Friday, September 19, 2008

Goin' to the FAIR!

In about half an hour I leave for the day to attend the MOFGA fair. This was, pretty much, where it all started a year ago. I had arrived in Maine, ticket in hand, anxious to see this fair put on by one of the (seems to me it would have to be) older organic farming organizations in the US.

It did not disappoint, though it did frustrate me, as there were so MANY wonderful workshops that I wanted to attend but that would have no relevance if I were not living in Maine.

Well, now I am, and sitting here looking out at the two plowed fields in front of the house. WHOOPEE!!! Can life get any better??

Putting by

A number of friends have asked me questions of late about freezing food, and since I just had to look it up to remind myself how long to blanch corn, I want to post a link to a a web site that has a lot of helpful info: Of course the first thing you well see is links to Pick Your Own farms, by state... but scroll down or browse as bit and you will also find simple, easy to follow instructions on freezing or canning just about anything.

The other resources I recommend are th Ball Blue Book which you can find, I think, just about EVERYWHERE come late spring. I see them at most hardware stores (where they sell canners and jars) and even WalMart and some grocery stores. And never forget your county extensionoffice!

I just got done blanching and freezing the most recent batch of ripe tomatoes, with a few saved in the fridge for eating fresh and the not-quite ripe and green-hope-they-ripen ones sitting around, still.

Now, on to the corn project. 4 dozen, less supper's share, shouldn't take long.

And it now looks like I have a FARM! I'll try to down load photos now that the tractor guy has been here, on my next break.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Finding Old Friends

Here in Maine we are under a freeze warning -- the entire state, as far as I can tell -- so I am expecting the first "killing frost" though I have nothing in the garden here to worry about. I DO need to get to the other garden, I guess, and gather all the tomatoes that remain. thanks for the reminder of that...

Today was the day of the carpet cleaning. It looks much better, though you can tell that it likely was NEVER cleaned in its entire life. 'Tis ok.. we will replace it all soon enough.

On the water front, there is one remaining small leak and K has gone to get the part we need. I have spent the day digging through ALL the remaining boxes and totes, moving them around, organizing, etc. to get to the fall and winter clothes trunk. It has been a day of finding old friends, or so it feels. When we packed (not for long term storage) what we had in active use was hit or miss and much loved and needed stuff we made do without. I have been digging out remaining boxes of kitchen stuff and Craft room stuff and, yes, fall clothes. Found a bunch of warm season stuff, too, that did not get worn. Likely next year much of that will go to charity as I don't need nearly as much for that season here. Spring, fall and winter predominate.

But it is good to find some of the things I have been missing... favorite dresses and socks, sweaters (though most of them are still in the trunk for later.

Now to hop over and get the corn before K returns as I will need to help him with the water and then -- likely as dark sets in -- make a quick trip to the garden for the last of the summer veggies.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wherein water is returned to the house...

and the "tractor man" has been found and negotiated with.

It took us two tries (the first one with the "wrong" pressure tank) but the pressure tank has now been replaced and our water pressure has stabilized. The first tank we found was designed to work with a shallow well pump and was expecting plastic fittings, and as we tried to get it set up, it really didn't want to work. I will take it back tomorrow, as K found and bought the type tank he was expecting and was familiar with early today and managed to get the plumbing installed and tested while I was at work.

Good thing, as dishes need washing, ditto clothes and the carpet cleaner guy is showing up tomorrow too.

On one of our plumbing parts runs to the local small hardware store, I happened to ask the fellows there if they knew anyone hereabouts who worked up gardens with a small tractor and they gave me a name, which I put with a phone number on line and called. He lives, it turns out, at the other end of our road (but not quite ON it) and was down in a few minutes to check out what needed doing, quoted a price and pledged to start on Friday. It will, he says, take several passes to do a proper job (I agree) and if we start finding rocks, if I walk along and pick them up, it will go faster. I also agree with that... they are already Maine's best crop and seem well naturalized; no need to plant more! LOL

I had hoped to get tomorrow of for a less populated, cooler day at the MOFGA fair but Martin needs me to work so I will take two half-days, Sat. and Sun hoping that will allow me all the workshops I want / need to take and allow K to experience the fair too. So I will take a couple of hours off from rock-picking, go in to work and go to the fair the next day. But I will have my GARDEN TURNED!! and the berry/orchard area too, at least the first bit of it. I have yet to sharpen my scythe, hoping to learn more about that at the fair and if it cannot be sharpened, I will get a new blade. Need to learn how the hand-holds need to be set to fit me properly too... and then I will start working down the back area as a start to planting windbreak trees there, possibly more orchard later.

The plow guy says with as much as I am going to have under cultivation I should call it a commercial enterprise and then -- if the deer and turkeys get into it, sufficient calls to the Game Warden will allow me to shoot -- without a permit and out of season, I believe -- the varmints that want more than a fair share. Of course that will mean (a) getting a gun and (b) leaning how to hit what I aim and and (c) being willing to do it with K living here -- knowing he will never be able to eat "Bambi." I'd just as soon load rock salt, as my dad said they used to, for shooting at stray cats caterwauling on the fences in summer. Non-lethal, stung like heck and thoroughly discouraged them from that area. We will see...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A day without water

Today was the day without water. Well, most of the day at least and we are still dry (after a fashion).

After days and days of rain or showers or me having to work or K not feeling well, we had a dry, cool and reasonable functional day to attack replacement of the pressure tank for the water system.

It was a bitch and remains so. They had put a tank designed to be installer vertically in on its side and it had leaked and was running the pump too often. Of course this tank is (mostly) full of WATER... so it had to be drained, and there is no good way to do it as the outlets are at the top. We cobbled together some large diameter PVC to mostly run the water away and it sort of worked and with lots of pushing, shoving, pulling and cussing we got the thing out from under the house and the old, stiff, unfriendly and uncooperative connections disconnected.

But of course, despite having bought at least one -- if not two -- of "everything" we might need, we had not anticipated everything, and ended up making not only one, but TWO trips to Bangor to the big boxes and a couple of trips to the local hardware store -- dragging what should have been a couple of hour project out to all damn day and into the night.

Ever plumb under a trailer by the light of the nearly full moon? Trust me, it is highly overrated, if rated at all. And in the end the damn think leaked in multiple places.

So, we are without water until tomorrow. Because it was a little project I had not put aside any extra, so the johns have not been flushed, the dishes won't get washed and I will be wiping down my face with rubbing alcohol. Which is not a bad thing, as it has decided to go with the mega-production on the oil front. Wonder if my forehead is trying to bring down the price per barrel?

I've got a gallon that I had set aside to come to room temp for changing the fish, and a gallon in the fridge and that will have to do. There can be coffee, K has tea and there is enough for the critters to drink and -- if I get up early enough -- oatmeal before we head to town yet again tomorrow for different parts.

K will be re-working the install in his mind all night, you know.

Me? well I have had a dose of pain pills (my knees have been giving me what-for all day) and a date with the bed.

The one bright spot? The boss -- who just got back from an overseas trip -- left a voicemail asking if I could come in at 2 instead of the usual 10 tomorrow. that's cool with me... he may get me straight from plumbers hell, but at least I'll be here to assist for a bit.

The moose have arrived!

No, they are not dancing in the garden... These are the remaineder (unintentional, possibly Freudian, slip of the fingers) of the Yule gift shopping that I did back this spring. When visiting Bob's (a natural foods/feed/gift/just plain interesting store in Dover-Foxcroft) I spied a small stuffed moose that I decided would make a great gift for the grandkids for Yule... and they had ALMOST enough to go 'round. So I bought them out and ordered the remainder of the lot I needed, paid up front and left them a business card to call when they came in. They DID tell me that this was a company that needed a large minimum and that they had just placed an order, so it might be a while, but that it would happen -- as a result of the summer tourist trade -- in time for my "Christmas" gifting.

Got a call at shortly after 7 this morning (these guys DO keep "farmers hours" it would seem) that the moose were in. I will get up to D-F again soon and collect them, find the remainder of the herd and get them packaged. This year, Yule gifts SHOULD be on time for all the crew.

Except for one thing...

As I was starting breakfast just now The Powers That Be informed me that "there will be a story to go with them, you know..." I HATE it when they do that. But they have at least given me the germ of a plot... a lonely little moose that sets off in search of a friend.

So I guess I can have them wander from The North Woods in Maine down to the neat little town of Dover-Foxcroft... end up at Bobs (they do have lots of oats and grains and things, and I THINK (research needed...) that a hungry moose might find them appealing... there is also hay.. and them follow the grandma home (not sure why.. perhaps they over heard her talking about the grandkids to the clerk and though playing with human kids sounded like fun?) and then they hang out with her for a season before getting their holiday bows and migrating out west. Sound like a plot??

Now, about the illustrations...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Good day on Hearthfire Hill

This has been a good, quiet, busy, productive day here at the ol' homestead.

The rain of yesterday ended and though we did not get much in the way of sun breaks, it was a good day to work outside (especially when you do not mind getting a bit wet and muddy!

I planted all the Red Twig Dogwood and wild rose plants I got free yesterday. Discovered that we have a lot of the dogwood growing along the front property line, along with the (apparently not fruiting this year) raspberries. I also proved that goldenrod is NOT one of my allergens, as I waded into the wild area at the front and broke off tons of it -- nearly chest-high -- as I worked to find places to tuck in additional dogwood. Once the leaves drop, I will try to thin/prune the raspberries with the eye to keeping them a bit tamed and encouraging them to fruit. The dogwood looks a lot like the raspberry canes, except the latter has THORNS so will be easy to differentiate come late fall. Also discovered a couple of ferns... I want to keep the front line a bit wild, encourage brush to grow and will plant trees -- conifers and deciduous -- inside the wild part that will eventually act as a screen between us and the road.

The wild roses I had planned to put along the west border-- the row starts with the rasp- and blackberries I bought, and now continues with roses. I'll harvest rose hips... and plant more brambley things to continue the row as time goes on. There will be a space wide enough for the truck to drive between the assumed boundary and the row of brambles, as I am planning to make the entire perimeter driveable, as needed, to carry manure etc to the various parts of the fields.

I also stuck a bunch of other plants I had been given in the earth -- enlarged a bit the bed that I had started for some mums and bulbs. Most of these plants are annuals and will die in a few weeks but some are perennials and a few, likely, will survive. Planted more bulbs, too... I still have quite a few daffodils and crocus, a few more tulips and some grape hyacinths to put in.

Finished painting the white coat on the three hex signs -- two coats actually -- and they are in waiting for the design to be drawn and painted. I'll start that tonight.

I also got the bed stripped and linens washed, along with the bleach load that had been waiting from the other day and an odd bit of coloreds. They all got dry but the sweatshirt. but for the first time since the move I did not have to put the single set of sheets we had found back on the bed, as the box of linens surfaced! NEW clean sheets! LOL and after the garden work I took a nice long soak, and so it will be clean me in clean bed, and not too terribly late tonight.

I have done a bunch of fussing around as well, carrying recycles to the collection center in the garage (I found empty totes earlier in the week) and taking out the trash to the big can as well. THAT will need a trip to the dump, if possible, this week as we have lots of styrafoam from unpacking the drill press and a metal firepit for the yard. We set that up yesterday... much more complicated than I had expected... before going to get the bushes and collecting the Subaru from the shop. It was too wet to use it for Needfire last evening, but I will use it the first dry evening I have a reason to... at least it is up for Housewarming (keeping fingers crossed for dry day for that too!

Now, the pork and apples is about done, the squash in the oven need checking and the potatoes are coming to a boil so, as it is supper time, I'll bid you good night.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gardening right along

I got the berry bushes, grapes and the mums in Sunday the 7th. the rain from Hannah was a wonderful blessing and made it POSSIBLE for me to actually get my spading fork into the earthy.

Also planted a bunch of the spring bulbs as well, in and around the bed with the mums. And I wish I had kept one of those old doors! The trash sitting by the garage did a bang-up job of depriving the grass and such of light and water and air, effectively clearing my bed for me. I had only to dig a bit and rake a bit and the roots all came out (a far cry from the sod removal necessary for planting the berries!

Ah, well... what is, is I guess.

I only broke ONE shovel in the process (my wimpy, NC d-handle spade) and I wasn't cranking on that rock nearly as hard as I have in the past to break them -- or can still do. Oh, well I got that tool for sandy NC soils anyway. I NEED to find fiberglas handled tools, like my mattock, but they don't seem to have that material in the short handles on shovels and the like. At least not in the big box stores here...

Yesterday it rained -- mostly not terribly hard but most of the day from mid-morning on... a good soaking rain. I had decided to throw some old lettuce and dill seeds in with the ornamentals, so we will see if anything sprouts and how well/ how long it lives. That is a protected area by the garage...

I also have a bunch more free plants -- mostly old annuals that it is way too late for -- from freecycle and need to dig up a place (east side of the driveway) and plant the remainder of the bulbs, so I will stick them in there. Still trying to decide where the "dooryard herb garden" should go. I don't want to have to move it when we add on the south porch/solar greenhouse..

Well maybe after work today I will get back in time to think about such things. This weekend is supposed to be rainy again, so I need to get the planting done prior to Friday, and some laundry as well. At least today the boss won't be likely to keep me there for hours as he is hopefully happily on his way to Scotland!

time to get at it...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Not sleepy, but beat!

In one way it doesn't really seem like I did much today, certainly not enough to count for being as tired -- not sleepy-tired, just brain-burnt, beat tired -- as I am.

Nothing seemed to take much energy, but indeed there was a BUNCH of it. Started out the day loading the pickup for a dump run. K helped -- there were bags of stuff left behind by the previous owner, dead furniture -- the particle board stuff that once it gets messed up, is dead and gone -- that was left behind here as well as K's chest of drawers from Ikea that we would have tried to fix, but it got moldy in storage, and one bag of our non-recycle waste from the move and our time here. Not having any idea of how the interpret the dump charges (it is based in pounds or bags/bag equivalent and up to the discretion largely of the dump guys) I bought 10 stickers ($10) and was prepared to head to the hardware store for more. However I ended up with all the stuff gone and 3 stickers left.

Then we loaded another truck load for charity and I gathered up part of the stuff I was going to take on my Bangor errands today. I say PART, as I was supposed to haul along my laptop and web cam on the off chance that the Sea Dog, where our meet and greet was happening would have WiFi and I at least planned to take my camera, both of which were forgotten. I did manage to remember the Hex sign to ship, and the table top to return at Lowes (and the receipt for it as well) and the sign I had painted (at the very last minute) for the Meet.

I had planned to just use marker but in the end my single remaining black marker was almost dead so I painted it with acrylic and the paid had NOT dried before we went to load it and the damaged table top into the truck. the plastic wrap from the table blew off and badly smudged the sign. GRRRR..

So I headed off to town and by the post office, the art supply store to get a large piece of foam core board to re-mount the "Give us this day..." art, balloons to mark the meet location and then to the Sea Dog. It was cool to see many of the folks who had become familiar screen names on the Maine forum, some of whom I had met before, some of whom I know pretty well and some who were totally new.

But being in a large group like that -- for a good while -- does wear on me even though I was having fun and when the group broke up I was glad to be able to head to Lowes to trade out the table and home.

I had hoped to start planing, but I just didn't have the oomph or mindset to swing a mattock. I trimmed the seed pods off one of the lilacs, carefully (better late than never, I told it, knowing this is supposed to be a spring, after it blooms, thing) while K installed most of the stakes for the dog yard. We have one place where rock (or something... he is wondering if it is septic tank) stops several of the stakes about 3" down. Now, mind you this is near the well and NOT where the septic is supposed to be... the one place we dug we only found rock and I actually think that is what it is... but on account of that the dog yard is not completed yet.

Brandi DID have fun playing with a plastic football I found laying about after the Folk Festival. She even fetched it half a dozen times, (mostly after it had deflated from her carrying it) making me wonder if she might fetch a frisbee...

But that is about as much wondering as my brain is capable of. I find myself wishing we had a Netflix movie here (have not yet resubscribed) but we do not, so I think I will go see what K is watching on the tube until my body decides to catch up with the brain and sleep.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Long, Strange Day

Got up with the idea of a trip to town for pressure tank parts, but ended up having to wait until mid-afternoon for the oil to be delivered.

While waiting I decided to stage the truck with cardboard and other materials for recycling tomorrow and to collect stuff left behind by the previous owner to be taken to the dump and to Goodwill. I found out that the "full to overflowing" trash can contained -- under the tied-shut green trash bag -- nothing but clean, unflattened cardboard boxes. So now I have an empty trash can with which to haul water in the pickup when I plant my bushes and such (starting tomorrow, to have them all in in time for the good soaking that hopefully will come their way courtesy of Hannah, on Sunday.

I have a truck full of recycleables, a pile of stuff destined for the dump Saturday morning (and a pile of "dump tickets" that are used to pay for the service), before I load up the charity stuff, my City-Data sign and myself and head to Bangor for the Bangor area meet. I need to buy a few balloons to attach to the sign and to the area in the Sea Dog restaurant where we will be sitting.

I even carried the first box FROM the garage/storage into the house, and hauled a lot of stuff to the garage (trim and molding pulled of during our renovation work, etc.) though the piles of "dump-bound" and "charity-bound" stuff from the house are still sitting in the living room. It IS a living room now, though, not a poor excuse for a storage building. I even swept the kitchen floor!

My fussing about in the garage did, however, confirm that I am allergic to DUST (as my sinuses clogged up big time after a few minutes of working there) though I am not suffering (from that at least!) now, thanks to a teed-off WASP who was disturbed by the oil delivery. I was leaning on the little structure that encloses the tank, talking to the delivery guy, when WHAM something hit my cheek, just below my glasses and STUNG!. Damn... I am somewhat sensitive to those critters so I beat a hasty retreat, hollered at Kevin for ice and went rummanging around for some antihisatamine. All I found was DayQuil, but it has antihistamine in so I took one, planted the ice pack on my cheek and went back out to deal with the oil dude. Turns out we had more oil in the tank that the previous owner thought, as we now have a $200 credit, more or less, with the oil company (as well as a similar credit with the propane company due to the fiasco of the water heater and ultimately getting a smaller tank.)

K drove to town, I continued to lean on my ice pack and by the time we hit Home Depot the swelling was mostly staying down. I had him go by WalMart to pick up a new poster frame for my large old hand-lettered piece that hangs in the dining room... "Give us this day our daily calcium proprionate, spoilage retarder; sodium diacetate, mold inhibitor.... Forgive us, oh Lord, for calling this stuff BREAD." It is done in black letter (old English) on rice paper, painted with acrylics (my first use of this medium) back in the very early 70s. the old frame was dying and the plexiglas cover had gotten badly scratched in the move. NOW I need a larger piece of foam core board, or the like, as the new frame is a bit larger than the old, so I need to totally rework the piece. This will be the third frame for the art in its life.

We ate in town and I am still stuffed... not really wanting to lie down but I must. Dawn will come, though not as early as it has been, it will be early enough.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Making it Right - Home improvement, episode 2

ok, folks... we have electrically heated water, a newly set propane tank full of gas to fuel the stove and $800 (OUCH!) worth of oil being delivered tomorrow (one tank full... I have no idea how long it will last but we didn't run out in Milo on the filling we got March 1 so there is hope that -- with sweaters and aux. heating room by room, keeping the central oil furnace set to dead low -- we may survive.

Now, on to the next project. Our water has been "surging" when we turn it on.. the pressure fluxuates and you can hear the pump working in rhythm to it. For those who have never had a well and a pump, this is NOT RIGHT. K, who has esperience with both wells and pumps was speculating on possible causes, the most likely of which was the bladder in the pressure tank needing help. Now, these things can be bought and replaced, but we had also looked inot a new pressure tank altogether, as that would fix anything that was arong with that part of the system. They come in two kinds -- vertical and horizontal, depending on how they sit undet the house. We don't have a lot of room under there, so K figured we would need a horizontal and we checked prices on our last town trip. There was a BIG difference in the two "bix box" stores; Home Depot won, though they did not even list horizontal ones on their web site.

Well, this evening we opened up that end of the skirting around the trailer and looked. K'd first comment was "NO WONDER it is not working right!" as he spotted a tank that was designed to sit vertically laid on its side. This is a big NoNo, parts that are not supposed to get wet DO and there is external rust showing that this is the case.

So on Thursday -- my day off -- we will go get a new tank and replace the existing one.

We also discovered that we do not have a shallow well pump, as we were told, but a deep well...

On other tracks, I went to Lowes and bought 3 each of two varieties of blueberry, one each of two varieties of black and red raspberry and seedless Concord grape. Also a soil test kit and I have two samples "drying overnight" as per the kit instructions. I am still waiting for the one I ordered from the extension service, but hopefully this will get me going.

I am glad I got a mattock the other day, too, as I had a devils hard time getting the spading fork into the sod. Me, the mattock and the fork and a shovel should do ok, though... I will feel much better about this soil after I have had a few years to add manure and compost though it is not the totally clay or sand that I have had to deal with in the past.

I am beginning my search for "a man with a tractor" for -- despite some folks advise to "get a tiller, you will need one!" the breaking of old sod is NOT a job for a tiller. Keeping it tilled is another thing, as I will appreciate Mainers' suggestions as to their favorite tillers for LARGE gardens, as I expect to have 2 acres u nder cultivation between the berries (there will be more as the years pass...) and rose hips, herbs and flowers and fruit trees. I also would like to grow broom corn and some wheat and other grains, mostly for Craft purposes.

I have completed the painting of my Craft room, but did not even get as far as vacuuming last evening, though I did get the bedroom organized a bit and vacuumed. The new, bottom of the line at Walmart Bissel seems to do a great job, and it will not have to work long, as we do plan to replace carpet with wood flooring.

I need to get someone in to clean the living room carpet, at least. It is light colored and LOOKS gross. I am sure the others are equally gross but for now I can ignore them, but not the living room.

I have to say that I enjoyed the produce from the garden picking last evening: loads of tomatoes and a couple of cabbages and PEAS! never, ever in all my wanderings and gardening in various climates have I ever picked peas and tomatoes into the same basket.

Well, the enchaladas are about done, there is a kithcn to clean, invoices to send and bed to find, eventually. An aside note on business" the two large, and most lucrative clients that I had thought I would likely loose with the move, the Waterfowl Museum and Cape Lookout National Seashore are on board for another year. I am even doing the yearbook for the Museum, which is like an annual report and premiers at their annual festiva, which I will attend again this year. I have lost a few smaller clients, though not all that I had expected to; I wish them all well.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Better than Tim Taylor

Unlike goings the TV goings-on of the old Home Improvement show, our project went off without a hitch. No disasters, no explosions, no excitement.

.... Well, it WAS plumbing, so there were a few of *those* words in the air... but we now have electrically heated water, no apparent leaks in our work and a gas water heater sitting on the porch to thumb its nose at the propane suppliers when they show up, tomorrow, to give us a new tank.

There is still a hole in the siding to be covered (we'll do it with whatever since the current siding color is special order at Lowes, and then hang a Hex sign over that... we do have a few of them laying around! LOL)

It wasn't a bad day of work for a gimp and an old woman, though we were both beat when we were done. I had intended to put the second coat of white paint on the Craft room, but ran out about half way around, only rolling the lower part that I could reach sans ladder. We took a trip to WalMart to get another gallon and I will complete it today, likely rolling the ceiling as well, since I will have enough, and then begin setting up my witchey work room. I will be able to have some of my crafty stuff in the living room now, to work on in the evening while sort of watching a movie or TV or just conversing with K, which will be good. It will allow us to spend more time together, as by the time evening hits he is often not up to much beyond visual entertainment or education and I don't have the patience to JUST watch TV for long, no matter what is on. I will eventually re-start our Netflix subscription, but want to wait until we are at least mostly moved in first.

Getting the Craft room up and going will help... it will take a long while to get the kitchen and such set up "right" (with all the stuff in the proper cupboards) but we are getting there... it is migrating from one to the other slowly as I cook and do dishes. Yesterday I moved some of the confusion and crowding from the fridge-freezer (side-by-side, but the freezer is adjacent to a wall which precludes opening the door completely, which makes it a bit awkward) to the deep freeze. Now if we can just keep THAT horizontal serface from becoming a catch-all...

I also found many blueberry and blackberry plants on sale at Lowes, but held off and bought bulbs instead. Now, I need to find my spading fork... Still need to find a man with a tractor to turn my earth for berries and gardens (wonder if anyone rents a Kubota with a rear power tiller??)

Today I plan to quickly paint the room then head out to the garden in Alton (hoping to find the spading fork, as well as more tomatoes and some beans) and maybe I will get some berry plants.