Friday, October 30, 2015

Are you Ready for the Darkness?

After a day of relative warmth, wind and rain, our cold front is passing and the temperatures are heading into seasonal norms yet again. The plunging thermometers and spinning anemometers, clouds racing across the blue sky, all remind me that the season of the Wild Hunt is at hand and winter is bearing down on those of us blessed enough to live in the Northlands.

Am I ready? Not completely... we have materials on hand but have not yet relocated the propane tanks for easier access. We have not worked on insulating the water system nor closed up holes in the skirting. But on the other hand, Fergie the tractor has all her wheels again, all of the manure from the neighbors' horses has been moved to our side of the fence and most of the currently fallow garden has been manured. After two days with the string trimmer, the overgrowth in the hedgerow to the west of the driveway has been flattened, watersprout trees that need to be removed have been eyeballed, it not yet tagged or removed and the asparagus beds have been weeded.

Early in the week, I finally processed the stupid guinea that hanged itself and the dogs have been enjoying the meat.  I am planning to have some home schooled youngsters over early next week to observe and have an avian anatomy lesson with a couple of ducks that need processed. That was supposed to have been THIS week, but I put them off in order to work on the weed removal while the temperature was more conducive to working out for a longer period.

I got back into spinning for the day on Saturday, and cleaned up a bunch of previously carded grease wool, so that I can focus on the Jacob's sheep fleece -- which is almost done -- to be used for spinning starting soon. I have committed to do fiber demos for a local museum at a big commercial show, called the Harvest Fest" again this year, so I need not only fiber to card and spin but also a bunch to weave with AND I need to get the little loom warped up. Soon!

A BIG Welcome! 48" sign ready to ship.
Abundance and Prosperity, 24" outdoor
$190 + shipping, ready to go NOW!
I completed and shipped this 4 foot diameter Welcome hex sign this week, and will finish the re-make of an Abundance and Prosperity sign that I incorrectly painted without the scalloped border. I'll be able to ship this 24" sign early in the week, I hope. It will be ready tomorrow, but poor Artie, my pickup, has been having alternator issues and has been declared on the "sick, lame and lazy list" until "Doc Johnny" at Pomeroy's Garage can see him on Monday. The one I painted incorrectly, shown above, right, is available for impulse purchase, and immediate shipping!

A big part of my preparation for the dark season of the year, which I love, continues to be my ongoing "decluttering" and sending on of things that I no longer really need. I am also reorganizing and hopefully streamlining some to make it easier and faster to accomplish necessary daily and seasonal tasks. We have many home-improvement plans and several continue in process, as we juggle energy, money, time and projects. We were both talking about kitchen issues this morning; it is NOT a two-person room and needs to be. Perhaps we will get around to moving the stove and making new cabinets this winter! Meanwhile, I have lots of fiber-y fun to work through.. I did not get any sewing done last winter, so all those projects are waiting in the wings, as well as spinning, knitting, crochet and an embroidery project for a friend. There will be plenty to do while sitting by the fire, so I think you can see why I am looking forward to the winter months!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

There Won't Always be More Stuff

I got into a "discussion" -- turned into a bit of a pissing contest, though, it seemed -- on a friend's Facebook post recently. I stated my position on bottled water (none, period) and was called to task by another poster who noted how necessary it was "in emergencies." I allowed as how, maybe, that was ok, but for years Red Cross and other agencies got along just fine and supplied emergency water without the wasteful and now ubiquitous containers.

Later in the discussion, I mentioned that I had all but eliminated plastic packaging in my shopping and was working to rid my home of plastic, though I was frustrated by the inability to recycle broken or otherwise unusable plastic items since the codes are only stamped on containers.

My nemesis all but called me a hypocrite and Luddite because "everything is made using plastic" somewhere along the line, much recycled plastic is just shipped to China to be buried and I was doubtless using a plastic keyboard. Which, I will admit I am. I would honestly love to have one made of a more natural material, IF it were made in a manner that would allow it to last at least as long as my electric typewriter, which I got as a high school graduation present and DID manage to wear out (multiple keys developed metal fatigue) after about 15 years of use. Keyboards, it seems, fail after far fewer years... and that is even with my having an old school tech in the house who is able to disassemble and clean them on a regular basis.

I finally opted out of the Facebook "discussion." I don't need extra frustration in my life. However it brought to mind several thoughts.

1. We all need to consider "appropriate technology" and "most appropriate materials" for all of the things we buy, make and do. Just because it's newer, less expensive, faster, brighter colored or such does not mean we need it. In my mind, the "most appropriate" materials are those that can be easily and efficiently re-used. I use only natural materials for clothing, for example, because when worn beyond usefulness, most often they can be re-purposed as rags. Sometimes the most appropriate materials are those than will decompose.

But even more than that, I think, many of us suffer from the unperceived delusion that "there will always be more stuff" as if stuff actually grew on trees. I wonder, since I have only American attitudes to observe, if this is not somehow an extension of manifest destiny. There was, for a good part of the formative years of our country, "always more land to the west" to explore, and exploit. But like the country, which has filled the land from border to border and has no land over the horizon to expand into, our sources for "stuff" are limited. Even stuff that does, essentially, grow on, or like, trees must be considered finite, for as the population on the earth expands, the resources available to produce crops like wood, hemp, food and even bio-fuels will not only not expand, but likely will shrink.

We cannot continue thinking that "there will always be" more raw materials from which to make plastic, be it for containers or for making "stuff.". We cannot continue thinking that "there will always be" more aluminum or iron to be mined to make cans, or cars or pots and pans.

Use it UP
Wear it OUT
Make it DO
because while maybe YOU won't have to... eventually your progeny will otherwise have to

Friday, October 9, 2015


Long ramble ahead. I have often said that it would be easy for me to be Amish, if only one didn't have to be Christian.

How did I get here? Well, it started almost 40 years ago, with a "Question Authority" bumper sticker I had on my car when I joined what proved to be a very authoritarian Christian denomination. I got flak for it, but no, I did not remove and and yes, I did continue to question...not only authority but just about everything. I had come to that particular doorway via previous questions; further questions caused me to walk back out of it and continue down the path. My motto, for a while, became "question everything."

I focused a lot on internal stuff... stuff I was taught or learned along the way. Much of it did not have a "why" behind it; a lot of what we do is habit, absorbed from common culture, from those around us. I heard an anecdote about a homemaker who always cut the end off a roast and set it aside before putting the majority of the meat in the pan and into the oven. She did this all her life. One day a friend was visiting and watched her begin to prepare the meal. Friend was puzzled by the removal of the end and asked why. The woman did not know, but that was the way her mother did it, was the reply; she had not realized this was NOT a common practice. Fortunately, the woman's mother was still living and on her next visit the question was asked, "Why?" Mom replied "I just have a small roasting pan, and they won't fit in unless I trim a bit off first."  I wondered how many similar habits I had, how many unnecessary things I did in a day, in a week...

My Five Daughters (we could have been a sit-com!)
All this came in handy, to me, as a mother of a passel of youngsters. What was important TO ME in raising my crew was not the spotless house my mother kept, but creativity and growing stuff. Being able to let chores that did not, in the long run, matter allowed me to not only claim extra bits of time (and mothers-of-many, for sure, will understand that every little 5 minute increment matters!) but more importantly to let go of the nagging worry about leaving things undone.

And the more I questioned, the deeper I got into things that, while they may not be visible, actually do separate me from the world by virtue of how I think. Take weekends, for example, or workdays. Even folks who have people in their family who do not work "the standard" 9-5, M-F, seem to try to  set aside the standard times off work. And yes, if you want and need to interact with folks who keep that schedule, those times do matter. But more and more, all 24 hours of a day are usable and all week as well. There is nothing wrong with taking a sleeping baby, in a carrier, shopping at midnight or 6 a.m. if it fits your life, and it may make the excursion much faster when the stores are less occupied. And the lake is still there on Wednesday, if fishing or swimming is your thing.

But more and more, over time, and largely as a result of a move "beyond the sidewalks, without electricity but with chickens" I began to sync to the natural world. "Vacations" or down time make more sense in the winter when there are not garden to tend and canning to do. "Daylight 'Savings' Time" is irrelevant when you naturally awaken with the sun and begin supper prep with the gathering twilight, after a trip to the barn to close up the critters. Long summer work days are balanced by extra sleep in the long nights of winter. Changing your clothes every day, regardless of whether they are soiled or not seems silly when you wear older clothes to do dirty daily jobs and save your good stuff for trips to town.

Now, I suspect that the actual Amish would look askance at much of what I have written, with their German heritage and picturesque, spotless farms. "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" and all that... But this German crone is not part of an extended family and is doing what makes sense to me.

Some of that shows (if you know me, you know how hard it is for me to find clothes for trips to town that do not show a spot of paint somewhere, and if you have had the misfortune to actually step inside the domestic chaos of my many projects-in process, well, enough said) but much of it doesn't. The way I think about things, the basic assumptions from which I operate, my motivation.

So, maybe then, I am wrong. I probably couldn't be Amish -- or whatever the northern tradition Pagan version of that might be -- because even in that context, I think, there might not be enough commonalities to bridge the differences, even if I wanted it to. Which, most likely, I might not. I am not, despite what many folks who encounter me in short increments would assert, a people person. I like my own company and prefer my solitude on a day-to-day basis. Money, necessary as it is to have some, is not even close to my primary motivation; I have quit or declined to accept jobs that would have required me to wear clothes that I consider uncomfortable (grown up lady-type office wear) or which required a daily application of face paint. A position with responsibility, honor and appreciation with low pay seems much more satisfying than one where the employee is just a replaceable cog in the wheel, regardless of remuneration. And so it goes.

Now, in retirement, my meager stipend from my working years floats the bottom line and the Powers That Be bring in a few bucks with art sales and the sharing of a bit of extra produce from time to time and that is fine with me. It means times, like last month, when necessary trips to town skyrocketed in number and frequency, the gas budget bottomed and borrowed from several other "envelopes," panic tries hard to set in and I may wonder where relief will come from. And I may wonder a bit longer than is comfortable, at that, but always, in the end, the Powers That Be come through and a sign sell or something such. And no, I don't go asking, knocking, petitioning, praying or stirring up extra abundance spells. The Gods know the needs. And I know that by showing gratitude for what abundances I do have -- be it three feed sacks full of sunflower heads of varying ripeness, an extra pepper that had been overlooked in the garden, or a big harvest of small potatoes -- and making the most of it all, and of my time, that I will remain in the flow.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Oh, What a Week it Was!

Draft horses pass under the barn sign I painted for the
Penobscot Chapter of MOFGA
I was going to entitle this post "A Fair Week" but it was so much more than that. Yes, it DID start with a fair, Common Ground Country Fair to be exact, where I demonstrated the fine art of hex painting all day Friday (in the overcast, damp chilly weather) and Saturday (with a bit of sun and much warmer temperatures). I got to chat with several old friends and many new folks, while pointing out the large version of the smaller signs I was painting.

Next year (it appears there will be a next year to this project, as we will move on to sign the next barn, for the oxen) I should be able to demo all three days, but need to make sure that everything is set in motion well before the fair book goes to print. NO ONE seemed to know where I was or even THAT I was there painting! Also need to set specific times for demos, so I will have a bit of time to wander the grounds.

Sunday my fair decompression was accomplished by means of the first of two crochet classes. I am finally learning to follow a pattern, while working on a cute little stuffed bird. I doubt if I will have all my squares done by Sunday, but I am trying!

Life, in many forms, has got in the way of crochet. First off, there is the back-from-fair stuff to be dealt with and signs to finish. But most of what has been occupying me this week involves getting ready for winter.

First off, we mounted a major flea offensive on Monday, with each of the house cats and dog getting a good dose of flea dip and then getting put outside so we could set off flea bombs. Yeah, I hate to do it but there are times, desperate time, when chemical warfare is warranted... at this level, at least. I ended up doing one of the cats and the dog again today as flea combing showed they needed it. We will see what the comb finds on the rest over the next few days; today only those two were still badly afflicted.

Standing water in the tractor tracks in the garden - a first!
Lake at the end of the driveway.
With 4" of rain in the prediction for Wednesday -- and the radar showing good support for that prediction, I spent much of Tuesday getting the last of the potatoes dug, collecting the remaining few tomatoes and hunting onion. Onion crop was terrible but waste not, want not so they are all in the house now. And then the rain came. And indeed it was a good 4" over the course of 24 hours.  Even in our garden here on the rise, we actually had standing water, and the "lake" at the end of the driveway was huge despite Tractor Guy having done some filling and cut a drain channel.

One soaked, soggy, dirty
The poor Moose-pup ended up with no place dry to lay, as his doghouse developed a roof leak. We took pity on the livestock guardian and brought him in to the back porch (until he was dry enough that his shake didn't give me a shower!) and let him visit in the house for a bit. He is NOT a house dog, though, and his sad demeanor in the picture seemed to be as much about his not being able to do his job as it was about his soaked coat!

Of course, after setting of the chemical bombs, all surfaces and all the dishes needed washed and the flea project set laundry day behind, so only today did that finally get completed.

Weather has turned much cooler with lows in the 40s or lower and highs stretching to reach the 60s, so it was time to begin the clothing shuffle. It was great to have a flannel night gown and my winter robe on while sitting by the Frigga's day fire this evening! I brought in some more long sleeve shirts, several pairs of sweat pants and some warmer fall dresses, most of which got a quick washing and are flapping on the line overnight. Tomorrow, I think, I will deploy the flannel sheets.