Friday, May 24, 2013

Walking a Difficult Path

My life path these days is difficult. Not necessarily all that different overall than that of many others, women and men, I am sure, but in the details perhaps a little more different and certainly a challenge.

I am partnered with someone younger than I, who has been in ill health -- or at least fighting chronic conditions -- as long as I have known him. So it's not like I walked into this and got blindsided, yanno?  However it's still a challenge.

He wants, heck he NEEDS to help, to be useful, to DO stuff around the house and on the farm even though he is officially disabled. However, his pain levels, his energy levels and his mental acuity and memory all vary from day to day and even moment to moment, with nothing improving and no real likelyhood of it. He has been diabetic since the 70s, untreated part of that time and unmedicated for much of it, due to poverty. It has affected his ability to walk and to feel. He has had mental issues for Gods only know how long; he was seriously abused/abandoned/neglected as a child and has spent much of his life trying to be perfect... to meet or exceed everyone's expectations.. to be accepted... to fill the hole in his psyche and heart with a real family. This has led him to make many bad decisions, which thanks to the counseling and medical care which he has been able to get since being declared disabled, he is aware of and working to put into the past. Lots 'o baggage, yeah.

After years of saying "I'm not a farmer" he had really gotten into it. Driving and working on the tractor (I gotta make him a t shirt:" If I'm not working on the tractor" (graphic of fellow driving pulling implement behind) on the front and "I'm working on the tractor" (graphic of machine with its hood raised, guy bent over and tools flying everywhere) on the back), keeping the weeds down between rows, mowing, opening new fields, tending fowl and bunnies... even when he can barely walk or move and doesn't even get started until mid-morning. If he is late with chores, he mentally "beats himself up." If he looses a day to fatigue, pain, whatever... even more so.

And I know, and he knows though he is not really facing it, that his ability to "push through" will continue to decline.

I am not a spring bird either; my knees plague me and give me a lot of pain. I've recently fought my way back from near death by anemia and gotten through a bout of shingles (with relatively little pain, I thank the Gods) and this year have the energy to at least walk the rows in the garden, hoe a bit and have acquired tools to help make my garden time less painful and more productive (a sitting on, rolling stool and a "baby" garden cart that is much easier for me to pull back up to the house than the "mama" size one we originally bought. Of course, I use both, but the baby one for everything possible.

I wish there were someone I could talk to, someone who had walked this path before. I could surely use some guidance trying to find a decent route, or at least a "yeah, I understand" and a pat on the shoulder. 

This morning is typical in an atypical way. He awakened near first light or a bit before, to the sounds of fussing ducks. Nothing obvious was amiss, they were just fussing, but in attempting to check it out, as we have had serious predation issues this past year, he was awake and unable to go back to sleep so he got up and I went back to catching up on missed sleep.

Oh, did I mention that not only do I grow veggies for us and for sale, have a small design business (Vision IPD)  and sell my art (hex signs) on the web, I have a part time job in town? All of my business ventures have always been undercapitalized and the part time job is my hedge against the  ups and downs of the market.  And that job was extremely stressful this week, due to things beyond my control, leading to lack of sleep and extreme stress. In fact, had this week happened next year at this time, I would have quit and walked off the job Monday, with no notice. Next year, you see, by this month, I will be able to collect my Social Security pittance, which amounts to just about what I am making by working part time. 

Anyway, when I finally rolled out around 6, he decided to go back to bed, as he was sleepy. Usually he stays up, tries to get something done and usually does then after lunch when I go back to projects, he wants "just a few minutes more" to rest, and several hours later I find him still sawing logs in the recliner, awakening in time for supper (sometimes with my nagging) and more "beating himself up" mentally for not having completed what he had planned for the afternoon.

So rather than waiting breakfast on my first day off (my town job starts a 6 AM so I am up at 4 and leave here shortly after 5, with a cuppa coffee under my belt and breakfast in my bag to eat during my morning break; on days off, I cook a more appropriate country breakfast) and setting my day way behind, I cooked and ate and am about to start my day.

It is an ongoing challenge to get done what needs doing, in a timely manner, and without making him feel worse than useless. I know it would be a challenge, as well, to do it ALL myself but at least that is a challenge that would be totally under my control. It is frustrating, knowing stuff that needs to be done, that he considers "his chore" may not happen (a) when it needs to or (b) at all, thanks to his worsening memory.


The dishes call, the fowl and bunnies need fed and watered (well, at least the bunnies need water, I think Ma Nature took care of the fowl last night, it's been raining for hours!) and I have house pick up and cleaning, mending and darning and hex painting to do. Better get at it. Thanks for "listening."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Curious Case of the Movable Milestones

Milestones along a roadside to let you know how far you have come, and perhaps, how far you have yet to go on your journey. As such, we have the right to expect them to be properly placed and to remain in their appointed location.

Milestones in life, I think, are called that because we have become used to finding them equally as stable, fixed points in the flow of time. Our culture, stories and traditions often reference them and we look forward with anticipation, or sometimes with mixed feelings, to the time when we or those we love will reach or pass these traditional points.

Our first day of school is one such point; though we may feel its shadow the first day of the school year as we move through the grades, they are never quite the same as when we first leave our mother's side to step onto the bus or through the door that first day. Whether we, or our mom, looked to that moment with dread, anticipation or both, it is likely etched on our minds to this day.

Graduations from high school and college are related milestones that many of us have passed, some multiple times. And while these stones are not necessarily fixed at at particular age or date, we likely expected them at similar times in our lives; age 5 or perhaps 6; age 18, and again if we continued on in our schooling, typically 4 years later.

Many of us looked forward with eager anticipation to turning 16 and our first driver's license and 21 for our first legal alcoholic drink. Twenty-one... that magic number that for years was a singular doorway through which we became adults.

Except I didn't. There was no drama, no magic; some time between when I turned 18,  after high school graduation and while I was in college, before I turned 21, the legislature of the state of California where I was living at that time, decided in their wisdom to legislate a change in the age of majority from 21 to 18. No party, no first legal drink... honestly I wasn't particularly interested in either, OR in the age of majority until I got into an argument with my folks about whether I was allowed to do something. They insisted that I could not, until I was 21 and a quick call to the local cop shop on my part confirmed my assertion: that I was, like it or not, Mom, a legal adult.

Now, once again, I am feeling a little bit cheated out of a milestone.

Earlier this week, I turned 65. Now, normally I don't make a big fuss about birthdays. I haven't for years. Matter of fact, when I was raising my kids, it was such a non-issue and I had so much on my mind that I honestly forgot, often, how old I actually was, and began only counting -- and changing my stated age -- every 5 years.  So, ok, this was a 5 year marker, but "should have" -- considering the many years I lived with it as a cultural milestone for retirement -- been something a bit different at least, if not exciting. But no... the legislative powers-that-be, in an attempt some time along the way, decreed that for folks born in my year, the "full retirement age" at which we are able to draw the maximum of our Social Security pittance, would be moved to age 66. Yes, a pretty and nice round number in its own right, 2x33, but really?? And yes, I know for others the age is moved out even farther.  But darn, I miss having the milestones.

Do we even have milestones any more? Beyond the one that we end up laying under, that is... and as I am planning at present, I won't even have one of those.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Frigga's Day, New Moon and Spinning Spells of Protection

Yesterday was Frigga's Day. No, I am not going to entertain a debate on whether FRIday was named for Frigga or Freya or Freyr... I walk with Frigga, so in this house, it is HER day.  And while technically new moon was not until just past midnight last night, the moon was NOT in the sky to be seen all day or night so for me that's good enough. And new moon is the time for turning over new leaves, for change, for setting up protection, at least for this witch.  And busy I was.

Usually I spent time with Frigga in the evening, at my spinning wheel, and usually I have spent at least part of the day "at the hearth," or in this house, in the kitchen at the stove. I try to make it clean for Her each Thursday or if not Friday morning.  But this is Garden Season (you know that one... it follows close on the heels of Mud Season here in Maine at least) and there are seeds and seedling to get in the ground on a regular basis. Unlike many folks, I don't put everything in the ground in one marathon session on Memorial Day weekend. Like us humans, not all plants like the same conditions. Some of them, like me, prefer the cooler days of spring to put down their roots and bring forth their abundance and some -- like many of my southern friends -- prefer the warm summer days and comfortably warm soil around their roots keeping them cozy at night. Those are the guys, tomatoes and peppers and vine crops, still living most of the time on the
Tomato seedlings on the growing rack.
growing racks in the house. The vines are just now poking their little seedling leaf-heads out of the soil blocks and looking for the light, matter of fact, though on the warmer days we have had of late, many of the tomatoes have taken in the sun from a protected location on the deck for a few hours each day. Not this weekend though; cool and rainy (thank the Gods!) the weather has returned to seasonal norms for now.

On this Frigga's day past, my garden task was to put up the first part of my version 3.1 deer fence. Deer
If you look carefully, you can see the "invisible" deer fence
stretching into the distance near the center of the picture.
The pea row is to the left; stakes are in, but no trellis yet.
Potato rows need hand cultivation to remove weeds,
walkways have had shallow tractor cultivation.

love peas, and I am determined to have some to eat and sell this year, so yesterday found me walking the perimeter of the first pea row, pounding in fiberglass stakes. I was thinking about Frigga as I began installing the fence material: 6 strands (up from previous years' three) of monofilament fishing line. I was thinking about fiber arts and threads and spinning, as I started work, tying invisible knots in material that, it seemed, could neither be seen nor felt. As I wound the material around a stake to hold it in place for knotting, deployed it along the line to the next stake, cut the piece with a reasonable end to wind on that stake and tie off, I realized that I could indeed think of this line as a fiber. And that I could use it to spin a spell of protection, in addition to the physical barrier.

I naturally count things, so as I wound the fiber around the stake "one, two, three...." the spell was begun. My intent: to keep the deer "where they belong" ... in the woods and NOT in the garden... so that was voiced as I wrestled the uncooperative, stiff and all but invisible line into a knot. And with the completion of each knot. "by the power of three, let it be." There are many, many stakes as the rows are over 100 feet long and with each strand being a separate piece of line, lots of cutting and tying. and lots of back-and-forth to do 6 strands all around. Lots of reps, and the spell was spun. We'll see how well this works.

The theory behind the invisible deer fence is that they cannot see it and when they walk into it, it spooks them, like when we unexpectedly walk into a spider web. And for several years, three strands worked. But last year they defeated it. I am not sure if they were going under  or what but there were constant deer tracks in the garden and little produce left for us.

I have also read that one needs a double fence, because if properly placed they won't try to jump it. So I am going to be putting up a second, more visible "barrier" 3' inside the invisible fence this year. It won't be much of an actual barrier. I am going to put in fewer stakes and string the inexpensive, light weight nylon twine that I can get for cheap at a local outlet, around with two strands... just something to say" I am here, not a place to jump.

Garden in the distance, showing orange snow fence deployed
to discourage free range chickens and paper feed sack weed block
under brassica plants.
It would be fun trying to out-think these animals if it were not so bloody important!