Saturday, December 31, 2016

Put up that Calendar!

'Tis the time of year, again, when everyone is looking back at the year (many with regret over the well known figures who have died and many on both sides considering the past election and what it holds for the future) and the cultural "party hearty" meme takes center stage. For some folks (not many in my circles) it will be a night to dress up, take to the town, eat, drink and watch some local cultural icon descent from a high point at midnight. Many of these same folks will stagger in the the true first day of the new calendar feeling less than optimal and especially glad for the "extra day off" that the holiday being on Sunday has decreed.

As one who believes strongly in living with intention and in sympathetic magic, I have never truly understood this phenomenon. For years I have done my best to take down the old calendar in a home that is clean and in order and put up the new in the morning with a cheerful countenance, much rest and an energetic start to the day. After all, that is how I would like the rest of the days in this calendar to pass.

I'm not quite as far along with all that as I would like, though I will complete a bit more organizing this evening. I am satisfied with what I have completed. I had planned to spend more of the day on this project, but having a tractor "stuck" in the driveway necessitated other work. Tractor Guy had tried to start clearing the drive after our 8-10" of blowing snow the other day, but the under layer of ice had other ideas. Not only did little get cleared, the tractor did not have enough traction to get back up the slight incline. Getting some of the snow cleared from "the hill" and the below freezing temperatures, TG though, might help the old Fergie to at least get back to her resting spot... so I spent the day's energy attacking with a shovel. It worked, the tractor is back up but once again, no clearing happened. AND we are expecting 3-5 more inches of snow tonight! So, all things considered, the domestic order that has been obtained thus far will have to do as a calendar-turning base line this time around, along with thankfulness for electricity (most of the time) and alternatives when it fails (kero lights and a space heater, propane heaters and range) and a roof that does not leak, along with walls that are beginning to leak less wind.

While I don't count the new year as beginning until spring equinox, I recognize that the period from Yule until our calendar change is highly charged with energy from the masses who hold the winter new year dear. And that energy is available to those who wish to "amp up" their efforts to grow and change.

garage and house shadows near dawn
While I do not do resolutions, I have begun, with this dark moon, to work with a local group and the Perennial Course in Living Druidry as well as working with my friend's book, Writing with the Stars. The Druid project has us paying especial attention to the natural world and as a result, I noticed the shadows (left) out my window this morning. The small bit of sunlight between the house shadow and the garage shadow was
Arrangement of house and garage
something I had not seen before. You see, the arrangement of the two buildings is such that, when the sun rises as far south-east as it is presently, would be the only time this would be possible, as the way the buildings are located, most of the time the early morning shadows fall much farther west. You can be sure I will be watching at sunrise for the next few weeks, and again before the equinox come December 2017.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hygge - we don't have to name it to have it

The world has been shrinking for a long time. Beloved customs and traditions of a culture have been shared, adopted, adapted, modified and even corrupted as they move around the globe. I have been thinking about this today, in regard to hygge.

Hygge (koselig, mysigt in Norwegian and Swedish) is a thing in the Scandinavian countries. And it is, so it seems, becoming a thing elsewhere in the world as well. There have been articles about it in the NY Times as well as a spate of books published recently. And from my recent perusal, it seems that this (to me) most natural of things, when coming to the USA, is taking on a distinctly capitalist slant, much the way the "simple living" movement did in its day.

 Hygge, if you have not yet encountered the term, was described in a comment in a friend's blog:
It’s all about creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere in your own space and/or a good and positive atmosphere with the people you are with and the presence of mind to take notice of the things and people around you. It’s about creating a space where you are comfortable and safe, with things and happenings you find beautiful, joyful and enjoyable. 
 To me, nothing there says "Go! Spend money! Shop!" although I supposed, given the commerce-o-centric mindset of many of my contemporaries, that might be a common take away.

I was thinking about this today as I drove through a light snowfall on my errands: taking trash and recycles for disposal, visiting a friend, hauling hay. Trash and recycles are a monthly
Artie, the old farm
truck with 4 studded
snow tires, considers
the driveway.
thing, just prior to the dark (new) moon and disposing of them allows space for abundance to flow into my life, and this was the last day of the moon cycle to accomplish this task. My old farm truck did its job and I was safe on the road, warmed by his heater and happily carried out my ritual, visit and returned with hay for the goats, in advance of what may be a week to 10 days of actual winter weather here in the Northlands. I would hazard a guess that I was not only feeling hygge, but my trip was building more for the future. And yes, there was money involved (you don't get good hay for a smile and a promise of future milk), but not in the sense that many of those who are working to monetize the concept would have us believe is necessary.

My first awareness of hygge, as I think back through my life, was around Christmas time, though I was only in WA state at the time and not in the far northlands. I was living in a 12x16 cabin with no utilities, a couple of kero lamps and a tiny formerly coal furnace that I was feeding with gathered wood. Snow was falling and night was, as well. I had recently hauled water from the
Carrots from this
year's garden.
creek and my supper of some of the last of the gleaned carrots and potatoes from my friends' garden were simmering on the stove with an onion and a bit of a bullion cube for flavor. I poured a bit of the ice cold water into a crystal goblet (the last remaining of a set handed down in the family), threw another handful of wood in the stove and felt that, at that moment, in that time and place, life was perfect. Yes, I had on wool socks and sweater and was sitting on a hand made quilt (according to the writers, all are important aspects of hygge) but all were second hand. I didn't call it hygge. I didn't call it anything. Heck, at that point in my life, just starting on the spiritual path that has led to evolving into a crone and volva, I didn't call it anything either!

I firmly insist that, while having names for things does make it easier to talk about them, and much easier to sell them, they do not have to have names in order to exist. And while the Danes seem to take as much pleasure from talking about hygge and from experiencing it, I am not sure it's necessary.

And I AM sure that going out to buy stuff specifically with the intent of invoking hygge is counter-productive, and pretty sure that the consumer-oriented folks, for whom "newer-better-faster" is a mantra, for those who put more stock in "the latest," be it a food trend, an item of clothing or whatever, will never find it.

Some things can't be bought.

For a sweater, sweatshirt, shawl, shirt or dress to become a favorite, it has to have been around for a while. One or two seasons just doesn't cut it, in my world, at least. It need to have accompanied you on adventures, absorbed feeling of wonder and success from those adventures. It must, through those shared memories, wrap you in love and good will, as much as warmth. That's hygge in my world.

And that cup from which you drink your coffee or that glass from which you have wine (or, in my anecdote, above, water) must bring comfort and good feelings from long use, from memories of morning coffee-talks with friends or family or evening spent in similar fashion. Likewise, your "cozy" abode, in which you sit, drink in hand, and watch the storm rage outside becomes your refuge not by the purchase of the "right" accents but by the arrangement of beloved trinkets and comfortable furniture acquired over time, often adjusted and readjusted perhaps as seasons change. For me, lighting by fire (be it candles or kerosene lamps) will always invoke hygge and the modern LED favorites -- especially the bright blue-white colored ones -- are its antithesis. As does spinning and to a lesser extent knitting (just because I need better light to see the stitches!)

I think that, for those who seek hygge, all I can say is that those who tie it all to money will never get there.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The "No Matter What" Committment

I have always put great stock in keeping ones word, in saying what one means and meaning what one says, in honor and commitment. None of that has changed.

I also used to be known for my "no matter what" commitments. If I said I would do something, I would move heaven and earth to make it happen. Long hours, no problem. Stress, no problem. multiple irons in the fire? Juggle faster. If it was winter and I had to make connections, I would leave hours in advance, if necessary, to make sure that I got to my destination. If I ended up sliding off the road (which did not happen often) as soon as the tow truck cleared the area, I was on my way again. I was loath to use the disclaimer "weather permitting" and pitted my big rear-wheel-drive rambling wreck of the year, 4 studded snow tires firmly affixed, against roads and conditions that often had me passing multiple 4WD rigs of the road on either side.

I still put great stock in keeping ones word, in saying what one means and meaning what one says, in honor and commitment.


The time has come for me to back away from those "no matter what" commitments.  It is not going to be easy, because, after all, I still WANT to be that young, bulletproof go-getter. My mind doesn't always pay attention when the body says "Hey! Wait just a bloody minute! Remember ME... the one that really can't..."

But the truth is, I am not that young woman any more. I can't shovel our 200 foot long driveway and clear it of ice and snow, quickly, in the morning after a day of snow, a day of rain and a night of zero degrees. I can't comfortably spend a day running about in town, slide home on inhospitable roads after dark and jump up before dawn the next day to do it all over again. Doesn't mean I don't want to, but the body has other ideas.

I still put great stock in keeping ones word, in saying what one means and meaning what one says, in honor and commitment. And therefore I know it is not going to be easy scaling back, sorting out commitments and learning not to always lead with "I can do that." Because, even if I can and want to, it does not mean that -- here and now -- I should.

Many of you have fought and are fighting your own battles against programming over the years to put everyone else first. Women, especially, with our maternal hormones assisting, appropriately prioritize our kids needs. And then wants, wishes... It can get out of hand. Hubby figures in there too, and year upon year it becomes habit. And it often gets extended beyond the family to our social groups, churches, jobs...

"You gave your WORD." Powerful stuff, and rightly so. But I am no longer that bulletproof youngster, that eager maiden, that busy mother. I am a crone, and as such I give my word, to myself, that I will listen to my body, will mind my energy levels and will speak this new truth as exactly as I am able.

You may hear "I would like to, though this week is already full." Or "I wish you well. This is my time for planting and the soil and air are right for it. I hope you enjoy your day as much as I will enjoy mine." Or you may hear "Sounds like fun, but not now" or simply "No." Or alternatively "I'll be there if it rains!" or " I really want to and hope I will be able to. May I let you know later?" Please understand that I am doing my best to say what I mean and mean what I say.  And understand that it isn't because I like you any less but rather because I need to prioritize my needs a little bit more.

And, being human, I may forget. I know, even when I was that bulletproof young'un, I tended to over commit. I hope that any of my friends who read this will continue be willing to ask and invite. I know most of you don't live in "my world" -- one that is closely aligned with the cycles of the earth; day length, temperature, precipitation, planting and harvest, and critters and with less attention than you likely can imagine to weeks and weekends, to time by the clock, to the routines that town and city folk take for granted. So, please ask me what's on my plate. I can (and possibly will!) talk your ear off about the seedlings, varieties, experiments, precipitation or lack thereof and the antics of the fowl and goats and the latest hex signs I am working on. I'll try to be aware of your eyes glazing over and I am pretty sure I will notice your snoring when you fall asleep. By the same token, if I go off on a seemingly endless litany of "exciting things" that are happening on the farm, please ask me, if you are sharing an event or asking for my help in some way "you sound very busy. Are you sure you can do this?"

And remind me about this post if you need to. I may need it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"The Season": Winter Holidays/Holy Days

In my world, tonight -- December 20, 2016, and the night before the winter solstice -- is Mōdraniht (Mother Night), the night to honor the disir as well as our own foremothers and, if appropriate I would add the female mentors along our spiritual path. I choose, at the time, to also raise a glass in honor of my "aftmothers" -- my 5 daughters and one granddaughter who are currently actively mothering my grand and great-grand children. 

I see threads of Mother Night in the Christian folks honoring of Mary during their winter holiday. Mary, who will give birth on this night (by custom, though not likely by the calendar long ago) to the Son of their God harkens, in my mind, to honoring the AllMother, and all mothers, on this night which gives birth -- once again -- to the Sun. 

Regardless of what path you follow, I urge you to take time, at some point in the next few days (before the secular Christmas overwhelms all else for most folks) to consider those who nurtured you in Faith and in Creativity and to lift a glass (water works well!) or a cup (coffee??) in their honor and to consider, on the spiral of life, what may be reborn this year from your "loins" and your heritage. is the source for
high resolution printable file!
There are many changes afoot in our world at this time. "Evil" (regardless of how you define that term) IS afoot! We need to align ourselves strongly, as I see things, with the Earth, its creatures and elements and with each other as fellow beings. We need to stand with those who protect the earth and with each other. 

Yule, Winter solstice, comes tomorrow but in truth there are three nights of 15h13m length here in Maine: tonight, tomorrow and the following. (For what it's worth, summer solstice has two days at 15h36m. I have to research and figure out why the discrepancy!)  And though you watch like a hawk, I bet you will not be able to discern a lengthening of the day for some time to come. Our ancestors did not recon time to the second and likely not even to the minute. So the "12 day of..." feels to me somewhat like the Mayan "day(s) out of time." Tradition holds that women do not spin. We are supposed to have our homes in order (I hope I will be forgiven on this account this year!) and take some time to make offerings to land spirits and ancestors.
36" Natural Balance
hex sign

24" Welcome (Wilkom)
hex sign
The sun on the breast
of the hard crusty snow
gave the luster of
glare ice to all down below.
Here at Hex Central and Fussing Duck farm, we just posted the last two hex sign orders for the year. I have one more to work on, a gift for a beloved friend, so I do not feel it a desecration of this time to work on it. We have done all our errands in town for the next couple of weeks (I hope, at least) and will be spending the 12 days happily ensconced at the farm. Winter here in central Maine began pushing on autumn with a vengeance recently, leaving the land covered with a layer of snow topped with ice. It's been interesting trying to keep the fowl, goats and guardian dog watered, as the temperatures have been well below freezing and plummeting quite low at night and some days, especially when you figure in the wind chill. We ARE on a rise, remember?

But as we hunker down, we also give thanks for warmth, a full pantry, and many friends far and wide. Whatever you celebrate at this time, may you find at least a modicum of peace and inspiration. Blessed Be.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Hunting Moon

Yesterday I wrote:
The primal world is close today. Wind, which I normally enjoy, even howling 'round the eaves, has a fell edge about it. (And my words are writing themselves, for I had started to write "has a FEEL of...") The Hunt was riding by, for sure; the goats, who normally take to their shed overnight, awakened me with many loud yells, though no mortal predator was about, for even the guardian dog stayed quiet and in his hut. K was up (getting ready for his early appointment) and had lit the fire, so I arose. I huddled close to Firelight, in the dark, with Frigga's candle burning on the altar and my Yule Fuel cup in hand, awaiting the rising of the sun. Even the kerosene lamps were hard to start this morning (you know, I think, that I do not use "man-light" in the hours before the sun); I did finally get a couple lit. There will be wick trimming and refilling on the list today, as well as other mundane chores. I hope to take advantage of the cold in the back room, as I need to complete re-sorting of the contents of the freezers; it will be easier to do this on a cold day, when I can easily open them all at the same time and make sure one holds meat, one "boughten" foods and the large one has all our fruits and veggies. It is time, as well, to soak the stalks for making the Yule Goat!

I feel sad for those who are so tied into the modern life, so divorced from the seasons and the natural world, that they must go about life as if today was the same as yesterday and will be the same on the morrow. Perhaps some feel a bit -- unsettled -- and wonder why. Most likely they attribute it to that extra bit of food or drink last evening, or the stress of the holidays, or working in retail, if they take note at all. Maybe a few might consider the chance of a disturbing, though unremembered, dream.

We throw up lights everywhere in this season, but no longer remember why. We light streets and yards as if to shame the sun into shining day and night, and forget the need for balance. We manufacture scary stuff for October's end, and never feel the real spirits flying by on the winds that only begin with summer's end.
 One theme that keeps returning to my thoughts, as I seek to walk in harmony with the natural world is Balance. You have likely seen me write that balance is dynamic, not static. There is the cycle of long nights/short days which morphs through a time when the light and dark seem the same length (but on they day of most equal balance, here in my neck of the woods, there is 1 minute difference on March 17 -- day is 12h1m and night 11h59m -- and even though the most even time in September, the 25th, shows both at 12h, I am betting that to the second, there is a difference) and then to the opposite as the summer give us short nights and longer days, which are most appreciated by this busy farmer. So over the year, balance. And in each day, both light and dark and in the world, both light and dark, especially when we can leave behind the human artifices. In the day, we can find shadow in the woods and in the night, there may be a moon or even when he is dark, with good night vision, one can see the path by starlight.

The changes of the dynamic balancing act can work to fuel us, as the universe pumps us up and down like we might work the handle on a well pump. It can also work to recharge us, as happened to me last night/this morning, when I very uncharacteristically slept a full 12 hours. "You must have needed it" was something I heard more than once, and I guess I did, for try as I might, I am still a bit more connected to the never changing times that the modern world dictates.

I am feeling more and more called to be inside once darkness falls, and mostly I managed it. Mostly. But not completely, for Nautical twilight, the time when most stars can be easily seen with naked eyes, and hence, "darkness", arrives here just after 5 pm here these days and at the very least, I go to collect waste food at 4:30 once a week. Which means, at the earliest, I am headed home AFTER dark. And which will continue to happen, but I am consciously working on keeping my away missions to the daylight hours this winter to see what changes that will bring.

So why did I title this article "hunting moon?" Deer hunting season has ended but seasons are still open for much of the smaller game but that is, for better or worse, not part of my current world. Instead it is the Wild Hunt, the energy of which I felt yesterday, and my Livestock Guardian Dog having bagged a rat that most stick in my mind at this time. Were I living in a different time, or even a wee bit of a different lifestyle, I WOULD be hunting, though. The snow having fallen makes tracking easier for me. I have been keeping tabs on the "rat trails" as I plan to put out deadly bait for them and I have checked on other footprints coming near the fowl pens, easily determining they are from our own domestic cat and dog and not wandering neighborhood beasts, or wild ones, in search of sustenance.

This moon cycle ends on Dec 29, so soon I will be hunting up all the things that need new homes, as well as collecting our trash for the dump. With the mundane holidays affecting schedules, I make note that we may not have an open dump day on Saturday, which is the eve of their Christmas and that the next scheduled open day, Dec 28, may be my only, and will be my last shot at "letting go" for this moon cycle and this calendar cycle as well. I will need to allow time, if Wednesday proves to be the only option, as the "first dump day after Christmas" always stands as a testimony to the gross level of conspicuous consumption of our general culture and as such, dumping my single can and droppin a bag of materials to be recycled always involves sitting in an extended line.

As we move into the peak craziness of this time, let me take a moment to urge you to open your senses to the dark, and yes to the spirits that ride the wind... to spend quiet time inside by the fire... to douse your lights and truly feel.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Not sure what it was, ate it anyway.

Yesterday I organized the refrigerator freezer. Normally I have veggies and fruit on one shelf (opposite sides) and meat, cheese, etc on the other, along with a bit of bread stuff but over time, it resorts. It was time to sort again and dig out some of the unlabeled what's its to thaw and identify.

This time I found a couple of containers of of cooked pinto beans, and two smaller containers of undetermined contents, which looked like they contained beans, but had other stuff as well. Those I let thaw, to better determine what they were.

In the end, thawing, and even tasting, did nothing to clear up the mystery. The stuff was beanish brown, like refried beans, but contained whole beans and some thing that tasted and textured like ground beef, crumbled and fried while fresh, not thawed and crumbled after being frozen. The latter method makes for larger bits in the mix. I spotted a few bits of onion and green pepper, but not nearly as much as I would have put in chili. Also, while I don't make "three alarm" chili, I DO put chili powder in, and this offered no such taste.

My first thought was leftovers from a taco/toastada meal, mixed together as starter for bean dip with chips, but the quantity (TWO containers) made that an unlikely scenario.

The contents and texture of the stuff, however, did lend a meal idea and -- after mashing the beans a bit more thoroughly, adding a bit of flour to thicken and chili powder and the last half of a large garlic clove for added flavor, it made a decent filling for the burritos and toastadas we had for supper this evening.

And I liberated two smallish glass freezer containers as well as some space in the freezer.

Tomorrow I will attack the fridge for other leftover meals. I know we have a supper-size portion of scalloped cabbage with ham (made with purple cabbage, left over from last night) and some mashed potatoes (from the night before, which will likely become potato patties with eggs for tomorrow's breakfast) but what else lurks just shy of becoming a science experiment? Only tomorrow will tell!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Gotta love that Old Roo Stew

In the tradition of my frugal German ancestors, and a long line of homestead families, we do our best not to be "waste-y." So when the decision was made a while back to cull one of our three dueling roosters (two of whom timed their "battle of the doodle-doos" for between midnight and 3 AM) we did not try to find an old rooster home for him to go to, nor did we dispatch him to bury or feed to the coyotes or the dump. JR (yes they are named) was sent off to "freezer camp" with the intention of seeing him at a later date with the crock pot or pressure cooker.

In each iteration of homesteading (I have gone "back to the land" three times now, in CO, WA and now here in Maine) I have raised both animals and vegetables for food and processed both from beginning to end by my own hand. The tradition of self-reliance runs through my veins, though it seemed to have skipped my mother's generation. A "thoroughly modern Millie," we have a family story about her inability to process the fresh (as in still living) chicken she bought to make a special dinner for my dad, when he came home from the Navy for a visit. She ended up with her landlord taking pity on her and doing the deed.

Many years after my mom's WWII-era butchering fail, my oldest daughter, not even three years old at the time, insisted on my immediately butchering her (previously) pet rooster after he bit her finger. She would not wait for her dad to come home to mind her and her little sister, just a babe in arms. No, she insisted I had to do it putting both girls in their little red wagon and having secured the doomed fowl, off we went to designated area. I explained to her what to expect and dispatched the bird. Though I had explained, I guess it was just a bit much for a youngster to comprehend the post-butchering muscle spasms that are the root of the "chicken with its head cut off" aphorism. She thought it was able to -- and going to -- bite her again but was quickly calmed when I showed her the head, opened its beak and poked my finger in; of course she had to do the same and was kept happily occupied while the bird finished its flapping. I completed the process, with her help in plucking and the baby in a back pack, but rather than allowing the bird to age even a day in the 'fridge, she insisted on my cooking it for dinner that night. It was with great relish that she bit into her drumstick serving and crowed "I get the LAST BITE!"

Fortunately, JR did get some aging before being frozen, though a two year old rooster will never be as tender as the proverbial spring chicken! I planned, like I said above, to cook the meat down for chicken-and (noodles or dumplings are most common in our house) but I accidentally grabbed this package of meat to thaw, not realizing what fowl it contained. Yesterday I had planned to cook breast strips for Tractor Guy while I cooked up some delightful organic beef liver I had been given. I am a liver-lover; he is not. So imagine my dismay when I discovered the "tender" breast meat I was instead meat of the old roo!

I managed an adequate save by pounding it well with my meat mallet, flouring and frying it much more slowly than usual. Fortunately TG is NOT picky about his food! I immediately put the legs into the slow cooker to prep for use with dumplings, which will be supper tonight. The dogs got the organs and skin when I butchered and the bones will go to the garden to add calcium, eventually. Slow cooker bones do seem to break down quickly.

So waste not, want not and the old roo will have fed us three times (half of the cooked breast meat is in the fridge for another go-round)...though the last laugh may be on us. Tractor Guy was up hours before dawn this morning and reports that Red (this year's hatched rooster and Newton (JR's precessor) were engaged in their own battle of the doodle-do.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Short Days, Early Nights, Looking for Winter

It is easy to get sucked in to the idea that, once our crazy American holiday (Thanksgiving) is past, winter is here. The nights come early (at least here in the northlands.) Holiday decorations proliferate (though they have been showing up for weeks) and are now lit up. Stores, when we have to venture into them, are filled with STUFF! There is barely room to move along the isles in many stores, as "special buys" of stuff aimed at the all-but-mandatory gifting frenzy are tucked in everywhere. Tons of stuff no one needs, to be bought with money that folks don't have... could that be a definition of insanity?

Winter, however, does not arrive until just before Christmas, on Yule, the holiday we celebrate here at and Fussing Duck farm. While I am not usually an impulse shopped, my winter coffee mug, a clear glass one with the word "snow" etched into it, died this past year and I miss it. It has become my tradition to have my morning cup of coffee in a mug relating to the season and I only had the one winter one. I have not found a replacement; everything I have seen thus far with a winter theme is actually aimed at Christmas... as is the $1 special shown above. But, though Christmas celebrants have co-opted the name of our holiday, when I say "Yule" I do mean Yule and not Christmas, so this mug will, at least, get me through the actual Yuletide season.

I don't decorate a lot for any holiday or season. We don't, in any conventional sense of the word, have "house" anyway. Yes, there is a kitchen, a couple of bathrooms and a den, but the main part of the house that most folks would deem the "living room" contains not a single couch (actually we do not own one) or coffee table, TV or any of the like. Instead it is my workroom and is filled with looms (2 of the 3) spinning wheels (2), a seed starting rack, a kiln, a couple of chairs suitable for spinning or painting, my painting table and desk. And the wood stove, which hopefully will be installed soon, but will require a massive re-organization to give it safe get the picture! I will, eventually, put the little potted tree on the kitchen table (finally found a source for the things that will grow into actual trees, no the shrubs the big box stores sell, if they have anything besides the cut trees) and I plan to hang the fake wreath with it's central pentagram on the house... with lights this year, since I am finding LED light strings with warm white colored bulbs. Call me strange, but the standard cool white (aka bluish) LEDs leave me... cold... at best.

Mostly here on the farm we are taking advantage of the delay in the onset of winter symptoms (in Maine we can see snow as early
freshly tarped chicken coop
goat house needs new tarps, badly
as the first of October, though it usually doesn't stay around long) to winterize our critter houses. We planned to side them all with recycled wood, but Tractor Guy's health issues and extra orders of hex signs kinda kicked that plan to the curb... which was a long ways 'cause there are no curbs in the country! So they are getting re-tarped this year. Previous tarp coverings lasted more than a year, and were not secured as well as we are doing this fall so it should  hold. We also moved part of the fence for the ducks area to get them "down off the hill" where the land was built up for the house. Ducks, water, mud, ducky poo, hill and winter are not a good mix. Heck, ducks mud and a hill can be bad news any time of the year, as I have gone down (softly, thankfully) more than once this fall. So they have lost the hill and gained a bit of flat ground which should make winter chores easier.

I keep seeing snow in the forecast. Sometimes 5-8 inches, sometimes 1-3, but thus far, we have not seen actual snow more than in bits and dribs and it hasn't stayed around long. Looking at the 10 day forecast this morning, I see 3 possible instances of 1-3 and one <1 .="" after="" am="" and="" class="text_exposed_show" comes="" even="" from="" getting="" goat="" hoping="" house="" i="" if="" it="" means="" not="" of="" on="" really="" remnants="" removing="" roof.="" snowy="" so="" some="" span="" spirit="" stays="" tarp="" the="" though="" tuesday="" we="" yuletide="">know that Yule marks the beginning of winter, not the middle or anything else. I have the stuff to make cookies and fruitcake and such and have had zero motivation to tackle these projects. But, now, writing about it, I am also feeling the urge to try -- after years of not having done so -- making fondant and dipping some chocolates and nuts. Yes, I DO, in theory, know how to do this. It is another thing I learned from my grandmother, who at one time in her life worked in a chocolate factory. Yanno, it was not until just now (way too late, as she died when I was 16) that this struck me as something I should have asked more about. After all, she did not work in the 16 or so years that I knew her, and she died at 76. So, a woman who was born in 1888, and as far as I know lived her life in the rural midwest in an era when most women were not employed outside the home or off the farm, WORKED in a CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Where? When? Why?? But that is lost in history. Hopefully what she taught me, I still have tucked back in that rusty steel sieve I call a brain somewhere.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Opting out of the Insanity

If you have followed me here on this blog, or on other media, you probably have seen and read variations of the theme of the illustration to the left before. It's from Adbusters and is one of their "campaigns to reclaim our mental and physical environments." Along with other radical notions, it began in 1992 as the brainchild of a Vancouver artist, was picked up by Adbusters and has been rolling along ever since. I have never been a big consumer and for many years have promoted my personal belief that if you must buy "stuff," used is better. Buy Nothing Day has never been much of a challenge for me. Because of my distaste for the culture of consumption, I have for many years followed the custom of avoiding all unnecessary shopping from Thanksgiving until a week or so after the turn of the calendar. I go to the grocer, if necessary (avoiding the Walmart, and Sams except to pick up prescriptions that can only be had in a 30 day supply) and will buy feed and fuel, but that's about it. While it might make others crazy, there have seldom been reasons in my life to go against this intention. Things the we might could use for the farm or house get put on a list and looked at again in January.

This year I learned about a new campaign #OptOutside, sponsored by REI, the outdoor equipment company that I have used for supplies in the past. So this year, in addition to not shopping the day after Thanksgiving, I was planning to take myself and my walking sticks to one of my favorite wild-ish places, the Central Penjajawoc Preserve off Essex Street in Bangor.  Aislinn Sarnacki wrote about this trail in August in her blog for the Bangor Daily News, Act Out with Aislinn on August 20, 2013. The trail is not open to dogs or bikes, but in the winter, those who ski or snowshoe are welcome.

I was planning an early afternoon amble around the trails (this time wearing proper footgear and with with Nordic Walking Poles). The first time I visited the trail, which wanders through wetlands, it was a spur of the moment thing and I did not have even one of my walking sticks...which would have make the trek much more enjoyable. I was, unfortunately, wearing "town shoes" (which had not been recently waterproofed) and we had been gifted with a recent rain. The trail, while not challenging per se, took on a bit more difficulty as I hopped from rock to tree root, from root to root and worked my way along side the more well-trod trail in a few locations, as I did my best to keep my feet dry.
LARGE tote, lots
-- but not all--
the carrot harvest
However, as often happens, life intervened. Thanksgiving is, for us at least, a harvest festival and (to paraphrase the words of one of my favorite hymns) "all is not safely gathered in (yet) 'ere the winter storms begin." There are still beets and carrots in the garden, despite my best effort yesterday to complete the harvest. Wasn't my fault... when the cart is full, the cart is FULL and I used the large garden cart, too!

Also my turkeys did not put on as much weight as I had expected/hoped, so that of the two processed for Thanksgiving (one for my neighbor/friend/mechanic, one for us) I oped to give away both of the smaller birds and harvest the third for our meal. Fowl is best aged a day or so, and that meant that regardless of anything else, our turkey day would be Friday. Adding in needing to do the balance of harvest... as they say about the best laid plans of humans and rodents...

So, as much as I do love walking in solitude and listening to the natural world around me (with faint traffic sounds in the distance), and even though I expect it to be a nice day and a good "airing" would blow out my cobwebby brain and allow me to return to my painting bench and the hex signs on order from with renewed inspiration, I will have to participate in #OptOutside in a more local, wander to the proto-forest way while my bird cooks for our Thanksgiving celebration, one day late.

I will still encourage those of you who are observing "our crazy American holiday" on the assigned day, to consider this a year to put energy into connecting with people, with doing (rather than buying) and in general join me to #OptOutOfTheInsanity.

Monday, November 21, 2016

There will be no "adulting" today.

It's been a LONG long time since I have been in this place, this beat, lacking so much energy to cope. I know I did it to myself and I do not regret a single thing along the way that got me here. And, though it's been a long time, it is not an unfamiliar place. A career that includes deadlines and working with other people and large projects tends to promote big "ups" and "downs" of similar size. In the beginning -- back when I was closer to being able to channel unlimited energy for indefinite periods of time, the "downs" terrified me. With no idea when the next project would show up on my doorstep, my first reaction was that there would not be another one. But after a few rounds of the overwork/terror cycle, it became obvious that there WAS another waiting in the wings, often just out of sight until I was sufficiently recharged to see it. And from that observation I was able to learn to fall into the "down time recharge" with a similar eagerness as that which which I approached the next "big thing." And when I did that, the cycles tightened up a bit, which was not a bad thing; as the recharge became more conscious and efficient the projects were also completed with shorter timelines.

Even though I am no longer in the workforce, the cycle continues. With age, though, appears to come less resilience. Last week brought the final push to completion of a big project, a bit of energy put into shoveling out the house from the neglect that comes with hyper-focus on another area and then two days of away missions for events. I held it together last night for a visit with family, driving my people-packed little truck through the dark and inclement weather to Bangor for a celebratory meal and back. I made a stab at a spinning lesson and another stab at chatting and in the end fell into a deep sleep.

Today I feel like I could sleep the day away. I did give the forenoon to somnolence and now, more or less awake, I am less conscious than more so. Glad that nothing important requires my attention; there are no bills that must be paid, K did chores, and though there are always house chores to be done (fridge needs a
good cleaning) there will be no real efforts to accomplish anything today on my part. I don't plan to go back to bed; I was just getting my schedule sorted out after the long nights on the book project. But I am honestly not "in here" enough to do anything that requires effort or much thought.

As one of my online friends says "I cannot adult today." That just about fits what I am feeling. I will try again tomorrow.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thoughts ARE Things; Words Reinforce Them

We've likely all done it. In a social setting, someone breaks the ice, asking "...and what do you do?" Whether we are the querent or the respondent, the commonly understood subtext is "what is your job, how do you make your living, or some variant there of, and it is to that question we most commonly respond.

"I am..." is a powerful statement that, in my opinion, is uttered far too often and even more often, though that would seem impossible, without thought.

There are many levels of "I am." Alone, as I have just written it, it can be a powerful affirmation of my existence in this time and place. I can add "a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother" or "a daughter, a granddaughter, a great-granddaughter" and align myself with my ancestors and progeny, statements and placings that can bring great power as well. But far more often, it seems, we dillute the power of "I am" by applying it to temporary or less desirable situations and in so doing, empower them.

Recently I have listened to friends talking about their current work situations. Like many of us, they are not currently making their living doing what they had hoped or planned; some feel stuck in their position for a myriad of reasons. None of these folks would claim that their current job reflected or aligned well with their entire being. Yet all of them, even while searching for other options, continue to empower their current status with the "I am..." message. 

If you happen to have a job, or work in a field that does not reflect your being, why oh why do you continue to put yourself there with this most powerful I-message?  Even if you need to call up your work experience to bolster an assertion or opinion, "I work in (this field)" or if you feel you need extra oomph "I have worked as a (job title) for X years" will convey your message without defining you by your work. Perhaps I am splitting semantic hairs here, but it seems to me that, especially if you want to move to a different field, mentally pegging yourself in the current pasture will not help.

Along the same vein, in the aftermath of the recent election, I keep seeing and hearing the "I am" message communicating fear. Now, I am not negating what folks are feeling. But I want to consider splitting those same semantic hairs again to point out the subtle, though fundamental difference between "I am scared" and "I feel scared."  I can understand "I am scared" as an instantaneous reaction to a situation, the fight or flight response is triggered and one responds. However, it seems to me that if/when the situation is past that initial instant, and the feeling persists, moving it from the core "I am" to the feeling realm will allow us to respond to the scary situation with well though out and appropriate action instead of instinctual, or "knee-jerk" reaction.

Those of us working in magical traditions have been taught the power of Intent and therefore even if only by extension, the power of Thought. Words are thought shared on the way to being made manifest by becoming Action. May we always walk in consciousness and speak out thoughts with well thought out intent.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Lesson from the Broccoli

Late in the season, broccoli wants to
go to seed.
If you have ever grown broccoli, you have likely seen its habit, once you have harvested the main head, of sending up small shoots from axillary buds (if you are not a botanist, that would be just above where the leaves attach to the stems). Those small shoots, sometimes sold under the trademarked name of "broccolini" are just as good to eat and the main head and I have many bags of them in the freezer this year. it was a great year for broccoli. 

As the plant continues to mature, the longer it grows, it appears to use up energy. After all, the more leaves there are, the more node there are and the more shoots! Picking them can become a long exercise for diminishing returns, so we let them go. At first it was due to overwork. "They can be cultivated back into the soil later," I though. Then I discovered the neighborhood bees busily working the abundant yellow blossoms. You do know that each of those tiny buds in your broccoli head would, if left alone, become a flower, I hope! So benign neglect turned into a benevolent act: feeding the bees.

Then the autumn turned colder, the ground often sported a cover of frost in the early morning and, it seemed, the bees had gone home for the winter and the plant growth stopped. I had dug all the potatoes earlier and was working on the carrots and beets when I got pulled indoors by a long-standing yearly design project. When I retired from the graphic design community, I bade a fond (or sometimes not so fond) farewell to my group of clients, except for one. One of my best friends is the director of the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center on Harkers Island, NC and while I was living in North Carolina, I enjoyed working with my friend and the museum in a variety of capacities. After I moved to Maine, my involvement had to be limited to telecommuting projects and eventually settled into the design and layout of the museum's annual yearbook. This 64 page (or longer) book tells the story, in words and pictures, of what the folks "at the end of the road" have been up to for the past year and gives an insight into future plans. It is a big project, and we burn the electrons into the wee hours, usually in an intense 2 week marathon of collaboration. It's a crazy time, with two flat-out intense women sending files back and forth and pushing the deadline to the bitter end. So, yeah, the garden was taking a decided back seat.

The other tasks of running a museum must still go on in North Carolina, though, and my getting to the real world outside my window and getting my hands dirty is what keeps me sane, so when I could take breaks from pixel-pushing, and it was daylight, I got out to do a bit of mowing, mulching, and such like.
young broccoli heads; the shoots
were not this big, but still
worth picking!
Yesterday my little garden project was to collect tomato cages and stakes and to attempt to dig a couple of parsley plants to bring indoors. While walking to the parsley, I went by the thoroughly bolted and flowering broccoli and was surprised to look down and see, down low on the plant, almost hidden by the branches full of flowers, both spent and still freshly blooming, a decent size little shoot! And another one, and another... and one on the next plant too!

I started walking the row, looking carefully, hoping to find amongst the many smaller shoots that were already starting to bloom, enough for a side dish with supper. I didn't have a picking basket (who would have expected to be picking -- unless you were digging roots or havesting kale or collards -- nearly at the middle of November! I figured making an pouch from my sweatshirt would suffice, though it almost didn't, there were THAT many! I harvested a good meal and some to freeze, and while I was picking, I heard and then saw, once again, some of those busy bees!

It occurred to me that there was a lesson here, from the "little broccoli that could": even when those around you give up on you, you do not have to give up on yourself.

As I realized this, I thought "Ain't nature amazing?" Mother Nature (or maybe her broccoli and bees) did tell me to remind you that YOU are a part of nature too, and you, too, are amazing when you let it happen.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Vǫlva on the Farm

The sun is rising brightly in the East this morning, and though I forgot to drain the hose that I use to water the critters, I know it will thaw shortly. A metaphor for life today? Perhaps.

I do know that is it uncharacteristically quiet out there in the barnyard today. Hoping it is, as well, where you are. I know, though, that once the critters hear me moving about, removing waste food from its packaging, scooping up grain, and especially
 once I open the door to pour kibble into the LGD (livestock guardian dog) bowl, the cacophony will begin! I'll be met by ducks, wadding back and forth, sometimes (accidentally?) becoming self-aligning, quacking impatiently and the turkeys will call and run about like mad fools this way and that. I have no idea why, but they do this several times a day. And the goats...
oh man! The goats, Nubians, yell more loudly that an tantrum-throwing-toddler as they run to the gate, expecting to be put on their tether and walked out to eat in the field. This won't be a patch on what I will hear, though, once winter sets in. They REALLY don't like change in their routine and also REALLY don't like precipitation! A snowflake -- I am convinced it was a single one by the rate with when I saw them falling when I went to investigate-- must have landed on ONE of their backs a few days ago and you would have thought they were hollering about Armageddon!

Funny how I can tolerate this behavior better in the "dumb animals" than in my fellow humans.

As the human in all this chaos, though, I proceed through my morning chores in a calm and routine manner, typically. Unless something is actually amiss to the extent that someone is in danger, the goats get secured to the "goat rope" and walked to fresh grazing. They do know the routine, and when they are in position, they fall to eating and allow me to let go of their tether and haul the pallet that we use as a goat anchor into position to secure them. Then back to the house for the waste food and grain for the fowl. First turkeys, then chicken and lastly ducks get their share. This time of year I may have to break the ice in their water tubs and today I will be carrying a clean tub out to swap for a dirty one, this weeks extra critter project.

I still have beets and carrots in the ground, too... more than we will use through the winter, so while I am feeding the critters, I'll be thinking about those I know who could use, and would like, a share. I used to do farmers markets, trying to offset seed costs and the gas to get to market, by "sharing my extra" for a bit of cash. That really didn't work so well. Folks who attend farmers markets, it seems, are not really in touch with the world in which I live (I call it "the real world" but who knows what they would see!) where vegetables vary in size and, though not all in the row are beautiful, they all DO taste good and pack a load of nutrients. They don't understand "real" growing seasons, either. "Well, Hannaford's have it!" does not a seasonal veggie make it.
I got tired of eating ONLY the ungly and misshapen food, so now I share it -- free -- to folks I know who can and will use vegetables as they come from the ground. "Straight run" I call them. Not sure who will get my next shares this time, though.

I do know that, with winter knocking at the door (remember, I said the hose would need to thaw to water the critters) that there is stuff to do, yet, besides digging the last roots before the ground freezes solid. And a bit of this "doings" will be my "work with Intent" ritual for the day. Yesterday I cut down the grasses and weeds that had grown up around some lavender plants, and as I mulch around them -- and the ornamental American bittersweet that I planted this year -- I will be actively strengthening some spiritual threads.

The spiritual symbolism of lavender resides in the realms of healing, easing of tension, higher consciousness and the release of energy blockages. As for the bittersweet, I hope this is a "bittersweet" moment in our history, when those who care about the earth and the creatures who live upon her are brought together in strength and power by the current turn of political events.  

By mulching these plants, giving them protection against the northern winter, I am helping them to be able to emerge earlier in the spring and with more vigor. May the threads they represent on this plane be so helped as well. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Moving Forward

It is my old fashioned opinion that if you don't vote, you had best keep your opinions to yourself as to the results. However, as I posted on Facebook earlier today:
I have not engaged in political posts through this election. I will not engage in trash talk about our president-elect. I will, however, likely disagree with much of his (apparently intended) agenda and continue working FOR the earth, and all of the beings upon it.
 Some years back, not terribly long after I stepped onto the current branch of my path and began walking with Frigga and her Handmaidens, I had achance conversation with a Christian acquaintance, who was of Norse decent and somewhat familiar with the old traditions of his ethnic heritage. He asked me, quite seriously, if I was a Völva.  As I answered him, with surprise, in the negative I heard a very strong voice in my mind telling me that I was, indeed, to become a wise woman/seer in this tradition and that I would serve, mostly, those not of "my community or tribe."

At that point I was not at all sure what They were talking about, but having had several experience through my life with what I call the "cosmic 2x4" (what happens when a deity wants your attention and doesn't have it) I certainly didn't want to deliberately invoke a "Viking" one! So I sighed and remained open to what I would be taught.

Some time later, I began receiving bits of wisdom and thoughts from Frigga's household; I was told to write these "words of wisom" down and share them with the world. Believe me, I wanted to duck and run, but instead I began sharing them, daily, on this blog, starting Aug 29, 2007. The run lasted for a couple of years (I'm really not good about this time thing) and then, They were done. I had subscribers to whom I emailed the thoughts and others followed the blog. Looking back, reading them through the distance, I guess the practice was part of my training.

I am sharing this, now, because I am feeling the mantle of the Völva close at hand and sense that, in what appears to be a time of upheaval and growing awareness of the level of injustice, hatred and unrest around us, I am being called to share my visions of what we might do to be the instruments of the change we wish to manifest.

Today I share this thought from The Powers That Be: When you feel hopeless, blocked, scared GO OUTSIDE TO NATURE and DO SOMETHING. Do something to get your hands dirty. Do something that changes something; something ever so small will do, but preferably make a change that you can see the next time you go out. It may not last long; that weed you pull may grow
back, the bottle you pick up and recycled may be replaced by other cast-offs, but you have made a change. If you have no place to dig, then run! Feel the wind in your hair, change your body, greet a passer-by and laugh at a squirrel. If you cannot run, walk and if you cannot walk -- even if you need someone to help you do it -- get OUTDOORS. Listen to the sounds, feel the air moving, the warming or cooling of your place on the planet, put your hands on a tree and tell it thank you for making oxygen. The important things are to Move, Do and Do It Outside. Change will follow.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I don't know how my mother did it!

The veil is thin this time of year and whether Pagan/Heathen or not, it seems like the ancestors are often on our minds... brought into focus by holiday celebrations and traditions (both good and bad). And today, my mother is on my mind. She and her mother have both been on my mind a lot lately, to be honest, but Mom popped to the top of the brain pile again today and brought with her a line of thinking that my mind had followed some time back.

This whole post, actually, can be attributed to a friend, Debbie, from Michigan, who commented today on one of my Facebook entries "Always busy!" And yes, I am. Some days I am on the go from place to place in town, though I am trying to pare that down to sync with my every-6-days trips to pick up a share of waste food for my fowl. Those days do get very packed with stops and errands: some groceries and
sundries, fuel for house and truck, supplies for home and farm projects and for the hex sign orders [and from the land of shameless self promotion: please visit SOON to order for holiday gifts! I can only paint so fast,you know!], not to mention critter food for the many indoor and outdoor beasts and birds.  Most days, like today, I am here on the farm. Usually I put in some time with outdoor projects in addition to feeding chores. These days it's "put the gardens and orchards to bed for the winter" time and, had it not rained today, the task for the day would have been securing row cover material over the cranberry bed to protect the plants from drying winds. Maybe tomorrow... 

Even on days when I have worked the old body way too hard on previous days, there are many things on the list. Dishes need washing (and since household stuff has never been my first priority, usually it's more than just a meal's worth) and hex signs need painting. In addition, I spin, weave, knit, crochet, sew... you get the idea. And yes, sometimes I do just sit and think

And it was at one of those times, on a day when the body was more achey than I would have liked. I had tended critters, worked some in the garden, brought some of the harvest in to put by, and had cut disks for the next order of signs. We had eaten lunch, and I was contemplating the afternoon's projects, when my mom came to mind. 

I remember her through my childhood and young adult eyes. She, unlike her wild daughter, was in my mind always a housewife. Yes, she had a career as an RN, both before my birth and during my teen years, but what I remember was her cooking and cleaning and sewing. Sometimes she "puttered in" the flower beds, but most of the yard work was my dad's department. They did not garden. Dad did not hunt and we fished very occasionally. 

After my dad died (1978, at the age of 67) my mom moved to a senior citizens high rise apartment building in Appleton, WI to be closer to where her only granddaughter were. She was the same age as my dad; both of them would have turned 68 that year, had my dad made it to Memorial Day. 

I am currently 68. I know I am not my mom, but honestly I cannot imagine what she did with her time during those years! She died in 1988 at the age of 78. By that time we had moved to Washington state, where she visited us once, shortly after my youngest daughter was born in 1985. She was not terribly well at that time and spent most of her visit in the hospital and after she went back home, it seemed that she was in and out of hospital and rehab/skilled nursing much of the time. 

I wonder all sorts of things... What did she DO to keep herself occupied? I know she did not participate in things at the apartment building and avoided her neighbors (after all, she
St. Luke's Hospital, Chicago, IL circa 1915
where mom studied nursing in the 1920s
explained, they were all old folks and only wanted to talk about their ailments -- maybe because she had told them she had been a nurse?) I know she always did like watching TV more than I did and she had "her shows" which included some of the soaps that I know her mother had also watched when Grandma Katie visited us. She also watched a morning "news" show (I believe it was Good Morning America), and the evening news as well as various comedies and dramas in the evening. So maybe I have answered my question, as I put in down in electrons that way! I don't ever remember her doing much more than making breakfast while "watching" (that might have been coffee and toast or commercial cereal). She certainly did not watch and knit, like many do in the evening. She did make dresses for the oldest granddaughters from time to time, but I think that by 1981, when she was 71 and daughter #3 came along, she had stopped sewing.

I wonder if her sedentary lifestyle that got more so towards the end of her life helped or hurt her health. 

But mostly I wonder how one is able to live like that... shut up in a box in a box up in the air with no dirt to dig in and no critters to watch, love, tend, laugh at. I wonder how one can sit and not do something as long as you have hands and arms that can move, even a bit... even if it hurts sometimes. I wonder if she was happy. I hope she was content, at least. And I hope I never get there, because I won't be.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Winter Nights Tide

As I have been lead to believe (and do understand here that I am NOT Asatru nor a scholar, but follow a personal path that is very heavy on UPG (Unverified personal gnosis)) the northlanders, in the old days, did not break the seasons down into four, but rather into three, spring, summer and winter. I have also read of a festival that was held in October called "Winter Nights" which marked the beginning of the winter season. 

It seemed odd to me, a woman of the northlands here in the USA, that one would not recognize autumn as a season. After all, the turning of the leaves in my native Michigan, as well as my adopted home here in Maine, is something awesome to behold! However, thanks to the internet and friends abroad, especially in Norway, it seems they do not share our dramatic autumns. So now it makes more sense to me, this three season thinking and the recognition of the coming of winter at this time of the year.

It is my practice, as per my observation of the turning of the wheel of the year, that the energies wax and wane, like the coastal tides, so I see each of the markers for the turning year as tides, rather than days, and my "Winter Nights Tide" is currently well under way. 

I have, for some time, been feeling myself being drawn back inside, even though the fall planting and the last of the fall harvest had not yet been done. I want to spin and weave and study and tell stories. The Winter Nights Tide allows me the transition to this mode. 

This year, the seasonal color changes were several weeks later, in my observation, than usual. Shirt sleeve weather continued and getting into the mindset was hard, until recently. But this week I have planted the garlic and (though it is way late and may not work) the winter wheat. I potted up some oregano and moved it and a pot of struggling marjoram into the house. I mowed the fence rows last week, and earlier in the month, managed to get my first two Maine goats -- not that this has anything to do with winter coming, other than I suspect their previous owner did not want to keep them through the winter, as they are small and the doe really should not be bred yet. But the breed and price were right, so they came home. 

Meanwhile, other necessary projects were calling and we have been busy reorganizing the house to make it more efficient. All of the freezers (3 of them) are on the back porch and soon will be sorted by type of food: meat in one, vegetables in another and fruit and commercial products in a third. As the storage gets used up, one or more will be combined, but for now, having all three makes it easier to find things. Moving the freezer allowed me to move a storage shelf unit, and moving that made it obvious that the little space heater in the work/living room needed a bit of a move. That was completed, the grow rack now will get full sun and we have ascertained that we have one full and one partial tank of propane! Great start to the cooler days, as we will need that heater next week, for sure.

I am not sure if it's the coming of a serious -- very cold and snowy -- winter, old age or what, but our outdoor kitty, a TNR feral kitten that we adopted in NC that refused to tame and has been living life as our "barn cat" sans barn decided it was time to move indoors this month as well. At first she just meowed at the door for food, as always, but when we put it out for her, she continued to call at the door after eating. It was still warm enough, so despite the flies, we left the door open and -- for the first time ever -- she walked into the house several days in a row. I began putting her food inside... at first just inside the door and then farther in, and each day she came in more readily and stayed in longer. Eventually she did not bolt for the door when we got up and moved around, and I closed the front door. She has been in ever since, and did not even choose to go out when we had the door open for protracted periods on the day we were working on the propane. She seems to come to me for food and mews back and forth with me like she only used to with Tractor Guy, so he says she has chosen to be my cat. Interesting timing on her part, as the last cat that I could call mine amongst our crew was Ghost, who passed on a couple of months ago. 

We are currently not especially on track to be ready for deep winter, though. There is still stuff to be done in the garden and in the perennial beds, the coops have not been winterized, nor has the goat house, though if the snows hold off a bit, we may make it. 

The coming of  Samhain ( a more recognized seasonal event, from the greater Pagan community ) and the secular Halloween, the decreasing hours of light and the "thinning of the veil" as many folks experience at this time of the year converge to bring those who have passed on - both human and other -- to our minds. Anticipation of the riding of the Wild Hunt at midwinter nears, along with the physical challenges of a northern winter,  motivate us to focus on completion of our autumn tasks as the Tide ebbs and the Days of Transformation begin.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

How to Get Everything Done (on the Homestead) and Cope When You Can't - secong round

Previously I wrote about
  • having spares
  • not getting "target fixation"
  • being prepared
and mentioned
  • Flexibility
  • Making do
  • And a nice glass of wine
So I am going to write a bit about those subjects today.

 Flexibility  So, you ask, "do you have a 'to do' list or just wing it?" While I don't write an actual list unless I am heading to town (and I do lists then to help not only remember errands, but to plan the most efficient route, especially if there are stops at some less-frequented locations) I do keep a mental list which often juggles several categories of things. There are the daily (or should be daily, if you know me you know flexibility trumps should every time) things like dishes, as well as the "gotta be" chores -- tending critters tops that category, always. Then there are the other indoor and outdoor things that need doing, that sometimes get sorted into groups like: quick small jobs, REALLY need doing, two person tasks, need to do eventually which are all often associated with weather-related modifiers: good for rainy days, do in cool temps (which may mean early or late in the day or on cooler, cloudier and breezier days), need still air, and so on.

The current version of our double anti-deer fence is not cultivated
between, like it was in 2013, and the inner fence is no longer
multiple electric strands, but a single strand of twine, as a
visual barrier.
I don't really have a formal sorting routine, though, letting my energy level, tolerance-of-chaos level and other factors determine the starting point and likely list. Today, for example, is a cool and wet day. After I finish writing this (which is happening along with my breakfast) I'll tend fowl and put the goats out to pasture for a while. I am being thankful for the damp today, as yesterdays jobs (cleaning grass from around the fruit and nut trees, painting trunks and starting the between the fences mowing) left me with very sore arms and shoulders. There remains about 60% of the mowing yet to do, and had the weather been right for it, I would have felt the need to attempt to push ahead with that task. Instead, the damp weather is allowing me to work on lighter, indoor tasks and rest the arms a bit. That is a key factor in how I work flexibly. 
Wooly Aphids

Working WITH, rather than against, the weather whenever possible, I find, often allows me to actually be more efficient and get more done in the long run. If your workouts are in the gym, your trainer will guide you to work different muscles on subsequent days, I am sure. This is the "farm workout" equivalent! So, while the mowing, and working on the wooly aphid problem I found yesterday on one of our baby apple trees  (some plant pests go immediately to the head of the list!) get shuffled to tomorrow, indoor tasks that have been hanging fire come to the front of the list.
Small fraction of the onion harvest.

It IS harvest time, so I have bushels of onions to deal with, sourkraut that needs canning, as well as the first of the beets. There are apples to juice and that needs canning and of course hex signs to paint. Orders have slowed down to a more reasonable level at but I have a small wooden Mighty Oak sign and an Abundance for indoor display to complete and post on Tuesday, as Monday is a holiday. And a Protection sign that needs to be started.
Protection hex sign

So... I have wandered a bit from my bullet points but I do want to touch base on "making do" with a story from this past week's supper menu. As I do my canning, occasionally a jar fails to seal. It happens to the best of us, and in the recent past, as I was experimenting with pressure canning the basis for tomato soup (my grandmother's recipe calls for thickening the base a bit with a flour and butter roux and then adding a bit of milk, for a creamy tomato bisque, but you cannot can flour-thickened things) I had a jar not seal. Into the fridge it went, for use -- I planned -- on a chilly day. Weather warmed up, soup was not what we were hungry for, so it sat until I was looking for inspirations for supper a few nights ago. I saw the jar, and thinking it was just canned tomatoes, I started the process to make spaghetti sauce. When I dumped the "tomatoes" into the skillet I immediately knew something was wrong: the texture was totally off. I gave a quick taste (yeah I know... not the smartest thing, but I've not died -- or got food poisoning yet!) and it tasted fine. I was seeing unexpeced "stuff" in the mix, though and still confused, I picked up a largish green leaf (still thinking this was canned tomatoes and wondering how the tomato leaf got in there!) and recognized celery! Finally the light dawned... it was SOUP! And would never thicken enough, even with added flour, to become a reasonable texture sauce.

Thinking quickly, I grabbed the pasta from the cupboard and discovered it was angel hair and had a wild idea... why not break up the pasta (which cooks very quickly) and just throw it into the runny sauce, letting the swelling, cooking pasta take up the extra liquid! So in it went, on went the lid and down went the fire (hoping it wouldn't stick and burn.) As I checked it during the 7 min or so it was supposed to cook, I still was not sure if I was making supper -- or treats for dogs and poultry! After the alleged time was up, the pasta still tasted a bit al dente to me, so I turned off the fire and left it a bit longer. It turned out not only edible, but good enough that Tractor Guy said he hoped I could re-create it again! LOL  Once again, making do for the win!

And it wasn't just on account of that nice glass of wine that it ended up tasting good, I can assure you. Tractor Guy doesn't like wine.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

On the Subject of Age

Taking a digression from the "How to Get it All Done..." theme for the moment.

The changes that autumn brings, and yes the analysis and introspection that the presentation mentioned above brought about, as well as a thought prompt shared by a friend who is taking the "30 Days of Harvest" ecourse got me to thinking. My friend, who is only now approaching her second Saturn return -- but who I have always viewed as a contemporary -- was taking aback by today's prompt: When did you first realize you were no longer young?

I have been feeling the weight of my years, more of late than usual and on one of my away missions while letting my brain wander during the drive I got to figuring out at what age in MY life was my mother the same age I am now. And my grandmother as well. I wanted to look back on how I remember their lives, to look through the lens of time at what I knew them to be doing, then and there, and yes (though I don't often do this) compare.

I am  68. My mom was born in 1910, so she was my age in 1978, the year my second daughter, Amy, was born. By that time my dad had recently died of prostrate cancer and she was about to move from Omaha, where they lived briefly during the end of his life so he could be closer to his kin, but where she really had no one she was connected closely with, to Appleton, WI to be closer to us. 

She moved into a "high rise" apartment complex for seniors, a couple of blocks away. I honestly don't know WHAT she did with her days, but keeping up a small apartment, cooking for one really wasn't much to do. I know she spent a lot of time watching TV (it had been a bone of contention between us for years -- since I was a teen and on a rare occasion when I WANTED to talk to mom, was told to "wait" until the program was over), that she did not like to socialize with her neighbors ("a bunch of  old folks who only want to talk about their ailments!") and that a couple of times a week she would walk the couple of blocks to our place and spend time with the girls. I don't recall her sewing much (the one hobby of hers that sticks in my brain) during that time, but she did make things for the kids after we moved out west, so perhaps it is my mind that is faulty. But in any case, there was little in the way of "heavy lifting" in the metaphorical or physical sense, in her life. No animals or plants to care for, other than an occasional house plant. None of the typical stuff that I take for granted in a typical week. I would suspect that her most strenuous activity was her walks to our place -- two blocks -- on the occasions when she had empty liquor bottles to bring! She steadfastly refused to put them down the trash chute at her place, even well wrapped in paper bags and newspaper, concerned that her neighbors might see! LOL

Grandma Katie was born in 1888 to the best of my recollection. That would have made her 68 in 1956, when I was 8. She died, I believe in 1964 or 65... I was in high school and not a senior yet. That would have made her 76 or so at the time of her death. And I honestly, as a 8 year old, who only visited her and Grandpa for a bit each summer, don't remember much. She quilted, and sewed... taught me how to use her treadle sewing machine a few years later. Grandpa was the one who gardened, but I remember her wringer washer and carrying the laundry out to the line in a bushel basket. She cooked from scratch, did a bit of hexeri work, but seems from my current view through time to have mostly been a homemaker.

So, maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself. And let myself know that it's really ok when I hurt rolling out of bed in the morning after a day harvesting -- or planting -- or mowing -- or canning -- or chasing livestock of one variety or another. Or even the day after that. Or after that.

Because (and I am not feeling sorry for myself or fishing for atta-boys or compliments or sympathy) if I had been born in an earlier time (and not MUCH earlier, for that matter) I would be dead by now. For those of you who don't know, I was born with a major hole in my heart -- between two chambers that allowed the blood, which normally does a standard routine of rounds from the body to the heart, lungs, heart and then back to the body full of necessary oxygen, to totally skip the whole "lungs" thing. Not all of it, mind you. No one would last long that way. But enough that when my body needed extra O2 it just wasn't there. Like when I was a baby and got upset and cried... not enough oxygen and I would, so I am told, loose my normal pinkish color and turn a bit bluish. You may have heard the term "blue baby." I was one.

My mom was not told initially... but being an RN, she figured out there was a problem right quick. And saw our family doc, who told her to try to keep me calm. It must have worked, though I don't remember. When I was 2, we went to Chicago Children's Hospital for a heart work up. I have some strange, disconnected memories that must belong to that visit. There was only one, and that was when they found the problem. And also when they told my mom to "manage me" in such as way as to keep me from being too physical, to keep me calm, and to revisit the issue when I was in my mid 20s. In the early 1950s (my exam would have likely been in 1950 or 51) open heart surgery was not even an option. In 1955, the first open heart surgeries using a primitive heart lung machine were performed, so this was several years after my workup. The doc who saw me must have been aware of the earlier research as he was concerned, he told my mom, that the severity of my leak could likely make me a prime candidate for early experiments, but he was convinced that, with her medical knowledge, she could successfully manage me through my childhood and youth.

It worked, but like many "medical procedures" did have side effects. While I was not allowed to take PE in school (something I am honestly not unhappy about) I was not made to be, or to feel like an invalid. So I learned to pace myself and endurance and walking became my things. As a teen, participating in the school science club camp outs, I know our sponsoring teacher kept a close eye on me (dad was also a teacher, you know!). He was an older gent, thought regularly carrying a 50 lb pack, and while many of my classmates made like rabbits in the tortoise and the hare story at the beginning of our hikes, our teacher and I kept a slower, but steady pace and usually made it to our goal together and ahead of the rest, who were spent and resting. As a result of this type of exercise, I never found any issues of turning blue as I grew. Hearts are muscles, you know, and like other muscles, grow upon exercise. So if you call me "big hearted" I will take it literally. Mine is, so I am told, the size of an NFL linebacker!

So between being raised without physical competition (this must have been really hard for my dad, who was also a coach!) -- though I had by nature a very competitive personality, and as a young child, the use of food -- namely home made chocolate-peanutbutte fudge -- to keep me calm, I made it to my mid 20s. And had open heart surgery. And lived to tell the tale.

So, had I been born -- as me, to my parents -- in pioneer days, or earlier, I would have died. No doubt about it. If not earlier (can you really imagine pioneer life without stress??) then when I got pregnant or attempted to birth a baby. I have no doubt of this. So in a sense the last 43 years, more or less, have been a gift. As are my 5 daughters and the myriad of experiences I have had.

And on top of all that, I can haul hay and grain, turn the earth, plant, weed, grow and harvest, put by, and later enjoy the fruits and vegetables of my labor. I can run the electric saw around in circles and paint, cut cardboard and package wonderful painted blessings and prayers. I can walk goats and chase poultry (even if I do have to out smart them to catch them for wing clipping!) and spin and weave. And keep at it, even when every muscle in my body hurts, if need be. And sit in a hot bath with Epsom salts sipping my wine, if need be as well. And now and then haul my butt to Dover-Foxcroft to be worked on by my massage therapist. Not often enough, but it gets me by.

So maybe 68 isn't old. My dad might have a different idea. I know some "old Mainers" who would likely disagree -- and others who would not. But old doesn't have to mean you stop. Probably will mean you better get used to change, though. Beats the heck outa the alternative.