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!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A "Reprieve" from Fall

Once again, Mother Nature has decided that it's not quite time for fall to arrive and stay and the temperatures rose to such that I am glad I had not yet put all the warmer weather clothes in storage. Once again some will get a "final wash" come Monday (which is predicted to be sunny) and this time I shall move them to storage.

Lots was accomplished this week, but as always, more remains to be done. I culled two of the first lot of chicken hatchlings...two roos that were getting very big and were hogging the layer pellets. I processed them as roasters (plucked, not skinned) and they will be transferred from aging in the refrigerator to storage in the freezer today. We have been letting hatchings 2 and 3 loose to forage during the day. The #2 crew usually end up back IN their tent, ready to be closed in against the predators however the #3 crew end up roosting next to, or on their tent but going out after dark makes "capture" and returning them to safe quarters easy... UNLESS they decide to roost under the forsythia which they did once this week. We did loose two more baby turkeys. Tractor Guy decided to rig 6 strand electric fence around the turkey pen and after that, even though he has slept more at night, we still have the remaining poult... thus far.

"House plants" - the
best kind - edible!
On the Great Door and Window Project, the majority of the work is done. Insulation has been installed and the curtains re-hung. I even hung my "The Witch is IN" sign yesterday and the basil, epazote, stevia and marjoram plants installed on a shelf unit in front of one of the windows! Hopefully, drywall will be up soon.

I have been attempting to re-work the shopping cart for the Dutch Hex Sign web site. I will be closing the account that the orders have been associated with and have a new bank account to associate with a new PayPal account, but the buttons steadfastly refuse to work. I am considering a Square store (though setting it up will require a lot of rethinking of format, on account of shipping issues). I do not have, nor want, a merchant account at the bank in order to accept credit/debit cards on line. I have seen, as a result of working with other businesses, how expensive that can be in the "off months" and would rather pay a somewhat higher amount per transaction over a monthly fee. If anyone reading this has a suggestion for an online store system that includes credit card processing, please email me at the.hexenmeister(at) with info!

Hedge row cleared of weeds.
I also have begun attacking the standing weeds with the string trimmer and applying my cardboard and mulch hay surrounds to them.  The cherry tree, forsythia bushes and a few odd trees have been readied for winter, short of adding the "rat wire" cylinders around the fruit tree trunks for protection from mice during the winter. I got started working around the strawberry and asparagus beds, and have collected a large quantity of asparagus seeds, with more yet to get. Hopefully, this coming week will allow me to complete the weed whack/mulch job on the perennials, or at least make a good go of it. I discovered that it is much easier to cut the very heavy cardboard (3 or more layers) with my jig saw over a knife, so have been making short work of the heavy recycled stuff for the trees and bushes.

Fourth planting of lettuce and late spinach have been making
wonderful salads.
The fall crop of spinach and lettuce is doing great! I did a bit of cultivation and weeding this week and a light picking. Plans are to surround this bed with a cold frame, eventually. Meanwhile, we have been enjoying salads with spinach and the last of the tomatoes.

I cooked an "end of season vegetable soup" in the crock pot and have some in the fridge for later... the very last of the 'maters, some onions, leeks, carrots, celery, peas, green beans and herbs from the garden. Yum!

24" exterior hex sign
In the hex sign world, I shipped a 24" diameter Welcome sign yesterday and cut circles to sand, prime and paint for two more 2' signs and three 12" ones. I am hoping that the orders continue to come in and that folks don't wait until the last minute to order for the holiday gift season. It does take time to complete an order when each work of art is painted to order and paint takes longer to dry in the winter. And, to complicate matters, I am not only planning to have knee surgery late this fall, but also to take a long road trip to bring back a much needed "livestock guardian dog" puppy from a friend out west.

I have been thoroughly enjoying this week, with my commitment to stay on the farm as much as possible. Next week, though, will have several trips to the doctors office (thankfully most of them are at the office in town and only one requires me to head to Dover-Foxcroft and the hospital for a test.) No, nothing is especially amiss... other than the knees... this is a new provider getting a base line from services covered bu Medicare. I will be glad when this running week is done. It is, however, the week of the dark moon which means for me that taking the recycling and trash as well as carrying the results of this month's de-junking to a charity store, are in order as well. This will mean one trip to Bangor, which I hope to schedule on Tuesday afternoon so I can spend some time with the fiber group at One Lupine.

With the attention I have been giving to de-junking and waste minimization, and not being able to  recycle any plastic beyond #2, I have committed to seriously minimizing purchase of products packaged in other types of plastic and producing at home those products that I cannot find in appropriate packaging (#2, glass or metal). I have already made my first small batch of pancake syrup and have a plastic bottle (#1) of commercial stuff to return to the store (bought by Tractor Guy the same day I made some).  Research shows that I will also soon begin making mayonnaise and ranch style dressing on a regular basis. I did find small quantities of each, packaged in glass, at my local health food store, but not at prices that make sense to me.

And that's life in the slow lane...

Friday, October 10, 2014

It's Been a Week!

Wood pile to the extreme upper right is ready for use!
I did not get to help out my fellow farmer, as planned, at the end of the week last. A fox, which plagued us earlier in the year, returned the continued loss of birds every time Tractor Guy manages to get a halfway decent sleep, is not acceptable. So the de-nailing of the piles of recycled barn wood got moved to top priority and I attached that straightaway Friday morning. I managed to get about a quarter of it processed before I came in for a lunch break and discovered a phone call from Tractor Guy, who had gone to town on errands.

Seems he had just filled up the car, which then totally refused to start and refused to give up a clue as to the problem. So my productive day got derailed into a rest-of-the-day rescue mission, which bled over into the next day as well. Fortunately there was an out of the way place that the car could stay near the station overnight and equally fortunately we have friends with BIG toys!  LOL We borrowed a friend, his BIG dump truck and equally BIG flat bed trailer to haul the poor car home where it is, as of now, not yet giving up any secrets as to what is wrong. Not that we needed yet another "gotta get done before winter" project, mind you.

A less than exciting thread of endeavor is also proceeding. After our "doctor" (actually a PA) left the

practice we had been using, I decided it was high time to move to an associated practice much closer to home (the original office was in the town where we first landed in Maine, over a hour away). I had my first "meet and greet" appointment with my new PA at the end of last week and we talked about how to proceed. My main health goal is to get my knees "fixed" so appointments for xrays and a referral to the surgeon of my choice were put on the list, as well as an appointment for my annual wellness exam. I am surprised and pleased at the speed with which this office processes stuff! The x-ray was scheduled for Monday and in just a few minutes, actually, I had a CD of data from both this visit and the previous one in 2011, to carry to the surgeon. They also had the referral visit scheduled within the week as well. That will happen the end of the month, though even if he agrees surgery is in order, I won't be able to have it done until much later in the year.

I am planning to go to Oklahoma early in December, to pick up a livestock guardian dog pup from a friend's dog's bloodline. A good working dog to help spell Tractor Guy on guardian duty is essential now that the predators have found us, and even though it will take a few years for the big guy to grow into his duties, I am excited about the prospect even though it means any potential surgery will be delayed a bit.

Here on the farm the harvest continues. I picked the last of the green beans, hoping they are ripe enough to make seed, though the pods are mostly not totally dry yet. I also found our few, struggling, sweet potato roots, and also found that some of the vines were not totally dead yet. I am going to try rooting them and over wintering, to see if I can get (a) an earlier start with them next year and (b) more "free food!" There are tons of carrots out there, a good lot of celery and leeks... all of which need to be dealt with. The parsley is still producing, so I need to pick a final time to freeze and dry and mulch the plants in the herb garden. There is a lot of mulching to be done, in general. Boy, do I need to figure out how to clone myself!

On another line of thought, I recently realized that on my trip to visit my friend who just moved into the state, as well as on the recon visit to her rental house in advance of her arrival, I passed through the town in which the Maine Grains mill, and their associated local retail outlet, is located. In my quest to use more locally grown food, I have been hoping to go to locally grown wheat flour, and I discovered that they do rolled oats as well! Somewhat expensive stuff, but if I can get money ahead to pick up 50 (or in the case of oats, 40) pound bags, it will be doable. Just need to get money ahead...

Tractor bucket makes an
adequate scaffold.

 On the hex sign front, I completed and posted this 36" diameter Heart Chakra sign this week and am on to working on a smaller Welcome, also for outside display.

And, finally, the last bit of electrical work has been completed on the window and door project. There is a flood light on either side of the window and door array, lighting the front area brightly when needed. And I DID need it last night, as I heard a kitty yowl and figured our "guard cat" was on duty. We had just run a skunk off in back so I was not sure what I would find when I lit up the front. No skunk, just the skinny feral cat that we saw leaping from the chicken pen last week. The growling was coming from our kitty and she and I ran off the invader.

Tree nursery
 Last project of the week was potting up the baby maple trees that had sprung up in the garlic patch. Garlic had been mulched with several large bags of maple leaves, and I guess the seeds were carried along in the mulch. Since we are committed to planting trees along the property lines and trees (usually) don't come free, these 23 volunteers will be nursed along for several years and then set out with the pines and oaks we have been buying. There is one more volunteer, growing right next to the foundation, that I will add to the collection soon.

Turkeys and guines come up for a treat ... and get underfoot when I try to do anything. Thanksgiving (left) and Christmas (right) are slated for holiday suppers. Their guinea friends will be lost, I fear, without them... but we didn't raise these birds as pets.

With the passing of this month's full moon I do feel some changes taking place. Things are beginning to FEEL more settled, even though there are still many "get ready for winter" projects in process, pounds of food to harvest and process and little visible progress has been made on the general level of chaos. After far too many weeks, it seems, of running here and there -- all for good purpose of course -- I am looking at a week with no scheduled excursions. Oh, I may run to our little town grocery or have to get tractor fuel or maybe, finally, a bit of kero for the heater, but I am actively looking forward to a whole week with nothing to focus on but home and farmstead and hex.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Autumn-Is-Coming Project Binge

Baby turkeys, just one day old!
Whew! It's been a busy couple of weeks! Baby turkeys (finally found the hole they were escaping through), putting The Hussy back into the flock, as she had started laying (in a pile of bailing twine in the garage!) and finally, a start on the reworking of the front door area to include two big windows. The first part of the project was to replace the former door -- which was falling apart, had been held together with tie down straps and replaced as a door by the sliders to the left of it -- with the Anderson crank open window on the right.

Other projects intervened, so the second window, to go on the other side of the sliding door, took a while to get installed, but it's in now. We are working inside on wiring, including the installation of a flood light on either side of the windows. Once that is done, I will close up the outside, insulate and begin finish work inside. 

Recycled barn wood, destined to become poultry housing.
We got derailed by my having scored the wood from a small old barn, which was being torn down. I was wondering where
the wood would come from for the construction of the chicken and turkey houses, also on this fall's project list. Well, here it is! Fortunately it was in a nearby community, as it took 5 Artie-loads to get it home over several days.Still needs de-nailing, but that is a lot of rough cut 1x and 2x stock!!

And, in yet another "long term hanging project," last month the Universe At Large presented us with
Just the right size! I love a comfortable place to lean back
which the tub in the front bath lacks.
a free claw foot bathtub. For the last 6 years, I have been wanting to replace the crappy, plastic, non-functional "spa tub" in the "master" bath with a decent claw foot tub. And we have been looking for one that was (a) free and (b) possible to get. Most of the free ones, it seems, are on the second floor in houses that cannot bear to have damage getting them down stairs, and are in Portland, to boot. Last month, we happened upon one, already removed from a cabin, and local to us, so we picked it up on the way to our monthly potluck. I had already arranged with the farmer at whose house we were meeting to pick up a load of manure, and he was kind enough to store the tub for a month, between potlucks, as I needed the manure much sooner than the tub. It was potluck time again last Sunday, so the tub came home. We will get it into the bathroom soon, but for now it abides on the deck.

In an effort to keep up to date with the blog and to develop more of a routine in general, I am planning to post at least once a week, on Friday. Friday is the day I honor Frigga, and in keeping with northern tradition values of Self Reliance, Industriousness and Perseverance it seems appropriate to share our homestead projects as well as other thoughts and observations on this day. I know that many who follow a northern trad path have come together in groups, but by nature we do prefer to be basically solitary. That being said, it is good to have appropriate people connections and to be able to share and help out from time to time.

Very recently, an online friend relocated to Maine and though she is not especially near by, it was good to take a day this past week to visit her in western Maine, to finally meet in person. Additionally, we were able to help her move forward by receiving many tools and some homestead and household goods that she ended up with in a property division. Goddess told her during her journey to Maine, she said, that she was to divest herself of anything that "wasn't her." We are most thankful for some good and useful tools, chicken feeders and waterers and additions to the linen closet.

And in a similar vein, I will be heading out to a neighboring farm tomorrow morning, to spend half a day making myself useful to the farmer, who happens also to be a Pagan and struggling to help keep a 4th generation family farm in the family and operational. I am hoping to be able to continue to offer a half day on Fridays -- her big harvest day for market -- as long as need be.