Monday, July 28, 2014

Back to Scratch

One way to end a nagging feeling of guilt is to completely remove the source.  These fabrics, all newly washed and ironed, were, until Friday, either wrapped on poles two and a half years ago for shibori or in a stack that was pre-mordanted for eco dyeing three years ago.  Everything to the left of the square is silk.  Everything to the right and including the square, linen and cotton.  Guilt at not dyeing up any of that fabric, gone.

Yes, the shibori pieces probably would have been awesome.  But I've already got pieces of shiboried silk that I haven't yet used and don't have plans to.  I've let go of the imperative to finish something I began several years ago.  And that feels great.

What doesn't feel so great a lot of the time is my back ~ actually from my neck down to my hips, I have recurring aches and pains.  Nothing major, at least not since I quit working and went on disability in 2011 from years of repetitive motion injuries to my upper right side.  Pain comes and goes and moves around.  The most difficult part for me is the fact that I'm only 65 and I feel as though I should be able to do a lot more than I really can.  Walking too far is difficult ~ my regular walk is a mile but often I have to cut it short.  I also can't stand on my feet for long periods of time.

A big part of my cutting way back on art making this year has to do with the fact that it simply hurts, physically, to do more than a little bit of anything.

The truth is, I totally burned myself out, physically, two life chapters ago.  Between 1995 and 2002, I homesteaded, solo, on rented property in the mountains of southern Humboldt.  From 1996 through 1998, I created and maintained, totally on my own, a large garden of primarily everlasting flowers on a steep, rocky hillside with no topsoil.  When I say I created and maintained this garden, which I called Rocky Rose Farm, I mean I double dug twelve 15 - 30 foot beds by hand in clay soil, continually amended them, put in a complex drip irrigation system that was a bitch to maintain because my garden water came from a low-running creek so I was constantly fiddling with the T-tape and emitter gizmos, I planted, tended and harvested twice a day in the summer around 25 varieties of everlasting flowers, I made dried flower things to sell at the local farmers market as well as marketing to stores in Eureka, I composted garden waste to the extent I was able to, I schlepped heavy bags of amendments or bales of straw down to the garden on a steep rocky path because there was no other way to get down there, I sprayed continuously to deal with insects which came from far and wide on the mountain to my organic garden, I weed whacked extensively because the plot was so wild and that weed whacking consisted of a 10-hour session done 6 or 7 times each season and was so hard on my hands, wrists and arms that I could barely unclench my fists for a week after each session.  Also, the creek inlet had to be cleaned out constantly, or the line would break, so every week I was in the creek somewhere, scrambling over roots and rocks to fix the line.

And while I was doing all that, I was also working 15 hours a week for one nonprofit or another, making beaded jewelry when my hands unclenched from the weed whacking, traveling to six or seven art shows a year to sell my jewelry, mostly in the Bay Area but also up to Bellevue, WA, Salem, OR, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, doing all the setup, tear down and booth time entirely on my own while dealing with sometimes-horrible shoppers.  And for a couple years I baked biscotti at home and sold them to all the local cafes in Garberville/Redway.  Plus, I vacuumed my 1000 square foot, two-storey cabin weekly.  And maintained my alternative power system including tuning up the generator, and changed the oil in my car.  And stacked the four cords of wood I had delivered each year and then schlepped in up to 25 armloads at a time to keep by the stove.  And gathered over 75 shopping bags full of kindling each year.  And weed whacked all around the cabin every summer.  And maintained the house water system which came from a spring and also needed to be tinkered with several times a year.  And had friends over for dinner often, baked bread regularly, and canned a lot.  And on top of all that, my landlord, who homesteaded the two parcels next to the one I rented from her, was a high-maintenance bitch. 

Holy shit!  You think I burned myself out?  There's also the fact that the intervening life chapter, between the one above and now, was also extremely stressful although not quite as difficult physically.  Still, I feel like I should be able to do more at this point in my life...although I might be out of my mind. 

Friday, July 25, 2014


Sketchbook Collage, July 2014
I picked blackberries with a girlfriend on Wednesday.  That afternoon I put up two quarts of blackberry cordial and made about a quart of blackberry syrup.  Had some syrup on vanilla ice cream last night -- Yum!

I also got a new appreciation for the little city of Rio Dell, where my pal and I picked berries.  A lot of Humboldt locals, including myself quite often, call the place "Real Dull."  But seeing parts of town that I'd never been in before made me change my mind about it.  There are beautiful rural neighborhoods and the price of real estate is really low ~ not that I plan to buy anything.  I'm jus' sayin'.

This week I read Ruth Ozeki's A Tale For the Time Being, and liked it a lot.  Recently I read Joyce Maynard's Labor Day, and then I saw the 2013 movie.  Currently I'm reading J.G. Ballard's Kingdom Come, enjoying this prophetic writer's view of 21st century living.

This weekend is Fortuna's annual AutoExpo, a BIG deal for old car lovers from all over northern California and Oregon.  Generally I stay away from these things, although I admit the cars are gorgeous.  The Fortuna Library also has its second book sale of the year tomorrow and there's a small antique fair at the Vet's Hall, so I'll be joining the throngs of people for part of the day. 

Have a great weekend!  xo

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Postcards from the Edge

Here it is, Postcards from the Edge, my nature journal artist book featuring photos of sunsets taken from the bluff overlooking Eel River Valley, just a few steps from Rose Cottage.

Before printing the images on good matte photo paper, I tried printing one on fabric, also tried printing an image reversed on a transparency and transferring that to fabric or paper.  Neither of those options showed off the magnificence of the actual colors of the sunsets.  So it was back to photo paper.

I painted backgrounds on both sides of ten 4-3/4 x 6-1/2 inch pieces of 140# watercolor paper.  Then stitched the images on with a wonky zigzag stitch.  To get that wonkiness, I used an embroidery foot with the machine set to zigzag, then manually moved the paper back and forth so the stitches would be uneven.

The hinges are stitched on strips of batik fabric.

The title and colophon panels were edge stitched before I glued on the letters and words.  Then I mounted them on the reverse sides of the first and last photo, with PVA, to cover the stitching underneath.

In other news, Diane Franklin, awesome shibori dyer and reader of my blog, has produced a wonderful new book called Dyeing Alchemy.  Some of my dyed fabric and shibori quilts are featured in the book.  But mostly the book displays Diane's magnificent shibori quilts in this great dyeing primer and workbook.  Check it out!

Monday, July 21, 2014


This is jam to write home about ~ White Nectarine Jam.  Yum!  I got 7-1/2 half pints from 6 pounds of very tasty fruit.

The process was so simple this time, after working out all the bugs in my procedure with the plum jam I made the weekend before.  The cut-up nectarines gave me 11 cups, I added 2 cups sugar and stirred it all together, then let it sit in my pot for an hour before the first boil.  I brought it to a boil for 10 minutes and cooled it three times (twice late Friday, once Saturday morning), then canned up the jam from the fourth boil.  I don't even use a canner...I just put the filled jars in an enamel pot with boiling water, then do a 12 minute boiling water bath.  Easy peasy.  I did the last two boils plus the hot water bath in the morning on Saturday.  I was finished before noon.  And oddly, no hard-water spots on the jars this time despite same water and same pot.  Go figure.

I've also been jamming on a nature journal artist book that I'll finish in the next day or two.  An old idea that I'm finally bringing to fruition.

Have a sweet week.  xo

Friday, July 18, 2014

Varieties of White

Journal Collage, July 2014
I bought a few pounds of white nectarines yesterday at a seasonal fruit stand in Fernbridge.  Fernbridge isn't a town in its own right, more of a crossroads between Fortuna, Loleta and Ferndale.  Also the home of Humboldt Creamery.  Nearly all of the agricultural land in the Eel River Valley is comprised of dairy farms.  But I digress...

I'll be making a small batch of white nectarine jam this weekend.  White nectarines are my favorite summer fruit, and the ones I got yesterday are the best I've ever tasted.  As I mentioned in my last post about jam, it isn't necessary to add pectin to stone-fruit jams.  Yesterday I learned that the pectin is in the peel.  So not having to peel the fruit makes the process that much simpler.

Have a good weekend.  It's Rodeo weekend in Fortuna, which doesn't mean anything to me although it might to you cowboys and cowgirls.  Yeehaw!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Little Sunny Stories

This is my new hybrid journal, which I'm calling Little Sunny Stories.  I designed it to be used as a regular writing journal as well as a shabby style journal I can write smaller entries in as I have in four journals now, since taking Mary Ann Moss's Remains of the Day.  For regular writing I've been using Cachet's 7x10 inch wirebound journals with 1/4-inch quadrille paper.  This has been my writing journal of choice for years.  The paper is heavy enough to carry fountain pen ink on both sides without bleeding.

Inside front cover and first page
The pages alternate between blank pages (plain graph paper) and pages that have been embellished with stitched-on stuff, pockets, etc.  And of course I can add more stuff along the way with dry adhesive.  The outside covers have images from Burpee's 1997 seed catalog done in vintage style and pages from Johnny Gruelle's Little Sunny Stories kids' book from 1940.  The inside front cover and many of the embellished pages have snippets from Burpee's reproduction 1888 seed catalog.

I didn't start using that repro 1888 seed catalog until I got into mixed media, although I've had it since the late 1990s.  Went online yesterday to see if I could get another copy since I've just about used up the one I have, and found this great site ~ Vintage Literature ~ that has a ton of cool vintage stuff on CD.  I ordered a CD of Burpee's seed catalogs from 1888 through 1927.
These Cachet sketchbooks have a removable wire binding.  I simply removed the wire, took out maybe half of the original 80 pages, embellished half of the remaining pages, alternated stitched and plain pages, added images to the covers, then put the wire binding back in.  As usual, I embellished way more pages than would fit in one journal, so I can do this same thing again in future if I want to.  And I have those removed plain pages as well.  The journal would have been way too thick with all the pages in, because of the space taken up with embellishments. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Sketchbook Collage, July 2014
I slept 11 hours last night.  Had some bizarre dreams, although my dreams usually are.  Just before waking up I dreamt that I was involved in some kind of spy organization and Mandy Patinkin was my father and head of the organization (think Homeland -- only wish I looked as good as Claire Danes).  I was going on some mission to Russia with two other women, one of whom was like a mother figure to me in bearing, not in age.  I told her I felt completely unprepared for the mission.

Some frequent dream images or situations ~ big houses with lots of rooms, climbing hills or mountains, locations in San Francisco, homes I've lived in in the past, places I worked at in the past, actors I like (it's never sexual), streets in places I've lived in (Santa Cruz, San Francisco, LA) albeit never like they are in waking reality.  I've had so many dreams about a particular organization I worked for over 20 years ago that I can hardly remember the reality of my working there.  Bizarre.

I always hoped I'd dream of great spiritual things like spirit animals, symbols, nature, etc.  But no ~ the messages come to me in rather mundane stories.  Earlier in my life these strange dream tales spoke loudly to me of things I was dealing with in waking life.  Now, I'm not exactly sure how the dreams fit into my everyday reality.  Except, perhaps, to confirm for me that I am on the right path in slowing down and removing as much stress from my life as possible.  My cockamamie dreams are stressful enough.

Finished my hybrid (regular writing & shabby style) journal yesterday.  Will post tomorrow.  I'm almost ready to start using it.

We're having typical early-June weather in Fortuna now.  Overcast and cold, often lots of wind, if we're lucky the sun will come out mid- to late afternoon.  And then it'll get hot for a couple hours before it cools off again.

Strange days.  Unusual life.  Enjoy yours.  xo

Monday, July 14, 2014

Can Do

I canned this weekend, for the first time in 15 years.  I had the good fortune to pick plums from my friends' tree while they're in Hawaii.

What you see here, 10+ half pints, is the second batch.  I ruined the first batch, way overcooking it and scorching it in the process.  The first batch became inedible prune glue.

Because I no longer have any of the canning and preserving materials I used to own, I resorted to Google to search out recipes for small batch, no pectin jam.  Pectin is not necessary with stone fruits.

So of course, I found lots of conflicting information.  Didn't I just complain about this last week re: cheesecakes?!  One jam recipe says to boil the fruit/sugar mix for a few minutes, turn off, and repeat those steps numerous times.  Another recipe says to boil the mix hard and bring up to 220 degrees.  Others say to simmer for an hour, or for many hours, or whatever. 

I tried my darndest to get the first batch up to 220 degrees, but that never happened, even though the goop was thick enough to stand a spoon up in.  The freezer test, where you put a dollop of jam on a cold plate and stick it in the freezer for two minutes and then test for gelling, worked on the first batch, but I was going for those higher degrees ala whatever recipe I was trying then.  The spoon-sheeting test, where two drops of jam turn into one, didn't work on the first batch, but I didn't learn until later that this test only works with a metal spoon.  I'd used a wooden spoon on the first batch.  Bottom line:  high learning curve (again) to recoup my canning chops.

For the second batch, I brought the fruit/sugar mix to a low boil, cooked for 10 minutes, turned the stove off and let the mix sit to room temperature.  And repeated that four more times.  Then I put it in sterilized jars and hot-water bathed for 10 minutes.  The jam looks a little loose in the jar, but after refrigeration, thickened up nicely.  But not so thick as to tear bread, which turns out to be perfect, in my estimation.  I did have to cook it up five times, instead of the recommended four, but that's because there was a lot of liquid in the fruit mix to begin with.  And that's because I froze batches of cut-up plums as they became ripe.  The water in the frozen plums contributed extra moisture to the fruit/sugar mix, necessitating an extra low boil.

Then, after the water bath, my jars came out with a powdery residue on them, which has never happened to me before when I canned in the past.  Back to Google to find out that spots and residue on jars, bands and lids happens when you can with hard water.  The solution is to add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water bath, or merely clean off the jars, etc. with a dab of vinegar after the fact.  Which is what I did.

So, I've got hard water.  Which was a good thing for me to have confirmed.  Because when I was ecodyeing three years ago, I came to suspect my water was hard, as I was unable to get much more than the same often-muddy colors regardless of plant material used, or mordants, or whether or not I pre-mordanted the fabric.  Back then I'd contacted the water department in Fortuna to get information about our water here, and nothing in the materials they sent indicated our water is hard.  Well, the proof is in the pudding, as they say.  And now that I know the water's hard, at least it is here in Rose Cottage, I see evidence of it several places around the kitchen/studio sink.

The ecodyeing ship sailed a long time ago for me, but I'm planning to make white peach jam sometime this summer.

Have a sweet week!  xo

Friday, July 11, 2014

Poppies Poppin'

What began last year as two vegetable beds slowly morphed into flower beds in front of Rose Cottage.  I put these poppies in last, a couple months ago, and wasn't even sure they'd bloom this year.  Although I do love those huge, complex flowers, I was hoping for more like the single flower varieties.  But like most everything else one looks for in Humboldt County, I couldn't find any.  Interestingly, the second flower that bloomed from that light lilac plant turned out to be quite frilly, although the same color.  I'm thinking maybe seeds from different varieties, but the same color, got mixed together to become the 4-inch plant I bought.

I did plant a bunch of poppy seeds early in the year that I got from a neighbor late last summer.  Most of those didn't come up or were disturbed when I put in other plants.  But five or six small plants did make it, and I'm hoping for blooms on those next year.  This year they're just getting their plant thing on.

Below is my succulent area, a nook between my Rubbermaid shed on the right and the brick wall.  Over the years I've covered the area with shade cloth and clear plastic.  Several of the plants here used to be in the house but they got too big.  They're doing just fine outside.  The ferns are volunteers that came up just this year.

I still have a huge pile of rusted stuff from my rusting and ecodyeing days.  Originally I thought I'd take the big stuff back to the salvage yard from whence it came...but that place went out of business not long ago.  Meanwhile, the big stuff makes nice garden art.