Tuesday, June 30, 2009

not sleepy but still sick

Perhaps the rhinovirus wants to live here now

I have slept, and slept, and cleaned my kitchen, and slept, and baked some waybread, and kept drinking broth and ecinachea tea. If I could go to the doctor, I would.

I cough like there is something that needs ripped from my lungs, like the winter I inhaled hot cereal and spent months coughing bits of cream of wheat back out, like someone with asthma. The last time I coughed like this I tore the muscles in my ribcage.

When stress is unrelenting, the body says stop... I had already lost my voice, and now I have the coughing crud. With all the tears, one would think that anything in my head would be washed away, but no, now I feel truly craptastic...

I remember years ago, I took a homeopathic first aid class, curious after a remedy cured "blood poisoning" overnight on a camping trip. (Well, it was the seventies, but I did have a very swollen leg, with red streaks running up towards my knee) One of the theories the practitioner talked about, was that dis-ease moved from the spirit, to the mind, to the body, as part of the process of healing; interesting concept, which has remained in my mind as another way to look at how stress allows us to become ill.

I just wish that my body had chosen a way to deal with this that still allowed me to breathe...

Friday, June 26, 2009

journey in peace...

To my beloved Smokey, faithful and best companion for the last 14½ years ~

You have always been the best of dogs, from the day Bill and I brought you home as a wee puppy. You were always quick to learn, and quick to forgive my awkwardness; you are the first dog I ever bonded with. You were the most cute puppy, all black and grey plushy fur, with floppy ears and a curly tail, You would carry sticks on our walks to the bakery and back. You brought us so much joy and laughter. One of your two baths ever came after you plunged into Mud Bay after some waterfowl. You grew and grew and grew. Making all other dogs seem lesser beings to me. Your head is the perfect height for petting. I loved when you would jump up on the bridge railing over Mud Bay and watch the water and the fish and birds.

You came to live with me after the unfortunate Chicken Incident. That was not your fault, and your life with me was the best thing that ever happened to me. You were a boon companion throughout my three moves, until we came to rest here at Acorn Cottage. Everywhere we went you were a wonderful canine ambassador. There are so many folks who love you; your manners and sweet quiet nature are so good. Your only "fault" was being protective of me and of our spaces, and that is not a fault, that is actually your job, and you did it well. I failed at understanding sometimes, while I felt at other times that I could tell what you wanted or needed, like we were almost telepathic.

We had many many walks at night, I always felt safe with you at my side, and I think that you enjoyed the cool evening air and scents. I regret that there were so few times that you could run free. We did go to the beach that one time, and here at Acorn Cottage there were snowy days when you could run in the yard. May you run freely in the afterworld, untethered and with strong tireless legs.

You were always forgiving of my shortcomings, that I had to leave you here in the house while I went out to work. You have been the least destructive dog I have ever heard of, chewing only your toys and leaving the human monkey things alone. I regret that there has not been enough social time here in Portland for you, that being a pack of two was just not enough. I see how much you love company, your delight in guests, and your sweet friendliness. In the next world, may there be good companions and enough for you to feel the comfort of the Pack around you. May you not be lonely, ever.

You were my friend; you listened to my fears and tears and were there. You taught me to love. With you I felt safe, always. I was proud of your extraordinary beauty; people would stop on the street just to tell me how beautiful you were. What they did not know was that you were even more beautiful in spirit. I did my best to be the person you wanted and needed me to be, I know that you forgive my failings.

I promised you that I would always come back, that I would not leave you. I will keep that promise. You must leave me now, to go where I am not ready to follow you just yet… But if you are waiting for me later, know that I will come when I can. You have my love, now, and in all the myriad worlds. Journey in peace, dog of my heart, your work here is done…

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This is the end, beautiful friend

This will be Smokeys last week. I am going to buy her the special raw ground dog meat from New Seasons, and do what I can to make her comfortable. I am getting help with digging the grave, which is good. (I have fallen badly twice in the last week and am pretty banged up in the knee and arm)

Some of my friends suggested having a vet make a house call, but I have decided that I will take her to Dove Lewis. I think that would actually be less stressful for her than having someone she did not know come to our home. Smokey has never had issues about going to the vet, probably because it has happened so very few times in her long life. She has only needed veterinary care twice, in over 14 years, aside from her regular inoculations. In addition, the person I spoke to at Dove Lewis told me that they provide this service at no charge, which is a kindness to me. (I have been dreading going into debt to allow me to ease her transition.) They have a homelike room set aside for this, and also have a Pet Loss Support Group, and Memorial Art Workshops. While I am thankful that I have never needed to avail myself of their emergency services, they are an amazing resource here in our city.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Long long ago, in the time of purple bellbottoms and paisley headbands, my first self-taken name was Ridgewalker. Not for the mountains that lived only in my dreams, but chosen for the edges between. Between child and woman, between night and day, between joy and sorrow. Those between places are where artists walk, along with all the others that are more at home there. I have other names now, both chosen and given, but each is a facet. This ridge I'm on now with my dear companion is not one I ever thought to walk. Sharp as obsidian and light and dark together.

This is not easy. I am filled not only with grief and sorrow, but with doubts and confusion. "When is it time?
", is the question. I pet her beautiful head, and try to look into her endless brown eyes, and she turns away. Is she asking for more time, that I wait longer, or is she already looking beyond, towards the path that lies before her, the one I cannot travel yet? How many shards must my heart become? I don't want her to be scared and helpless, unable to stand or walk. She is not there yet. She sometimes lies with her head up, her soft ears seeming alert. but mostly more often just stretched out on the concrete. She looks at me, with her head flat on the ground, with no tail-wag, no push back against my hand.

On the bus coming home from work today, I saw the first 4th of July firework stand, and I thought it would be good to let her go sooner. She did not grow up with a whole night of explosions, not till we moved here to the city when she was already an old dog. She hates the fireworks, scared by the constant noise, despite my calm presence.

Tonight I did some more digging on her gravesite. Right now it looks oddly like an earthen ofuro, as I have left a small step in the packed earth to ease actually getting down to be able to dig further. I cannot imagine digging six feet down, and fortunately that is not necessary in this case.

I am hoping for need more help digging, in the next few days.

I am thinking that Friday we will make that hard trip over the river to Dove Lewis Hospital; I do not know how I can bear to let her go, but I cannot bear for her to end in indignity and confusion.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

In which our heroine fails miserabley at being a Now-ist

My heart is cracking to pieces. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

I ran out of dog food today, and took two buses to a shop that carries the good dog food. Walking around in the store looking for the food, I started to cry again. I don't know if this will be the last bag of food for her.

All my best-beloveds have been Now-ists of one stripe or another, though all save Smokey have lost patience with me. Dogs live always in the Now. I try, sometimes come close, but my jittering mind jumps to the what-is-to-come and back to the if-only-I'd-done. Maybe it is faith in the future, that she will live long enough to eat a 35lb bag of food, a bag that usually lasts several months. Maybe it is denial on my part.

I cry randomly - grieving in advance - while she is still alive, still recognises me, can still move. She is happy for another bowl of food, then lies down again near the computer desk where I am. When I am not home, she lies on the concrete in the workroom, choosing the cool floor that is comforting* against the endocrine storm that is eating her strong body...

She is a bit wobbly, but still managing to notice the outer world, still looking out the front window occasionally, still curious about what I am doing in the kitchen, but slowly, slowly, all that is becoming more effort for her.

Let me accept what I cannot change.

None of us get out of this life alive.

~ : ♥ : ~

*I didn't make this up, on one of the websites about Cushings Disease they mentioned that the dogs will seek out cooler places to lie down for just this reason.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday newsday

The great worm bin experiment is working, though not exactly as simply as the way I had hoped it would. I built a "flow-through" worm bin for my kitchen a while back; I've really enjoyed having the convenience of the organic dispose-all right there in the kitchen, and unless I tell folks what it is, they think it is a rather unusual looking waste basket. No smells, and not messy.

I recently tried to harvest the worm castings from the bottom of the device, and that part had gotten quite dried out and kind of solid (the top area where the worms live is still quite moist). Also, not all the torn newspaper was eaten by the worms, there were large dried out clumps mixed in with the castings. Not a problem, I can simply re-moisten the paper and add it to the top of the bin. A visitor this winter, who is a Master Composter, suggested that I lay a damp cloth atop the inside of the worm habitat, to help stabilise the moisture and also that would keep down any fruit fly population. (In the winter, at 55F interior temperature here at Acorn Cottage it is far too cold for fruit flies to be an issue, but last summer when it was 85F+ inside the house they were quite a nuisance.)

I think that I may need to harvest the castings a bit more often. I'm also thinking about maybe making a new worm-bag, one that is not quite so long, so that the end of the bag is not as close to the ground (easier access for harvesting. That might require making a shelf to hold the drip catcher, but since there has been little or no excess moisture, it needn't be very stoutly built.
~ : ♥ : ~
I have also fixed a few small things that have been minor annoyances here at Acorn Cottage. After finding a long piece of ball chain on the sidewalk, I got a two connectors and made long extensions for the speed and light switch for the ceiling fan in the bedroom. Now I can turn it on and off without clambering atop the bed. Much more functional.

I also finally Did Something about the side chair in the bedroom. A long ago as-is purchase from Ikea, it had torn black wool upholstery on the back and seat cushions. I had a length of woven upholstery tapestry stuff just draped across it, for the last two years. It took not quite two hours to cut and staple a piece to the seat cushion, and to sew up a "pillowcase" in the shape of the back cushion and hand stitch the bottom edge closed. Much better now, much less like a dorm room. Eventually I'd like to paint the wood frame of the chair, but that is not a 2 hour project...

~ : ♥ : ~
Now if I lost ten pounds that would be a good thing, (I've been working on that) but my beloved Smokey has been looking a bit "different" to me... Her Own Darling Self has indeed been losing weight. I took her to the vet's office to use their scale and she has lost ten pounds since her last vet visit. When you only weigh 95 pounds to begin with ten pounds is a lot {{ worry}} Collarbones are not a good look on an Akita.

1PM - update on Smokey
I just got back from the Vet's office and the tentative diagnosis is Cushings Disease. He said that she is not in pain, and that given her age and my finances, that I should feed her somewhat more and love her a lot, she is as old as a human of 108 years. He said that there is no way to know how the disease will progress. I was crying as I walked home. This is hard.
~ : ♥ : ~

Monday, June 15, 2009

Media Monday

because sometimes you just have to ask for help...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I think I'll like this

When I saw a cute dress marked down at a community thrift store two years ago, I had to buy it. My favorite colors in a bohemian-hippie batik rayon. There was the small matter that it was about six sizes too small...

Since I am quite short, I figured that I could cut some off the bottom, and use that fabric to make the dress wider. I decided that an above the knee tunic would allow enough fabric to re-size it to fit me. So I cut a swath from the bottom, and then sliced the dress straight up the front. Tried it on, and yikes, the shoulders were practically falling off and the back was too narrow still. Obviously this needed greater thought and effort. so I put it in the big box labled "to be re-made" and left it for further inspiration.

Two years later - I need to have some fun things to wear at Oregon County Fair, and I decide black and blue rayon would do. Rather than my initial idea to turn it into a kind of button-up-the-front tunic, I decide that a pop-over-the-head mini dress would work better, and give me just a tad more fabric to work with. In addition, during the interim 2 years, I acquired a serger, which makes rayon a lot less labor-intensive to deal with.

So, I cut a piece of the leftover the length of the front stitch and it in place. Hmmm. Still not quite smooth in the torso, so I slash the dress straight up the back and stitch in another piece, this time cutting it narrower, (since I have more curves in front than in back). That's much better, but there still were some adjustments needed to the center back seam, and quite a large adjustment needed to the two side front seams, since the original dress had no darts.

I had two scraps left from the original cut off piece. A larger scrap was just big enough for two moderately sized patch pockets, and the narrow scrap left from the back gave me a piece to bind the center front edge and attach it securely to the rest of the neckline.

Though this is a lot shorter than my usual dresses, it is really comfortable, and I'm thinking that I can wear it over leggings, or a slightly longer skirt, and in the winter, as a layering piece in the style of my favorite designer Gudrun Sjoden

~ : ♥ : ~

Thursday, June 11, 2009

shades of Tom Terrific...

Given the reality of life at Acorn Cottage, there is a lot of creative use of salvaged materials here. I decided to see if I could get a little further on the HennyPenny summerhouse project... (having mown the weeds down in the open back part of the yard, I want to move her into a chicken tractor for the summer, to give me a chance to deal with the VERY TALL and shrublike weeds in the current hen yard, which will need to be cut down with loppers rather than my weedwhacker).

I've been gradually putting together a small chicken tractor from the remnants of her original "homeless chicken" house. It still needs corner bracing, and a nice solid perch, but the biggest head-scratcher was that it needed a nest box. I've been cogitating on this for several weeks now, and today, having been thoroughly trounced by a studio project that was being extremely uncooperative, I had an idea for something completely different in both scale and materials, a project that may be the most goofy-looking thing I've built since I was a child.

I was inspired in part by this article on simple nest boxes, and also by the nest box sizing suggested here. I had initially thought of reusing an old kittylitter bucket, but was having some aesthetic qualms about looking at that all summer, when I saw a large black plastic flowerpot. Hmmm. the lid from the kittylitter bucket fits tidily just inside the flowerpot... It didn't take too long to cut a hen sized doorway into the side of the plant pot. But how to keep her from standing atop the nest box, with disagreeable consequences. I had tried out several possible materials to make barriers, when I realised that I could cut the bottoms out of two plant toting trays, and wire pieces of that heavy plastic grid into a conical topper for the lid, which was also wired tightly to the lid.

I often use bits of wire to connect things in the yard. All my small hen waterers have wire "harnesses" that wrap around the bottle and make a loop at the top so I can hang them in convenient places. (The big 3 gallon galvanised waterer just sits on a stack of bricks at a good height) And I've wired the panels of the chicken tractor together, as well as attaching the roof supports to the sides (a large hinged panel of heavy wire fencing, with the edges crimped back for reinforcement.

The whole contraption looks pretty kludged-together, but my final inspiration took it over the edge into the ridiculous - the top of the cone, where all these cut chunks of mesh come together, was really rough and awkward, so I added a plastic funnel to make a smoother "finial" and help hold the shape together. Now it looks goofy, in a way that reminds me of the
Tom Terrific cartoons that I watched in the morning as a very small child.

It is worthwhile to remember that clever thinking and scavenging will get you pretty far, when the piggybank is pretty empty

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

In which we find out that lots of flowers isn't always a good thing...

If you remember, early this year I was all excited to get a new fruit tree for Acorn Cottage; I got a dwarf Bartlett pear from Friends of Trees. I was a little concerned at the disparity between the small root ball (about 2 to 3 gallon) and the over six foot tall tree. I was delighted when the tree was covered with blossoms in the spring, and thanks to the neighbors beehive, it set many little pears. I cut the baby pears off, as all my reference books say not to let trees fruit the first year. Well, it turns out that all those blossoms and fruit were not just for pretty, they were a sign that the tree was really stressed. Then came that week of really hot weather last month. I recently noticed that my new tree was looking unwell, the leaves were turning brown, but only on the underside. I have been good about givng it water, and looking online I couldn't match the symptoms to any obvious pear diseases...

A trip to Portland Nursery would let me find out what was wrong with my pear tree...the symptoms were inconclusive enough that the woman at the information desk called for one of the fruit tree experts. He, after looking at my leaf samples under a microscope, told me that it was some kind of fungal infection, essentially untreatable, and that the tree may do better next year once it has more roots. (sigh) The only suggestion was to clean up its fallen leaves this autumn, and not compost them, but throw them away. I hope the tree does recover.

On a more cheerful note, while I was there, I remembered that I needed to repot my baby fig trees, (metal pots and hot sun = cooked roots). They have a large selection of fiber pots that were not very expensive. I actually like the way these pots look, they are a textured dull brown, made from 100% recycled paper, and are even manufactured locally, in Corvallis. The five gallon size, 12" x 13", were $2.99 each. I like that as my figs get bigger, I can move them into bigger fiber pots (the sizes go up to 16 gallon), and the old pots, if not in good enough shape to reuse, can simply be composted.

My other good find for the day was that my local Goodwill finally presented me with a waffle-maker that both heats up and makes standard (as opposed to Belgian style) waffles. I have been looking for one of these for at least a year and a half, I guess most folks these days don't make waffles at home... But since I have started back on the low-carb thing and I have a great recipe for waffles made from almond meal instead of flour, this is even more welcome, as a way to add variety to my breakfasts.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

dainty Noro tidbit

Though I had sworn I was not going to buy any more yarn... in early May, before the weather turned hot, I ended up going to Twisted with a friend, where I fell in love with Noro, that yarn from Japan with incredible subtle and vivid color combinations. They had one skein in particular, that had all the colors that I love to wear, but somehow richer and vibrant, but it was only one skein. And Noro Kureyon, though visually beautiful, can be a bit scratchy; I chose some Noro Silk Garden (blended silk mohair and lambswool in a color range that was friends with my one skein), to knit the neck edge part of the shawl.

I knew I wanted to make the
Feather and Fan Comfort Shawl, but made small, to keep my neck and shoulders cozy in the cold weather. The pattern was pretty easy to follow and I really like the wavy lacey results, the wee shawl has nice drape for all that it is made from worsted weight wooly yarn. The pattern calls for a plain edge with optional added fringe. I decided that while fringe would look messy hanging over my shoulders and chest, a picot edge, with rather pronounced picots, would give a nice funky-hippie look. The resulting edging was not too difficult, thanks to the wonderful source of instructional variations found online, and looks just the way I had imagined... Pinned closed with a silver fibula, it looks just right, like a garment from an urban fairytale.
folded closed and pinned
spread out to show the wavy patterning

Friday, June 5, 2009

Why are wet hens mad?

Yesterday we had Weather. Odd weather. I looked out the window in the afternoon and saw brown haze going sideways and roundabout. The wind had picked up all the street dust and was blowing it sideways. The sky was quite dark, and the wind was whipping the trees around HARD. (I'm glad there are no tall trees right over Acorn Cottage). I, of course, had to go outside to see more, and get a sniff of what the air was like. Saw my elderly neighbor Margie in front of her house and went over (shielding my eyes from the blowing grit and dust) to see if she needed help getting her trash cans put away. Made some jokes about being blown away to the land of Oz...

Went inside and pulled the plug on Mr Computer, it was clear that some kind of storm was on the way. Then I called my friend Rois out in Beaverton, who told me that not only was there a thunderstorm warning, but that funnel clouds had been sighted, and I might want to do something about Henny Penny. Eeep!

I dragged the old dog crate into the house, along with the bag of wood shavings, and the small feeder and waterer, and set everything up in the workroom, so I could keep dog and hen separate. Then went to get the hen, who was just plain fussed and didn't want caught. Brought her inside, where she fussed and flapped and spilled most of the water and sent shavings all over the workroom.

She is back outside in her chicken house now. I have a very messy workroom to clean up before I can do any work in there. Fortunately it is clean mess, water-damp shavings, rather than chicken "mess", since I took her back outside later that night. (We had some rain, and some thunder 'n lightning, and a lot of wind, but nothing untoward.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

bits and bobs

My baby fig trees are not happy in their galvanized pots, metal pots in the sun make the soil too warm. I must come up with some other pots for them, and am leaning towards really like these self watering ones from IKEA. Too bad there isn't a ReBuilding Center for garden things, the tapped-out budget necessitates some kind of salvaged artifact, and nice planter pots never show up on freecycle...
~ : ♥ : ~
Today, I came back for doing my morning errands; I'd set out early to try and beat the heat. The post had come, bringing me an unexpected package from my friend Marian. I was pleased and surprised (gobsmacked actually) to find that it contained, not the thrifted shoes I had guessed based on the lumps inside the envelope, but a tiny cordless drill driver, with all kinds of nifty bits 'n drills. I am eagerly awaiting the batteries to become fully charged so I can play with my new toy!
~ : ♥ : ~
Finally, the copper pipe for the curtain rods has been cut to length, and all put in place. It does look much better. Of course, now I want to change the curtains, and maybe finish the ones that I'd cut out so long ago. The thing is, I need to come up with some border fabric. The curtain fabric is a taupe-y natural and white linen jacquard in a woodgrain pattern, so something not too busy would be ideal. I have been keeping my eyes open but haven't found the right thing yet. Hence the blue linen. Time will bring the right fabric here eventually, and the new serger, as yet unnamed, will make sewing the curtains sooo much less of a hassle.
~ : ♥ : ~
Finally as a bit of something cooling to look at, here is one of the pictures from the trip my Mom and I made to the coast... the beach at Cape Disappointment. Looking at this, I can imagine the coastal breeze, and try and ignore the muggy weather here in the city.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday tidbits

There are feral roses in my backyard, against the southside fence. I didn't plant them, and they weren't there when I moved here. My neighbor has none on his side of the fence. Last year they were little things, but this year they're much bigger, and today I noticed that they were blooming. What a great start on one of my side goals, to have cutting flowers from my own yard for as much of the year as possible. I love having flowers in the house, it makes me feel prosperous, in all kinds of good ways.

So, I walked around the shaggy yard and found some other bits to make up this bouquet. There is a huge patch of lambs ears? and other ground covers, on the south side of the house. That area is destined for more garden beds (maybe next year), but for right now I'm just leaving what is there. I like the silvery white plants, and wonder if they would look good (and transplant well) in the parking strip.
While the chive blossom spheres in the herb patch were rather post, my garden sage next to the front walkway is in full vivid bloom.

That garden sage is the very first plant that I put in the ground here at Acorn Cottage; it was a gift from my friend Bill, and I'd toted it, in a great big pot, around for years of living in rental houses. While I was planting it three years ago, HennyPenny walked up to me and announced that she was no longer a lost chicken.
And I cut back my spindly dill plant, it was already starting to go to seed. I think that buying a nursery start is not the way to go with that herb, perhaps it grows better from seed? (anyone out there have advice that has grown dill? I love the flavor and would dearly love to have it in my garden...)

The pottery pitcher, that I use all the time for flower bouquets in the living room, was a gift from a talented and generous friend. I love the beautiful glaze and the rustic carved leaves around the bottom edge. It makes me happy every time I see it.
~ : ♥ : ~

- Utilitarian Workwear -

I cobbled together bits of three garments into this "new" jumper. While it won't win any beauty prizes, it is functional and a bit funky. The biggest difficulty is that I made the original overalls about forty pounds ago, and the torso is pretty snug. While I am currently taking action to turn the weight around, the fact is I desperately need clothes to wear now! And since my closet is pretty much empty of anything but party clothes and SCA clothes right now (since I wear those rarely, and my "everyday" clothing, well, everyday) I will wear it gladly, while cleaning house, or working, or while in the garden.

The part of this I really like is that I added extra pockets, the original pattern for the overalls had oddly small pockets, and now, I used the welt pockets from the vest, cut out with a good sized chunk of the vest, to make bigger, double "overpockets". I am of the opinion that useful pockets are a necessity.

~ : ♥ : ~
My Craft-Tea-Party date this month is Sunday the 21st of June. I know that it is the weekend of the summer solstice, and there are a lot of events happening, but if you aren't there, you would be welcome here. I am decided that, aside from Country Fair, I'm pretty much not going anywhere this summer. I want to enjoy Smokey for as long as I have her company on this side of the Rainbow Bridge, and being away from home is not fun for her.

scissors and song

Artistry makes a world, with music and creative amazing use of cut paper