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!!