally warm (low 70s) but overcast. NO RAIN or fog.

When you live like I do, the ebb and flow of the seasons and the weather day by day has an unavoidable effect. Many outside farm and garden projects simply cannot be completed in the rain and the necessary ones (tending critters, picking from the garden for lunch or supper) take longer when fighting rain, mud and working in foul weather gear. I also have chosen to omit a clothes dryer from my home's appliance list, so laundry works around "good drying days" or gets done in small bits and hung on drying racks in the house.
I last did laundry about a week and a half ago (count the underwear if you are not sure) and that did not include sheets. The day was getting late when I discovered one of the kitties had left a wet hairball mess on the bed and getting the spread and blanket out in time to dry before the evening dew was top priority. I took the opportunity to begin the seasonal change to flannel sheets. The fall clothing swap, when my shorts, short sleeve shirts and other warm weather gear gets washed and placed in boxes, labeled by category, to be stacked in an old wardrobe in the garage. Cooler season clothing must be brought in for this to happen; the boxes are all labeled with a "summer" label on one end and a "winter" on the other. This several-time-a-year ritual is one that I really enjoy. It is nice to meet "old friends" again! You can probably guess I am not one to buy lots of new clothing and as time goes on, I am actively moving towards do so even less frequently. Most of what I wear is here on the farm and my black pants/white tops for work. I used to say "the goats don't care" what I am wearing and I am pretty sure the tomatoes don't either! Tractor Guy grew up in the south, and does not have this clothing swap tradition, though he does now have to wear different things to accommodate the seasons. I try not to let it drive me nuts when I see ALL his clothes, winter and summer, hanging in his closet... winter and summer!

Fall always gets me to thinking about Ritual. Fall is the beginning of the dark season, when in my tradition, we turn more inward in physical space and in spirit. I find myself, only at this time of the year, wanting to gather like-minded folk around the hearth to study the lore and to talk of the Gods and the way of the northlands. I'll likely pick up a study of the Runes again soon. Spend time in the evening spinning (once I get the wheel completed!) and do more regular and formal work on Friday evenings with Frigga in mind.

It is also a time when my mind dredges up new designs for the hex signs I paint. Finding time to put ideas into electrons and eventually to paint them on wood is always a challenge. I have one in the works -- a Maine theme hex ("the way life should be") featuring a moose surrounded by a wreath of maple leaves in the colors of the changing seasons. It's meaning will be quiet strength and sweetness in life.

But for now, thoughts of supper and bed gather in my mind. Last evening we were able to resolve "the skunk problem" but it kept us up later than usual and I was scheduled for a longer and very busy day at work today. But I am about done getting the laundry out (it can hang overnight; come in tomorrow mid-day) and the rabbit cages and cat boxes got cleaned. With any luck we will have steps on our new deck and I will be able to use them tomorrow! Putting on my muck boots and tromping through the tall wet grass before dawn to go to work the past few days was NOT fun, but we got rained out last week before completing the new deck. And power tools do not go well with rain, especially as I need to keep Tractor Guy around a least long enough to FIX the tractor!

Monday, October 1, 2012

NaBloWriMo Day I

I fail miserably at NaNoWriMo... hoping this is more up my alley. It was suggested that we write a bit of an introduction...

As a farmer/homesteader, designer/folk artist AND someone who works, part time,. away from the homestead one can pretty easily see I don't have a lot of that valuable commodity called "spare time." Not only that, but over the past year my amazing good health over my life caught up with me and a bout of extreme anemia, and most recently a visit from the shingles, have shown me that, at age 64, I am no longer 5' tall and bulletproof. The anemia, result of acid reflux, took the worst toll. I was so weak at this time last year that I made the decision to stop attending farmers markets with my produce. Being on the lower end of the money ladder and having no help to afford medication, the drug that was prescribed was above my pay grade (would have taken 12% of my monthly gross, I figured. Not possible, I declared and in consultation with my pharmacist and my family doc, I selected an alternative. Totally teed off the specialist, even though I expressed concern at the time he prescribed and informed him of my action at the time. Apparently "something not-quite-so-good, but which you can actually afford to buy and therefore will take" does not trump his prescription. And at my latest yearly physical I measured out at 4'11. So, indeed, life changes.

But I am big on personal responsibility, on keeping going despite it all, on doing my best to enjoy the life that the Norns and I are weaving. "The Norns?" you ask? In the northern traditions, they are akin to the Fates of the Mediterranean area.
In Norse mythology, the Norns are the demi-goddesses of destiny. They control the destinies of both gods and men, as well as the unchanging laws of the cosmos. They are represented as three sisters: Urd ("fate"), Verdandi ("necessity") and Skuld ("being"). They live at the base of the World Tree Yggdrasil in the realm of Asgard.
So I hobble on (yea, my knees don't work as well now either... bone on bone and no replacement in sight until I am able to retire, draw my SS pittance and therefore take weeks/months off from being on my feet; fall of 2014.

So what have the Norns and I been up to of late? Well, there is the matter of the skunk who has been plaguing the chickens the last few days. This will be settled by this evening and that is all I will write about that. Hopefully there are no kin in the area. Research indicates they are territorial, so I expect this may be so. This is the first issue of omnivore predation we have had in 4 years, other than crows this spring wanting to make off with eggs, so I shan't complain too much. Deer and the garden are an issue for another day.

 Oh, yes... "we."  I have a life partner who I refer to in cyberspace as K, Tractor Guy and (using his own words) Big and Ugly. He has reasons for wanting to stay in the background. The rest of "us" are all critters of different species:
  • Coffee, the Saint Bernard and Stormy, the Newfoundland dog, supposedly, though she is a bit small. 
  • Cats: Angess (black), Harker (grey/white), Ghost (grey, the oldest), CC (orange), 13 (grey tabby, the youngest) and Sparky (mulitcolored flecks, black background)
  • Angora rabbits (most recently acquired) Cotton Ball and Cloud, both white and Honey Bunny and Rufus, both shades fo brown. 
  • Chickens: a small flock of 3 RI Red hens, one RI Red roo (Henry) and three Aracanas, Owl, Pheasant and Confused
  • Ducks: Khaki Campbell. We sold some earlier this year and were down to 15. Then we had some heavy winds and apparently one of the ones we sold blew back in because the beak count went up to 16. Down to 14 now, as two went to the butchering stump, supposedly for supper last week when a friend who was helping us with a project offered to teach me to spit roast them with orange marmalade. But we got rained out so the two currently reside in the freezer.
When not engaged with the farm, I make a good bit of my living as a folk artist in the tradition of the "Pennsylvania Dutch" hex painter as taught by my grandmother.  And I also work as a graphic designer on the web and in print for a variety of local Maine clients and for old friends/clients in North Carolina.

So, when do I find time to blog? 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

NaBloWriMo... Here I come!

Never have been able to complete the NaNoWriMo but maybe this might be up my alley. I DO want to get into the habit of blogging more regularly and the challenge of writing something meaningful each day, with the chance of interesting more folks in the doings here at Hearthfire Hill in the "wilds" of central Maine, has appeal.

Tomorrow we have been given guidance to post an introductory entry. Today, though, I will just jump right in with the excitement of the recent few days. When one juggles a part time job in town, the joint from-home careers of graphic designer and folk artist as well as trying to bootstrap a subsistence farm / homestead in a northern climate... well, life is rarely dull.

We have entered that period of time where the heat, and production of summer has waned and winter is breathing down our necks. We wish for mild fall days in which to complete projects put off by the summer temperatures and the busyness of tending a large garden, but this year we are getting rain. Our deck replacement project got rained out Friday (deck is usable, steps do not yet exist) and I will have to don muck boots and grab a stick and flashlight to head off to work at 5 AM each day until the steps have been built, as I must exit through the back door.

Today on my trek around the house I took a detour to check on the chickens, who had been making fussing sounds even before the rooster crowed. I was not terribly surprised to find that the skunk, who had visited Friday night, and been walked off by the beam of the flashlight from a distance, had returned. I was already almost late to leave for work so I went to rouse K to deal with the varmint. I fear I waked the entire neighborhood long before my mighty hunter awakened. I hollered, honked the truck horn and flashed my light back and forth across the uncurtained window to no avail. The dogs, asleep in the same room, did not even bark when I started tapping on the window with my cane! Eventually K did wake up, got the message and I headed off for work.

Bad news is that the beast got one of the hens for sure and one other, plus the rooster, remain missing.

A long day at the store and the rain and overcast sky is not making me excited about painting today, but I have orders to fill and therefore hex signs to paint. This is Harvest Moon night, so I shall prepare a bit of a special meal and pour a libation to the Gods this evening. I hope that They will allow the rain to abate soon, as not only do the steps need to be completed, but I still have onions, carrots and beets in the garden. The beets are owed to a friend and I need to get them out of the ground on a day when they can be delivered quickly.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Finding Winter

Today begins the period I recognize as "Winter Finding". Some equate it with the day of Autumn Equinox (which is today) but for me these times are more tides than times. The greater world as I see it seldom works with the tick of a clock or the turn of a calendar page. Rather, the changes come gradually and awareness dawns over time, for me as I suspect it did for my ancestors who lived long before clocks and man made schedules ruled the day.

This year the trees have only begun to show color, but already the first light frost has touched the tender plants in the garden. Thankfully it did not reach the bay tree and marjoram plants living on the porch, protected by the house. But the change has begun and urgency begins to build on projects to be completed before (hopefully) we get a deep blanket of snow. Last year the first snowfall came for Halloween, then a melt; we had one more early snow and then much of the winter was "open." I do not like winters like that, but prefer the deep snows of my memory.

This year we have replaced a door and soon will rebuild the front porch. That project, hanging fire for the past year meant we went through the winter with a section on uninsulated wall. I do not intend that for this year, though the actual insulation and sheet rock work will wait until the outdoor projects are completed. After all, one can work indoors when the rains come and the snow flies but before then the poultry need dry houses, the garden needs to be plowed and the field mowed one more time.

I have started moving the fowl pens from the back field to near the garden and shortly they shall have the run of it. I will need to safeguard the young fall lettuces, as the greenhouse is not yet up. With luck that will go up this fall, even if it's a late project. If not there is next year.

Design work continues to flow in; this is the season for one of my biggest projects, as well, with a deadline before the commonly celebrated Thanksgiving day. And I cross my fingers for a good run of hex sign orders for holiday giving, though it will mean little rest for me again as I work my way through the Yule season. For now I remain working in the retail workplace and I know from last year that there will be longer hours for my part time job on account of gift giving frenzy and the increased marketing that accompanies the season. Thankfully most of my work is done before the store opens.

I am counting down the months until I can officially retire from off-the-farm work, which will be in the late fall of 2014. Then my routine will be able to be more in accord with the seasons, though as a working hexeri with projects that are given as gifts, I will still -- hopefully -- benefit from the holiday season.

For now, though, I relish the cooler days and colder night. Soon the flannel sheets will come out. Already the kero lamps are a early morning fixture for breakfast and dressing before work. And the rooster gets up about half an hour after I do now!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Putting the Garden to Bed

I think I like putting the garden to bed in the autumn. I think I like it almost as much, if not actually as much, as I do planting it in the spring and tending it in the summer.

 I suppose a smart alec might quip  "Of course one would like putting the garden to bed; it means the end of the WORK!" Yes it does, in a way... and the spring planting means fresh goodness to will be coming soon to break the bland monotony of "fresh" produce selected more for its ability to withstand shipping and sitting in the store than for freshness, taste and nutrition. And hours spent happily "playing in the mud," listening to the songs of returning birds and watching the unfolding of the landscape after its winter rest.

Summer... well summer means it's time to revel in the earth's abundance, picking in the cool early morning on days when the light dew has lifted even earlier and hoeing or pulling weeds until the setting sun pulls its light from the soil and the biting bugs discover the gaps in your coating of repellant.

But fall, well it means more than and end -- actually more just another change -- in the work. It speaks of the hopes of spring, grown through the summer which finally lay, realized, in dusty mesh bags and stand in soldier-straight rows of jars on the pantry shelf. It speaks, yes, of the shrinking daylight and hints of evenings crowded with memories and garden notes and, soon, the wish books of another season.

We have been busy here of late, preparing for the dark half of the year. I believe autumn -- or at least the colors of fall -- are lagging a bit this year. My benchmark for such events is the Common Ground Fair, held around the weekend of Equinox. On my first visit to Maine 5 autumns ago, I attended the fair and enjoyed the riotous colors of the New England countryside which evoked memories of the northern autumns of my youth which I had missed for many years of living in the southlands.

I shall attend the fair again on Friday and note that the trees are only beginning to turn here in Central Maine. Possibly a week will bring them into alignment with my 5 year old memory... or maybe not... as this has been a strange weather year altogether.

Other projects here on the farm include swapping out the front door and in a week or so, building a new deck and steps to accompany it. Our old door had been previously cut down to fit the opening which seriously weakened it. for over a year it has been held together with tie down straps -- my partner's preference over duct tape. Late last fall we got a nice Anderson slider from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore but it was too cold to comfortably enlarge the opening so the project got put off. Then garden season happened, tractor follies and other delights of country living called for our attention but I was determined not to weather another winter with the busted door. Last week I prevailed on a friend to help and in a day we had removed the large window near the old door, shored up the opening and installed the new sliding glass door adjacent to the old glass door. We considered putting a different, new-to-us window where the old door stands (the Fates have graced me with the finding of several virtually new windows this past summer!) but instead will opt to replace the broken panel with its twin which is currently whole and attached to a partial lean-to on the garage. We figure if installed like a window panel (non-opening) it will likely last. 

The old oil furnace has also been on its last legs for several years, so we are not filling its tank this year (we managed with only a partial filling last year, emptying it in early spring) but instead adding wall mount propane space heaters in the living room (will heat living room, kitchen and computer room) and master bath (to prevent pipe freeze and take the chill off the bedroom.)

Hex work continues. In addition to many orders off the web site ( I have a continuing thread of custom orders. The design, above, called Nordic Blessed Year, features a chant for Wealth, Wisdom, Harmony, Security and Health and will grace our garage as soon as I can find the time to paint it! I need to re-do the floor and floor covering in the studio this winter so that I can resume using it AS a studio. I will be sharing it with the cages of 4 angora rabbits, the most recent arrivals at the farm.

They, in turn, with their frequent  and necessary brushing, will produce angora fiber for me to spin... in my copious free time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Revel in your Body

Revel in your body. Whether it is tall or short, rail-thin or amply padded, it is yours to USE, so use it! Make it work... Let the muscles and bones know that you mean business. Feel them work and after the work, feel them when the ache. Feel them play! Run, jump, chase a football, dance! Dig a garden, hoe a row, bend close to the earth to encourage a seedling and snatch out a weed. Plant a tree, fell a tree, split its wood and carry it to the fire.

Become friends with the pulls and strains, the aches and pains. Feel the work that was done, the play that was done in aches that you feel. Do not, in all these efforts, neglect the body you use so well. Most often it should not need the physician, but a hot bath, a cold compress, a wrap or a rub goes far towards preventive maintenance. Befriend your skin; it holds you in! And it is often the only armor between you and the pokes and scrapes. Yes, it is self-repairing but remember it only has limited magic.

Because some day, whether you use it or not, whether you put it through its paces to and even beyond what you think are its limits or coddle it like a soft boiled egg, your body will age. It will slow down and complain about this and that. Something will fail, and then something else.  You will have aches without play and pains without work and will need to work through the pain and play through the ache. If you recognize these feelings as old friends, you can draw on the strength of the work you did once and upon the play and when you carry on -- because carry on you must -- your heart will be lighter.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sensing Summer Past its Prime

I had a wonderful, full day in the garden yesterday. The poor thing has been much neglected, between weather being far too hot mid-day for me to work, having to leave most days for work-in-town at 5 AM and thus falling to sleep early, and running out of steam at the end of the day -- not wanting to rev up just after supper when I know bed will/must come at or before sunset. And of late, rain. Not that I mind the rain, but it started rather soon after I bit the bullet and bought sufficient 75' soaker hoses to go on our existing 50' ones to water the "100 foot rows" we are set up with this year. Yeah, those are LONG 100 foot rows!  LOL

Working in bits and starts I am beginning to get the piles of mulch hay -- left over from sheltering the chickens over the past winter -- moved into the garden. There is still much to move and many places it can and should go. First priority has been the tomato plants -- hoping that it will help keep the fruit off the ground and thereby alleviate some rotting -- and the vine crops and late broccoli which I was working on yesterday. I was working two rows at once -- hand weeding and laying mulch -- and got half of the two done. That used up one Artie-load of mulch and I had planned to reload and resume the attack, but K watching the radar said weather was coming so I moved on to more urgent projects.

There were peppers, cukes and still some peas to be picked and I desperately needed to get the woad seed harvested. I totally missed harvesting the leaves for dye, but now have at least a gallon or two of seed (yeah, you read that right? Need woad seed? I'm your gal!) and am plotting to plant the west garden to the crop next spring. If even half the seeds germinate I should have quite a bit of dye fodder. While I was working the woad (clipping the dried seed stalks, upending them in a lightweight plastic trash can and beating them about in the can to knock off the seeds) I noticed that there was basil to be harvested as well. Got a good lot of it as well, about 3" deep in the bottom of the bushel basket.

The previously harvested herbs have been mostly dry for days, but the humidity has not allowed them to finish sufficiently to be packed in jars or bags. Normally I put them in an oven heated to 170 degrees, and then turned off, where they stay for a few minutes to remove the last bit of moisture. However the oven has a quirk. When the propane is about to run out, the oven stops working. Frustrating, but not nearly as much so as totally running out of gas at an inopportune time, so I deal with it. NOW the tank has been swapped, so the oven is online again and the herbs can be finished which will give me places to begin drying the basil.

I also noticed that there had been a deer in the garden, just one track and I spotted where it had breached the deer fence, so fixing that the putting down a mixture of rotting egg and water around the perimeter and on the bean plants -- which, along with the tomatoes, are heavily laden with blossoms and ripening fruit -- was high on the list. Since I knew rain was coming (which kind of defeated the rotten egg by today, but I have plenty more eggs to rot and apply!) I also wanted to add some fertilizer to some of the heavy feeders, both of which I got done.

Today, is a different day. The rain is likely to hang around all day, and as I was driving home from work I found my mind wandering not along garden paths, but along spiritual thought and study trails. Now, the northern trad path I follow has a different take on the "light side" and the "dark side" of the year. From spring equinox to fall, we are out and about, busily occupied DOING. It is the productive time of the year, when the animals and plants take our attention, as we help them increase and provide sustenance for ourselves and others for the coming  year.

The dark side of the year -- fall equinox to spring -- the focus is different. Of course doing doesn't stop. Animals still need tending, tools mended, and the inside chores continue unabated. But that is reflected in the non-material world as well; the focus is on the inside... on study, learning, contemplation... things that accompany the spinning and weaving, mending and sewing taking place around the hearth.

And on my way home today, I felt the first stirrings of that call to turn inward... to work more with the Runes, to work with my staff in magic and rhythm, to get the spinning wheel fine tuned and turn the wool I have carded into yarn.

Now, there will be at least two more months of garden busy-ness. There are tomatoes and potatoes and beans and carrots and apples from down the road to be processed and put by. The earth needs to be turned and put to bed; the perennials still need mulching and the fowl need coops.  But the countdown has begun, to the time of inward turning, quiet, contemplation.

And then, about 6 months from now, if not before, the garden will once again begin its siren call.

Monday, July 30, 2012

High Midsummer

I feel and see the tide of High Midsummer (my name for the spoke on the wheel of the year commonly called Lughnasadh) is upon us. Yes, the uber heat spell has passed (thankfully and hopefully it will NOT return to Maine) .  It is time to water the garden and we have been putting up wood, but there is change in the air. Even K asked, while grilling this week, "When does fall come here?" as he had noticed "something has changed." And it has.

The sun is not QUITE so early to rise now. I notice this because, for the past couple of months, I have not needed to light a lamp when the alarm calls me from my bed at 4... but now, even on days with no clouds blocking the first light, it's dark enough that a lamp is needed at least when I arise. And driving to work at 5, I do not have the full might of Old Brazen Face staring at me over the horizon.

My thoughts turn to fall plantings, hope for a good harvest of the crops in the field, and the projects that must be done before we button up for winter have taken on new urgency.

So the tide cometh. Hail to Sunna and to the Earth which brings forth bounty for our table.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

First Annual Central Maine Business Expo

I committed a while ago to attend the First Annual Central Maine Business Expo in Newport, ME, representing both Dutch Hex Sign and Vision IPD, my design studio business.

Now the expo, which happens on Saturday, is almost upon us! On top of an atypical 6 day work week at my part time job, I need to build 18 digital files to print/assemble and mount on poster board to fit into the 18 display squares on the two, three-sided display columns that I rescued a few months ago from the trash stream at Best  Buy. Also am planning to run a power point presentation on the computer, with the laptop powering one of the two large computer monitors for better viewing. Have to build that, too.

And, of course there are still hex orders to fill (one, a 3' custom sign, I will take to the expo, partly completed, as part of my display). And the garden is calling for attention. We have a wonderful cool day after a couple of really hot weeks and I long to be out in the garden but the display materials won't build themselves. I'll knock out as much as I can this afternoon then hit the garden after supper to pick and inspect, and if time permits, weed and fertilize a bit. As of today the forecast is for tolerable temperatures for the next week, so once the expo is out of the way I will focus a bit more on the garden.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Twelve day Work-in-Town Marathon

This is day 4 of what will prove to be a 12 day marathon of work-in-town. My part time job which was never really supposed to be fewer days, just fewer hours) has added some more Friday work days, and this week not given any mid-day off. Adding to that, I am doing a business expo for my design and art business on Saturday, then do a (thankfully just) 5 day work week following. They have posted the following two weeks schedules and they are just regular 5 day weeks.

Adding to the stress, we have had more than typically hot days and not quite cool enough muggy nights. I suffer from summer seasonal depression, so I have begun my St Johns Wart again, hoping to head off the major blahs.

On the good news front, I am mostly caught up with hex orders... just one 3' on the bench and likely a couple of 2's will be ordered soon (custom signs, I have been in design negotiation with the potential customers) keeping the flow going but not drowning me.
Also for now (hear that loud knocking on wood?) the fowl seem to be staying in their pens, both hens and ducks. Baby ducks have gotten big enough to no longer be able to fit through the snow fence holes. The very tall grass is almost all down and their pens are being moved weekly or so onto new ground. The hens don't like the demise of the tall grass, though. It made it very hard to place their pen, but gave them cover in which they liked to lay their eggs. Now they are back to laying in their summer shelter/tent and I need to remember to take my cane with me to pull the eggs within reach, or pull the tent back to reach the eggs.