Friday, June 29, 2007

nature channel news and more

This morning, when I stepped outside the front door to start my day, there was a whole assortment of little brown birds on my front lawn, picking up nice soft nesting material. Smokey is deep in the middle of the shedding-of-the-fur, and looks like a molting caribou. Yesterday, before going back into the house from our evening walk, I stood her on the front lawn and plucked out handfuls of nice soft grey undercoat fluff. (don't even ask about the state of my carpeting!) Had been intending to rake it up and put it in the compost, but didn't get to it... now some baby birds will have nice soft nests...

Here is a picture of the completed Scythian horse pendant, that I posted the whole series of pictures about earlier. I'd been meaning to let you all see how it turned out.

Oh, yeah, and this news just in ~
I'm going to Oregon Country Fair this year!
I am actually a juried crafter there, as of 2004, but for those of you not familiar with the craft scene there, jurying in doesn't get you a space, just the right to sell IF you can find someone willing to share space with you. In 2004 I was very fortunate, and was offered a bit of shared space. The following summer I lost my place of residence, which threw my life into utter chaos, and the Fair was not really high on my list of priorities. Last year I wasn't able to find shared space, and I was beginning to doubt that I would for this year either... (You need to be present and selling you craft at least once every three years , or you lose your juried status, which requires going through the jurying process all over again, with no guarantee of getting in again. I was lucky, it only took me two years of jurying to get accepted). I'd resigned myself to going through the jurying again, when one of the folks I'd contacted a while back had a space open up.
SO In the past I've taken at least a month or two to prepare; now I have less than two weeks to get ready for a major craft fair, wheeee! Fortunately, I've been able to get a good responsible house sitter, the daughter of an old friend, to come and stay at Acorn Cottage. So I needn't worry about Smokey and the hens. All I need to do is create an appropriate display and sign, and make sure that I have enough suitable stock for three days (I don't think peerage medallions will work....)

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Just as a change from all the workroom trauma and drama, as I'd promised here are pictures of the potato blossoms in the backyard. Even if they weren't something yummy to eat, I think I'd still plant them...

and here is another picture ~

Smokey, with sheetrock

Monday, June 25, 2007

Light On Two Sides

Over the last two days, the workroom changed to a much more appealing space, even though it remains a construction zone for many months to come ...

A nine-foot chunk of the interior was carefully stripped back to the sheathing. (Which uncovered former owners outlines of tools stored when it was a garage.) Then much framing happened, to properly support the two new windows. I learned a lot about how the weight transfers properly through the wall framework, supported by the intersecting of sills, headers and studs.

This pretty much took care of Saturday, so Bill and I went off to the Barley Mill for a late night pub dinner and some Grateful Dead tunes...

Only once all the framework was in place did any work happen on the outside wall. Enough of the lovely 50+year old cedar shingles were painstakingly removed to allow access to saw the new window openings. We were able to save all the old shingles (there are no old-growth cedar shingles available anymore for anything an ordinary person can afford; besides, I wouldn't buy currently cut old growth any more than I would buy currently harvested ivory; it seems respectful to the tree that gave its life long ago to cover my home, to re-use as much as possible).

The openings were re-wrapped in fresh tarpaper, the actual windows were leveled and installed, and then we were off the the Rebuilding Center to find trim wood and flashing. Even though the new windows are protected, under my carport, they have all the correct stages of installation and parts. Trim in place, the layers of shingles were replaced in the order they were removed, and the outside was completed. I now have a small amount of spare shingles, in case repairs are needed elsewhere.

Then the interior sheetrock had the first layer of "mud" and tape applied. BIll discussed with me the steps and process for interior finishing of the windows, and left me with a good understanding of how to proceed. The interior trim installation is well within my skill and comfort level, as is the completion of sheetrock wall finishing. The former owners left bits of the old exterior paint, so the shingle nails can be touch-up painted and the window trim can match the rest of Acorn Cottage

In A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander, there is a pattern called light on two sides. It is a more vital pattern than most of us may realise. Formerly, my workroom, although at 26 x 10 the largest room in tiny Acorn Cottage, had only one window. Imagine a long dark shoebox with a window in one end. Though the new windows are each only 1 foot high and 3 foot long, having light coming from two sides of the room completely changes the character of the space. I am feeling more confident, that, over time, as I can afford the work and materials, my choices and ideas for this room will actually turn it into a welcoming space for creative endeavors.

Friday, June 8, 2007

they call it mellow jello...

Long ago, when I lived in Seattle, and had enough disposable income to eat out (on a more than occasional basis) my sweetie and I would go out for dim sum at a restaurant called Sun Ya. In addition to their wonderful seafood specialties (salt and pepper squid - yum!) they served a delicious mango "pudding" dessert. I realised that I could attempt recreating this favorite of mine when reading the chapter in Laurie Colwin's delightful book of food essays More Home Cooking. In the chapter "Desserts That Quiver", she gives a very simple rule of thumb for making gelatin desserts: 2 cups of fruit juice to one envelope of gelatin.

What I do is start with the two cups of fruit juice measured out as two one-cup bits. I put the dry gelatin in a pyrex bowl, and pour a little bit, maybe less than 1/4 cup of juice from one of the cups, over the gelatin to start it softening. Then I put the rest of that cup in a little saucepan, and get it really hot, almost boiling. Then pour it over the softened gelatin and stir till the gelatin dissolves. Then pour in the other cup of juice, stir, and pour into little custard cups or ramekins. I love to do this with mango juice, "Looza" brand juice works well, but you could use other kinds of juice also. Sometimes I've dropped a bit of canned mango, or mandarin orange into the jello. I pour coconut cream over the top before serving. This makes a good dessert for folks who don't eat dairy, but not for vegans. You who know me know that I am certainly no where near vegan

Anyhow, here is the recipe for any who are interested. and now I've made myself hungry!

S.N.A.F.U.'d but still smiling

In the grand scheme of things, house-rot is not really high up there. The fact is: I still have a house, with a roof, screened windows and hot and cold running water. I have awesomely wonderful friends. No one is kicking me out on the street saying: we don't want to live with you anymore. I have a wonderful Akita and two hilarious hens. Unlike most of the planet I have enough food and no one is trying to kill me. And believe you me, not a day goes by that I am not thankful for all I have.

Last night in a fit of aggravation, I took my trusty box knife to more of the vinyl flooring, and peeled up about a 3 by 4 foot chunk. The sad thing is that it peeled up quite easily, and felt quite damp on the underside. There are more patches of obviously rotted plywood, and in one place my hand went right through. The situation is worse than I originally thought, and the worst thing is that I can only blame myself. Last year March, when the plumbing leak occurred, I did my best to dry out the area, but no one suggested that I needed to take up the floor, and I didn't realise that I should have...

There is standing water under the floor. That is what I found. Lurking beneath the vinyl and the plywood subfloor is a layer of now soggy fiberglass insulation batting, and a layer of some kind of heavy plastic, which is holding a layer of water right against the wooden floor supports which hold up the sub floor. The water has been there since last March. The wooden supports are also rotting from the bottom up, I found out, as one beam was visible from the hole my hand made in the floor, so I tried poking it with my trusty screwdriver and the bottom was all white moldy squish (ugh). I do not know how far the water has spread under the floor, and I imagine that until actually removing the floor happens there won't be any way to know. Depending on how much demolition will be necessary to remove all the moldy rotten wood, I may need to lose some of the walls in the hallway between the kitchen and the workroom, which might not be so bad. (If I was designing that space, I would configure the walls there differently, or not put some there at all)

I should know more on Monday after consultation, but right now I am doing my best to stay calm and keep working. I'll be moving stuff out of the pantry and workroom, and wishing I had some more shelves somewhere in the house.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

mixed, very mixed

A small bit of goodness... I discovered that the purple shiso that I grew last year, courtesy of the good folk up at the Menagery, has re-seeded itself in the planter box. Somehow I missed the little plantlets, hidden behind the big chard, but since the chard is mostly done, having been going strong since last summer, I discovered this plantly bonus. Purple shiso, also called perillia(sp?) is used to give the pink pickled sushi ginger that lovely pink color. I may have to try my hand at pickling some ginger slices.

Otherwise I've found a very disturbing problem here at Acorn Cottage. Some of you may remember the plumbing problem of last year, where badly installled pipes began leaking inside the wall behind the pantry cupboard, and the home warranty company took 3 DAYS to send out a plumber to repair the leaky pipe. Well... even though I managed to get the water turned off to the house quickly, (which left me with no water for those three days) got the wall torn open shortly after discovering the leak, pulled out all the insulation, left the wall open for days after the repair, washed everything down with bleach, kept a fan running until everything was dry before repairing the wall...

This last week I noticed that the floor near that area seemed like it was no longer quite structural in places. This does not bode well. Last night the words "dry rot" percolated up through my interior mind, and I bravely cut away a bit of the vinyl flooring inside the pantry. The plywood sub-floor appears more like crumbly mulch bits. THIS IS NOT GOOD. (insert Fjorlief tearing at what little hair she still has here) The piggy-bank is still quite flabby since April 15th. I've no experience with this level of "home repair", but I know that my original idea of just screwing a piece of plywood down over the soft area would only make the problem worse, while the fungal damage zone would continue to grow. I am tempted to use my trusty box knife and cut away the vinyl flooring in this area to see how far the damages range, and then remove the crumbled fungal wood.

The difficulty is that the damaged area is in the passageway between the work room / laundry room and the rest of the house. not a convenient place for a big hole in the floor. I can cope by walking around the outside of the house, but still...

Nonetheless, I can't let the problem get worse. Ah the joys of homeownership, that time-consuming and expensive hobby

Sunday, June 3, 2007

hot town - Summer in the city

I know that many folk find warm sunny weather a delight, but I just want to hide in deep shade somewhere, since I find intense sunlight actually painful. The warm temperatures (high 80's) here in Portland have had me totally wiped out, and my productivity has been almost nil. I guess that I have the opposite of Seasonal Affective Disorder, as dark misty-rainy winter days make me happy and full of energy.

Acorn Cottage is now sporting more Reflectix window-fillers, as I've cut new ones for most of the big front window that faces the setting sun. The mylar-bubblepack really helped with the heat last summer, and doesn't look too wierd, as those windows also have lengths of shadecloth mesh pinned over the outside. I left a bit of the lower window uncovered so Smokey can still look outside, but the living room is staying a bit cooler without all that solar gain. Fortunately the south-facing windows actually have permanent awnings; I imagine that when awnings were installed long ago, no one thought about the big front west window, since the whole front yard was formerly shaded by the two big ornamental plum trees, which the former owners butcher-pruned with a chainsaw. Said trees are still alive, though probably a third their former size, and I've been told that they have about a thirty to fifty per cent chance of survival.

I actually had a meal with all major ingredients coming from right here…a tasty frittata with the first of the snap peas, garlic flower tops, a bit of the (overwintered) ruby chard, and of course homegrown eggs courtesy of my hens. Hard to get a lower carbon footprint than homegrown.

and here is a portrait of HennyPenny, an important contributor to the sustainable Acorn Cottage
Last weekend Svava and Hrafnir renewed their wedding vows, and since the "secret" is now a fact, I thought you might enjoy seeing their rings of renewal. I was honored that she asked me to make them, and happily was able to rise to the challenge, since while I am a metal (and enamel) artist, and do create most of the settings for my work, rings are not something I usually create. In fact the last time I made a ring was maybe forty years ago, when I was just beginning to learn jewelrycrafting at the DeCordova Museum School. Nonetheless, I'm pretty happy with how these rings came out…
I also made a Norse style "hat-cone" for Hrafnir's new hat. Not only is he our current Kingdom Arts Champion, but also an incredibly talented cook; I took the liberty of adding tiny forks and spoons to the granulated decoration.