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.