Thursday, July 30, 2009

dip my bones in ice water

Can I take off my skin and soak my poor hot bones in glacier melt? I never thought that going outside when the temperature was eighty would feel cool...The high yesterday was 108.2, higher than any recorded on that day ever here in Portland for the entire 20th century. At 6 PM, on the front porch, which never gets direct sun, the temperature was 102. I am absolutely flattened by the heat. Literally. I've spent a lot of time sleeping, draped in a wet shawl, waking up only to renew the dampness. When it gets cooler, I will resume my regularly scheduled life. If this is the wave of the future, may I please have a wayback machine...I want to visit wintertime

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Three tiny bits of goodness: 1. My good hen is still laying eggs. 2. The Clerodendrum trichotomum that I planted near the front door (three years ago) has flower buds! Maybe, just maybe, this year it will bloom...the highly scented flowers smell like paradise, and if berries form, they are electric blue with a magenta calyx. 3. I am making some progress on the sewing for Back To Eden Bakery; the first cushion cover is finished and looks good.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

make it stop...

By 6 p.m. Monday, the high was 103 degrees at Portland International Airport, breaking the record of 102 set in 1958.

Today's forecast calls for a high of 104 degrees and 105 on Wednesday.
- The Oregonian

Monday night temperatures:
88 degrees outside, 83 degrees inside, 11:30 PM
79 degrees outside, 85 degrees inside, 2:38 AM

"Acorn Cottage is hotter now (at 3 AM) than earlier this evening. This is not good."

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I finally got to sleep around 4 AM, in part since I slept for about six hours during the middle of the day. At 8AM this morning I got up to let HennyPenny out of the coop and refill her multiple waterers.

12:48 PM update: I just set up the small chicken tractor in the small amount of shade on the side of the backyard, and moved HennyPenny over there. The radio is forecasting temperature today peaking at 105. My poor hen is panting in the heat (after all, she is wearing a down coat!), she seemed to be a bit happier in the shade.

2:36 PM update: looked outside to check on HP and the sun has moved... got the silver tarp and went outside to drape it across the west side of the enclosure. She is in the shade, but panting still. Temperature under the shaded front porch is 102. I may lose most of my garden to the heat. The kale and the squash are almost flat on the ground, tomatoes don't look too bad. I tried to bring some water to the kale, and a five gallon bucketfull to the new this year pear tree, but then had to go inside...less than ten minutes outside and I was nauseous. Just ran cold water over me again...

I don't intend to go anywhere at all today, my plan is to move the box fan with me from room to room, take mini-cold-showers, and drape myself with wet fabric. A human swamp cooler. It may not be pretty, but I intend to survive.

Even when I was a child, I did not like hot sunny days. About twenty years ago I was living with my boyfriend in Seattle, doing independent study contract work on my degree from Evergreen, and volunteering at Pratt. I did an all day enameling demo at Bumbershoot that year, and managed to give myself a nasty case of heat exhaustion. Ever since then I have had difficulty regulating my temperature when it is hot.

Fortunately, I have food in the fridge and pantry that can be eaten without cooking. I have some income-work that does not need either a 1500 degree oven or firing up the torch, and I don't have any housecleaning jobs till Friday, when (hopefully) it will not be quite as hot.

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Last night I started working on a commissioned sewing project, cushion covers and curtains for a new bakery opening up on Alberta, across the street from one of my favorite local fabric shops, Bolt. I was provided not only with the fabric, but with a new-to-me product, fusible piping cord. Well, you can imagine, I didn't want to fire up the big sewing iron...I remembered that months ago I had acquired a mini-iron (looks like a soldering iron with a tiny soleplate instead of a soldering tip)...It worked wonderfully, and didn't radiate anywhere near as much heat as the "big" iron. I didn't use the flimsy iron rest that came with the tool, but did as I'd read on some sewing message board, and set it point down in a heavy coffee mug. Better living through technology.
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Keep cool and carry on...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Among other things, heat makes you stoopid

"...when I am an old woman I will wear socks in alarming colors combinations that don't match my clothing."

My friends Bill and Jen spent a few days here while working on a job over in SE; I took advantage of their visit to pick her brains about sock knitting. Yes, I've gone over to the dark side, and will join all my friends in knitting fun footwear. Given the temperature, socks seem like ideal "carry on the bus" handwork, and I seem to be able to do a bit more knitting lately before the carpal tunnel kicks in. My first attempt is also using up some of the thinner yarns in my meager yarn stash: some Harrisville yarns (navy and burgundy) and a slightly heavier magenta-fuchsia wool for the heels and toes.
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I have various strategies to deal with excessive ambient temperature. I use the portable fans to pull hopefully cooler air into the house in the evening before bed and in the early morning, before shutting the house up during the heat of the day. That works when if the air temperature cools down significantly at night. By the middle of this week I expect the indoor temperature here at Acorn Cottage to be up in the nineties, since the forecast outdoor temperatures are in the triple digits... I would love to someday have two solar attic fans (one for each section); that would help a lot more, sigh....

The windows that get direct sunlight mostly have mylar bubblepack wedged against the glass, to bounce the heat away. That helps a bit, though it makes Acorn Cottage look very odd outside. The new porch is a great help, shading the west window. I have been able to reduce the mylar in that window to only two of the six panels, just as needed to block the sunglare bouncing off the neighbors autos parked on the street. When I don't have guests, I keep all the curtains drawn as well, it really does keep the indoor temperature at least 10 degrees cooler than outside.
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For some peculiar reason, I always find myself needing to work on enameling during the hottest part of the year. I have been sharing some studio time here earlier this weekend with Leah, a talented returning student who is working on some new projects and also learning the additional technique of painted details. A day spent at the worktable and kiln is so much more pleasurable with another artist to chat with. The 1500 degree oven, though, is much more enjoyable in the winter. Nonetheless, I am catching up on my not yet completed work projects.
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Saturday night I was hot, and tired, and barely remembered to cook myself some dinner. A sausage patty, crumbled and cooked along with the last of the eggplant "meatballs" and some veggies. I grabbed what I thought was the half full canning jar of tomato sauce, and started pouring it over, when I realised that is was pink and not red. Sweet and tangy rhubarb sauce. Ummm, too tired to pitch it and start dinner over, I go ahead and add the tomato sauce as well. Mixed together and topped with a bit of grated Rumiano's dry jack, it is surprisingly not too weird to eat.
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I've been doing the time honored "soak a bandanna in cool water and use it like a kerchief" trick to keep cool. Last night I thought it would be a good idea to use the icy water drained from the cooler full of ice cubes to soak my feet (a tried and true camping trick). This is actually best done outside, as I found out... While it felt wonderful, when I stood up, I caught the edge of the pan holding the water and spilled quite a bit on the carpet next to the computer desk. And on the two balls of yarn attached to my sock knitting project. And when I ran about to get a towel, I set down the loose number 3 needle I was knitting with. Somewhere.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

squash-spaghetti, and an iced-tea-party

A trip away from the garden in July yields the predictable comic result - baseball bat zucchini... not actually that large, but far larger than the prepubescent baby squash that I prefer to cook. I am not the first to ponder this question, one of my favorite writers has this to say about it...

But I am not such a wordsmith, and there are four hulking green giants in my tiny fridge, almost filling one of the shelves. I recall seeing somewhere a recipe substituting zucchini instead of pasta. While I do not own a julienne peeler (which makes thin square strips of things), I do have a citrus zester, which makes even thinner "strings". It was the work of a very few minutes to turn most of the biggest squash into a cupful of thin shreds, about the size of angel-hair pasta. The seedy core will be a treat for HennyPenny.

I quickly stirfried the shreds, then added a few tablespoons of home-canned tomato sauce and some Parmesan cheese...Not bad at all. The mild greenish taste of the squash combined well with the sauce, and the texture had just enough crunch to seem al dente. The sauce became a bit liquidy; there is a great deal of water in summer squash. I am thinking that it might be good to draw out some of the excess water, either by salting as you do for eggplant, or simply by rolling in a teatowel and squeezing before cooking. Since I am not eating much grain based food these days*, now I can have a "pasta" dish that suits my way of eating. If more big zucchini come my way, either from my garden or from friends, I will happily use them, or freeze them for winter bounty .
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I'm thinking that Sunday will be a good day for a tea party. Well, actually an iced-tea-party, since it is too hot during the day to want to do anything a-stovetop. So come on over anytime after noon, bring your handwork projects and a bit of snackage. I'll have a couple kinds of tea, and there is an edamame dip I've been wanting to try, and maybe a different new sweet recipe.....
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*I have stopped eating most grain and all sweets, for reasons of both health and vanity. I've lost seventeen pounds and feel much more energetic


Only about a spoonfull, but full of flavor... In a pot next to the front porch is a blueberry plant, a gift from Larissa when I bought Acorn Cottage three years ago. I have no idea what variety it is, but this year it bravely set some fruit, and I picked the first ripe ones today. I think the plant wants a friend or two, and to be planted in the ground. When it is not summer, (with the ground baked hard and the sun glaring down), I will dig up the remnants of the rosemary bush and make a home for my favorite berries in the south side yard...

Friday, July 17, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation - part 2: Oregon Country Fair

For years, Fair was the hub that my year circled around, the one weekend a year that I got to live in the world as it could be, the closest I've come to the world I want to live in... Tourists at the Fair don't see the structure that allows it to happen, but for all the just-growed-ness of the organisation, it is the safest sanest city I've ever visited. There are thousands of residents that make it a temporary home for the weekend, vendors and entertainers and staff, and then there are the additional thousands that come as visitors, (this year I heard there were 19,000 through the gate).

My first Fair was in 1985, and there have been many changes over the last twenty-four years. I remember before the fair owned their site, before the water system, before wristbands and capped attendance. I worked Security for years, at the main entrance from midnight to six. I met Bill there one year; coming through the entrance he sold me a fibula and the story of my life turned, again. There were several years where I worked both my security shift and helped with selling jewelry during the day (sleep, what sleep, I'll sleep when I'm dead), and several more years (after I gave up my Security volunteering) when I was Bill's "lovely lady assistant". Our paths diverged, I juried my own artwork in, and on two different years tried to sell my enamels, but for the last few years since I moved to Acorn Cottage have chosen to stay home in July.

Thanks to a fortuitous combination of circumstances, I had the opportunity to return to Oregon Country Fair this year (the 40 year celebration)...

carved melon at one of the fruit salad booths

I arrived on site on Thursday afternoon, and after a not very long wait to check in and get "banded" (the wristbands this year were the kind of changeable design that shifts as you tilt it) I found my friends inside the Fair. Bill and Ariadne brought Ceilidh (Karen's niece) with them this year; she is 11, and it was her first Fair. I really enjoyed having her as a tent-roommate, and that I got to spend a lot of my time that weekend hanging out with her. 11 is a little too young to just be turned loose at Fair, and so in answering her questions, I got to see the site, and the sights, as if new.

winged clockworks stilt-walker
ferrocement and mosaic mushroom sculpture outside the Ritz Sauna and Bath-house

Friday night, she and Ariadne went to the the Carmina Burana fire opera show, I was just too tired, after helping Bill put the cart and stock away, I went back to camp and fell asleep. I don't have quite the stamina and resilience I did twenty-odd years ago, they have been some odd years indeed. I think I had more time to chat with folks and friends at Fair than at most SCA events, and I even found time to take a handcraft class at the Archaeology/Native skills booth, where I learned how to weave a bark basket from stirps of willow bark. I love basketry, though it is very hard on the hands and wrists, there is something so very primal and satisfying to me about it, every time I have done any basketry, it is as though my hands know they have done this before, in some other life...

On Sunday the skies opened, with thunder and lightning and a frogstrangling downpour. All day on and off rain made moving from one part of the Fair to another quite challenging. Six inches of rain turned silty fair pathways to sticky slippy mud, and the low ground into mud-wallows.

an appropriate song for Sunday

By Monday the rain had stopped, so tents were dry-ish for tear-down. The roads were so muddy that all gear needed packed out to the truck by handcarts. We stopped on the way home for a rejuvenating soak at Onsen, before the long drive back to resume our regularly scheduled lives...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation - part 1: sometimes Thoreau is wrong

I was groggy with sleep, grief, and the remnants of a cold and laryngitis, when a phone call from N offered me a place on their 4th of July weekend trip. I heard something about river trip, and North Umpqua, and impulsively said sure. She said to bring clothing that I didn't mind getting wet, and salad fixings for six.

When I woke up the next day slightly more clearheaded, I wondered just what I had agreed to...

Spent some time with the reference library that never sleeps and I was more than a bit nervous; my most adventurous/only previous river experience involved an afternoon canoe trip on the placid Charles River outside Boston, drifting among the willows and waterlilies. The prospect of time away from the city and out in the woods was very appealing, I made cutoffs from an old pair of fleece pants, and a trip to REI yielded Keen water sandals, which I had been wanting and saving for months to buy anyhow, (the next weekend would be OCF, with miles of walking every day).

The whitewater rafting trip was amazingly delightful. Rather than being too scared to have fun, I was having waaay too much fun to be scared. I realised that rafting is like meditation, you have to be totally in the now to be able to do it at all. The North Umpqua is beautiful, and we saw many butterflies, turkey vultures not only aloft but also hanging out on the ground near the riverbank, and a young osprey catching a fish.

There were more delights in store for that weekend: In the evening, after the whitewater rafting, we hiked in to Umpqua Hot Springs. I love hot springs, and was glad I decided to go along, the setting was spectacular and the warm/hot water felt wonderful, though I found the log bridge across the river rather challenging. Pushing the edges of my comfort zone is a good thing.

The next morning, a waterfall excursion to Clearwater Creek Falls and Watson Falls, both beautiful and quite different from each other.
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On the way home the next day, we toured the Safari Park just outside Roseburg. Very different from an urban zoo, the animals have much larger open areas to live in. They have quite a large breeding population of cheetahs there, which was interesting to learn about, and I enjoyed seeing animals on the range and in the brushy habitat.
giraffe in the woods
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I think that the reason it is called recreation is that it can re-create you, bringing you back to your self. Being in the woods, being in the now, being on (and in) the water, was very healing for me. Many thanks to my friends for the gift of a weekend adventure that did me a great deal of good.