Friday, August 28, 2015

The "Putting-By" Moon

I am trying to get back in the habit of blogging each week on Frigga's day.

This week I have been quite busy dealing with food abundance. As the moon turned a couple of weeks ago with the new moon, I declared this "month" to be the time of the "putting-by" moon, as the garden has begun in earnest to give us lots of things not only to eat fresh or freshly cooked, but also to "put by" in the freezers.

Doing so, though, has meant that I needed to get some of That Pig, the 700 pound boar that I helped OUT of the freezer and into jars. The Flow was with me and I was able to get my pressure canners tested to determine that, indeed, they did both need replacement gauges, as well as being able to find and afford the replacements immediately. When they arrived, Tractor Guy did the installation and I immediately set about cutting one of the large pieces of pig meat to fit into my new extra large crock pot. Big pig = big pieces, especially when the entire 3-person butcher crew was totally worn out by the time the quarters hit the cutting table!
"That Pig" in BBQ (left and center) and plain (right) versions
friends butcher this spring,

I know most folks raw-pack meat, but this fellow was just SO fatty that I really needed to cook him down some in order to most efficiently separate meat from fat, which is being saved for soap making later in the year.

I started the process a bit over a week ago, with a wonderful feeling of being connected to both my own past experience canning meat, but with a thread going much farther back. I completed the round of canning recently, filling two of the jars with chunks of pork and a friend's home made BBQ sauce. I am delighted to be able to say that all of my jars kept most of their liquid, which was a problem I constantly fought in the past. This means that "end of the garden" will likely involve several batches of vegetable soup to be pressure canned! Hard to can soup when most of your jars loose half of their liquid contents!  I also want to can some beets, but my beet crop this year consists of 2 (yes, I did count them) plants, so I will have to hit a farm stand or farmers market soon.

I have been freezing green beans and both freezing and drying lots of herbs. This has been a bumper year for marjoram and basil, and I need to pick dill as well. The cucumber harvest has consisted, to date, of three cukes; the picklers' vines are full of blossoms but, as yet, no fruit. The tomatoes are, finally, starting to turn and I will likely have a good crop by the time I need to worry about killing frost and the peppers are also setting fruit.

Pea vines have been pulled and the dry pods removed, to be processed for seed and I just got the trellis and posts brought out of the garden. I am trying to be more organzed, going forward, so I am stowing the trellis mesh and the posts I used in recycled feed sacks. It will take 2, and I will label both as "100' pea trellis" for re-use next year.

11 "pullet surprises," one turkey egg
and the rest of a day's production
Our new pullets, a RI Red/White cross, have started laying and this week I found where they had been stashing some of their eggs. I "float-tested" and all are good.

Lady Grey, our hen turkey, has begun laying again. We do not want her to go broody again (this year, at least) and it appears she shares our sentiment, as she has been dropping eggs randomly in the turkey yard instead of in the house, in the nest she used for the previous broods. The first one must have surprised her while she was roosting on one of the supports for the poult enclosure, as I found it laying on the ground, inside of the closed baby pen!
The 6 youngest turkeys outside finally!

Young chickens, hatched by Lady Grey
had just landed in their outside pen.
We also are now free of "house-fowl" as the last of the living room brooder crew went outside today. As I was preparing to take the photo of the young turkeys, two of them slipped through the fence and into the chicken yard! I netted them and HOPE I have repaired their exit.

After a week's hiatus, I am finally back to spinning again. I missed the evening's end task and working meditation on Frigga, not to mention progress in working through the Jacob's sheep fleece. The last of it is washed ("scoured") and hopefully will dry during the coming heat spell.

And I have another of the "Pennsylvania Dutch" hex signs in process... this one is a custom job based on the "swirling swastika." (In case you do not know, this symbol is not the same as the one appropriated by the "nazis"  from much older spiritual traditions.)  I am also working on a digital model of a old hex sign, with the intention of recreating it for a potential client. not only paints and sells a line of hex signs both based on the traditional and of my own creation, but also is happy to recreate older signs that were painted on masonite and other less durable media, but which still have special meaning for their owners.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Summer in Maine

We had summer this week -- or maybe August. Temperatures reached and exceeded the 90 degrees (F) mark. I am glad that this does not go on for long, here in Maine. Would be happy to not see that 9 in the tens place ever in a forecast or as a high temperature for the day, but it happens. I AM thankful that (a) it doesn't happen often, (b) go on for long and that (c) it cools off in the evening. I am also thankful that I am no longer working off the farm, so that when I get up before the sun, which I do on these "summer" days, I can have my coffee and hit the garden, instead of the road, as the sun rises over the nearby trees.

This week has been a routine of early mornings, moving soaker hoses from row to row in the early morning fog and dew, followed by a bit of weeding or picking before starting the irrigation and tending the fowl. By the time I am done in the barnyard, I am feeling the heat attacking the back of my neck and I am glad to be able to retire to the house and indoor chores.

This week the indoor chores have been mostly involving blueberries, purchased at the Brewer Farmers Market with the extra benefit of their food stamp matching program which allowed me to buy two 10# boxes for the price of one! One batch was quickly divvied out into quart size freezer bags and tucked into odd spots in the small "meat" freezer. The second batch was divided into makings for blueberry syrup and jam, both "lower sugar" varieties using a 50/50 blend of sugar and Splenda for the benefit of my diabetic. I discovered that I was way short of jelly jars so had to make a run to Corinth since I forgot them on my Wednesday town run. Paid more, of course, but saved gas and driving time. I think, if I didn't count the time, it would be considered a wash, after checking the price in Bangor today.  Some of the berries I just crushed with some sugar on them for blueberry shortcake, as well. I had cake in the freezer, left from strawberry season... good desert and more freezer room liberated!

To get things out of order... the first round of pressure canning of pre-cooked pieces of That Pig was a rousing success! All of the jars kept over 90% of their liquid and most kept most of it. I realized after the fact that I did process them at "too high" a pressure; these guys only require 10 pounds and the weight I have for the pressure canner only does 15 pounds. I now have a variable one on its way, should arrive Monday. Unfortunately the next batch is ready to be canned and will also be done with 15 pounds. Since I am expecting to use this mostly for pulled pork or as an ingredient in stir fry or the like, I am not worried about the over-processing, as it is not a safety issue. I also found out that one of the local meat processing outfits WILL smoke home-butchered bacon... so that big piece will be thawing in the fridge soon and will be sent off to be done. When I get it back, it will be also in smaller amounts which will fit in the freezers more easily and make space. I am glad that most of what remains in the garden is stuff that does not need freezing, but stores "on the shelf" or in a cool, dark location or will be canned.

The heat has, however, set me behind in the hex painting department. I have been taking the time I needed to "just sit" during the heat of the day -- getting out of the heat of the kitchen -- and hopefully will be able to quickly complete the 24" sign that I have drawn and ready to paint during the rainy days predicted early in the week.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Need a Reset?

Do you ever feel like you need a reset? I never really thought about it quite that way, until today, a few minutes ago, while washing dishes.

Week started with the arrival of the customer supplied photo:
last week's hex shipment from installed.
This week has been.... busy.... "off".... and we have been off too, both off the farm a lot and off the routine-that-is-not-a-routine that weaves it way around the turning seasons and quiet farm days.

We spent a day hauling mulch hay, and two more helping a friend move. Tried to put the moving work on cooler days and had to work it around the rain, which meant laundry on Sunday instead of Monday, which always puts the whole week off for me. Somehow, it's not so bad if Monday proves rainy or snowy too otherwise unfit for "hanging out" and laundry day is later in the week. But moving it back a day "for no good reason" sets things a-kilter.

Moving days were long and hard. Harder by far than they used to be, for all of us "no longer spring chickens." The friend we were helping move is my senior by a few years, has asthma to deal with and the upcoming school year breathing down her neck. And she was moving from a roommate situation to a tiny efficiency apartment, which makes having stuff much more of a challenge. I spent considerable mental energy, I fear, longing for the days when I could work even much younger colleagues into the ground.

It really wasn't THAT long ago that I took a long weekend temp job "flipping carpets" for customers to examine at a tent sale. On Friday there were three of us doing the job: me and two college footballers who grunted and groaned through the day. On Saturday and Sunday, I worked solo, as they did not complete their contract. 

It was only 7 years ago, when we moved here, that we loaded a huge moving truck, car and pickup on a tow dolly (full to the gunnels) over night, drove straight through and though the other half collapsed (diabetic who had not been receiving medical care) during the unload, I worked it so hard that the much younger retired veteran that showed up to help took a break to go back home and grab his teen son when school got out and both of them were beat by the end of the day. He says he has not moved anyone since; I know he did not volunteer to help load and unload when we finally found our farm! Instead I got to "work to the ground" a couple of much younger friends and the elderly father, who insisted on helping.    But those days are, it seems, gone for good.

Between all those away missions, and egg and herb delivery on Wednesday (so I can spend time also at my favorite yarn shop, spinning) the kitchen got no attention. It did, however, get inundated with herbs needing processing, pork getting cooked for canning (it's a fat pig and I wanted to remove as much of the excess fat as possible) and general life. I am not a good housekeeper, but eventually it DOES get to me and it had passed that point earlier in the week, though there was no time nor energy to deal.

And this morning, sad to say, STILL no energy. After doing chores, I sat. Just sat, and I guess I dozed while the kitchen called.

It's Frigga's day -- a hearth Goddess -- MY Goddess -- and my kitchen is a shambles, I have no wool carded to spin and it's new moon. 

And the light comes on in the ol' noggin while I am washing dishes after finally summoning the energy to do so.  I need a reset and this is the day for it!

Current spinning project: Jacob's sheep
fleece, AKA sheep of a different color
The "just sitting" was part of it. Too much "going" needed balance.

Washing dishes was part of it. Though I haven't hunted down every last piece, the majority is dripping dry.

Realizing that "all" I need to do is card a little, spin a little, light a fire and lift a glass to Frigga and to Mani and hail the turning cycle and take the time to take the time to allow it all to fall back into place.

By tomorrow, I suspect, the reset will be complete.