I have been through the phases of a big change before and know I haven't reached the last of it yet. I'm feeling good about being laid off and I'm excited about the future; but I was also having moments of fear and betrayal this week. It's compounded with the knowledge that many people I have dearly loved for 11 years are going through the same thing. It was a relief for many of us; but it is still a little frightening for me. I feel I don't know enough yet, but also feel that I will learn what I need to know. Just since August I have learned more than I could have imagined. There was so much more I was planning on learning in the next 2 years though. Things that were going to be learned thoughtfully and intentionally are being guessed at and rushed. I suppose there is no better way to learn than by jumping right in.
We decided to plant the rest of our seeds at Crooked Creek in a big garden. So a good part of this week, that wasn't spent signing up for unemployment, has been preparing a garden. We were worried about putting a garden up out there because of the deer. We drove to town and looked for fencing, picked up some tomato plants since I didn't start enough at the beginning of the season for 2 gardens and got in the rest of our errands. Fencing high enough to keep out deer was not only going to cost several hundred dollars, but we would have the additional labor of putting up posts. We are still debating what to do, but right now we are leaning towards alternative methods to keep the deer out. We have a small patch of 6 foot fencing that someone gave us, but it isn't long enough to go all the way around.
Jeffrey has used a radio before, so we will try that. There are many suggestions online also that we may try such as tying shaved "Irish spring" or "Zest" soap around the perimeter hung in pantyhose or rub the bar on a cotton string surrounding the perimeter; urine; egg, water and dish soap spray; home made pepper spray; and socks filled with hair from my recent lopping. I hope these ideas work. We'll be over there everyday and if those ideas don't work, then we'll go to plan B.
Last Sunday I had a few friends over to celebrate the planting and new adventure. Vincent, the black lab, laid his head on one of our visitors lap and looked up for attention. He's such a big baby. Rufus the pig arrived fashionably late after much protestations over the company. After a while of while grazing and speaking his mind in the distance, he couldn't resist any longer and joined in quietly around the fire.
Before the company arrived, I thought I'd run the reel mower around the fire area and where the chairs were going to be setup. I was determined that I was going to use this thing. Last time I used it, I decided that it was good for short grass, but there was no way I could do it in long grass. Well the grass had gotten long because I didn't mow for a while, we were toying with not mowing at all. It was also wet. We didn't want to use the gas mower and we've been so busy with the garden, we hadn't worried about the grass. So I had a decision, try to mow it with the reel mower or run over it one more time with the gas mower and then keep it up with the reel mower. I wanted to at least try the reel mower.
I mowed around the fire area and it wasn't that bad at first. I started working on the paths to the compost piles, garden and tree nursery; it was a little bit of a workout. People have been mowing this way for a long time and if they can do it, so can I. I figured I'd just build up to getting used to it. I noticed the first joint of my thumb was hurting. I was pushing it like a typical gas mower, the fingers making an "O" around the bar like holding a bat or a drinking glass. I wasn't quite done, so I switched my hands and tried pushing with the back of my first knuckles, I guess you would call that the base of your fingers. The joint of my fore fingers started hurting after a bit. So I pushed for a while in down trodden posture, wishing I was stronger. I noticed it was a little easier. The handle had dropped down to my hips (hip joint, the not waist). Hey, I'm a woman, maybe I should stop mowing like a man and use my hips! I was trying to push it with my arms like a man. My legs are much stronger.
After struggling with the bar bouncing and other problems and being stopped by thick patches, I kept working on how to make this new pushing with my hips position as easy as possible. I remembered the "monkey hand". When I lived in Texas, I found that if I would hold tools with all 5 fingers in the same direction (instead of the thumb wrapped around the pole) and held things like "a monkey", I didn't hurt my hand or get calluses. So I put all my fingers and thumb in the same direction, up and over the bar with the "heel" of my hand resting on my hips. This buffered the bar from my hips and I found a more powerful way to push. I could hit something and it didn't hurt my hip bone because it resisted against the meaty part of my palm. I let my arms, elbows and hands relax. When I walked fast, trying to hurry the task, it was more difficult to get through some patches and the bar would bounce as grass thickness changed or going over holes or bumps. I thought about Thich Nhat Hahn's teaching of mindful walking. I thought I would try mindful mowing. When I walked mindfully at a powerful, slow pace; leaning in a little and letting my hips push, the task became easier and more enjoyable. I marveled at the design of this tool. When I walked a little like Mae West, with more of a sway, I found the bar was even more balanced and steady. Some small patches of really tall, thick grass on the side of a small mound were ready to be tackled by my well rested arms with a few short bursts. Maybe this tool was made for a woman! I didn't find any grass that I couldn't go through.
If a stick is stuck in the blade the mower just stops moving forward, nothing hurtles out at a high rate of speed. The handle easily flips over to the ground away from you with a light push, exposing the blades where the stick is usually sticking up ready to be plucked. When done removing a stick, I found that I could put my foot on the little black bar between the wheels and with a little push from my toes, the handle came flying right back to me from the other side and I was back on my way. After a while, I looked like a professional flipping the bar quickly, extracting a stick, and my toes flipping the bar right back. If you drag the mower behind you, it also mows. If you flip the handle over to the other side and pull behind you, the blades stop spinning and you can pull faster when all done. When you put the mower away, it doesn't matter which way you pull it back out and it takes up little room in the garage.
There is no way I could have gotten through that thick, tall grass with a heavy gas mower. With the reel mower, after I figured out how to use it, it was a great leg exercises that was not any more difficult than a basic work out at the gym and so much easier for me than with a heavy gas mower requiring arm strength. Plus I didn't have to use gas, a pull start (which I just can't do) or have to hear the loud noise of a mower!
I went around all the tall yellow flowers so the yard still has color and some of the really thin super tall weeds didn't cut. I call it the "woodland cut". I suspect that the blades are dull, they haven't been sharpened since we've had it. I don't know much about reel mowers yet since this was used and unaccompanied by a handbook. Getting more info on how to operate and maintain them are on my list. I like the way the yard looks now though and don't like the golf course, manicured look anyway. After a quick search, I found a website showing how to sharpen and adjust the blades .
I've always wanted a scythe and mowing brought it to my mind again. With some help from my online friends, I headed off in my search. From what I've read, the European style scythe as opposed to the American style would be best for me. The American style scythe are the types you typically see in antique stores. After watching this video half a dozen times and practicing with my broom, I think I"m ready! She makes cutting with the scythe look like tai chi, I can't wait!
The Marugg company claims to the be the only European styled scythes made in America. They were also cheaper than another popular website selling a similar design. I found a scythe in a resale shop up here, but it's in pretty bad shape and still close to $90. It is also an American style and I think would be harder for me to use. We've been looking since we moved here and haven't found one that would work yet. So, with the severance package I have coming in, I think I'm going to invest in a new one custom made to my measurements. I can keep the grass down around the gardens and trees when it gets too high. If my my memory is correct, the scythe works better in wet, tall grass. Right up my alley!
I also found a video using a sickle that was just amazing. I can't find the video again, but I may invest in one of those as well.
In the book I've been reading, "Better Off", the author talks about the difference between tools and machines. These are definitely tools in my opinion. Tools use technology also but with your own skill, improve your life. Machines separate the person from the task. "...technology, and in particular motorized machinery, always brings a cost, whether up-front in dollars, or long-term, in repairs, fuel and maintenance. More important, even at low monetary costs, experience showed that such gadgetry can easily interfere with the delicate dynamics of the human welfare it is supposed to promote."
After reading about our decision to make in choosing electric, gas or wood cooking; a friend sent me this link on bio-fuels and said to look into methane generators. This website has a ton of information. One part of me wants to print everything and have a hard copy library, the other part of me is trying to reduce space needed. I can't wait to start exploring this site. Our pile of reading is growing by the hour it seems.
One of our projects this week is to get the new garden ready. We talked about not using bone meal or blood meal since we are vegetarians. They are approved for organic growing and vegetarians eat vegetables grown with these amendments, so we had some thinking to do. We thought we'd see how the garden does without those and Jeffrey started doing research one night on alternatives while I was cooking. He found an article called Cruelty-free Agriculture: Beyond Organic—Vegetarian Vegetable Gardening By Kate and Ron Khosla.
They are in New York also so I hope I hope we get to meet them one day. In this article they are primarily talking about not using commercially grown manure. We both feel though that getting animal manure produced locally by animals that are in a loving, pastured environment and not meant for slaughter, fits well into our cycle of growing. We were already going to use a fall green manure but learned more about it after reading their site. Another great find this week!
I received a wonderful email from a friend that I have read many times. It's about to be printed and go on the wall. Most is too personal and precious to me, so that I'm keeping it to myself. I thought this part was beautiful and that others could benefit from reading it. These words were so appropriate for right now.
"It is good to spend some time in the garden. There in the flow of the breeze, the divine nature of growth you will experience Great Love but after a time open your heart and mind to all the possibilities for your good.
Fear often warns us not to send the letter or say that words that may have long term consequences. This is the moment of awakening to remind us to move in the direction of love, love of self and love of others. "
She also included one of her favorite quotes: