Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Year of Hemming

My Dear Husband (DH) and I seldom shop. We are just not very interested in fashion or crowds or nicknacks. We go to the grocery store weekly and buy clothing as needed, but we just don't go out very often to shop. When we do find things we like, we tend to buy enough to last for a long time. Maybe it will be a year or two before we shop again for that item.
Needless to say, our clothing is worn repeatedly until it is almost falling apart. I had noticed the DH was looking a bit ragged at the hems of his pants and realized that I had never hemmed those pants. After looking at several of his pants, I discovered that most of his pants were in good shape, except the part that drags on the ground under his shoes. So I decided to Hem them. I cut off the old stuff and made new hems.
This activity was inspired by the purchase of several new sewing devices. One was a spiffy new sewing machine with computerized parts. And the second was a top of the line Serger machine. All of these were meant to take up space and make sewing more enjoyable. AND they did.
But while I was busy sewing new hems for the old pants, I realized that about 1/2 of the old pants were worn beyond repair. I was able to save about 4 pair of pants but 6 pair had to go. These I replaced with new pants. All of the new pants needed to be hemmed. The Skinny jeans were hemmed on the wonderful new, outrageously expensive Serger machine. It was fast and powerful and the job was done in a flash (2 days). The other pants required a slightly different approach. First cut off the excess, serger the edge, and perform the blind hem on the leg.
Now the wonderful computerized sewing machine had all the stuff I needed, but gray thread. So I finished the skinny jeans, and the cutting and finishing of the edges in black. But the need for Gray Thread slowed down the rest of the work. I managed to get that on a visit to the sewing store. Then I ran away for a four day vacation. I came home and needed to prepare for Christmas eve. And of course, I was not going to work on Christmas Day. That meant that this project was going to get done before New Year, but after Christmas.
Why does it take me so long to get these tasks done? Because there are so many competing activities and only so much time and energy. I have now managed to make one quilt on the new computerized sewing machine and hem 14 pairs of pants on the wildly expensive serger.  I have made one or two other things on the serger, but hemming seems to be the most important thing it can do.
And you might think that I am done, but no. I have two pair of pants for myself to serger hem. I have already serger hemmed 4 pair for myself this year. In all, I will have 16 pair of pants hemmed using the serger as at least part of the hem process.
In my little mind, this tool was way worth the outrageous price. It got me excited about taking classes and learning new techniques. I have spent hours (and dollars) getting materials and parts so that I can stay in my room and play all day every day.
Now I can grow my own cotton, spin it into yarn, weave it into cloth, sew it into clothing and adorn it with various stitch options. Aside from going to the grocery store, I may never need to shop again, except for thread. Now if I get solar power and go off the grid, I can be .... no, that is just too much out of the loop. I can still pay for electricity and gas. I am not ready to go live in a cave with a goat.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Eduard's Father's Mother's cookies

I have a recipe for a spice cookie that is downright Middle Eastern. The types of spices used are almost all imported from the Asian area, yet it claims to be European in origin. So let me show you this marvelous cookie.
In the USA it is called a cookie. In Europe it might be a biscuit. The German name is Mandelschnitzel- or Almond shingles/slices. This cookie contains cardamom from India, Cinnamon from Ceylon, Mace which is the out husk of nutmeg (I am not sure of the origin) and Allspice which is curiously from North America. I suspect the original recipe used clove but I am not sure. There is a lot of sugar, some eggs and wheat flour- fine white wheat flour.
These cookies have no extra oil in them except what is in the egg yolk. They have almonds and walnuts which supply nut oils. In Europe, almost all the ingredients would be imported.
This recipe came to us from Eduard's side of the family. His grandparents traveled in Saudi Arabia extensively and other parts of the middle east. They were exposed to all types of cooking, baking and the smells of the markets. This recipe alone has survived. I am not certain if this recipe was gathered from the travels or handed down from generations that are even farther back in time.
Eduard's family originated somewhere near France. There is a bit of Ethnic middle Europe look to the family photos. As some point the family ancestors left the France area and migrated into Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. Then they ended up in the United States. Since I can only determine a little of the past migratory route, I know that for a period of time, the grandparents were in Montana, then Colorado. And eventually, Eduard's father came to Southern California.
This recipe became a favorite of Eduard's mother and she made it for the holiday season. It became a favorite of Eduard, and now I make it for the holiday season.
Here is the recipe:

2 cups of sugar
2 cups of flour (all purpose or cake flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 pound ground walnuts
1/4 pound ground almonds
2 tablespoons freshly ground cardamom
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Mace
1/2 teaspoon Allspice
4 eggs separated

Set oven for 350f (usa not metric).  Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar and beat until light peaks form. Add egg yolk, spices, flour, and baking powder. Stir to incorporate. Then add nuts all at once and stir to incorporate. Don't beat much as you don't want to develop the gluten in the flour.
The original recipe required you to form the cookies and rest them overnight on the cookie sheet. Dust with flour, turn them over, and bake. I found this to be too much work. So I use a scoop or spoon and make 1 inch balls (12 to a cookie sheet) which I place on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Then flatten the balls with a damp finger or spoon. Bake them immediately at 350f for 12 minutes or until just starting to turn golden brown on the edges. I cannot tell any taste or texture difference between the long rest method and the spoon scoop method. I suspect there were other reasons for this baking method which were not explained along the way.
This recipe will make 4 dozen (48) good size cookies, but you can make them smaller and bake them 1 minute less.
In our house, I make this recipe several times because Eduard likes to give them away to friends and family. And I have to admit they are kind of addictive. The spices go well with hot tea late at night. He likes his with coffee. The cardamom flavor and smell lingers in your nose and mouth for a long time. These cookies would store well for a long time in an air tight container, except that Eduard usually finishes them before they have much time in the jar.

The History of Food is our current topic of study during our evening hours. We have lectures and books to help us understand where spices originated, how past generations ate and prepared foods, and how time influenced eating habits. These cookies are definitely indulgences at any time in history except now, however, they may have originated before Victorian times. This is because the early use of sugar was in preparation of meats and sauces. The push to use sugar only for sweet dessert foods came at a later time in history (around 1600) when the discovery of the new world led to more sugar cane production. The use of Allspice, a new world spice, is also an indication that this particular recipe has been adapted to more recent times.

So it is December and I am baking cookies. The house smell exotic and fragrant with spices. I am searching for my tea stash. Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Adventures in Pumpkinland

Last September, my sweet heart and I traveled to San Jose. On the drive home we explored garlic stands, artichokes and finally pumpkins. We indulged in 3 great looking squash(es?). After returning home, we admired out haul. We took pictures. I will post one at the end of this.
I love to make home made pumpkin puree for soups, breads and pies. Pumpkin can be in many different food creations. But I am pretty picky about texture and taste. Not just any old pumpkin will do.
My normal blend of squash uses Kabocha, a Japanese type pumpkin blended with a more traditional pie pumpkin. I like the sweetness and smooth texture of Kabocha, but it is a bit dry. Pie pumpkin is a bit grainy and wet. Together they make the best of both worlds.
The first pumpkin was very sweet, kind of beige looking and not too big, with a texture close to regular pumpkin. The second that I cooked was gray green and large. It was a bit like the blend I like to make- Kabocha and pumpkin together.  The third one got to sit on the table until after Halloween because it was just so darned orange and squashy.
After cooking two Kabocha and two big pumpkins, I needed some time off from scooping. The freezer was full and the pumpkin looked so pretty. That should have been a big orange flag. It looked to pretty to be true. It was called a Cinderella Pumpkin, or Fairytale pumpkin. These also come in white, but I got the reddish orange one. Trouble.
About two weeks after Halloween, I notices a gray spot on the pumpkin. Yikes! It was starting to rot. So I scheduled time to cook it quickly. I should not have bothered. After cooking the thing, it released a massive amount of water/juice. It just disintegrated in the pan. But I went ahead and scooped it out to see what it would do. It kept disintegrating into water and mush. So I tasted some. Yech. Bitter and bland, very orange and watery, kind of slippery but not quite slimy.  This was the worst pumpkin I have ever seen cooked or tasted. As it sat in the bowl it continued to release water.
I hate to go to the trouble of baking it and cleaning it, just to toss it out, but this bowl of yech is going to the compost, asap.
And then, I get to clean up the dishes. Oye! what a wasted morning.
Fortunately for my friends and fellow foodies, I have lots of good pumpkin pulp in the freezer waiting for me to make pies and such.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Income Tax

Some people think the tax deadline is April 15. With extensions, it seems to mean June but really means October 15. That is the drop dead deadline. Well, not really. Actually, if the government owes you money, you can file it even later.  And if you owe them money you can pay a penalty and interest when you eventually file. Every year, the weight of taxes hangs over our heads until we file and get it over with. It is a complicated matter full of receipts and calculations and percentages.
During the year, I have a box. All receipts go into the box. At the end of the year (theoretically) the box is organized and the year is separated out by type of bill, etc, in monthly order and misc. useless stuff is tossed. This is theoretical because it doesn't necessarily happen in that much of an organized way.
I start with a separate check register for each year. Tax deductible items are circled in the book to remind me to look at them- car registrations, medical bill payments, Turbo tax purchase, whatever may be a deductible item. Dec 31, the register is dumped into the box with everything else and a new one is started. This has been the best plan so far.
During the next couple of months, all the various 1099's and other documents arrive so that we can actually prove our income and expenses. These go into the separate tax folder. My husband thought of this part.
Usually, around the end of March , we decide to file an extension. It requires us to do some preliminary work on the taxes to see if we have paid enough. We almost always pay way too much, but you have to do this anyway. After the extension is filed, we congratulate ourselves on getting this far and try to find time to sort the box.
You may have noticed that it is now April and there are 4 months of receipts stacked on the old receipts. This makes the job more complicated. We should have a second box, but that would be way too organized for us.
In June, we start to point fingers at each other about who will do what when and by the end of July we have about 1/2 of the taxes done. But it is too hot to sit on the floor and sort the new year receipts from the last year receipts. August the pressure is on. September, sleepless nights from heat and worry about taxes.
Finally, the need overcomes the lethargy, and I sort the box. The first half of the tax prep is already entered and I am the only part letting down the team. Papers scattered over the floor, fan on, stapler in hand- I am done in 3 hours. Actually, I am done sorting, but still need to enter the information on the tax program. Another 2 hours.
This year, we were done before the drop deadline. Not by much, but better than last year. I also spent time organizing this years documents before putting them back into the box. This will make January easier. And I have resolved to get a second box so that there is only one year at a time in the box.
Just so you know, I have been doing this for 40 years. I am not a tax newby. I am just not very organized at home.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The New Year

All over the world, the new year starts at different times. January 1 is just an arbitrary moment on a calendar. Oct. 1 or Sept 4, or a certain phase of the moon are just as reasonable as any other moment. So I have made in my life a time when the New year starts- Autumnal Equinox. At this time I resolve to focus on my own needs more than those of others. I pay more attention to my exercise and health needs, diet and energy. I also try to get more of my own projects done and work on my creative endeavors.
In this last 12 month cycle, my father slipped into a nursing facility and later died in January. My mom decided to move to a place near her "friends" which made it more difficult for me to help her, so I stopped helping. I got lots of work done on the house but it is not finished. And I have learned a great deal about sewing equipment and weaving.
I have also had some disappointments and some great successes. My son and Siqi his girlfriend came to visit and they became engaged. My children came to vacation with me in Alaska. We had a wonderful time together. And other family members continue to act as they have in the past, so I really should not be surprised. Yet for some reason, continuing in stupid behavior is really something I can't understand. Even when I do it myself.
I have resolved for this year, to focus more on myself and to try to be less of a nitwit. I want to make smarted decisions and be less emotional. I want to say goodbye to really annoying people. And I want to embrace the more balanced and functional side.
Be strong, I say to myself. You can do this. Make change you want to see in the world in yourself first.
I have finished Eduard's blanket. Now I want to finish mine. Finding the time to get all my stuff done so that I can actually finish something seems to elude me. But I am going to do this and make a path to the garden, to the shed, to the wooly room, and through the garage.
I need to sell some furniture and spinning wheels, and maybe a loom or two. It is time for some more stuff to go out.
And more peace to come in.
Peace be with you, as well.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Little Heartbeats

My summers seem to be really full of activities and work. We just finished spending 2 weeks helping the City of Encinitas and the performers of my favorite concert festival- Ipalpiti (heartbeats).
It started with some small issues on the Ipalpiti web site where there was a disconnect with the Encinitas Arts web site. After some poking and prodding, we were able to buy tickets to all the events. Then a call went out to help get the musicians from the airports to the Encinitas location. One was coming into LAX (Los Angeles) and the rest into SAN (San Diego) on the same day. I drove to LAX and back while Eduard drove to SAN twice in one day. But it does not stop there. After getting to LAX, my musician's luggage was vacationing in London. It had been wandering around for 4 days and finally decided to head to LAX. Except the musician was headed to SAN Diego by car with me. After much confusion, the airline agreed to forward the luggage to SAN. We drove for 3 1/2 hours in slow traffic and got to Encinitas safely. I then went with Eduard to the SAN airport to get the last musician at 11pm. Her luggage was with her so there was no drama. At 1 am we rolled into bed. It was a very long day.
Then the call went out, that six more musicians needed rides from SAN in the following week. I was again on duty. There were some problems with overlapping flights and one of the musicians had a different driver.
We did have some lovely concerts before the next driving assignment so I was busy being lulled and wooed by violins and cellos. Eduard was making home roasted coffee in the mornings and spoiling our little heartbeats. And finally, the lost luggage from LAX showed up in SAN.
My various SAN runs  kept me very busy and I was meeting some lovely people. We had made plans to host 2 musicians to Greek dinner and another hostess joined up with us for a lively, chatty and tasty evening. Then more wonderful music. My last airport run was on a Thursday in the late afternoon. Bad traffic down and back, but he was at the hotel by 8:30pm.
We had a fabulous dinner with 5 wonderful musicians and some Mariachis on Friday night. There was a grand concert on Saturday. And they all left for Los Angeles on Sunday. Mixed in with the music was a sick musician and a run to the Doctor. There was the OTHER LOST LUGGAGE from Luthansa Airline which finally showed up 6 days out and after a 4 hour shopping trip with the girls. Poor Eduard. He got to hold the clothes while I went to the airport in rush hour.
When it was over all the luggage was accounted for, the ear was feeling better, the heat was sticky and the last concert got rained into the gymnasium. Dinners were fun, people were happy, and E and I were really tired.
I am packing now. I have a trip to Alaska in a short time. The fun never stops in the summer.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Blog is Brewing

I have just spent 4 days working my little feet off at Black Sheep Gathering 2015. I do this every year. This is the first year that I flew up.
I got up at 3:30am, dressed, final packing and into the car by 4am to pick up flight partner. TSA at 5:30 for a 6:45 flight. You have to be there at least 30 minutes before the flight and 45 minutes before if you want your baggage to go, too. We got there early enough.
Flight to Oakland, change planes, stand in line, on to Portland. We got there about 11:15a.
I didn't realize that it would take an hour to check out the car. I suppose that it matters that the office to check out people had only one person and two shuttles to take you to the car area- 15 minute drive. I will remember this for the future- Thrifty is cheaper because no one works there.
The Southwest flight was good. A bit more leg room and seat room than the others and more baggage allowed, but flying is still difficult. Dry air, lots of sitting, cramped arms, exit shuffle. I am tired before I even get there.
So after getting the car, we drove to Eugene, which is supposed to take 2 hours. It is now 12:30p and we have had no breakfast or lunch. We decide to stop partway down and it takes us 10 minutes to find the Olive Garden after leaving the freeway. Signage fail. This is why McD is so popular. Tall signs. Easy to find. After an hour lunch, we again hit the road. Traffic in Portland area is not like L.A. or S.D.  Thursday at 2pm we had slinky stop and go traffic for no reason what so ever. When it moved, it was 60 in a 65 zone and 50 at other times, with 80 mph angry drivers trying to zigzag down the road.  We got to Eugene at 3:15, just a bit rattled and really tired.
I checked into the sale area to start work at 4pm after dropping stuff at the hotel room. Mags was a champion and helped us.
The venue was all new and messed up so I was on the fly the whole time but we made a plan within 15 minutes and we were off and running.  We checked in fleeces until 8pm, then moved all the tables into the secure room. We moved heavy tables with fleeces piled on with no men to help.
RANT 1- where is that famous upper body strength when you need it? Where's the beef? Yo! Guys! Man up and give the girls some help. I will bring beer if it helps.
We were in bed by 9p after a light dinner.
Thursday- long, challenging, unrewarding, at the same time, valuable. It was just the beginning of the Wool Show mania. Stay tuned for Friday.

Friday, May 22, 2015

My Fiber Obsessions

When I was 7, I learned to sew on a Necchi electric machine that belonged to my mother. My grandmother had a Singer. When I graduated from High School I asked my mother to buy me a sewing machine for a graduation present. She bought me a new Singer in a cabinet  with a bunch of cams for making different stitches. Truly, this was not a very good machine and the bobbin tension issues drove me nuts. After about 3 years a cam part broke and it could not be repaired. I eventually traded it in on a simple Riccar (made by White).
I used the machines for embellishing clothing with lace and trim. I would hand embroider the items. It was great fun to make unusual clothing. 15 years late that same clothing style was all the rage. But I had moved on. I was making quilts and doing needle point and cross stitch. What I really needed was a good construction machine that could sew through several layers of fabric. The Riccar failed after about 10 years and there were no parts for it. I had it made into a simple, straight stitch only machine and it has worked for that purpose for 25 years. But at that time, I also purchased a Viking/Husky machine. It had more stitches and could be used in clothing construction. After 3 years, it was a constant repair patient. What is with these crappy machines? I finally put all my sewing away and haven't sewn for 8 years. Until this year.
The Riccar was traded for a BabyLock Melody. The Viking is in the shop (again and maybe for the last time because I will probably get rid of it). I have a Bernina Serger which I think I have now repaired and a top of the line Baby lock Ovation. And the queen of all this is the quilting frame and sewing machine (Grace and Juki combo).
I weave my own fabric and can't be bothered by these dysfunctional machines. I need some quality. So how would I know if they really are quality. The others seemed good for about a year. I bought the warranty just in case. And I am relying on the word of a close friend who sews all the time and has had problems with other machines but seems happy with these.
So now, I make my own yarn, knit, weave, sew quilts, and am trying to get full circle back to making my own clothing with embellishments. It is a small, round world.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Black Out Day

When my children were younger, we used to have an occasional black out day. That meant we turned off the electricity breaker box and went without - lights, tv, internet, computer, garbage disposal, dish washing machine, clothes washing machine, etc. We kept the freezer and refrigerator doors closed so that the cold was preserved. We cooked on gas outdoors or indoors lighted with a match. Water heater had a pilot light, so we could still bathe, by candlelight. It was fun, like camping.
Now my children are all grown and gone. I haven't had a black out night since the drunk down the street hit the power box in 2006. I think I need to do this black out thing more often though.
I have a loom that needs no power, just light. I have a spinning wheel that needs no power, just feet. I can see myself being busy for months with very little power on. I still have candles from the last time I did this with my children. And matches, although they are very old. I can barbecue stuff and heat water in a pot.
But I think it might be a better thing to try a NO WATER DAY. All day, no water. No toilet water, no shower, no dishes, no washing hands. Wait a minuter there. No washing hands? EWEEW! I am freaking out on that one. Maybe I can find a bucket to put water in for washing hands.
The idea that when you turn on the faucet nothing comes out is so un-imaginable for most of us that we would not even know how to prepare for it. All that earthquake preparedness stuff is meaningless if you have never tried it. How about 3 days with no washing hands. My mind quakes at the thought.
So I think it is time to do the NO WATER DAY combined with the NO POWER DAY just to see if I can prepare in advance for calamity.
I know that it is not fair to know the day in advance and store up water and foods etc, but it will give me a taste of things to come. I have some trashcans in the back yard that don't leak. I can fill one for toilet water if necessary. I have some very large pots to fill with drinking water and enough to make one just for hand washing water. I feel better knowing that I can have clean hands even if I can't take a bath. And in the dark, I may smell dirty, but you won't know how dirty I look.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Little Bit Of Heaven

After a month of cleaning and clearing, in my spare time, I have managed to get the Front courtyard cleared, raked, all the way to the grape arbor. The Grape arbor is where we grow three different kinds of grapes, but it is mostly where we hang our hammocks. This is the area where the construction crew dumped all the rocks from the digging. We have now re-located all the rocks, leveled the piles of dirt, and kept the trees alive and fruiting. I feel a major accomplishment in this.
The side patio still needs to be painted. It is raw wood and must be sealed and protected. We weed whacked some of the area earlier and still have some to do. And I have started tying up the grape vines so that we will have shade over the top of the arbor.
I was really hoping the over the weekend, we could actually put out the hammocks and have a swing together.
If I look at the back of the yard, the pile of fencing is getting smaller. We are cutting up the old fencing material and putting it in the wood pile for the fireplace fuel. There has been way more scrap wood than we have been able to burn this winter. It just never got cold enough to have a fire. Our utility bill was quite low all winter because the lights are all low wattage now and we didn't use much natural gas. But the energy going into the yard remodel is quite high.
After I get the side yard cleaned up a bit more, I will start getting some plans for the room addition. The side yard is where all the old landscape items were piled. Bricks, step stones, pipes, hoses, excess stuff, garden stuff, etc. And in between my garden beds, all the excess dirt got dumped. I have now started moving the dirt to the back fence where I have a new bed for the cotton planned. After moving the dirt, I will be able to plant the seeds and start digging out the old plants. I have an abundance of stepping stones which I have been placing in various locations. I made a small walk to the hose bibb in the front. I have used some to control a gopher area next to the patio. I have used some around the new building/shed for gopher control. And I am surrounding my garden beds with them to make walk ways and control weeds. I expect to have this done over the month of MAY. And during this time, I will cut up the wood, old hoses, old pipes and old tree stumps. Does that sound too ambitious? Maybe.
I have travel plans and would like the yard to survive while I am gone. I also have visitors coming in July and need to get my spare room cleaned out for guests. All in all, I think my plate is pretty full. But it is a happy thing. I am making progress on my goals.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Sounds of Silence

For the last four months, I have had construction happening almost every day on my home. Fences, gutters, drains, walls, concrete, and small out buildings have kept my yard and activities messy and hard to organize. Today, there is silence. It is allowing me to think about how pleasant my life is when things slow down and return to routine and predictable.
Quality of life is not just about having money or a clean environment. It is also about having some control over your time and energy. It is about having some way of directing your life to accomplish the goals you want to see happen. Right now I am starting to clean up the mess of some of this energy. While trying to make goals happen, a big pile of stuff got moved around, dumped or shifted so that not one part of my yard is useable without struggle. This is because the Goal has not been reached, only started. It takes a long time to get all this work done.
So now, it is time to focus energy on clean up, but also focus energy on pushing away distractions and "disturbing" influences. The EVIL EYE. (Not to be confused with the Chicken Eye.) The Evil Eye is silent but directs discomfort and distress toward the person it falls on. At least that is what the stories seem to suggest. What I find is that the Evil Eye actually triggers internal struggle over good and evil causing people to choose bad behaviors over good ones. Like not telling the truth over truthfulness. Or avarice and envy over contentment with ones earned goods. There are many ways to attract the Evil Eye.
So how do you protect yourself from this "fluence". Honestly, it is a constant struggle. Vanity and pride will cause you to think you can be done with it with little effort. But the reality is that these influences will challenge you all your life in one way or another. I find that I need silence sometimes so that I can focus myself on my goals and not get swayed by these influences- like greed or envy. In the course of my construction, I have chosen to keep things simple and functional. But sometimes, the wildly ornate, showy, and expensive pops up and wants to be my friend. Everyone seems to have an expensive and elaborate idea for my yard. Truly, I can come up with my own wild expenses. I don't need other ideas. But keeping other people from influencing my designs and plans is very hard.
We are nearing the final building segment and the irrigation plan with landscape plants. Do I want the most expensive sprinklers or drip lines or bubbler or conventional timers? Am I going solar? Is there stained glass windows in my future? Maybe some of those invisible screens and some awnings or electric shades? Where is that catalog with all the fancy home designs? Exactly what I don't need.
So as I try to avoid sales pitches and other people's designs, I am also trying to solidify what I want and what can be done on my budget.
Sometimes, I think I have it under control. But I know I must be vigilant even so. The work happening here is what I will have till the end of my time. I want it to be right for me and my sweetheart husband.  Thankfully, I have a day of silence to sort out my thoughts and get my energy focused on our goals.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Winding up the cotton experiment

I have been spinning my cotton for 6 months. I have now completed spinning 2014 and it made 1 pound 1/2 ounce of spun cotton. And about 2 pounds of seeds.
My 2013 cotton made less- about 3//4 pound and 2012 made about 1/2 pound. When all is said and spun, I should have about 2 pounds of yarn +/- and way too many seeds.
Now it the time to plan a project on the loom with this cotton. It is surprisingly consistent in size and I am thinking a long warp of commercial natural color with the homegrown, hand spun cotton as the weft. But then my mind wanders off to colors and possible fabric for clothing items. Would an indigo dye pot be the answer? Or some of that olive green? do I want towels or a shirt?
I am getting ahead of myself because I still have 4 months of spinning until the last is done. But planning the project is the fun part for me.
Maybe I should just make the items already on the loom and spin the cotton before I start mentally weaving something. But it is very exciting to get this close after three years of working to make enough cotton grow, harvest, gin, and then spin.
My garden plot of cotton was 5 ft wide and 10 ft long. In the third year, it made enough cotton to weave fabric or knit fabric for a shirt. It took about the same amount of water as a lawn or fruit tree. I deep watered one time each week. I didn't weed much after the first year. The cotton plants have deep roots. I fertilized one time per year in the spring. I would say that this is a relatively easy plant to grow. Totally organic, low water needs, and quite productive. I am growing Pima cotton varieties and will again try some of the colored cottons next year.
So back to the wheel. I have more to do before I can plan with my loom.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Hot Water

When my grandmother was young and my father was a baby, it was 1929. Their home had an outhouse for that kind of stuff, but bathing was done in the kitchen in a metal tub. My grandmother would warm the room with the wood stove and heat water for the bath which was set in the middle of the floor.
When the room and the water was warm enough, my mother washed the baby on her hands and knees in the tub. She would dry him off, dress him warmly and put him aside in a playpen while she bathed my grandfather in the same water, but now a bit warmer from the second batch of heated water.
When they were warm and dry and clean, she would then bathe herself in the same water, same tub. Then after dressing herself, she would scoop out the water and dump it into the sink which drained out into the yard. She was fortunate to have a water pump from the well inside the house at the kitchen and a sink with a drain so that she didn't have to haul the water from the back yard.
When the bathing was done, the tub was empty, she would go outside and put the tub on the porch. Sometimes when she went out it was snowy or freezing cold. She would hurry back into the warm kitchen and make some coffee.
One day, my grandfather decided to buy another house to use as a rental. It had a big kitchen area and porches that surrounded the house. It had two bedrooms and large dining room and living room, and most of all a small bathroom between the bedrooms. It also had an outhouse for that sort of thing, but the BATHROOM was for bathing and it had a tub with a drain and a pump for water. And a wood heater for heating the water buckets. That heater now lives in my garage as a reminder of days past.
My grandmother decided that she wanted that house and the small one they lived in could be the rental. She moved into the new house while my grandfather was at work. And they stayed married anyway. That was a very defiant moment for my grandmother. But she got a bathtub and a bathroom. In time, they built more house onto the porches and the space inside the home became more comfortable.
This week, we are reliving the days past, with a slight twist.
We had our house tented for termites and it is necessary to turn off the gas to the house and the water heater. After tenting, you have to have the gas company restart the gas and light the water heater and any other pilot lights. Pilot lights are a through back to the 1900's up to some present day appliances. It is a constantly lit flame to ignite the burner when the gas comes on. All of my other appliances have automatic electric ignitions.
After the tenting, when it is time to start the gas again, it may take several days to get the gas guy out to the house. What do you do when there is no hot water? No bathing. No laundry. No dishes. No cooking. No baking- unless you have an all electric house. So we got out the hot plates and the little gas burners and the side burner on the barbeque. We heated water by all available means. I ran some cold water into the tub and turned on the small electric room heater. Then as the hot water became available, I emptied it into the cold water in the tub until it was warm enough for my Prince charming to bathe.  This took about an hour.  And, no, I didn't bathe after him in the same tub with the same water.
But I was very happy to just be able to pull the plug and drain the tub- no scooping.
I loved my grandmother. Times were much different and it was hard just to have a daily routine. Cooking, cleaning, repairing things, making clothing, bathing, keeping warm and dry. Life was challenging and lots of work. I am blessed with clean, running water to my home and sewage that goes away to be processed. I am blessed with dishwashers and clothes washers and dryers. And a Water Heater, even if it is still waiting for the gas guy to start it up.
I am spoiled beyond belief and grateful for all of it.