Monday, August 31, 2009

Media Monday

Despite the song, I actually have a lot of work to do today, especially since I took the weekend off to go camping with friends...once I get home from my day job, there is studio work calling my name. A new hen home needs to be built ASAP; HennyPenny is being less than hospitable, and refuses to let the New Girls into the henhouse, so they are spending their nights perched precariously outside in the hen yard. and...I have four people coming to visit this weekend. and...I need to prep for a whole day art demo on Saturday at Art In the Pearl.

...Life is never dull at Acorn Cottage

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Monday Media, and random musings

History and handcraft meet animation:
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Does it seem odd to anyone else that to turn off the computer you have to click on the "start" button, and to turn on the cell phone you have to click the "end" button?
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Knitting progress report: I finished the Baktus scarf, and really like how it looks. Knitting with fingering yarn was not as difficult as I'd feared, and the prestriped sock yarn knits up into a nice thin drapey texture. Unfortunately, I've lost the information band, so I have no idea what yarn it is. I think that Barbara will like it as well, and eventually I want to make one for me, the shape is quite nice. Maybe a stripey one, like this, or this, but in my colors. Or maybe a lacey one, very different than my feather-and-fan...

While looking for something else, I found the lilac colored wool that I used for Corrie's sweater and hat set. Needless to say, there is most of the ball of yarn unused, and it looked quite nice with the green sock yarn that I was not so happy with before. Somehow the two colors looked nicer together than either did yet another the second pair of gaudy socks that clash with my clothing is in the works... purple and green stripes with dark plum heel and toe.
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I am sleeping very poorly, and wake up from nightmares about every other night. UGH. Last night I woke myself up yelling trying to scream, and ended up so scared that I couldn't get back to sleep. I hate it when that happens.
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Air in a can is good, vacuum cleaners are bad - isn't it a good thing that I have helpful friends, otherwise my poor computer would die! a horrible death! (because I am ignorant, but fortunately, cautious) Sunday the kindly Aelfflaed came by to visit in the afternoon, and installed the CD/DVD drive. I can listen to music, I can watch movies. I can save my data. And I learned new stuff, which is always good. There is a secret trap door on the side of the computer where I can plug in the tiny data-saving gizmo that I got at the library, and not have to keep burning a CD every time I need to go to the copy shop.

As part of the fix the computer project, the monitor got lifted about six inches, to make room for drawers underneath, to contain the music and data CDs. (the drawers had been purchased from the IKEA as-is bin, with the thought that they might be useful to contain sewing notions)This brings the screen up to about the correct level, so that I am not all hunched over. I also have been tilting my head back in order to see the screen clearly, since only the bottom half of my bifocals focus anywhere near the correct distance. I'd been thinking that I needed a pair of computer glasses... Yesterday evening I found the pair of "close work only" eyeglasses (that came with my bifocals years ago) and I can now work at the computer without being all contorted. I'm really wondering what other things I need will surface as I continue gradually tidying and organising Acorn Cottage

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

wishful Wednesday - outdoor cookery

Back when I lived in Olympia, just before I moved here, I was renting a room from my friends Beth and Karen. One day when I was walking around the neighborhood, I found a nice, well designed, old-style, Weber kettle barbecue out on the curb with a sign that said FREE. I though this would be a good thing to salvage, even though B&K already had a similar barbecue, this one would be mine, and if we all wanted to have a BIG party we could...

When I moved here to Acorn Cottage, I mostly moved things in my little station wagon Nimblefoot (now exanimate) with a bit of help from Maeve and her big truck. Somehow I forgot to move the barbecue that winter, and when I remembered, when the weather warmed up again, my former housemates had gotten rid of it. Sigh. Since Acorn Cottage has no fireplace, it would be useful to have a way to cook food outdoors, either for fun, or if needed in an emergency. I do have a little backpack camping stove, but it takes disposable butane canisters, and is, well, tiny.

I already own a Kelly Kettle, basically a tiny wood-fired hot water heater that burns twigs and suchlike. It heats up the contained water astonishingly quickly,which is great of hot drinks or washing dishes...

Several of my friends have made firepit type barbecues from large restaurant size woks, which is one option. I never see woks at the Goodwill or thrift stores any more, but I know that Portland has a number of used restaurant equipment stores. A tripod type framework is needed to stablise such a contraption - there is probably a reason that the folks I know that have this option are all folks with a blacksmith in the family (odd that I know so many smiths?)

A different option would be a small rocket stove, which could be placed at tabletop height on a suitable tiled base... I am fascinated by the high concept, and relatively low tech, of the rocket stove, and like the idea that it burns various sorts of organic easily salvaged fuel, and is very efficient. There is lots of information about rocket stoves online, and Aprovecho, down in Cottage Grove, has been researching and developing safe cleaner-burning stove technology for decades. They also sell readymade stoves, and the profits go to help fund their work around the world. I'm pretty temped by this option.

I'd eventually like to have a space outdoors, maybe outside the back door, maybe in the carport, where outdoor cooking could happen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

random Tuesday thoughts

Today I heard that a friend of mine passed away this last weekend. She was my age, and one of my few friends that was also an old hippie. Damn. I thought I still had lots of time to eventually get up to where she lived and visit. Life is short, and sometimes too short. Hug those you still have on this side, find a way to visit the ones faraway, and let the folks you love know that they are loved....
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My worklist is down to one page, yay! As I continue to make progress, soon there will be space on my dancecard for my own projects. The few days last week when it was lovely cool and grey, my brain filled with interesting ideas for some new artworks...must get them at least sketched out before rising heat kills more brain cells
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heat wave a-coming, hopefully not as bad as the last one, but still already too warm at night for comfortable sleeping...
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Ikea-hacking a henhouse: I'm going to use the leftover bits of GORM, along with a few uprights, to create the framework for a new improved chicken house. I just heard that the hens I've been negotiating for are all grown up, and big enough to do okay with HennyPenny. I'd intended to have the new house before they got here...The new hens are Dominiques, and will hopefully settle in well, they should be arriving in the next day or so.
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I've been knitting on my Baktus, turned the corner into the decreasing side of the scarf, and it is really looking pretty. While I was riding home today on the bus, I got a flash that I should really give this one to my sister-in-law, the colors are a nice assortment of blue (her favorite color as well as mine) and I, after all, already have a nice new shawl ready for cooler weather... When I finish this, I intend to start on a second pair of socks. The first pair fulled up nicely in the washing machine and are now smoother and not so baggy. I was a little nervous about treating them so "harshly", didn't want to turn them into child socks, but it worked out well, they are now the perfect size, and I will handwash them from now on...

Media Monday

using art as an escape...?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

brought to you by the letter "E"

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The 24-7 enameling channel... Not really, but that is what it has been feeling like this week here at Acorn Cottage. Actually its been great. The daytime temperature has been pleasantly moderate, so running the kiln has been feasible without me passing out from the heat. I'm making good progress on catching up on my orders, and have also had company in the studio. Leah has been working on two pendants that she is making, and Ivan, son of my friends Svava and Hrafnir, was here for two days this week to have a first taste of enameling. He's been wanting to try enameling since he was a child; I told him he had to be at least 12... He's now 14 and did as well as any adult beginner I have taught:
Ivan's first enamels
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Some of the enamels I've completed this week are waiting for me to make settings for them; I'm pretty happy with how they are looking:

and this butterfly is almost one of the smallest cloisonne pieces I've made, actual size is 1/2" across...

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When I went out onto the front porch this morning to take pictures of the enamels, I found a surprise and a treat, my Little Fingers eggplant has taken advantage of the heatwave to set fruit. Well, one fruit. I would grow eggplant just for pretty, the plants are beautiful and the flowers a large and lovely version of nightshade. The small japanese style eggplants are my favorites for eating and cooking. I will take some of the surviving tomatoes from the back garden, and the young eggplant fruit, along with some parsley from the side yard and garlic that Bill and Jen left here for me, and make melanzane al funghetto (eggplant cooked like mushrooms). This is the very first dish I ever liked with eggplant, and it converted me into an eggplant eater, years and years ago. I was visiting Chuck and Joan, my high school biology teachers, and they served this; it was so tasty I had to get the recipe and have made it many times since then. Basically, you cut up some of the skinny eggplants, and some garlic, and saute them in olive oil until the eggplant is soft, well cooked, and slightly browned. You don't want to do this on too high a heat or the garlic will burn, which is BAD. When it is cooked, add some cut up tomatoes and cook gently just enough to warm the tomatoes. Then stir in a good amount of chopped up parsley, salt to taste, and eat with great enjoyment.
Little Fingers eggplant
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wishful Wednesday - rainwater handling

My intention is to (over time) set up a convenient way to gather, store, and access rainwater, so as to be able to thoroughly water the food-growing plants here at Acorn Cottage. I've made a bit of a start, with several food-grade plastic barrels. I've not yet been able to make much progress on improving the convenience factor however.

I've a kludgey setup on two of the downspouts, that enables me to channel roof runoff through tubes and funnels into some of the barrels. (once they are full, I replace the barrel cap and run the water out away from the house itself) To remove the water, I have a self-starting siphon, and carry the water to the garden in a 5 gallon bucket. The drawback to this is that I cannot easily get more than about half of the water out of a barrel.

There are various ways to improve this situation. A few blocks away, one of the houses has barrels from the Rainbarrel Man, which not only raise the barrels up on wooden platforms, but cover the exterior of the plastic with a decorative "scrim" of narrow cedar boards. So building wooden platforms would work, but requires handling pressure treated chemicalised wood. One simple thing would be to use concrete blocks, and raise the barrels up a bit. Much less toxic, but hard to transport concrete without a truck.

The other thing I'd like is to have a better way of getting the water from the downspout into the barrel. There are various kinds of diverters that attach to your downspout and allow a choice as to where the water gets sent. There are some interesting ones here and here, as well as other sorts of diverters that require you to use a sealed barrel.

I'm also intending to eventually add a rain chain to Acorn Cottage. I was charmed by the funky handmade one (*see picture above)
made from olive oil tins and speaker wire, which I saw while walking down the street behind the ReBuilding Center. I've already been gifted with a roll of speaker wire thanks to my friend Hrafnir, some of which is earmarked for this project.

So I'm wishing for somewhere between 21 and 50 concrete blocks, and some empty olive oil tins.

And if the container fairy decides to visit, one of these 275 gallon "totes" would be a Really Good Thing. It could live on the stupid deck in the backyard, and be connected to the nearby downspout, and be really convenient to water the garden...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday tidbits

Last week I posted "Please ask me something you think you should know about me"... and received one query, from a friend down in the Bay Area : "I'm curious about the genesis of your creative process". This has definitely given me something to think about, and mull over at random times, and before drifting off to dreamland.

In one way, my creative process had its beginning when I did - I seem to have come into the world in the peculiar flavor of "thing-making creature". Many of my early memories are of creating things, and the gift of hand-and-eye is one that is deeply embedded in my being. When I think of who I am, I name myself a designer, whether of my surroundings, like my beloved Acorn Cottage, my artifacts, like my enameling or the handmade garments I mostly wear, or the occasional but deeply cherished opportunities to share my vision with friends who seek an additional thoughtful eye as to how their spaces might be improved.

But perhaps the question was not about the intrinsic, but more about the specific creative process in the enameling and metalwork that I do...that creative process begins either with something that catches my attention, or with an Oooo thats pretty (what can I do with that: idea or object or material or technique), or with a request from a client for a specific piece to be made. From there, I either seek out additional resources and research, or head straight to pencil and paper...
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I may have been given the gift of clever fingers, but I was surely out of the room when they were handing out physical competence. I am still just as foolishly clumsy as I was as a child, perhaps from not seeing clearly, and far too often bang and bruise myself on the material world I love so dearly. I found this tutorial for making your own slushy ice pack, and think that making one or two of these to keep in the freezer will be a great idea. Much better than a bag of frozen peas.
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IT IS RAINING!! First rain in months, and while it is not going to do my poor tomatoes any good at all, if it continues tomorrow, it just may soften the ground enough for me to be able to pound in some stakes for a new hen run... Which would be all to the good.
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I sampled a new ball of yarn intended for pre-striped socks, decided that knitting on #1s is not so much fun. I tend to knit loosely, and even #1's were not quite small enough. After spending way too much time on Ravelry, I decided to make a Baktus scarf/shawl instead. The yarn has a nice repeating various blue/grey stripies, I can knit on my spiffy new #3 circular needle, and the pattern is dirt-simple. Lots more about this simple pattern on the nerd and the needles
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Cogitations, a couple of questions, and Monday media

Sometimes life is just full of distractions, and at the end of the day, I feel like there has been nothing substantial accomplished. Of course, feeling looking at my life that way is not useful.
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Saturday I had a chance to spend time at the Sock Summit catching up with a friend from faraway, and actually that was priceless. The wealth in my life is the connections with my friends. Sunday I managed a morning grocery bikeride, then dithered about Acorn Cottage like a flea, hopping from project to project but not accomplishing as much as I'd hoped to. I did hang a curtain rod above the storage closet door in the corner of the living room, and the long shisha embroidered wool shawl that was hanging next to the computer is now a curtain. Moving that made the entire east wall look unbalanced, so I moved around some of the wall art, and repaired the mobile from last years swap (it had gotten all tangled from being in the pathway from the window fan), reattached all the decorative strings to a new support, and moved it from in front of the window to where the bluebird lantern had been. (the bluebird lantern will move to the bedroom, and I'd like to put the spider plant in the window, if I can find a hanging pot that doesn't look horrid.) Masses of laundry and washing up were done, and a bit of sewing...
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The Sock Summit Marketplace was sorely tempting, the colors and textures of fiber goodness were overwhelming. I felt drunk on "yarn fumes" Fortunately for my piggybank I was able to resist, but I did find a line of yarn that I fell in love with. Blue Moon Yarns, (local, based in Scappoose) has a color-group called Raven Clan. While I cannot justify spending over twenty dollars on yarn for one pair of socks (socks are utility knitting), I will be saving my pennies to get some of the Twisted in one or two of my favorite of the Raven Clan colors, to make either another shawl or a sweater. It is some of the most beautiful yarn I have ever seen, I kept coming back to that display all afternoon.
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Someone in my group of friends asked me about getting a start of worms, for setting up to do worm composting...I can't remember who it was (brain cell death from the heat wave), and I just recently re-did my worm habitat, so whoever you are, let me know please, I do have some "starter worms" that I can share.
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Does anyone out there have back issues of the magazine "Spin Off"? I found a shawl I really like on Ravelry, and the directions are in the Summer 2008 issue... inquiring knitter seeks instructions...
update: I love my library. They carry this magazine, in the closed stacks, and I was able to xerox the pattern...

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a quiet bit of hand drawn stop motion animation,
drawn and animated by Rima, music by her man Tui

Friday, August 7, 2009

on purpose and accidentally

My XP1 pair of socks is finished, and I've been wearing them around town today while doing errands.

I tried out some different things on each one, and decided that I like the all knit foot part rather than the one with the ribbed top. The knitting is a bit "loose" and I can feel the texture when I walk, but it isn't completely awful, just on the borderline. While knitting the second sock I was able to do a better job with the changing colors, and so the sole is more smooth. Yay. I'm not sure how well the weaving yarn will hold up long term as far as not wearing out. So: definitely wearable, and on to the next pair...

I was on my way home from an entirely unsuccessful and unsatisfactory trip to Ikea, when I realised the next stop on the Max was Convention Center. I decided to look around and see if there was anything in the marketplace that needed to come home with me. On entering the building though, there were eddies and drifts of folks moving towards the big happened to be time for the attempt to break the worlds record for number of people knitting simultaneously. As I was unintentionally prepared (yarn and needles in my tote bag) I decided to participate. Signed my name on a numbered ticket, and went into the hall. Once the rules had been explained (two needle knitting only) and the observers and VIPs were all in place, not to mention the media crews and the Fire Marshall, the doors were shut and the knitting commenced. What is the sound of hundreds of people knitting? a not terribly loud murmur, as folks chatted quietly and knit steadily for the requisite 15 minutes straight. I'm pretty sure it will be a successful attempt, as there were far more people present than the previous record.
looking out across one side of the auditorium

Thursday, August 6, 2009

a fruitful expotition

A few weeks ago, I had noticed a small advert in the pick-your-own listings for unsprayed blueberries at a farm on Sauvie Island. My dear friend Rois and I had intended to go last week, but inappropriate weather in the triple digits made that not a fun idea. Today the weather was just about perfect for berry picking, pleasantly cool and dry, with a bit of cloud cover.

We arrived at the farm at around eight thirty in the morning, and by ten had each picked over ten pounds of berries. Blueberries are not only my favorite berry, but they require almost no processing. I simply freeze them in plastic bags, they hold up really well, don't stick together, and can be removed in whatever quantity is needed. I shall resist eating them by the handful, as they are quite the special treat all year long. (though they never last out the year here at Acorn Cottage)

blueberries on the hoof

10+ lbs of blueberries in the basket

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Sometimes places are described as flat, but Sauvie Island is flat. Having been there now for the first time, I can imagine actually taking my bike, and catching the #17 bus that goes out there, and then riding out to the u-pick places. I'll bet if I go in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, it won't be too crowded. And the bus currently runs every half hour on weekdays, and once an hour on Saturdays...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wishful Wednesday - Electra Townie Bike

I want a new bicycle.

Ever since my little car Nimblefoot stopped running, I have been all about the public transit, the walking, and the sometimes riding my bike. I have a bike that I bought about five years ago, that was sold as a "comfort bike". It is more comfortable than the old ten speed I had years ago. The seat and the front fork have some kind of shock absorbers in them, and the riding position is more upright than the bike of my youth. Better for my neck and the carpal tunnel in my wrists.

But there are some real difficulties with the bike as well, and I don't think it really fits me properly. I am pretty short, and my arms and legs are short in proportion to my size. So when I got this bike I have now, the store had to move the handlebars as far back as they could, and move the seat as far forward, so I could reach the handlebars. And somehow, since my legs are so short, when I stop the bike, (like at a traffic light, or to cross the street,) I have to jump off the seat to stand between the seat and the handlebars to put my feet on the ground . There is no way that I can just put my foot down, without laying the bike down at a lower than 45 degree angle. So my urban bikeriding is a constant dance of jumping on and off the bike.

Somehow, while wandering around out in blogland, I ran across this other bike company: Electra. They make an assortment of bicycles that have this kind of retro style, and have what seems to me a revolutionary premise that they call "Flat Foot Technology", where they have somewhat rotated the vertical arrangement of seat and pedal, so the seat is lower, the pedals are more forward, and your body is more upright. And when you stop, you can just put your foot down, right on the ground. No jumping off, then jumping back up. They make everything from a 1 speed to 21 speed, some with external shifting and some with an internal geared hub. I'm looking at the "Townie" bikes, 'cos realistically, what I do with a bike is to run errands around town.

I want one. Well realistically, I'd like to try one out, and then I'd know if I need to start saving my pennies...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tuesday tidbits: ups and downs

The ups -
It is finally cooling off enough after the sun goes down that a fan can cool the inside of Acorn Cottage. This is a big plus! (It was cool enough that I could ride my bike to buy groceries.) This also means that I can get back to some of the enameling and metalwork projects that are impossible in 90 to 100+ heat.

I think I've figured out a way to Ikeahack the framework of a new chicken home, which will make getting the future new pullets settled in easier. By using some of the bits that are currently in the side yard, and possibly needing to purchase a modest amount of supplies, I should be able to make a hen house that is not quite so heavy, and one with the nestbox lower than the sleeping perch, so the nest is not a hen bedroom. More chickens means enough eggs for me + some to swap for chicken food

A different way of changing between colors while knitting makes the join less lumpy. This will make my socks a bit more comfortable. I'm thinking of the first pair as being kind of experimental anyhow...

The downs -
Apparently my overhead kitchen light has bit the dust. I just plumb hate it when things stop working, last week the CD/DVD drive, this week the kitchen light. Tomorrow, when there is daylight, I'll shut down the power to the house, and climb up the stepladder and see if there is anything obvious. It isn't like the overhead light is anything special, just a plain fixture that takes 4ft flourescent tubes. If it needs new tubes, that is easy. (If the ballast is gone, there are instructions for that...)
update now that it is daylight:
Yup, just burned out tubes. Fortunately there were a few good tubes tucked in the back of the furnace closet when I moved in, which saved me from having to make a hardware store run today.

My favorite jumper, the indigo plaid one, just wore out today as well. The fabric just wore through in two places, and I didn't notice till I was on the bus to work. I really didn't intend to travel around our fair city in tatters, and it can't be patched and not look truly odd, being right on my tummy, unless I want to go around looking like a star-bellied sneetch. Not the best look for anyone over five. Maybe I should start wearing aprons when I work. I guess this means I really do need to buckle down and make myself some new clothes....

Monday, August 3, 2009

Media Monday: knittin' country with a K

the internet is a strange and silly place sometimes...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I get by...

...with a little help from my friends. One of the things I have learned, finally, and its about time, in the last few years is that it is okay to ask for help. And realistically, there is no way most of us can get through life at all gracefully without helping one another.

Today my friend Megan kindly ran me over to the Urban Farm Store in her vehicle; the barrel of "Portland Layer 18% is almost empty, and toting a fifty pound sack of hen food home on the bus is not really a fun idea. We got to see the tubs full of baby chicks, and I took a look at their chicken coops - I need to build a new henhome, since there will be some new young Dominique pullets arriving here at Acorn Cottage a bit later this summer.

A little more than a week ago, Jen got me all inspired and instructed to start with knitting socks. I've finished the first sock...

and I've already learned a few things: It isn't as slow as I'd feared. I really like having the seamless toe, (which I kind of just figured out how to do on my own, I'm sure there are more graceful ways of shaping it, but I was on the bus). This particular set is coming out a bit big and a wee bit loosely knit, I'm thinking that washing, a bit of gentle fulling and blocking will help them to be closer to the right size. The biggest reason that I decided to knit my own socks was to have seam-less foot coverings: knitting stripes of two colors means that there is a "seam" of sorts where you change from one color to the other; I ran that down the sole of the sock; I can feel that seam when I walk...therefore any future socks will have solid color feet.