Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dark Days challenge - squash fail

week 11 of 20
Halfway there, wherever there may be...

Today I had the inspiration to use the spaghetti squash that a friend had given me, excess from her local CSA share. I cooked up a tasty red sauce, with some locally grown red onion, garlic from my Olympia friends, some "Oregon-grown" crimini, some home canned tomato sauce, and Italian sausage (made at my neighborhood New Seasons from local Pacific Village pork). And I followed the directions on the squash for how to cook it, while I have made "faux-ghetti" by grating summer squash and liked it very much, I've never actually cooked spaghetti squash before...

When I cut it open, it was full of long strings alright, but mostly the long strands of the sprouted seeds that filled it. Not appetizing, and when I tasted the stringy flesh along the sides, it was quite bitter. I guess this is not a kind of squash that is meant to store for months, unlike the butternut, or the amazing long-storing delicata. Since I'm not eating grain, and I had this lovely red sauce with nothing to put it on, the sauce will go in the freezer to wait for something else, and I'll scrounge a stir-fry from what else is in the fridge. Not every experiment meal works out.

Update at 9 PM - A small sweet potato, (found at the back of the fridge) - steamed, it was a good vehicle for half of the red sauce, with some grated Rumianos dry-jack as a garnish

Friday, January 29, 2010

oh no, and yes and yes

I need to take a sabbatical from knitting. I guess that working on the sweater-vest was just a bit more than my wrist could tolerate. Today, after two days "rest" I tried a little knitting, just a tad, to start the adorable tiny octopus... my wrist immediately felt much worse. So, yarn-crafting goes on the back burner, and I need to find something else to do on the bus.

But despite that, here is something tiny that pleases me very much, Little Bo-Peep is finished! And since the rain held off this afternoon, I could take her and her sheep outside for a photo shoot...
where is that pesky sheep?

I'm pretty happy with Little Bo-Peep, though only 3 ½" tall, she's more elaborate than the other seasonal sprites I've made. She's dressed in wool felt clothing, all hand embroidered. She is wearing stripey socks, embroidered pantaloons, a green dress, light green apron with an embroidered daisy, and an embroidered jacket. Her neck ruffle is a "silk" flower, and she has a wee straw hat (thrifted from Goodwill). She, and her lamb, will make a great start for some springtime vignettes on the living room windowsill. I think that I'll liberate the black sheep ornament to add to her flock.

For this project I broke my resolution to only purchase infrastructure this year; I wanted springtime colors for the clothing, and that delightful shop Gossamer has merino wool felt in a wide variety of colors, including some plant dyed wool felt. Rose sells not only big sheets of felt, but small squares that are perfect for projects like this one.

~ : ♥ : ~
In additional brighter news, my leafy heart ornament that I donated to the Etsy fundraiser "Hearts for Haiti" sold in one day! This made me so happy, I immediately donated another one... Not only does it help raise money for Doctors Without Borders, but it means that someone out there liked it enough to buy it. (I don't get much traffic through my own Etsy store, so it is hard for me to tell if things I make are actually salable)

bits and bobs - a busy day

Lots to do today, so a short-ish post ...

Potluck CraftTeaParty here on Sunday. I was thinking of having some papercraft bits (brown paper, glue sticks, paper doilies, colored pencils, snips) around for folks to make valentine crafts if desired. Does this sound like fun, or too twee, or would you all prefer the usual sit, knit, chat? As always extra potluck nibbles are welcome.
~ : ♥ : ~
I was just gifted with "CORE Transformation", which looks like a VeryUsefulBook™ (many thanks to E). I'm intending to work through some of the processes described, and there are activities that will be much easier if I can play, on my home cassette player (I know, ancient obsolete technology, but I make do) a tape of myself reading the "instructions" aloud. Anyone out there have a tape recorder I can borrow, or the ability to help me make such a tape?
~ : ♥ : ~
When I came home from errands yesterday, there were two (2!!) small packages waiting for me under the mailbox. One was the aforementioned book, and the other was the replacement for the circular needle that broke. Celia, the owner of Purl District yarn shop, was apologetic about the break, reminded me that the needles are guaranteed, and was speedy about mailing me a replacement needle. If I am ever in Silverton, I'll surely stop in to her shop.
~ : ♥ : ~
I should have known better than to try... The evil empire aka Joann Fabrics, was having their pattern sale. I wasted three hours yesterday trekking over to their only store in Portland, attempting to get this pattern, McCalls 6024, for $1.99. That whole section in their pattern drawer was missing many patterns, and as usual, the workers there had no information at all. I rarely ever buy patterns, but this one looks like a good shortcut to duplicating this dress, which is no longer available, and not in my size anyway.
~ : ♥ : ~
I'm almost finished with my entry in the Felt Smackdown, which closes tomorrow. All that is left is her face, and gluing the parts together. I'm doing "Little Bo Peep", and being me, looked up some documentation. The nursery rhyme dates from the beginning of the nineteenth century, and so I looked at what childrens clothing was like at that time. In an number of illustrations, they showed little jackets, and also neck ruffles. Since LBP is only 3 1/2" tall, I simplified the clothing a bit, and as a nod to the inspiring Sally Mavor "Wee Folk" used a bit of silk flower for the neck ruffle.
~ : ♥ : ~
In food news, the pea seeds, that I've had in a jar on the countertop, finally started to sprout, and are now in a flowerpot of dirt, hopefully to become fresh pea greens for late winter salad nibbles. And the food for Februarys Can Jam has been announced, it is carrots! So my question is, should I try making pickled carrots, or attempt the carrot cake jam, or maybe veer off in another direction entirely? There was quite a bit of interest last night at Family Potluck in the carrot cake jam...
~ : ♥ : ~
Speaking of Family Potluck... "If a tree falls in the neighborhood and no one hears it, did it really happen?" While we were having dinner and conversation, the wind had picked up considerably outside, but until a neighbor came to the door, we had no idea that this would be the eventual result
As Nichole said, (quoting from her Facebook page), "16 guests for dinner, 8 cars in the cul-de-sac, 5 houses, 100 foot plus tall fir tree from our yard falls in the wind at 8pm and doesn't hit a thing - priceless!"
~ : ♥ : ~
Well, off the the hardware store for bits to fix the shower handset, and TJ for crackers and cheese for Sunday...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

progress of some sort

My stripey vest is finished - yay! I've decided to not add the embroidery for now, which makes it my first completed SWAP garment. If I decide that it needs embroidery, I can add it later, when I have more of the finished pieces to look at. Hopefully the sewing will go a lot quicker than the knitting, I've got ten garments to make before April. Fortunately half are already cut out, and I'm a much faster sewer than knitter. And I needed the vest NOW when it is cold, not in April...

Anyone interested in canning citrus, especially marmalade, might want to check out the listings over at Tigress In A Jam.  Today she's posted a "can jam roundup" with annotated links to over 80 of this months participants in her year long canning challenge. I know I'm going to bookmark some of them - blood orange port marmalade... lemon fig lavender marmalade... and citrus jelly with ginger and honey sounds like something to keep on hand for not just the larder, but the first aid shelf.

Today is a work from home day, sewing and some studio-sorting. I've two different sewing commissions, one due at the end of the week. I'd best clear off the dining room table, currently covered in detritus from working on the felt smackdown contest (almost finished, it is now my new transit project); the sewing part of that project fits in an Altoids tin, easier to carry than my whole tote bag of vest knitting. That contest ends on Friday, but my entry is tiny, and should be complete in time. Just needs a bit more embroidery, and then it is time for glue, and I need to find a flat rock for a base.

I woke up this morning with two thoughts in my head: one, I plumb hate taking anti-inflammatories, that single aspirin last night made my stomach hurt all night long, and Ibuprofen is no better, with the added delight of water retention :P
And two, whatever is going on with my wrist is not in addition to my carpal tunnel RSI. I am not getting a significant increase in those symptoms, but rather a whole new constellation of different dysfunction. It's not swollen, it just hurts like the dickens. Bleh! Best guess I can make is that it is tendinitis. When looking up medical info, I usually go to the Mayo Clinic website, their explanations are clear, and they include advice on home remedies. Hope my guess is good...(for those who know me, insert my usual boring rant about health care for the uninsured working poor here, for those who don't, use your imagination...)

Well, enough whinging, there are projects to do, and groceries to get, recycling to take away, and a birthday potluck this evening to go enjoy and wish Khalja many happy returns of the day!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

brought to you by the letter "C"

"C" is for - citrus canning - I want to try just one more marmalade. Since I still have an assortment of random orbs, I'm thinking mixed citrus with star anise, and maybe add some mango. I've been trying different techniques to prepare the citrus, it seems to be a choice of spend more time fiddling with the fruit, or spend more money simmering it longer... Though I will say that the kumquat marmalade, which soaked for 24 hours (with the seeds in a muslin bag to extract their pectin) has what I consider a superb texture. I will, perhaps, attempt a combined process, some parboil-age, and some soaking.
I've made four kinds of marmalade so far (20 jars): red RioStar grapefruit, sweet Valencia orange, Meyer lemon, and kumquat vanilla. The vanilla seeds are tiny black specks, which you can just barely see in the bottom righthand jar. They look rather odd, but it tastes really nice.

"C" is for - cabbage, and carrots, which make coleslaw. It is still too early in the season to have any homegrown greenery, and my tiny pea sprouts haven't yet even put out a root tip; I am craving raw veggies, and coleslaw is my go-to wintertime salad. Both cabbage and carrots are some of the cheapest organic veggies, also full of all kinds of helpful nutrients, and most importantly, they taste good! Whenever I bring coleslaw to a potluck, I don't bring any home. In my family, coleslaw is a very simple dish, just grated carrot and cabbage, dressed with some oil and a little salt. (I was really surprised as a young adult the first time I ordered coleslaw in a restaurant, it was white, and, drippy, and soggy, and sweet!) I try and make the coleslaw not too far in advance, the vitamins in the vegetables can start to degrade over time. If you want to get "fancy" you can add some pineapple chunks, or some other bright veggies like bell peppers, but I like it the way I grew up with, the only change I make is to use olive oil.

"C" is for - carpal tunnel, I have them and they are not happy, especially my unreconstructed left hand. Yesterday I felt perfectly okay, today just moving my hand, much less clasping, carrying, cleaning, or anything creative makes me feel like crap. I may have been doing too much knitting, and will need to give that a break for a while. Or it may be a function of the bad fall that I took last year, and the tendons are not healing. I don't know, and without insurance, I can't go to the doctor and find out. So aspirin, and ice and glucosamine.

"C" is for - change needs to happen, I have habits that are not actually being helpful. I am going to stop using the computer after dinner. I'm hoping that this will do two things: I may be able to sleep better, there is some evidence that sitting in front of the light from the screen is disprutive to the sleep wake cycle. And I tend to want to eat snacks late at night, while sitting and wandering around online. If I do projects, or studio work, after dinner, then I will go to bed when I am tired (that is the hope) and not nibble.

"C" is for - cogitation - there are all kinds of interesting concepts and memories swirling around in my head, forming new neural connections which are making me even more scatterbrained than usual right now, but which I hope will prove in the end to be helpful. I'm currently mulling over the concept of "choose your battles" and how that idea can define various decisions that I have made throughout my life. I know this seems obscure, but it is just barely becoming clear to me...

"C" is for - cheese and crackers... I'm having a teaparty on Sunday, (and that meant a trip to Trader Joes for some supplies. I'm going to do a bit of baking, probably a tea-loaf, and some olive oil cookies

Monday, January 25, 2010

Media Monday - if I knew the way...

In a lifetime long ago & far away,
she held out her hands to me and said "come and dance"

Halloween night, 1980, Radio City Music Hall
The last song of the first set.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I need voom*

yes I do... (and other ups and downs)

I'm suffering from a terrible case of lethargy, combined with an overwhelming desire to knit, perhaps due to the switch back to cold rain and wind from the relatively warm and sunny yesterday. Applied I-cord is my new best friend, it is the Fjord pony of knitted edgings being round and tidy and amenable, and it makes me very happy. It is not fast, but there is something about the simple repetitive process that is oddly and particularly soothing and meditative. Fifty years of knitting and there are always new things to learn. (This video tutorial was very helpful) The stripey "thrifted-gifted" vest is now getting knit-on edging, and once that is completed, and a bit of beaded embroidery added, it will look very much like my sketch, and can start keeping me warm. Winter isn't over yet.
Applied I-cord being added to neckline
~ : ♥ : ~

The kitchen here is still a marmalade madhouse. Last night was Meyer lemon, and tonight, after I finish writing here, will be time for kumquat vanilla. What can I say, marmalade is my most favorite preserve. What I have been doing is trying some of the other approaches to the process, different from my "boil until collapsed" usual method, to see if I like them any better. Unless New Seasons gets in any organic Seville oranges, this might be it for the year, though a triple-citrus with star anise recipe found online is very tempting...
~ : ♥ : ~

With the intention of adding some very local greenstuff to the larder here at Acorn Cottage, I am returning to my hippie heritage and have begun a sprouting experiment. Since my lovely sprouting trays are lost in the mists of time, a mason jar will have to do. Some of the stainless steel mesh (from the unsuccessful kombucha-strainer experiment), cut into a circle and fit into a canning jar ring will make life easier. Rather than alfalfa, or mung beans, I'm going to try pea sprouts; if I can get the pea seeds to germinate, I'll then plant them atop a flowerpot and let them grow a few inches tall. They sell small pots of pea shoots in the produce department and they are a tasty salad-ish kind of thing, I just hadn't thought about attempting to "grow my own". Here's hoping...
~ : ♥ : ~

Needless to say, with all these projects, as well as my usual work, and the two tiny textile contest entries, Acorn Cottage looks is a mess. I'll need to do some tidying if I am having a teaparty this coming Sunday, which will happen, at the usual time. Come on over for tea and craftiness. I'll have some treats, and maybe open a jar or two of marmalade to taste, and I'm planning on having some paper and glue and colored pencils and paper doilies, in case anyone wants to make valentines...
~ : ♥ : ~

*just in case you forgot about voom...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dark Days Challenge + busy-ness as usual

week 9 of 20
It is really clear to me that I need to be growing more food here, and finding ways to preserve seasonally abundant food in ways that will actually get eaten. With that thought, garden planning is a good way to unwind before bedtime. Tonight's dinner featured the sweet small butternut squash that my friend Sif gave me. I love squash, this one was simply baked, and served mashed with some local butter and frontyard sage; italian sausage (from New Seasons) cooked up and crumbled over the top and it was a warming supper on a cold night. Perhaps I can find space in the tiny backyard to grow some winter squash this year. The delicatas (from the garden two years ago) lasted in the pantry for almost ten months, but growing squash takes a lot of space...
Honestly, really this bright
~ : ♥ : ~

Last weekend I went up to Olympia, and had a good chance not only to visit, but also to make some progress on my various projects. Much sitting and knitting and chatting. I also started on a small pair of brooches for the "unusual closure" requirement for the 2010 SWAP. So rarely anymore do I make something enameled just for fun and just for me. Jen's crow jewel was so pleasing that I decided to continue the corvid imagery, so these brooches will be ravens... spent a good chunk of that Sunday afternoon bending wires, so very different-feeling to do that just sitting at a table with other folks, even if they are doing computer work, 'tis less isolate. Since the glass squares for transport got left at Acorn Cottage, Bill offered a small smooth slab of agate, and once the bent wires were stuck in place, the whole bit was carefully wrapped in paper for transport back to the home studio
tiny raven-wires, each about 1" wide
those raven feet are really tiny

~ : ♥ : ~

The kit for the Felting Challenge (sponsored by Kenleigh's Fiber Studio) arrived this week. What a generous gift, it included all the necessary supplies and equipment, and well as a very clear illustrated instruction pamphlet for making a cute sheep. Well, not being one to follow the herd, soon my little sheep took on a different shape and character... Needlefelting is like that, it is really easy to "sculpt" the wool using jabs of the felting needle. The instructions had some new (to me) and clever ways of getting the initial shapes from the soft unspun wool. And what great wool it is, I found it worked up really easily, and was a pleasure to handle. I'm not yet finished with my sheep, and hopefully I am not disqualified for changing the look to more of a long legged lamb. I have a cunning plan, you see... that involves a nursery rhyme, and the other contest, the Felt Smackdown
proto-sheep, (still needs eyes)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

(can) jam session : a photoessay

because it is that time of year... Today I spent most of the day at Hrafinstaad with my dear friend Rois. Our mission for the day was to make marmalade. She herself is a true kitchen goddess. Her orange curd tart was truly delicious, as has been pretty much anything I've eaten over there, yet despite all the cooking, canning, curing and smoking that Rois and Chance have done, marmalade was one thing she'd not yet tried. We made a double batch, using some nice organic Valencia oranges. The basic recipe is the same as I use for all marmalade I make, really simple, the time consuming part is the parboiling. You can do other things while the citrus simmers, and we had plenty of time for tea and chatting and embroidery.
~ : ♥ : ~
a fair amount of equipment is needed to make canning an easy process

The oranges, once washed, simmer in a kettle of water for two hours

You will need the fresh juice of two lemons;
(I save the peels in my freezer to candy later)

Separate the pulp from the skins; slice the skins into narrow ribbons, and
roughly chop the pulp. (orange marmalade has a few more steps than grapefruit marmalade *)

The orange bits go into the preserving kettle

Sugar and lemon juice are added

Once warmed and the sugar dissolves,
it will need to boil until the "setting point" is reached

As it gets closer, the peel becomes more translucent

After decanting and processing, the end result was many jars of sweet orange marmalade,

Which were pronounced delicious by her family

* there is less pectin in oranges, their skins are thinner. So it is needful to take some of the orange simmering water in a small pan, and add to it any and all of the seeds found when cutting up the cooked fruit. I add any tough citrus membrane bits, and the small stem-scar which I like to cut away from the peel. These all boil for about five minutes, to extract any additional pectin, then the enhanced liquid is strained and added to the orange-sugar-lemon mixture.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

because every bit helps...

This is not the post I started to write today... Living near the bottom of the economic food chain as I do, I often feel frustrated that I cannot do more to help in times of trouble. Last night I realised that I could do something, and am using my Etsy shop to help raise money for Haitian relief. My new shop announcement reads
Hearts for Haiti - from now until February 28, 100% of the profit from hearts sold, and 50% profit from all other sales will be donated to Mercy Corps to help with Haitian relief efforts. Every bit helps...

I spent a big chunk of my growing up on the west coast, where earthquakes are always a possibility. We moved back East when I was in high school, thereby missing the Sylmar quake in 1971, but I have very vivid memories of seeing the shopping center (where we bought groceries) on fire, on the six o'clock news. I heard the 2001 Nisqually quake before the shockwave hit, when I was living in Olympia.

Mercy Corps is based here in Portland, and does good and useful work throughout the world. I can't do much, but maybe I can help a little...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tigress Can Jam - marmalade

As soon as I saw that the produce to focus on for January was "citrus" I knew I'd be making marmalade. Actually, I'd be making marmalade anyway, since this is the right time of year for it...and marmalade is the perfect gateway drug for canning. It is so easy, requiring only the chosen form of organic* citrus, sugar, (and a bit of extra lemon juice). I like to make several kinds of marmalade each year, but they are all based on the recipe in the back of "How To Be A Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson.

This year I started with some beautiful red Texas "Rio Star" grapefruit. The skins were deeply blushed red, so I knew that the marmalade would have a lovely color. I will be making some sweet Valencia orange marmalade with my dear friend Rois, and I'm hoping that my sister in Rancho Palos Verdes will have some ripe lemons on the trees in her backyard, and can send me some for lemon marmalade too. Wouldn't that be nifty, actual homegrown citrus! I am also waiting to see if my local grocery gets any organic Seville oranges in this year. Seville oranges are closer to the ancestral citrus, and are quite bitter, they make a splendid bittersweet marmalade that I think of as rather British, and like very much.

Before you begin, prepare your jars, rings and lids, and put one or two saucers in the freezer (for testing to see if the marmalade is "set"); I go ahead and boil the jars and rings in the canning kettle, then leave them sitting in the hot water while making the marmalade on the other burner.

Boil two grapefruit (1 3/4 lb) for 2 hours, until they're soft. Then drain away the water and slice thinly, chopping the insides up a bit (removing any large seeds), before returning it all to the pan, along with 2 1/4 lb sugar, and the juice of 2 lemons. Warm and stir till the sugar dissolves, then boil. The peel will become translucent. After 15 minutes or so, test for setting point. Place a teaspoon of the mixture on the plate, and leave for a minute. If the surface of the mixture creases when you push it, the marmalade is ready. Pour into clean jars, and water-bath process for 10 minutes.

I usually get about six to seven 8 oz jars from one recipe.

This recipe also works with an equivalent amount of oranges, or lemons, instead of the grapefruit. I tried once with limes, which was a mistake. Limes must need a different kind of process, perhaps one that involves repeated blanching rather than simple boiling, since even I, who like bitter-sweet marmalade, found that lime marmalade (made this way) was inedibly bitter. But every other citrus that I have tried has been easy-peasy and delicious, and since the citrus peels and pits are chock full of pectin, there is no worry about getting the texture right.

~ : ♥ : ~

I was in school, and the winters were a lot colder than they are here. My girlfriends and I would go out dancing on the weekends. The contrast between the crunch of snow under our boots and the warmth on the dance floor was enough to cause thermal shock...

* I should point out that for marmalade, or any foods where you will be eating the outside, it is very important that the produce be organic, since citrus peels are usually not eaten, conventionally grown ones are sprayed with all kinds of things not intended to be edible.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

wishful Wednesday - forward momentum

Hopefully, the online challenges and contests will be encouragement for lasting changes that will improve life here at Acorn Cottage.

I've entered the Dark Days Challenge (20 weeks) as a way to explore what is available to me, given my resources, in the local area, for eating food that is Susatinable, Organic, Local and Ethical. Eating the "SOLE" food way is possible, but pretty challenging (at the lower reaches of the economic food chain) I may be shifting my focus towards preparing a better backyard garden for 2010, as that will be vital for adding more affordable organic produce to my larder.

My empty closet cried out for me to participate in SWAP 2010, a "sew a coordinated 11 piece wardrobe" clothing challenge. In 2005, the last time I participated in SWAP (Sewing With A Plan) I was very happy with the results, a closet full of clothing that all played together happily, which made getting dressed in the morning something that required no effort. It actually changed the way I plan and sew for myself, but after five years, most of those clothes are worn out... read about my sewing projects here: "with the happiness of the small hands"

As a way of encouraging my effort to supply my pantry with more local food options Tigress' Can Jam will be an interesting spur to try new preserving techniques. for a year, each month will feature a different type of produce, and something that is preserved (water-bath canned) will be the result.

Finally, just for fun, I've entered two felt related contests...

I haven't heard back yet from Kenleighs Felt Challenge, which will be all about making a needlefelted sheep from some very special wool that they will be providing. Shannon and her family raise beautiful Jacob sheep on their farm in the Willamette Valley.

The Felt Smack Down, is sponsored by Patty from "My life under the bus". It would be hard not to be inspired by Sally Mavors' book, Felt Wee Folk, and the challenge is to make something that is directly or indirectly based on her work. I'm tempted to enter my wintertime seasonal sprites, but just may have to make some new ones that are looking ahead to springtime. Actually, I'd eventually like to have a whole family of sprites, for all around the circle of the year.
~ : ♥ : ~
Today some very special visitors came to Acorn Cottage, though they couldn't stay for very long. Young Heather drove down from Olympia, on her day off from work, with her daughter Elencia (and her friend Scott). The last time I saw Elli she was just barely getting her feet under herself, now she is a little whirlwind toddling everywhere, and learning to sign for the basics of communication. I think it is so smart that many young parents now teach their children to sign before they can speak, it must make it a bit less frustrating for the littles to be able to communicate earlier. Elli enjoyed seeing my hens, and I enjoyed seeing Heather as a kindly thoughtful parent. Not too long ago, it feels like, it was my friend Sharon visiting, with her little daughter Heather...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lan Su Yuan

Monday was the last of the ten free days at the Garden of Awakening Orchids, more commonly called the Portland Classical Chinese Garden. As it was a cold damp weekday afternoon, there were not so many visitors, and I really enjoyed the chance to see more than is visible through the openings in the surrounding wall, which encloses the city block sized garden. There is decorative pebble mosaic work in many of the courtyards, all different from "room" to "room". .
Portland has a Chinese sister city, Suzhou, and the garden is based on a garden built in Suzhou during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD, contemporary with the European Middle Ages and Renaissance). It really feels like a much bigger space when you are inside, and must be even more lovely in the spring or autumn. The more delicate trees are wrapped for the winter, but here and there are small winter flowers, and in "Lake Zither", the goldfish add a bit of color.

Monday, January 11, 2010

echos of a dream

I went north this past weekend, and on the way to Seattle I stayed overnight with my friends who live at Mud Bay, where I once lived.
Early early in the morning on Sunday, before anyone else awoke, I walked the (almost)familiar roads... Though some trees I remembered were gone, and the conifer woods where I once found a whole clearing full of red-capped aminitas was now the bulldozed backyard of an extraordinarily ugly house, the beauty that so lifted my heart the whole time I lived there was still visible.
At dawn, fog still layers the pastures all down the Delphi Valley, and there are still open fields, with the less visible but still present happy romping eager ghost of a young Akita.
Smokey came to that house as a tiny puppy, and there are no roads I can walk, there at the confluence of Old Highway 410 and Perry Creek and one of the very very far ends of Puget Sound, that she didn't walk with me. Every bridge over the various waters she would rear up, place her forepaws on the railing, and peer over the top at whatever was moving below. Long ago I said, "scatter my ashes in the tidal waters of Perry Creek"; what is drifting there, amid the layers of empty wornout salmon, are the dreams and hopes of my younger self.
I've moved on. I don't live there any more, in the place I hoped to live for always. I have a different home now, and a different life... photographs here, trying to show/remember the aspects that were so very important to me, the beauty of the Place. When I first came to the Northwest long years ago, and was a student at Evergreen, my friends and I would sometimes drive down the Delphi Valley and imagine living there. Actually living there was the first and only times I have lived somewhere that there was Vista, that you could look for distance and see the shifting light. That beauty fed me in a way that nothing else does/did; leaving there, which I did not once but twice, was painful for that reason (disregarding anything else that was also happening at the time). Having lived there was a Gift.

Not to say that I do not see the beauty of place wherever I am, that being something always sought, but usually only found in the Small, or in the Sky. For me I wonder if it is a function of growing up in suburbia, of mostly living in places where the horizon is bounded by the houses across the street. Even when I lived in Idaho, it was in the middle of woods; there was no expanse to send eyes/mind/heart across. The first time I left Mud Bay was the first time I realised the specific Aspect that was so very precious..

Friday, January 8, 2010

green dreams

Most all of the remaining studio projects from last year are either waiting for postal instructions, or are on their way to their new homes. This one is going where I only wish I could, down to the West for 12th Night. Here's hoping that the year to come will bring new art-working, and interested students, to Acorn Cottage...

Despite the strong winds, or maybe because of them, there is a tendril of spring fever here. I'm wishing for seed catalogs, and beginning to think about garden ideas. I've made a list of what I'd like to grow, moderated by what foods are readily available here organically grown and at low cost, and thinking about what I most often buy at the markets. Greens. I buy quite a bit of greens for salads and greens for cooking. That will be the focus of the garden this year, I need to learn how to grow what I actually eat. Not just greens of course... Do you want to see my hopeful list?
  1. edible pod peas
  2. lettuce, various
  3. cilantro
  4. dill
  5. leeks
  6. tah tsai
  7. kai lan
  8. bok choy
  9. romano beans
  10. chard
  11. lacinato kale
  12. mizuna
  13. miners lettuce
  14. purple shiso
  15. yellow crookneck squash
  16. small winter squash (delicata or kabocha)
  17. roma-type tomato
  18. santiam or stupice tomato
  19. dill
  20. asparagus! (if I manage to get it together to prep another garden bed)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

wishful Wednesday

in which our plucky heroine makes several discoveries...

Though Thoreau, that oft quoted and misquoted but not entirely truthful writer, said to beware of all enterprises requiring new clothes, he obviously never saw the meager contents of my modern wardrobe. An upcoming wedding, to include dinner and dancing, requires some approximation of appropriate clothing, not that of a tenth century Viking (that would be easier), but a woman of the twenty-first century. Some varied bits are auditioned from the dusty ends of the closet, and I decide that a short silk dress will be the best option, after all, my legs are not that bad-looking, why hide them beneath long skirts.

Realising I therefore need some kind of legwear, I remember that SockDreams has recently opened a storefront in Sellwood, not far from where I am working today...I've had nothing but good experiences with Sock Dreams, the times I have decided that a spiffy pair of socks would be a great treat. The question is, do they have tights that will actually fit me, and with enough comfort that I do not spend a festive occasion feeling miserably squashed. The sweet young beautifully illustrated shopgirl couldn't have been more helpful, and showed me several possible options I decided that these plus sized cotton/lycra tights just might work. Though snug in the waist, they are surprisingly comfortable; I've been wearing them all this evening, as a test. I think that once I remove the annoying label from the center back, they will do nicely. My only wish is that I could splurge further and get several pairs, as they come in charcoal grey and chocolate brown as well as black...
~ : ♥ : ~

and then, when I got home from work today, there were three...
can you see the difference in the size?
'tis kind of hard to see in the photograph, but one of these eggs is a lot bigger, the one on the right. It weighs almost an ounce more than the one in the middle. I think that HP was catching on to all the queries about was she laying too? and all the comments about stewing hens. Perhaps a crustless quiche tomorrow...

Monday, January 4, 2010

a threefold cord is not easily broken

Infrastructure is the third leg of my intended structure for 2010, co-equal to kindness and handicraft.

I have been realising the need to devote my resources to creating and acquiring the structures needed to have life here at Acorn Cottage continue to move in a direction of greater sustainability and ease. One of the fun but "junk-food" activities I have been spending money on is textile stuff, not to excess, but not essential either. I have all the yarn I need right now, and all the fabric I will need for at least several years. I will be using my stash for any of these activities this year, and being very very thoughtful about where my money and time is spent.

Aside from necessaries utilities and foodstuffs, it really needs to be for tools and materials; to build the things that will help in the future as well as now. Things like plumbing parts and concrete block to actually get the rainwater harvesting happening, and maybe another load of compost. There will be things that just require mental effort, things like contacting some of the tree crews to see if I can get some chipper waste for mulch, and getting my act together to sell my old car, if possible. And of course there is the physical work of the outdoor garden, and all the myriad indoor tasks to repair and improve Acorn Cottage.

Not to make it sound like all work and no play; "the work of the world is as common as mud"*... and needs doing

*from To be of use by Marge Piercy,
you can hear her reading this poem here

Dark Days Challenge - is challenging

week 7 of 20
Although it is too late to officially sign up, I'm going to be canning along with Tigress in a Jam. She is sponsoring the Tigress Can Jam, a year long monthly canning extravaganza-challenge. I'm thinking that more home canned food will be a great assistance in eating more locally, which is one of my stated goals for Acorn Cottage. The can jam focus for the month of January is citrus; (while not local to PNW it is currently in season in the places where it grows, and as cheap as it ever gets. It is very very important to use organic citrus for foods, like marmalade, where you are eating the peel) my dear friend Rois and I will be getting together next week for "marmalade made easy".

This last week there was no meal specifically planned for this Dark Days Challenge, I didn't think that another photo of hens eggs and omelet would be really entertaining or useful. I am however, truly grateful for the unexpected almost daily single egg. Until the girls ramp up to "full production" none of the eggs leave my little homestead.

The only homegrown food right now here is herbs. My winter greens were pretty much destroyed by the cold snap earlier this winter. If that was my only source of vegetables, I'd be sunk; what I learned is that I need to come up with a more sheltered solution for next year. The kale will eventually grow some new leaves, the chard is not so lucky. I may take a trip to the farmers market that is open in the winter every other week, but that will entail most of a day to get there and back on transit.

This next week I intend to do something with the small butternut squash that my neighbor Kris gave me, I'm thinking about baked with some local onion and ground pork sausage from the local market, and sage from my garden. And I am working my way through the contents of my freezer, finding packaged goodies that while they aren't exactly local, do meet the other criteria. This last week I found a whole frozen organic chicken, (that had been a gift from visitors last year), and turned it into four meals: roasted dark meat, brined and roasted white meat put aside for two separate meals, and the bones-n-bits made soup, which became two more meals.

SOLE is a real challenge without financial and transport resources, not impossible, but really difficult. To balance between the necessity of the coinpurse and the desire of the mind/body for healthy food. One thing that I have found useful is this "shoppers guide to pesticides" which lists which fruits and vegetable are the most or least likely to be contaminated. With this information, I can avoid poisoning myself, and plan which foods are the most important to source organically or produce here at home. I've already planted two apple trees, a persimmon, a plum and a pear. There are two tiny fig trees in pots. It will take years before I see much fruit from any of them, but it is a start. I hope to eventually add soft fruits (berries) as well, once I can find a way to protect them from the wild squirrels and crows that abound here. And this is the time of year for planning out the vegetable garden-to-come for 2010...

While I'd like to eat all organic all the time, unless I grow everything myself that isn't possible. It would be a lot easier if I could safely eat a high-carbohydrate diet, and it will become a bit easier as I become a better gardener year by year, (though what can be grown in a small city yard, by one person who is also working four jobs, is, of necessity, somewhat limited by circumstances)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

the tiger follows...

...everywhere you go

WILDLIFE is a projection from a moving car onto buildings in the city. The tiger's movements are programmed to correspond to the speed of the car: as the car moves, the tiger runs along it speeding up and slowing down with the car, as the car stops, the tiger stops also. The framerate of the movie corresponds to the speed of the wheel rotation, picked up by a sensor.

This is another interactive media installation by the same artist: SNIFF

Friday, January 1, 2010

the tasks so many, the lyf so brief ...

Last year, instead of resolutions, I came up with a list of fifty-four aspirations* for 2009, tasks and fun both large and small. How did my list fare over the twelvemonth?

... about 18.5% were successfully completed. #15 was superseded by my discovery of the self-timer function on my camera, which has vastly improved my photography. I did fairly well at #24 and #32, but not well enough to consider them a success. And #40 is a no-go, the worm bin bag experiment wasn't a good thing for my pet worms, and they are back in a worm box, and much happier. Most of the things on the list are still things I'd like to have happen.

There were a few unplanned accomplishments in 2009. The mushroom swap was a lot of fun, and perhaps may inspire a local swap among my crafty pals. I went to see Tyr in concert, and discovered that "head-banging" actually means men with long hair tossing their hair in circles. The North Umpqua rafting trip was entirely unexpected, and really a high-point of the year in many ways. And looking through the pictures for the year, there was a lot of knitting, including accidentally participating in the Sock Summit Guinness Book "Knit-In"...

*Last years list:
  1. sew the living room curtains
  2. replace the carpet in the bedrooms with the Tundra flooring
  3. put together a "book of 2008", with text and pictures
  4. paint the living room walls grey-blue
  5. sort out the SCA closet
  6. hook up the printer
  7. get the bathroom fan electric sorted out
  8. fix the screwy hinges on the linen cupboard
  9. go to the beach
  10. paint the kitchen walls stone color
  11. add front and back wood to the pantry shelves
  12. repair missing sheetrock in the laundry area
  13. insulate and cover holes in ceiling
  14. small wall shelf below spices for kitchen constant staples
  15. learn to use tripod for photos
  16. set up a small dedicated photo space
  17. build a light box
  18. shoplight for the workroom
  19. stump/stakehorse for workroom
  20. sewing table setup in small bedroom
  21. paint my bedroom grey
  22. finish blue quilt top
  23. knit the mini poncho
  24. drink more water
  25. paint shower-edge trim and install
  26. do my taxes before April, (like in February)
  27. set up better/easier tracking system for commissions
  28. move chooks to south side of backyard
  29. plant asparagus
  30. re-do raised beds
  31. get wood chips for pathways
  32. make myself some new clothes
  33. keep a food diary
  34. paint bathroom walls lavender
  35. go dancing
  36. have a tea party every month
  37. build an outdoor cooking spot
  38. visit the Art Museum
  39. see about teaching a community education class
  40. sew a new worm bag
  41. buy and plant another fruit tree
  42. develop an edible landscape design plan
  43. make progress on the water storage system
  44. paint doorknocker antique black
  45. build a salad table
  46. grow a winter greens garden
  47. porch roof for shade and enclosure
  48. sew a raincoat
  49. spend a day poking around in the antique stores in Sellwood
  50. frame the Fillmore West poster
  51. set up a vent fan for soldering
  52. start a garden record book
  53. look into building a modern "hay box"
  54. experiment with printmaking