Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Yule! Turning The Wheel...

There is much energy of change floating around out there at present. I have been feeling it for some time, K noted it last night as well. And others -- even those who are not aware or sure of what they are feeling -- are responding to it as well. I see it in their words and actions.

Yule is -- by it's nature -- a "tide" and not a time, not a moment, an instant, a day.... but rather a period of time where the changes ebb and flow, washing over us all and over the world as it spins through space. It's a good time to let go of things whose time is over. It is a good time to tidy up, both in material and non-material spaces, and prepare to begin moving forward again as the light grows.

As the energies of the first night and day of the tide begin to wane, with Mother Night behind us and the rest of the days ahead, take time especially to remember the Mothers. For me the first of these is AllMother, Frigga, the Lady of the Hearth. It is for her I light my candle on the hearth and keep it burning. And there are my ancestresses..... Dorothea, Katherina and on back... Hail the Mothers, who keep the hearth fires burning. Hail to the Mothers who light the lamps and soothe the tears. Hail to the Mothers who take up arms in righteous causes, in the homeland and in the defense of same. Hail to the Mothers who struggle uphill against the odds; may they prevail in all their righteous desires. Hail!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Crunchy snow!

I went out today into snow that crunched under my feet! Admittedly it was only the fact that the previous fall had melted, slightly, in the mist that fell yesterday, but it was enough to finally make me FEEL the beginning of the Yuletide season. 'Bout time, eh? LOL

We have outdoor trees up, but not lit yet and the indoor tree finally in place, but not decorated yet either. On account of Coffee (aka The Pup That Ate Corinth) I had to look to something much smaller than usual and placed on a table. I cut the tree at a friend's place where I tipped for wreaths a while back. These "free range" trees, not being kept in captivity and force fed, are much leaner and lankier than the typical "Christmas tree" and I often have issues with their trunks and my stand... and this year presented a unique challenge.

The very scrawny trunk on the tree (the top part of a taller one) was only a little over an inch in diameter, way too small for even the replacement bolts that I refitted to the stand to securely hold. In the end I cut a piece of pvc pipe, which the bolts did hold, and K whittled the trunk diameter to fit inside the pipe. The tree can still drink and it is held securely enough. Hopefully it will be decorated tomorrow.

Yesterday, "town day" ended up taking much longer than expected but in this case it was a good thing. We had forgotten to calendar a rescheduled doc appt. for K until the reminder phone call Monday afternoon. So that got added to the list, and while we were in that building we decided to stop by another office to see about the reschedule of a different appointment that we had canceled during the previous week's storm. The person he had been supposed to see just happened to be at their front desk, reporting a "no-snow" for that exact moment, so she pulled K into the slot. A good thing... all appts are back on track ... but set the day's errands later and the outside home work that I was going to do when we got back (other than bringing in the tree) sifted to today.

And is done... in advance of the coming "deep freeze" and despite a brisk, rather cool breeze. The main chores included: attempt to repair a rip in the foundation's plastic "windbreaker" with duct tape (which doesn't like to stick in frigid temps, but was persuaded -- I think -- by judicious applications of heat from the heat gun. Helped me to work sans gloves as well... tearing duct tape with fuzzy gloves is not optimal. ;)

...topping off the coolant in the Subaru

...taking out trash and unusable cardboard

...bring in cardboard for packaging the last hex shipment of 2009, tomorrow

...crawling under the trailer to plug in the pipes heat tape.

Now I have a couple of hours until I have to leave for work, so I'll fuss a little more on that hex, hopefully get it sprayed with overcoat and wash dishes. Hopefully I'll feel like working on monkeys when I get home tonight!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mistletoe, anyone??

Last call for a sprig of Mistletoe or protective talismans for your doors!! I am shipping them tomorrow. Get your request in today, with address!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mistletoe, anyone??

Having moved to an area where it does not grow natively -- and being unable to find good, fresh sprigs in any of the local stores -- I have once again ordered a box of mistletoe sprigs.

It is still time to make decorations or amulets as per your tradition, in time for the Holidays. I would be glad to ship sprigs of mistletoe, tied with a red ribbon, to anyone who wants some of the "good stuff" for $5 plus an additional $5 for shipping US Priority Mail.

I would also make a protective charm such as I put over each door at Solstice, consisting of a solar cross made of birch twigs and a sprig of mistletoe, tied with red jute cord. I would like 7.50 for the charms and the shipping is the same, $5 for up to 5 of them. One should put one over each door to the outside...

If you would like to order, email me at starwalkr(at) and I will invoice you through PayPal.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Here we go again!

The furor is beginning... the Holidays continue to merge one into another as Christmas decor faces off against Halloween across the isles. The soggy economy is a moot point, I think, for the hype of BUY BUY BUY for the winter holidays seems to change little in intensity from one year to the next.

Everything from cars to homes through useful gadgets and clothing to unnecessary geegaws, produced only to separate us from our money and add to the landfills... all is being hyped with increasing fervor... and we are not even to Thanksgiving yet!

Yes, you probably all know that I have never been "a consumer" in the classic sense. Though I no longer have it on my wall, the motto "Use it up. Wear it out, Make it Do or DO WITHOUT" is indelibly etched on my brain. Not that I don't every buy stuff, mind you... and I have even been known to engage in "retail therapy" of a sort... but in my world there is much more focus on DOING than on HAVING. And, quite frankly, I think that is the better way.

I have been reading about the new and "serious crowd control" measures some of the major retailers have been planning for the post-Thanksgiving buying frenzy and several thoughts cross my mind. The first is "Thank the Gods I don't have to deal with this" from either side of the counter. And the second is that you don't either.

Even if you do plan lavish gift giving and holiday decorations there are other ways to get there.... Planning ahead is just one... What if they gave a sale and no one came? And they cut prices and still no one came? Do you supposed they might get the idea that a FAIR price, every day, was the way to go? No, probably not.. but no one ever said that I am not an optimist! LOL

But once again I take my stand to promote "Buy Nothing Day" not to cripple the economy but to bring some sense of SENSE to the marketplace. We don't need to be fighting (and even dying) over STUFF, folks. Yeah, I am likely preaching to the choir here, I know... but the more who stand up and say "NO.... not this way, not this year" the better.

For myself, from Thanksgiving day through the first of the year, I do not set foot in anything like a department or big box or discount store unless it truly is an emergency. Pretty much, I go to the Post office, the bank, a grocer or two and pick up petrol, kero and propane... and by pulling back from the fray I have the chance to relax and enjoy the season of darkness more as it feels to me it needs to be experienced...

I'll be in the "monkey business" in a few days (making stuffed toys for Grands from the old red heel socks) and finally making the yarrow salve that I have had the ingredients to make for a few weeks now. I'll jar up the remainder of the dried herbs, paint hex signs, fuss with the web and read. I'll bake goodies and clean the office and -- weather permitting -- likely just spend some time sitting and watching the snow fall. There are snow shoes to wear and doggies to walk, and lots of time to plot and plan for the coming of the Light. And once the Yuletide has passed, there will be plenty of time to think about buying again, as the seed catalogues drift in with the blowing snow.

Buy Nothing Day --- give it a thought. and consider expanding it... "Take the perspective gained from your 24-hour moratorium on consuming and apply it to the most hectic and wasteful shopping period of the year: the holidays. Make this holiday season a time to reflect on your consumption habits instead of expanding them."

Friday, November 6, 2009

My Hex Signs made the "local" news

A reporter and photographer from the Bangor (ME) paper were out a few weeks ago to interview me.

The article is appearing in the weekend edition of the paper, on line and print.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November has arrived

Yes, I know... it's on the calendar so what's the big deal? Just that the earth signs, here in Maine at least, concur.

A couple of days ago we were blessed by some more serious winds than we've had of late. K commented that this was the "leaf stripping wind" and it appears he was correct. Most of the deciduous trees are now bare, and the bushes as well.

Today we got our third snowfall and the first to happen in the daytime for multiple hours. Most of the afternoon into the evening, snow was falling as I worked in the garage, assembling the fence panels for which I had cut the wood yesterday. There were lots of big, fluffy flakes and in late afternoon, they began to accumulate a bit, making the first "sticking" snow. The forecast was for it to continue into the night with an accumulation of several inches but I do not see than happening now, unless there are more waves of precipitation to come. We will see.

I took the funnel and measuring tube out of my rain gauge in anticipation of having a bit of an accumulation of snow gathering in the 4" cylinder, to be melted and properly measured as liquid tomorrow morning. I have yet to set up the snow accumulation measuring station, but the parts are more or less in place so if there is any accumulation tomorrow morning I will be able to at least take a ruler to it.

The fence, which will enclose the dog yard and hopefully keep Coffee confined, is being made from a load of cull rough cut lumber... mostly 1x6 and some 1x4 boards. I do not have a count of the number of panels I have made, but I used up nearly 100 verticals -- all of the 1x6s. I decided to save the vertical 1x4s, of which there were only a handful, to go with parts cut from the remaining long 1x4 to make a gate. The gate will not be installed until next year, when we get "real" fence posts set. For now, the wooden panels will be held in place by being bolted to metal posts, the kind most often used for electric or wire fencing.

Neither of the dogs jumps against the fence, though at times they lie -- and lean -- against the bottom and the posts should hold against that. The main issue with the current fence -- plastic netting held in place by cheap plastic step-in posts -- is that while Brandi, the full grown Saint Bernard, views it as a barrier, Coffee, the now 5 mo old pup, see it as not even a challenge any more. She just walks it down and is out.

Cutting the wood yesterday and assembling panels today has left me tired and sore in many places but feeling pretty good. "Making sawdust" as my dad used to say, is fun.

Now, if the ground will just hold off on that freezing thing until after next week and we can get the posts driven and the fence up!...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Winternights comes!

A couple of observations from the past two days...

Autumn is tinged with melancholy,
A sweet good bye to summers end,
as to a friend
you know you’ll see again.


Falling leaves tuck us into bed,
Billowing piles and crazy quilt lawns
Evoke the comfort of winter nights
Burrowed in down and tucked, with love,
In cozy flannel and woolen hospitality.

Monday, October 19, 2009

a week in pictures

The last harvest of herbs. Upper left to lower left: oregano on top of sage, thyme, winter savory and chives. Upper right, yarrow. Lower right, Greek oregano.

dried leeks

Leek flower bud

Leek flower bud cross section

Leek bulb reproduction

Leek bulb reproduction: you can see the bulblet was indeed attached to the larger bulb. Leeks are related to lilies, garlic and onions so this type of reproduction should not surprise me, I guess, but I had not seen it before. Less than 10% showed bulblets.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

saying no

I just officially dropped out of doggie training class. For now, at least... I am hoping that I can at least audit the last few classes at some future date. Timing of the classes, and finding time to work with the pup, just were not even close to optimal.. they were just not happening.

It was hard to just shoot off the email without explanation other than reassurance that I was not an unhappy customer. But I think I am going to have to learn to do this, and to learn to make more "maybe" commitments as time rolls on.

You see, my specialty through the years has been "no matter what" commitments... it happens or I MAKE it happen. But things change and that isn't working now.

It might very well have something to do with working 3 jobs. Might have something to do with two of them being client/customer driven (and there I am not willing to give up the "no matter what" commitment; that's just how I do business!) And then there is my getting back to a seasonal /agricultural lifestyle. This has proven to be a thorn in the side of my interactions with the larger community before, when folks don't understand that "there is a time to sow and a time to reap" isn't just metaphor.

And add on top of that, a partner whose health is waning, steadily and significantly -- despite finally having decent medical care. It may not sound like much, but this time last year, he could sit at the computer all day long, doing research, playing WOW or the like and could rouse sufficient energy to do household and other tasks as needed. A year before that, even the task of laying carpet in our small office reception area (which, by the way, was a bear and a half of a job!) was just one of the tasks he did during the day. Yes, he complained of the pain... but he could do it.

Now, he gets winded just walking to the garage; cannot stay awake during the day and even with naps cannot summon the energy, strength or endurance to do much. Putting away the dishes is a major job (though he can still do it at some point during the day) He often says that he used to be "a planner and a do-er" but now can be neither, and that is pretty much dead on. His thinking is affected sufficiently that he must pick and choose times in which he has sufficient clarity to plan out a simple project like designing a replacement for the back steps. One's afternoon's work (with my help) got the boards for the sides cut to size. Assembly of the sides will also need my help, as will cutting and attaching the steps.

So, not only must I deal with the psychological aspects of his decline, there is little that must be done here on he ol' homestead that my hands don't end up having to touch.

And meanwhile, there are still leeks (25') and Brussels sprouts (100') and carrots and beets (just a few) remaining in the garden, as well as all the tall stuff which must be whacked down with the scythe, perennials that much be mulched (with SOMETHING... I wonder if I can still get some of that mulch hay and where the $ is coming from to buy it...)

And while I never thought I was much of a "schedule" person, I am finding that K's total lack of schedule... of falling asleep randomly... being awake randomly... is throwing me for a loop. Just simple stuff like eating.. if I make enough for 2, and it is not something that can "hold" will it be waste? If I make enough for one, chances are about the time I sit down to eat, he's awake! And I do try to keep him eating healthy, trying to buy good stuff and not empty calorie junk, it is hard to keep grab and eat food around that is good for a diabetic.

Sorry about the whine... sometimes it just helps to write as I try to figure out the balance point here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On marriage, contracts and separation of church and state

I don't generally delve into the realm of politics, for several reasons. The most notable of these is that most folks have their minds made up and no amount of discussion will change their position.

However, with the furor that is going on in my home state of Maine as conservatives attempt to overturn our newly enacted right for couples to marry, regardless of gender, and having had a conversation with one of my daughters regarding similar legal controversies in Utah over extending civil rights to folks regardless of sexual orientation and belief system, I am going to jump into the fray.

Be forwarned, I am likely to be so far out in left field as to be totally out of the arena, if not my mind.

For many, many years I have wondered how we can, as a country, say that we separate church and state and yet have the grey area in the law that is marriage -- a rite of churches -- that is also a legal status. As I understand it, marriage became a state matter long ago, as a way of further controlling the peasants and the flow of property. In those days, in Europe, there was also an established State church... and the mixing of Church and State politics was the norm.

That was then... this is now... and it is my opinion that the institution of Marriage should be relegated to the individual churches where it belongs. If a church chooses to marry a couple -- and the couple wishes to partake of this particular sacrament, so be it.

But this should have no bearing on anything beyond the communities of faith... not on who inherits what, not on who pays for what, not on taxes, nor insurance nor any of the other doings the involve the affairs of state. For that, there are contracts. We enter into contracts for buying and renting stuff, for saying who gets what after we die and heck, we even enter into contracts to say who gets what when we separate from a union. Why, then, need there be more than a contract (which could be written any number of ways) to spell out the rights and responsabilities of those who choose to pair-bond? It would be the responsibility of the two parties to negotiate fair and equitable terms which they could agree to... including sharing or separation of finances, responsibility for child care and expenses, and so on.

This would of course require a revamping of the income tax system (which in itself would be a good thing!) and adjustments to other contracts such as for insurance. Anyone of the age of adulthood, who is able to enter into a contractual relationship, could choose to execute this contract with anyone else of suitable age.

They might also choose to participate in a church sacrament, but that would have no bearing on their contractual relationship.

And we would be able place legal issues in a legal arena and spiritual issues on the shoulders of the faith community, where they belong.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I was recently interviewed (by email) regarding my hex work; the interview has been posted online.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What I have been up to...

We have been enjoying autumn colors... this was the view on the way to Dover-Foxcroft for K's counseling meeting. Shot from the hill in Charleston, ME looking north. And after that appointment we went hunting covered bridges we had seen, so as to be able to share the locations with a friend down east in Maine.

This is Low's Bridge, Willimantic, ME (a ways past Dover-Foxcroft) Google map

I found this one "accidentally" on my first vacation to Maine. One could not drive over it then. Who would have expected it to be in my new home town! Robeyville Covered Bridge in Corinth, ME google map

And last night's project result... I moved all this lumber, which we had ordered from a small lumberyard, into the garage so as to be out of the rain today. This represents my back steps and deck (front, boards lengthwise to camera) and the dog fence (boards in back, stacked 4 deep -- this bit is an order of "cull wood" that cost md $40!). My muscles are stiff today from moving all this!

Monday, September 14, 2009

lazy? Busy?

I am either lazy or busy, not sure which, but I did get these shots of birds this morning... a huge flock that I could hear running along the roof and see swooping odwn to eat on the front lawn.

I have no idea what they are, but there were a lot of the critters!

Monday, September 7, 2009

pulling in for the winter

For years, it seems, the dark seasons have been my time to be out and about -- visiting and doing all the things in the community and with friends that most folks do in what is, for me, the busy summer season.

This year seems destined to be different. Not only have I been pulling in during the summer, but I am feeling a stronger need, even, to pull in more as autumn approaches.
There is the garden to finish and put to bed, the house to weatherise and secure and after a year of living here, what needs to be done inside and the priorities are beginning to show themselves.

But even more so than this, am I looking forward to much time of solitude and thought. So if you don't hear much from me, that is likely why.

I will respond to prodding for a sign of life, and will try to do so not as a hibernating, grouchy bear... but I may not have a lot to say. Doesn't mean I care about any or all of you out there any less.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sorting through thoughts and projects

What a week it has been. I have been working hard at the store, in the garden, at the stove (canning) and in the paint studio. And getting projects for the next few months for the design studio as well.

And when I work (at the jobs where there are not people around at least) I think, contemplate, cogitate and meditate. I see, find and follow threads.

One of the threads that has presented itself several times of late -- and has caused me to count my blessings -- is that of relationship endings. Three friends -- one very close and two less close, but no less liked -- have been part of break-ups of late. Of these three, the ones remaining (for the present at least) in the area or in some sort of communication are all guys. And being guys, mostly not given to a lot of chatter. But they are no less hurt and confused, just a bit less likely to sit around raking the coals with a woman friend. I am sure that the economy is a thread in at least some of these breaks.

One woman is badly stressed out by having found her youngest child is very, VERY sick, on top of (in my opinion) their being over their heads financially with the purchase this summer of an owner-finance house. When she was initially talking about the place, it had that "too good to be true" feeling but she and her fella saw none of the red flags. She moved in based on her commitment to working massive hours at a local nursing home and him working good job as well. But he has a history of many jobs/lay-off and such and that proved to be the case once again. Though he is working again now, his income is not enough to support the family, even at a subsistence level, while she stays home to care for their youngest. They have had a tumultuous relationship in the past and I learned last night that she moved home to her parents the previous day. He is camping out in a relative's basement, having let the house go, to be able to save and eventually move to where she now is and he hopes to get his old job back. I wish them well and think they might have a chance.

Another friend had his wife take the kids and head back home to another state some time ago. I dunno much about that, other than he misses the kids terribly. He is once again an over the road trucker, though earlier in the year or late last year I believe he sold his truck as he could no longer make a profit. Not sure if his being home made things better, worse or had no effect... but I know there is a phenomenon of returning spouses (like from the military) having issues with fitting back into the household full time.

The third situation is the one I am closest to and my only conclusion here is that the woman I knew must have never existed. She and I used to talk farming and gardening, goats and chickens and I cannot count the number of times she said she loved her animals. Now I don't know what to believe, as I was told she was going out of state for a week, and told a long story in confidence about why (which story gave NO indication she was sour on her marriage). We had a verbal agreement for working together this summer, but I was ok with the one week absence... but I was NOT ok when it turned into 2+ weeks even though she had assured me, point blank, that she would be in time for a particular engagement. I got into the middle of a big boondoggle with mutual friends on a social networking site when I chose not to break confidence and disclose what I had been told was the reason behind her absence. Now, as I say, I don't know what to believe. Before she "un-friended" me on the site, her posts were cryptic or mundane -- as if she were someone else talking about the daily bits of an existing life -- not someone who had run away from spouse, and her own parents who she had basically caused to move into her home. Now it seems she is attempting to write "the Maine years" totally out of her life. I just don't understand.

What I do understand is making sure you know your self -- well -- and being true to your self when you make commitments. And when, by chance, you discover you have gone down the wrong path (yes, it does happen to us all) extricating yourself gently and gradually. I understand throwing out the bathwater, I guess, and keeping the baby.
And even though I am not one to worry about "what other people think" I do understand that all our actions set off ripples across the web and that these ripples go much farther than even the best of us can see. I understand that seeing this CAN be paralyzing, but that we need to proceed with care and all the truth and honesty that we can muster, regardless.

I understand Intent and that it can do much, but it cannot "cover thy ass" when you make an ass of yourself.

I have learned that working with Intent and honesty and a truthful heart can bring you blessings far beyond what you might have hoped/prayed/been willing to ask for.
Which brings to me to what I guess amounts to an "thankful Thursday" place...

For I am thankful for K, for the fact that he tries and usually doesn't miss by too much, and for the fact that he keeps trying.
And I am thankful that even though I no longer am IN NC, the Cape Lookout National Park folk want me to work on their big annual newsletter.
And I am very thankful that my friend, and museum director, survived her car accident and is still forging ahead (albeit with chronic lack of sleep and hurting head) and has asked me to work on their annual publication as well, one more time. Fall was going to feel very empty without it.
And I am thankful to the Gods for giving me the Words of Wisdom each day to share
and for the hex sign orders, which just keep coming in. there is seldom a time these days that I do not have a hex in process for someone.
And I am thankful for having found our home. Even in my wildest imagines when we sell a lottery ticket at the store and the talk turns to "what would do do if you won" I cannot imagine living anywhere else than on this 4 acres.
And I am thankful for my health, for the fact that my body continues to work, even though it often hurts.
And for having the time and space to write this.

Blessed Be.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Looking Forward to Fall

After a long and rainy summer -- followed by a couple of weeks of dreadful heat and humidity --the days are visibly getting shorter and the cold fronts are bringing actual cooling now. I sit here in the early morning, wearing sweats, though I will have to change before I go out, as we are expecting summer temps (low 80s, this is as hot as it ever need be, in my book) again today. Tomorrow, and the weekend. look to be a forerunner of autumn though and I am SO looking forward to it. Not that I wish it wish away the year -- there is still much to do before Samhain which I have set as the "buttoned down for winter" deadline. But the cool weather will make the work possible.

I haven't blogged recently as life has been very full. My weedy garden continues to surprise me with produce ( and I likely have still more cukes, and maters to pick, an I know there is half a row of red onions that need doing, and some of the beets as well. I've put up one batch of pickles and there will be more. At least I managed to get a box of wide mouth jars, this time!

Hexing has been going well, too. So well, in fact, that I have yet to complete the written interview I have been asked to do. Hopefully before the end of the week, despite another order for 4 indoor signs and the rush I put on one last night to ship to New York. I was contacted yesterday by Gourmet magazine, wanting to borrow several for potential use in a photo spread, as background. I will get credit if the shot makes the cut, so after some discussion, I am sending several of the 10-12 inch signs I have on hand, plus I quickly painted one of the small change signs that they liked so much. Cross your fingers we make the cut!

I have been spending a lot of time carrying K back and forth to appts and sitting in medical offices and it looks to continue for a while. At my mention of a need, his main doc referred him for physical therapy, so there will be that 2x a week. First appt is tomorrow, in Dover. Today we go back to Bangor to get the leads removed from his 24 hr. EEG. He is terribly worried that he is going to start getting bills for all of these expensive texts, and that they will continue to show nothing abnormal -- despite the fact that he is NOT right, and indeed that the neurologist did see strange things during his exam. He has a dental appt next week, as well.

I am "running away from home" for a day on Saturday, though! (maybe with, maybe without K, depending on how he feels) to go to Caribou to the National Weather Service open house. I am hoping to learn more about their trained weather observer program, as we are now part of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) . I urge everyone who is interested in the weather to log on, sign up and pony up for the wonderful "official" rain guage that we are required to use.

Since it is such a long ways out to Caribou (about 3.25 hrs according to Google maps) I have decided to make a day of it and visit Madawaska (the most northely town in the continental US), about an hour farther on, and then head over to Fort Kent (20 min) before coming back down 11 (a little over 2 hrs, they say, but likely more with photo stops -- hoping for MOOSE! and then back home, nearly another 2 hrs on 95 and such. Despite the fact that it will be a grueling drive -- I do not not long drives well any more -- I am thoroughly looking forward to the day, especially since I have the following day off to recoupterate. Hopefully pix will be forthcoming!

Looking Forward to Fall

After a long and rainy summer -- followed by a couple of weeks of dreadful heat and humidity --the days are visibly getting shorter and the cold fronts are bringing actual cooling now. I sit here in the early morning, wearing sweats, though I will have to change before I go out, as we are expecting summer temps (low 80s, this is as hot as it ever need be, in my book) again today. Tomorrow, and the weekend. look to be a forerunner of autumn though and I am SO looking forward to it. Not that I wish it wish away the year -- there is still much to do before Samhain which I have set as the "buttoned down for winter" deadline. But the cool weather will make the work possible.

I haven't blogged recently as life has been very full. My weedy garden continues to surprise me with produce ( and I likely have still more cukes, and maters to pick, an I know there is half a row of red onions that need doing, and some of the beets as well. I've put up one batch of pickles and there will be more. At least I managed to get a box of wide mouth jars, this time!

Hexing has been going well, too. So well, in fact, that I have yet to complete the written interview I have been asked to do. Hopefully before the end of the week, despite another order for 4 indoor signs and the rush I put on one last night to ship to New York. I was contacted yesterday by Gourmet magazine, wanting to borrow several for potential use in a photo spread, as background. I will get credit if the shot makes the cut, so after some discussion, I am sending several of the 10-12 inch signs I have on hand, plus I quickly painted one of the small change signs that they liked so much. Cross your fingers we make the cut!

I have been spending a lot of time carrying K back and forth to appts and sitting in medical offices and it looks to continue for a while. At my mention of a need, his main doc referred him for physical therapy, so there will be that 2x a week. First appt is tomorrow, in Dover. Today we go back to Bangor to get the leads removed from his 24 hr. EEG. He is terribly worried that he is going to start getting bills for all of these expensive texts, and that they will continue to show nothing abnormal -- despite the fact that he is NOT right, and indeed that the neurologist did see strange things during his exam. He has a dental appt next week, as well.

I am "running away from home" for a day on Saturday, though! (maybe with, maybe without K, depending on how he feels) to go to Caribou to the National Weather Service open house. I am hoping to learn more about their trained weather observer program, as we are now part of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) . I urge everyone who is interested in the weather to log on, sign up and pony up for the wonderful "official" rain guage that we are required to use.

Since it is such a long ways out to Caribou (about 3.25 hrs according to Google maps) I have decided to make a day of it and visit Madawaska (the most northely town in the continental US), about an hour farther on, and then head over to Fort Kent (20 min) before coming back down 11 (a little over 2 hrs, they say, but likely more with photo stops -- hoping for MOOSE! and then back home, nearly another 2 hrs on 95 and such. Despite the fact that it will be a grueling drive -- I do not not long drives well any more -- I am thoroughly looking forward to the day, especially since I have the following day offto recoupterate. Hopefully pix will be forthcoming!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Too #&$*%*#@% HOT!

I am sorry that the weather decided to make up for the cool and damp of early summer and give Maine (and indeed, it seems, much of the east and north eastern US) the entire summers worth of heat in a week. If you have read my blogs for long, you know my opinion is that 80 degrees is as hot as it needs to get. And that by that, I do NOT mean "mid-80s" or gawd forbid the "high 80s" to 90+ degree temps that are forecast for today. [metric translation: My opinion is that 27 degrees is as hot as it needs to get. And that by that, I do NOT mean "low-30s" or gawd forbid the "mid-30" degree temps that are forecast for today.]

It is too hot to move, too hot to breathe but yet the garden still needs weeding and especially needs water, so I have been trying to weed early in the morning, in the very heavy dew and have been applying soaker hose to plants on a rotating basis. But that still leaves putting food by (even the bit of heat to blanch a few veggies is noticeable in he kitchen) and housework which as multiplied with the pup.

And speaking of pup, Coffee appears to be a very smart doggie. She is learning quickly about the pee and poop outside thing, and has not messed in the bedroom since about the second night we had her... and she HAS got me up in the wee hours to go out. She seems to know what is expected, just with a bit of confusion and possible lack of maturity (inability to hold urine sufficiently long to get leashed up and taken out on occasion). Her "accidents" are pretty much directly in front of a door (not always the door to outside, though that is becoming increasingly the only place accidents happen.) and since said doors are covered with linoleum or an old mud mat that came with the house, the scolding of "bad dog" only carried the energy needed for training and no extra "oomph" from the stress of a potentially ruined floor.

Hex orders have dropped again, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, as I need the time (once the weather cools enough, especially) to clean and organize the workspace. I do have one job pending -- the painting of a hex on a rock for a friend to place overlooking his garden. And of course I need to update the website.

Other than that, life continues. We have finally got a lumber list and a friend will be ordering it for us from a local fellow with a sawmill, so we can build a small deck and decent set of steps for the back door to the dog yard. This has been an issue since we moved in -- the bottom two "steps" are nearly 18" tall, which makes it difficult for me and the big dog and impossible for the small one. The delay on this is partly a money issue and partly a motivation of Kevin issue.

He spends increasingly more time "lost" or "gone" into his own mind or who knows where.... asleep in part and just not here in part as well. Some of this is from pain, I am sure, some from the fact that even with the CPAP machine, he is not sleeping even close to a "normal" night. However his primary care practitioner finally made a referral to a neurologist for a look at several issues and we had the appointment last week. After an initial terrible meeting, due totally to screw-ups on the part of their staff, we got seen during a cancellation in the early afternoon of the same day as the messed up appointment. It was not fun cooling our heels in Bangor for several hours, with few necessary errands and a Kevin who was hurting, but we did it.

The doc only got started on ONE of the three issues, but even to my untrained eye, the exam found abnormalities for him to work with/on. This is in remarkable contrast to most exams of any sort, in which he comes out "textbook perfect" even though something is obviously the matter. Doc ordered an MRI (two CAT scans have failed to find anything) and a 24 hour EEG (typical EEG was one of those "textboox perfect" tests...) MRI is today at 6 PM and he gets wired up for the EEG next Tues. This is a set up where he wears a unit for 24 hours, and we push a button on the machine, and log in a journal, any "events" that might produce signals they would need to look at in detail.

The neurologist office scheduled BOTH of these appointments while we waited, as well as our next visit to that office -- one of the most efficient medical practices I have seen thus far. I have high hopes that he will uncover something; whether it will be something treatable, I am not sure. K's counselor seems to think that his exposure to ball lightning as a young child may account for some of the abnormalities in his brain.

In the yard, our humming birds and gold finches continue to visit the feeders and I still hear an occasional killdeer and see the swallows swooping on skeeter patrol.

We have been visited by a (couple of?) young skunks. One we both saw ambling across the grass and one was almost surprised by K and Coffee last night on their walk around the house. The young Pepe Le Pew was eating up spilled seed under the backyard bird feeder.

Thus far the two-strand monofiliment deer fence seems to be working and (crossing fingers) the turkeys have yet to find the garden. I have a "bunch" of about a half dozen grapes on one of the two grape vines, and have eaten a few blueberries, but I need to deer fence the berry area and the canes of the branbleberries have been being munched on by deer. I'll look today in the big boxes for the cheap plastic step-in posts, hoping they have resupplied since my last visit.

As I have been trying to get out and weed, I continue to find food in the garden; excavating the visible Brussels sprout plants, I noted the second planting of carrots still trying to grow under the weeds and have begun to give them light and room too... I'll put the soaker on the row later today so I can do a good weeing job on them tomorrow, with luck.

Peppers are not producing well -- no big surprise as they seem picky to me and have not had the care they deserve, but the tomatoes are beginning to come on, as are the cukes. Gotta get "stuff" for pickling today -- cukes and beets for sure.

Whew, that's a lot of words. Now I am typed out...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Meet Coffee

Say hello to the newest member of our family, Coffee! (Those of you who know the Mainer liking for Allens Coffee (flavored) Brandy will understand our naming convention. Our older Saint is named Brandi.)

She is a 2 mo. old Saint B baby that we got last week, after seeing a sign "Saint Bernard Puppies" on our way home from K's doc appointment in Milo. We stopped and played with them but had no $$ as we had yet to hit Bangor and do banking, and "on the way" home stopped by to find the people not home. I left a business card and they returned the call later and I went back, with $$ to get her.

She just learned how to do steps yesterday (UP, not yet comfortable with the DOWN option) and we are working on house training. Walking on a leash she caught onto quickly (with a harness, not a collar, which she hates) especially when we walk with Brandi. B is pretty tolerant of the baby. There have only been a few "grr"... of the big dog correcting small one variety, however jealousy is in style, as big dog makes sure she gets what is big dog's due (regardless of my active commitment to love on and give attention to her in a heavier portion even than to the baby.)

Today we are off to the vet, first, for her checkup and second set of shots and then to town for an UNTIPPABLE water dish. Coffee loves to lay her head on the edge of the water dish and ends up dumping it... so we have a puppy puddle of a different (and much larger) variety.

Brandi also will go to town, as she is getting a pedicure at Petsmart today.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Finding "Normal" again

My first foray into "market" is over for the year, "summer" seems to finally have arrived in Maine just in time -- ironically -- for the cross-quarter time that begins our turn toward fall. Whether you call it "First Harvest," "Lammas" (from the Latin for Loaf Mass), Lughnasa or something else, the period at the first of August marks a turning point on the wheel of the year and this year for me there are other markers as well.

Come mid-month, we will have been here for our first full year. Most of the bittersweet plants have survived and are making a run for growth, now that I have found and excavated them from the grasses. The grapes, blueberries and bramble berries as well are growing, though some of the brambles did not survive and some have been heavily browsed apparently by deer.

The herb garden is in and, though it needs weeding again, seems to be holding its own in large measure. Minus the Basil, which is struggling here as most everywhere from what I hear this year.

There are flowers growing in the flower patch, visible here and there through the weeds and in the veggie patch, hope grows for a small harvest from the vine crops, a gimmer of hope for an ear or two of corn and if the tomatoes and peppers can just keep going -- and cold holds off a bit -- a crop we will have there as well, now that I have deer fenced that area. I could have sworn that the western deer did NOT like tomato vines, but it appears that these guys have munched on the tops of some mater plants as well as the peppers, which I know they love.

Now that market is over, I'll have the leeway to weed more and harvest on a more constant, smaller scale for food to eat and put up for the season.

I still have an unconscious negative response to seeing the bright sunlight shining in the yard, though. Too many years in the southlands, where even the early morning rising sun, shining through the kitchen window into a house still holding the overnight cool, felt like sharp knives attacking my skin, I suppose. Yes, it has been HOT in the garden... I worked a full Wednesday there this week, sun shining and temps peaking in the high 80s... but I need to remind myself that was a PEAK temp and not what I need expect when I open the door in the early morning.

Finding "normal"... which is of course not a point but a range -- and a constantly changing place ... will be my theme this week as we celebrate the first harvest. Here there is no grain to harvest (even normally, when there might be glimmers of corn on the horizon, what wheat is grown locally harvest later in the season) so while I am thankful for the grains, my focus will be directed toward my local wights and the land upon which I stand. There is much to be thankful for, as despite my poor attempts and missed deadlines and lack of necessary tools, we DO have a harvest. They kept their commitment and on my part I will be thankful and redouble my efforts to keep up my part of the bargain next year, for I know They will cut me some slack, but not forever! LOL

I am feeling strongly the need to tend to the house for the next few days (cleaning up the post-market chaos, making order out of the garden stuff so I can maybe throw in a few seeds for fall crops and an try at overwintering) and then back to the garden of the morning and work as needed in the afternoon, with hex painting stuck in there somewhere. Like I said "finding" normal... not having it already nailed down...

Friday, July 24, 2009

In the Flow

It is so comforting to be "in the flow." It is not something you can make happen. Not like "pushing the river," a much more common state for me... No, being in the flow is something that you just sort of slide into when you are lucky and the stars and right and you have the right mindset.

I am there at present, at least mostly.

Thinking about this as a result of several things and lines of thought in recent days. Starting with the most immediate and working backwards...
I slept in today. It was a sort of deliberate decision, the result of knowing this would be a rainy day and the incredibly busy, stressful, physical and tiring previous days. Tuesday included all the usual errands (and it still surprises me how much trips to town tire me all by themselves) as well as packaging and shipping a 4 foot diameter hex sign made from 3/4" plywood. Can you say "heavy" and "bloody awkward"? At least we were (barely) able to fit it IN the Subaru!

Tuesday night and Wednesday were spent prepping the next 5 hex orders for painting, drawing on the designs and getting the painting started before the beginning of my short shift at the store Wed. night.

Then yesterday was Market. I love picking, don't mind cleaning and prep of the food but hate loading, unloading, set up, tear down, loading and unloading again. Which means I kinda dread market -- until I get there and start talking to the folks and all. K was able to help with the dreaded parts -- though he was hurting well more than usual, as was I. Dunno what was up with my right knee, but it was not a happy camper yesterday, though it has not complained at all yet today. And Market -- though it was an overcast day with clouds that looked to threaten rain (though there was none in the forecast until the late night) went better than at first expected. We did not sell out, but spent the hours shelling the huge bag of Petit Pois destined for the freezer and much to my surprise I sold the first little indoor hex sign, a Love and Happy Home. The food stuffs were unloaded, but the car will remain packed until the rain abates -- likely not today -- so there will be some time to clean out the prep mess and get the blanching and freezing done before the living room fills with market stuff again.

But as it happens, and not pushing the river, likely all the food will not get put up today. There are some beets (greens and roots) to deal with and unsold Petit Pois (two quarts) and English Peas (maybe 3 quarts) to be shelled. A few dozen eggs to return to Todd (who will stop by later to pick up proceeds and remains) and that will be that until next week, the last one for this market.

Hex signs will likely not get any more paint until tonight or tomorrow, as I have full shifts today and Saturday. This I do not mind, as these days generally go quickly as busy nights and then Sunday is a day off -- with predicted dry weather for garden work again.

With the past new moon/eclipse and the coming of the celebration of the First Harvest Tide I have been thinking about the rituals and thoughts that I have read here and there and which have been posted on Spindle and Broom and in her LJ by my friend .

I haven't done many "full blown" rituals since we moved here. Not that I am against them, mind you, I just haven't felt the need, past the cleansing, claiming and warding that I did when we first arrived. But the threads of sacrifice and letting go of ego that HazelKate talks about are here none the less... in my realization that I am no longer the proud-of-it "Type A" personality I used to be... and in the emotional watershed of conversation with K that rolled through on Wednesday, before work. And the thankfulness for the First Harvest bounty is easy to come by, when you are picking -- and still picking -- and yet still picking peas with a back that is giving you words and the realization that, now, you DO have the means to allow the peas to climb next year instead of laying on the ground as they are... and before the peas will be done the beans will be coming on and the beets ARE big enough and yes, under the weeds there are carrots and the broccoli needs to be cut again and there is a small, but perfectly beautiful little purple cauliflower there and another one here and blooms on the squash and 'maters and peppers. It's not time for the grain to be ripe here -- were we to be growing it (tried... lost in the weeds this year, maybe next time around) but I do remember the August combines in western CO and eastern WA, kicking up my allergies until a very wise chiropractor suggested that I give up eating wheat (a sacrifice, no?) a week or so before harvest started... which worked... a minor wheat allergy is made worse when you eat and breathe the chaff.

And so it flows... Eir's spirit kept me asleep much longer than typical when I say I will "sleep in" and turn off the alarm. I know it was her, because I do not hurt and am rested, not groggy. And though I can not see how, the abundance will get into the freezer and the hex signs will be done by their shipping day.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Busy days at Hearthfire Hill

Busy week here at Hearthfire Hill. Despite the continuing cold and rainy summer the garden has been producing like crazy... Weeds in abundance, which I haven't had time to properly pull, and peas... lordy the peas! LOL Lots to sell (we continue to sell out each market on the edible pod even though the variety we have growing is not especially sweet) and yet still pickings mid- cycle and after market for freezing. K has become the de facto pea sheller, as it is something he can sit and do (albeit slowly with fingers that don't feel and don't always behave) while I am in the garden or painting or at work or -- on those rare occasions -- asleep. I have lost some of the head lettuces to rot, ditto the cauliflower. I'm not sure what was up with them, but many seemed to be bolting from their tiny heads... and it seems way too early for what I always considered a fall crop, too. Broccoli is also wanting to head for the sky, but will continue to produce side shoots for the freezer.

Note to self -- revisit planting schedule for cole crops next year...

The cabbage are heading, the cucumber bugs seem to have left the patch (following Elvis? who knows) but I got some BT spray that is kosher for organics to treat the 'taters and have beaten back their bugs pretty well.

And then came the deer. Apparently deer love peas. When I was out mowing the cross walkways betweeen the 4 sections of the garden (yes, weed control is THAT far behind, and I am THAT desparate!) I spotted a late planting of peas. When I went to weed around them, I discovered the top growth had been eaten, and the next day (the smell of Human all over that row) they attacked th earlier plantings. I had bought out the hardware store on the cheap plastic step-in posts -- aiming at duck and deer fencing -- so it was past time to rig the fencing. Following the advise of a farming friend, Robin I dug out the monofiliment and put up two strands between posts. I have two areas so "secured" and thus far no sign of deer. I know I will have to do the peppers soon, for if the deer find them, there will be nothing left to try to produce fruit later in the summer, should we have one.

I need to clean out around the berry bushes and Freecycle wild roses I planted last year (they are all growing, despite being end of the season markdowns, hastily thrown into the ground when we bought the place) and the bittersweet, which I had ordered before we even signed the contract on the place. Most, but not all, of them appear to be growing as well. I need to side-dress the vine crops and the 'maters and peppers (heavy feeders, all) and of course weed, weed, weed... and pick peas (again) and beans (soon) and try to find the carrots and plant more lettuce and maybe carrots... hoping to make use of the early pea and spinach and lettuce planting areas, which are at least a little less weedy.

Herbs have been weeded but need it again... at least I can see them now! the flower area is totally gone to weeds and may not get weeded this year. I have high hopes that the flowers will reseed and go "wild" so I can have some next year when hopefully a tiller will be in the arsenel. But of course that means finding time to clean up and sell some of the old equipment...

And meanwhile (not to complain of course!!) the hex business is booming! I think I have more in the order queue at present than ever before... a 4' custom is nearing completion and needs to be finished to ship on Tues and there are 5 more 2' on order -- blanks are in the wood shop to be sanded now that the wood filler has dried, and primed. That will happen first today, then on to the garden.

Then on to a road trip to WaCo to pick up a few ducks (who hopefully will help me with bug control ) and have supper with friends as a mutual friend's restaurant, the Nook and Cranny. If you are ever in Maine, you gotta eat there!!

So, I suppose I better get at it, eh?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Remembering to be Thankful

It is so easy, when I am out in the garden, to want to fuss at my situation. The weeds in the corn (WHAT corn! I think it gave up...) are almost as tall as I, much of the fruit/perennial side is taken over by them as well (though in places I can find the flowers I planted, can still see the garlic and just got a first weeding done on the herb circle, so that they can see the sun again.)

But I keep reminding myself (as I have to do) that the last time I tackled a garden this big it was an existing market garden that had been going for years and I did not have 3 "outside" jobs (and no, 5 kids do NOT count as the same thing!). And the time before that, when I did a "sod garden" it was not this bad of sod -- bunch grass not runner grass -- and again, I did not have work off the farm and had not even started writing as a side career on a regular basis at that time.

And I keep reminding myself that the healthy weeds are also an indication of healthy soil. If the garden didn't grow them, I'd be in a worse fix, as likely it wouldn't be growing food either. And growing food it is! The lettuces are great, spinach isn't bad (even where I didn't manure last fall) and the peas (which I filled two baskets with while I was contemplating these words this morning) are abundant as well. Beans have tons of blossoms, where I see them through the weeds and the broccoli and cauliflower are making heads, as are the cabbages. Brussels sprouts are thriving, there are carrots out there (in the weeds and in somewhat less weedy areas) and even the potatoes and the vine crops are still alive, despite having been found by bugs that target those crops. There are beets and chard (one beet seems to have wanted to bolt and it wasn't nearly beet size yet, but I'll add those few greens to some spinach in the freezer tomorrow) though the deer seem to have tasted the chard over night, and onions and leeks looking fantastic. Tomatoes and peppers are out there, too.. beginning to set fruit and making blossoms in hope of a summer season to their liking.

so despite my frustrations, the garden is giving me FOOD. And next year, and he year after that and after that it will only get better. I will find a tiller, figure out weed control and succession planting for here; I will learn to do the season extension stuff (on both ends) and get more fruit trees, bushes, and plants, more asparagus, enough posts to fence the garden and keep in ducks (when the plants are big enough) and keep out ducks (when the plants are babies) and slow down the deer, to give the peas something to climb on. Teaching the peas to turn a different color when they are ready to be picked would be great too, but I don't hold out much hope on that one!

I have to think back to this time, last year, as well... we were still in "the second most ghetto trailer park in Milo" searching madly for property (which was about to materialize but I didn't know that yet), I was still unemployed (which was about to change, but again I didn't know that yet) though that job only went through the fall and was shortly replaced by my current one and while we were enjoying exploring Maine, photographing flowers and searching for a home, it was not the best of times.

So I am thankful for home, for 4 acres on which to play (and be frustrated), for a job (which doesn't really pay enough $$ but doesn't require all my time either) and for my other careers (which add $$ and as importantly much satisfaction) and for the blessings of the abundance of the Earth, despite what I feel to be my poor stewardship of it. They know I am doing my best.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

the rain in Maine falls, mainly...

The weather is finally beginning to "get to" me. Funny, though, the Pacific NW weather never did... But after one of the wettest Junes on record for Maine, we are off to a dripping wet start for July as well. I know, we also have to have August and Sept (September IS Summer, too... as Ogden Nash points out) but the cold and rain (I think it must be the combination) has definitely set my senses off a bit.

While we were in Bangor running errands yesterday I had a most unexpected urge to go to LL Beans outlet store. Now this is only surprising in that it occurred NOW (July) and it took me a few moments to realize why my "Gods, NO" reflex kicked in a second later. You see, the urge was apparently triggered by what some part of my brain believed to be FALL weather and the reflexive response by the other part that realized it is, after all, really JULY. You see, we discovered last year that the prices -- which are often not that great in the first place ( though with luck and persistence, deals on stuff we need do show up often enough to make regular forays justifiable) -- go UP in the summer, apparently for the tourist season.. And therefore the occasional good deal disappears...

But it is NOT fall, though it is still or again raining. At some point today I must get into the garden to check the peas. They are coming on and will continue slowly despite the rain. I need to pull weeds in the cauli. and broc... they are making heads though how good they will be is yet to be determined. I looked for an organic approved remedy for the potato bugs that are afflicting my crop (they went from a few busily mating to many, many tiny ones over night) but no one in town had the right stuff. "We were expecting it today..." yeah, right...

The vine crops languish, mostly. If I can get the chance I will give them a nutrient boost and pray.

Some of the head lettuces are rotting. I did discover some more seed, though, so I will add a planting soon. With this weather, maybe I can get away with a "summer crop" of lettuces. Some of the leaf lettuces are bolting, as are some of the succession planting of spinach. But there is still plenty to eat, some to sell if not enough to freeze. K doesn't like cooked greens anyway and there will be chard to freeze later, with luck, to satisfy my winter eating.

much of everything else is pretty much gone to weeds. There is no way I can totally keep up.. I hope to complete weeding the herbs and that some of the flowers (some ARE blooming!!) can hold their own and reseed next year.

Gotta get out to the garage and clean up the old corded electric mower and weed eater as I will put them out for sale. Ditto the spa tub from the trailer when we remove it later this season. Those proceeds, such as they may be, are earmarked for a tiller. Come hell or high water I'll have one next year. And with the flame weeder at the start of the season, we should be able to make more of a dent in the garden.

Now, to find $$ to get the truck fixed enough to get inspected so I can haul manure...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day

There have been lots of thoughts -- centered around Independence Day, and independence in general as well as just general holiday thoughts -- floating around in my over worked and much addled brain of late. Many thoughts and much to do and little time to write, so an attempt to catch up and capture a few of them is in order before I head off to the store to supply the local populace with beer, steak, Allens (coffee brandy, a Maine staple) and likely pizza and sandwiches as well, if the rain continues.

We did not make it to Market this week. A combination of events conspired, as they say... short hours at the store and an offer to pick up a shift on Thurs (market day), an assurance by my marketing partner that she could and would man the stand solo which was followed by circumstances conspiring against her to keep her out of state (still....); K offered but not knowing "the ropes" and not having the tent (it has been living with the partner; I have custody of the tables and other marketing essentials) and threats of thunderstorms... so we did not make it.

Independence/interdependence, cooperation, collaboration... what works and where the lines are drawn have been much on my mind.

And fueling more thoughts on the same values -- the weedy first year garden does its share as well. I have attacked with the flame weeder, pulled and carried out, pulled and dropped and most recently mowed between the vine crops and on the cross walkways (made wide for the garden cart) and fallow section, where I will hopefully find time to flame weed again. a smaller tiller would be SO useful at this point but... it will have to be bought by money in hand and of that we have little. So for next year there is hope...

This is a case where we actually did consider going against our values (don't make enough to qualify for any sort of loan and my credit reports cannot be found) but despite my railing against the weeds I am glad we could not. As K says "when you do it your way, it can't be taken from you..."

Yeah, it likely looks to others like we bit off more than we can chew or don't know what we are doing or some such... but they are looking with late 20th or early 21st century eyes... As I said to a neighbor while we were kibitzing at the store recently, "I pretty much stand with one foot in the 18th or 19th century and one in the 22nd"... and I know that pioneer managed to bring gardens around long before tillers were the norm and they didn't drag their team and plow into the kitchen garden mid-season either! This is the first garden season, there is no reason to expect it to be -- or to look like -- something that has been established for years. It is producing... we have tons of lettuce, spinach, the peas are coming on and -- hidden in the weeds, beans and carrots and beets are growing, broccoli and cauliflower are putting on heads and the potatoes are trying their hardest to fight off the beetles...

So while many folks head out here or there to celebrate Independence Day, I feel more like I am living what our country used to be... when folks worked hard with what they had to make it through and make things better.

I got a $3 shirt in town this week -- not that I needed another T, but working this weekend at the store it just seemed the thing to wear... It shows a rather weathered stylized map of the US colored like the flag and bears the words "Faded Glory." Now, that is the brand name -- and I don't necessarily sport brand names on my chest... but this read to me much more like a political statement, and one that I wanted to make.

So for our celebration we have had fireworks (last night's thunder storm and the previous night's fireflies) and attended a rodeo in our own back yard (at least it wasn't at midnight... neighbor horse got out and everyone turned out to herd it back home).

Yesterday felt very much like the holiday, though, to me... quiet and very alone. It seemed that everyone was off somewhere else doing something. The neighborhood was quiet (well, as wet as it is the usual sounds of kids playing and power equipment running has been seriously muted for some time) and even here on line there was little activity. I guess most folks WERE out getting ready to go, or going. My kids -- who can often be counted upon for a blog entry or Facebook post -- were off grid at a family reunion. Even K noticed it.... though he attributed it to lingering post-dream thoughts.

And, as it was not yet the holiday, it set me off kilter a bit, as did the amazing lack of energy I felt most of the day. There were garden chores that could have been done, despite the dampness, hexen to paint (three orders in the queue at present!) and always housework. I finally managed to get started on the hex signs and picked up energy in the evening. That was not such a good thing, though, as it made sleep hard to find.

I was awake to enjoy the Thor's fireworks and the percussion section drumming on the metal vent in the bathroom, and to comfort the dog.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Foggy morning thoughts

Read that as thoughts on a foggy morning, not as the pre-coffee misfiring brain neurons output...

The weather service has been reporting record wet and overcast and damp weather here in Maine and still it continues. Most folks gardens are suffering. Mine seems to be fine though of course the tomatoes, peppers and vine crops are not especially thriving. We bought a quart of strawberries yesterday from a roadside stand (our handful of plants are somewhere out there in the weeds, I am sure of it, but not enough to make a meal-sized "mess" of berries) and the seller reported that they are molding badly, making the picking hard. You can see it in the fruit too... just don't look terribly excited to be here, y'know?

The stop did yield a networking opportunity though... as many folks in Maine wear more than one hat, this berry seller is also a food writer for a local paper and has a cookbook at the presses and will be looking for business support -- web and such. Thankfully I have remembered to keep business cards in the car.

Rainy and damp days have played havoc with laundry, though I lucked out last week with a "drying day" as I donned my last clean undies. With the forecast today being for no rain, I began washing and hanging out last evening (they are now quite heavily fog-kissed but I have hope) and continue this morning.

Next job will be to cut a 4' hex blank for the next custom order. Being 3/4" plywood and the largest blank I have cut, it will be a challenge. Yesterday errands were prolonged as the saw at Lowes was out of commission, necessitating a trip back across town to Home Depot. I refuse to buy half-sheets of plywood and K refuses (quite rationally) to carry full ones on top of the Subaru. The 4x4 pieces are just a HAIR too big to fit inside... By the time we got home I was too beat to even think of woman-handling the wood and tools for this precision job. So that's at the top of the list today, along with sanding and priming the wood.

It can then attempt to dry while I work on the garden. The flame weeder is a big success but I am learning that earlier on in the year -- before I had a full two storey forest of weeds in the garden -- it would be easier. I am going to try mowing the cross paths and some of the area that was not planted, as well as between the widely-spaced vine crops and then hitting (in some cases again) with the torch.

With the fussing over the plywood, I totally forgot to get metal posts to begin making the monofilament deer "fence" that my friend Robin suggested. Thus far, they do not seem to have found the two new cherry trees or the garden (though in the former case, I think the lack of tall weeds giving them cover as they emerge from the forest helps and in the case of the garden, well my camaflague is working well! LOL) so perhaps that can wait a day or so.

Cross your fingers...

The first picking of early peas (top of this page) were delicious and I am sure there are more from this variety (Coral Shell) as well as the Petit Pois coming on. The second planting of spinach will be ready for a light picking for market this week, but the Blushed Butter Oaks lettuces are bolting and will be ending soon. I didn't get a good second planting of them, unfortunately. There is always next year...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The ebb and flow

Someday, maybe, I will learn to stop stressing about where the $$ is coming from... but then, as K pointed out, when you take things for granted they have a tendency to evaporate... so maybe not.

We got our schedules for next week at the store and I got a whopping 19 hours. Not sure what is up; I haven't been "talked to" about my work and veteran employees -- which I would hope I counted as by now... as I have moved up 6 spaces from the bottom of the list over the past few weeks -- are supposed to get priority for hours. If my marketing buddy can solo this coming week, I have been offered to take her Thursday shift and though I am not "supposed" to be available Thurs. I will do it if it won't stress A too much, but I won't know that for a bit as she is out of town this week.

But anyway, here I was stressing... and I got home and checked emails last night and there were two more orders for large exterior hexen... one paid and one custom that is waiting on a digital proof...

The one that is in the bank more than covers the "lost" hours.

Needless to say, many thanks were offered to the Powers That Be last eve at Hearthfire...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rainy days and Tuesdays

Looks like we are in an odd weather pattern for a few more days -- wind out of the NORTH! strange... and clouds and showers and threats of showers. Most here are getting tired of it but I don't mind. Every day that I CAN get into the garden I have been able to -- pulling weeds in the planted rows, even if it has been too wet and/or windy for the flame weeder to work. Its time will come....

Despite the many rains (we were at 3.5 inches on the gauge during this rainy period when I last looked) it seems the garden is carrying on. I have seen many buds and blossoms on the pepper plants and ditto, plus small fruits, on the tomatoes. The early planting of peas have pods beginning to fill and the later plantings are beginning to blossom. I need to add side dressing of blood meal for some of the crops and will likely do that this afternoon, when we return from our wanderings.

I have a chance to show my hex signs and talk to a shop owner in Dover about possible design work, so I will do that this morning while K is at the counselor. Hopefully this will keep me from Bobs, where the wonderfully sinful malted milk balls call. They were out last week...

I have actually enjoyed the showery times in between the times I can get into the garden. They allow me a natural flow between outdoor work and indoor chores. I got the fridge cleaned yesterday and did some other minor chores, along with getting some paint put on hex blanks in the garage. I need to work on them a bit more today too... second and final coat on the front of the signs and then if they dry sufficiently, a coat on the backs so that they are ready to draw. I am rather low in stock at present and need them for the Market.

Lettuces continue to thrive, though I have found what appears to be a quirk in the market here; folks seem to want to buy mixed lettuce leaves over whole heads. Strange... and more work but what the heck. we'll do it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Turning the Seasons

I had been invited and made a plan to join friends on their annual early morning hike into Baxter State Park here in Maine, to view and photograph the elusive and delightful moose in their morning adventures. Now, anyone who knows me or has read my writings since my arrival in this great state, knows of my desire to see these great creatures, and my frustration at their apparent scarcity. I've been here over a year and have seen just one, loping along the Interstate in the evening gloom. Not even a chance at a photo op!

I was so frustrated by their failure to appear that, when I adopted a black fuzzy kitten from a friend last year, I named her Moose! And yes, I sleep every night with a Moose curled up by my side, but it's not quite the same thing...

Anyways, as time for the annual hike and moose watch approached, I felt more and more conflicted over my commitment. My body complained -- loudly and madly with pain and stiffness -- that I am not up to hiking. The garden filled with weeds that steadfastly refused to disappear. Work -- both at the corner store and under my several other hats -- proliferated. Each, by itself was not enough to stop me from going and collectively they were not -- in all honestly -- what was weighing on my mind saying "not this year."

But something WAS there... and as I tried to fathom why I felt I should stay at home... and as my friends who were going on the expedition tried with increasing vigor to persuade me ... nothing clicked as "yes, this is why."

Until just this morning.

Tomorrow, the day of the hike this year, is Summer Solstice. Litha for the Pagans, and thus "should be" a good day for being out and about. In fact, just thinking about going into the park brought back memories of a wonderful Solstice on Bear Island in NC a few years ago...

But I keep hearing that I need to be here, on "my" land... on the land I tend and care for, and then, today as I looked at the timing of sunrise on Weather Underground I noted that not only is tomorrow Solstice, but the following day is New Moon.

A new season coming that close to a new moon means, to me, there is much stirring of the pot to be done, and as Volva of the Northlands, that means I need to be here, preparing and working and "doing what I do" as my kids would say.

Y'know, I find this part of my life very strange. Not, as one might expect, the part where I walk with one foot in 2009 and one foot in the mists of antiquity... not the part where I am supposed to share insights and wisdom from Gods and Goddesses that most think are at best myth and at worst... well we don't go there. No the part that is strange is that for most of my life I have walked the path of solitude in comfort but not necessarily by choice; now I am surrounded by friends and must figure how to continue my solitary path without offense to those I am connected to and care about.

And so, as much as I want to see moose, to share this experience with my friends and will be sad not being there tomorrow, I know I am to be here, working the Magics necessary in this time and space, for the benefit of all.

Friday, June 19, 2009

cycles of the seasons

We are within shouting distance of the Summer Solstice (12:45 AM EDT I believe) and once again I have noted an interesting phenomenon as I track the time of sunrise (via Weather Underground, scroll down the page about halfway for the Astronomy column). While the days will continue to get longer (by 4 seconds) the sunrise is shown as 1 minute earlier than yesterday.

For the past week, the sun has been rising at 4:48 and today it said 4:49.

This is because the orbit of the Earth is not a perfect circle and because the rotation axis of the Earth is not perpendicular to the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. (reference)

And while I am thinking about it, the allegedly equal day and night of the equnoxes does not happen on the astronomical date either, on account of the refraction of light. Light travels through the near vacuum of space but when it hits the atmosphere it bends, much like it bends when going from the air through a glass of water. (reference)

On other notes, I have been most pleased with the other cycles I have been noting for the past little bit. The days of rain (much maligned by the TV weather folks) (note to TV producers: Tell your talking head to stop editorializing on the WEATHER!) have nicely alternated with days of sun. This cycle is not only good for the garden (at least mine seems to be doing fine) but for the workflow as well; during the dry days I have to be out in the gardens, weeding and picking and such, but during the wet weather, there is time for house work and painting and other indoor projects. For me, this natural balance is a very good thing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Earth, Air, Water and FIRE in the Garden

When I think about the garden and the elements, Fire -- beyond the rays of Ol' Brazen Face -- does not come immediately to attention.

Earth -- well that is obvious -- the lush, fertile Mama from whose breast springs forth a bounty is easy to picture. And even the hardscrabble farm, rocky or full of parched clay, want to grow stuff. Heck even city sidewalks crack from the force of Mother Nature trying to reclaim the ground.

Air -- from the gentle breezes that kiss by sweaty neck as I weed to the blustery, rain-filled gusts that wave the trees... that is pretty easy to understand too. It is also the home of many wonderful creatures, flying in the invisible oceans and pollenating our food.

Water -- from the surface to the sky to the surface, a continuing cycle. Sometimes we help with hoses or magic, but it too is an obvious element in the garden cycle.

Today, though, I brought Fire most directly into our first year "sod" garden. Working the field with only hand tools, and with the abundant fertility and rain we have had, the weeds have gotten the upper hand and something of the "big guns" needed to be brought into play were we to have any chance of gaining balance. Herbicide is out of the question -- besides being against principles, do you know how much the stuff COSTS now! No wonder "organic" options are being considered on larger scales!

Tillers, too, at least here in Maine, go for a pretty penny, even well used. And the fact that the lawn machine died and HAD to be replaced (with 4 acre all together, none wooded, you don't just hire the neighbor kid!) totally ate the implement budget. There is still a call out to the Universe for a tiller, to be used in conjunction with the tractor dude's efforts, most likely... but even there I didn't think it the best option with all the spreading grasses. Those rhyzomes, given half a chance, will do their thing and the best option is to PULL as much as possible. Which I will do... but meanwhile we need to keep everything down enough for the plants to thrive.

Along with this thinking, K has been being upset that he cannot do more in the garden. He cannot stand for long periods nor bend to pull weeds and his strength is such that pushing the high wheel cultivator a row or two maxes him out for the day. A day in the sun, applying hoe to earth (still not the best option for the grass!) would not be practical.

However he had been reading about flame weeding and decided that he could do the "flame broiled" weeding thing, and so bought a device yesterday. Today we hooked it up to a grill tank on our hand truck (dolley) and away I went... I wanted to start as I DO know the plants from the weeds and wanted to see how easy it was to control. I will know by tomorrow the results of my work today. I did notice as I worked that a pass with the torch dramatically turned the weeds a brighter shade of green. Working it more, they begin to wilt and dry out, but I am hoping that the flush of green stage will be sufficient heat to beat them back. IN the rows will still need hand weeding, of course... but many of the crops are planted far enough apart that a hoe can be used (not the potatoes, though... where I am currently working. I have accientally exposed several roots with the barest beginnings of a tuber on them, trying to hoe.)

I think it will be a good, short term, "get it down" option! My first partial tank of gas is gone; my experimenting with "how much" heat was needed.... well I went overkill on the first bit. But tomorrow on the way to market I'll fill our two empty tanks and then Friday I will walk the garden with Kevin and show him some of the more obvious rows -- and the walkways -- where he can begin work.

Photo of the "flame broiled" weeds will follow.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A day in the garden

With today being an actual factual day off from the store -- and no rain in sight -- I decided this was going to be a full day in the garden. Well, minus the time to fill the clotheslines with laundry! LOL I still have more to do tomorrow, thanks to the kitties having emptied a linen closet shelf on the floor, and having changed the bed linens as well... but the bulk is done and will be brought in tomorrow as I am just too tired and stiff and sore at the moment.

K went out and ran the high wheel cultivator up and down between several rows, but when I went out to complete hand-weeding the row that I had not finished on my last day out, I learned a bit more about my soil. 1.5 inches of rain within a couple of days and no wind following makes for soil that is too wet, early in the morning, for optimal weeding. The day I weeded after the inch of rain was accompanied by sun and wind. We had neither today, but I completed the row anyway despite the soil not wanting to part company with the weed roots.

I did cabbage worm patrol and found that I had a bad tendency to get distracted and want to pull bind weed. I tried to pull what I found in the cabbage rows while looking for worms. Hope I didn't miss too many of either. The place I pulled bindweed earlier still seems to be pretty free of the stuff, so this is the way to go with this pest.

K and I had discussed, next time I didn't have to work and the cart was empty, hauling broken cement block from a pile in the back to use as a border for the herb garden so, after dumping my cart of weeds and offloading the bucket of rocks, that was next on the list. We used the tractor to pull the cart and made several trips with the only physical work being the loading and unloading of the blocks.

Then, while the cart was still empty, I decided to begin moving some of the "straw" from the back field that I had attempted to pile for compost last fall (and which almost immediately BLEW OVER in our over achieving winds) to where the compost pile will live, on the east side where I had been piling weeds and where the neighbor had brought a small cart load of horse manure. Discovered that I NEED the wooden pallets that friends have offered me. Making free form compost piles... well the don't quite pile right, but I alternated the dry weeds (wetting them down as I went -- I have proof positive how, and why, thatched roofs work! the bottom of the pile was bone dry!), pulled weeds with some soil on their roots and the manure.

While I working in this area, I noticed that the areas where K had cultivated were almost totally free of weeds! There are grass plants to pull, but most of the other weeds have been gathered at the end of the rows, so weeding these potato rows should go quickly when I next get to work.

After putting the border around the herb garden I decided the next job needed to be completing the weeding of the Sweet Anne and the basil, so that I could put into the earth seedlings I had been given.

I guess either the soil there is better drained, or by afternoon the moisture was being taken up by plants and the water table, as the weeding went well and the baby plants were quickly put into the soil. After seeing how effective K's cultivation had been, and having hoe in hand, I decided to hoe some of the herb circle. Got it about 3/4 done before my muscles and stomach told me it was time to quit and consider supper.

Tomorrow is a town day, but I am hoping to make it a quick enough trip to get back into the garden again, after getting the laundry completed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

definitions of "need" vary

GRRR... I am gonna vent but I am also not gonna bite on this one again.

Co-worker L asked me on Sunday if I would work her 8 hr instead of my 5 hr shift today. I told her no. Then she asked me on Monday if I would work trade shifts on Tues, being totally clueless that I HAVE NEVER worked a Tues... and if she would look at the schedule she would see if never says "off" or "off-R" (for request)... but instead N/A on both Tu and Th for me, EVERY WEEK... so I explained to Her Clueless Majesty and then she calls me after we get back from K's extraction, Tues even and asks me for a trade today again "because there are things I have to do (italics mine) that I can't do any other time.

So me, I don't want to, but I am thinking Dr. appt or something (though she was not specific) and stupidly say yes.

So I am behind getting ready for market, and the garden always needs weeding (though that was not a good project for today, as it was very wet and cold) and housework needs doing, always... but I am a good person and help out a coworker. Yeah, right...

I was partially motivated by her "fragile" and stressed demeanor for the past few days. She has said she has insomnia and hasn't been sleeping even as well as usual and quite frankly I have been expecting a meltdown. Apparently she had one yesterday -- before she called me according to the supervisor -- over something with another worker. Said supervisor speculated that she thought L might have been planning to look for another job. Not a bad idea, I thought when she said that... I know L has worked for our big boss before and left as well as having been fired both repeatedly...

But as work progressed today she let slip what it was that she "had to" do that couldn't be done at other times. She went GROCERY SHOPPING, went to the NURSERY and WORKED IN HER (hobby, flower) GARDEN!!! Can you tell I am livid? How can anyone put a hobby before work enough to nag a coworker to switch shifts?

Well, as they say "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." and there ain't gonna be a twice. From now on unless the supervisor or boss calls "I am scheduled at my other job." Because I am...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

To Market, to Market

It has been a busy week. Very much so...

The garden has been demanding weeding, and more and more it is possible to do, as the most recent seeded plantings are beginning to show. AKKK!!! Well, I must remember this is a first year garden, and it will do what it can. As much as I long for a tiller, I KNOW in my heart of hearts that, slow as the process is, the BEST way to deal with the massive "grass" problem is by loosening the soil and pulling the bastards. These are all runner grasses... crab grass and the like... and they are sending out rhizomes like mad. Every small piece not accounted for will become MORE, and tilling... well it would make many, many small pieces.

So ever.... so.... slowly.... row by row, it is getting done. My loose goal is "a row a day" and some days I make it and some days I don't even start (like today, town day).

It is interesting to see the differences with the land, row by row as well... and when I am done, my hands will have been through every last inch of tilled land. The first few rows I weeded yielded a quarter of a cart of weeds (more or less) and about half a bucket of rocks for the driveway holes. This last row I got about the same for weeds but a full harvest of rocks. LOL

On another note, though, this week begins MARKET! I learned about the Artisans Market, Thursday evenings in downtown Bangor a while back, and on a whim, signed up for a table, specifying that I would be selling produce, herby-stuff and hex signs. I signed up as Dutch Hex... but my friend Ann and I are working together to market our produce and have come up with the "Stone Soup" name for our collaborative venture, hence the "Stone Soup" on the sign... Her farm is called Abundant Acres. If this works well (and she is lining up other marketing venues for just produce as well for this season, closer to her home turf, to which I will contribute) we would like to do more next year. Next year, too, I already know that I need to plan for more staggered plantings, and starting some things, like early beet greens, under row covers.

But for now, it is crunch time! I "lost" a day of weeding to making the stretched canvas sign (photo, above) and today I need to get our shelter and other odds and ends while in town on our town day. And since I don't have a lot of hex signs in stock at present, I need to make a portfolio book as well, and figure out how to showcase the ones I do have.

Better get cracking!!

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