Monday, December 6, 2010

Out of sorts

I am very out of sorts this evening. Work went well, it was a typically slow Monday night despite the snow. But I came home ready to paint on the hex signs in process and was unable to find one of the colors I needed.

I thought I had it --a light green that I had taken to the Mall to paint during the filming of the interview. I know I had it then, in the basket but Gods alone know where it is now. The color I thought was right to touch up that sign was way too dark. And the looking for it sent me off along a path of great frustration.

I moved much of my painting and spiritual stuff out of the back "craft" room so I could still work while we had a roomie and, well, there is just not enough room in this trailer -- nor native organization at the end of market season -- to make this work easily and well... especially not with the publicity and orders generated by it. There is painting stuff, garden stuff, and just plain living stuff EVERYWHERE.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I am neither a clean nor a neat freak.. but the current chaos is beyond coping with and made more so because I have no idea how or when it will come back into order again.

I am NOT moving back into the back room until we have replace the flooring, and possibly some of the floor as well. Dog pee.. from Coffee before she was completely house broken and Tonka of late, mean replacing the flooring is necessary. I want a hard surface.. wood most likely. And that costs money and takes time both of which are in short supply at present.

Of course, in a more perfect world, we would have got the "ready for winter" chores done.. the chicken tractors would be built and one for the ducks, the tractors would be ready to plow snow and the new snow wheels and tires would be on the car. And little stuff, like the seasonal clothing shuffle, would be complete. The garden stuff would have been moved to the garage and would be in order, ready to come back in with the start of indoor planting season next year. But much of that garden stuff -- still in fall chaos -- is in the house. My winter coats are still in the garage, and out of season hats are still in the house.

And I have this lump of crud in my throat that can't swallow, won't hack up and makes me feel like I cannot properly swallow at all. Hopefully this tea I am drinking will help that.

And tomorrow when I pick up the colors I need to complete the indoor hex I am working on (colors I did NOT have) I will pick up another bottle of the missing color and give thanks that these paints are inexpensive. I'll mail off one order and when I get home I'll cut blanks for the next two and somehow find places to work on them in the living room, despite the dog hair.

And I know that eventually things will get into order -- and a better order than they were in.

Friday, December 3, 2010

getting on with it

For the past few months we have had a roommate -- an internet friend who had been planning for some time to move to Maine. Her time in PA came to an end with the rental of her home there, as she hoped to stave off foreclosure (I do not think it worked) and though she had made a recon trip here to look for property and work, nothing had quite fallen into place when she needed to move.

So we offered her space, if needed and agreed to let her horses graze on our back land, if she supplied the needed fencing and temporary housing, if necessary. I had high hopes, since she had a job offer before she arrived and had seen several properties of interest on her recon mission, that she would be settled soon. She initially decided to take her goats and chickens and stay with another friend but that fell through quickly and soon she and all the critters were here.

She got two part time jobs, but other monies that she was counting on failed to materialize and she didn't have her truck (another long story) so she ended up rather behind the curve and for various reasons seemed unable to get ahead of it quickly enough. The horses refused to behave -- repeatedly breaking or escaping from the electric fence which we supplied (she sent only a bit of wire and 6 posts!) and she was just to scattered with work, looking for a place, not having a vehicle (she used our car for a month or more) to get housing up for any of the critters. Eventually animal control and the state become involved and the animals were taken. At that point she became very withdrawn.

Now, some weeks later, she has moved on to live with other friends from her work, The truck that she bought here -- when we got to the point that our farm truck needed to be taken off the road for the winter and we needed to reclain our car) seems to have issues and these friends apparently have the time, money and willingness to cart her back and forth to her jobs and to her cabin up north. She plans to live primitively in a one room cabin with no amenities. Were I 20 years younger, and without dependents (4 legged, as she has, 2 legged as I had) I can imagine doing something similar... but not with an unreliable gas hog of a truck and a job many miles away. I wish her luck and God Speed...

But we are now beginning to get our lives back on track again. Her chaotic energy was very disruptive and her need for "help" (which often sounded and looked more like :"do this for me" ) put some serious kinks in our stated plans to get ready for winter. The garden did not get totally plowed, our yard is full of pallets, gathered for both our projects and for her use while here, to make temporary housing for critters. The blades and snowblower for the little tractors have not been worked on, the chicken tractors are seriously behind schedule (maybe ONE will be done soon) and on top of it all , here we are in the Holiday season with gifts to make for the grandkids and many orders for hex signs coming in thanks to the publicity from the White House tree story... and the season, of course.

But we will carry on and thrive.

The winter lettuce in the kitchen garden is growing under lights , the stuff for making the kids presents is at hand and time will be found.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Maine to Represent PA on White House Tree!

My work was selected recently to represent the state of Pennsylvania on the White House Christmas tree. This Double Creator's star hex sign binds the blessing of prosperity.

Many other designs are available on my web site,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The turning of the seasons

I know it is not a "recognized" holiday, not a quarter or cross quarter point... but the turn has made itself known here in the past few days and the garden bounty is pouring out, and I have a few moments today to spare so I am cooking a wonderful meal, using mostly stuff grown here and processed here, augmented by deer meat -- a gift from a new friend -- and a few boughten ingredients... and lifting one of the "last of the season" bottles of Sam Adams Summer Ale in toast.

That brewery has wonderful seasonal beers, and while their Octoberfest brew began arriving on shelves late last month, and while I know Octoberfest is actually celebrated in September, I will reserve that brew to toast the equinox in a few weeks. Meanwhile, the summer brew and the bounty of the late summer garden, are on tap today.

My second planting of beans started coming on strong last week, and yesterday I picked a shy bushel from HALF of the plants -- put by in the freezer for the winter -- with the remainder waiting for market on Thursday. My tomato crop has been poor (overrun with weeds and lack of water) but I processed a large bowl of the fruit into sauce for a coworker, augmenting it with my meager harvest, overripe fruit left from my partners offerings at market and the shared offerings of another coworker, so as to be able to split the sauce. I have a bag of early apples -- a "late summer" fuiit that says "fall" to me -- and some are in the salad tonight. A "mess" of green beans and zucchini lasagne (the veggie fills in for the pasta in an otherwise fairly traditional recipe with meat) round out the menu.

I guess this is why my spiritual practice is largely solitary... my celebrations, rituals, workings are prompted more by "when Spirit moves me" than by clock or calendar. This makes total sense to me, since the very genesis of my current path was the promptings of the world around me when I lived very close to nature and beyond the power lines. There were no books at all, no meetings with others, no human teacher ... until much later, after my practice had taken root.

I feel propelled to get the garden put to bed and the outside work done by the end of October. I feel the call to work inside (both inside myself and inside the house) that will follow. And, simultaneously, my mind springs ahead to the return of the growing season with the watermelon seeds drying on my counter, and thoughts of how the gardens will be laid out and planted next year. And so it continues.

But tonight, I give thanks... to the Powers That Be and to the Land upon which I stand for their nurturing and guidance.

So be it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A few moments of reflection

I have a few moments, between an after-town-errands client meeting and supper (which is cooking in the oven) to reflect in this space.

So here are a few random thoughts:

I am glad to have had a week of "one market Thursdays" but we are trying to get into a relatively new market that needs veggie vendors. The only hangup at this point is their requirement for insurance, which we do not carry and have not yet been able to obtain. The underwriters are still contemplating... The vendor who encouraged us to apply has agreed with my suggestion that we might sign a waiver... but what the business owner, who hosts the market, will say is anyone's guess. Perhaps we will find out this week, but I am not planning to attend this week, but rather to visit a greenhouse that I found on my way to the once-a-year market that I attended last Saturday. they have a good selection of herbs and I still need some plants to fill in the gaps.

The gardens are struggling. My partner has discovered that her strength apparently lies in starting plants and tha she had neither the heart nor land to plant a true market garden. She will continue to share her excess, but market produce will not be her focus. I knew that water would be my ongoing issue in dry years (like this one) as well as the damnable runner grass. My tomato crop is pretty much nil, the peppers got too hot at the outset and are now not setting fruit, the cabbages (which do lousy at market anyway) are getting eaten and the beans lag... It is a learning year (my mantra...)

I need to rework the shopping cart on my hex web site, but am at least most of the way along to moving a new client from Homestead (and her own work on the website) to our servers and my services. Several hex signs have been ordered despite the broken shopping cart.

Despite my comfort level with my solitary work spiritually, I am actually looking forward to being able to attend a few new and full moon fires that are being held by one of the therapists with the wellness center where I get my massage... only a few miles from here. Who knows what will come of it, but I will be a positive thing I am sure.

Now supper calls, and for once I am going to eat BEFORE DARK and hopefully head to bed --and needed sleep -- as darkness descends. Sleep has been har

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Behind the Curve

I have not been blogging in far too long – not because nothing has been happening, nor because I have nothing to say – but rather because I am once again sliding down the back side of that elusive curve, drowning in things that MUST be done, and getting “more behind” each day.

To this year’s credit, though, I must grant it that the process is somewhat slower this year than last. Despite more on the plate, in the form of two days market in Brewer for starter, the addition of the tractor tiller and K’s mechanical help in the garden is helping to slow the incoming tide of weeds. And despite the excessive heat and my having lost a couple of days last week to heat exhaustion, I have yet to feel the first stirrings of the “Big D” that plagued me during southern summers.

I am going to characterize this as a “learning year,” in hopes that the next few will be “fine tuning years” as I put into practice what the land teaches me through these seasons.

With the mechanical tiller, we should be able to put the garden to bed properly this year, perhaps even with a cover crop. Having it ready to rock and roll when the ground first becomes tillable will hopefully allow me to get the earliest of the early crops and allow for smaller, succession plantings through the spring. This year, the first early plantings went in pretty close to on time, but because of mechanical difficulties with Tilly Milly we were not able to follow up.

Also, this year, the first planting of lettuces was WAY too large. Even though some customers at Brewer market wanted lettuces by the head (Bangor shoppers still prefer a mixture of leaves) we could have easily supplied the markets and ourselves with a much smaller initial planting.

Most of the indoor started lettuces are bolting now and must be pulled and composted. Also, many of the varieties I bought were included in the summer blend. Now that I know most of them by name, though, I think I will likely concentrate on planting that same blend, and including some seeds of the other varieties that I liked that were not in there, as a blend, next year. I need to remember to do smaller plantings, also, when starting seeds inside, and in the spring and summer for my succession planting. Making/using a blend will help keep the numbers under control I think.

Late summer should bring some clarity to the timing of planting for late crops of lettuce, spinach and the like, as well as my ability to lengthen the season with covers and a makeshift cold frame. I am going to try placing the old swing set frame in the garden, over some specially planted (more closely spaced) rows of spinach and the winter lettuce mix and will cover it with heavy plastic.

I need to figure how to get beets to come earlier, too. I am thinking about experimenting with over-wintering some b eets (the root would not be usable, most likely, but they might make some early greens, I am hoping) and will be trying to over-winter some leeks.

I need to plan to plant some old fashioned gr een chard, in addition to the bright lights blend; some of the older shoppers prefer the older varieties.

I also have had request for yellow beets, which normally I plant.

Need to put in more sugar snaps and more peas, with succession plantings as well. I am still not sure about whether I want to standardize on the Waverex “petit pois” or to plant them primarily for us and plant less expensive, larger peas for market. The petit pois are actually pretty easy to pick and easy to tell when they ar e ready to go, but very short vines. The regular garden peas I planted the last two years also have pretty short vines, which means bending. On the other hand, the Sugar Snaps need much taller support than the 2’ fence that I used this year.

I need to get the corn in earlier, ditto beans.

Shoppers, on account of the wide availability of shipped in food and the increasing popularity of greenhouse growing by both amateurs and larger small farms, do not have a sense of proper seasonality for produce . They call for corn as early as Memorial Day – and expect it by July 4. With th e onset of hot sum mer temperatures, it seems, folks are expecting to instantly see the “summer veggies” in quantity. To their credit, most of the farmers at market are meeting these requests at least in limited amounts. Our early struggles to get the ground prepared hurt us badly in this regard this year.

On the other hand, the early – and for that matter not-so-early – sales of plants went really well. There seems to be a need for individually potted vegetable plants. Everyone wants to grow a garden, and many folks do not want to waste the extra plants they do not have room for if they were to buy a 6-pack. I am wondering if this niche would also appreciate buying seed in smaller quantities as well.

This coming fall will see me doing some major division of the herb plants in the garden, so as to increase my production in some varieties and be able to offer well started, second and third year herb plants for sale next spring. The succession plantings of dill and basil are doing well, though the initial planting of basil – transplanted from the indoor starting shelves – has struggled for some weeks. We have begun offering common herb blends often found on grocers shelves as dried product, but in this case offered as a selection of fresh herbs – fines herbs and Italian blend for starters. And yes, at least one of these blends includes fresh, locally grown bay leaves! I need to acquire and begin wo rkin g with more little bay laurel trees, as well as more rosemary (a slow growing herb) and lavender.

I also plan to move the berry bushes from their original location – random holes dug into the “lawn” in the general area of the west garden – to actual rows in the tilled area which K has been working. If they are planted at proper spacing, he will be able to continue to work between the rows, as he has been in the later plantings of the east (vegetable) plot. More berries are on the wish list. The strawberries seem to be surviving despite having been neglected after planting. I had a chance to scythe down m uch of the weed cover and hope to complete that job this week, as well as taking the time to rake the weed stalks out of the berry patch and mark – with bits of paint on the ground – the location of the berry plants in hopes that K can first mow the stubble, and then do some tilling between the rows. It will be close, as the strawberries were planted before we got an accurate measurement of the row spacing needed for the big tiller, so the paint should give him a easier time in spotting the plants that must be kept.

Blueberry and cranberry bushes need soil amendment to support acidity, asparagus needs side dressing with compost or manure and the strawberries need mulch. I am hoping to begin hauling straw and manure this month, as the farm truck goes into the shop tomorrow for inspection (and likely work… hopefully wit hin my meager budget. Meager is good compared to the empty purse of last year!)

The flower and herb beds are terribly riddled with runner grass, and I am considering various ways to deal with this. At this point, I am considering moving the majority of the perennial herbs – when I divide them – to rows in the west garden and using weed control fabric in this area as well as putting it down in the herb circle once that area is clear.

I will likely use the fabric as well for the garlic that I plant this fall, and if it were less expensive, I would put it in between the strawberries as well.

We have yet to get the chicken and duck tractors made, but they are still on the project list. Currently they are running being the construction of a ramp at the back door for our elder Saint Bernard, Brandi, who is having increasing problems climbing the stairs. I am thankful to my collaborator, Anne, who continues to keep and care for our fowl.

This extreme heat, though, is delaying lots of projects. K cannot work in it and, after last week, I know that even taking proper precautions, I should not either. We remain hopeful that the temperature and humidity will abate.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Garden, continued...

It's hard to find a beginning place to write about something as ongoing -- with both successes and frustrations -- as the garden this year. I shall just jump in and try, I guess...

Tilly Milly, my umpteen-hand walk-behind tiller is taking an extended vacation at the shop getting her motor worked on. That setback put me behind in both tilling and planting even as we acquired the tiller attachment for the Wheel Horse lawn tractor -- which was, of course, missing parts. Parts which attach it to the tractor which were left on the previous owner's tractor when he gave it to his son (and understandably so, I would say, after our replacement parts arrived and I ended up helping K get it all installed on the tractor. Suffice to say, the process involved lots of barked knuckles, those words and installation manual instructions and illustrations that did NOT match what we saw in front of us.They never do, do they?

Anyway, Big Bertha, with K at the helm, has been doing a bang-up job in the last week or so and the second quadrant of the vegg garden is ready and being planted. All the cabbage and kin that are currently on site, are in their rows, though there are flats of 3 cabbage varieties at Abundant Acres with their greenhouse offerings, and at the Brewer Farmers Market the past couple of weeks. Likely after the coming Memorial Weekend market, any remainders will join their counterparts in rows here.

K says that Bertha does a great job as long as he is patient. Initially, he had expectations that she could produce as much till as quickly as the BIG tractor/tiller combo that we contracted to break soil when we got the place. Well, she can't, of course.. but even where the grasses and weeds did not get burnt back this spring, she is giving a good till as long as he takes it slow and gives the garden multiple passes.

I suspect that the early plantings -- including the strawberries -- are not in rows spaced widely enough to allow K and Bertha to work between the rows of plants. However, as long as the plants are small -- or things that do not grow tall, like the berries -- we are planning to experiment with removing a couple of tines and driving to put the planted row under the tractor, between the wheels...

I suspect we are going to get a lot of practice swapping implements, though. The mowing deck and the tiller can not coexist on the machine. The deck needed work (that was the story of the spring, I guess... ) and just came back from having some cracks welded. Hopefully K will be able to get it up and running and get the "hay" mowed down a bit. though the 3rd and 4th quadrants need a bit more tilling and will likely get plants this week (crossing fingers for time and weather).

We need to find some way to efficiently gather the mowings, too... The blades on the mower are "mulching" blades, which means they cut and re-cut the grass which makes it hard to pick up in one of those pull-behind sweepers (even if we had one) and the mower will not side-discharge so we cannot use a bagger. So meanwhile, all this good green manure is left to lay.

With the potatoes and onions yet to be planted, the coldframe lettuces needing transplanting and succession plantings looming... with the grasses at knee-height, and growing, not having been mowed even once... I have this constant feeling of being "behind". But I know that in the larger scheme of things I am ahead... ahead by not only one but TWO tillers -- ahead by a tiller that not only allows K to help but has drawn him out of his virtual electronic world and sucked him -- big time -- into the world of small tractors, farm implements and even to the plants themselves. And, as Martha would say, that is a VERY good thing.Stone Soup Collaborative at Brewer Farmers Market, Maine

Also, new this year, is our foray into a much longer market season, at the Brewer Farmers Market in Brewer, Maine. This market is open Tues - Sat from early May until the end of October. Thus far, our Stone Soup Collaborative has been there only on Saturdays, but as our amount of produce increases, look for us there on Thursdays, as well! I hope to have an initial offering of ear

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bragging on my Daughters!

I am going to take a moment to brag about a couple of my talented kids...and help them promote their crafts.

If you, or someone you know, likes unique jewelry, you have to see Chiquitas Jewelry. My daughter, Halley, makes frequent trips to Peru to visit family. and brings back the cool beads that she and her sister-in-law use to make these creations.

Also, especially in you are in, or know someone in the Salt Lake area who is in need of photographic services, you've got to meet Amelia! She was known as m'Elaine as a youngster, because when she was born her older sister couldn't quite wrap her tongue around "Amelia Elaine" and from that she got the name for her photo business, m'amy m'elaine photography.

And my eldest, Katrina, in whose footsteps I followed when I began my career in graphic design, also works for herself as well as holding down a full time job (and being a single mom, as well! WHERE do they get this energy?!) Giant Peach Creative is her company.

That is not to say my two remaining daughters are not creative and talented... Talitha is a massage therapist but is quite busy being the mom of two, with one one the way and Amanda, who is also the mother of two, uses her creativity as I used to -- for home, family and friends. She is not only a crackerjack decorator, it seems she has taken to cake decorating as well.

Everyone has to brag now and then... and you are welcome to share any of these URLs with anyone who might find them of interest!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The flow of days

It's been a long while since I posted here. Life has been busy, and I have been hard at work in the garden and setting up the website for our collaborative farm, Stone Soup Collaborative and the "Garden Ho(e)s blog on that site. Hopefully, my partner Ho(e) will sign in soon with some of her thoughts from her farm, but she is as busy as I... if not more so.. as she has critters to tend as well as veggies. Her goats are kidding and she is brooding the first batch of chicks and ducks, some of which will come home here in a month or so.

But this is once again a cold, rainy day and I am taking a few moments with my coffee, to muse on life... in particular on my need to live life within what I call "the natural flow of days." This can be very frustrating, when you also have to live life within the modern workaday structure, that cares not for the coming and goings of the seasons nor the sun. This has been a thread in my life for years... I recall noting it when all I "farmed" was a 50x50 plot in the back yard of our house in Appleton, WI and that was before all my girls were born. Then I did not work a paid job, but even in interactions with other stay-at-home moms (La Leache League, homeschoolers and our church) they did not GET that I couldn't just take off and play whenever, even when I explained "...but the tomatoes are RIPE!" or that I had just brought back two bushels of peaches from the pick-your-own orchard which needed to be canned.

But in my ongoing quest to live in my own little world (as some folks see it) I still pay attention, first, to the natural flow of days. I have a feeling some of you know whereof I speak... Some days, when the sun rises happily on the horizon and the air is comfortably warm, and the breeze stirs... those days just call us to be outside. They say "I'm a good drying day! Get up and start the washing!" or "The soil is warm and calling for seeds and seedlings" and there is no shame in leaving the floors unswept because you know that there will soon be garden tracks added to the dust bunnies... and because you also know that there will be days like today.

Today the weather-guessers predict an 80% chance of rain and the high temp is supposed to rise only a few degrees, to the mid-40s. I can see droplets on the leaves of the seedlings on the porch and know I will find more than a trace of water in the rain gauge when I read it in a bit. Perhaps, if the threatened rain is light and intermittent, perhaps some herb-garden weeding might be in order (for it is long overdue and being on a rise, our soil does tend to drain) on a day when burning weeds, running the tiller or planting seedlings might not go well.

But mostly today wants us to catch up on inside chores... corralling the constant herd of dusk bunnies (which we call proto-kitties and proto-pups based on their dog and cat hair composition) and knocking out many other projects that need to be done before market season opens (Mothers Day weekend! Wow!) like our Stone Soup Collaborative sign (at least the frame is done, need to stretch the fabric, print out the text at size to trace and paint the sign) and the matching green aprons for the farmers' market crew (which hopefully will also get the logo painted on them). I also bought some lightweight plastic sheeting, tulle fabric and elastic from which to make transparent covers for the large bowls that I use to display the lettuce leaf and lettuce/spinach blends that customers wanted last year. Oh and planting more seeds indoors!

Strangely, folks did not buy individual lettuces, of any kind... but seemed to want a pre-mixed version from all our varieties. Last year I struggled with plastic wrap (even the commercial width roll needed two pieces to cover the large bowls) semi-secured with blue duct tape to keep the product covered to stay clean and fresh. My fellow 'Ho(e)' mentioned having seen the "shower cap" style of bowl covers that I remember from the 50, for sale at Walmart... but for the life of my I have not been able to find them anywhere... not even online in the size needed. So when I spotted the very flexible plastic stuff (in Walmart, of all places!) I snagged a few yards. The tulle I got just recently, on a search mission to find something from which to make a casing that would be sufficiently light and flexible. I also got some seam sealer, as I know the stuff, especially when cut on the bias, will be very inclined to ravel. Wish me luck that this turns out as planned!

But I digress, as that is but one of the indoor chores that calls today and had not been done earlier as the sewing machine had been blocked in by 4' hex signs, packaged and awaiting shipping to the customer when he returned home. That got done this week, the machine is open again and business on this thread shall commence.

Also I have been hankering for strawberry shortcake, and we have berries from last year to use from the freezer. When I saw a new pound cake recipe as I passed through the living room where K was watching TV one day, I Googled and saved it... Cold Oven Pound Cake and I think this is a good day for that as well. I got come organic whole wheat pastry flour, plenty of eggs, butter and milk at the store yesterday (though the recipe calls for "cake flour" I could not see buying the white stuff, so we will see...)

And I suppose I better get at it!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Local Food movement

Just wanted to let anyone who is interested know that Stone Soup Collaborative Farms website is up, including a new farming blog
in which my collaborator will soon join me in writing about our farms, food and life.

It's spring... we're all busy!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Feeling great today, not sure about tomorrow...

Been outside all day, working hard helping some young friends tear into one of their neighbors' barns, taking it apart for parts. Gods I love demolition! LOL No, this is not typically what you think of for demolition, as we are trying to save good wood, but never the less, taking hammer and pry bar and muscles that haven't see this much work in months feels good. Even in the early spring, not really warm, but windy and muddy type weather it feels good. I layered up... wore my mucks, even gloves most of the time (I hate working in gloves) and we got the car port part of the structure down.

Sheathing for the roof was not usable but I had fun taking down the flashing (note, remove pine needle accumulation BEFORE climbing onto roof... no I didn't fall but it made for little traction at first.). It felt really good to pry up the rafters and help push down the intact walls and load them on the trailer.

Tomorrow is "de-nail" day, if it doesn't rain (and I can still move!) and then I work a short shift at the store. And then we start over on another part of the barn. We have 2 weeks to salvage what we can before they take to it with a bulldozer.

Hopefully by them we will have scored lots of good wood. I have chickens and ducks coming, other projects in the queue.

Now, a glass of wine, a hot bath, supper, some web work and BED.(trying NOT to be too aware of the damn messing with the clocks.)

BTW, I HATE "daylight saving" time. Don't get me started on that...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Not too many heads, just too little time!

I realize that I haven't blogged for almost a month. This is not because I have had nothing to say, but more like I can't find the time when I am wearing THAT head and when I get to the next one, there is more happening and I figure I'll write about it, but ... I can't find the time so I go on to the next one... well I think you get the picture.

One head at a time then...
Country Store Clerk - she has been rather hurting in the work hours since the first of the year... as little as 16 a week, which is half of what I will take but not nearly enough. Everyone has been cut back, it's winter and the economy is lagging sales a bit, but really mostly it's winter. I "let it be known" among my coworkers that I would like more hours and they have been making a good effort to call ME (instead of our newest "warm body" AKA Miss TextALot) who just turned 18 and is in no way needing to support herself. So there is hope, as the snow birds return and more folks are out and about.

Hex Painter - I have one order on the table, albeit a large and relatively lucrative one: 2 identical 4' signs for a barn and two smaller ones for posts, one with the farm name in the border around the design. They proved somewhat hard to draw and to paint (most tend to be one or the other) but are almost done. I have applied to be juried for a booth at the Common Ground Fair (was rejected last year) and will be applying as well for a booth at the American Folk Festival which I think I have a good chance of getting. Not sure how lucrative it will be for me.. I need to have a bunch of stock painted up, as booth charges run $400 and have to be paid by mid-May if I am accepted. This may prove a challenge but I think I need to go for it. Selling just a couple of the 2' signs would cover the fee, to put it in perspective. I am also going to be attending two outdoor markets with both produce and my art, but more about that from Farmer Jj. I still have plans to paint the garage/outdoor workshop "barn red" and add a large (6' or larger) hex to the west face of the building.

Graphic Designer - As the hex sign business slowed, design has begun to pick up again. I have several projects on the table, including a print project for the Park Service at Cape Lookout, web and print work for my newest local Maine cleint, Dan Pelletier of and I am doing a bit to help out my massage therapist, with updates and edits to the web site for River City Therapy and Wellness Center. I had considered letting Vision IPD go by the wayside, but the timing had not yet seemed right to terminate the business; now I am feeling led to be a bit more aggressive in my promotion, including (come actual spring) erecting my large sign after the garage/shop is painted.

Farmer - I am pleased to have scored a rototiller through Freecycle this winter and am planning to take it to the local shop for a once-over early in March. This, I am hoping, will be one more tool to help me keep the weeds at bay. I realize that one of my biggest problems is the runner grasses... but what beat down most of my crops last year were just plain ol' WEEDS. Getting Artie, the pickup, road-worthy is still on the top of the heap with increased emphasis this year. I had high hopes of making a good start with the proceeds from the big hex order, but alas those bucks went to am emergency repair for the Subaru. Eventually I will see those funds returned to me, but the timing here is unknown. With Artie running it will be possible for me to get inexpensive -- or even possibly free -- loads of manure and to haul straw which I will need as well. It also will make going to market a lot easier!

Speaking of market -- Stone Soup Collaborative (, soon to be live) will be at the Downtown Bangor Market on Thursdays this summer, as well as being represented Thursday AM and Saturday on a regular basis at the Brewer Market... or at least that is the plan. We have been accepted at the former, just applied to the latter. Both allow artisan wares as well as produce, which is one of my main criteria for a market. The veggies pay the bills and allow the hex signs (and maybe other Crafty and herb-related wares) some exposure. I am determined to get a strawberry patch started this year, though the cash flow issues will have an impact on berry bushes that I had my eyes on, darn it!

I am planning to play with some lower cost greenhouse/cold frame/high- and low tunnel ideas this year, keeping in mind that portable units don't need building permits and (I am hoping) temporary structures don't either. This I must research... My goal is to prolong the season a bit for our fresh eating and maybe push the season a bit in the spring for market in 2011.

Newer plants for the garden this year include starting several dye plants, "baby bunching" leeks for market and hardy leeks that allegedly hold over winter with a simple straw mulch, here in Maine. We will see...

Caregiver - This is a hard head for me to name, let alone write about. K's health continues to decline and no one seems to be able to make any headway into putting the brakes on, let alone turning the tide. He is actually beginning to talk as if he were talking himself around the idea of wheeled transport, though he has yet to "give in" and use one of the varieties available at some of the stores we frequent. The last few trips to town he has been unable to complete our shopping at Walmart, being pushed to return to the car by pain and weakness. He often sleeps much better at night, but also still falls asleep during the day and retires earlier and earlier in the evening. Standing long enough to cook a burger is pushing his limits; he no longer is able to stand long enough to clean up after his cooking -- a fact that troubles him badly -- nor to do dishes or vacuum regularly. Thus, more an more of daily life tasks fall to me on an ongoing basis.

Home repair and maintenance projects will have to be brought into the equation this year... the plumbing has not gotten worse, but is not likely to improve on it's own (Can someone please invent self-healing pipes and apply them to this trailer retroactively?!) The roof WILL need work (this will likely be the year I learn to deal with metal roofing, IF I can come up with the $$, keep K off the roof and hire one of my local young friends, who has some knowledge of this material, to show me and help wrangle large metal kites up here on the hill) and the dog yard enlarged (a relatively cheap and easy project... I just need more long 1x4s from the local saw mill and a couple of days to cut and screw) and the front porch and steps re-designed and re-built.. with provisions for wheeled transport and fitting UNDER the greenhouse canopy in mind. Greenhouse is also on the wish list...

Volva - I continue to receive the Words of Wisdom, and tend the daily, weekly and other Fires. There are times I feel very far away from everything that matters most, but I know that it is temporary and mostly due to having too many heads and too little time (or maybe not enough practice switching heads while juggling hot irons and teakettles of steaming water, who knows! lol

Anyway, that's life "in the slow lane..."

"Oh, life on the farm, it's kinda laid back... " -John Denver

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Turning Wheel Moon

I know the Moons are called by many things, depending on the culture...

As I looked out to see the huge, bright light illuminating the fields and banks of snow (beautiful and newly fallen, it had blown and drifted leaving areas of the earth bare and filled in others...changes of hue and tone in the monochromatic landscape that accented the turning of the Wheel.

Just a few days ago, our misplaced (too late) and unseasonal (too warm) "January Thaw" took our snowpack average from 12" to a mere 2, showing furrows in the fields and garden, turning the lane to mud and leaving shrinking banks of black and brown much more suitable to March than January.

But as I contemplated by the Moon last eve, this Moon came by the name of "Turning Wheel Moon." The dark banks, not obscured, but accented by the forcefully drifted snow, and the patches of bare, muddy earth -- with footprints frozen once again in place -- spoke to the "hope for a good season" that fuels green-thumbed folks to pick up catalogues, place orders, and even begin tucking early seeds into pots warmed in the windowsills.

And the glistening, pristine drifts filling the distant lane and undulating across the fields told stories of more time for contemplation, preparation, thought and rest.

I love February. Not, as many say, because it is short and quickly over, bringing the overly anticipated spring. No, I love it because it eases us gently into the busy days of summer, giving us plentiful times for "catching up" on the winter's rest -- which often seems delayed by holiday madness in our modern world.

Candlemas, Groundhog Day, Imbolc, St. Brigid's day... whatever you call this time of the year, it IS a time of change. Here in the Northlands, the sun is rising visibly earlier each morning and lingering longer in the afternoon. For me, it rises now before 7 am, which means before long it will be awakening me, not the other way around, as I feel during the winter season. These holidays, spread over a few days in early February, accent for me the tidal nature of these seasonal changes. As the sun does not wake up one morning and jump over the horizon an hour earlier, neither do the changing seasons turn on a moment, or a day.

The feelings of change rise from twinges that motivate me to remove the holiday greens and douse the yard lighting, to joy at seeing jonquils and daffodils, harbingers of the growing light, lining florist shelves. The garden plan is in process, and I anxiously await the first early order of seeds -- leeks and lettuces, broccoli and cabbage -- for the window sill. The second order -- for later indoor starts and the first direct seeding in the ground -- will go out this week.

And I stand under the Turning Wheel Moon and hail the tides of change with the hope for a good season for all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

and it begins again...

We'll be picking up wood in town today for not one, but TWO custom 4' hex signs. The order includes two smaller ones (20 inch and 24") that I'll start next.

This has been an expected order, somewhat delayed on account of (take your pick) Mercury having been retrograde OR the incompetence of the city post office employees. hummmm... that's a tough choice. LOL Anyway, regardless of the cause of the delay I did make contact with the customer again yesterday. We had been talking (yes, on the phone, blast it... ) and by post for some time, working out the details of his design and sizes but he had said that he would be away for the month of December and would be back in touch after the holidays.

Turns out, he sent a check and some other material to the PO box early on in the month of December, apparently just before leaving on vacation and it was returned. That is odd, because I had been getting orders by post there all through the holiday season! But I had fielded a phone call from someone in Maine state government earlier in the week saying something had been returned to them that was sent to Dutch Hex Sign at that address... So I guess I will inquire today when I am in town and really beat the issue later when I receive the package from the new customer (who is sending the whole shebang here to the studio).

In any case, I am glad to have this commission, glad it is continuing into the new cycle. I have been working a bit to connect up the web site with other sites that many generate local traffic (business directories for the Bangor area, etc.) and have done so with the design company as well. I am planning to put up the design "shingle" on the side of the garage as soon as I can reasonably get there, and still have in the back of my mind painting the building barn red to put a large hex on the west end.

Also after discussions with my friend with whom I co-marketed last year, I am ramping up the branding of Stone Soup Collaborative produce over the next few weeks.. We are considering adding some markets... we will see how that goes. I am interested in attending any that I can that will allow craft as well as produce and we have looked at one in Brewer...But it will have to be worked around everything else, of course.

And everything else now includes a standing counseling appt for K on Thurs AM. I will let them know, eventually, that if they get an opening on TU we would like to switch. That will make it easier.

One thing I can't do, though, is complain. I have work -- new work for both of my businesses. Could there be a bright light that is NOT a train, at the end of the recession tunnel?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hope for a Good Season

Farmers and fishermen have something big in common... The Hope for a Good Season that keeps us coming back, be it to earth or to sea. (PS... the author of that wonderful book is a friend from NC).

So, once again I prepare to come back to the garden. This year the seed orders are going in piecemeal, in bits to get them here in time for planting.

Thus far I have ordered from JUNGS, three cauliflowers: Cheddar (a yellowish-orange head) Graffiti (purple) and Panther (green head, but cauli, not broc.) Did this order online. None of my caulis did well this past year, but I will try again.

Monday I will get the $$ out of the CU (from savings) for the FEDCO order, which is much larger and includes (this time)
LEEKS Lincoln (which I am hoping to take as early, small gourmet "bunching leeks" to the Thursday market) and Bleu do Solaize, which is touted as having decent overwinter survivability even here in Maine with only straw for protection. I would like to hope it is possible... the freezer full of leeks, even though they are sealing securely in freezer bags, is giving a taste or scent of leek to things that should not have it, such as MooseTracks ice cream, according to K. Now, I haven't any confirmation of that...but then his senses are so over the top I am not sure it would be an issue to anyone else. But still, fresh leeks would be nice...

LETTUCE (a passle of them) a Summer mix which is supposed to stand into July without bolting (going to seed), a Winter mix that supposedly has the potential to overwinter with protection (motivation to get some sort of tunnel system going) as well as some of our usual favorites: Black Seeded Simpson (the old standard green leaf lettuce) Slobolt, Royal Oakleaf, Cardinale (red Batvian variety) and Summertime and Webbs Wonderful as attempts at head lettuce once again. Last year they all rotted due to too much rain, but were good early on as I picked outer leaves to add to the lettuce mix for market.

BROCCOLI -- I ordered a mix this year, to see what will happen and save a bit of $$. This is just for our eating.

PEPPERS Klari Baby Cheese (supposedly good for the "pepper challenged" to grow, and that includes me) and Peacework

TOMATOES the Heirloom mix (again for variety to experiment with and save $$) as well as Bellstar past tomato and Oregon Spring, Ida Gold (yes, a tomato with the same name as the potato) to lean a little heavier on the early varieties. Oregon Spring has grown well for me in the past.

CABBAGES: Golden Acre (early, round variety) Bartolo (late variety that is touted for storage as one that "will hold and hold") and the savoy variety called Frigga, just because I had to!

... and it begins...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Finding Abundance in a $25 stove

The way I live, the way I work, there is no separation, no difference between material and spiritual. To me, that division smacks of being a "Christmas and Easter-" ( or even just a Sunday-) Christian. I guess that might translate to a Samhain and Beltane Pagan?

Any way, in the veins of As Above, So Below and the converse, I have been mulling about the recent demise of my oven and my search for its replacement, which will not be another wall mounted oven (which is not good for a short old cook, as climbing ladders while hoisting heavy fowl, roasts or even pans of batter is NOT FUN.) Instead, I have opted to replace said oven and the island with cooktop with a standard, everyday gas (propane) range. This will likely give me a larger oven, as well as one more in keeping withe my stature.

The "gotcha" in all this is, of course, there was no "replacement stove" category in the budget and no slush fund that could be shoveled over to fill that missing category. We ain't hurting, we ain't broke, but extra money... well it's in a bit of a short supply... so off to hassle the Ethers I went with emphasis on "cheap" or "free" via such venues as Freecycle and Craigs List. One thing I noticed straight off -- all of the used stoves I found on by any of the second had resources were listed at $300 or more. Yikes... at that price a bottom of the line NEW one would be pushing into the picture!

Then I found one, on Craigs list (which is normally a total bus for me) for $25. Not a half-dead near antique, either (I asked for a photo) nor clear across the state, it looked quite perfect to fill the bill and we were even able to negotiate pick up for this weekend, rather than last, which was the sellers' preference. Yeah, I need a stove but not bad enough to push it in predicted blizzard conditions.

An email to a friend was all it took to secure loan of a trailer to pull behind the Subaru for transport (even if the farm truck was safe and legal, stove is outside the roaming distance for legal farm truck operation, and with a PayPal transaction, the deal was sealed.

And then another friend showed me a new listing in Uncle Henry's for a FREE one... at about the same distance.

What does this tell me?? It shows me that abundance IS INDEED manifesting in my life. I did not need to wait for the free stove to appear, nor did I have one moment of regret over having "missed" that deal. No, that stove is undoubtedly destined for someone for whom $25 would be a big deal... a deal breaker big deal.

And my new stove will come home on Saturday.