Monday, September 26, 2016

Life gets in the way

Some of the tomato harvest. I have put up whole tomatoes,
enchilada sauce and catsup.
I have indeed been remiss in my blogging. I have, though, what seems to be a decent excuse, at least in my world. There was spring, and summer, planting and growing, weeding, picking, canning, freezing, chicken plucking and an amazing, overwhelming run of abundance. Abundance of abundance, I say... both in the farm world and at hex central.

Every year is different. I say this, each January, as I start a new page in Excel to track order. Some years everyone wants indoor signs painted on fabric. It keeps me busy, but mostly those would be considered "loss leaders" by anyone with a more monetary business head. They take as long to paint and the wooden ones -- though the material cost is less -- but not enough less to really make it "worth my while" to sell them. Yet I continue to do so, as it is important that my work be available to pretty much anyone who would want it, and I know, cheapskate that I am, limited income senior that I am, that as much as I respect artists, there would not be a place in my budget for even a powerfully empowered hex sign at the "made on wood" prices. I could, though spring for a fabric one and therefore I believe it is important to continue to offer them.

This year, thus far, I have had only one indoor sign order. It is waiting in line to be painted, as I am almost caught up with a backlog that has lasted most of the year...fighting for time and attention with the garden and the livestock. This year's backlog is caused by the most amazing event: this year can be characterized as "the year of multiple BIG signs" being ordered. I have had more than one order for 2 or even three signs at 36" or 48" diameter! Delightful as this has been, those signs take longer to paint and even if I wanted to do more than one (one order was for two of the same design) there just is not the space to do so.  By the end of the week, though, I expect to be caught up with painting and have the harvest under control (leaving the beets and carrots in the ground as long as I can helps that!) and be able to find time to write more and to pick up the spinning wheel and the looms again.

Delivering the 48" diameter Livestock Protection sign (oxen)
for installation on the oxen barn.
In the mean time, what is on my mind is the talk I gave at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association's (MOFGA) annual Common Ground Country Fair on Saturday. I had planned to spend the weekend, under a tent shelter at fair, giving hex sign painting demonstrations. My old tent had other ideas, though and presented a large hole when we went to check it out before set-up day. As a demonstrator, and not a vendor, I had committed no monies to reserve a space and the fair book, once again this year, made no mention of my presence as a demonstrator, so I opted to pass on the demos and just deliver the barn sign I had painted for our MOFGA chapter to donate and to give the talk that I had committed to (and which was published in the fair book), setting the day of the talk (Saturday) aside for visiting the fair and doing some additional volunteer work for the chapter.
Oxen barn sign installed.

My talk was entitled "How To Get it All Done (on the Homestead) and Cope When You Don't" and I drafted two homesteader friends (one of whom is a recent transplant to Maine and had not yet attended the fair) to co-present with me. We had a great session, a nearly full house and lots of questions and sharing by those in attendance. It was great, and I plan to write a bit about what we shared, here, later.

What is on my mind at present is what happened on the way home from the fair, and how preparation, flexibility and cooperation turned what could have been a major disaster to something akin to a pothole in the road of life.

My old farm truck, which is our only road worthy 4 wheel rig at present (Tractor Guy has a motorcycle, but that won't haul much feed!) which was scheduled to spend time with our mechanic after the fair, did not get me quite all the way home. This might have been a real downer, had it failed farther away, or had the hex orders not been so plentiful. Seniors on limited incomes rarely have much money set aside for towing. And beyond that, there are often errands to be run that are closer to needs than wants. But there was money for towing, is money for repairs and even though Artie (the truck) won't be in the shop long, friends were lining up to help. I did ask someone who was heading to town and planning to drop off some thyme plants for me (don't you just love having a friend with too much thyme on her hands, who is willing to share!) if she would haul dog food. That was all we were almost out of -- and truth be told, had no one been able to fetch it, we could have got by with chicken parts from one of two massive, cooperative butchering days (the first day, the giblets, which no one else wanted, were not process properly for humans but were fine for dogs, and I collected them all) and some of the older eggs. But of course it's better not to change critters' diets too much at once, so stretching the kibble SOME, and getting resupply today was perfect.

We have plenty of food storage, both home grown and necessary commercial stuff so that is not an issue. And other than the fact that there is no red truck in front of the house, life has gone on as usual.

I have been thinking, though, as I worked today, about all of the "little things" that I do and ways in which I work to save time. I am not an extremely organized person, so finding necessary little things (the weight for the pressure canner, a pair of scissors to cut out motifs to trace onto some of the signs, and things like sharpie markers, pencils etc. ) used to eat up much more time than I was willing to let it. Many years ago, I decided for some of those things I needed "one to use and one to loose" and eventually ended up with "...and one to loose when both of them are AWOL!" LOL Yes, I have three pressure canner weights. No, I do not know where all three are at this moment, but I could easily lay hands on three. Ditto scissors... several large and a couple of smaller ones have currently known locations. So projects proceed uninterrupted.
This evening I was planning to dig potatoes (ended up not doing it, but that is a different story) but could not find the spading fork. I don't have more than one of any of the garden tools -- yet -- but since I have friends who come and help from time to time, they ARE on the list. I knew its previous location but could not remember what had called for it since. Rather than spending extra time hunting for it (I had looked when I went to the garden earlier to collect carrots for our pot roast supper) I walked down the drive to close up the electric fence gate and get the mail and then headed back to the garden from a different direction. Before I got there, memory kicked in! I had used it to turn soil for a late season spinach bed (which appears not to have "taken" drat it) and there it was. It's now in the potato patch, but not for long. Weeds and low light levels were hiding the dry potato plants so I am going to get Tractor Guy and Fergie, with a plow on, to turn the soil in the bed while I hunt for spuds... first day the the weather be good. Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow. Since I was in the garden with a bushel basket, I picked Swiss chard, which I will blanch and freeze tomorrow.

A few of the onions, braided.
One of three varieties of pinto beans.
This has been a great garden year for: carrots, beets, tomatoes, broccoli (finally!!), cabbage, onions and leeks. Friends have had an abundance of blueberries and shared. I planted three varieties of pinto beans that were suited to the shorter season and have some for seed (already set aside) and a small amount for eating. My experiment with rice has proved quite satisfactory, especially considering I did not set out transplants as one is supposed to do. Each of the two varieties are trying to make seed! I will try again next year, with transplants.

My first year of grafting tomatoes has been interesting as well and I will play with this again next year. I did not get the plants staked this year and was not able to keep on top of the sucker growth, so I have lots of little primitive tomatoes trying to set fruit out there (the root stock is a hybrid, so I will not be saving seed) but where the grafted bit produced, the fruit were large and did not seem affected by blight.

And that, for now, is life in the slow lane.