Monday, December 30, 2013

The Calendars of my Life

I had a question on the LiveJournal cross post of the past blog entry, from my friend Carol: Where/how did January 1st come about, then? This question was in response to my response to a previous comment in which she wrote "I struggle with wanting to think that the Yule is the turn of the calendar and not January 1st, but of course being raised in the US AND not having known paganism until my late 20s, I automatically think of January 1st and then scold myself! hahaaa"

So, here it goes... my thought on beginnings, years, and a bit of history of the calendar (thank you Google!)

The world, throughout time has had many calendars and even now there is not a just a single one in play. Most folks likely have heard of the complex Mayan calendar, thanks to the historical version of it having come to an end in 2012.

The well known Chinese calendar (technically the Han calendar), is a lunisolar calendar, which indicates both the moon phases and the solar terms. In the Chinese calendar, a year usually begins on the second dark moon after the winter solstice but occasionally on the third dark moon after the winter solstice. The legal calendar in China now, however, is the common Gregorian calendar, though the complex Tibetan calendar and even the Islamic calendars are also referred to in China for dating some events.

The Viking calendar recognizes only two seasons: summer and winter and is comprised of 12 lunar months. Summer begins in the middle of our current month April and ends in October.
 During the Middle Ages, various calendars were use in Europe. The Anno Domini (based on the traditionally reckoned year of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth) was devised in 525 CE but not widely used until 800.

The ancient Romans used different calendars. The original one was thought to have begun with the founding of Rome, and was based on the moon with months of both 29 and 30 days in length. This was followed by one of 30 or 31 days, begun around 753 BCE (Before Common Era) put in place by King Romulus. In this calendar, there were three different ways of numbering the days in the months: the Calends signified the start of the new month with the new moon; the Nones were the days of the half moon and the Ides (made famous by the assignation of Julius Ceasar) which occurred on the 15th of some months and the 13th of others. Don't ask me why.

It was followed by the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar,  and was a reform of the Roman calendar. It took effect in 45 BCE and is easily recognizable, with a year of 365 days divided into 12 months, and a "leap day" added every 4 years. This leads to the calendar gaining about 3 days every century over the observed day of equinox. Julius Caesar thought it would be appropriate for January, Janus' (God of of doors and gates, with two faces — one looking forward and one looking back) namesake month, to be the doorway to a new year, and when he created the Julian calendar, he made January 1 the first day of the year (this also put the calendar year in line with the consular year, as new consuls also took office that day).

The Gregorian calendar, which we used today, is internationally the most widely accepted and used civil calendar. It has been the unofficial global standard for decades, recognized by international institutions such as the United Nations and the Universal Postal Union. It was began by Pope Gregory VIII in 1582 and adjusted the rule for leap years. It came about because the celebration of Easter was tied to the spring equinox and  the Roman Catholic Church considered this steady drift in the date of Easter undesirable.
All this research aside, my life at least has always been comprised of many calendars... some official and some strictly personal and internal.

I grew up in a family ruled by the "school year." Even more than most kids, I was almost in shock the first year of my working life, outside of school, when everything failed to stop the first part of June and again for a week at the end of December! My dad was a teacher, and as such worked September to June and had to find additional, alternative work during the off season.

I have worked in industries where the fiscal year did not coincide with the calendar year many times.

With my interest in the garden and animals of the farm, my "garden year" begins, in earnest now, around the first of February when the seeds of the leeks and onions, early crops that benefit from a long head start, go into seed trays under lights.

Speaking strictly personally, spring equinox has felt like the beginning of the year to me for much longer than I have followed a Pagan path, though most formal Pagan groups consider Samhain (Halloween) to be the witch's new year. As the day was seen as beginning after sunset, so the year was seen as beginning with the arrival of the darkness by the ancient Celts. Celtic New Year’s Eve, when the new year begins with the onset of the dark phase of the year,corresponds to Samhain.

Never having followed a Celtic path, and only recently (a little over 5 years ago) having come to work with Odin and Frigga, and never having been Jewish, I have not yet really fallen into the "evening and the morning..." thinking. For me, it seems, the new days starts with the sun is at it nadir (midnight) rather than at sunset.

If I were to strictly apply that thinking to the year, I suppose I would be celebrating Yule as the beginning of my year -- and yes, that did resonate with me for quite a while, beginning with my walk on the pagan path, before it had even been named and identified, well over 20 years ago.

From where I stand now, it looks more like the spiral of life just goes on and on... round and round, and there are many points at which we can look back down the road and see "oh, yes, this point has come 'round again." and we can reflect and pick up on that energy to move forward and refine our walk.

"The Turning of the Calendar" is one of those points, the cultural new year, where many folks focus their energies (for better or worse) at that point in time and where there is energy gathering, one can use it to further their work... especially when it is as free floating and unfocused as the energies of celebrating mundanes (for lack of a better word) usually is. So, I use that energy at this time, in ways that suit and help me.
Leek and onion seedlings, well started.

 Come the next cross quarter -- Imbolc or the Charming of the Plow (which it is WAY too early to do here in Maine, for sure!) I'll be harnessing that energy as I make seed blocks and transfer leek and onion seeds, one to a 3/4" square, to begin their growth under lights.

Kale and lettuce seedlings under the lights in March, 2013
And then come Equinox, (Lady Day,  Summer Finding) there will be more seeds going into blocks and under lights, as I chomp at the bit to break the soil. However, here in Maine, there will be several weeks yet until this can happen, at the earliest. Planting Peas on the St Patrick's day is a thing of jokes here (a farming friend once blogged about it, complete with a picture of the pea seeds laying in a furrow in the snow. The blog entry is here, but the picture is no more.) but I use the energies to speed growth on my grow racks.

By Beltane/May Day the garden turning and planting is well under way for me, and it is time to look for and pick a few of the earliest flowing species (likely wild) to grace my altar and celebrate the renewal of the growing growing year, as I look forward to harvest.

And of course, come Summer Solstice ("Midsummer") there are salads galore and likely peas to be picked, tomatoes and corn and all the goodies have been put out for the main season harvest and my garden energies and enthusiasm is at its peak. It is... between now and Mabon/Winter Finding... a very busy time. Another point of turning, not so much a beginning of course, as now a waypoint on the path.

Come the next cross quarter ( Lugnasad  Freyfaxi) we reach the first of the harvest festivals, a waypoint that begins to verge on the points of ending. For the early crops have been harvested and pulled from the fields and the fall crops are started or soon to be seeded for the final push before winter.

Come the fall equinox, one could see this as the beginning of the cycle once again. Also known as Mabon  and Winter Finding, it is a "dusk" of the year... the point at which dark and light balance then tip towards the lengthening dark nights.

... Which brings us to Samhain/Winter Nights and then on to Yule again.

Where ever on the cycle you feel a pull to mark an ending or renewal, there are likely energies there to help you.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

New Moon! Part 2 of Between Now and the Turning of the Calendar

The new calendar begins with a NEW MOON! Does that evoke the same excitement in any one else out there as it does with me?  I hope so!

New/dark moons sometimes appear to not be acknowledged or worked with as much as the full moon, but for me, the cycle is the thing and the monthly renewal that the moon's energy brings as it first waxes and then wanes to new is a most useful thing. So here we are, on the verge of a new calendar (which I say instead of "new year" because for me the sun cycle renews at a different place round the sun) and we can open the page of this book with a fresh new cycle. Isn't that a wonderful thing? This past calendar has proven a challenge for many folks and this is a bang up opportunity to stop, really take stock, and step deliberately and mindfully into the new book, opening chapter, with a fresh renewal energy backing you up.

In our culture, the end of the calendar and the beginning of the new one is fraught with a minefield for many. The news media dredges up the "excitement" and tragedy of the past year with the biggest steam shovels they have, which feeds growing melancholy in many of us who have not had the best time during this -- or previous -- winter holiday seasons. The growing melancholy is further fed by over indulgence in sweets and drink, culminating on the last night of the calendar with parties featuring much drink and which sends us into the first line of the first chapter of the new book in a drunken stupor, sleep, and/or the night-after wrath called a hangover. I hope this is not the way you plan to start the first day of the rest of your life!

A toast to the passing calendar, whether you are wishing it well or kicking its butt out the back door, is appropriate. A toast to the opening of a new page, as well... but much better rituals (with a lower case "r") in my mind, involve setting the stage for 2014 to be a positive story, rather than opening the chapter with headaches and barf.

As the moon winds down this cycle, don't dwell on the failures and trauma of this past story, but take positive steps -- however small -- to set the stage for the opening of the new one.

An example from my own life follows.

It would be easy for me to start a pity-party, were I inclined. Hours at my part time town job suck and just got cut more. Hex income is at a standstill, because I had to close orders to catch up my backlog. Projects for winter prep that did not get done, for various "good" reasons, have allowed much of the food that I put in the back room for storage to freeze and therefore to begin going bad. I "know" that the first few months of the year are going to be a serious financial challenge... for several reasons, including some stated above. Include in that "because they always are" and the fact that a lucrative design project that often carried me through this time in the past has apparently been given to a different designer.

All that being as it is, my mind is currently on several different tracks.

First off, project for today will be to bring into the warmer part of the house all of the potatoes, apples, squash and beets that have been languishing in the back room for sorting and processing. As the squishy potatoes thaw, they will be loaded into bucket and hauled to the compost (no small task over the snow/ice/snow terrain we have been dealt thus far this winter), along with the rotten apples... some of which the fowl will doubtless enjoy as well. The squash will be sorted, and the good ones stored, with any remaining good potatoes, under the cabinet in the far side of the kitchen where I used to store such things, when I had a smaller harvest that would fit. The frozen squash cook up just fine in the oven (proven yesterday) so in they will go, to be baked, scooped and frozen in 1 cup lumps, later to be bagged and stored for quick heat-and-eat. I am hoping that I can cook, peel and freeze the beets as well. Giving thanks for what was NOT ruined by my lack of attention, and planning more appropriate storage for next year is the focus of this project.

Then, once the produce is dealt with, I will be able to attack the mold on the subfloor with bleach and begin putting down the plywood underlayment for the new flooring. The first two sheets of plywood are already waiting in the garage (planned ahead from last month, when money was not an issue) and I will trust the Powers That Be to provide the necessary stuff for the next step of the process... adhesive and commercial vinyl tile like this stuff which comes in various colors, some of which are a bit more expensive, but i will buy a variety and lay them random. Just the first 8' will be all that I do initially. This will allow me to move the single bed to the end of the room and get it set up on blocks or whatever I decide, as under the bed is where I will be building the insulated storage for root veggies that did not get done this year. I have been collecting styrafoam sheets from work (they arrive insulating chips for the impulse racks at the front of the store) and will continue to do so as long as I work there.

Also this week, we will clear out the trash (trash run today) and recycles (recycle run on Tuesday) to open up space, help put the place in to better order and improve the energy flow.  

I used to do a complete deep clean of my space on the eve of the new calendar, but no longer have the energy for such a task... so instead I do SOMETHING in that vein... and look forward to the coming year when I will not have to be off the farm during the run up to the winter holidays... when I can take the week that it will take to do the proper complete cleaning once again.

So, come Tuesday night, I'll reset the altar in winter mode (yeah, late at that this year, too!) and light a candle for the dark moon. My story shall begin with seed sorting and order planning on Wednesday, not at all too early considering that I will be looking for something on the homestead that I can use, instead of the plastic planters that have given up the ghost after many years, to start lettuce indoors any day now... and it won't be long until February, when the seed blocker will once again crank out little cubes, each to receive an onion or leek seed destined for the garden.

What story will YOU be setting out to write during this turn about the sun?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Between Now and the Turning of the Calendar

It is common to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next around about this time. Since embarking on the Year of Transition a few months ago, I have already written a bit in this vein.

At this point in time, it seems, that my progress towards my goal is taking a side step. Not the "two steps forward, one step back" that some write of, but there has been a bit of a course correction. When Artie, the truck began having problems a while back and went into the shop, I certainly did not expect the news that the mechanic delivered. It seems that the used engine that another mechanic swapped in for me was (a) not done especially correctly and (b) has developed serious issues. Long story short, the truck needs another engine.

Options are scarce and expensive from the mechanic's pool of sources; we have found other options and I have elected this time (hopefully for the last time) to buy a re manufactured engine out of Oregon. Yes, you read that correctly... I am having a truck engine shipped all the way across the country and am returning one the same way. Honestly it IS less expensive than other options, comes with an excellent warrant, the company has good reviews and thanks to my previous aggressive effort to pay off debts, I CAN afford it! It will set the pay off debts back a bit, adding debt back on previously paid off plastic, but the lions share of the cost will come from previous hex sign sales -- money in the bank.

With luck, this will be the engine that will last the aging truck until I no longer need him; his daily commuter status will end this coming year and he, too, can retire to the farm and make occasional trips to town for feed and lumber and to carry large hexen to UPS... a few times a month at most.
Meanwhile we have to come up with a pallet in good repair and several contractor plastic bags in which to contain the old engine, which will be strapped to the pallet, to be picked up by a shipping company, arranged by the rebuilder, for transport. Because we are sending the old engine first, they are covering the cost of shipping both ways as part of our deal. Apparently, they have a hard time getting folks to actually return an engine, rather than just "eating" the core charge.

So, for now, Artie is tucked in the back of a mechanic's bay. Soon we will have the old engine on its way and before spring, Artie shall return home.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, we have been enjoying a surprisingly abrupt onset of appears to be building into a serious Maine winter. While there is only about a foot of snow on the ground (sufficient to make my Yule day trek around the boundaries, to reset wards and charms, an exercise in breaking trail with snow shoes) we have since acquired a solid coating of ice on top of the snow which makes for very difficult walking. Tending the fowl is a challenge and my cohort took several nasty falls just prior to the Christmas holiday while helping me to acquire and butcher a turkey for a friend at work. He is currently nursing many sore muscles and a likely broken tailbone, from a fall on the porch steps.

He still managed to get out to Fergie, our tractor, to cajole her into starting so he could finally clear a bit of the accumulation from the driveway and, most importantly, the entrance at the road which was filled with road ice almost enough to block entrance and exit by the Subaru. With more snow falling today, and a final shift at work in town tomorrow, I am thankful for his efforts. Otherwise, I was planning to take the mattock and attack the end of the drive, as a (plastic) snow shovel would not have been up to the job. This is some, serious ice! But beautiful though!

On a different note, when I butchered our turkey for Yule, we decided that I needed to remove the feathers indoors, to avoid attracting predators to the rest of the fowl. As I struggled to extract the flight and tail feathers and pluck the remainder of the bird -- with both dry down and wet feathers from his flapping on the snowy ground sticking to my hands -- I wondered just why it was that "one must dry pluck a turkey" like a duck, instead of dipping them in hot water, like most folks do chickens. As frustrated as I was by the feathery mess, I decided to give the dunking a try and heated up a water bath canning kettle 3/4 full of water. K helped lift the bird high enough to dunk half of it into the water and... voila! feathers came almost literally flying off! Even the hard wing feathers only resisted a little! When that part of the bird was done, we held its wings and dunked the tail end equally successfully. The water did not damage the skin and the bird looked beautiful both before and after cooking. So I guess the folks who decreed that dipping turkeys was not to be done didn't have a big enough pot! From now on, that is how I shall do them.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

In Praise of Winter and Long Nights

It is Solstice day today and my mind is full of thoughts... of thinking forwards and thinking backs...

Unfortunately, I am not in a position to give the day its full due. Matter of fact, I have been pretty lax for the past however long of giving any of the moons (full and dark) and the quarters and cross quarters their due. One commitment I am making for "the rest of my life" (post-retirement) is to bring that part of life more into alignment with my desires.

However, for now, for today, I make do. In the past I have focused on Frigga and her Ladies, one a day, for the 12 days of Yule. In the past, I have had the time to at least make a good stab at getting the house in order and clean so that during those days I can honor the time by NOT working at those mundane chores. That was then, and this is now and NOW I am trying like a madwoman to catch up on the backlog of hex orders (a good thing, overall.. but the trend of multiple orders of signs... up to and including orders of 6 or more!) was something that I was not prepared for and has kicked my butt almost into next year. I don't even have the time to think on how I am going to deal with this change, if it continues into the future, let alone DO whatever needs to be done to make that happen. That will be for after the signs have all shipped and before I reopen orders for 2014.

Today, in addition to painting like crazy (I am thankful for the YouTube video I saw yesterday, with
Steve McNallen of the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) . While I am not on that particular path, I do appreciate his take on the 12 days, focusing on the Noble Virtues. He started with Industriousness! And boy, I will be appreciating that virtue today, for sure.) I will walk the boundary of our land and deploy the birch charms that I make each year to help mark the borders and renew the warding. Normally I have been using mistletoe, also, but my mistletoe contact never invoiced me nor sent my order. Anyone have a good contact for about a half a pound of the stuff, to be delivered the first week of December, to Maine?? I need it to be REAL and loose... nothing decorated up in bunches or those dreaded "kissing balls."

Our turkey was butchered a couple of days ago, and unlike Thanksgiving day, I DID remember to resupply with celery. Stuffing just ain't right without it, in my world. So I shall stuff and roast the bird, remembering that I will need to remove the legs and put them back in the oven for a bit. Heritage birds cook differently; I have found that using a hot fire for a shorter period works well, but the legs do not get done in the time required for the remainder of the fowl, so either into the microwave or back into the oven they go. We'll have winter squash, and carrot salad (orange, in honor of the returning sun) and cranberries from our native bogs as well as potatoes and greens  ... all veggies from the garden. It is wonderful to be able to celebrate in the dark of the year with bounty from our land, brought to the table by the blessings of Sunna, the Gods, the Elements and our own Industriousness!

There was a poem forming in my head as I arose this morning, but in the cold bedroom, it escaped before I could capture it. However the thoughts remain: One must not "wish away" ones life, whether it be by longing for the warm, long days of summer on the shortest day of the year or -- as I would be more prone to do -- wishing for the quiet, the cold and the celebration of the completion of the year's work at this time of the cycle. Whether one relishes the long days of summer or the long winters' nights, both are necessary in the cycle. Somewhere I read, long ago, that "there must needs be balance in all things." But in our busy, modern, often urban lives there can be little room for the natural balance of light and dark, of busy and still, of noise and quiet. Nevertheless, it IS necessary. Find the time to be still, to be quiet. Close the drapes, turn off the lights. Unplug the appliances (or just flip the breakers). Your food will not spoil in an hour or two without power. Turn off the mobile devices too. These days those little glowing dots of light, the constantly updating clocks ticking off time... spent or frittered... are everywhere. But it is worth the effort to make/take the time and effort to find... to rediscover... quiet. Oh, if you are where most of you likely are, there will still be sounds about.... the howls will be that of sirens not 4 footed predators in the night and the background whoosh will come from the rush of traffic, not the wind in the trees.... but you can make it still where YOU are and reconnect with the spirit of the night, the quiet dark, where you sit safe in your cave as we have for centuries.

Do it. You may be surprised by the result.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Old Homesteading Hippie Pagan Artist Witch Gives Thanks

Lots of folks, it seems, have political issues with Thanksgiving. They are as entitled to their opinions as anyone -- and I am not saying that the history we were taught is valid, nor putting a stamp of approval on things done in the past that we would not do -- or at least not condone -- if then were now and we were those figures-made-myth from history.

Instead, I want to talk about thanks giving -- an attitude of thankfulness -- which we OUGHT to have every day of every year; lacking that, having it brought to our attention once a year is a good thing.

I was listening to the Maine Calling program on MPBN while driving home to work this week, and the subject of the discussion was thankfulness. Unfortunately we are having difficulty accessing some web sites from home these days, and MPBN is one of them, so I cannot get the names of the guests in the discussion, nor link to the podcast. I didn't get to hear the entire program either, but what I got from the bit I did hear was that cultivating an attitude of gratitude affects us in many positive ways. One might expect some bleed-over into other aspects of our personality, such as becoming more accepting or positive, which it does. But, the discussion asserted that even a couple of weeks of taking note of one's blessings with a thankful heart can begin to mitigate depression, as well as having a positive effect on our physical bodies, as well; the lowering of blood pressure and positive changes in the immune system were mentioned specifically. Unnamed clinical studies were sited for these assertions.

The moderator asked a question not commonly addressed (in my experience anyway) in discussions such as these: While it is easy and expected for those with Christian and other religious affiliations to give thanks, and indeed the American traditional Thanksgiving holiday tends to be viewed as a religious occasion with thanks being given to the Christian God, what of those who do not follow a religion? Is it possible to have an attitude of gratitude without giving thanks to a deity?

The panelists were unanimous in their positive response. One can, indeed, be thankful and even GIVE thanks without pointing it in a particular direction and the benefit will be the same.  The pointed out that some traditions offer thanks to the Elements, to the Directions and to the spirits of creatures, ancestors, objects.

As a pagan, and a witch, I often do this, as well as offering thanks to my Gods and Goddesses and to the Universe At Large. In fact, when my kids were young, I encouraged being thankful, at our Thanksgiving meal, with a ritual which came to be called "the Thankful Game." It's not a game in the
The "Thanksgiving Game" family tradition lives on at gatherings
of my children's' families.
sense of baseball or soccer, but that is what the kids called it. In a nod to the traditional historical tales of the pilgrims lean fare, and the lean times that our pioneer ancestors had to survive, I told the (possibly apocryphal) story of the pilgrims daily ration of 5 grains of corn . I encouraged each of the kids to name something for which they were thankful, and as each thanks was given, the child was given a piece of candy corn. I would write down each thanks as it was given, and after the first year, read the previous year's list at the end of the session.

So, candy corn at hand, I join with my family from afar with my list: I am thankful for:
my growing family: 5 wonderful daughters, and 5 equally wonderful sons-in-law and their collection of kids which comprises 15 grandchildren and one new great-grand baby
my partner of many years, K
our "4 acres and a tractor" and the food it allows us to produce
my health
a dry and reasonably warm home
my part time job in town and the ability to commute there without hassle
my part time jobs on the farm - Vision IPD (graphic design) and Dutch Hex Sign (blessings,  invocations and painted prayers for home and barn)
impending retirement from town job
good co-workers
the good folk far and wide who see, appreciate and buy my art
the experiences I have had though life that give me a leg up on "doing more with less"
the ability to appreciate the "simple things of life"
being able to live in Maine -- in the Northlands where I truly belong
a pantry full of home grown, home canned veggies
a freezer mostly full of home grown fowl, pork, eggs and more veggies
the ability to access the electronic web easily and without restrictions

Well, my stomach is growling, so I guess it's time to go partake of some of that wonderful home grown turkey, potatoes, veggies and local cranberries and to give thanks for it for the second time around! I guess I should add being thankful for left overs since they mean I don't have to cook after having to get up at 2 for my in town job. And, I will add that I am thankful for this being the last "black Friday" that I will ever have to deal with!

May your lives also be blessed, as you look around you and make note of your blessings. Every one of us has many they can count. Remember that where ever you are, whatever your situation, "it beats freezing and starving in the cold and dark!" Be well!

So be it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Down Memory Lane

November always seems to be a month that lends itself to thinking back over the past, Piers Anthony's Xanth series to the contrary (If you are not a fan, sufficient to say Xanth is a very punny place and No Remember takes the place of the month of November in that land).

Usually it's Thanksgiving that brings on thoughts of the past. For me, the tradition of that holiday is not in a family gathering (for seldom, if ever, do I remember more than just my small nuclear family at the table) but in the making of the meal. It was a mom-and-me thing, while dad took his last turn around the golf course (in Michigan... often as the snow began to fall... and often still wearing his trademark Bermuda shorts one last time for the year.)  In some families the menfolk -- and these days often at least some of the women as well -- spend the day hunting, but that was our tradition. My folks always wanted to watch the parades on TV, but after the first year I don't recall that keeping my attention. I wanted to be in the kitchen, helping mix the stuffing, roll the pie crust, put together the pumpkin filling, chopping apples and celery for Waldorf salad and running the wooden tool around the conical sieve to squish the cranberry goodness from the skins for jelled cranberry sauce.

Today, still, I make the full meal. All the traditional sides made the traditional ways. I save bread heels for months to dry for the stuffing, peel and mash white potatoes to go with turkey gravy, cook an acorn type squash, put together Waldorf salad (thought this year, if the Gods be with us, there will be green salad fresh from the garden as well!) and home made pumpkin pie, with whipped and sweetened cream for those who want it (I omit this part if I am alone as I never liked the stuff). I usually omit the fresh rolls now (though baking bread often begins to happen again in November still) and shudder at the thought of green bean casserole. I wonder how that ever came to be tradition for so many folks? I also make whole berry cranberry sauce now... with local berries. I just found some today! And I think about my mom and me, steaming up the windows and talking about "how things were in the old days"... not the Pilgrims and Indians thing, but more generally what it must have been like to cook over a fire or in a hearth and what it was like when Mom was a girl and it was Granma Katie at the stove... things like that. Now I think back to the wonderful Thanksgiving meals cooked on the wood stoves and opening the house door to regulate the temperature of the kitchen!

Today, though, my mind has been on a different track. Thanksgivings -- though there have been plenty of them -- do not make me feel old. Today has. Listening to the radio as I ran my errands on a dull overcast day... listening to the recollections of the Kennedy era 50 years ago, on this the anniversary of his assignation... really makes me feel old. It's not just because it's been 50 years since the day the news was relayed over the PA system into the classroom where I sat... a 15 year old sophomore, just shy of three months into a new school in a new state. It's more because of the incredible contrast that the memories of that time... and that "me" bring into focus as they are juxtaposed against NOW and the already slightly depressed "me" running frustrating errands after a day of work, prepping against the beginning of "black Friday week" insanity on a dull November day.

I am thankful that, at times, the weather had the presence of mind to drop a few bits of snow. Seems to me that when it's cold (as it was today) and dreary, there might at least be some snow!  LOL 

But back to the memories... I remember Ike (and somewhere in my photo archives, I have a photo of him, passing in a motorcade in South Bend, Indiana... shot with my little Brownie camera from a perch atop my dad's shoulders. I remember the election season with Ike running against Stevenson and remember thinking Stevenson was a very smart man and probably should win the election.  And of course I remember Kennedy.  I was not even a teen yet, but he captured my attention. I was a space geek and loved his support of the space program. I remember Sputnik and the space race and Echo, our first satellite. And the tension of the Cuban missile crisis... And the way the fashion industry embraced Jackie and her neat shifts and pillbox hats... And the Vietnam war and the way -- not long after his death -- we thought that we could change the course of things with protest.

It was a time, it seems, when folks were more involved and maybe even that we cared more. Or maybe we were just young and had more energy then, who knows... My memories of those days are set against the bright blue sky (on less smoggy days) of Southern California. THAT November day was bright, then and there... not bleak and overcast and cold. Our attitudes were still bright and bold, though it seems in many ways that when those shots rang out the reverberations changed everything... some at once, some still lingering.

And so, my memories of those bright Camelot days poured out and rattled around the car in counterpoint to my workworn, tired and aching body on a dull, cold Maine November.

Tonight I shall pull my chair close to the heater, light a candle for Frigga and reach for the light of countless hearthfires in eras past and future. And I will lift my glass and hail AllMother and hail those who lead with pure intent. And I shall hail as well those who walk with honor and truth in their hearts and who stand against the darkness of hate and oppression where ever it may be found. So Be It!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Changes of Age, Changes of Attitude?

Sorry, Jimmy Buffett, but there are no changes in latitude involved here. I ain't leavin' Maine, and having been here over 5 years now I don't think the change in latitude from NC to the northlands can be either blamed or credited.

Not sure if it is exactly age, either, per se... I don't remember my mom, or grandmother or any other senior citizen that I have known talking about noticing a change like this. Whether they did not notice, did not consider it worth sharing, or what, I don't know either. I do know that my mom talked about it when she noticed that all of the medical personnel that she had to deal with personally looked like they had barely graduated from high school, but that was about all she ever shared about this whole aging process.

She never warned me about the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin (thought I did notice them on some older women and always wondered WHY they did not pull them out!). And she never warned me about how my attitude towards the changes in the world might change, nor that my ability to tolerate less-than-competent workers might pretty much disappear.

Do I attribute these changes to age, or to something else?

In any case, in keeping with my "Year of Transition" I am noting, and shall discuss them a bit and perhaps get some feedback. Have any of my younger readers, age mates or older friends noted anything similar or related? I'd love to know!

My childhood home, as it appears now, thanks to Google!
Background: I have never REALLY like change. I wasn't even thinking in these terms when, as a child, we went on vacation. This was a change... but in many ways it wasn't; every year we spent a couple of weeks in Iowa and Nebraska visiting and staying with my maternal grandparents, with a one night stay with my father's family who lived in the same town, and a few days to a week with a maternal aunt and her husband in Nebraska. In those days, towns changed more slowly and my family's homes changed slowly, if at all... so the places were, and felt familiar. What sticks in my mind most dramatically, though, was my feelings upon our return home. While we were visiting, I guess I was "in the moment" and totally there, because when I walked into our house there was a strange and instantaneous mental reset.... like "OH! yeah, HOME... and I realized I had totally 'forgotten' the place for the previous few weeks, as the thoughts and memories came flooding back.

As a young woman, I dealt with change and to some extent embraced it. While I would not consider myself an "early adopter" of technical changes, I was involved with computers early on -- doing a bit of programming in college, data entry (on to punch cards, then paper tape, then recording tape) in the work world. I wanted a microwave oven since my first encounter with one, at a home show with my folks when I was around 10, and eventually got one when the third of my daughters was born. I had a personal computer back in the day when the Amiga 500 was the latest and greatest for graphics,  after playing around with the Commodore and maybe another machine, owned by folks I knew.

Perhaps it is that the rate of change in increasing (exponentially?). Or maybe it has something to do with my conscious choice to plant one foot firmly in the Old Ways (in more ways than one) combined with the rate of change. Maybe my psyche doesn't like doing the splits?

I do not remember my mom complaining about change, though I do recall her not being really comfortable USING some of the new technology (like the microwave... when she watched the kids at that point, and I had left food to be reheated for their supper, I remember her putting the dish in the micro and taking it out, but having my eldest actually set and operate the machine... which was about the same level of complexity as an old fashioned automatic washer... turn the dial to set the time and push a button to make it go!).  I DO recall, as I planted that one foot increasingly firmly... heating and cooking with wood, growing our food, putting it by... of thinking of my mom as "Thoroughly Modern Dorothea" (think of the movie, Thoroughly Modern Millie, a musical set in the flapper era in which my mom came of age) by contrast.

So, all that being said, I really don't like the way the world is going! I know I am not alone in that, from comments and posts I read on the social media. But again, most of the folks I know and follow in that regard are also, more or less, "of a certain age." I wonder... (and again, please share this entry widely, as I would love to hear what folks think)... what do folks in their 20s, 30s, 40s think? Is there a demographic point when, as a culture, we begin to think that enough is enough?

And as I run my countdown year, it seems each month I eagerly look forward to changing the number on the wall, as it were. It's not just that I find myself needing more time on the farm (physical chores like building pens and housing take longer when one no longer has a young body to work with). It's not just that the hex orders just keep on coming (and thank the Gods for that!). And I hope it's not that the other folks in the workplace have suddenly taken a big dose of "stupid." But it seems each week, more things are wrong from the get-go, don't work properly, etc. And my tolerance for what seems to me to be unnecessary chaos is shrinking.

Part of what I do depends on the timely arrival of products and I know and expect shipping follies. That is something no one has control over. And, since the titles are not individually and specifically ordered by the store based on sales and inventory, one must expect a certain amount of disconnect between what we need and what we receive.

However, when we get literally dozens of an item of a type that we seldom, if ever, sell more one a single copy of.... When they call for things to be removed from the shelves, only to languish on the (limited) warehouse shelves for months... When folks who supply written materials that we are supposed to "copy and paste" from don't double, triple and quadruple check to make sure that the material is formatted in such as way as this process works, and it instead fails -- in the same way -- week after week.... well, my patience is all but gone.

So, dear readers, what say you? Is it just me, is it an age thing, or are there other explanations I have not considered?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Winter Finding - a Busy Tide

There are times and there and tides and as they say, time and tide waits for no one. But times are short busts of not waiting and tides are longer ones... and when one gets caught or wrapped up in either, then that is just what is happening and one waits to write about it until it passes.

Winter Finding -- the tide that happens about now.. around secular Halloween, or All Hallows, or Samhain (if you are a Pagan) and flows into the first part of November -- is finally releasing its grip on me here in Maine. No, the first snow -- which falls and often scares folks into wrapping their homes' underpinnings with plastic and insulation, into raking the leaves that have fallen even if there are still lots on the trees, into picking up the bits and pieces of life and chores that get strewn about the farm and homestead over a summer of workings -- the coiled up hoses, empty pots and such -- that first snow was threatened by the weather guessers but failed to materialize. Never the less, Winter Finding is loosening its grip and I have a moment to write.

Tractor Guy breaking ground to move the garden north.
We, or more exactly I should say Tractor Guy has been busy starting to put the garden to bed and working on moving/enlarging it for next year. I want to be able to keep the electric deer fence up and still have the room for him to work with the tractor. This means that, to keep from making the usable space smaller, we need to open more ground to the north of the existing garden. On the south, you see, the road is on higher ground than the garden level and I need to keep the deer fence back away from the road bank so that the deer cannot just leap from the road and clear both rows of fencing. On the north side, the fence can run across what is just a grassy field.

The lettuce is still standing in the covered row, seen behind the tractor in the picture, and there are kale, Brussels sprouts and bit of cutting celery still standing also. But the remainder of the garden is put to bed, at least minimally. I hope that the west garden, the parts that await more berries and perennials, can be cultivated before the ground freezes, but at present the tractor is parked on account of a broken leveling arm for the implements. We will go visit a welder today, as we have not been able to find a replacement (a) locally or (b) for what we consider a reasonable price. Wish us luck!

The "zero air move" as applied to
leaves in a Subaru.
Garlic bed, under mulch, awaits winter.
Having "the only land in Maine with no trees" I have been looking for a source of leaves for mulch protection on some of the perennials and the garlic and lucked into a car load recently. Oh, yeah, a CAR load... my pickup, Artie, is also on the "sick, lame and lazy list" at the mechanic for what I hope is NOT major engine issues. So I am hauling everything with Boo, the Subaru. Anyway, this was the first of two loads of leaves I scored in town. This one got stored in the garage, for later, as rain was in the forecast and time did not allow me to place them. However, the second batch, hauled a few days later, is currently mulching the garlic, held in place against our almost constant winds, by the same row cover I used on the lettuce.

Peek-a-boo! Fresh lettuce!
Lettuce under cover. Wire hoops hold
row cover up, plastic bags of soil
hold it in place against the wind.
And speaking of lettuce, when I go pick this week for the buyers club, I will bring a section of currently covered lettuce from each end of the row, out from UNDER cover, to have a better idea of how much protection the cover gives me... how much longer it extends the harvest. There are different varieties of lettuce at each end of the row: the south end is a summertime mix, the north end is a winter mix, and thus far they are both standing quite well.

In the world of hex, I have been busy continuing to paint and ship signs. I am currently working on a custom Yearly Blessing sign centered upon a cute little doxie. How I got to be the painter of dogs, I am not sure. Others that have been shipped recently include:
Heart Chakra, 12" outdoor sign

Abundance and Prosperity 48" outdoor sign

Inspiration, 14" indoor sign
seen in the rising sun

14" Double Creator's Star
indoor sign seen in rising sun

So, life continues to be busy here even though the season is turning. I look forward to being able to spend time at my spinning wheel as soon as the remainder of the garden is put to bed, the perennials mulched and the snow falls.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Live within your Harvest

I ended up at the local JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts this week, seeking black lace for a sewing project for two of my grand daughters (I am making them aprons and chef hats to wear while helping their mom in the kitchen (they all love to cook) and a "grill monster" apron for their younger brother, who loves monsters and like to help mom when she grills. Yep, mom is the grillmaster in their house.

Found the trim, and fabric for the Bear's apron (aren't family nick names fun!) and this sign in the holiday decor. Yeah, it's imported crap and the full price was such a shock that it went right back on its peg hook. Then I saw the sale sign for the whole display and decided "what the heck." I will probably make one some day, but not now and without this one kicking around, it would surely slip my mind.

"Live within your Harvest" What does it mean? What did the manufacturer... the designer... have in mind with this different, and rather counter-culture, saying? What do YOU think it means?

For me, it resonated immediately, as I am re-dedicating my country living lifestyle once again to focus more on something akin to homesteading and less towards feeding the world (in other words, market gardening.). I know I will not completely "live within my (FARM) harvest" no matter how much I want to. And even in the olden days folks would make the trek to town occasionally for such things as coffee, tea or sugar, even if they grew everything else. And so shall I, though I hope by learning to keep bees (the new "livestock" I plan to add next year) I shall reduce my dependence on "store bought" sugar.

I do not live alone, though, and my other half grew up very differently than I did and has lived a life very different from mine. Though he is changing, his default setting, should I find a missing ingredient for a planned mean is "shall I go to the store?" He was, for a long time, a city dweller and often bought groceries daily, on the way home from work. So we must compromise, as all couples do, though since I do the cooking and meal planning, I am increasingly focusing on eating what I grow.

Another problem is that he does not like a wide variety of veggies, especially those most commonly served cooked. I can't complain, after all, I have a GUY who LOVES SALAD!  LOL And corn, peas, and green beans in their cooked form, occasionally Brussels sprouts, and cabbage when part of a cooked dish. And, oh, let's not forget staples (in our house) like potatoes, onions and green peppers. However, winter squash, cooked greens, beets, carrots in their cooked form... need not apply or at least not very often.

But he is learning and so am I. Proto-thoughts of garden plans for next year are beginning to flit about my brain. Getting a greenhouse or all season tunnel up must happen. I need to try sweet potatoes again, not loose the beans (both fresh eating and dried) and hopefully have a decent harvest of corn. I have before, but this was not a corn year. Keep the 'maters off the ground and the potato harvest at the same level. What happened to the onions?  How to set the garden up... what should be wide rows and what narrow and somewhat closer together, so that the tractor can cultivate between, with the plants ducking under the engine as it passes? How tall, how wide? 

We have had a protracted and mild autumn. There are still carrots and lettuce, kale, cabbages and chard, celery and some unripe (as of the last time I looked) all-but-lost pumpkins out there and some of it needs to come in or get covered. Late autumn weather is poised to arrive this coming week. It's time to plant garlic, clean up the asparagus and strawberry and bush rows, apply cardboard and mulch for protection against winter and spring weeds.

Meanwhile, my stance with one foot in what I consider "real life" and one  in town job/mundania continues to feel like I'm about to do the splits. The part time job turned all but full time this week (and didn't quite make it only because I forcibly put the brakes on. For the next couple of months, though, that will be the harvest that I tend most often: the bi-weekly paycheck. It will be appreciated for its ability to bring the materials for the wood stove installation, and repair (so I hope) of Artie, the old farm truck.

The harvest may vary, but the need to live within it remains.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dark of the Moon

What do YOU do at the dark of the moon? 
No, I'm not thinking "Transformers" or even Pink Floyd (that was Dark SIDE of the Moon, anyway), but of the almost monthly event between waxing and waning where the sky is devoid of any hint of the reflecting orb. Does this time have any significance to you?

It does to me, as does the waxing phase as the moon's light increases, the brilliant full moon, and the waning phase as the light fades. Both the dark and full moons seem, to me, to be times of balance. Between them we have the growing phase; good for plants that fruit above ground, for cutting hair that you want to grow, and for working on projects that will bring increase to your household as the light increases and the darkening phase; good for root vegetables, tubers, and plants the increase below ground, like alliums, for trimming hair, nails, hooves and claws when you don't want them to grow quickly, cleaning (banishing dirt) and for de-junking... things that may disrupt increase.

Now, the dark of the moon (the "new moon" and a day on either side of it) are a powerful time for introspection as well as for beginning those dark phase projects. With a little bit of attention to this cycle, you may find yourself falling into it without really being away of energies at play. I realized this today as I set out to work in the garden.

My original plan was to take the flame thrower to being burning weeds seeds prior to the fall tilling. This IS the autumn, after all, and time to be putting the garden to bed in general. But the winds were too high by the time I got to the garden for fire to be an option, so I took my cart and figured I would at least walk down, see what could be harvested and go from there. I knew there were a few last table cucumbers, and those vines to pull, which I did, and I found that one variety of squash vines were dying back (though we have not had a killing frost yet) and telling me that the fruit could come to the house, so I did that also.

Next I knew I needed to look at the long-neglected tomato rows. I have written before about my dismay at the waste, as most of the bumper crop was damaged by poultry, slugs or rot, do to my not having kept the fruit off the ground, yet again. My attempt at the "Florida weave" was a failure. The plastic step-in posts actually bent, the fiberglas rods leaned and the nylon twine sagged. The fruit load was just too heavy for the structure. As I began dis-assembly of the row, I looked for edible fruit. I did find some, but most will be going back to the earth. Not a terrible thing, but not good either. But it is, I was told, the time to let go of it and simply to move on to a different, and hopefully better, support next year. With that in mind, I took in what the failed structure and plants told me as I worked my way up the row, untying twine and pulling posts.

What I learned is that the next support system will need to be designed to lean towards the east, with suitable supports, and my paper mulch applied under the support and under the lean, to help retain moisture and keep down weeds with less work. I can set the support so that the plants grow up through it at about a foot, but growth after that stage will need to be on top of the wire support with the fruit being allowed to hang down through the wire. This should work for the varieties of tomatoes with longer vines. I do need to keep the sections of 2"x4" welded wire fencing shorter, to make removal easier, rather than deploying an entire 50 or 100' roll along the row. Extracting the support from the vines is much easier when it all comes in shorter sections.

Some of my sauce tomatoes this year grew on very short vines that would not work with the system I just described. Unfortunately, my tomatoes got all mixed up this year (and I do have a plan in place to avoid that problem in the future) so figuring out who is who may prove difficult. But if I can, I will use a horizontal support for them, only about 8" off the ground, for the plants to grow up through and lay on top of, keeping the fruit clear of the ground. This row will also be paper mulched.

Dark Moon supper tonight will include one of the newly picked squash and spaghetti, with a sauce of garden onions, celery, green peppers and some of the most damaged, ripe tomatoes. I will also bake a chocolate cake and offer some of it, with a toast of dandelion wine, in honor of the first dark moon of the newly born dark half of the year.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Autumn here often shows her colors right around the actual equinox. This year she was a little late to start the party, at least from my frame of reference. My first visit to Maine -- a week long recon mission a few years ago -- coincided with the equinox so that makes a definite point of reference for me. The dramatic colors (especially in contrast to coastal NC) and the discovery of the annual Common Ground Fair both mark a point of change.

Our maple tree by the front gate is showing color now, but it wasn't when we headed out last Saturday to the fair. Neither were many of the trees along the way, which are becoming more dramatic as the days go by. Maples in boggy areas seem to be quite colorful now, while their higher land counterparts are lagging. The night temperatures are in the low 50s and 40s; the quilt has stayed on the bed and we have brought the propane space heater in, but only turned it on for a few minutes early this morning to warm a room for me to dress for work. We have not yet had a frost, though I noticed that the pumpkins and winter squash plants on the fairgrounds were all showing that the first frost has visited there.

Autumn -- prep for winter -- is always a most busy time. There are root crops to dig (onions and potatoes are now all in, but not yet weighed. Good crop of 'taters, onions no so much so. Carrots will be scarce, as they got lost in the weeds.

After a hiatus due to my not getting the seedlings started indoors on a regular schedule nor getting them planted out regularly, our summer lettuce crop was a bust. It all bolted quickly, but the fall crop of summer lettuce (different varieties than the fall crop of winter lettuce, which is supposed to hold longer, and which I hope to put under some sort of protection before the snow flies) is coming on big time. I once again was able to offer it to the buyer's club and had no trouble filling their orders for 3 pounds, plus I ended up with a pound or so to put in our fridge. When I have a large quantity of leafy greens, they get their first baths in the (scoured, bleached and rinsed to within an inch of it's life) bathtub.
Four pounds of lettuce, as the tub fills with rinse water.

Surprise to me, though, my first attempt at celery (despite it getting lost in the weeds) was NOT a failure. the conventional plants could have easily stood more manure side dressing and to be weeded, of course, but they are still there and look like celery! The cutting celery (like a somewhat large, celery-flavored parsley plant) will have plenty for me to dry, too. They are next to be harvested, as well as what tomatoes I can salvage.

I am sick about the waste of tomatoes. This year I planted 300' of row, because I have yet to get a decent crop and wanted to have plenty to can, and a good excuse for having bought the Squeezo strainer last year. I did manage to get several batches of sauce tomatoes processed (batches being my 20 quart stainless steel kettle full to cook down). And we have canned a few whole and eaten some BLTs, but the majority of the crop is laying on the ground with slug damage or has been pecked by the fowl. And of all years, this one brought a bumper crop.

I'll go out tomorrow and early in the week to see how many more I can find to salvage and process. And I have plans in my mind to solve this problem next year. More about that in a future blog, but it involves both penning fowl and supporting the plants with a sturdier support. This year I tried the "florida weave" and it failed.

I have pulled the pickling cucumber plants and most of the table cukes, but there are a couple plants with fruit that might finish off, as the days are expected to be sunny and in the low 70s for the next week.

I am still waiting for the frost to knock down the squash leaves, but have seen lots of fruit out there. Pumpkins didn't get in early enough to turn orange, so I'll use them as decor and poultry feed. There are a few cabbages left, I'll try to store them for fresh use for a bit, leaving them in the garden as long as I can.

And hex signs... wow!  I just shipped a LOT of Abundance and Prosperity, three signs, headed in three different directions. And there are more orders yet to fill, in process.
2' diameter Abundance & Prosperity
2' diameter Abundance & Prosperity
4' diameter Abundance & Prosperity

And none of this addresses getting the propane tanks moved to an easier winter access point in front of the house, nor the wood stove installation. I, for one, am hoping that Autumn hangs around for a bit.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Oh, the Times, They are A-changin'

...with apologies to Bob Dylan...

Change is afoot. Yes, deliberate change (as in the Year (More or Less) Of Transition. But methinks something else may be afoot as well.

Yesterday evening, my partner suggested that I might want to "sense" my wardings, as he felt "a wind" that he had not felt before. My first thought was that I should strengthen them at dark of the moon, and his response to that was that no, that was not necessarily what needed doing, for what he felt did not mean me ill and that it might be beneficial for me.

As I prepared to go to bed, the thought came to me "the winds of change." I decided to let it steep for a bit.

Today, I think that is an accurate assessment. Possibly it was stirred up by my Year of Transition, possibly the coming full moon and autumnal equinox factor in... maybe something is up in my chart, though I will admit to not being terribly focused on astrology.

What I do know is that this week -- once on Monday and again today -- I did something so atypical for me that I cannot actually remember ever having done it before. I turned down work, paying work, at that.

Up until now, my focus was on building business both as a designer and artist. If a possible client or a commission presented itself, and my being able to complete the job was anywhere within the realm of possible -- even if it meant a big stretch in my capabilities, or even learning a new skill on the fly, I went for it with all I had. Now, I didn't get all the opportunities that presented themselves, but I did get a good lot of them, and often spent time paddling like mad below the surface while presenting a cool and competent exterior. "Never let them see you sweat."

I enjoyed the excitement and the challenge of each and every opportunity.

Monday, however, when returning a call about a web consult I left the caller a voice mail saying that I was "not accepting new clients at this time." Admittedly it was bad timing; I have just renewed a contract with an old client for an annual big project that will have me burning the midnight electrons much of next month, but in the past that would not have given me pause. I really didn't want to do it. I am not sure why. I do enjoy working with the clients for whom I currently webmaster, but a new one just didn't feel right. My voicemail message, however, felt very right.

Today I got an email inquiry about a hex sign. Something in the tone and the way the email was phrased put me off a bit, as did the fact that the person required a phone call. She said in the email
" We are in the process of having our barn painted and want to have one done @ this time-could you please call me for I have many questions about what type might work for us and if you do just the drawings or the completed work only."
The way that question was phrased made me think she had not ever been on, for even a basic look at the site shows the store front with many signs for sale and describes the process.

I started the conversation asking how she found me and the long explanation -- involving a KindleFire and "not being a computer person" and looking at pictures of barn stars and quilts and hex signs -- never really gave me an answer. She also was not really able to elucidate what she DID want, other than a strange insistence that her sign be painted on a square "with a border around it, because it is going on a white barn." She was also not sure what size she wanted, but seemed insistent that it would need to be painted in sections and pieced together upon installation. 

I tried to explain exactly what it was that I did, and why I did it that way, but she was not hearing me so as quickly and politely as I could I explained that I did not work in the square, only in the round but that I did know other hexeri who did paint their circular designs on rectilinear pieces of wood. She jumped on that like a flea on a dog and asked for a referral.

I hope my colleague to whom I referred her won't sling any lightning bolts my way... I have the feeling that she will be a very difficult person to work with.  But, in the past, that would not have mattered to me and I would have done my best to "sell her."

I am pretty sure that I would not, however, have compromised and painted a barn quilt square for her, or painted a hex like a painting, which is what she seemed to want. That is not how I was taught to work and that is not how hexen do their thing.

So... change... to a focus more on doing the things that I enjoy in a way that I can still enjoy them and have income. Less stress? We'll have to see what comes of this.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Year of Transition, Month 2

Ok so what have I been up to on the road of transition thus far? Well, lots of thinkin' and a bit of doin'.

Been talking to the other half about "for better or worse, but not for lunch" type issues. For most of our time together as a couple, I have been very busy with work, much of it away from home, and he has been some semblance of a house husband, as much as his body would allow. I concentrate very intently when I am working and it can make those around me feel excluded (well, 'cause they are) and really much like an extra wheel if they try to interrupt. So we have things to work on.

For my part, I have learned (via past relationships) how to do "my thing" when others around me are not busy at something, or even are asleep. My ex- worked nights much of our time together, which accounts for a lot of it.  I still have to remind myself, after a fashion, to do what needs doing these days, especially as K is ailing more than usual and tending to sleep a lot. And since he is not even as well as he was, he is often not up to doing things that he used to in the past, which makes HIM feel even worse when I do them because they need doing. Something else we have to work on. I think this will need to be an issue with his counselor, as this is not something that will change for the better.

After being a mom of 5, though, I am not one who is going to jump in and do one of "his" chores if it doesn't get done as quickly or efficiently as it might have in the past. I hope that helps. Not sure it will though.

For myself, I am working a bit more on doing things that I used to do, which are important to me but have been let go due to lack of time and energy. Now, mind you, I don't really have a lot of extra time OR energy at this point... but picking up the threads, little by little, I hope, will make it easier to hold the reins firmly as the year turns.  One of my threads is self-reliance and a move more towards food independence. I have pretty much decided not to grow for market in the future and instead to focus on supplying us with food in season and sufficient to put up for the off season while minimizing waste. Another on the food thread is making more of what we may currently buy: tortillas (both corn and wheat), noodles, soda crackers and bread are all in my bag of tricks and I would like to get back to making all of them, once I have the time. Today I put up eggs in the freezer, in bags of three yolks and one whole egg, to store for making noodles come winter, when egg production wanes. That way, we can have eggs without the hassle or expense of lighting the chicken coop to give them longer days. I think the fowl need the seasonal changes; I know I do!

Another thing that I used to do, from a very young age, was decorate for the seasons and holidays. Up until very recently, I at least had a wreath or some other appropriate decoration on the door, but that also went by the wayside. I have been trying, with a solar cross of wheat and a wheat wreath with a pentagram inside made of wheat stalks, but they went by rather quickly, having gotten beat by the winds, soaked by the rains, etc. on the south facing door. Last week I saw a wreath of fake berries with a five pointed star inside for a very fair price and bought it. It was my intention to further seasonalize it with a garland of fake leaves, which I bought and applied today and it now hangs on the door. Hopefully it will last a bit longer.

I also want to get into the habit of recognizing my grand kids (all of whom live across the country from me) at least once a year. With 5 daughters, all but one of whom have multiple children, this could be a major and unaffordable expense not to mention an exercise in frustration trying to remember and coordinate all those birthdays. My idea, which I have just floated to my kids, is to pick a month that I can easily associate with each of my daughters, and use that as the month in which I surprise their kinder with gifts from Grandma. I figure to send out an email to each daughter a month in advance, for updates on what each of the young'us is into, and then I'll have a month to come up with something cool... found or likely made... age and season appropriate and relevant to both the child's interests and granny's crazy way of looking at life.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Thus speaks a woman who takes her gardening seriously!"

A bit ago, I posted on Facebook:
"Picked another 10 gallons of sauce tomatoes, didn't even come close to getting to the end of the row. Also some eaters, hoping they ripen before they rot as most out there have damage from fowl or -- now -- slugs. I planted way too many 'maters. Next year, two rows, with attention to keeping them all off the ground. the Florida weave wimped out. Plants were just too heavy with fruit. Yeah, what a think to grouch about, eh? Next year am planning to use 2x4 wire mesh with a bit of a lean, supported by tripods for the eaters and the same mesh, horizontal, about 10" off the ground supported by wood for the canners. With paper mulch in the rows."
 And a friend's comment on that post titles this blog entry.

I went on to explain, in a later comment "Yes, I DO take may garden... and my fowl, etc. seriously. It's part of my spiritual path. The northern Gods seriously want their folk to be self-reliant, strong, survivors (as opposed to "survivalists", thank you)... or at least that is what they tell ME."

I have offered to do a workshop at an upcoming Pagan Pride event about my path, so have been thinking about it in different terms of late and so I am going to take a few minutes this morning -- before tend the fowl and pick more tomatoes (as well as cukes and herbs for the Buyers Club delivery today) to talk about it.

I started out... many MANY moons ago, as a rather generic pagan. And yes, that lower case "p" is deliberate. I was raised, as I say, a "Christmas and Easter Christian." My folks compromised on a church when they married and attended sporadically through my life. It was, I think, kind of expected for professionals in the 50s, yanno? Religion was never a big thing in my family and I never got much out of the services or occasional Sunday school classes, except questions, as the Bible my mom provided me, when required, was not the same version as that my classmates referenced.

I always, however, felt very "right" when out in nature.  

Fast forward to my late 20s, married, starting my family... seeking... something. A friend shared her belief in the Mormon faith (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to give it the full name) and I became intrigued. Here was a church that talked about a heavenly father AND a heavenly mother! That classic light bulb lit, and I bit. I had found, I thought, the balance that I sought.  A few years later we moved from town to country... and from the 20th century, in a way. Our new location was an intentional community in WA state, where they eschewed connections to "the grid"... no phones (the cell was yet in the future and likely would have had connectivity issues in the canyon anyway), power lines, etc. Even run by batteries or solar power, which was just beginning to come into its own, radio and TV were iffy, thanks to the community's above mentioned canyon location. 

Without the "man light" to keep us and wake us, we used kerosene lamps and heated and cooked with wood, had a huge garden and the natural cycles were omnipresent and impossible to ignore. On moonless nights, it was DARK, if overcast. When the stars shown, though, one could use their dim light to make ones way carefully down paths in less light than one ever sees in the city. When the moon approached full, I could literally read a newspaper by its light.. and I don't just mean the headlines!  With the focus on the garden, producing as much of our food as we could, the roll of the season because part of the rhythm of life, much more than the calendar and commercial holidays. As the days began to lengthen at the end of January, one needed to begin starting the seeds for early season transplants. When the frosts ended, garden work expanded; the early crops needed weeding, the summer crops needed planting and then came harvest and harvest and harvest! You begin to look forward to the first frost sometime in September, I think.. if for no other reason than because it means that soon the garden, with its insane work load, will be DONE for the year. For better or worse, one can turn to the slower cycle of the dark season; when the sun rises later and sets earlier, those living this sort of life tend to sleep longer and the indoor pursuits -- planning for the next season, ordering supplies, tool maintenance -- are a lot less physical. 

With the natural world peering over my shoulder at every turn, and indeed not only tapping me on it from time to time, but sticking out a foot and tripping me, to fall figuratively face-first into it, the feelings from my youth pushed to the forefront. I thought of a high school science club camping trip, when I noted (while gathering pine cones to start a fire with the wet wood my class mates had gathered the previous evening) the additional warmth as the sun rose over the hills and commented that I could easily understand how "primitive people" became sun worshipers. 

On the other side, the church we had joined proved to be more than a bit disappointing. By this time I had discovered that the balance I expected from the missionaries stories and explanations was woefully missing. The goddess figure was seldom mentioned from the pulpit and the church proved to be as male dominant as all the other Christian sects that I had known.

Meanwhile, nature... I was beginning to think of it as Nature now... continued to call. It was almost impossible for me not to climb the canyon walls twice a month -- for new moon and full -- and to sit under what the locals called "The Zen Pine" for meditation. From somewhere, the concept of the moon as representative of Goddess and sun as God rose to the forefront of my mind and I greeted them as such, in my mind, each time I saw them.  Then, out of the blue, came the notion that I needed to honor the earth -- Earth -- for all that it provided me and that I needed to make "an altar" and that it should be facing north. I hadn't a clue and honestly it never occurred to me to visit the local library. The word "pagan" as something relevant to the modern world, was not in my vocabulary. My mental question "how?" was followed by promptings to gather things of the earth, to place them on a table and to add a lit candle, which I did. Over the next few months, promptings to do the same for Fire, Air and Water were likewise followed. 

As years passed, I discovered the term Pagan (thanks to a conversation on beliefs with a young friend) and came to apply it to myself. The generic Goddess and God figures resolved themselves into specific Beings, who introduced themselves to me. Eventually I did get to that library, and to book stores, and added a few volumes to my library. I kept to those with content the reflected and resonated with what I was learning directly.

I never did connect with a group, but then I am not a group person. And as more years passed, the Gods and Goddesses handed me off to others... first in the Greek pantheon ... which ended with Hecate as I felt the age of my croning approaching... and then things took a strange turn. 

Much of my practice to this point -- spiritually, that is -- was feeling like it was lacking something. And when I got handed off to a different pantheon entirely, I found what that was. Hecate handed me to Frigga and with her, I found the "hearth Goddess" of my dreams!  LOL This Goddess sits on the throne of Asgard when her husband, Odin, is off doing his thing and a leader at home is needed. She rides on the Great Hunt and in general can be as "kick ass" a Goddess as one might want, while also tending to the affairs at Fensalair, her home, and to her group of 12 handmaidens, all Goddesses in their own rights. 

As I began to look farther into the ways of the Northlands, I found myself being called to the North again. Now, mind you I was born in Michigan... a northlander. I have always felt called to North as an energy and a direction, though I had been wandering, following work, which landed me mostly in the south, and in climates that I did not enjoy.  

And I also discovered Runes (the gift of them was given to/won by Odin long ago) and the Havermal, the Eddas, poetic and prose and the Nine Noble Virtues. And I learned that the Gods of my northern ancestors did want us (ALL of us) to be strong, and self-reliant and all the things that resonate with my soul and always have.  

So, yes, I am serious about my gardening, and now you know why.