Friday, March 27, 2015

Out of the World

We were drifted in on Saturday. Our internet connectivity went out Sunday morning. the problem is easy to see... the cable that brings the Time Warner feed from the road to our house is not attached and is looped over the electric wire. Having internet phone, we have not been able to report it, nor to let anyone know that we are also -- once again -- drifted in.

Fergie, as per usual for old diesel tractors, has not wanted to start so we are eagerly awaiting the week's predicted warming trend and hope to find a day soon when we will be able to dig out. As you can likely tell from the photo, shoveling is really not a practical option. Maybe if were were both 30 -- or at least in much better shape -- it would be do-able. I seem to recall digging us out from something like this during one of our early winters here. But when the snow drifts the driveway shut it is never light and fluffy; one uses a shovel to dig blocks to throw, and hopes that the piles are not so high that the block plays snowball and rolls back into the drive.

Fowl seem to be faring well, but Moose, our LGD-in-sort-of-training, has hit his "teen phase" of "disobedience" -- or more like actual teens, his attempts to think for himself -- though they appear to be well intentioned -- fall a bit short as a result of actual experience/training.

Sunday our tom turkey, Tom, had gone walkabout and Moose, knowing that the bird was not where he belonged, attempted to set it right or at least let us know there was a BIG problem (Moose's opinion.) In our opinion, the turkeys have been regularly hopping the fence, walking the fence, roosting on coops and usually come back in to their pen and hut eventually. Eventually is not in Moose's vocabulary, though... so he got himself out and went to make sure that Tom did not wander off and that we knew about the problem. Tom, though, is perhaps a bit too tame and did not recognize Moose as "a boss." When he sees a human, Tom usually heads toward where he needs to be and if he doesn't hop in by himself, he gives no hassle to the human who aides his return home. Moose, on the other hand, he challenged! Ran toward the dog, gobbling like mad with his feathers up to the max. Moose, to his credit, did NOT harm the bird more than by pulling a few feathers, it seems. And when K got out to where Moose could see him, the dog immediately ran to him, seeming glad that he had FINALLY gotten our attention and help.

Moose, during one of his moments of "being good" and
"staying in the dog yard."
Monday he proved to be an escape artist, wiggling out a hole at the gate numerous times. While at one point K saw him head to the west, he all but immediately returned, sat to be leashed, and came inside with me. Later I heard and then saw a crow (so did Moose) and let him out to bark at it. He was good for a while, then I saw him wiggle his way through a place in the fence, into the chicken pen. He is not ready to be with fowl unsupervised, but while K got dressed to bring him in again (we are both beat from fighting weather today and will fix his access port tomorrow with chores) he showed no desire to annoy the birds. Did apparenty snack on some scratch and chicken poo, though. Yuck.

Monday, also, he was in the house for a while to try to thaw some of the bits of ice clinging to the ends of his fur and at one point, for no reason, he began whining. Next thing I noticed, he was peeing on the floor. He is not going to be a house dog, so I have made no attempt to house break him, but it seemed to me that the whining might have been a signal... so i told him "You DON'T pee in the house" while putting a towel down. Before I could put him on the porch, K needed something and so I was distracted for a moment from the dog. Apparently he had also to poo, which he did right by the front door on the linoleum. I just cleaned it up, figured that was as close as he could get to out and that he was trying to understand.

We really need the melt to happen. I need to be able to be out there working him, training him and putting in the invisible fence, which can't happen until the ground is thawed for the posts.  I am sure he IS a good dog and that we will come to be able to work well together.
But spring IS springing! I have been reading some of my fellow travelers' writings, talking about how spring is not a date on the calendar but when one FEELS/sees it happening.  That tells me spring is very different to different folks. To those who see the snow covered ground, forecasts for freezing temperatures and more snow and who long for green grass, swelling buds and budding flowers, spring is a long way off. To those who tap the maples -- or even birch -- for their sap, sping is at their doorstep. To those who raise fowl, spring is springing forth with each egg laid by hens who have been on vacation through the dark, long nights and with every urge of the tom turkey, rooster or drake. Our hens are laying several eggs a day, we have seen eggs from the duck hen and Tom, the turkey, was puffed up BIG the other day, having a conversation with Fred, the young tom. Apparently Lady Grey is not, yet, feeling the urge for she had taken shelter on the chickens' hut roof!

I have been enjoying the digital vacation more than I had expected. It is a little frustrating not to be able to let folks with whom we have appointments know that we are drifted in, but in the end it will all work out. I know the common response would be "get a cell phone" and most folks would. K may even do so, as apparently those receiving Social Security Disability payments have a free option that works here.  I am of another mind.

Long ago, I was much more of an early adopter. Not EARLY early, mind you. I wanted the bugs worked out first. But I found a computer, the internet, a pager, etc.  useful. But in those days I WAS "in the world" even if trying not to be so much "of it." Now, the world has much less appeal. I would love to be able to go to town only once a month but with the hex signs to ship this is less than practical. I have become very picky about even not-town-but-off-farm events I atend. I enjoy keeping up with my kids' and grand kids' and great-grand-kids' doings, and hearing what friends near and far have been up to, but most of this is not of the urgent variety of news that requires an instant response. So most likely I will stay unconnected by the great cell phone conspiracy, not buy into the "gotta have a tablet-stay connected 24/7" gestalt (though I enjoy my kindle and was gifted with a tablet recently by a friend) and maybe even spend less time faffing about on the Internet, especially as winter wanes.
I am considering, though, that it might be good to have a more old-style network in place for times like this -- when communication is down and digging out problematical. "More" old style because it involves actual people being in actual contact but using the Internet as a base.  My thought is to arrange with several friends who are online on a daily basis, that if they do not see me log on or post to one of my usual places by, say, noon, that someone either come by or worse case scenario, call the cops for a "welfare check."  Several friends in various locations, who were able to contact each other would be able to work around local outages that might occur during winter storms, for example.  I would of course be willing to serve in a network of a similar type for others as well.  What do you think? Would it work?

I know there are "life alert" type devices, but in this case, where our phone service is down along with the cable and internet, I do not think it would work. And I would much rather have friends involved that an anonymous voice on the other end of some device -- someone sitting in India, most likely -- who might have a hard time understanding "Drifted in, all is ok but please call Time Warner!"
Tuesday warmed up nicely after a cold night and we were able to fix Moose's escape places. So far (it's dusk) he has stayed in his dog yard all day, though I did go many times to the door to tell him "off" the fence and "good dog" when he was being one.

After swapping Boo's old battery into Fergie and putting the new battery in Boo, Fergie finally started up, but really to no avail. K does not have the traction he needs to move the snow and in trying, Fergie busted a hydraulic line. We had one to replace it with (temporarily... it's longer...) but insufficient hydraulic fluid to bring her up to full and when he tried her out, well there is another leak. So right now we have a driveway blocked by snow AND a tractor. And thanks to our neighbor letting them know we do not have service, Time Warner will be out tomorrow, expecting a clear driveway.
On a positive note, after having started it before I went for surgery, K completed my warping board

filled warping board
today and while he was out fussing with things mechanical, I used it to lay out a 1000 yd ball of crochet cotton for warp. For anyone who may be interested, the board was built more or less after the plan in Foot Treadle Loom Weaving by Edward Worst. I say "more or less" because it was built with materials on hand - except for a few screws -- and the size was based on a piece of 3/4" plywood remaining from my having cut hex signs. It is, I believe, approximately 6' long and a foot wide. After one use, I am thinking that it might be more practical for me -- after a bit more experience with a warping board -- to design one that is a bit shorter and somewhat wider, that could be worked with while sitting down. This one is just a wee bit wide and required me to stand and step/stretch side to side. At this point in my recovery, it was a bit uncomfortable.  I plan to try warping the Weavers Friend (at least partly warping her; at 6 dent I do not know if I have enough thread for a full warp and even with a narrower bit of working I will be able to make something useful (place mats? a runner?) and see if she is working properly. That will have to wait a bit, most likely, as I will be tending critters and then pulling my sled with the "Red Dragon" flame thrower down the driveway tomorrow, hoping to be able to melt off a significant amount of snow.

At 2 moths post op on my knees, I really may not have any business helping clear a long rural driveway, but it must be done. That's tomorrow's project.
Wednesday I did chores in a hurry, so I could get the blue sled out front to K for an experiment using the Red Dragon for melting snow, but I need not have hurried. He dragged the propane and the Dragon down for a "test shoot" and discovered that the flame thrower had little to no effect on our accumulated drift. By the time I got done with chores, he was shoveling.

I changed boots -- the silicone sprayed sheepskin /fleece lined warm foot gear that I have been wearing for chores in back was NOT what was needed in the mud, slush and water of the driveway -- into my muck boots and went out to try to help. I did a bit, but the way I shovel involves pushing against my right leg, which began complaining much sooner than I had hoped. K sent me in to rest as he continued. 

I thought about icing the knee, but as stiff and sore as I was, I really didn't want to walk back and forth to the kitchen again from the computer room, where I plopped down to curl up in my heated throw (Thanks, Michele!) and knit for a bit with my left leg raised on the arm of K's chair with the foot resting on a TV tray.  By the time I used up the remainder of the homespun that I was knitting from, the leg had rested some and I prepared to go back out. It was then I discovered that K had apparently gotten some help and they had completed the job. Our neighbor down the road, John, had come by on his way to visit his wood supplier and stopped to help, taking on the icy and packed "plow gift" at the end of the driveway.

It was lunch time when I walked down the drive and unfortunately our chat with John lasted long enough that K had a low blood sugar issue before he got to the house. Lunch helped, but he went to take a nap in the afternoon while I proceeded to begin putting the warp onto the Weavers' friend and waited to see a Time Warner truck.

By the time I got all the warp threaded through the reed (yes, I thread a loom 'backward') it was time to awaken K and plot our next move, as TW had not arrived. After threading and sliding our way down the drive, we headed to Dunkin Doughnuts in Corinth for WiFi (and snacks). Bad timing, as it was literally supper time but one does what one has to do; eventually I was able to get into chat with a TW rep and get a service tech scheduled. It was not easy, though, as they tried to insist that we had to contact them through a telephone. GRRRR I persisted and was polite and eventually got an appointment time. Also let a friend know that I did need to take him up on a previous offer of ride to the knee doc, but since we are not able to get his response, I will have to wait and see and hope.
It was very nice to no need the heated mattress pad at night and soon it will be time to remove a wool blanket. We have one more night in the forecast of single digit lows, so I am leaving it on for now.
I have to say though, that I think one must need to REALLY love weaving to have the patience to warp a loom. Also, I need to take more care in the laying of the warp threads on the warping board, as despite all my best intentions, I had a rats nest at the reed.

Problem to be fixed
Right one works properly
Ratchet mechanism that changes shed
When I went to begin working the threads through the reed and back to where I could secure them to the warping board, I discovered the first (and I hope only... but not holding my breath as I am working with an antique contraption) necessary repair. The beater bar has a joint at the bottom left that has separated, allowing the rod on which it is supposed to pivot to come out of the metal piece that is the other half of the pivot joint to rotate out of position. I am pretty sure that some long straps and Titebond will execute an effective repair, however, I also think it will be more easily accomplished if we disconnect the ratchet mechanism that attaches to the middle of the bottom of the beater bar. This is the mechanism that replaces the treadles, and allows the loom to mechanically change the shed with two beats of the bar.

So, maybe we will work on this later Thursday, or perhaps save it for Frigga's day and ask Her blessing.

Still not on the Internet, so I have no idea what happened to the proffered ride to the doc, but the time to leave has come and gone. I have a hex late for shipping and the rabbits and dogs need food. Thankfully the tech from Time Warner is scheduled for later in the afternoon, so we completed those errands quickly and got back to find the cable wire already attached to the post across the street. It is good to be able to communicate again and I do look forward to catching up with folks Thursday evening and Friday morning.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Equinox! Maybe not spring but a day to seek balance

Recently my friend Karen Potter wrote: While the Vernal Equinox is tomorrow evening, that means balance not Spring, not for the Northlands. (It might be Spring somewhere) but here? Ice and Wind Frost Giants walk arm in arm ruling the landscape reminding us that Old Man Winter is still in Charge, that the Maiden is dreaming beside the fire.
Our driveway - not passable by Subaru

I had to share her wonderful imagery, which came to her on an early morning walk, here in Maine, with her dog. We have had some warmer days and some snow has melted, but over the past weekend we got a good dumping of around 8" followed by a few more inches late Tuesday and LOTS and LOTS of wind! One of the nighttime gusts hit the house with such force that Tractor Guy grabbed his predator-control flashlight and went to see what had hit the house. It was "just" wind!

In the midst of the cold and windy spell, not only were we running low on space heater fuel but our main unit -- an aging kerosene heater than came with us from NC -- decided to give up the ghost and in a most vexing way... it would not extinguish! It has been giving us fits, but I had high hopes of coddling it along until the end of the heating season. Each night, TG would have to be the one to fuss and fuss to get it to go out. You can't safely leave them to burn unattended, so when it steadfastly refused -- going down to a tiny flame, less than what one would expect on a small kerosene lamp -- but immediately bursting into life when the wick was raised a little, you can be sure my former firefighter stayed on the job...pretty much all night. Finally even he had to cry uncle and came to bed about 4 AM but when I got up a couple of hours later, yep, there was that tiny flame. It DID eventually go out and then refused to work ever again.

With the wind howling, the tractor refusing to start (who would blame her!) and the house staying well below a comfortable temperature, I messaged a friend and got TG a ride to our little town with two propane canisters (for the little propane heaters) and -- much to our surprise -- the little lumber yard still had kero heaters in stock, so we now have a new one. Hope it lasts as long as its predecessor!

Drift filled in the
'dog moat' and
path to the fowl

TG hiked out to the road to meet our friend and they hiked back to the house with the goodies, but before the sun set tonight, the driveway looked pretty much like the photos above (minus kitty prints! you can be sure if the drifting erased multiple sets of human prints, it had no trouble with the pussy-foot track.)

So, going into Equinox, dark/new moon and Frigga's day we will at least be warm. Normally our bit of trash and the recycles are hauled away in the run up to new moon, but -- thanks to the visiting Frost Giants -- that project has been held up this month. If the winds abate tomorrow, so that I CAN walk to the garage, I shall carry the stuff out there as a way of indicating intent.

I need to do some serious work on balance, it seems. Emotionally, I have been totally out of whack as the time passes since my surgery. I am frustrated by swelling in a knee and general muscle stiffness and weakness over all, not just in the legs. I am frustrated by my lack of cold tolerance and the need to wear multiple layers, heavy pants and sweatshirts in the house... makes me feel like a over-dressed toddler when I try to do "indoor things" with stiff leg, soreness and the damned extra bulk. I am getting some of the seasonal stuff done that needs doing -- planted lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach seed this week, and have a 3' hex to ship as soon as we can get out and several small ones being painted. But the less exciting stuff -- sweeping and washing up -- no less necessary -- goes by the wayside.

But the days are longer, and while the swelling buds and puddles of mud are waiting in the wings for future days, we do have solar heating from the celestial orb as it moves along its path towards spring and many little green things on the grow rack, waiting their time in the earth.

May you all find balance and may Spring find you in her own time.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Forward to Spring (...slowly...) but NO "spring forward"

It's been a busy week here at hex central and the home of the fussing ducks. We started out the week deliberately ignoring the clock adjustment silliness. One cannot "save" daylight. The sun rises when it does and sets when it does and to pretend otherwise is to be of the mind that would cut 2 feet off the top of a blanket and sew it on the bottom to make it longer to cover your feet. Even last year, "punching a time clock" I adjusted my work schedule in my mind rather than trying to change everything, from awakening to meals to onset of sleep. It worked well and so this year, again, doing the same thing.  As someone who lives close to the natural world and as a farmer, whose work peaks in the months of longer daylight, it is natural for me to sleep longer in the cold, dark months and to begin to awaken, arise and then as the season progressed, to stay up longer in the end of the day. Yes, I get less sleep in the summer.. but that is what winter is for, among other things!

And the first feelings that spring might actually arrive have been stirring here this week as well. We have had several very warm days (high 40s) and even one night where the mercury barely dropped to freezing. Well packed snow paths to the poultry pens are beginning to soften, which was not so much a good thing for my first attempts on the new knees to help with chores. I did, however, manage to not jar myself badly and even better, to not loose my footing and fall. It has been good that I have been able to help, as the hens are beginning to lay reliably and I am still able to bend sufficiently -- even with knees that are a bit stiff and added height to the ground in the coop from accumulated manure and straw -- to collect eggs. Tractor Guy cannot and when he had to collect, he ends up crawling in the thawing mess. Yuck.
left: Feb 17,2015 Right March 12, 2015
As you can see, the handful of warm sunny days have done a bit to the snow in areas where it was plowed, and on the high spots where it drifted from, as well. "Mud season" has made its appearance and made me, once again, thankful for a Subaru! When we went to the rural home/studio of a local healer/massage therapist yesterday, we were very glad to have had Boo! The town maintained road was a swamp; the private road up to her house, though thawing, was still snow covered and in both cases, Boo did her all-wheel drive thing, with many thanks on my part!

48" Wilkom sign
It's been a busy week in the hex world at as well. I completed the 48" Wilkom sign and hauled it off to UPS. It was interesting and fun to do that design THAT big! Someone is getting a REALLY BIG welcome!

12" Inspiration hex sign
12" Change hex sign
The next day I packaged and posted two 12" signs, Inspiration (Spiritual Rain) and Change.

8" diameter Abundance & Prosperity
I had also been talking with a customer who was looking for a very small sign for her father, who only had a space for an 8" diameter sign where he wanted to place it. I had not cut a circle that small and was not sure how accurate I could be at that diameter, cutting by hand, but I agreed to try and it worked. I still was uncertain as to how well I could paint the design at that size, but in the end -- after digging out some additional small brushes -- it went very nicely. Actually it went so well that I am seriously considering added this size as a standard offering, but only to selected designs. Some of them really would not miniaturize well without significant change. Now, all I need to do is decide which ones, come up with prices and program the shopping cart.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Moving into the Full Moon

It's been a pretty uneventful week, leading up to the March full moon last night.

Few local folk are sad to see the end of February. We set a new record for the coldest month in Bangor, Maine and (thankfully for the plants) though we did not have record snowpack, we still have plenty! At one point during the week, Tractor Guy had to wade out to the turkey hut -- outside of their pen -- to convince a wayward fowl which was the right side of the pen.
They have, for some reason, been wanting to perch ON their hut, which is not a problem until they decide to hop off on the wrong side. Anyway, in the process, he had to wade through fallen and drifted snow that was over his waist! Now, TG is over 6' tall, so I am sure you can understand my love of snow shoes, being under 5' these days!  LOL

Sunday we headed out to the monthly pot luck for our local chapter of MOFGA which had been delayed a week due to weather and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my none-too-accurate scale had not lied and my "skinny jeans" (aka "town jeans" -- the more slim cut flannel lined LL Beans jeans I got as a second pair a couple of years ago -- went on easily and were comfortable to sit in for extended periods, even on the first wearing after a wash. I have even more motivation now to loose weight as it will make my knees last longer. In other knee news, I stood up from a chair (one of my least favorites to stand from, actually) without using my hands at all this week, and have continued to be able to stand more easily much of the time. I still have serious issues with swelling on the right knee, so I am working hard to ice and elevate (elevate is the hard part) more often and am beginning to move away from OTC pain pills by the clock.

I also managed, after much fussing and ripping of stitches, to "turn the heel" on my first knitted sock. Mind you, I am no longer following the pattern for the sock, but after nearly half a dozen tries, following the instructions on the pattern and then graphing the stitches and decreases, I concluded that it simply did not make sense. A friend offered up her way of turning the heel, which seemed straight forward enough, and then I went on to follow her patterns instructions for the gussets. Whether I end up with a sock, or a vaguely sock-like-object is yet to be determined. While I was waiting for clarity on the sock issue, I decided to start a hat from my first, very thick and thin attempt to spin. so, I guess this officially makes me a knitter, eh? Two different projects on needles at once!

Welcome hex sign
Inspiration hex sign
Hex painting continues... the larger signs DO take so much longer, but I am almost done with the "welcome" 4' sign as well as the one foot Inspiration one. Hopefully there will be pix of both next week.  To see more of my work, be sure to visit

While some think of March as "the season of Spring" -- and indeed the equinox will happen this month -- and the days are growing longer, here in the northlands we are still well in the grip of winter. This full moon, though, does seem to be ushering in a change. While tonight is predicted to be well below zero with wind chills even lower (let the faucets drip, bring in the LGD pup) the remainder of the 10 day forecast shows many highs above freezing and lows that get no where near that zero mark. Many are tired of the snow; for me, I am glad to see the temperatures a bit more moderate for winter. Spring will come when it will; I continue to plant (a few more onions, the leeks and celery and a tray of asparagus seed that I saved were added to the rack this week).

May the full moon, as its cycle turns, bring blessings to you all.