Saturday, January 31, 2009

Turning TIde 2

During my time by the Hearthfire last night, I felt moved to welcome the incoming Tide.

I have been feeling the energy of the growing light for a week or more, finally getting to putting away stuff from boxes brought in from the garage in the office and Craft room and plunking away at the perpetual ToDo list (allowing it to renew as well).

But last night, as I sat by the fire, I seem to have felt the same energies as my friend Terra Joanna,
deep in the southlands. With the coming of the lighter days (though there is still not a perceptible increase in the length of the day) I am well motivated to get projects out of the way, begin new ones, and -- today -- to visit the dump (which is a regular, if not frequent, ritual for us as we have no trash pickup.) We generate, of the course of a month or more, less trash than we typically see sitting by the driveway of those who have pickup on a weekly basis. But nevertheless, it must go out.

It is the end of the month as well, and business invoices will be sent today, and a day off from the store, so I will get to cook something for supper as well. It is supposed to be a warmer (mid-20s) day, if not sunny, so likely I will get out on my snowshoes a bit, to play in the deepening snow. the birdbath in the front field is almost covered. There are no drifts in play there. But in the dog yard, it is a good thing Brandi doesn't challenge the fence (though I am pretty sure the snow would not support her) for in many places it is near -- and in some places OVER, the top of the fence.

(photo, top of blog) On the front side, the "drift" under the window is just that, a drift -- the one that tries each time the snow falls and blows, to block the front door. If you have the eyes of someone from the northlands, you can see where the snow was shoveled off the porch and pushed by the plow guy at the front of the drift... but back, under and almost kissing the window, the snow was deposited only by Mother Nature, with no help from man, woman or snowblower. Hail, Winter!

Friday, January 30, 2009

The turning tide

As I write the Words of Wisdom each morning, I look at and record the time of the sunrise. As a student of astronomy (my first college major was a double in astronomy/math with minors in physics and engineering) I have long been aware of changes in the time of sunrise through the year, and as someone who has long been "driven by" (for lack of better words this time of the morning) the natural cycles/calendar, I am also very aware that not only does the time of the rising and setting of the sun change, but the rate at which it changes, changes. Got that??

In other words, there is a time in the spring where it seems that the sun is racing to get up earlier and earlier each day and set later and later -- and in the fall the opposite happens. I usually notice when my hunger/time to make supper clock gets confused....I find myself madly hungry and wonder why.

Near the Winter Solstice just passed, the time that the sun rose would change by a minute every OTHER day or even less ... Sunrise was getting later -- and just past Solstice, getting earlier -- by only 30 seconds, more or less, each day. then it began to rise a minute earlier each day. Between yesterday morning and today, it rose 2 minutes earlier. Soon -- as we get close to Equinox, it will pick up speed and the rate of change will increase. The farther you are north of the equator, the more dramatic the rate change.

It is interesting to note these changes in conjunction with the traditional earth-based beliefs holidays, tides and seasons. That the tide of Imbolc / Disablót -- the beginning of the turn toward spring -- coincides with the beginnings of the increase in the rate of change of sunrise times -- does not seem coincidental.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

note to self

as part of autumn chores, MARK the sides of the garden.
  • plow guy has removed all the mulch and likely part of the soil from the area in the garden where I planted garlic
DO NOT PLANT early bulbs along the edge of the garden. Transplant what was put there this year after excavating from beneath the piles of snow, and they have bloomed (IF they do)

TRAIN PLOW GUY to plow to the EAST and not (much) to the west. Suggestions are welcome.

A Year Of...

In the vein of several of my daughters, who have written their characterizations of the past and the coming years, I feel a need to try to frame the coming year in a positive light.

Feeling as I have the past few weeks/months, it would be very easy for me to look at this as the year of "I can't..." This old age thing seems to come to my family suddenly, like one day you are fine and young (or maybe not quite so young, but still vigorous and strong) and then you wake up and you are not. You cannot carry like you could, cannot lift like you could. You hurt, sometimes with purpose (from that lifting and carrying) and sometimes just hurt. Nothing quite works right/the same any more...

I remember my mom commenting on such things. Not sure about Grandma, as I only knew her when she was old, and though she did many things, she did them slowly and with purpose (or, looking back with current eyes, pain.)

Well I have come, it seems, to that point.

And it is trying to drag me into the depression thoughts of "too late"... NOW I have a home to work on, and land begging to be put into service more than lawn. I have art that I love to do and jobs that satisfy me. And I wonder how I will manage to fix the house and till/plant/weed/harvest/put by what the land will provide.

And even as my aching body complains at carrying the cat food to the closet, my mind races to the snowshoes and the equally heavy bucket of litter to be dragged/carried out across the fields for dumping later today and the walk around the land with which I follow this cat tending ritual.

I look out at my snow-covered fields and wonder "how?" and in that wondering is the germ of how I will frame this year... The Year of Finding How.

Some of the Hows will likely require getting some stuff -- a small tractor is high in the wish/want list... one with a tiller. But if the PTB choose to match me up with a smaller walk-behind tiller, so be it. It will not work to be dependent on hired help for much of this -- for the budget and for my being at odds with the way gardens are traditionally planted here (all of a piece, after Memorial Day.)

Some of the others will likely require re-thinking... as much as I would like a wood stove, is it a good idea when I can no longer lift a maul? Cut my own wood? How do propane space heaters (wall mounted) compare?

Some will likely require longer than I would like (such as insulating the place, re-roofing, getting a greenhouse in...) due to time, money and physical issues.

But while you may see me shed a tear now and then (they are close at present) I vow to not give in to the "can't" and instead to valiantly and constantly push them to the side to focus on the HOWs.

Anyone got a small toboggan-type childs sled they are not using? If it would hold my cat-droppings-bucket, it would make dumping the litter a fun chore!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I have said -- more than once -- that I would shovel the drive myself as long as I could, thinking that I meant this year.. next year... until my body cried ENOUGH.

Instead, it only took until yesterday for us to get a plow guy. The wind-drive snow packed the driveway full -- again -- of stuff that was best cut out in blocks. But being newbies to the land to massively wind-driven snow (I guess the Maine stuff does have a bit more water in it that the powder that used to blow for miles across the western Colorado prairies) neither of us realized how solid it was when I got read to head for work yesterday afternoon.

K, eyeballing the depth on the drive, decided it would be best if he drove me to work and picked me up again and made it about 1/4 way down the drive before getting the Subaru "4-wheel-drive-stuck". We shoveled... around... under to the extent that we could (the damn spade has disappeared, Gods only know where) and in the end when I went to call in to work I asked if the happened to have the number for one of my co-workers, whose husband plows.

I guess that was what was supposed to happen, as he -- uncharacteristically, especially since she was not on the schedule yesterday -- was in the store's parking lot. They determined that he didn't have anything else to do, and directed him north to our place. At first even his truck was not able to make much headway on the filled drive. He got out the snow blower, worked a bit and then returned to his truck and managed -- slamming it with great vigor into the solidly packed snow -- to take bites out to clear the path. I shoveled from the car forward, cutting out and throwing block of snow that made me think building an igloo might be a plan for the next day off. Once he got back to the car, he used his spade and some of the bag of kitty litter I had brought from the house, to help dig me loose and give a bit of traction under the wheels to get me going.

I headed off to work -- only 32 minutes late -- and he stayed to clear the rest of the drive. In the end he only wanted to charge us $20 but K wrote him a check for $30 and retained him as our plow guy.

On other fronts, I was really feeling the turn of the tide yesterday, as I felt pushed to (finally) empty the last boxes of office stuff that had been kicking around the office, to sort and prepare the things that needed to go back into the garage for storage and to add to the Goodwill pile. I need to get the bulletin board in from the garage and there are still some piles and un-labeled files (the contents of some of which will go to the big filing cabinet in the garage, to join existing files, hence the lack of labels) but that will be tended to on the next pass.

I was prompted this morning while pouring my first cup of coffee, to continue on through the house. I need to do some work on the Craft room and living room next -- the former to make it ready for the New Moon tomorrow. This will be a busy week, as I have only full days on the schedule at the store (yesterday was a short day, starting at 4) and this week is an "on and off" week, wherein I will be off on Tu, Th and Sat. I do intend to talk to the boss next time I run into him and the opportunity presents to let him know that unless there is some good reason on his part, he need not give me random weekend days off... My understanding was that I was hired for "nights and weekends" and won't feel slighted or put upon if I work "every" friday, saturday or Sunday, unless I request a day, which will be rarely.

So now I better get at it, eh?

Friday, January 23, 2009

garden order

I have no idea why BLOGGER keeps putting this tons of space before my table... but scroll down and you will see my garden order thus far...

variety quantity supplier cost days to harvest
BEAN Provider Bush Green 4 oz FEDCO 2.60 50
BEAN Royal Burgundy Bush 2 oz FEDCO 1.80 55
BEAN Masai Bush Haricots Vert 1/2 oz FEDCO 1.20 58
BEAN Indy Gold Bush Wax 2 oz FEDCO 1.80 54
CORN Golden Bantam Yellow Sweet 4 oz FEDCO 2.80 85
CORN Painted Hills Multicolor Sweet 2 oz FEDCO 2.50 80
PEAS Coral
4 oz FEDCO 2.60 53
Cascadia Snap
2 oz FEDCO 1.30 65
PEAS Waverex Petit Pois 8 oz Territorial 7.25 65
MUSKMELON Halona 1 g FEDCO 1.80 79
WATERMELON Peace 1 g FEDCO 1.90 75
WATERMELON Sweet Favorite 1 g FEDCO 1.60 86
CUCUMBER Cross Country Pickling 1/16 oz FEDCO 1.30 52
CUCUMBER General Lee Slicing 1/16 oz FEDCO 1.50 66
ZUCCHINI Raven 1/8 oz FEDCO 1.60 48
ZUCCHINI Golden 1/8 oz FEDCO 0.90 57
SQUASH Table Queen Acorn 1/4 oz FEDCO 0.80 90
PUMPKIN New England Pie 1/4 oz FEDCO 0.80 102
BEET Golden
1/16 oz FEDCO 1.50 54
BEET Chioggia 1/8 oz FEDCO 0.90 55
LEEK King Richard 1/16 oz FEDCO 1.60 75
SPINACH Space 1/2 oz FEDCO 2.00 37
LETTUCE Blushed Butter Oaks 1 g FEDCO 1.30 49
LETTUCE Slobolt 2 g FEDCO 1.20 53
LETTUCE Cardinale 1 g FEDCO 1.30 48
LETTUCE Red Iceberg 1 g FEDCO 1.10 63
LETTUCE Summertime 1 g FEDCO 1.00 70
CHARD Bright Lights 1/16 oz FEDCO 1.10 56
BROCCOLI Fiesta 0.2 g FEDCO 2.20 86
BROCCOLI Arcadia 0.5 g FEDCO 1.60 94
BRUSSELS SPROUTS Oliver 0.5 g FEDCO 2.20 90
CABBAGE Gonzales 0.5 g FEDCO 1.50 66
CABBAGE Danish Ballhead 2 g FEDCO 0.70 100
CAULIFLOWER Charming Snow 0.5 g FEDCO 1.20 60
CAULIFLOWER Graffiti 0.1 g FEDCO 2.00 80
PEPPER New Ace Sweet 0.2 g FEDCO 1.60 60
PEPPER Revolution Sweet 0.1 g FEDCO 2.00 72
PEPPER Valencia Sweet 0.1 g FEDCO 1.60 72
TOMATO Ida Gold 0.2 g FEDCO 1.20 59
TOMATO Jet Star 0.2 g FEDCO 1.80 72
TOMATO Cherokee Purple mini? Johnny's 1.50 72
DILL Bouquet 4 g FEDCO 0.90 55
DILL Fernleaf 0.5 g FEDCO 1.40 55
CORN Red Broom 12 g FEDCO 2.50 105
WHEAT Mesa Desert Spring 20 g FEDCO 2.50 ?
WHEAT Black Tip pkt (100 seeds) Johnny's 2.95 90-120
WHEAT Silver Tip pkt (100 seeds) Johnny's 2.95 90-120
CARROTS Rainbow mini Johnny's 3.00 57
CARROTS Kinko 4" mini Johnny's 2.95 52
CARROTS Purple Rain mini Johnny's 3.50 73

Planning for Spring

We are not quite yet to that next pivot point in the year.. whether you know it as "groundhog day" or Inbolc or Candlemas as I sometimes call it "spring finding" but even in the weeks leading up to this time, my thoughts and plans are turning to spring. Yeah, we have a couple of feet of snow on the ground and more to come, for this is -- here in the northlands at least -- much closer to the middle of winter than anything that looks like spring.

Nevertheless, much sooner than we expect the sap will be rising and for those with maple trees to tap, the work will begin with snow still on the ground. These days, I understand, most folks do not trudge through the snow with buckets, carrying the sap to the shed where it's turned into syrup but rather set up a network of tubing. But never the less, this late winter ritual will signal the time that, as a gardener, I need to already be prepared.

So, as we roll over to the first checkpoint of the year, I have been busy ordering seeds and soon will be trying to figure out when -- for this climate -- I need to start what. Many things that I direct seeded elsewhere will need to be started indoors (like the squash and cukes and melons). How early will I need to start the leeks (soon, I think!) and other long-season crops like the late cabbages and brussel sprouts. What about getting a drop on the season with lettuce transplants? When, exactly, need I start the peppers and tomatoes for them to be ready to go out the end of May?

The end of May is the traditional, plant everything time here... but the soil can be worked long before that and many crops will germinate and thrive -- getting a good start in the cool spring days. Lettuces, peas (though no thought to "plant peas on St. Patrick's Day" or potatoes on Good Friday is applicable here) and other crops that can stand a bit of cold can go out earlier. I am thinking of experimenting with floating row covers, as it will be easier than running out to cover each baby plant in the dark when I get home from work.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

walk on the snowy side

I am not sure what is ailing me. As I noted recently I lost most of a night of sleep to coughing and the next day hurt like crazy.

Last night I remembered my OTC meds for the congestion and slept well.. and slept and slept. Got up to let the dog out and start coffee and didn't even wait to let her back in (knowing that K would when she barked) before falling back into bed and sleeping until noon. When I finally rolled out, I felt I could have stayed longer but didn't need to lose an entire day. These three days off in a row are not THAT frequent.

The cat litter in need of dumping and the laundry laying about was almost more than I could consider looking at. K, being kind, took us out to lunch at the local restaurant. They serve huge portions but I couldn't even eat my usual half plate (liver and onions today) so it's in the fridge now for later. Got a load in the washer and dumped the kitties and carried out their litter on snow shoes.

I told K I was going to walk the perimeter even if I didn't feel like it. I had been wanting to do this -- and to walk a labyrinth in the snow for some time and both kept getting put off for various reasons. So even though I didn't feel like it and it wouldn't be the fun it was supposed to be, I was going to do it anyway. Didn't make sense to him, it doesn't make sense, truly, but I am glad I did.

I walked my spiral labyrinth in the area where the grove will be, walking in with thoughts of deepening and securing/manifesting my walk on the völva path and walking back to this world, bringing health and strength, wisdom and energy.

Then I went to walk the perimeter. Couldn't treat the horses with the apple slices I had in my pocket as it was feeding time and even for horses, dinner is more important than a treat. Picked up the mail and found some hollyhock seeds that had been sent by a friend and then didn't make it quite all the way around, as I had a couple of moments of inattention when I lost my footing and fell. After the second one I took it as a sign I should reclaim the cat litter can and head in, so here I am.

I am feeling a bit more energized.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I am not a happy camper today.

I had expected to feel stiff and sore from my shoveling yesterday, a very LONG day of running around. But I didn't. I felt great, excited about the next two days off... full of energy and ready to knock out the project that is making me feel behind the curve (because I am...) and then take to my snowshoes to circumnavigate the acres. And I was looking forward to going to bed early as I was REALLY tired, so as to awaken early and refreshed. But alas it was not to be.

I did get to bed earlier, but did not fall soundly asleep... instead I kept waking and soon was kept awake by a nagging cough and crap running down my throat. And if course I made it longer on account of not wanting to get out of bed into the cold to go take some Dimetap which was in the kitchen, figuring eventually it would stop.

It didn't until I finally got my lazy bod out from under all the cats (which were keeping me awake, too, trying to lay on my in places that made it harder for me to breathe and to toss and turn.) avoided stepping on the dog and got the med in me.

But that was not the long restful sleep I needed, and when I did sleep it was punctuated with non-restful dreams with likely origins in my unrest and having had a call while I was out asking if I could come in and cover a shift for an employee who called out with a sore back.

And now I need to salvage this day, hurting (not sure if it's the coughing or the shoveling or both or neither, as we visited a friend yesterday who had a ailing pig in the house -- homemade surgery not healing right -- and while we were there brought in a sick goat as well) and totally unmotivated.

Maybe oatmeal will help but -- first I have to wash the darn bowls and pot.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Now THIS is winter!

THIS is winter! Yahoo!! Left is a shot out the back door, facing to the North. We got about 8" yesterday and another 2-3 so it would appear, overnight.

Below is the shot out the front door, to the south, showing the tracks where K walked out to meet me and drive the Subaru in. I was concerned the snow was drifted deeply enough that it would have to be "subaru plowed" but apparently I was wrong.
There was one place where he had to back up and take another try at it. After I write my words and this blog this morning and get another cup of coffee, it will be time for me and the shovel, as there is a fine mist of snow still coming down and predictions for more small bits the next few days.

And then, tomorrow, I will go out and play a bit, honest!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

snowy Sunday

The predicted snow has started... it blows so much, even when there is not really a wind to speak of, that it is hard to know how much exactly has fallen but my best guess is a couple of inches, based on what was on the front (south) and back (north) steps.

It is still coming down, steadily but not by the bucketsfull, so I expect a decent accumulation by the time I leave work this evening at 9. I AM taking the shovel with me.. as if I have to shovel my way IN the driveway, I don't want to have to first make the trek to the house to get the tool.

It has warmed up a bit, and it was a nice bit of winter exercise putting on the snowshoes to take the kitty litter out to the back field to dump and the compost bucket to the pile. I DO wish I had found the time to dump the litter can before today though. It is just a little to big to be easy to carry on snowshoes, especially when I have waited and the litter can (a small metal trash can) hold two dumpings of wet litter from two litter boxes.

I am definitely going to make a date with myself to snowshoe around the property during my three days off! It is not that hard walking on them (easier, even, when I use the "Nordic walking poles" in conjunction to help keep my balance and footing over the ups and downs of the land and the drifts.) and it will be neat to make the perimeter walk without having to climb through all the drifts. I have found that I sink down farther (some places) into the snow than I thought one would when using snowshoes, but it is also much easier to walk out of the sinkhole and with just your feet. Also I appreciate that these modern shoes have serrated grippers on the bottom, for extra traction on the "crunchy" iced-over places.

Well there is design work to be done, so I am going to spend a couple of hours trying to knock some of that out. I am glad that I was able to get the dishes done, the wash done (three small loads, all fit on the drying rack) and get a chicken cut up and into the oven to "fry."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Extreme Weather, part deux

It seems that there was more to the issue than just the fuel getting too cold.

Just as I was about to leave for work K noted that the heater had NOT come on lately and went to turn the thermostat up a notch to jog it... whereupon it did the same thing as it was before... Back to square one? However the service dude had said if we had any further problems to call, so I said "do it" and went to work.

K called me at the store a few hrs. later to report that apparently the jelling of the fuel had exasperated some additional issues -- parts that, on this 1980s vintage furnace -- were ready to fail. When the guy arrived and did a pressure test, it seems that the thing was sucking air big time.
Parts were replaced and it is working now. I came home a bit ago to the wonderful sound of a running furnace! LOL

K also discovered, in conversation with the "service dude" that he was not a random on-call employee, but the owner of the company! Arctic Energy is a small, locally owned oil supply outfit here in Corinth, which was recommended to us and I would recommend them to anyone in their service area.

We are supposed to get a bit of a warming trend (not that anyone else but a
denizen of the Northlands would recognize it as such!) as it warms up to snow tomorrow, with a predicted high of 22 degrees F!

I have to comment on comments to posts on my LiveJournal entry on this subject as well... I dunno how living in the rural north and enjoying the challenges of life "as it should be" in my book at least, makes me anything different or more "brave". Seems to me, living in the city, with folks jammed wall to wall and the potential for random crime constantly at hand is far more "brave" and more challenging. The elements are reasonably predictable. You can learn about diesel, and keeping things running and what to expect from chewing critters (and which cats are likely to help and which are as likely to invite the neighbors -- regardless of species -- in for catnip tea.) But you can't predict when the house down the road will become a meth lab or when the wacked out druggie from the "hood" is going to take a field trip and go off the deep end.

Like that "old time religion", the old time challenges are good enough for me!

More record cold weather challenges

It is a good thing, when moving to a new place and a new home, to spend a year "just surviving" while learning how it goes.

We awakened this morning to no (oil) heat. The tank was topped off recently so there was fuel, and we got the fuel mix that is designed to help prevent the "jelling" issue (diesel fuel and fuel oil has a tendency to begin to solidify at colder temps) but as they said, it is not guaranteed.

Our tank is covered (with a little shed that is not even close to air-tight but cannot be opened -- perhaps you remember talk of this, this past fall when we got our first oil fill up and disturbed the wasps that reside inside there) but the filter area is no longer insulated.

We thought that might be the issue, so K went out with the heat gun (the extreme temps proved too much for the trusty hair dryer, which was only blowing cold air) but that did not do the trick.
I went to the store and bought a jug of the stuff they sell for keeping diesel truck fuel tanks running, but instead of adding that, we decided to call the fuel company for a service call.

I am glad we did, as it only cost $90 and we learned a lot from the service guy.

1. Putting the tank on the south side of the house wouldn't help... ice still accumulates on the inside of the tanks above the fuel line overnight and when it melts as the sun hits it, it will go to the bottom of the tank and into the feed line. Water, of course, will not burn.

2. There is stuff called "Hot" that appears to work for fuel oil like the Heet we put in our cars' fuel tanks in the winter. The tech recommended it at least once a year as standard procedure.

3. We will likely consider using the Hot as an additive with each fill up, in the future.

4. When we rebuild the enclosure around the oil tank, we will do it in such a way as to seal it against insects, add insulation, make it easy to open in order to access the filter mechanism as well as for inspection of the tank. We will also make it possible to insert and plug in a shop light for heat during future winters of extreme cold.

We also learned that one can install a horizontal oil tank over a bed of crushed rock and 4" thick patio pavers, but that a vertical one must be installed on a cement slab to be legal here, and that any oil tank that is installed on the side of a building with eaves must be covered OR be 2' out from the drip line. Installations on the end of a building (where there are no eaves) require no setback.

On other fronts, I am thankful for the propane and kerosene auxiliary heaters, and am still thinking of adding "zoned heating" by way of permanent propane heaters in the master bed/bath area, living room and possibly office.

And (thanks -- I think -- to the 500 watt shop light under the uninsulated part of the floor, and leaving the faucets dripping) all of the water still works.

I have fresh vegetable soup in the crock pot, some of which will go to work with me tonight, and the kitchen floor has been swept.

Haven't got a lick of other work done today, but sometimes that's the way of it when you live in an area of extreme weather and are just learning the ropes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hard Winter

One of my favorite old time Mainers told me to expect a "hard winter" this year. Last year, he said, was snowy but it wasn't "hard"...

Well I guess I get what he means, as we are getting mega cold Canadian air masses to last through the weekend with serious record lows and wind chills. I don't have a thermometer outside but when I took one out last night before bed it read -17 F. It is supposedly below that at present, but I haven't dragged the thing out today to check. I know Dog went out and came back in, in record time this morning.... this being Dog Who Loves To Lay In The Snow... so I know something was up.

Then, before I could get my Words of Wisdom written and up the power went off. Thankfully it was only for 50 min or so, but had we not had it return serious consequences would have followed, as the water could not run with the pump off and the pressure tank as well... We will have to consider some sort of backup for their power needs or some alternative system but that needs to come after the repluming, I am sure.

It is cold enough that we have started the aux. kero heater in the living room, and carried it to the far end of the house (bed/bath) last evening a bit before bed time, to take some of the BRRRR off that area, which gets little heat from the furnace. A friend mentioned having found a small, easy to fill kero heater on sale recently and is using it -- along with their larger one, a twin of ours -- to keep their WV place warm through this cold snap. If I can find a similar unit, I may well consider it, though I doubt if the "end of season" sales that gave them the good deal will be starting here in the Northlands for a good while. The draw on this new style of heater is the ability to remove the fuel tank for filling, which would eliminate a lot of nasty schlepping of heavy kero cans or heaters the length of the house. I would use it only in the before bed hour or so, to take the worst of the chill off.

The last few days have been filled with many computer follies, as the hard drive that failed a year ago, but had been working seamlessly during the intervening time, failed again and took with it all but the data. We had installed a new, larger drive the end of 07 but when K got the old one working, we did not "turn it on" so to speak... so it is now working and I have been reinstalling software and plotting a much needed reorganization of data. But only plotting, as the down time put a serious crimp in client work and since I need to put in hours at the store this weekend, I am a bit behind the curve.... but catching up slowly.

Now, if the power will just stay on, things should be ok. I'll do a bit of touch up on some web edits this morning and then get to work on the Park Service project, big time.

Tonight after work I will be spending time at the altar with Frigga and her ladies... With many in my family and circle being touched by illnesses and other afflictions, the Needfire will be burning brightly as I work the threads on their behalf.

Stay warm, stay safe.

Monday, January 12, 2009

virtual chaos

Yesterday my computer went on strike. K spent most of the afternoon and evening fighting with it and it lives, sort of...

Data is safe (I have aux. drives where all that gets stores) but bookmarks, etc were lost...

And it doesn't look the same (yet). I am having to rebuild my digital landscape and that makes me a bit edgy and "off."

Fortunately I don't have to work a full day today. Unfortunately I need to stovel the drive and do some important work for a couple of old clients.

And I slept late, which was a good thing (after the stress of yesterday I needed it) but also a bad thing (as it's almost noon and I have only had 1 cup of coffee, no breakfast and have to leave for work at 3:30. Tomorrow is a day off, but I have to work Wed (during the day, ugh!) have thurs off and no med. apps so maybe I can get back settled by then.

Wish me luck.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Had a conversation with a friend yesterday... a little bit about my spirituality and how she is trying to figure hers out, and I fear I was a bit confusing... because it all IS a bit confusing, even to me. But They (The Powers That Be) insist that I need to share this stuff so I am going to try to do a bit of writing about it. And yea, it fits in this journal because it is as much as anything why I am in Maine, having been "called" to the northlands.

However, tomorrow is the first full moon of the year and tonight is the night I sit by the fire and spend time with my Gods and so that is a bit of what I am going to write about. My friend said that she connects well with the Moon and with Fire, so maybe these words will make a bit more sense than my rambling conversation of recent days.

As the moon cycles, many folks use that waxing and waning to invoke and banish things in their lives. It is in many ways I think a mirror of the yearly cycle, just that we get 13 chances (more or less) in a year to work it.

As a side bar here, let me insert that traditional cultures do not all view the sun and the moon in the same way. When I first started my path, I related to the moon as a representative of the female principle, and the moon as male... and many pagan folk tie the traditional stories of the birth of the baby God at Yule, his coming of age with the spring and becoming a consort of the Goddess, her opulent fertility of the summer and his strength in the summer sunlight, and they watch him as he ages through the fall, to die in late autumn. However the northern tradition sees the moon as masculine (Mani) and the sun as femminine (Sunna), as the sun is the source of all growth and the moon merely shines by her light. Only goes to show, I guess, the variety of ways of experiencing the universe. Call me confused or nontraditional, but I guess at this point I am kind of blending both ways of seeing them. For when I sit by the fire and talk to the Moon each month at New and Full, it is Goddess I see reflected there.
The Moons also have a variety of traditional names from various cultures. This year I can easily see calling tomorrow's incarnation the Ice Moon, for the land outside my windows is white and frozen. In the dark part of the year, here in the northlands, Ice abounds for many months, but as this is the first full moon after what I think of as the "bottom" of the year, Ice is a good metaphor for me. Isa, the Rune, comes to mind here. This rune says there is no immediate possibility of change. According to Freya Aswynn, "it could take as long as three months before things start melting" -- and those of us who live and garden in the North will immediately know this truth.

This Full moon occurs astrologically in the sign Cancer. This is a water sign and is ruled by the moon. In astrology this sign is said to relate to emotions, intuition and imagination.

And in my workings with Frigga and her Handmaidens, this is Var's moon. Var wants truth told and promises kept.

So maybe you can begin to see a theme here... ice surrounds, stilling the Earth for a season of rest and encouraging us to take to our caves, to sit by the fire in contemplation and planning. Fire melts ice... and by the fire (whether actual or metaphoric) we all naturally seem to want to look back over the previous year and make plans for the coming seasons. (as shown by the plethora of 2008 retrospectives in print and on the airwaves). Those of us who garden are reviewing last year's successes and challenges and preparing seed orders for the coming year. Perhaps we have made New Years resolutions, or set goals for the coming year.

If not, this is a time to do so, calling on the energies of the Universe to help us manifest those worthy goals.

If you have never done such things before, you need not rouse the neighborhood nor even disturb the cat in her repose by the fire. Simply bring your rocker near to the stove -- or find a comfy chair with a table nearby on which you can set even a small candle in a deep, fireproof container (yes, I have numerous metal cauldrons for this purpose but in a pinch almost anything will do). Grab something to write with and something to write on (this CAN be your laptop, but make sure to also grab an old fashioned bit of paper and at least a dull crayon as well) and something to drink and with which to toast the Gods (I usually use apple juice, sometimes hard cider or even the pure, cold water from our well) and the set a spell... until the house quiets (or the background sounds fade into the background and your housemates become involved in their own pursuits).

I usually stand, facing the four directions in turn as I invoke the elements to create sacred space but even this is not ultimately necessary as you can stay seated and send your mind in each direction, looking out from your home at familiar surroundings in your minds eye as you work.

If you are not sure what direction "goes with" what element, or even are unclear on the directions, do not fret either... You can just go with the directions -- or the elements without connecting them... or even just skip this part if you do not connect to it straightaway.

But when doing Moon working I invoke Earth facing North (as a daughter of the earth and the north, this is my home turf so to speak... so I start here, thinking or speaking of the qualities of Earth... it is solid, it sustains us, it is quiet and safety, it is the home of the Bear and the deer... ), Air facing East (the breath of life and of inspiration, of new beginnings and change), Fire facing South (passion, heat, energy, strength) and Water facing West (cleansing, flowing, slowly changing).

And then I light the candle in the cauldron and sit by the fire and do my work. This Moon will be good for listing -- and expressing thanks -- for the growth and challenges of the past year. And for turning to the new cycle and seeing yourself carrying those threads into the future, weaving others in as well to build upon what you have accomplished. And as I write my goals for the year, I make sure they are DOable goals, breaking them down into smaller parts as needed (think of yourself as taking a little field trip into the future, sprinkling milestones and waymarkers along the way -- but not breadcrumbs... they tend to get eaten ) and when I am done I write each of the main goals on a small strip of paper and burn them in the fire, watching the bits of smoke waft upwards, seeing the all-but-invisible threads that will bring these goals into the world beginning to form.

When I am done with this, I sit a bit in contemplation, waiting for the stray unbidden thoughts that are often the way in which I recieve guidance and inspiration.

I lift my glass and toast the Gods of my Ancestors, and specifically Frigga, Odin and the Handmaiden whose moom I am celebrating (in this case, Var). I give thanks to the Directions and the elements, telling them they are free to go but may stay or return at their leisure and then I take the remaining drink to the back door and standing on the landing, I once again toast the Gods, and give them thanks for Abundance and with the words "From the Gods to the Earth to Us, from us to the Earth to the Gods" pour the remaining drink upon the Earth.

So Be It.

Blessings upon all this full moon.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Heading out

Today I am up ultra early, so that I can have my morning coffee, be dress and out the door pretty much at first light. We have had snow (about 3" as of my measurement on the deck last evening) with sleet/freezing rain coming down over that when I took the measurement) and I want to walk the drive and hopefully have time to do some shoveling, if necessary, to help me get out this morning.

I have an 8 AM appt to get the car inspected, in Bangor, some banking and bill-paying as well, but then the fun part... a small road trip to Washington County for a visit with my friend, farmer Robin. She wants to talk with me about the wheel of the year, it would seem, and I need to claim my head. No, not the old joke about losing it, were it not well affixed... her husband shot a small bear late this fall and they have been saving the head for me in cold storage. Bear is my totem and I have plans for the head. With any luck we will also have lunch with some mutual friends in the area. I expect we will talk a lot about seeds, seasons and gardening, too. At least SHE has got her seed catalogues! I am still waiting...

On less delightful news, I will be carrying along a jug of cranberry juice to swig on the trip, as I awoke to an irritation "down there" when I got up to pee. Minor, but annoying... K had said a few days ago that my breath had a particular odor that he associated with being/getting ill, though I had none of the "I'm coming down with something" feelings that precede a cold or the flu, so maybe this is where it decided to settle. In any case, past experience has shown me that a day of "forcing" bogberry juice and water generally does the trick, but in this case the real trick will be to do this and manage to GET to Robin's without having to stop at every gas station restroom along the way. LOL

Once the inspection hurdle has been cleared, K will be totally legal as a Maine resident. Brandi is as well, having made a visit to town hall yesterday after the local rabies shot clinic at the vets office to get her license too.

My final hurdle jumping will have to wait until Spring (or at least "January thaw" if we get a good one) as I have the farm plates for the truck, but it needs new tires before its inspection, even as a farm truck, and it needs good conditions (that is, not ICE) for getting out of the driveway.

On other news, somehow my lackadasical non-marketing of my design business here in Maine is nevertheless generating inquiries. I had one recently from a tourism panel in Bangor requesting a quote on trade show booth design. That is NOT in our list of services, so I wrote them a polite letter informing them of that fact and letting them know what we DO specialize in and apparently they have a print project as well in the works, for which they will soon be soliciting design quotes, and will send me an RFQ. Then yesterday, a large printing company from the Lewiston, ME area called to touch base, as apparently they often get requests for design referrals from the Bangor area. I did not think to ask where she found us... but I am plotting to pay them a visit within the month... likely next time I have 3 consecutive days off.

I spent part of yesterday completing a 2 foot square, hanging shelf unit for storing my hex paints (for the indoor designs). It did not go together perfectly... I only had a bit of wood to cut and opted to use hand tools in the warmth of the Craft room instead of digging out the power tools in the frigid garage, but it will hold paint and that is the main thing. It will allow me to have all the colors grouped and visible and in order, which will help me be more productive.

I'm beginning to see some light in the sky, so I'd best be digging out my "digging out duds" and walking the shovel down the drive. I know for sure the snow plow went by twice and even if I deem the rest of the drive passable, it would be good to eliminate that snow pile.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

the wind

I want to write a bit about the wind today. Yeah, it is blowing. Seems it always does, and sometimes I want to get annoyed with it. but I am trying not to.

I am trying to remember back to the place in Colorado, on the western slope, where we used to joke that anything not nailed down would "fly to Utah" on the winds (we were only 13.5 miles from the CO-UT border). But I don't really remember it blowing ALL the time.

And in the canyon, well it was a canyon and what happened up on the wheatlands, weather-wise, affected us depending on the direction of the wind and the direction of the canyon -- or side-canyon -- in which you lived.

And other places, I think the wind came and went... and maybe it doesn't ALWAYS blow here, either, but it sure seems like it. That's one reason I want to get the old weather station up and working (if the software can be found ... and made to work on the current generation of computers.). And if it does blow "all the time" maybe just maybe this is the place for a windmill and some energy generation or the like, if we can figure it out without laying out a small fortune.

I have noticed that the wind changes. Around Samhain it HOWLED, literally, around the eaves. Now it doesn't howl, it just buffets, and blows snow around if there is any new stuff. And sounds the wind chimes. I had K put one up on the garage eave, but I think I am going to have him take it down again as it has stopped having a pleasant sound, to me, and just sounds like clanging in the wind. And its clapper, or rather the flattened, rusty tin can I have used to move the clapper after the original one disappeared (in an down east hurricane) is beating the crap out of the siding and trim on the garage.

I used to like wind chimes, as they would alert me to the gentle breezes that blew around the places I lived, where there were no trees to rustle to tell me of the visiting wind.

There are no trees here, either, but the wind announces itself, with huffs and puffs and "I'll blow your house down" that makes me thankful for the mostly-secured hurricane strapping under the place.

Flapping the frozen clothes on the line late last year, it trashed the clothes tree. Our Yule tree, which I had hoped to use for windbreak somewhere and a Yule log next year, had blown away beyond sight before I got back into the house from dragging it out. I am surprised that the "Hex signs for sale" signs on the mailbox post remain afixed there. The wind seems to be here, always, and seldom a gentle breeze.

It is quite unexpected, and is taking some getting used to.

Come spring and summer, if it continues, I am sure I will be more thankful for it as it is a BIG deterrent to black flies and mosquitoes. But now I am trying to come to terms with it.

Last night, trying to fall asleep, I was listening to it flap the vent on the stove hood (that is pretty much constant too) and on the plumbing system (a bit quieter), listening to the clang of the wind chime and its muffled beating against the garage. And I noticed two moment of stillness.

And then the wind returned.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Well, here's to a day "off"

... and another sort of work.

Yeah, it seems like I am always working doesn't it? All of it needs doing, most of it I enjoy and much of what I do as hobbies or pass times, other would likely call work anyway.

Today, as the wind as abated as much as it ever does here on the Hill, and the temps are not in the single digits, we will be putting up plastic around the foundation. This is something I have not seen done anywhere else I have lived (even in other, northern and snowy climates, but seems to be commonplace here in Maine). Folks do it for a variety of reasons, it seems... to keep the snow from direct contact with the foundation and to reduce freezing drafts under the buildings would be the main reasons I guess. In our case, it is the latter...

The way the skirting was installed, there are gaping holes between the wooden panels. Now, many of these were supposed to be closed up by vertical strips of wood nailed on to the panels, but it just isn't happening. So the breezes blow and the wind chill helps freeze the pipes, I think.

This is a bit of a learning experience year for us -- especially for K. Though he went to school in NH for a bit, he was not there for an entire winter and during that period, he was a teen and did not have to worry much about the "getting ready for winter" part of things. He commented recently that this was the first place he had ever lived where one had to get ready for the season. and it is obvious that one of the lessons for this winter is learning the extent to which this is necessary.

Part of what was/is going on, of course, is the fact that his deteriorating health is in direct opposition to his desire to help and his perceived energy levels. In other words, he WANTS to do much more, and THINKS/EXPECTS that he can, but in the end just can't. For example, our riding mower was "put away" dirty (with grass and weeds still embedded under it, and it remains so) despite his desire and intention to not do what had been done to it before.

My intention for this coming cycle is --as we learn what is necessary for the winter -- to have a list and get it all done before Samhain this year... the final mowing, cleaning of the tools, most of the tilling, readying of the house for winter, etc.

Of course all this will have to be dovetailed with work (~ 30 hrs a week at the store, who know how many projects for Vision IPD and hex signs for Dutch Hex Sign), daily chores, etc.

On a totally different thread, I was just thinking yesterday -- before the pipes thawed -- how glad I am NOT to be having to go to a "city job". You know the kind... where you have to dress up, put on makeup, etc and mingle constantly with folks whose only relationship with what I think of as the real world -- the Earth and it's weather and seasons -- is when they bitch about the inconvenience of snow or rain or the discomfort of heat. The folks at the store and the customers all live here in the boonies. Many of them work outside as farmers or loggers or in construction, and they understand much more, I think.

Anyway, time for breakfast and to get on with the day. Have a good one, all!


I tried to get to the PO as I need to have a larger envelope weighed, and the POs here all take lunch break about the time I head to work, so I keep missing them. They DO have Sat. AM hours, but, of course they are quite short (the closest is 9 - 10:30) and of course I arrived 4 min too late and the window was closed. GRR... well it will have to wait until the City trip on Tues.

Had made arrangements to meet one of my coworkers at the store at the start of her shift (1 PM) today, to get eggs, as her mom's hens have started laying, so that I really couldn't get started on the plastic until after that. Scored 2 doz "pullet eggs" for $3. Yeah they are small, but I have always loved pullet eggs... the beginning of the egg cycle, often in the depth of winter.

Then we finally got to the plastic trip. I had spent most of the morning cutting the 100' long, 10' wide roll into two pieces each 5' wide and re-rolling. Fun. We were supposed to have a relatively still day, but I should have known better. The wind is seldom still here and the local weather service was reporting 11 mph at a temp of 23 degrees, so it was rather brisk and dealing with the plastic was unwieldy. We got the west end done, starting at the access panel on the south side (the 'cat door') and around to where the addition (Craft room) starts. What with having to add furring strips vertically to help secure the billowing plastic, and said wood being wet and frozen (it had been stored out of the weather, so it came wet), it was a challenge.

I put on extra layers of thermals and sweats on my legs and doubled up the gloves, so was warm pretty much everywhere (except for a couple of cold spots in my fake Uggs) with my fur lined cap and big jacket. K layered as well but with his circulation and nerve issues, got numb before he felt any cold.

We are both pretty beat, but are planning (hoping) to continue again on Monday, as I don't have to work until 4 pm. We tucked the roll of plastic up against the house, and temporarly tacked the last bit of foundation wrap down, so that we can continue without having to join plastic, when we are able to start again.

After a supper of turkey enchaladas, a hot bath and bed are the order of the evening.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Well, I am rejoicing over having hot AND cold running water in the guest bath and kitchen sink again, and two working commodes. And we had nothing to do with it.

K crawled under this morning for a look-see and spotted a place -- inaccessible, of course! -- between the axles where there is NO insulation at all, leaving the heat duct and pipes exposed to the elements. He went around to the other side of the crawl space and didn't fit under their either... not sure even I can get in there even without winter gear, so he went to get a 500 watt work light, and we are going to put it under that area (can get it in there, at least) and then put up rigid foam AROUND the area, which will hopefully help until spring.

But for now, at least, things are running.

The wind chill is a tremendous factor here. Yeah, I know that, but the elements just keep beating it into me. the minimum yesterday was -1 F with the wind varying from 18-37 MPH and gusts to 47. That translates into a wind chill running between -23 and -27 up to -30 at times. BRRRR The min on the 31 was 3 with wind varying from 1-23 MPH and gusts to 30.

Right now the NWS says it is 15 F with a wind of 6 MPH, making it a balmy 7 degrees F wind chill. AND IT THAWED. I don't understand, but I ain't gonna think on it too hard. Must be somehow solar heating at work, as we have a bright, sunshiney day...

Whatever, Thanks Be to The Powers That Be for sunshine and running water in the winter time.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Drip... drip....

Happy new year and welcome to Maine. The pipes are frozen.

We had very cold temps and wind-advisory-speed winds overnight and either of those is, it seems, pretty much guaranteed to take out at least some of the water.

I shouldn't complain, as the ONE faucet I leave dripping... the one that usually freezes first... is still running, so at least we have a place to fill container and haul to the commode, etc. The down side of that is that it is a bathroom sink so gallon jugs don't fit under the faucet and I have to use a measuring cup or the stovetop percolator to transfer water to the containers.

We have several months to contemplate the repairs/upgrades to the "underneath"... we knew freezing pipes were an issue when we bought... but it was late in the season and I wanted a winter under the belt before deciding what needs doing.

I am at present contemplating the following:
  • removing the current skirting which is plywood that is held in place at the bottom by a vinyl channel and at the top by a vinyl track and replacing it with plywood affixed to a 2x4 "wall" under the trailer, with removable rather than hinged access planels strategically placed -- and that means NONE facing the prevailing winds on the west end of the structure.
  • removing the sagging and likely water-soaked fiberglass insulation under the trailer
  • redoing all the water pipe with something with which heat tape can be used for the entire length, installed in such a way that it can also be insulated but yet accessed
  • applying spray foam insulation around the inside of the perimeter of the skirting and under the trailer to effectively insulate AND remove drafts. I am thinking 6" around the side and 8" underneath the trailer
  • apply rigid foam board insulation to the inside of the removable access panels, weatherstrip and secure said panels so as to avoid drafts
We still have to figure out how to make a way for the outside cat to get in and out from under the building...

and how to pay for this all and do it in a reasonable time frame with me working 4 days a week on a varying schedule and K growing weaker.

But we will...