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...