Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

and blessed Samhain to all. May there be much chocolate in your cauldrons and may the tricksters be benign.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


DISCLAIMER: No disrespect intended to either breast cancer survivors or those who have lost loved ones to the disease.

This blog is NOT my rant about causes (most of which are good ones that I support) that have nevertheless abducted and still hold hostage -- as their trademark -- otherwise perfectly good motifs and colors that used to either be neutral or have other well known meanings.

What is is about is my work today, after having listened to -- and taken to heart -- the Words of Wisdom for the day. Normally I receive this message (which I share on other forums including my hex web site) as part of my morning meditations, but the Gods got a head start today, as it was in my mind as I awakened. To wit: Look well to the protection of your hearth from the coming winter storms. The word of the day is foresight.

K was not up to helping to complete the insulation on the pressure tank and I was not willing to attempt to de-skirt the trailer to work on that, so I decided that I would attack the issue of the missing and sagging insulation under the Craft room. That I could (and actually should) do solo, as it involved -- you got it -- the pink fluffy stuff of the title. Unfortunately when I got the rolls of fiberglas I neglected to measure and misjudged the distance between joists, so I had two rolls of 16" wide when I needed 24". Since the most cost effective product was the 3.5" stuff, I needed two layers anyway, so I set about cutting 24" strips and making two, offset layers along the one section that contained no insulation at all. Took longer, but it's done.

Then there were sections where insulation existed but was either on the ground or hanging from one side. Unfortunately it was all a bit damp, so re-stapleing was done with care and in some places could not be done at all. I had figured to reinforce the backing with our old friend, duct tape, but the backing was too dirty and/or damp... but never the less duct tape to the rescue, as I stapled it up from joist to joist, every 6-8 inches, as a strap to support the old insulation.

Got one entire roll used up, but there are still 2 sections to go... but when the stapler jammed and I knew it was after sundown, I took that as a good time to quit, strip in the laundry room, throw the contaminated clothes in the wash (fiberglas and mud, loverly combination!) and me in the bath.

Earlier in the day I had done an around-town run, taking the redeemables, the trash and the recycles to their respective depositories, visiting the post office to mail a document and check on the rules for mailbox posts, and getting eggs. With the "...Season of the Hex" event coming day after tomorrow, I wanted to get my old "hex signs for sale" signs up, and our mailbox post was looking like an appropriate place. However, the current post is split and rocking and we wanted to recycle our old Vision drop box (with the addition of a flag) as it is BIG. We havd had a post laying around for a while, so having learned the post box rules I decided I would start digging the hole. Surprisingly I got it done in jig time, despite having to dig out a huge flat rock at the very end, when I discovered that what I thought was just the right height was 1/2" too tall. I wil add the signs tomorrow and the mailbox as soon as we have cleaned off the "Vision drop box only, no postal mail" sign and added the flag.

Whew! Late supper, of course... but it will be simple fare tonight and tomorrow we will be off to the hospital for a good part of the day, I suspect, as it is the first day of K's stress test.

Monday, October 27, 2008

White Morning!

No, it's not snow... we are socked in with heavy fog. At dawn it was so thick I could not have told if the horses next door were in their barn or pasture. now, I can see several standing around the large round bale, which has been set up much closer to their barn than previously, and I can -- dimly through the fog -- see another standing at the far back of their field.

A friend was thinking of coming for a visit this week, I hope she did not try for today, as the place is not that easy to find in clear weather and broad daylight!

I am 95% done with the garage, though I had told K that there would be room to park the riding mower on the storage side and the way I have it arranged, there is not... so there will likely be some more shuffleing at some time in the future. I will consult with him about that, as he had wanted his boxes and totes all stacked together -- which I have done -- but I do not want to box them in so he cannot go through them. There is much in there -- in my opinion -- that he will soon be ready to either let go of or will come into the house.

However that will wait for another day, I think, as I am feeling a little yukky and with the fog, it seems a day to stay inside. I need to make cookies to have on hand for the studio open house on Friday ("autumn leaf cookies" that I cut out from sugar cookie dough, multicolored... they are fun to make and look really cool and chocolate dough for acorns, I frost the "tops" and sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles too.) so getting them done today sounds like a good plan. I have had one response to my press releases, asking for high resolution pictures, so that is a good sign that someone might show up.

I also have work to do for clients, and can busy myself with that while the cookie dough does its mandatory time in the fridge.

It looks like the computer is back and (mostly) running. I found one more program this morning that was missing its .exe file... and got it reloaded. K pulled an all-nighter working on the machine and is now crashed out.

Other projects on the list for "soon" include:
  • doing the raking
  • re-stacking the "haystack" compost pile, as the one end of it blew over in the high winds of the most recent storm
  • organizing the office (which has never really been totally set up) so I can put away the stuff in the "office box" that got brought in when I went looking for the software disks K needed
  • organizing the Craft room
  • finding places for the boxes of fabric that I brought in as well
  • finding places to sit or hang the remaining pieces of art
And of course I still must complete the illustrations for the Yule moose book for the Grands and finish layout on the Words of Wisdom book... that won't be 50,000 words, but it might make a good quasi-NaNoWriMo project...

Ahhh.. the coffee pot calls and it is time to get dressed (finally) and attack the day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Late day

Oh, ow and my achey old bod... Getting an embarrassingly late start today, as I was awake for hours last night, even after I gave in and took Niquil... took forever for it to kick in. Not sure if it was just the dust from the garage and stuff, or if the evening snack of "Katie cake" and more likely the ice cream contributed to the snuffing, snorting and gawdawful crud down the back of my throat, but it was there nonetheless. GAK!

K even brought me coffee, finally and that got me going but when the dog stirred at sunup, I only got up and opened the door, letting her out into the front room for K to put her outside. His pains had awakened him and he was UP (for a while at least). I DO NOT want to attack the garage today but have no choice as I must find the box with my software and decide what I will do with the main computer.

At least it seems that most of the heavy, high lifting part is done and the horizontal rain seems to have abated. K said we had an inch in the gauge and I am sure it did not capture the most of it, judging by the puddles at the front of the drive and knowing that the particular gauge in question is designed to capture rain in its more typical path, falling down out of the sky. We had high wind warnings from 2 AM until about noon... which is is now... and they were right. At times it was blowing so hard the wind chimes refused to sound and it first blew the catfood bowl and the small grill off the "liars bench" on the porch, then blew the bench itself over on its side. Photos will follow once I get the tech issues resolved.

I wonder if the "haystack" (aka compost pile) is still there or if I will have to rake it again?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

mowing and moving stuff

K finished mowing the back field today, amidst flames coming up from the mower around his feet. Yeah, again. The heavy stalks of the milkweed and some of the golden rod tangle in the mower and hold the grassier stuff all jammed up in it. Every time he stops for a break I drop the deck, get down on hands and knees and pull out the sticks and then dig around for grass by the handfuls. But I guess he missed a break...

Anyway, it is DONE for the season (well there are a few places that are grass that haven't got done yet) but the over-the-head growth has been cut down and many of the trees have been spared. I need to rake and carry the clippings to mulch stuff or to the compost, but that can happen from now until snowfall. Well, not the next couple of days, for rain is predicted... but after that.

The rain should give me time enough to finish the re-organization of the garage. I need to have a place to display the hex signs and to work during the "season of the hex" open house on Friday, and am using this as an excuse to try to make it possible to get one vehicle into the garage. Should be easily possible, but I am taking the time to organize as well as move stuff. At his request, I have managed to gather all the boxes and plastic totes of K stuff into one stack (4 containers square and well over my head.) His new Indian name is "He-Who-No-Longer-Moves-In-Volkswagen" LOL he used to be able to move all his worldly goods with just his VW, one trip.

I have moved the gleaned windows out into the "potting shed" and stacked the overhead cabinet that we extracted from the laundry room on the work bench at the back of the garage, giving us some more useful storage space. I got the back of the side that will contain the Subaru emptied and moved the woodworking tools, on their stands, back there. Still enough room for car, and they can be easily slid forward to use. And I was in the process of moving the odd lumber (bits of wood that we moved from NC and haven't used yet, as well as molding we have taken off the house and the lumber from the closet we removed) and similar stuff to a convenient stash hole when I ran out of energy. It was getting dark, K was done mowing and I was already pretty darn stiff so it seemed like a good time to stop.

I DO have to find the box that contains all the software for my computer as something seems to have eaten all my .exe files. THAT was the start of the day... an update from MS, my attempt to remove a single program that I am no longer using, and zap... nothing worked. K got most of it back and running but it was telling me I needed to reinstall Word and when I went to process the photos I shot of the mowing, it couldn't find photoshop.exe either. Well, this is the time to find that stuff... every box that remains that says "office" will be brought in. Tomorrow.

Tonight, if I need to work, I'll use the laptop.

Friday, October 24, 2008

an autumn day

The waning moon and the Hunter, setting were beautiful in the southern sky when I let the dog out this morning, just as the sky started to lighten and show color on the east above the trees.

It was BRRR yesterday, but should be a bit warmer today. K thinks he will finish the mowing, but I am not sure, as we went to town mid-day to get a new Rx filled and have lunch with a friend.

And, as it turned out, the prescription had not been called in, so the day took a much longer turn as, after lunch, we drove on into Milo to touch base at the clinic.. and incidentally pick up another large jar of chili powder from the IGA there -- is in their own (Milo Farmers Union) brand and a very good deal.

The friend with whom we lunched is on Freecycle too and when I posted a request for natural fiber blankets and quilts, she responded. I was looking for old ones to put to the windows as inexpensive warmth, but what she gave me are a real Pendelton and a good fake, so they can go on the bed and I will end up looking for old sheets to sandwich the poly blanket (which I have been wanting to get rid of... it is not on the bed and I don't want it to be) as a window quilt, despite the fact that I really didn't want to do that.

One problem -- in general -- is that there are no really good thrift stores here and what there are ask (to me) inflated prices for their goods. I got the window frames mostly touched up with stain -- except for the places that first needed a bit of wood dough -- so hopefully that is dry enough to touch up this evening and I can have a go at putting on the seal coat tomorrow. I HAVE to get on that so that we can begin to put up the heat-shrink plastic. The dining room no longer has any curtain, though it does have plants, so I will want something there that can be raised or opened all the way... thinking roman blind... I have washed the drapes and sheers from the living room windows so have them to re-install. I am not terribly happy with the whole idea of sheers (I like to look out!) and the rods for the drapes are thick and not designed to let the drapes be pulled all the way open. They are also not insulated drapes (though they are lined) so I am not sure what I will do. Likely put together something in a home-made roman blind here, too... it is the most easily made, cost effective solution, and if I set it up right, should snug up to the wood window frame all around, keeping in the warm and out the cold most effectively.

It is really nice to be able to look out back and SEE the land rolling away to the north. And the Powers That Be handed me a set of old fashioned, wooden snowshoes, so I will be learning to use them once the snow files. It will be fun to walk about on the property and look for tracks. As we have been cutting, we have revealed paths and possibly places where something has laid down. Not sure what.. there are a lot of cats (domestic) in the area and one of them has been seen to hunt in the back field (though he did not share the mouse with K, riding the mower!).

K was asking for sausage and potatoes yesterday (I was set to make spaghetti then, which I did) so I boiled some potatoes when I made breakfast this morning and am set up for that tonight.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Spinning straw into...

Winter is coming on and we are on a big push to get the entire farm mowed. Now about half of it is (was) in what would normally be recognized as lawn. But half has been left to grow (likely brush hogged in the spring, judging by the size of the baby trees -- mostly equal in height to the goldenrod) and it was on that part that I began using by scythe. As you can see, I did not get a lot done (scythe needs peening, and thanks to friends I now have a log into which I can mount the peening jig and begin learning to do this....) and as winter is leaning over our shoulder -- and we got the lawn tractor up, running and repaired -- I gave K the go to begin using it on the back field, starting at the back (the "lawn" area mostly having been done). However I wanted to gather up the "straw" that I had cut and yesterday began raking it into rows.

It was interesting where my mind went as I did this job (t0tally without the proper tools I might add.. I was using a small garden rake). I had been feeling bad because I have not been spinning any of my wool, but as I raked the grasses and longer stalks of milkweed and golden rod, I noticed that they were behaving pretty much like... FIBERS! As I raked, much like carding wool, I was getting rolled up "bats" of my cuttings. This got me to wondering, did some field hand long ago spin the first yarn about spinning straw into gold after spending the day doing just such a task? Me, I will be "spinning" straw into compost... another sort of gold for the gardener.

After getting the mowings into rows, it was time to go get the truck. Now, it's been a long time since I "put up" loose hay.. and in that day and place there were pitch forks and hay rakes and all the real tools for the job. But one does what one must with what one has, at least in my universe... so a cultivator did double duty as a pitch fork (with a little extra effort) and soon the truck was piled high!

Just so you can see what I was up against, here is a shot with the tools I used.

I only hauled one load yesterday, 4 more today and the compost pile has grown a bunch!

It likely is not a "proper" compost since it is only a pile of "weeds" but experience tells me it WILL compost -- eventually -- and time is on my side.

After getting the dishes washed I went back out and began raking up the actual lawn area clippings. Now, much of the lawn did not generate clippings to any degree. We cut at the highest setting of the mower, always. Want to give the growing things as much space to do that as possible and where they are over the top, we harvest them (and give the lawn the semblance of having been mowed -- a small nod to being civilized) so only a few places had stuff to rake. However, I managed to fill the pickup (though only once). It is currently covered with a tarp, as there might be rain tomorrow and I want the clippings dry as my "time to plant GARLIC" bell went off today also. That will be my morning job tomorrow, if the rains holds off, and the grass will be used to mulch the bed and any remaining will go on the berry bushes out on the south west side.

Meanwhile, back at the back field, K was still hard at work mowing. He finally managed to make enough of a dent in the back field that I could see him from the house.

He was doing his best to mow around the trees and shrubs that are trying to naturalize themselves back there and which we will encourage as we would like to have a wind break and visual barrier around the property. There looks like there is a lot left to go (and there IS) but still he has made a dent in it. there are still places that will call for my scythe once I get it peened... along the fence rows and close around the things we are leaving.

One more thought before I leave these pages for other work... it is very interesting to see the differences in the land from one place to another on our 4 acres, and what naturally springs forth.

On the left, the rocky soil predominates, it seems to rise up here and there across the land. And less then 10 feet away, things grow with abandon.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I Had my Shit Together

For one whole day, I can honestly report that I had my shit together... all in one place (fortunately not all in one sock though.)

Yep, one full pickup load of manure... rabbit in this case. The woman said she "only had a little bit..." My opinion differs... But it made for a bit of well-manured soil (only a bit, considering the size of the garden, but you can see where we will start planting spinach come spring!

She was concerned about my willingness to put manure in the clean bed of my pickup... well, y'know I haul all sorts of stuff in it, groceries, furniture... so who doesn't know how to use a hose? LOL I swept and washed it out mostly over the compost and then the final rinse in the driveway where it could lean tailgate downhill a bit and it is now ready to run to town today and carry insulation.

I guess I still have all my shit together, it's just in a different place!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

From the twilight zone to rabbit manure in one easy trip

What a day!

Started out with server follies (my email forwards are not working.. still.. have an email in to tech support) of which I was notified by a client, whose emails had not been responded to.

Then I headed to town on a simple errand: FexEx a package. Yeah, right. I was SURE that I knew where the FedEx place was. I have been there once, in Brewer, for my boss. He gave me VERY CLEAR directions because he was still reeling from my having taken an hour to get keys duplicated as it appears I was unable to follow the directions to the hardware store. "Go downriver... you can practically see it from here."

Anyway, I HAD been to the FedEx place, following the directions that sent me over the bridge to Brewer, past a print shop that he was surprised I had noticed and (apparently) several hotels, which I still do not recall having seen. He said the signage was bad (a given.. this IS Maine) but I lucked out and was able to follow a FedEx truck. I DID see the (small and inconspicuous) sign though... and was able to FedEx out the documents before they closed. Mission complete.

However, today the turn in Brewer seemed to have evaporated. I found the sign board (for an industrial park) but no FedEx sign and when I turned down the road, it was not as I remembered. I checked out EVERY road going that direction until I was WAY out of town, past WalMart, past Lowes... and no dice.

I headed back into town, figuring at the worst to stop back at Staples and ask them the directions (to their competetor... they process UPS) but instead happened upon a sign shop/quick print place and figured they might know. THEY gave me directions to a place in BANGOR not Brewer... in an area I had been (return of rental truck) but certainly not accessable from the office by going over the bridge to Brewer. And yes, there was a (small, inconspicuous) sign and the FedEx building was down a road that looked very familiar, around a bend, sharp turn to the left after entering their facility to get to the customer desk, all as I remembered. BUT NOT IN THE RIGHT PLACE. Well I hope that -- Twilight Zone or not, the documents get where they are going by tomorrow afternoon, as promised...

Then it was back toward home, to shovel up "some... not much" rabbit manure that someone had contacted me about, from a request for such material on Freecycle. I am looking for free manure, straw, leaves etc for compost and maybe even for building cold frames with the windows I gleaned... They older lady raises show and pet rabbits and lives alone, so dealing with the droppings is not the easiest. She was, she said, often concerned about just letting people come in and shovel up the droppings, as not everyone has been around and understands animals, but when I emailed back, referring to "rabbit rounds" she figured I must know rabbits.

I do not know how many bunnies she has, but they were in two makeshift barns and some of the cages had been cleaned under, pretty much... but still I was able to collect a FULL TRUCK LOAD of mostly well-composted manure, a bit of stray hay and a couple of small piles of guinea pig droppings and shavings which will need to compost. I was gone for hours, as cleaning out under her cages was not easy; while I had no problem with her short ceilings (she is about my height and built the shelters herself, tall enough for her and two layers of cages) they barns were a bit more cramped quarters than I am used to working in, especially with long-handled tools.

Never the less, I hope to work with her next year, showing up to collect manure on a monthly basis through the season, which excites her as well. Apparently most folks either don't show, don't take much or don't come back. I told her I will bring her veggies when I come as she no longer can garden on account of her hands.

But boy, am I sore... after a morning on the scythe and then this. Thankfully the crock pot was hard at work all day making chili and tomorrow is predicted rain, so will be an indoor day, hopefully working on the riding mower, as the part should arrive around noon.

The water is heating for a bath, pain pills and a glass of wine have been consumed and I think I am going to see what might be had on the TV. I am too tired/sore to even think of spinning. But happy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Feeling "winter finding"

In the tradition of the northern past, what we know as Halloween was called "winter finding" and was the beginning of the winter season. It could be noted that they called only two seasons -- winter and summer -- but today I am definitely feeling that sense that the season of cold, dark and inward turning thought is on its way.

It is also "hunters moon" tonight, which did bring me to mind of Halloween and the beginning of the "Wild Hunt" of northern myth...

We have been working towards -- as a friend who visited yesterday said -- buttoning up the house. These trailer windows have no proper frame and this would not allow sufficient air space between the heat-stretched plastic "insider" storm window and the window glass, so we got a few 1x4s (the 1x3s being too poor quality to even consider) and I stained them walnut to go with the dark trim and dark metal windows. Yesterday we began installing them, having got the 3 north facing windows in the living/dining area done with enough pieces spare to do one remaining.

Next time I take the truck to town I will get more wood -- or maybe today if we feel like fighting to secure them to the roof rack of the car.

I still need to do some filling, touch-up stain and varnishing of the frames we did put up before I can secure the plastic... but we are in process. We also looked under my craft room floor to see why, when the heater came on the other day, that room got only lukewarm air and the rest of the house got warm. Turns out they used stove pipe -- uninsulated -- for the run to the floor grate. We also need to replace a bit of insulation under that floor, so some fibreglas will be on the list for today, I am sure.

Today is a town-running day; K has a doc appt in Milo early on and then I hope to stop by friends, and we will do town errands. Another couple of hex signs to be posted and another mail order check for one might be in the mail. We have a list for the hardware store and another short one for the grocery... nothing essential, just odd ends that I will pick up if possible.

We are beginning to get into the routine of one big shopping trip per month. I do need to get the animal food in sync though.

A couple of days off scything... yesterday it was wet and though scything goes well in the wet, I did not want to be soaked, as I knew I would be, cutting the stuff I am working on. And today, well we need to be out of here on the way to the doc at 7:30. We are also waiting for a part for the riding mower, which hopefully will arrive this week. It has been much abused and will have a shorter life for it, but the engine is strong and for $100 we can have a good machine for K to work on the remaining lawn area, and to hopefully mow down the stubble in the back once I have liberated the trees. I would like to try to keep the goldenrod at bay, let other things come up that attract wildlife and cover the ground between the trees we will plant.

'tis time to get after it I guess... if I can get beans on to cook today, I'll turn them into a pot of chili tonight for supper tomorrow. And if not, well there is tomorrow, as well.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Scything along

I have been going out to cut the back fields with the scythe for a couple of hours each morning, give or take, and have decided that as long as the grasses hold out, I will do so. This is a great way to get the day started, to get me going and warmed up.

Of course, the ol' body doth protest a bit... but by only doing SOME each day, my arms have not decided they must truly fall off. No, it is not the cutting that makes me hurt, just the work of learning the motions, to be most efficient and how to cut green grasses vs dead ones, longer vs shorter, more woody stem weeds vs grasses (this is why I got a "ditch" blade not just a pure grass blade) and of course cutting over and down the ups and downs in the field.

I have revealed a pile of rubble (broken cement blocks) previously hidden by the weeds and a strange stick with what I thought was a blue rag tied to it but K says is an old surgical glove... I will have to email the former owner once I get a bit more cut to take a picture...

On the mechanical side, the riding mower that came with the place -- which we knew had been "rode hard and put away wet" (literally) seems to have been even more abused. When K and I removed the mowing part yesterday -- expecting to need a new belt and/or blades which could be bought locally, to get the thing up and running again -- we found that instead all those parts were good, but something had caused the mower cover (deck) to get pushed down into the blades -- or the blades up into the cover -- and they have whacked a hole in it. Not a real biggie, but it would prolong the life of that part if we could find someone to weld the hole shut. But the real kicker was that we needed a "mandril" -- the part the the blade attaches to, which bolts on to the machine and contains the bearing on which the blade turns. Somehow, it had gotten totally worn so that instead of spinning securely in the bearing, it could rock and roll back and forth. New part, mail order only, $85. I just hope it arrives soon, as I do not want to be like most of the folks up here last year (or so it seemed as the snow melted in the spring) who were caught unawares and had everything buried under the first, early, deep snowfall. I'd like to get the grasses and weeds cut and the cuttings into the compost pile. which will be HUGE but that is good... so are the gardens!

Today I will try to make contact with the rabbit lady, who has said I can get manure from them, to at least take the contractor bags that I have -- and maybe the old plastic trash can without a lid -- and see the best way to work at her farm. She has said "bag it" but since we don't have feed sacks... well, we DO have cat food bags... they are durable, so maybe I'll carry some of them along as well. That will go a long way to helping out the compost as I build it.

Trying to get a housecleaning done as well, and paint on the hex signs that are on order. Always much to do...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

the gardens

For Tali, who was wondering... here are the garden spaces, in the FRONT of the house (south side...) about 1.5 acres all told, more than my friend Robin has under cultivation and she is a market gardener! LOL

On the left (looking past the porch, north east corner of the property) will be vegetables.
On the right (looking past my truck, north west corner of the property) will be perennials -- berries and likely a start of the fruit trees, along the road I want to add bushes, including hazel nut. The perennials will include strawberries and asparagus and the like... and herbs...

I hope to put in some grains too... maybe in back, but back there I am planning to let trees grow (and plant them as a wind break) as that is the north side.

4 acres is a LOT of earth!!

Scything Photos

Doesn't it just look so cool and ... "old country?" You can see some of what I have done, lots to go as the property goes back to near the distant tree line. And that telephone pole just over my head, in front of the distant house, is essentially our corner pole.

This series shows pretty much the process, though I can see from these photos that I DO NOT HAVE GOOD FORM and need to work on the "rotate at the hips" thing... think old Jack La Lane exercise...

Can you see on the photo above right the flying grasses at the end of my scythe?

And every 5 minutes or so it is time to stone the blade. One carries the whetstone in a sheath on the belt, with a little water (see the first shot, from behind). A few strokes, just to keep it sharp, are sufficient...

of scythes and bifocals

Second day of morning mowing.. I cannot go for more than a couple of hours, it seems. Some of that is on account of not being at all in shape, and my arms (yea I know you use your UPPER BODY not your arms to do the work, but you still have to HOLD the thing!) never have been my strongest part. But another part is that I have gone out over dressed both days... once I get going I need only a lightweight pair of slacks and a short-sleeve t-shirt. Even if it IS 50 degrees..

I mowed a bit more along side where I was working yesterday and then decided to try cutting by the east fence. the neighbor has an electric fence for her horses (it is not always turned on, but when it is tall weeds touching the wires tend to short it out. and there is a whole section that looks as if it has never been mowed. Now, mowing straight into head-high growth is something different! LOL but I did about half of that part (maybe about a third of the way back from the "lawn" part to the back border, but at one point the horses were allowed to graze in the way back, so that part is less in need of cutting.) I got more practice at putting my blade right next to a post or a tree trunk and cutting the grasses away from it, as I did a similar motion along the border under the fence when the horses came to investigate my work. No desire to whack a horsie. LOL would annoy the horse and really anger the neighbor!

When they found that the process did NOT involve good things for horses to eat, they wandered off...

Now onto to bifocals... I had my eyes examined last month and had decided that it was time to add a bifocal to the glasses collection. Yeah soon I will have three pairs to choose from. I really like being able to see correctly at a distance over all my vision (and as my distance vision had "changed" a lot -- actually I think the previous $20.06 special eye exam was screwed up and the prescription was WRONG from the get-go ) I ordered the new distance and bifocal glasses first. Of course the bifocals got here first... found the best deal on non-lined ones from an outfit in NY while my regular ones I ordered from the place in FL where I had been buying them... and since I wanted the proper distance Rx, I started wearing them.

Not really all that hard to get used to, though I do have times -- like when I get up in the morning or swap out from my computer glasses (I NEED my full vision correct at screen distance for my work, so I am maintining that option as well) and see something relatively close that is in focus -- like the items on my night stand -- it does confuse me a bit. It is really nice to be able to see the veggies I am chopping, or cleaning -- or for that matter my supper! -- in focus!

But I will be glad when my new distance glasses get here, for driving and especially for mowing. The bifocals are disorienting a bit there, and with a very sharp blade, uneven ground, etc... well... I am being cautious.

I had a request for a photo of the scythe, and I will post one later, honest. I was hoping to get K to photograph me at work, as well.. but he was feeling poorly enough yesterday that he did not even get to the dining room window during daylight hours to look out and see what I had done.

Hopefully he will be well enough to at least take a few shots of me working from the craft room door, as I believe I had mowed enough that the lilac bush out there will not block the swath I have next to cut. and I will get him to shoot me just holding it as well.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Magic of the Scythe

After an abortive attempt to begin cutting the "weeds" in the back fields yesterday with my new scythe (I had under-estimated the time involved when the instructions said to "trial-fit the handles and then mow a bit to ensure they are in the right position before gluing.) I glued the handles and -- chomping at the bit -- waited impatiently for the Titebond to cure 24 hours before "stressing the joints."

So today after breakfast I donned my trusty Tilley and went out back with my "new toy" as a friend called it yesterday. I decided to start cutting where the former owner had power-mowed a path around the plot she used as a garden, attacking many tall "weeds" -- a lot of goldenrod and some milkweed (which has, thankfully, finally done a major drop of its seeds).

I can report that it is easier than one might thing, so long as I remember to twist at the waist, rather than using my arms. My mowing doesn't look pretty, and I am not yet very good at keeping the tool riding on the ground as it should, but with the kind of weeds I am attacking, this is ok. I suspect that K will make a pass later once he gets the power mower working, as a way to cut up the large pieces I have mowed down, to make it easier to compost, and that my having mowed once will make it much easier and faster for him and the riding mower to do the next pass.

My book said something about "paying attention to the grass" and indeed, it is obvious as you mow that if the grass is leaning you mow against the lean. Some of the other less woody weeds -- small vine-y things, are giving me some trouble still... but we will work through that.

I also determined that it is very easy to cut close around a plant that you want to leave standing. This was one of my main intentions with the scythe... to mow the back but leave any "volunteer" trees and bushes there, as a start for the windbreak. In the part that I did today, I found one birch looking bit of growth, about 3' tall (same height as the weeds which is why I had not noticed it before) and a couple of bushy things of undetermined species. They may stay or may go later, after they have been identified. Like the demonstrator at the Common Grounds Fair said, you do know exactly where the point of that blade is, even when you cannot see it in the grass, and can put it right up next to the "keeper" and cut unwanted growth away.

I also learned that you do not bend over when scything. No, nothing to do with the tool itself, but you carry a whetstone in a holder on your belt (or since I don't wear one, with the belthook tucked over the waistband of my jeans, on my back hip out of the way). That holder contains WATER... necessary for keeping the stone clean.. and... well you get the picture. It was a little chilly out for a wet hip, even though I had doffed my sweat shirt half way through my bit of work. About the same time the one joint that I had FORGOTTEN to glue came loose, so I am done for the day.

Probably a good thing, as even though it is realtively easy work, it does involve motions that the body is not yet used to doing, repeatedly, for protracted periods.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

In case you didn't know...

...farming is HARD WORK! LOL
(NOTE: This post talks about the process of getting fowl from pen to freezer. I will try to be less graphic, but killing is involved)

Got up at 3:30 (yes that is AM) yesterday to get the Words of Wisdom written and get dressed and out the door by 4 -- almost made it -- to head out to my friend Robin's house to help process poultry. Arrived at here place about 6:30, we had coffee and muffins while her husband busied himself outside getting things moved around and in order for our project.

Since we were going to skin the chickens (none of us need the extra fat from cooking the skin!) and only scald and pluck the turkeys, Robin got the fire started in the outdoor fire pit while Steve and I collected the first 10 birds to work on.

They had penned up the chickens separately so it was pretty easy for Steve to catch them, and he handed them out to me to put in the crate in the back of the three-wheeler for their trip to the block. After some discussion, we decided he would be the axe man and I would help hold (covering each bird's eyes in turn, which helped to keep them calm. I learned a new technique for the bleeding them out process, too. Rather than just letting them go on the ground (they do thrash around "like a chicken with it's head cut off" once they are dead) Steve secured a stiff wire around one leg prior to the axe bit and then we used the wire to secure the carcass, hanging upside down from a cable for them to drip.. avoiding any bruising of the meat as well.

We did get a little extra exercise, though, as he didn't quite secure the pen well enough after that first batch were caught and almost all of them made their escape! Steve is one master chicken-herder though! Mostly through his efforts we managed to get MOST of them back in the pen, and on each subsequent trip to gather up 10 more, grabbed a couple more stragglers hanging around outside their fence, wanting back in with the flock.

We did them 5 at a time, carried to the picnic table, covered with heavy plastic, for skinning and gutting and then they had set up an outside sink in which to wash the carcasses and where they soaked in icy cold well water to cool. All in all we processed 46 chickens, about 10 per hour and 3 turkeys, which we plucked. The whole process was lot harder, more physical and messier (for sure) than what it likely sounds from my writing. At one point Robin mentioned that I needed to clean the blood off my glasses before I left the farm (I did... and off my face too...) and I quipped that we should have done this on the day of Halloween, (looking down at the blood spattered yellow rain suit overalls I was wearing) and I could have just gone home and handed out candy...

We were at it a good part of the morning, despite a brisk cool breeze and a lack of sunshine. As Robin said, "either less wind or a bit more sun would have been nice..." I brought home a big bag of hearts and livers (none of us eat gizzards), 12 nice size chickens and a hen turkey for Thanksgiving, all of which I managed to fit into the freezer last night.

"On the way" home (kinda... ) I stopped by Scythe Supply to pick up my new scythe. They make the snath (the handle part... ) as a custom piece, sized for each individual buyer. I will put it together tonight and see about starting to mow tomorrow... Mowing Monday has a nice ring to it, and besides I am totally beat today, and the neighbor has had an entire flock of people over with the horses (a church thing, I am guessing... as it IS Sunday) and I really don't want half the town watching me learning to mow.

Put a second coat of paint on the hex blanks in the garage, got a couple of loads of wash out and one out and in already, and I am thinking about calling it time to put the flannel sheets on the bed. It was right chilly last night...

But by the time I got home, about 8 PM, BOY was I beat!

I have been catching up on laundry and am about to decide it is time to put the flannel sheets on the bed. It was right chilly last night.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Just wanted to share that the article on my hex signs that I submitted to Small Town Living magazine was published today.

This is an online-only publication... in Adobe Acrobat format.

Of course this means a bit of a edit to my hex web site...

and a busy day in store today.

I have determined that is IS necessary to give a flea bath or dip to ALL the inside and inside/outside critters... so after breakfast (Gods, I am LATE today!) we will dig the portable heater out of the garage, as well as the kitty bathtub and begin the process. for some time I have been doing the cats in the regular bathtub, as the galvanized one allows them to have something to GRAB ON TO and therefore fight me more... but since {"their" bathroom has hot water only to a single sink (that works and doesn't leak...) and I want to do them in there (more room, and their litter boxes and food are there so they can dry more comfortably) I'll deal with the tub. Might end up taking the dog in there to dry too, though I will wash her in the other bathroom (TUB!). It's way too chilly here, now, for an outside doggie shower.

And I need to get to town to check the mail (will my plants have come?) and get gas/money for my trip out to the "boonies" tomorrow EARLY to help friend Robin butcher fowl for shares. Free range, organic chicken and Thanksgiving Turkey... now there is something to be thankful for! Amd while I am out, I need to take a final trip to my garden and -- if it is not raining -- see what remains to be got. Also we need eggs -- and my friend Anne at whose house we were gardening, supplies them.

And then an early ritual this evening and to bed, hopefully to sleep and arise in the early foredawn hours to get out to Robin's place.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Being home

Well the moving in is done, enough that we had our housewarming -- such as it was -- last weekend. It was a very busy weekend and most folks were occupied elsewhere and others did not want to challenge the rainy weather or got lost.. but in the end we did have some company, K didn't drown cooking burgers on the grill and a good time was had by all.

We got the front lawns tilled up -- as you can see from the pix -- about 1.5 acres all told. The tractor dude is SURE we are going to be in business whether we want to or not. I don't know... by the time I put in enough sweet corn, broom corn, wheat for crafting, and all our other crops, just for us to use and eat, well who knows. But as my friend Robin says "make the land pay for itself" and if I can -- one way or another -- that would be good.

Inside, "Give Us This Day" is once again hanging in its place over the dining table and I am beginning to get the Craft room in a semblance of order. Just beginning, as I have tons of books and stuff that belong there, and are unboxed, but not in places yet. I have got the work table in and have been stretching "canvas" for interior hex signs, as I have orders to fill. Also orders for the big wooden ones, too... and I am SO GLAD to be able to do the wood working part in the garage. I still need to set up and tear down -- to a degree -- my woodworking place as it is still also storage and now yard tractor maintenance shop.

The little riding mower than came with the place has a dead, flat, dryrotted tire and we can't get the darn wheel off (YET!!) but the motor runs well so K considers it a keeper for now. And if need be we can haul it in the truck over to Corinth proper to the place that works on the things, and get that guy to heat up the axle and replace the wheel.

Hopefully this weekend I will have my European scythe, though, and can begin cutting the back acres so we can see what we have (the way the land lays) as that is where the woods will be planted/encouraged. Saturday I go to Waite to help my friend Robin put poultry by... she has a bunch of chickens and some turkeys that are destined for the freezer (hers and mine, for helping). It's a long ways -- and will be a very long day -- but woth it in many regards as I enjoy Robin a lot, learn a lot from her and am sure I will enjoy working with her. Just wish she were closer!

And speaking of work... now that the "season" has passed, there are fewer hours for me at Sunrise International, so I am looking to pick up some new clients and promote the hex sign business as well. I have made it to the first page of Google on the search "hex sign"! and have a slow steam of orders so I must be doing something right! (well, search engine optimization is one of the services I offer my design clients when I am wearing my other hat as Vision IPD so it does stand to reason (when I have time to WORK on promoting my own stuff, that is!) My Vision IPD plate will be rather full in the next couple of months, as I am gearing up to once again do the yearbook for the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center and following that, the annual newspaper for the Cape Lookout National Seashore.I am enjoying being able to spend a lot of time here on our land, though. Especially now that the trees that I can see out the windows are beginning to turn. Above is the view out to office window, taken Sunday September 28. It was a rainy overcast day -- we have had a lot of them of late -- but the colors are still nice. There have been brilliant trees all around -- on our trips to Bangor, in to Corinth proper and north to Dover-Foxcroft but -- until quite recently -- all the woods surrounding us were still green. There have been many a misty sunset...And as the cold and dark season approaches, I am SO GLAD to be HOME!