Archive for July, 2010

Out of Office AutoReply

I will be out of the office all day Wednesday, July 29th attending a seminar on Water Saturation as a Means of Body Temperature Reduction.  All correspondence shall be put on hold during the conference, but promptly resumed upon return.

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We made it to the Fair, but just barely.

Last week Tuesday I sat down at the computer with a cuppa joe, taking a little break from my busyness.  Things are actually in pretty good shape, I thought to myself.  I was preparing for a lovely week up north at Mom & Dad’s cottage – some time for the kids and I to kick back, take a swim, go for a walk, find some time with my sewing machine…you know.  And the laundry was pretty well reined in, the house was not even trashed, and I had a handle on the few things I needed to tie up before setting off.  I sipped my coffee while cycling through the daily lists of blogs that I visit, and landed upon the LuSa Organics blog Clean .  She was offering some tickets to the upcoming Kickapoo Country Fair.  Upcoming as in that weekend‘NO IT ISN’T – it’s NEXT weekend!’ I shrieked at my screen.  A cold sweat enveloped me and I felt as if I were sucked into a dream – that one where you show up to school naked, having somehow forgotten to get dressed.  We had been looking forward to the Fair for many months now – some good friends had taken care of all of the details, securing campsites for our two families at a nearby state park.  There was no way we were going to miss it.  I frantically searched my inbox for that one email detailing the precise weekend of the Fair.  Curse you, purge-happy email deleter!  I ran to my phone, getting said friend on the line and tried to act nonchalant as she answered but, skipping all courtesy conversation formalities, cut to the chase and blurted out ‘When are we camping and going to the fair – this weekend or next?’ ‘This weekend’ she said.  Damn.  I had put it on the calendar for next.  Damn, damn, damn.

So some plans were shuffled around.  I made a call to Andrew, declaring myself Official Idiot.  He was gracious and flexible.  Up North time was cut short and Friday was spent mostly traversing the state from North to Home to West.  Can you imagine where this story is headed?  Can you see from this vantage point (like we were unable to) that sometimes lots of vacation crammed into a teeny-tiny pocket of time is actually too much?

Nonetheless, we made it.  We set up camp Friday night, woefully noting some key camping necessities missed in the hasty packing.  Next week was when I had planned on pulling out the camping gear and organizing it for the upcoming trip.  We hunkered down for the night, sheltered from the all-night heavy rain and thunderstorms, and I spent Night Three of consecutive sleeplessness due to The Boy, at that moment cutting some shiny new teeth.

The Fair on Saturday was an oasis – so many great things for the kids to see and do and eat.  I managed to catch a talk about extending the garden season with a napping boy strapped to my chest.  I got to see in person the spinning wheel I’ve been coveting from afar.  Why I didn’t unstrap that boy and take up her offer to try it, I don’t know.  But I’m kicking myself now.  We even got to rest our feet for a bit to enjoy the sounds of The Squeezettes, a mostly-female accordion band.

All day Saturday we Faired and fared well.  That night, The Boy woke up three times.  We returned to the fair on Sunday for the delicious Organic Valley breakfast, but as it turned out, even the creamiest of biscuits and gravy were no match for four straight nights of sleep deprivation.  If you were there, you may remember me as the epically crabby Momma hollering at her daughter that Sunday morning.  She only deserved most of it.  So about 15 minutes after leaving the breakfast tent, I called it.  ‘That’s it.  I’m done.  Let’s go.’  Which was fortunate, allowing us to leave with a tiny shred of grace, before exploding with sleepy frustration and crabbiness in front of our dear friends.  Arriving home was only a slight consolation – it wasn’t until the next morning, after a remarkably decent night of sleep, that I could look into the mirror and recognize my old self again.

So regrets and apologies abound for a less than ideal experience.  Said friends are still on speaking terms with us, for which I am truly grateful.  The lucid time we spent there was really fun!  And double thanks to Rachel at Clean for alerting me to my calendar faux pas, because missing it altogether would have be much, much worse.  I’ve since checked and rechecked the remaining events for accuracy.  Now – head over to Rachel’s account of the fair and giggle at our similar photos.  Looks like Sunday was every bit as fun as Saturday.

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Quality time with The Girl

‘You know what, Momma?’ Isadora informed me yesterday in the car.  ‘You’re spending way too much time with Errol.  Always snuggling him and hugging him – it’s too much time.’  Oh.  ‘Are you saying that you need more snuggle time with me?’  Yes, in short, and how wonderful that she’s both articulate enough and self-aware enough to tell me so.  We quickly made a date for that evening, after Daddio was home, after Errol (that snuggle-hogging sweetie) was tucked in bed.  We made a date for some special watercolor painting time together.  With Momma’s special, grown-up watercolors, no less.

There was a bit of a delay in starting as I cut the watercolor paper to size, punched holes in it, and bound it into two spiral-bound Special Painting Books.  I carefully showed her the special nature of the watercolor paper, and we noted how nice and thick it was, how one side was much rougher, much bumpier than the other, to better grab the paint.  ‘That’s the paper’s tooth,’ I explained, offering a nugget of information for careful filing in The Girl’s memory vault, to no doubt be retrieved at a most appropriate time.

We made no remarkable paintings last night, mostly working on keeping the colors from muddying in the tin wells and painting samples of each color.  But it was enough.  Enough to elicit a ‘We should do this EVERY night’ comment from a contented Girl.  We just might.

Ah, it’s been years since I’ve wet a brush with watercolor paint.  I discarded the whole medium pretty early on in the Art School Years, dismissing it as too bland and timid and b-o-r-i-n-g.  Is it a sign of artistic maturity that I’ve been yearning to paint with water?  Of an aesthetic quietness that’s taken residence in my psyche, residing comfortably with the larger-than-life Fabric Aesthetic and even the Pair-Bold-Colors-and-Be-Exciting! Aesthetic?  Might be.  It must also be noted, that while I’ve had the yearning to break out the paints for quite some time, the real catalyzing factor in choosing Now was the movie “Miss Potter,” which only days ago gave me an interesting insight into the ethereal watercolor paintings of Beatrix Potter.  Watching the scenes of her satisfaction at the runaway success of her first book, I noted our own copies of her books strewn about the living room and decided she’s be most pleased, if not a little scandalized by the mess, of her presence in our home.

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Dispatched.

Our pastured broiler chickens have been dispatched to the Great Beyond.

It was our second go at both Broiler-Raising and Broiler-Butchering and it must be said that we’ve dramatically improved on both accounts.  This batch of chickens, grown big and strong on pasture, was a fierce lot of birds.  They were robust.  They were thriving on abundant sunshine, grass, fresh air.  And they were dispatched with the same reverence with which they were raised.

The deliberate action of taking responsibility for the raising and killing of 70-odd birds was not one that we took lightly, and the 2-day-long process offered plenty of time for introspection.  It was a gift, really, to be smacked in the face with the brutal reality of our survival, to see this link of the food chain under a microscope. To see the consequences of our food choices for what they are, unfiltered by the veil of grocery store packaging.  To witness firsthand the transformation of our food from vibrant animal to ‘meat’ without the editing out of the blood, the feathers, the offal.  We make choices everyday in what we choose to put into our bodies, and our choice to sustain ourselves and our children with meat in addition to vegetables and grains is one we make unapologetically.  To be able to personally accept the responsibility for this choice is a privilege; we are blessed with land and ample resources to sustain a modest portion of our food chain.  We nourish the pasture with our grazing animals, cycling the fruits of the soil through those who eat of the earth back again.  Witnessing this symbiotic loop of nourishment is one of the greatest rewards we reap, a spiritual source for sustenance that complements perfectly the sustainable nature of our physical sustenance.

Just when I felt as if I had wrapped my brain around all of this, understood better the implications of our choices, the first of our customers began arriving to pick up the birds they had reserved.  Transferring the chilled birds from the cooling tank to vacuum-sealed bags, into the hands of some of our closest friends, I glimpsed a view of a much bigger picture.  I was able to witness the service we were able to provide to these friends, taking responsibility for a portion of their food as well as our own.  They were ecstatic, radiantly grateful for the opportunity to source clean food aligned with their own food values.  And in their hometown.  Clean, green, local.  I can’t begin to express how satisfying it is on so many levels to be able to provide this for our own family, much less the families of many others.

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Skirts to Sundresses make me look like a sewing rockstar

Back in the sewing saddle, folks!  Now that we are approaching the Mid Summer mark, I thought it about time to make time for the pile of skirts in my studio destined for an upgrade to Wee Sundress.  I pounded out those suckers during a nap time, blissfully reunited with my estranged sewing machine.  That about worked out the kinks, too, and greased the wheel for some major garment sewing to come.

Do you have a little girl of your own?  Perhaps one who can’t be bothered to wear pants (if she’s even fully dressed)?  Then do yourself a favor and pull out that skirt that you tearfully ripped last summer, or those random skirts you have laying around that you’ll never wear, and whip out some sundresses.  There’s still time.  And it couldn’t be easier.

Start by measuring her chest.  Or use a sundress that she already is loving to death to get the proper chest width- it’s okay to pull it out of the dirty clothes bin for this.  Flip the skirt inside out, measure the chest width along the top edge, add a seam allowance, and cut a line from top to bottom.  You can angle the line if you’d like, making the bottom wider (and fuller) than the top.  You can also cut off the zipper portion, if there is one, because the sundress will fit over the head without any additional closures.  Sew up the new side seam, use the fabric you cut off to make two straps, and that’s it.  The already-loved sundress comes in real handy for deciding where to put the straps, and how long to make them, but you could easily figure it out with some measuring and trying on, if your model happens to be awake.

Each dress will be a little different.  This one rode a bit too high in the armpit, so I scooped it out and finished the edge with bias tape.  I also put a pleat in the front and seized the opportunity to add a flower, also from bias tape, in order to ensure that she’d wear it, and often.  Flowers are a small investment to ensure clothing acceptance.

The most important thing to remember here is that the skirt was otherwise destined for disposal, so if you screw something up, it’s no big deal.  Take the opportunity to experiment, get a little more confident in the sewing process.  Let ‘er snap! Don’t forget to add little details to make it smashing.  The taupe dress above just happened to be sitting on my table next to the yellow sheer daisy fabric, making it clear that the two must be combined.  I added the yellow strip to the already-finished dress and kicked it up a notch.

A shirt with a compelling design also begged to be elevated.

That daisy fabric proved to be irresistible, huh?  How wonderful that she now has a skirt to go with her pink and white floral top, or her pink, black, and silver striped long-sleeved shirt.

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Hey – I found my camera!

It truly is the Summer of the Volunteer in this garden.  What are you, dear squash family plant?  Are you a pumpkin?  If so, perhaps the clever ladder support I constructed with such enthusiasm will not be sufficient.  Are you a gourd?  Zucchini?  Other Squash?  I was so shocked to find you in my flowerbed this Spring!  You’ve alighted in a Volunteer-Friendly Zone, though, so grow on.  I think you’ll find good company in your Also-Volunteer Tomato neighbors.

Young Swallow on Fledging Day.  When we first spotted him, he was with a sibling on the ground beneath his nest.  The sibling took to flight quite easily, lifting off then and there in the awkward, vigorous flapping of a new fledger, but this little guy wasn’t quite ready to join his brood in the skies above the Acres.  He spent a day or two around that same area, gathering up strength or nursing an injury from the fall from the nest, but hasn’t been seen since.  We hope he’s among the graceful, mosquito-eating skydivers circling our garage regularly.

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