Sunday, March 30, 2014

Too Much, Too Little

Feeling very "in between" these days. Oh, not like lots of folks, who have been going on about wanting it to be spring for weeks... or maybe months. I will say, though, that the warming trend that all but cleared our driveway yesterday -- after the end of the week storm that "only" redistributed enough snow to all but drift it shut again and made me thankful for an all wheel drive car, a straight driveway and much experience in judging how and when to just power through it all (it had been promoted as a major snow producing nor'easter) and dropped the overall snow pack visibly against the unofficial markers -- clothes lines now higher above "ground" and our can-on-a-stick for target practice no longer is in danger of being actually buried -- has made me antsy a bit.

Yes, anxious, even, for "mud season." and it looks like we will have a good one this year!

Shortly, I'll swap out the pic on my Facebook account to reflect crossing another month off the countdown in the Year of Transition. I have to make the "6" image today. Half a year down, half to go. No wonder I am feeling between, eh?

I was thinking this week that I really want a slower pace of life. LOL Not that the good ol' rat race has caught up with me here in the wilds of the Northlands, mind you... but never the less I need fewer irons in the fire and the sooner the better. I fear, though, that I am projecting that a little TOO hard, as the hours from my part time "day job" continue to be cut to almost a level of "why bother." Unfortunately the work load does not also shrink. Less money and less stress might be more tolerable; less money and more stress is decidedly a downer.

The hex orders are down. Truck is still not fixed, though at least the engine which ate up all of my meager reserves is here, missing some necessary parts and I have to go tomorrow to deal with the mechanic on that... and listen to his "I told you..." And then, of course, figure how to get, and afford, the extra parts.

And to add insult to injury, many of my last years seeds have decided not to germinate. Apparently the cabbages and their kin do not hold well; I have zero germination on cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and only a few cabbages. Crossing fingers that I can score some replacements at the seed swap later today. And finding a reason to give thanks for the later spring.

Brewing Beer at Rural Living Day
Pasture Management at
Rural Living Day
This weekend will be a whirlwind of going and doing. And as much as I learned yesterday at a Rural Living Day (classes on egg production, pasture management and beer brewing) and as much fun as I had carpooling with some friendly farmer ladies, and as much as I need, and am looking forward to the seed swap (and more classes) and regular pot luck today, I think the timing was off, for me.

It doesn't help that our car, the well used Subaru, Boo, is continuing to develop issues that need to be addressed. She needs new shocks and most recently began making a terrible "my brakes are gonna fail, fix me damn you!" sound. And we have no backup for the backup, with Artie the truck still tarped in the mechanic's back lot.

And it all takes money (which is in short supply) and time (ditto) and energy (double ditto -- 'cause both of us are feeling the strains of getting older, at the least).

So yeah, I'm whining, bitching, complaining, ranting... hoping that getting it out and sharing my frustration with the dark moon today will allow me to move forward, enjoy the day and the weeks to come, empower more hex sign orders, make productive use of the extra time-on-farm that my 10 hour work week this week provides, and allow that spring inside me that somehow got over-wound to release that potential energy in a spring FORWARD move.

Friday, March 21, 2014

"This I Believe..."

Darning a sock.
I believe in mending.

We have lots of sayings that mention mending: we mend fences, broken hearts, friendships.... or so our language says at this point. It seems, however, that we may well loose the meaning in the word as we loose the original meaning.

Farmers I know still mend fences, but how many of use actually KNOW a farmer these days. "Back in the day" everyone mended... cobblers mended shoes, homemakers mended all sorts of things... socks (which is what I was mending today when I was contemplating the act), and every manner of clothing. Every town had a fix-it man who mended broken appliances and tools, if the man of the house didn't have the skill. Most folks had a hammer with a mended handle (at least my folks did) that worked well until it -- the handle that is -- finally could only be helped by replacement.

Mending takes time. It takes caring about the object being mended. It required a mind set that believes things are worth mending... extending their useful life to the maximum... rather than just being discarded before they are totally used up. Yes, the mended shirt or pants won't be "Sunday-go-to-meeting good again, most likely. Most folks can't re-weave a patch that will pass as "good as new" but they will do just fine for a trip to the grocery store, housework, mowing the lawn... everyday use. But instead, we have special clothes for this and special clothes for that and discard them when they develop holes, or stains, or look less than new. It's a pity.

Folks say they "can't afford" to buy good stuff, made from good natural fibers and made by folks -- in this country or others -- who are working for a decent wage. And instead they buy inexpensive, poorly made things of inferior materials -- often produced under sweatshop conditions -- and (a) complain because they don't last and (b) make no attempt to repair them.

I know many, many folks who do not even have the minimal skill to hand sew a small seam that has ripped (even if the fabric is undamaged) or sew on a button that has fallen off! And yet, our language still asks us to "mend" friendships. Where, may I ask, do we get the practice in this skill, if not by taking the time to mend the much easier to fix inanimate objects around us?

Yes, I believe in mending. And in using up, wearing out and making do. I darn socks, patch jeans, fix collars and cuffs, replace zippers, and when all is done, the rag bag is filled with the remains, working zippers and random buttons salvaged, and only bits and pieces go to the landfill. And the rag bag keeps us in cleaning materials. Paper towels need not apply.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Comes to the Northlands

Yes, it does. Every year, in its own time. That is not the time of the calendar, nor, really, of the sun. Not of man (or woman, for that matter) for sure... but it comes. Every year.

It comes first with the rising of the sap and the tapping of the maples. Buckets and taps and snowshoes for some, and lines of tubing for others, running down hill to the gathering spot. And fires in the sugaring house, cooking down the thin sweet sap into honey colored syrup for pancakes and waffles... and flavoring bowls of snow, scooped up from early spring snows.

For yes, it does snow in the spring, here in the Northlands. Most years, it does so more than once, even as the temperatures rise and the ice and old snow pack from winter storms (hopefully) slowly melt and find the aquifer and flow gently into the awakening creeks and rivers. We won't see "ice out" of many rivers and lakes for some time yet, though most of the ice fishing shacks have been removed. Better safe than sorry, though each year someone misjudges the strength of the ice and puts their snowmobile (sled to most folks) or pickup into the water.

Even in the years when spring comes earlier, many folks have been calling it for weeks. But for folks like me, who are here because we chose to be, or need to be to feel our spirits to be whole, the wheel turns in its own time and we do our best to stay in sync.

I am not sure if I will have leggy and overgrown seedlings this year or not. It's always a gamble... farming itself is always a gamble, after all... if the soil texture and temperature, the air and the winds, rain and sun, will cooperate to bring actual transplanting dates in line with the guesstimated dates upon which we base our seed starting. But as the sun moves north along its path, giving us longer days, we move -- sometimes imperceptibly -- into the days of spring, with green things spouting on the growing racks, a change in the altar... and early spring snows (like today) to add to the ground water.

Soon everyone will know spring is on its way, but for now, be open to the more subtle signs. They are out there.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sugar(ing) Moon

Many cultures name the full moons. The name I most often see associated with the March full moon is "worm moon." While worms may begin to become active or to be noticed in March in other places, here in the Northlands, they are still asleep deep underground, under (today) a deep white blanket.

Some celebrate this as "the last full moon of Winter" ...which I truly understand...

Plowing out after the snowfall, March 13, 2014
No, Winter – Old Man –
you won’t crush me!
Try to bury me with
your white mantle!
Like the squirrel,
I have stores beyond your reach.
Make all creatures hole up (to die?)
I have a shovel! Now
the deer walk on human trails to feed.
Freeze the water!
I have fire,
and you give in abundance
the stuff of drink.
Fade Earth’s colors
to sap my spirit!
I have paint, and threads and Summer,
captured in celluloid and glass.
No, Old Man,
though you try your best –
and may claim others –
you won’t have me!

       Jj Starwalker   3/7/93
and give thanks for surviving the season. But to me, this is the Sugar Moon.

Those who have trees of sufficient size have tapped their maples and the sap is running. We have had what we call the Sugar Snow, a storm which temporarily interrupts the awakening trees and sends the sap to earth again, which only serves to prolong the surgaring season by delivering a longer run of sap for the taps, the boilers and eventually for syrup for our pancakes.

One might even look at the Sugaring moon as a metaphor. Even as the snow continues to blanket the earth, and even to fall in great abundance, the calendar moves relentlessness on towards spring. We see it in the lengthening days and periods of sun and in the above freezing temperatures that periodically shrink the snow pack, thus sweetening our days with thoughts of emerging flowers, returning birds and busy days of starting seeds for later transplant.

So, hail, Sugar(ing) Moon! Hail to the late snows of the turning of the seasons and to the slow awakening of the trees. We welcome the increased production of eggs, with their bright sunny yolks. And give thanks for the sweetness of life and having wintered well.

Monday, March 10, 2014

March-ing On

It's winter, still, here in the northlands. And will be for a while yet, though the earth continues to move in it's cycle toward Vernal Equinox. Equinox is not, really, the beginning of spring here, but more like a promise... a whisper... as the days grow longer, of a spring-to-come.

The fox that made an attempt on one of our silkie banty hens, only to be scared off by K's yells, has come back for two more visits. His second try came virtually on the heels of the first one: three passes in the early morning gloom shortly after the first day. Each time the turkeys gave warning and K, vigilant in his recliner with trusty flashlight at hand, rushed to the porch to confront the varmint with light and yells. On the third pass, K raised his arms up high in the classic monster pose and roar-growled, flashlight still in hand. After that, Foxy was absent for a while.

It's been back once but as yet has not scored a meal. Hopefully his last visit, two days ago, will mean that he's gone to other hunting ground for the morrow, as K has an early appointment in town and as we have only one vehicle at present, we will both be in town for the entire morning, leaving before dawn. And we won't be returning straight away after I get off work, either, as we have promised to lunch with a friend, to deliver her eggs and get money for one final fruit tree for the cooperative orchard we are starting this year.

This week we will begin building more mini seed blocks and seeding the cole crops. Now, finally, I have all my seed stores organized, sorted and easily visible.

My hanging seed storage system finally is ready. I had been keeping them in a box for years, and it was hard to keep track of what I had, what I didn't and what I was short of.

Now, sorted by category (coles are together, so are squashes, but several crops have their own pocket... lettuces for example, and beans and peas (bottom row, bigger pockets for larger packets) I should have an easier time keeping track of my stores. I made the hanging thing from a piece of cotton duck and some light weight plastic from the fabric store that I had on hand. the plastic was left over from making transparent plastic "shower caps" for my bowls of lettuce for farmers markets. The final completion of the project was delayed because I had forgotten how much the plastic grabbed the pressure foot on my sewing machine; It was necessary to use tissue paper over the plastic (sewing blind, as it were) to allow the pressure foot to glide over the surface.

Hex orders continue to come in. I recently shipped a 2' Blessed Year, am working on a Love and Happy Home in the same size and need to get plywood for a 4' sign. I am planning to take video of the complete process for the big sign. However, that will likely get put off until later in the week. We have a winter storm warning for Wednesday with up to a foot of new snow predicted (over a base of about a foot of solid snow and ice remaining) with small amounts expected tomorrow and tomorrow night. The base is so solid that in many places I can walk on virgin areas without breaking through (at 170 lbs) and even K doesn't always break through ... and he masses a LOT more than I do, even spread out over his size 13 boots!

I look forward to the remainder of the week, with only minimal time required in town and much to do here on the farm.