Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Turn of the Calendar

I saw a post on recently, that began "I like to look at the holiday season as a liminal time.  The change from the old year to the new year is not on the Pagan Sabbat calendar, but it’s still a magical time that we have rituals for in our culture..."

For many years, I have had a tradition at this time of the year, as a solitary witch, which has involved starting the year with a home that was completely and deeply cleaned the day and evening of new year's eve. I have never been one to attend or throw parties, and it has always made sense to me to start the calendar by setting in motion the energies and forces that I would like to move with into the new year.

Now, though, I do not have the energy nor stamina to completely deep clean the place. This has been somewhat frustrating, in the past. This year, though, I have the goal of getting the cleaning and organizing done by the time I head off for knee surgery, in three weeks. This is much more practical, do-able and necessary. So, today and tonight I shall continue to make progress on that front, as well as getting several new hex blanks sanded and primed to be painted in the next few weeks to complete orders currently on the books.

Moose, the baby livestock guardian dog, has clean, dry straw in his house and the kitties have freshly cleaned litter boxes.

There is pork thawing and a cabbage on the counter, for abundance and prosperity and sauerkraut to go with that pork. Likely tomorrow will be another day for butchering fowl, as I try to move the extra roos from the feed trough to the food chain... but since they "scratch backward" they will not be on the menu. Perhaps I shall keep in mind, as I butcher them, the thought of putting "backwards" and counter-productive energies on ice as the birds head to "freezer camp."

In a few weeks, as the moon turns, I will also be turning a new leaf with new bionic knees.

Here's to change, and moving into the future with good intent!
Change hex sign from

Friday, December 26, 2014

Yuletide, New Moons, Cycles ending

Welcome hex sign
Protection Sign for beef cattle
We had a busy run up to the first day of the Yuletide season, with several hex signs completed and shipped. There was a 12" Welcome sign and one of two 36" signs, for Protection of Beef Cattle. The third 36" sign that I have been working on is a Mighty Oak, which will be delivered locally as soon as the buyer and I can connect. Since I only share them once they are delivered, you will have to wait to see that one! Instead I will offer this digital version of a Yule hex that I designed a few years ago, by way of seasonal blessing.

We spent a quiet Yule here at the farm. Tractor Guy cut a branch of birch, which I consider to be sacred to Frigga, from which I manufactured "solar crosses" -- or the rune Gebo -- by tying the twigs together in an X form with red ribbon, and then tied a sprig of real mistletoe to the center of the X, and a small bit of ribbon to one of the arms to use to tie it onto things.  I annually renew the protection on the property and offer these charms as talismans and gifts to the Powers That Be. Mid-day on Yule I walk to the north boundary of the land, have a chat with the northern elementals and then proceed around the border, clockwise, placing one of the talismans at each corner and on either side of the driveway. This year, that involved a walk on snow shoes, even though the snow was not deep. Being able to not fall through was much easier on the knees! As I reached the front of the land, I spent some time, as well, liberating the electric fence wire from the snow. It has not been turned on since the first snow, but I still want it there, a visible reminder to the deer.

And thus far, it seems to be working. On Yule we spotted our local herd, browsing in the yard ACROSS the street and showing no desire to head this way!

We had a quiet supper and a nice fire outside, in honor of the season and the dark moon as well. While I was contemplating the changes of the season and the moon, I felt moved to remind -- or challenge -- all of us to:
REFLECT on their relationship with Planet Earth.
RENEW our commitments to our planet, our fellow beings and our Gods to take care of what we have been blessed with.
REAFFIRM that we understand that what we do, each and every one of us, affects each and every other one of us.

Recycling IS the right thing to do. Being aware of, and taking responsibility for our purchases -- including the packaging thereof -- IS the right thing to do. So let's do it! Lets ALL do it and move forward into 2015 with intent... and lighter trash cans!
 Immediately following Yule, my focus shifted to the delightful task of trying to get my dental work completed quickly. And I am pleased to report that, as of this evening, I have completed all the scaling/cleanings, extraction of two teeth and filling of 5 cavities and am DONE! A missed appointment this morning (I do not know why I insist on writing the wrong time in my calendar !) proved to be a boon, as I was told to come back at 5, and that I could call at 4 as that client might cancel as well. Instead I went into the office at 4, and a delightful young intern completed all the necessary work. However I have been feeling a bit "off" and beat up and have been taking it somewhat easier and adding echinacea to my herb regimen for a bit.

While I am sure that the rainy weather of late has not helped (I moved to Maine for the WINTERS, remember?) and neither has skating on icy hills tending the fowl, I am doing all I can to be on top of my game come knee surgery time.

The other news hereabouts is that we finally got my wonderful little 4 harness floor loom, gift from Moose-dog's breeder and friend, assembled. I am anxious to get it warped up and am planning to construct a warping board this weekend from some of the 3/4" plywood left over from hex making and some dowels scavenged from marketing banners when I worked at the store.

Now, as we move ahead into the new year, both as the calendar turns this coming week and the light increases -- albeit imperceptibly at the moment -- toward spring, I shall spend some time focusing on preparing the house and myself for my knee replacement surgery which comes with the next dark moon.

Friday, December 19, 2014

As Yule Approaches

Yule, the winter solstice, comes on Sunday, along with a new moon.  I cannot think of a better time to reflect, renew and reaffirm!

Toward that end, this week has been largely devoted to organizing and cleaning, when I was not painting on the two large hex signs that have been ordered. With any luck, they will both go to UPS on Monday, but that story is for next week's blog.

Moose at his new a-frame dog shelter.
Dog yard fence
The first big job for this week was getting the "dog yard" and shelter set up for Moose, our baby Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD). We recycled some of the old wooden fence panels from the original dog yard to connect the back stoop to the turkey pen and added a short fence section between the eastern most fowl pen and the house, enclosing Moose with poultry pens (so he can get familiar with his charges and they with him). LGDs are not mature, and therefore not trustworthy to be alone with stock -- let alone fowl -- for at least two years. He accompanies me into the pens, on a leash so that I can easily correct behavior, as I do chores. Guardian dogs are not pets, but working member of the farm team and, while given attention and praise as they work, live permanently with the flocks and herds that they guard, as these dogs are bred to do. Moose is 1/4 Great Pyrenees,  1/4 Anatolian, and 1/2 Akbash and the offspring of Cooke and James, who work with my friends Michele and Vester at Hickory Hollow Homestead in Oklahoma.
Typical LGD pose and habit... laying in the snow OUTSIDE the
dog house!

 While waiting for her outdoor home, Moose lived on our back porch with the two fiber bunnies so it will come as no surprise that the second big job of the week was cleaning up puppy mess!  Not just a bit of poo, but as a curious -- and bored -- pup he managed to shred several boxes and reorganized some of the other stuff stored on the porch. I also had been negligent in the cleaning of the pans under the bunny cages, so when all was said and done, I sent three feed sacks of compostables out to the pile and had a much cleaner room.

The last big project for the week was collecting up the trash,  sorting recycles from the things that SHOULD be recycled but are not accepted at our local center and collecting the returnable bottles. Over the past month, my renewed and upgraded commitment to waste minimization has born obvious fruit. We had only two, 50 lb feed sacks of trash for the month (and not packed solid either... less than 10# by weight I estimate) and less than a full 20 lb cat food bag of "should be recycles" that I have not yet found a place to recycle. Our local center accepts only paper, #2 plastic, cans and glass.

Bottled lemon juice for Tractor Guy's sweet tea and ranch dressing were the last things packaged in #1 (clear) plastic that we typically were buying and both of those came to an end this month. TG is using a combination of Lemon Zinger herb tea bags along with his black tea for his brew and the juice of actual lemons, which come packaged in a compostable skin. And he readily accepted the home made ranch dressing using the mayo that I bought in a 1 gallon #2 plastic jar , home grown herbs, garlic and onion and a bit of raw milk that had "gone by" as a substitute for sour cream.

As I have reflected on our efforts to live more lightly on the land, I have to give thanks to a friend for bringing to my awareness that, of the folks out there who do not currently recycle, some of them are people that I would expect -- by virtue of shared lifestyles and beliefs -- to be beating the drum along with me on the front lines of the cadre of active recyclers. And yet, they are not. I understand that it takes a wee bit of time and a definite commitment in many places, to do so.

We have come a very long ways since the late 1960s, when recycling centers were scattered willy-nilly in parking lots of grocers and some other stores. In their initial effort to appear "green" (long before the term became common, let alone before we discovered the commercial effort of "greenwashing") the Glass Container Manufacturers opened a pilot program in southern California, in the city of Industry, to recycle glass containers and expected folks to make a dedicated drive to this totally commercial area with their paper bags of bottles and jars! Ecology Action, of which I was a part, was instrumental in calling them on their publicity stunt and getting them to move to a more environmentally friendly process of picking up the glass -- by the ton -- from our centers.

Nowadays, many towns have curbside recycling right along with curbside trash pickup and it is as easy to recycle as to pollute the earth by sending things to the dump. ...And yet, folks don't do it. Folks who, in other aspects of their lives, live frugally, naturally, and who may even espouse earth-centered spirituality find ways to justify sending recycles to the trash on a regular basis.

Our stable of urban legends abounds with stories of recycling materials gone astray and thrown in the waste stream. I do not dispute that such things happen, though after the fines that were levied on companies and possibly individuals, I have not found any documented accounts of such on a large scale since 2006. But regardless, others' disregard and wrong actions can never be a suitable justification for OUR actions or lack thereof.  

As the moon turns new and the calendar turns as well, I would like to encourage -- or challenge if that would more effectively motivate -- everyone who reads this to:
  • REFLECT on their relationship with Planet Earth.
  • RENEW our commitments to our planet, our fellow beings and our Gods to take care of what we have been blessed with.
  • REAFFIRM that we understand that what we do, each and every one of us, affects each and every other one of us.
Recycling IS the right thing to do. Being aware of, and taking responsibility for our purchases -- including the packaging thereof -- IS the right thing to do.  So let's do it! Lets ALL do it and move forward into 2015 with intent... and lighter trash cans!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Moose Spirit Tour - Part 2

I Meet the Moose!

Moose, by daylight, sporting Oklahoma

Very first thing upon arriving at Hickory Hollow Homestead in the middle of the night was, of course, a visit to the animals, including Moose! It was way too dark to consider photography (and admittedly I was tired as well) but little Moose and his two remaining siblings were eager to jump on the fence and say hello. Actually, that was not the first thing... first of course I had to be checked out and approved by Mama Cookie. I guess since her people brought me home, I was a shoe-in.

I had a peek at the goats, a couple of pretty heritage turkeys, several groups of sleepy hens and two pigs awaiting a trip to the butcher. The farm cats made their appearance and one had to check out the car while we were unloading. Apparently it is known for "hitching rides" this way, as I was told this was how he came to the homestead.

After some great conversation, and the remains of the wine left over from my motel stay night, I tucked into a most welcome and delightful guest bed. After three days on the road, I was most appreciative of the memory foam mattress and especially of the vibrating capability (and I didn't even have to feed it quarters )!

Next day I got to see the homestead by daylight, and made friends with my Moose. Michele took me on a tour of the place by golf cart (her mobility device and a very impressive one indeed). My only experience with these carts previously was on actual golf courses, with manicured green paths. Daredevil Michele took her cart down paths that had me holding on to the arm and wondering about her sanity. (Just kidding, Michele!) Honestly, though I was very impressed with the get up and go through the rough muddy trails, up and down hills of this little electric powered vehicle. Michele is disabled and needs the extra assistance and my knees sure didn't mind riding either. In fact, I will be on the lookout for a similar vehicle for here at Fussing Duck Farm this coming year.

Hickory Hollow Homestead is, as most subsistence farms and homesteads are, a work in progress. It is amazing what these folks -- neither  of whom are the proverbial spring chickens and both of whom have physical issues that might make one opt for a life lived on the couch, via remote -- have done in just a few years. Using mostly scrounged materials, they have closed in a pole barn, erected pens and shelters for various creatures and begun selective logging to open up the forest a  bit. Much of Michele's focus is on homestead type crafts, such as soap and cheese making (using the milk from her herd of goats) and the manufacture of salves and lotions using her knowledge of local plants and herbs and wildcrafting. 

She also is a fellow "fiber fiend" with multiple spinning wheels and looms tucked about and a large stash of fiber with which she plies these crafts, as well as felting. In fact, I got a personal class in wet-felting of soap one of the days I was there! We (Michele, her grand daughter and I) stepped in to play shop keeper for a friend of hers who had just broken her knee and needed someone to keep the antique and gift shop open on Saturday afternoon and evening. Michele gathered up a bunch of stuff for crafting and in between waiting on customers, I was shown the art of felting. It was a fun way to pass the time, but I fear that I really do not have the patience for it as a regular hobby. I did manage to complete a felted bar of soap, though.

Much to my surprise, Michele gifted me with a small 4 harness floor loom! Thanks to the help of her husband, Vester, we were able to take it apart sufficiently to load it in the little car, with room to spare!  I am anxious to get some warp and set up to do a bit of weaving.

Not wanting to send me home with a dirty dog (which both the car rental company and I appreciated) Michele gave Moose his first bath on Sunday.
Bath time! He was unsure, but
mostly ok with it.

I got to hold and cuddle him while Michele
took the brush and blow drier to the
back end.
Clean Moose, but not happy to be in a
crate to stay clean.

 A clean pup and I headed east on Monday. It was great to visit another homestead, but I knew that things were hanging fire back at the sign of the Fussing Duck and hex central, and despite getting a great rest at Hickory Hollow, I was pretty sure that the trip back would be less than fun. Long distance, long nights and cat naps in an economy car pulled in next to the big rigs at a truck stop are wear on an old body. By the time I was approaching New York, I was already beat, it was dark and raining again and the Tappan Zee bridge was in hiding. I finally decided to grab the first interstate that purported to be heading east and follow it until I found something I knew or my wheels got wet and I knew it was time to turn left.

Eventually I ran into the George Washington Bridge, an old friend, who dropped me on I 95. Even in my brain dead state, I knew that was the way home.

Moose waits wile I open the gate.
Turkeys, right, no problem.
Moose meets the chickens. THEY
are not so sure about this!
I am still, I think, recovering from the trip. I know the stuff I brought back has not yet been put away, and I am not caught up with indoor chores. Moose, at least, seems to be settling in ok. He has been doing chores with me on leash, but I have not really had to hold onto the leash, just put it on him to make a longer handle, if needed. I know there will be much more training involved, but for now, things are going well. Hopefully we will have housing and a pen for him built this weekend and he can continue to become familiar with our routine and needs.

While I was away, Tractor Guy packaged and shipped this little Love and Happy Home hex sign, which I completed just before departure.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Moose Spirit Tour, part 1

Your weekly update is late again this week, but at least I have what I think is a good excuse: I have been on the road, hunting hex signs in Pennsylvania and finally, ending Frigga's day on the final miles of my trek to my actual destination, Hickory Hollow Homestead. Hickory Hollow is the home of my friends Michele and Vester and the reason for my journey, the LGD pup Moose Spirit of the Penobscot.

The first part of the week was occupied with lists.... things to cross off before I left (bills paid, fuel bought for the house) and things to collect and prepare to make my hopefully relatively low budget trip more comfortable. And, as always, madly painting a hex sign so that it could dry and be package after my departure by Tractor Guy.

We also acquired an unexpected new mouth to feed at the monthly MOFGA potluck. Friend Bonnie had a
new litter of kittens in house, just at the age to find new homes and she was looking to hand off a young male with beautiful coloring and lots of vim and vigor. I fell in love with the little guy, who looks a lot like a kitty from my past named Moonshadow and I knew that having a new baby in the house, especially one that purrs, would be likely to distract TG a bit from missing me during my away mission. We eventually named the little kitten Nitro, but being true to his name and his species, getting a good photo of him has proved a bit difficult.

Having settled Nitro in, as much as a kitten can be settled, and Wednesday having arrived, we were off to rent my wheels for the week, and I was eager to depart despite an early winter weather event that was pelting us with slush. Travel out of town was no problem, but my plan to supply myself with road rations to augment the cups of frozen soup and mason jars of cold brew coffee in Newport, and additionally get some extra bucks via the PayPal card from the hex account, had a serious kink. The card would not work. I had authorized the new card – or so I thought – early in the week. This procedure generated red flags at PP, which required me to document who I was and where I lived with a scan of a utility bill and ID uploaded to them, and I thought that once that hoop had been cleared, that all was well. I should have known, though, when on Tuesday night I noted a nag email from PayPal reminding me to activate the card. I thought it was just a glitch, but boy, was I wrong. Eventually I did get the card activated, but not before my first night's layover. Needing money NOW to have on hand for an unknown amount of tolls, I thrashed around for a couple of hours in Newport only to discover that the only credit union in tow n is not part of our network and I had to make do with writing a check at WalMart for $20 over – the limit – as I bought a new leash for Moose.

When I finally was able to hit the road, I was greeted with miles and miles of typically boring interstate made less interesting by overcast skies and fog and more troubling by slushy roads, fast moving trucks flinging said slush, and intermittent rain. The challenging weather continued through Maine, Massachusetts and all along the way and into the early darkness. Thanks to the fact that the rest of the US – outside of Maine, it seems – ARE into signage, and my having broken down the step by step instructions from Google Maps, each step of the way went smoothly, up to and including finding my way on the unfamiliar route over the Tappan Zee Bridge (with its holiday lighting shining brightly) and into Pennsylvania.

I managed to hit some of the major traffic areas near the rush hour (I say “near” because the traffic was actually rushing, not the stop and go/standstill thing that always makes me think “rush hour” was named by the law of opposites. After spending several years tucked away in the boonies, I was pleased to discover that my mad traffic driving skills, born and honed by being a neophite driver in Los Angeles as a teen, have not left me. Without much thought I took up my usual position in a center lane and watched the traffic ballet unfold around me as cars entered and exited the stream, stage right and left, and merged gracefully across 5 lanes, at one point. When folks know how to properly merge, it is a thing of beauty.
It was getting late, but not nearly as late as I had feared to arrive. I had scoped out several possible places of lodging before hand, but was surprised to see no highway signage indicating motels and no large, brightly lit signs rising over the landscape. When I did find one highway sign with the icon of a bed, that offramp led me well away from the interstate, into what seemed to be a less desirable part of town, to one of the sleazeball properties that I had reviewed and rejected. The location of the motel, with the two nearest businesses being “adult” shops, confirmed my initial impression.

ASIDE: if that is what one does to be an adult, I choose to remain a kid, for sure!

I drove around for at least an hour and a half, getting on and off each ramp in town and exploring both ways, north and south of the interstate for what I thought was a reasonable distance, with no luck. It was getting VERY late and I was getting VERY tired when I finally happened upon a Holiday Inn and blew the budget all to heck. If I had not seriously needed electricity, a good internet connection and a place to spread out maps I probably would have slept in the car rather than fork over $100 (WITH AARP discount factored in.) I am sorry folks, but in my world (which I will continue to be very happy to live in, thank you!) HI is NOT a $100 a night property, breakfast (which I passed up in order to hit the hex trail) or not.

Fortunately, the hex hunting went very, very well. I started out with the tour map that a new online friend had provided and quickly went to the “what's around that bend? What's over that hill?” mode, criss-crossing and backtracking, finding signs on barns on the return down a road that I had missed going the other direction. I will write in more detail my thoughts and observations on the hexen in their native habitat once I have a chance to sort, organize and give a thorough eye to all my photos.

Enough to say, I am glad that there is no “bag limit” in hex hunting!

I stopped at a McDonalds to use their electricity and net access to process and upload the first batch, then hit the road again with the eventual goal of finding The County Seat, a shop selling chair caneing and basketry supplis and run by the young lady who supplied my map. I wanted to say “thank you” in person, and check out the hexen on their property, which I did. And she gave me good directions to the
Moose Spirit Tour @The County Seat,
home/studio of Johnny Claypool, a well known local hex painter who actually still paints them, instead of doing commercial silk screen. On the way I got to drive over a lovely covered bridge (with hex sign decorations, of course) and practice my skills in taking a little town car up a steep and rough driveway that was much more suited to a 4WD pickup, or at least a Subaru. Mr. Claypool was not at home, but I had a nice conversation with his cats and took some pictures of his digs
Home/studio of Johnny Claypool
and work on display.

Day three was pretty much a repeat of day 1, minus the financial follies and slush... a very long day driving in the rain and fog, which ended with the delightful mistress of Hickory Hollow coming to meet me in the parking lot of the local McD's and giving me headlights to follow to their place. I had managed to finally get Google Maps to load, but I am sure that Michele's route was more direct. Google certainly did NOT tell me to drive through the parking lot of Tractor Supply and then make a left!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

On Being Thankful

Abundant Prosperity with Smooth Sailing Through Life
Hex sign from Dutch Hex Sign
Gratitude is a wonderful thing. It can lift the spirit and even open up the pathways to greater abundance and blessings. Sometimes I think it is easy to be grateful when things are good and much harder during times of trials... but when I think back over my life, the opposite seems much more the case. During times of abundance and "smooth sailing" as the scalloped borders in many of my hex signs invoke, we are often too caught up in enjoyment and delight in the easy flow of life that we totally forget or overlook a chance to express gratitude, whether it be to our God or Gods or just to the Universe At Large.

Honestly, I don't think it matters one hill of beans whether or not we give thanks TO a deity, but I think it matters a whole heck of a lot that we do express gratitude -- often and heartfelt -- for the blessings that surround us. I wish there were words that did not automatically come with religious connotation with which to talk about this subject, because it not only transcends religions, it transcends religion as well.

I know a couple of dyed in the wool atheists -- my former in-laws, who I used to call "evangelical atheists" on account of their fervent and continued support of atheist causes, who would often voice the words "Thank God" even though they did not acknowledge a divine being, as the need to be thankful presented itself and they had no other words.

As a Pagan, and a Witch, I try to keep an attitude of gratitude at all times and express to my Gods and Goddesses my appreciation for everything from being able to get my creaking bones out of bed in the morning to the opportunity to provide sustenance for my family -- with Their help -- from the gardens, flocks and fields.

This week, as we mark what some may consider a Christian holiday -- Thanksgiving -- I have been especially mindful of many things for which I am thankful: 

Christmas, left and Thanksgiving, right
peer in the front door. A peeping tom?
Thanksgiving as supper!
Thanksgiving -- the turkey -- and friend Yolanda who gifted us with him and his companion, Christmas, as young poults. Thanksgiving dressed out at 32 pounds and I am also thankful that my oven held
him! -- even if it did cause the rack to bow a bit!
Heritage turkeys, L; young layers, center and main layer flock, R
all have yards and houses now, across the back yard.
The time, material, energy and help of Tractor Guy in our big push to get all the fowl moved to a central location and get pallet houses build and tarped to give them more space and shelter, a project which was completed as the ground covered with the beginning of our second serious snow storm of the season. 
#hangingout #hardcore
And, despite the snow, you gotta know that I am a hard core line drier when I don my snow shoes for the first time in a season to get the laundry to the line! I shoveled paths to the fowl pens because I knew I would need to shovel to open the gates, but for the laundry, it was snow show time for sure. Only problem with "hanging out" in the winter... the lines get shorter!  LOL
And I am also especially thankful for the help of an old friend and young geek in Atlanta, Eric, who administers the server that runs for his help not only in bringing the site into the era of the mobile device, but also his diligence in helping move the site to a more secure server.
Protection, L and Earth Star Flower, R
Protection sign in place
And to my customers, as well, for their support and orders. This week I shipped two small signs to Pennsylvania, to be installed on small barn-like out buildings.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dark Moon Approaches

12" exterior
Welcome to the week's musings!  To the left is the 12" Welcome hex sign that shipped this week, to NY. Also on their way, today, the Protection and Earth Star Flower signs. It's been a busy week in the cycle of the hex studio!

All of life is cycles. Heck, LIFE is a cycle... and in an effort to keep things rolling along, I have adopted, some time over the past months, a cycle of release, of de-junking, re-homing, of clearing out cob webs and making room, passing along heirlooms that were only taking up space and using the cycles of the moon as a rhythm and timing for the hauling of trash and recycles.

And Saturday the Dark Moon cometh, so this has been the week of release. I passed along a tote full of video game systems and games, which had been given to me by a friend for just this purpose, as she re-homed the odds and ends collected as part of a messy divorce. She wanted to be free of the residual energies and I had offered to act as a clearing house (in many senses) for her extra stuff. The tote was handed off to a young family with three kids, a hard working dad and a stay-to-home homeschooling mom who struggle with all of the issues that I know well from walking in those shoes -- and who, also, enjoy the same blessings that my family did during those days. It was a great joy to be able to help.

Additionally, as I shut down my design business, I have been collecting an amazingly large quantity of "business stuff" that I no longer need... file folders in massive quantities, odd-size envelopes by the dozens, odd bits of this and that... which might prove useful to someone and most of which are still in pristine condition. These odd ends have been collecting in a box for several weeks as I have been putting the new workspace back together and being joined by some other odds and ends, made up a full, huge dog food bag to be carried to the charity store. Of course I KEPT all the paper. You realize that means reams and reams of it, is sizes from half sheet stationery to tabloid size for the printer... and various specialty papers as well as ink jet t-shirt transfers and the like. Having grown up in a house where Dad brought paper home by the ream and the stash often included large heavy sheets designed for drafting (which he taught) and even Mylar, a house without an abundance of paper is a very scary place to be, in my world at least!

Now, the collection box sits empty, awaiting the next month's load and the blessings have been passed along.

Since the local dump and recycling center is only open certain days of the week, today will be the day to carry the small load of recycles and trash to that facility. If you have been reading this blog for very long, you likely know that I despise waste and have been hard at work on "waste minimization protocols" for many years. I feel like there is still much progress that I can make, despite having far, FAR less to haul off than a typical household. The fact that we can easily haul our trash to the dump in the back of a Subaru, monthly would be incomprehensible, I suspect, to those living in many of the homes I pass on my trips to town. I see that much trash -- or more -- piled in bags at the curb on trash day every week at some homes.
I am still set on my course to minimize, and hopefully eventually eliminate, the collection of containers that are not accepted for recycle here. My center takes only plastics of the #2 variety, which eliminates all of the clear plastics, which are so abundant on the grocers' shelves. This week, I bought a gallon of mayonnaise, which is the smallest size that is packaged in #2 (the small quantities that are sold in glass jars at the health food store are outrageous in price) and we will see how that works. If it will keep well enough, even in the winter when we use much less of this condiment, this will be a solution. If not, I'll have to either make a commitment to making it or buying the expensive glass jars. Making would be my choice, since when I use it, it's usually as an ingredient -- in tuna salad for example. However, Tractor Guy often uses it as a spread, on hamburgers, other sandwiches, etc. which would not work terribly well with have to make even a one-egg batch each time. But time will tell. At this point, I have not accumulated too much non-recycleable plastic... maybe a big dog food bag full... and the quantity will decrease more when the last two large plastic bottles of lemon juice are used up and I begin buying actual lemons for TG to use in his tea. I am thankful that he has gone back
home of the Frigga fires
to drinking iced tea -- as opposed to lemonade -- for his go-to beverage, both on ecological and economic fronts, though I do wish that he could just drink water. I guess I was raised funny and I know I see the world really differently, but it just never has made sense to me that one should need to have flavor and sweetness in EVERYTHING.

And, to round out the week of release, will be my Frigga fire tonight, which uses up the odd bits of accumulated paper and wood which will burn in my outside fire place as I sit with the Ladies.
Maine Grains 40# oats, L
50# sifted whole wheat flour, R
On a totally different note, we spent Wednesday on a road trip to Skowhegan to acquire 50 pounds of flour and 40 pounds of rolled oats from a business I have been wanting to support since its inception, Maine Grains. Local grain, locally processed, organic (not certified) and hopefully the large quantities will last 6 months or so, and make the trip worth it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Spinning my Wheel(s) and Being Productive

The week started with a great digression from the big project at hand -- that being the yearbook for the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center in North Carolina -- as I had previously committed to a stint as a volunteer spinner doing demos for the much closer Page Farm and Home Museum at the University of Maine in Orono. Silly me, though, when I volunteered to do the demo at the Harvest Festival, I thought this was an event AT the university/museum... It didn't even dawn on me when I heard an ad for the Maine Harvest Festival that I would be working this large, popular event. Instead I wondered at the wisdom of the University scheduling their event on the same weekend! Fortunately I DID get a clue Friday night and though I was a bit panic-y at the thought of having to brave getting my stuff to that venue, I was committed so off I went.

Now, a bit of explanation... the Festival was being held at the relatively new Cross Center, which replaced the old auditorium in Bangor, and I had previously been to only one event there... a Mannheim Steamroller Christmas concert last year. At that time I was highly UNimpressed with the layout of the auditorium, parking and traffic flow. To say the I expected to find Saturday morning to be a massive "cluster-beep" is vastly understating my expectations. And my previous venture into the world of the presenter was at the MOFGA Common Ground Fair this fall, which was a most stressful day.
I am happy to report that, for this event at least, the Cross Center had it under control. I easily found a place to park the truck, it was a short haul into the auditorium with my stuff -- I was allowed to bring some hex materials to display along with my wheel, which tied in on account of the hex design painted on it -- and they had no problem with my using the small cart, dirt and manure in the wheels to boot, to move the stuff.

I spent a wonderful 6 hours spinning and talking to many folks who came through the event about fiber, history (though I do need to bone up a bit!) and hex signs. I even gave away a few business cards... hoping that some orders come from it!

The next day, though, it was back in the trenches with Core Sound, and with a few long evenings, I was able to send the book off to press in record time on Wednesday! Under two weeks to complete the layout of a 54 page book -- with all of the content being delivered in bits duirng those two weeks -- is not only a record for our collaboration, but made more so due to having been out of contact for 4 days after the nor'easter that took out our power!

During the time I am working on the book -- always a short deadline project -- pretty much everything else gets left undone. I did manage to squeeze in a round or two of laundry -- an essential chore that must be dovetailed with the weather during the winter especially when one prefers to "hang out." But having started the readjustment of work spaces at the end of the power outage -- but not having it complete -- has made for ever more domestic chaos during the week. I am looking forward to beating THAT into submission in the week to come.

Hex painting, too, has had to take a back seat, although a bit of progress has been made. I should have a small Welcome ready to ship Monday and the next to signs in the queue are halfway primed at present.

I did get the garlic planted yesterday (the latest it has gone in the ground EVER) though it still needs to be mulched and we dug most of the carrots. Carrots are waiting in the big cart in the garage for me to go through them, brush off the (hopefully drier) earth, remove tops and gather them into a storage container.

Frigga's Day snow, early morning.
Stormy explores early morning snow --
not as deep as the nor'easter brought, though.
This week coming should allow me to beat down the house work and complete some of the pending outside chores. There is mulch to be laid and I need to make a couple of pallet-and-tarp poultry houses. I have been moving the tent that the young layers occupy a bit closer to their final destination each morning and after the houses are assembled, we will move the turkey pen around back as well. Fowl pens will occupy the space to the right of the lilac bush in the pic to the left, for the winter and we will store the grain on the back porch.

I love the newly fallen snow when it blankets everything and still clings to trees and brush. And I am very glad that Boo, the Subaru, is back in the lineup, with a new starter.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Big Snow... or Upta Camp Without Leaving Home

Fire place in the snow
We ended the week in a mad dash to beat a major storm that was predicted to hit Sunday, with large amounts of rain and/or snow - the forecasters could not make up their minds - and accompanying winds. Our main focus was to continue moving the two tents of young hens north -- outside the electric fence, but closer to the main flock -- and give the free ranging turkeys and guineas a place to get under shelter, should they want to. After moving the two tent structures and turning so the both opened to the south, with a bit of space between them for the other fowl, we laid a couple of chicken wire and wood fence panels from tent peak to tent peak and covered the whole thing with a huge tarp, doubled over as it is really, really big, and pegged down with step in posts. We rigged a few more of the white plastic posts along the south, to form a opening. The whole thing was just tall enough for me to duck under for opening and closing the fowl tents and to feed and water. The turkeys and guineas explored the space at once, and though they did not occupy it the first night, they did take shelter there once the storm began. The chickens, did not have to be rounded up, but the first night some of them did hunker down outside their tents, by the doors, but under the tarp. Surprisingly, the second night they all bunked together in the Yolander's tent. I am very glad that I had already taken the time to band each flock so I can keep track of who is who! They all have reddish coloring... As a quick throw it together project, we decided to try to put a few pieces of spare wood and some old window frames together to cover the fall lettuce as a cold frame.

The storm began on Sunday, maybe there was rain at first, before dawn, but from the moment I arose to see a dusting of white on
...and it begins... early Sunday morning.
the landscape, there was no stopping the white, fluffy, frozen precipitation! Between the falling and drifting snow, and the considerable wind, chores were interesting and more so on Monday. Though the snow stopped, the wind continued and the power had gone out. And the shovels were all in the garage! I had guessed a minimal amount of snow would
Later on Sunday, more than a few inches
fall, and boy was I wrong enough that possibly I have a potential retirement career as a TV weather girl!  LOL  I grabbed my sled for doing chores... and a shovel to dig out the gate and tent doors and I should have searched out the snowshoes, too. Drifts were well to my knees... over the top of my muck boots in more places than not. I got the backyard fowl tended...the new tent was rather weighted down by the accumulation of snow... and slogged back around to the original turkey pen, home of Tom, Lady Grey and Little Bit, and was I in for a shock!   Not surprisingly, the bird netting that Tractor Guy had strung over the pen, to keep airborne predators from snatching the final baby turkey, had accumulated snow and sagged to the top of their tent, and to the ground in many places, pulling the cattle panel fence in at crazy angles. I spotted Lady Grey and then shortly thereafter, Little Bit but Tom was nowhere to be seen. I fought my way in and began tearing at the former covering, fearing Tom was buried under the snow but fortunately there was a bit of an opening under the covering between their tent and the nearest fence corner (which was where I spotted the first two birds) and a walkway under the snow covered netting and the fence, which never quite leaned enough to touch the ground. Tom had been walking there, and soon called to me from an opening I had made near the gate. I was very relieved to see they were all ok, and set about tearing the cover mesh and righting the fence as best I could as I went along. The mesh still needs to be removed, and the fence fixed, but since we plan to move them out closer to the other fowl, we will do that all as one project, hopefully during the coming week.
blowing snow from the north added insulation to the back door

It was actually a pretty restful and enjoyable time, much like an enforced vacation and like I imagine many of my fellow Mainers experience when they go to their camps "to get away" for a bit... except that I didn't have the hassle of hauling food and gear anywhere. Having lived off grid for quite a few years, the lack of electronic entertainment and electric lighting has never been a problem for me. Not having a stream nearby from which to haul water, on the other hand, was somewhat vexing. And I never had to figure out the water issue for flushing the outhouse, either!  LOL  We do store water, and fortunately have a relatively nearby neighbor who was wiling to run her generator to power her pump for us to refill the jugs once. Tractor Guy did have a good idea, late in the outage, of shoveling snow into canning kettles to melt on the stove for flushing and washing dishes. I DID add a bit of bleach, on general principles. And with that idea in my head, I also shoveled a bit of snow into a cooler to sit on the porch for the milk and meat that we bought on our town run on Wed.

Two days melt!
I had determined not to open the two freezers... one with meat and one with veggies... though we did use from the fridge freezer. Even the food in that one did not totally thaw, and operating on the principle that if it still has ice crystals, there is no issue with refreezing it, I am sure we have lost no frozen food during the event.  We did, however, loose the large picking of lettuce that I left outside Wed. night... temps got to freezing.

We also will have to repair one of the fence panels... at least... that was used to support the extra tarp over the fowl tents. As the snow melted, the "roof" began to sag badly, and I did not get the ice, snow and water removed before the concentrated weight of it broke at least one of the wooden members. Also, it seems that the cold frame has issues as well. The side supports bowed just a bit and that was enough to make solid placement of the windows iffy. Either they broke or fell in... today will tell.

Protection Hex Sign, painted by kero lamp light
On the hex front, I did discover that while it is possible to paint a hex by kerosene lamp light, it is not easy. I will be working like a mad fool to catch up on orders as the week ends.  On a good note, I did get the PayPal buttons on the web site to work, thanks to a tip from my server guy, that using the " for inches was what was making the new button code not work; replacing the " with the word inches was not a long or hard process and not only is the code working, but I have received the first order from the new set up.

With the coming of the full moon last night, and the astronomical cross quarter, we are into the days of transformation as I call the period between the end of October and the Feast of the White Haired One (the spirit of Winter) on the 11th of November. This is a time when I typically look for major changes to settle in to... physically as well as spiritually, following the As Above, So Below maxim. That, and seeking something to occupy Tractor Guy during the past week, motivated me to move forward on a plan to relocate my desk and work station in the former living room and to move our easy chairs and the TV to the former office/computer room. This was something that Tractor Guy actually proposed and I think it will work well... it will move the TV from the center of the house to the fringes and put it more in his domain since he is the major watcher and will allow me to consolidate my digital work, art work and fiber craft in one location. Being able to do this while the power was out and complete it as the power comes on, will both enable and motivate.

Tractor Guy will want the TV and I need to get my work station up and running ASAP as the unexpected vacation will have - as vacations often do - put my project with the Waterfowl Museum into overdrive/panic/behind schedule. The power was  restored Thursday. As much as I have enjoyed the time a bit farther from the world at large and the relative quiet (when one can ignore the neighbors' generators) I am rather peeved to have heard that the electric rates will be rising exponentially over the winter.

Our conversations, musings and blue sky rambling over the past few days have brought to the forefront several hopefully low cost alternative energy experiments that we do plan to implement, including playing with wind energy (initially to power and light a "kinetic art piece" in the spirit of the Tibetan Prayer Flags) and some beer/soda/vegetable can passive solar heating devices. Anyone in the area who has cans they would like to contribute to the cause is welcome to contact me. I will gladly pick up small quantities on my trips to the Bangor area and will be willing to pay 7 cents for each aluminum beverage can that was purchased outside of Maine and is therefore not eligible to be legally redeemed. I have stepped up to the plate with a case of Woodchuck hard cider in cans, to contribute to the cause!

On the health front, I visited the dentist Thursday found out I qualify for their sliding scale... apparently they needed me to sign something that allowed them to check with the unemployment office to determine that I am not drawing unemployment, since they are assuming that I am still "in the workforce" even thought I have SAID I retired, and I am drawing social security.  They also needed to see the letter from DHHS about my food stamp and MaineCare status, which fortunately did arrive and has confirmed that the case worker did perform his job, unlike the one I saw in August. Everything is effective again as of Oct. 1.

I am looking forward to squeezing out the time to plant my garlic in the coming week, though I do plan to set aside some of both the stiff neck and my newly bought soft neck bulblets for spring planting, just to see what happens if I can keep them that long. I may also "store" some in some moist earth on the back porch. This has surely been an odd garden year and I guess it's not over yet. There should still be kale and cabbage to harvest and I need to get the carrots out of the ground.... or mulch them well... as there are many freezing nights in the forecast.

And that is the news from Fussing Duck Farm and the hexeri for this week.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

...and what a week it was!

Frigga's day got away from me before I could write an update, so here goes...

Abundance and Prosperity
Poor Frigg got the short end of the stick yesterday, as I spent the entire day rewriting all of the web pages for the hex web site And, it appears, to no avail.... for the shopping cart is now more broken than ever. My server guy had thought that some malicious javascript was the culprit, so I killed off all the java but no go. I am planning, now, to just move away from PayPal and explore the store option that the Square company now has.

Earlier in the week, I shipped off a 24" Abundance and Prosperity hex sign and began working on a small Welcome sign, with a sign for Protection next on the list.

Much of the early part of the week was taken up with errands and appointments, many of a medical nature. I had to accompany Tractor Guy on his typical very early morning every-other-Tuesday this week, as he needed my input at his second med. appointment of the day and it makes no sense to drive an extra 40 miles just to avoid having to get up before dawn. I have to admit, though, that this single return to my previous workday schedule left much to be desired.

While he was at his first appointment, I hauled myself over to the DHHS office to try to straighten out the Medicaid (MaineCare) which was supposed to have gone into effect once again, retroactive to the time of my retirement. It hadn't, though the case worked had said the documentation would take some time, though the effect would be retroactive. Didn't happen... and on Tues I discovered that the office that I thought had opened at 8 actually did not begin seeing walk in folk until 9. I was thinking ahead, at least, and had my knitting and it was not that uncomfortable to sit in the car, listening to MPBN on the radio and knitting until time to queue up and become number 1 in line. I was seen rather quickly after 9, the proper adjustments were made and I was back picking up Tractor Guy in time to run some errands before his next appointment.

The next day I had my first meeting with the doc who, hopefully, will be installing my bionic knees soon. I am quite satisfied with the recommendation of physician given me by an RN friend. I especially like that Doc has a a good scattering of grey in his hair and his nurse is an RN. Unfortunately I have to have a clean bill of health from my dentist before the surgery, which may be a make or break event... all depends on how much work needs doing and if I can afford it in the next couple of months. I see dentist this coming week so I should have a better idea soon. If those numbers look good, I'll proceed to research the medical insurance numbers aspect, and if those numbers also are affordable, I will have both my knees worked on the third week of January.

That should, number once again willing, allow me to acquire the Livestock Guardian Dog puppy -- now named Moose (Moose Spirit of the Penobscot for long) that is growing and learning in OK with its doggy mom and dad and human mom and dad, my friend Michele and her hubby. We are exploring having K's daughter and son-in-law do some of the transport if they can and will, as well as options for us to tag-team drive both ways and for me to fly out and drive back Flying a pup is an outrageous expense!

Most of the rest of our energies this week have been spent on Boo, our Subaru, who is still not running nor giving up the bolt that needs to release for the starer to be removed. So, as winter threatens (and it is indeed threatening early this year...normally our first snow fall consists of a few subminiaturized snowballs that drop unexpectedly about this time of year... this year the weekend forecasts and bantering about various numbers of inches of snow accumulations!) we are preparing to batten down the hatches and see what happens.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Harvest and Seed and Changes, Oh My!

This has been a very busy, productive and satisfying week.

In the hex world, I completed and posted this lovely sign, a 2' Welcome sign that headed off to Ohio. Now on the painting table is an Abundance and Prosperity that should be completed soon.

Putting the garden to bed and completing the harvest have been high on the priority list, and continue to be though the protracted rain of the last few days -- which finally did turn into a reasonable nor'easter storm with heavy rain and wind, as we had been promised in the forecast -- put a literal damper on outside activities.

Not cranberries, asparagus seeds!
 After getting the ornamental shrubs and the cherry tree in the hedge row mulched, I picked up the weed whacker and attacked the weeds on one side of the strawberry bed and started on the asparagus. That was when I spotted the abundance of asparagus seed! The odd spring had me out of sync with the growth pattern of he spears, and I ended up letting several of them get way too big to harvest much earlier in the picking season than I usually do, since I love "speargrass" and do not think one can ever have too much of the stuff. But it appears the plants rewarded me with many many seeds to plant and plenty to share as well. This little plastic cauldron contains what I picked from only the first of several rows of plants. We will see what the nor'easter has left me this coming week!

I also picked the first half of the last of the parsley. Yes, still more of the stuff to come. This batch is getting dried. I eventually put the trays into a very slow oven as they were NOT drying well otherwise and fear I will have to do the same with the hanging bunches. The last picking, this coming week, will get frozen. I also got Tractor Guy down off his machine for a little "down in the dirt" harvesting fun/help with with celery and leeks. Unfortunately the
celery had gotten too hot and dry, apparently, during our week of summer and will have to be used in soups, stews and cooked dishes, as it is too tough and woody for eating raw. Celery is one of my challenges, and I shall try again this coming year. We have a plan in mind for a new duck pond, and my thought is to drain and refill it at least every other day (ducks are really foul fowl) and pipe the dirty duck water directly to the celery patch.

During the rainy days, I have been focusing on a continued mission to "de-junk," clean and organize the house, which has been neglected for... just about forever! Working in town, even part time, as well as running my business and farming left little energy during the summer and last winter... well things just got lost in the fog, I guess. I am thinning out stuff that I no longer use or need, and will be boxing up heirlooms, such as some of my old film cameras, to send off to the kids. Every month, in the days leading up to dark moon, I carry yet another box or bag off to the charity store in addition to offering things on the online free lists all month long. This week's focus was the kitchen/dining room and I am just about done. There is one cupboard that needs attention and the cutting board's accumulation of stuff... but the table has been clear for several days (in between being used for a baking marathon and processing food to store, that is), and the floor has been scrubbed. This process will continue until done, though when the weather cooperates I still have a massive amount to do outside. 

Along with the de-junking, hauling off trash, recycles and redeemables this week was of course time for the dark moon ritual. I held my ritual a couple of days early, as I wanted a fire and knew with a nor'easter in the offing, that it would be impossible at the proper time. Did some working for a friend, and successfully pulled the strings the way they were needed, so it was a good thing!

I did take one of the non-rainy days for an away mission... off to a friend's house to rake and collect leaves for mulch. I still have more I can do there, if I get the chance. The winds decided they wanted to play with me and I was not able to make the kind of progress I had hoped in raking and collecting, as I had to pretty much gather up and bag each rake full as I got it... and even then, many of the leaves made a break for the neighbors' yards.

We did, finally, declare the heating season to be open and connected up the propane wall heater and serviced and filled the portable kero, which has been used a few mornings. The wall heater is set to come on only when it gets really cold, as thus far I do not believe it has lit.

After my delightful "week at home" last week, this one has been characterized by running here and there, mostly for medical stuff. Now that I have changed medical offices, my new primary care provider is wanting to get a base line on just about everything and I have agreed to some of it. Had a bone density test and blood work this week, and have an appointment today as well. Also planned to go all the way to Bangor on Tues to pick up an Rx for Tractor Guy and carry it to be filled, along with picking up other meds and a few staples for the pantry, so I could take in a session of the spin and knit group that I have been hanging out with, but my town visit was cut short by a call to the knit shop from TG. There was an urgent situation with our dog and he wanted me home. He had tended to it by the time I got here and all is well, but I still missed out on the "carrot" I had been using to get me through the shopping trip. On a positive note, though, I can report that slowly... very slowly.. I am getting the hang of this knitting thing once again. The tiny yarn and associated tiny needles still feel strange to me, but I no longer struggle to get through a round of knit knit purl purl and completed my last round yesterday in what seemed to me to be amazing time. I still have a few rounds to go on the ribbing, then I will have to pull out the pattern and watch the video to see what comes next!

Still more changes -- simplifications not of my doing... My second computer monitor died this past week. I have been using two monitors for years to give me the screen real estate that makes it easy to work on big projects with multiple content streams, but no more. Since I have closed the design business, I have only one big project, other then for my own work, and I'll do that by swapping windows like I used to. Not having the extra monitor allows me a window to the yard, garden and fowl-o-vision! It is great to look away from the screen and see the chickens, turkeys and guinea flocks ranging back and forth.

As the days shorten and the cooler weather comes in, I am drawn back to the hearth... to spinning and knitting and soon sewing... but the cleaning and outdoor work also must be done. Each year I hope to be ready for the winter by the end of October and thus far, each year, the work continues well into November . But one has to try!