Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How I "Pagan"

A chance conversation at my knitting group recently -- one of the members trying to figure out how I knew some folks (not knitters) that we have in common on social media -- the subject of gaming and a conclusion of that being the commonality caused me to correct the assumption. No, not gaming... though I do know a lot of folks who play, I am not part of that community. The commonality, I said, is Paganism, which brought a bit of a puzzled look. Since I do not regularly attend events in Bangor, neither the quarter and cross-quarter rituals held at the UU church, nor the moon cycle events at the Temple of the Feminine Divine, I am not associated with that brand of spirituality.

This got me to thinking about why I do not travel to these events regularly (I have never, actually, been to the Temple though I have attended several rituals at the UU's facility since 2008) and exactly how it is that I do my Pagan thing. 

First off, while I DO drive and DO have (usually, at least) a running vehicle at my disposal, I do not LIKE being in town. Bangor is not bad as towns go, but I have spent lots of time in towns over my life and really would prefer never to have to go there. Town folks just seem to have different priorities, a different sense of time, not to mention the fact that towns are filled with people and cars and such.

I also have a very busy, crowded life here on the farm and time is always at a premium. When I was working in town (mostly mornings and usually early mornings at that) the last thing I really wanted to do was hang around for hours (usually with nothing productive to do) until evening came and it was time for a scheduled event. Town folk don't usually think about the fact that a 2 hour event that may require 15 minutes travel time for them turns into close to a 4 hour event when you count travel from an outlying town. The timing likely pushes supper time early and/or bed time late which not only affects the attendee, but also the rest of the family if they are not involved.

There is also the fact that I work with very specific Deities, who have some very specific ideas about how their followers need to live. I know many Pagans are actually quite satisfied with rituals that invoke an unnamed God and Goddess; many others are not even actually Deists, but more follow the lines of animism or other related paths, which they are welcome to do. However, generic ritual format, especially for "seasonal" rituals, when the season being celebrated or welcomed is weeks from its actual appearance in the Northlands, really does nothing for me. And, more importantly, nothing for my relationship with my Gods.

Frigga would much prefer that I be honoring her by cleaning my stove than by chanting in a circle. Mani (moon) and Sunna (sun) are not even viewed in my practice as having the same gender identification as is accepted in most Pagan circles. And while my practices are in a Northern Tradition, I am not of an Asatru community either, nor am I looking for one. There is too large an element of UPG in my practice (not surprising considering that the beginnings of my journey involved nothing more than inspiration -- or direct communication if you will -- from the Elements, celestial bodies and various Gods and Goddesses.) I began my journey, as I continue it, solitarily and based in my home and on my land. Have there been other people, books, etc. from which I have learned along the way? Yes, there have.. starting with a philosophical conversation with a young friend in which I first heard the word "pagan" applied to what I thought, believed and did. Have those people, books, etc been at the core of my practice or learning? No, never.

I "Pagan" by what I do, day in and day out, it's a "chop wood, carry water" kind of thing I guess. My Gods guide my mind and my hands as I tend my flocks and fields. I honor them as I harvest and preserve, as I spin and knit and weave and sew. Blood sacrifice? ...every time a fowl goes to "freezer camp," yes. Offerings to the spirits of the land? With every bucket to the compost, yes; with every "first harvest" pick of fruit or vegetable held aloft, the call of "Hail! and Thanks Be!" most definitely. With every Friday's Needfire and time of communing with Frigga, and fire at the dark and full moons (wind willing!) I honor the incremental turn of the earth, and the Powers That Be that guide us and I give thanks. With every dawn's greeting "Hail to the sun..." and "penny dance" abundance ritual that follows "From the Gods to the earth to us, from us to the Gods, that there might be much for many."

There are, I think, as many ways to "Pagan" as there are to "Christian" (and possibly to do other paths, though those are the two with which I am most familiar.) I was raised as what I call a "Christmas and Easter Christian." We regularly attended church at those times. Sometimes more often and my mom taught Sunday School for a while, but as I grew up, I learned that the church in which I was raised was a compromise for my folks and mostly they joined because it was socially required to be associated with a denomination. There was no prayer, typically, in our home; the Bible was not read regularly. There was no religious paraphernalia nor icons about. I know other Christians for whom Sunday attendance was mandatory, but little else was involved and even the ethics of following that path were ignored regularly. And I know still others for whom daily prayer, study and Christian ethics of charity and compassion take the forefront of their practice.

I am equally sure that there are Pagans for whom attendance at regular rituals is all that is required. I am also sure that there are many who include daily practice along with public or private group ritual.

Do I think, sometimes, that it would be nice to have a friendly Pagan neighbor just down the street, who might drop by and join me on a Friday night if s/he heard the drum or saw the flicker of my fire? Occasionally, yea, I do. But mostly I do like being alone, far from the madding crowd: the witchey crone surrounded by fields and fowl.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Asparagus Week!

setting up "nursery beds"
crowded babies into new digs
I am calling this "asparagus week" 'cause the early spring veggie has been front and center most of the week. I started out improvising nursery beds for my seedlings from old cardboard boxes. Friends who live close to the river -- with a very high water table -- showed me many vegetables successfully planted in this sort of improvised raised bed. They are, of course, not permanent, but their boxes lasted through the season and I think I can get these through the winter if I properly support and mulch them. At least it gives me a place to give my abundant crop of saved-seed-grown plants a start. I had to buy a bale of potting mix (about $30) but at current prices, that would not buy many started roots! I have been recycling the little soil cubes to which I initially planted asparagus seed and keep finding baby "spear-grass" in all my other starts! Below, you can see some coming up in the larger blocks into which I transplanted the marjoram. These babies will go into the beds when I plant out the herb. There are some in some of my other seedling trays as well.

...and they WANT to GROW!
...and be harvested!
 And I am happy to report that the first -- and now second -- small pickings have been made from the existing asparagus patch. I have the second picking in the fridge and will look tomorrow for additional spears. I am looking forward to a second lunch of creamed asparagus on toast as a birthday meal!

I have not been planting this week; we had a nice bit of rain early on and I did spend some time digging the dandelions and runner grass out of the garlic bed that I had not mulched before winter. I am glad to see it survived (I was concerned it might not have) and hope to get mulch laid down this coming week. The bees finally have become active as well; I worked around them digging the 'lions.

I spent Thurs afternoon running around Bangor to do the major grocery resupply. Went down after having a wonderful massage and some energy work and will NOT do that again! "Massage brain" and efficient errands do not go together. I ended up frustrated and stressed, not finding everything I had on the list, going nuts having to wander stores looking for things I do not typically buy and then forgot to pick up and put away some of my groceries, so the dog dug in my bag for string cheese and somehow dragged the bag of turbanado sugar all over my work room, spreading tan sugar on a tan carpet, which K did not discover on his way to bed (lights off and shoes on...) but I did when I got up. UGH!


36" Heart Chakra hex sign, shipped this week to TN
This is the hex that I shipped this week.. a 36" Heart Chakra design. Now I am working on a 30" Mighty Oak, with others to follow.

With my birthday coming tomorrow and new moon on Monday, I am looking forward to the hearthfire this evening. Thankfully the wind has abated.

Friday, May 8, 2015

So many projects, so little time!

Now that spring has finally arrived (with unfortunate hints of summer already...) we are both pushing to the limits.

Tractor Guy got Fergie back into running order, with her hydraulic hose replaced and her flat front tire taken to the nearby garage to have an inner tube installed.  Good thing, because making furrows into the untilled-since-last-spring ground was highly problematical. I did a row for the carrots and beets, swinging the hoe like it was a mattock. Put Tractor guy to work making the furrow for the peas. His choice was to use the Wheel Hoe, which resulted in it getting some repair work done, as the plow blade just would not stay put. But the row is done and the seeds soaked and in the ground. Ditto for the spinach. I finally got the catch pan cleaned out from under Rufus Rabbit -- it has been far too long -- and hand dug and then manured, re-dug and planted the seed. Hoping the rain this weekend will be in time as we have not been able to find the soaker hoses yet. Grrrr.

I did finally complete the three small hexen I have been working on: two custom indoor signs and a small Abundance, Prosperity and Smooth Sailing through Life.
Custom indoor sign for prosperity
and love, on bleached muslin.

Custom indoor sign for prosperity
and love, on bleached muslin.
Abundance, Prosperity and
Smooth Sailing through Life.

I also received photos from one of my customers, showing the large signs he recently orders as they are displayed on his metal building!
The 36" Blessed Year sign, right and the 48" Welcome ("Wilkom") sign, left, are hanging in Delaware. The customer has recently ordered yet another sign! Yay for repeat business!!

Mulch hay bales
I am currently painting on a 36" Heart Chakra sign and have a 30" Might Oak waiting in the wings. It is wonderful to have weather that is amenable to sanding and painting the primer and background coats outdoors!

Other farm projects recently have included getting the 75 new strawberry plants in the ground and getting the strawberry and bush berry (cranberry and blueberry) areas re-covered with cardboard as needed and mulched with some of the mulch hay from the 4 big round bales we hauled last week. It was pretty much one bale to an Artie-load but well worth it. I was able to roll out a bale and pull off
Highbush Cranberry
Mulched berry bush rows
sheets of hay to place around the strawberries and with the help of Tractor guy, roll the bales along next to and between the berry bushes to have them lay down a blanket as they went. It was good to have his help in the berry bush area with the cardboard, too! While I love the almost-constant winds as a bug repellant, it makes it hard to keep large sheets of cardboard in place while you work. With one of us to place the stuff and one to stand on it to hold it down, it pretty much stayed put. Hopefully this will keep the weeds down and the moisture in and the two layer approach definitely has a nicer visual appearance than just the cardboard.

TG also got a confinement pen put together for the 6 young layers and they went outside this week.  They are in a small pen, inside the chicken pen as they are still too small for the general population. Moose, our guardian dog pup, was QUITE confused at first by the new stuff and new critters but thankfully settled down before the day was done.

"The Hussy," our hen who seems to want to flee the coop each year, and Lady Grey, the hen turkey, are both hard at work sitting on eggs. Mama duck seems to think she
Lady Grey on the nest, Mama duck
looks on.
is broody too... and started out sitting on the turkey eggs but it seems LG got the idea and took over, so now the hen duck is just setting on an empty nest in the turkey pen. I hope to connect with a few more Khaki Campbell hens before long, so I can put our lone hen back with the ducks. Two drakes and one hen is NOT a good mix.  Fred, the single turkey from last year's hatch that survived the wild raiders, has taken up position outside the poultry fence, along with "The Looster," our spare roo. Fred seems to roost at night on the fence or the top of the hen house and so far has survived just fine. I cannot even think about putting him in the freezer at present, as there is literally no space.

I went last Sunday to help friends process their boar, who had become intractable. Apparently he chased the farmer around a tree a day before, as the final straw to his having gotten more attitude than necessary. I often help them on pig day as a meat cutter, but this was the first time we had done such a big beast! I was told he weighed 700 pounds after they gutted him and removed his huge head. Even the hide, which I was lucky enough to be able to help remove, was too heavy for just one person to move! The pieces of pork are huge and between filling my friends' freezers to capacity, and mine, they had more meat to share with the folks who helped with the killing part. Even that had to be delivered the same evening as the project, as there was no place cool left to store it until the morning. Processing meat in the spring is not optimal, but neither is not being able to mend fences because of a mean animal. I bought an 8 quart crock pot this week, in hopes of being able to cook the larger pieces of pork and still have fat in the refrigerator to render down. Hopefully I can get that into a roaster pan in the oven today; the temperature is supposed to stay cooler and having the extra heat will not be a burden.

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

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Spring is HERE!

Broccoli last year, growing through the
paper weed block.
Each roll is 25' of home made weed block.
Spring sprung, it seems, almost exactly on May Day, though I have been pushing it along through the not-quite-warm, not-quite-dry days of late April. The soil has become warm enough to tolerate the transplanting of some of my cool season seedlings. The onions, leeks, lettuce and brassicas have all been transplanted, the onions and brassicas into rows of feed sack weed block.
I have also been busy cleaning up and painting the handles of all the garden tools bright yellow; the metal parts will be red, but I haven't taken a picture of that part yet though they are almost done and ready to go back to the garage and into general use. Long ago I found that this color combination not only made it easy to recognize my tools when working on a community project, but also made them much easier to spot both in the garden and in the garage. 

The baby chick that Tractor Guy surprised me with early in the month are
almost feathered enough to go outside in this pic, shot a week ago. They ARE fully fledged now, we just don't have a chicken tractor for them to live in yet! Interesting color patterns... I was told they were a cross of Rhode Island Red and RI White.

Out in the yard, our lone duck hen "flew the coop" -- likely to get away from the two drakes who have been feeling their oats -- and ended up in the turkey pen. I caught her setting on the clutch of turkey eggs and figured she had gone broody. Now I am not so sure, and some times Lady Grey is on the nest, sometimes the duck and sometimes no one. Hoping for the best.

Besides getting the seedlings out and the first row of direct seeded crops (beets and carrots) we spent one morning hauling mulch hay from a nearby horse operation. This pile is destined to help hold down weeds in the strawberry, blueberry and cranberry rows. These berries will be joined by the first two in a row of lingonberry plants. I went out to Fedco to pick up my tree orders (two pears, two cherries and two hazelnuts) and while I was there picked up two more cherries and 100 more strawberry plants. They had a sale on some "oops" packs... half price, they are likely "this" but may be "that."

Hex projects continue as well. First of the week I will ship a one foot Abundance, Prosperity and Smooth Sailing through Life and two custom indoor signs, complete with "monogram style" initials reversed out in the center. Pix soon!