Friday, April 22, 2011

half-square triangles

To quote from one of Jerome's favorite films,  Wizard of Oz, "Joy, rapture!"
They finally arrived today! My envelope of half-square triangles was in the mailbox when I returned from a day of errands on this rainy Good Friday. I had been listening to a recorded version of The Aloha Quilt in my car as I drove back and forth from Onalaska. I was really in the quilter's frame of mind.

For now, I've only taken the time to read each label just to know where they come from. I haven't even peeked at the fabric combinations yet. They're from England, Scotland, Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, 5 Canadian provinces, and 44 states. And I didn't get a single one of my own back in the exchange. However did they accomplish the task?? Of the 560 who sent them, very few sent the exact same number of units. I sent 420 and was to receive 420 in return. I don't know if I'll bother to count, what will it matter?? There are also a few dozen in my collection that are unidentified, so I'll never know where they're from. That makes me a bit sad.  I haven't any idea how I'll keep track of their origins as I go about creating with them. For now it's enough just to feel the collective love and enthusiasm rising from this treasure.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

snow, a shower gift, and a waiting game

It's April 20 by the calendar but you'd never guess looking outside the windows today. Though the thermometer says 40, it has been snowing for the second straight day. I can feel that the sun wants to shine but the clouds so far are just a little too thick for the sun to penetrate. It isn't just a dusting, either. I had to retrieve the shovel from the garage. Grrr.
More pleasantly, I am happy to report that I finally finished the shower gift for my niece, whose shower was last Saturday! I don't suppose she'll mind opening my gift late. I just wish I had finished it in time. She'll think I don't care.
I had crocheted the little jacket weeks ago.
But I wanted to sew a jumpsuit to go with it.  I couldn't find snap tape for the leg openings (who wants to wrestle with clothes when changing diapers?!), so on to  plan B,  a little sundress. The pattern I used contains 5 different sizes, all printed together as multiple patterns are, so I had to carefully copy a master,  and then make a copy of each piece of the size I wanted to cut out, so I'd still have all the sizes intact for later. Then I had nothing but problems with the tension on my sewing machine. That shouldn't have happened since the machine was just serviced before Thanksgiving. It's still not the way I'd like it, but at least the seams stay sewn. Then I decided I needed to add some decoration to the simple dress that would hint at my niece's expected daughter's name, Sofia Rose. I made my first 3D rose but without Anne here to help me make the best of it, decided not to use it just yet.
That's mine on the left, next to one of Anne's. Mine looks like a lumpy cabbage rose, not the sort of thing to put on a size 9 months sundress. (I enjoyed the process and know I'll be making lots more, but later.)

So I crocheted 3 "flat" roses instead and stitched them onto the dress with little heart pearls at their centers.

For Amanda's wedding shower I had made a stationery box and filled it with various cards, etc.

I thought it would be fun to make some notecards for Sofia Rose for Amanda to add to the stationery box. I made a couple dozen assorted cards. This is one of baby Sofia's monogram straddling a rose which was hand embossed using brass stencils, a stylus, and a light box.

Of course I needed to add a pair of tights for under the dress. There aren't too many options for finding those out here in the country, but I did manage to find a pair that I hope will fit.
Then I added a children's book which we were requested to bring to the shower. Who can resist Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Sofia will be able to put her little fingers into the holes that hungry little caterpillar made eating its way through each fruit and leaf!

Now all I have to do is find a box for mailing. Whew.

Of course, now that the ground is completely covered with snow, we find out some of our fruit trees will be delivered tomorrow! I wouldn't have minded if they had taken a bit longer. What I really hoped would have come by now are my half-square triangles from the international exchange. I read this morning that the very last group will be mailed out tomorrow. That means mine should finally arrive by Monday or Tuesday at the latest. I guess that gives me time to tinker with my sewing machine's tension.....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

putting on my game face

Do birds ever wake up and ask themselves if they feel like singing?

Does rhubarb question whether or not to stretch out from the dark, snug soil into the capricious atmosphere of spring?

Do blueberries, crowded into plastic pots, driven 240 miles from the only garden they've ever known, forced to winter over in a dark garage with only an infrequent handful of snow for hydration ask themselves whether or not to swell dormant buds when dragged out into the sunlight?

For this strawberry conditions have not been even close to ideal and yet she's eager to be on with the job.

Some days I am overwhelmed and dispirited by this separation from Jerome and the responsibilities of nurturing and shaping our farm into the vision I have for it. I drag my blue self from a sleepless bed and wonder what I'm doing here. Then I catch the flash of crimson and hear a clear, eager song just outside the window. I remember a conversation with my son, Phillip, a high school math teacher and coach. We were discussing going into school to teach on days when we'd prefer to be anywhere else but in class. I asked him how he managed it and his answer was "I put my game face on" and get the job done. And today that's just what I chose to do.
We spent hours working in the flower beds which were allowed to grow wild last summer and became totally invaded by grasses and creeping charlie and gangster goldenrod. Despite the fatiguing labor there were discoveries that spurred us on. For hours before and after lunch we worked. We ache, we are poked and scratched and invaded by thorn and burr and splinter. And the garden worked her magic once again. Spirits lifted.
It is raining now and the prediction is for possible daily rain into the foreseeable future, so we may get some rest from our gardening labors for a while and get back to our inside selves. And in the morning, should doubt and sadness and questions threaten I will once again put on my game face and strive to get the job done.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

orchard layout

It's 5:30 in the afternoon and the sun is shining through a hazy sky. It's 64 degrees and breezy. My "baby" sister Terri is on her way to spend a short weekend and to attend an herb workshop with Anne and me tomorrow. We've finished getting our farmhouse as orderly as we can for now. With a little time til Terri gets here and nice weather still holding, Anne and I went out to finally mark where our fruit trees will stand in the new orchard.
I like plans to be complete and easy. It took me a few days this week to design and execute a method for measuring the orchard for tree placement but what I came up with really worked. A photo of it is below. Anne suggested I should translate my map into a fiber project of some sort. Maybe a quilted wall hanging?

I used graph paper, with each square representing a square foot. The map plots locations for 17 of the 20 dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard trees we have coming later this month. The circles represent their recommended space needs, the trunk of the tree at the center of each circle. The top of the map is north. The standard trees, which will grow the tallest, will be planted on the north side, so as not to shade the smaller trees. They will also eventually provide some protection for the trees to their south when winter winds blow.
The red lines on the map create a grid which we physically recreated on the orchard site with stakes and string. Many of the trees will stand at intersecting lines on the grid. The locations of the trees not actually on the grid were easy to measure with the strings providing reference points. The entire job took us under an hour.
Earlier this afternoon we took our first back porch tea break of the year. Pretty spot, no? I think we'll be using this spot a lot this season... how many trees are arriving later this month???

Friday, April 8, 2011

doors nearly done now

With all of the major work accomplished, we wait only for the oak boards to be fitted inside along the bottom of the patio doors and a bit of plastering in the sewing room to be able to say "Amen" to the door project. Yesterday the storm doors were installed, new exterior trim added to all 4 doors, new wood interior trim added to the patio doors, and the old interior trim put back in place (for now) around the entry doors.
Here is a quick look at the first floor doors inside and out, photos taken at the close of a long 3rd day for our two man crew.
                                                                      back door in

                                                                      back door out

                                                                        front door in

                                                                        front door out

                                                                      patio doors in

                                                                      patio doors out

It being late in the day, with camera issues and fatique making things a bit challenging, I was unable to get good shots of the upstairs patio doors, but was able to take these photos and post them to Jerome just in time for him to enjoy them before he had to rush out to conduct choir practice. I am so grateful for the technology that allows me to keep him involved in the daily goings on here. He is and always has been "the founder of the feast" for me. Thank you, sweetheart.
Today I'll put things back to some bit of order inside and do a good sweeping of the porches. That process is totally gratifying after a big job, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

our new doors are going in

Today we are in day two of our complete door replacement project. Fortunately, after some rain last night, the sun is working hard with just a few clouds moving by. Having the house in a turmoil, plastic sheeting over doorways and drop cloths on furniture, I am recalling our city house kitchen remodeling in the fall of 2009. We had the entire room gutted, walls, floors, ceiling. The project took nearly a month. We did dishes in the basement laundry tub (for a while going outside to the side door down to the basement when we couldn't walk through the kitchen to get there) had the refrigerator in the dining room and our microwave and toaster oven on the back porch. Here are before and after pictures from the northeast corner of that kitchen. The window in the first shot is the same as over the sink of the second photo.

As with any job of that scale, it always looks horrific at the beginning. I tried then, as I am trying now, to keep in the front of my mind that I have hired the very best people to do the job, recommendations of people we know and trust. Once hired and on the job,  it's just a matter of keeping out of their way when necessary, offering help when appropriate, taking lots of pictures, and being very, very complimentary and appreciative when the job is done.
Today it's the first floor patio door and the back entry door that are being installed. Here are a few shots in progress.
French door demolition site, 
new sliding doors framed in.

Now to cut out a larger opening for the new back entry door. Here are Steve and Dustin, ghostly outlines behind a protective sheet of plastic, working just outside the dining room cutting the opening. It's noisy, difficult work. Anne and I have opted to leave the immediate area while this is going on!

What is it about freshly cut wood that is so appealing? The entire upstairs smells lovely from the wood of the new patio doors there. Standing in the upstairs sun-room looking through the new doors out to the fields sloping away at the south end of our property, I am overwhelmed once again by the beauty of the landscape surrounding me here. And all the noise, dirt, worry, and inconvenience is insignificant and melts away.
More later.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Yesterday was the 5 month anniversary of my first real blog post dated Halloween. I like the idea of having Halloween as my anniversary. And so today I begin my 6th month. It's hard to remember a time before blogging. It began as a means to keep Jerome a part of what I'm up to here without him. And the side effects have been a grand surprise. I've really enjoyed it, and I've met such lovely people as a result.
It's been a long while since my last entry. Not having access to my computer while Anne and I traveled over her birthday meant I wasn't really able to blog in the way I would have liked. And coming and going rattles my brain, not to mention my emotions. Worse yet, the spring "mental tornado" season has had me in its grip and it's been hard to shake free.
This morning we woke to Mother Nature's idea of an April Fool joke. I really love snow, believe me, but I was completely ready to put it all behind me for a nice long while.

Fortunately, by late afternoon it had all melted.

Yesterday we worked all afternoon on preparations for our new orchard. That meant raking and clearing a large portion of meadow along the southern border of the plot we had marked, hauling all the rakings to our brush pile, staking and running a string along the borders to the 4 corners. Next we remeasured and marked the potting shed garden, to be a place of herbs and flowers and whimsy.
We also began sowing vegetable and flower seeds. Here is Anne preparing the little pop up  "pots" that will allow us to handle the sprouting babies without disturbing their roots.

And here is a shot of our new grow light arrangement.
There are two stands each with 3 shelves 48 inches wide. The lights are hanging shop light fixtures each fitted out with a cool and a warm spectrum T8 energy efficient tube. The entire system is on a timer, totaling 16 hours of light. So as not to overtax the fixtures, the timer shuts off the lights for a half hour break twice, and 7 hours of no light during the night. The lights hang from chains which will allow us to raise them as the plants grow. Each tray holds 50 "pots" and we have completed 8 trays so far!

Needing a break from "farming" we each took time today to work on other things. Anne has been painting and I assembled a new pussy willow wreath with cuttings from my city garden.
And after:
The wreath is destined for our new front door. All 4 of our new doors are finally scheduled to be installed next week, weather permitting.  I can't wait to share them with you.
Happy April, no fooling.