Thursday, July 28, 2011

help-less-ly hoping

Is moving forward on having surgery to fix my left hand... date not confirmed, but likely within a few weeks. While most tasks and care can be managed with one hand, albeit with difficulty, am not sure how best to arrange for the simple assistance that will be needed for the few basic tasks that do require two hands, (such as hair grooming/braiding etc) for at least the first week or two. This is, in some ways, more stressful than the actual operation. The helpful teenage girl of eighteen years ago is no longer available, as she is now the young mother of a toddler...

Monday, July 25, 2011

random Wednesday whatsits and wishfulness

Overall, life here at Acorn Cottage is good; compared to most of the US, it has been relatively cool here, though the past week has seen some unrelentingly sunshiney warm days. On Saturday last, G was visiting, and joined our trip up into the hills near Mt Hood. Was a fantastic July day, with woods-walking and exploration and suchlike...

the mountains were visible

a downed log marked like Ogham

there were various unfamiliar flowers

as well as bunchberry, (miniature dogwood)

unripe berries, (a variety of manzanita?)
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On Monday afternoon, went blueberry picking with N, and came home with five pounds of tasty local berries (from Sauvie Island) We ended up going to the same farm that I'd been to two years ago. Blueberries are one of my favorites for eating out of hand, and they are just about the easiest thing to prep for the freezer, requiring simply to be picked over to remove any detritus, then simply bagged up and frozen. Easy-peasy chicken-squeezy!
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After writing about the bed and the quilt, I decided to go back and re-read what I'd written in the past, about other resonant inanimate objects...
things seen in museums, or handed down from my own befores,
and a memoriam from my own younger days
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Last week I acquired a Japanese sickle/hoe, a very useful tool for dealing with the very overgrown grasses and weeds around the corners and edges of the yard here. Had been wanting something like this (at least until I can reconfigure the hen run to let the girls keep the edges around the fence nibble back) but was loath to simply order a tool at random of the internet. It looks like this, and does a bangup job of allowing me to hack away at weedy undergrowth/overgrowth. And there is apparently an entire martial art that uses these kind of tools:

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...have been jumping through so many hoops that it feels like I am now qualified to be a circus animal - and it isn't anywhere near over... have a potential date for hand surgery scheduled next month, but still no information about if the surgery will be covered by OHP... have spent the morning on the phone with multiple offices gathering and transmitting information... stay tuned for more news as it happens, am determined to have both hands functional... grrr arrrr

So, I guess my Wishful Wednesday is for a smooth progress to getting the left hand repaired, a sucessful outcome(eventually), and for help(as needed) during the recovery

Friday, July 22, 2011

making love that lasts

in which our plucky heroine continues to cogitate on the patient faithfulness of inanimate objects...

In the big bedroom of Acorn Cottage, the bedframe is made of wood, and manila rope; the two-by timbers salvaged from other lifetimes and other folks, the rope gathered in with a tale, the headboard and bedposts shaped by axe and knife, carved by hand and heart. If lucky, I'll sleep in it most every night 'till they carry me out feet first. In darkness I run my fingers across the horses and houses that are the carven headboard, and remember a younger self, who drew the images, and loved a man who made the bed, though that chapter, the one that brought the bed into being, is over. And when I rest in the ground, between the clay and the clover, instead of between flannel sheets and soft blankets, the bed will go on into an unknown future, carrying stories in silence, the patina of use, the marks of our hands...
On the bed, now, is a quilt. An old quilt, older than I, older than my parents. Longago there was a woman, that I never met; she took fabric and thread and the skill of her hands, and love, and made a thing of beauty. I'll never know her thoughts, or hopes, or what she wished for. Asleep under the quilt, ease and comfort hold me all the way to dreamland and back. When G passed the two quilts to me I looked up at him; filled with wordless emotion I asked "are you sure?" (thinking - you want me to have this!?). His reply was that it was made for use, not for storage.

Honor bright to have this piece of his befores in my daily life, honor bright to share the pieces of our time that life allows us. For in truth, the love made by our hands and the love made by our hearts, is made for use, and not for storage...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

mystery plant - help identify...

There are quite a few of these growing in my yard, and I'm not sure what they are - doesn't look like lambs quarters OR pigweed...
They are easy to pull out. The chickens aren't really enthused about them. I'm wondering if they are edible, or compost fodder... anyone out there recognise this plant?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

wishful Wednesday - bike care mentor

Sometimes, going round in circles can actually be beautiful...
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Have been making an effort to increase my walkabout time every day, the last spate of soft grey damp days has made that a pleasure. 'Tis the bright unrelentingly sunshiney ones that make me want to hide till dusk, (or get up in the soft and cool before the day begins, tho' that is much less likely) Yesterday, got off at a different bus stop on my way to PT, and found this lovely greenery archway over the sidewalk, on a street with extraordinarily wide parking strips, the sidewalk must have been at least ten or twelve feet away from the curbside, and several folks had made interesting garden spaces in what is usually simply waste ground. (though more and more around town I see raised garden beds rather than just grass)

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After my shoulder was inspected, detected, pushed and prodded all about, and a new improved regime of exercise prescribed, I headed downtown for some necessary errands. It always surprises me how more folks don't look up while they're walking around, but then, most folks don't even look around them, much less up...

Portlandia, between the built world and the green world
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So while downtown, just couldn't resist stopping in at Powells, and ended up using the last of my card on two books. I found an old bicycle care manual from the seventies, that actually has a small bit of information about three speed bikes. I have a sweet Electra I traded for, that desperately needs attention, and I know almost nothing about bicycle maintenance other than how to put air in the tires. My hope is that the Electra will fit me better than my current bike. For that matter, my regular bicycle needs love too, so I guess my Wishful Wednesday is for some bike care mentoring - anyone local + knowledgeable want to come over sometime and be helpful - I'd be happy to swap for sharing of knowledge of my own areas of greater expertise.

I also brought home yet another garden book: The Resilient Gardener, by Carol Deppe. I'm still working my way through it; the author is local to the Willamette Valley, and the book is not an overview, but rather her take on a specific assortment of crops (potaotes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs) that grow well. I'm finding a lot of information that is not in the other garden reference books in the Acorn Cottage library, and will post a review once it moves off the bedside nightstand and back into the bookcase.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

an assortment of Sunday snippets...

'Twas a rainy day today, and so instead of garden work, was a day of housey work instead. Started out by dealing with the kitchen worm bin, which had become rather full. Forgive that there are no pictures of this task, it involves a tarp, blue latex gloves and well, a lot of wet and damp worm castings and worms. Now have several gallons of super fertiliser, thanks to my tiny invertebrate pals, and they are back in their wormhome, with lots of fresh bedding (and food scraps).

Once that was done, it was timely and necessary to clean up the kitchen. Not only did all the dishes get washed, but the floor swept and scrubbed. After cleaning for others all week, is just not something am eager to do here at home. I also bleached the spots that the walnut concoction left on the countertops, didn't take much doing, just tore out a few suitable bits of paper towel to cover just the places needed, and put some drops of bleach on them. Let soak for a few minutes, then wipe up with the rest of the towel. I then spray the counter with a small amount of vinegar to neutralise the bleach, and wipe it down again. I wish that I didn't have such cranky old formica, my dream counters are Ikea butcherblock, with a farmhouse sink, but appreciating what I do have, my intention is to take care of it.

After kitchen chores, it was, of course, time to get the kitchen messy again, and I did just that, baking up a strawberry rhubarb crisp. Since there is an adventure planned to go up on Mt Hood again at some point, this time the idea is to bring folding chairs and tables, and Picnic Food. Might need to make some Icelandic Chicken also, mmmm tiny hand pies with chicken and bacon and sage, oh my! Hand pies and crisp freeze beautifully, so can be made ahead and stashed to be used as needed. When I was doing a lot of SCA camping, I sometimes spent a whole day making up little savory hand pies, to facilitate easy packing of foodstuffs. The original recipe calls for making a large pie, with big pieces of chicken, but I prefer to use and make smaller packets.

The other big project for today is patternmaking. My only pair of overalls is very worn, and since cannot find anywhere the original pattern, I am using brown paper and pencil to take a pattern off them. A slow and somewhat picky task. My idea is to also use the pattern to possibly create a pair of pants that actually fits me - don't faint! While I wear dresses and jumpers more than any woman I know, my life now has a certain amount of walking about in the woods, and, well, nether garments that cover the legs would seem to be a bit more protective when it comes to those nasty biting bugs. Will take a bit of doing, as the pattern takes a long time to generate, and then must needs make a mock-up to test the fit.

As the rain did not let up most of the afternoon, I also decided to (finally) swap out the nasty old bathroom light. A while back, I was given a bathroom light fixture that is of a suitable vintage for Acorn Cottage, the lamp fairy dropped it off on the dining room table one day while I was out. It has been sitting next to the bathroom cupboard, waiting patiently for me to deal with it. It is a pleasure to have all the simple tools needed for a job like this, and the basic knowledge to do it.... Shut down the power to that section. Get the stepladder and detach the old fixture (+ disconnect the wiring). Get assorted screwdrivers and wrenches to take down the old mounting bracket. Wow, the bathroom was previously painted green! Attach the new mounting bracket. Reattach the wiring to the new fixture, this time using wire nuts to cover the connection instead of loosely winding some electric tape. Attach it firmly to the wall. After putting in the lightbulbs, attach the glass shade to the fixture. It is nothing fancy, just a simple light from the 40's or 50's, but sooo much better that the ugly light that was there before.

just so you know what the old light looked like,
light bulbs just sticking out of the wall....

It's not too late, it's not too difficult...

Over the last year, I've become very interested in ways to increase resilience, both personal, residential, and actually community-wide. I spend a lot of time researching information online, and one useful site I've found is Bernie Carr's The Apartment Prepper's Blog. When the chance came to review her new book: The Prepper's Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster, I eagerly volunteered. The book's suggestions are helpful prompts for action; this would be an excellent book for someone curious about where to begin preparing for possible future difficulties.

I will point out, as she does in the book, that "A Disaster" does not necessarily mean a Zombie Apocalypse, it can be something as common as illness or a loss of work for a time. These days, with so much uncertainty about the common infrastructure, finding simple ways to prepare for possible difficulty is a kind of "insurance", increasing our confidence and peace of mind, that we are more likely to weather a transitional time well.

The Pocket Guide is a helpful, not-scary introduction to major categories to think about and prepare. Bernie's writing is clear, and she has experience in just what she is writing about. She lives in a city apartment with her family, and does not have unlimited funds; reading her book feels a bit like having a knowledgeable friend to talk to. Each section of the book has numerous useful, simple projects, I found that there were some aspects that I was already doing (#48 basic canning), and doing well, and other things that I'd not thought of, but were simple enough that they will soon make their way onto my to-do lists (#78 emergency dental kit)

Here in the Northwest, living in the land of earthquakes and in the only city in the continental USA with a volcano in the middle of a city park, (not to mention the three that are visible on a clear day), I never forget that things can change in an instant. Looking through the chapters: Getting Started, Financial Readiness, Water Needs, Food Supplies, Ready Your Home, Personal Health and Safety, When the Power is Out, and lastly, When You Have to Get Out, it is clear that there is much to be done here still, to make Acorn Cottage a more resilient home. While it can be easy to either feel overwhelmed and do nothing, or to become obsessed with one aspect of preparation and forget to maintain balance, this simple book is a good reminder that really, it's not too late, it's not too difficult...

Just move forward one small step at a time.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday tidbits

Been carrying my camera around with me more often, and have been having fun snagging images of what is blooming around the neighborhood...

Today I noticed that the houseleeks on the next block, which started elongating their flower spikes in the last week or so, have started flowering. Some folks call houseleeks "hen-and-chicks", and while they originated in the old world, are widely distributed, at least in the various places I've lived. Apparently they are one of the most cold-hardy of the succulent family, and have been a plant friend to humans for centuries. Must gather a few starts to add to the garden here at Acorn Cottage, though not on my roof. If ever an outbuilding gets a green roof, they would be an excellent addition, might be fun to someday build a small henyard shelter that way.

One of my FB photo albums is just pictures of flowers, if you enjoy that sort of thing
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Yesterday took a trip over to Multnomah Village for acupuncture, in the hope of affecting some of my ongoing health oddities. the practicioner I saw had a number of sensible suggestions, and the treatment brought some almost immediate changes. I know that for most folks the idea of finding acupuncture relaxing seems counter-intuitive, but done properly, I have always found it so. Did my best to not fall asleep with more than a dozen tiny needles in me. What can I say, I know I'm odd...
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I have admired the work of Salley Mavor for many years, and have been inspired to create some of my own pieces in that style from time to time. Like any true artist, she is always moving on with her own visions, and there is a wonderful movie that shows a bit of the process and whimsey of her latest and larger work : RABBITAT (definitely worth taking time to view...)
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Have been reading my way through The Prepper's Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster. Shall be writing up a full book report, but so far am finding it to be a useful, hopeful, and clearly written overview of many aspects of daily life that will be easier to deal with given forethought and some attention. I will say that I found that having even done something as simple as keeping some easy to eat food on hand made my life better in the previous week and a half when I couldn't work or go shopping, (when my shoulder went south). "A Disaster" does not necessarily mean a Zombie Apocalypse, it can be something as common as illness or a loss of work for a time...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

...hands of blue...

The all new handy-dandy extension grab-food-out-of-trees tool works like a charm, was able to easily acquire several dozen green walnuts in just a few minutes, while standing securely on the ground in the alleyway. They are, fortunately for my cunning plan, suitably still in the soft shell stage.

Once I find a suitable container for steeping, the green walnuts will be cut into eighths, and with a few friendly spices, will spend the next few months tucked away in the pantry, yielding up an aromatic elixer, that will eventually be filtered, sweetened (and diluted!)

I'm tempted to also try turning some of the lemon peel stashed in the freezer into limoncello*, though I do remember an unfortunate evening when there was a sudden gust of gravity that attacked my chair while sitting around the campfire at one of our household encampments. As I recall, there was some limoncello involved in that particular anomaly, so it might be dangerous.

oh, and those hands of blue...just figured that rather than dyeing my hands dark brown, I'd play it safe and break out some of the latex gloves from the first aid shelf. Walnut juice has been used as an effective dyestuff for centuries.

*limoncello recipe
*another limoncello recipe
*yet another limoncello recipe

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

tool-using Tuesday

in which our plucky heroine is grateful for fearless tinkering, access to tools and hardware, and adds yet another Useful Gizmo to the Acorn Cottage Arsenal...

Last night my relatively new hand held shower head: the one that can be turned on and off while in use, (thereby saving gallons of water with every shower*) developed an alarming sudden ability to spew a spout of water out the switch, which decorated the entire bathroom with excessive enthusiasm. Not appropriate! Cut my ablutions short, and cleaned up the puddles.

At first, it was not at all apparent how to get inside the shower head, which seemed to be solid molded plastic. Then it occurred to me that there might be a reason why the ends of the on/off buttons were faceted rather than rounded; some gentle twisting and the on/off buttons were discovered to be two halves of a single bar, supposedly furnished with two O-rings... One of said O-rings was somehow missing a large-ish chunk, which explained the spraying water everywhere scenario.
Fortunately, a trip to the hardware store was able to supply a suitable replacement O-ring, and on re-assembly, the showerhead works quite well again. It wasn't certain that would be the case, since the dimensions of the little O-ring were not exactly the same thickness, but the I/D and O/D were correct, so it was worth a 40¢ investment. Will get a few more to keep (labeled with function) in the bathroom cupboard in case of future necessity.

Whilst at the hardware store, I once again ogled the fruit picking gizmo that has been on my wishlist for several years; was up high on one wall, and the price was not visible. Decided to just go ahead and ask, after all, the common wisdom of "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" is not always true... shure 'nuff to my surprise, it was only $15 for the entire shebang! coated fruit-picking basket and a two piece wooden pole, with steel attachment sleeve to attach the whole thing together, adding an 8ft reach into the sky, for gathering foodstuffs. Huzzah!

My intent is to use this immediately, for picking some of the green walnuts from the tree in the alley. Have long been reading about nocino/liqueur de noix, a green walnut liqueur, made by steeping the unripe nuts in alcohol. Will be an interesting experiment. The fruit picker will come in handy for other fruits later in the year as well, it seems to me to be a good idea to acquire Useful Tools as life and the budget allows.

Monday, July 4, 2011

media Monday - hope

Y'know that I find a lot of music online, either old favorites or songs and/or artists new-to-me but well worth the listening. Terry Windling has a feature, Tunes for a Monday Morning, on her blog The Drawing Board, that has led me to all kinds of wonders, just as her writing does. Though she lives in the magical land of Dartmoor nowadays, she grew up here in the USA, and I could do no better than to share with you some of her words for today, and one of her musical choices. In these days of diminished expectation and hard times a'coming round, it helps to remember the gem that Pandora found remaining. Back in 1775 and today as well, there is always hope...

John Mellencamp's music ... embodies for me the essence of a certain slice of pickup-truck, working class America: those big-hearted, left-leaning, union-joining, hard-working, open-minded, racially/culturally mixed, quick-witted, generous-spirited men and women that are the backbone of so many communities all across the country. (Mellencamp himself has done a lot of work for rural poverty issues and is one of the founders of Farm Aid.)
~ Terry Windling

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sunday snippets

In the last few days, between times of rest, and self-care for the cranky shoulder, there has been a fair amount of walkabout, as walking is both free, healthful, and a good antidote to boredom. While out doing errands and replenishing the fridge, I stopped in at the Hollywood Library (the one with the big wall mural of all the Beverly Cleary neighborhoods) and noticed this stained glass window in the entryway.

There are all kinds of flowers blooming round about the cottage; eventually 'twould be great to actually plant some, but I've a grateful heart for the robust and feral beauty that comes my way. Near the front door, this foxglove sent up a spike between the branches of the harlequin glorybower. Hopefully it will seed more fox cubs around the doorway, as they are lovely in shady places.

Today next to the henyard, a different color of red caught my eye, must have been planted by the squirrels, or some wild bird...

Two years ago, the young Akane looked like this, and now, while it is still not even five feet tall, it has branches, and several apples!

Started laying down cardboard in the old henyard, to keep down weeds 'till garden beds can be built. Looked up, and saw all these unripe plums!! There is a feral plum tree sapling growing wedged in the narrow space (about a foot wide) between the back of the shed and the chainlink fence, and it is getting larger every year. If the wild critters don't get them all, I might have some of my favorite fruit growing within reach...
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On the way home, my down the street neighbor Misty was out on her front porch with friends and housemates, and we chatted for a while. She warned me that she had lost a chicken the day before to a big raccoon, and to be careful.
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On Thursday night C stopped by on her trip south and stayed overnight here at the Acorn Cottage BnB, allowing her to head out rested in the morning, and us to have some visiting time, which happens all too rarely these days. Lots of good talk ensued, and as she is the Queen of Dairy Products, there are two small tubs of fresh goat cheese, and homemade feta currently on hand to enjoy. She also encouraged me to try making my own yoghurt - it sounds both frugal and relatively simple. Sometime in the next few weeks I may attempt to earn the Resiliency Ranger badge for dairy product 101... homemade Greek-style yoghurt.
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For the last few months I've been exploring online sources to help with my desire to become more prepared for various potential futures. There are blogs and websites all along the spectrum from sensible to strange, from everyday to extreme. I find that there are folks who have sensible advice and all sorts of useful information; one blog that I check regularly is The Apartment Prepper. Bernie has written a book, The Prepper's Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster, and my copy to review just arrived in yesterday's post. I'm curious to see where I am doing well and to get ideas for ways to improve. Stay tuned for a book report soon...