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!