Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's Curtains For Me

I've been making curtains.

Breezy, flowing curtains for the bedroom...
And little checkered numbers for the cabin, complete with a ruffle...
I like the shadows of John's twig arbor showing through the panels in the cabin kitchen window...

I bought the red and tan check fabric at Hobby Lobby which was having a 30% off sale. It was just what I wanted for the cabin, but they had only three yards left, which wasn't quite enough. So I punted with some leftovers that just happened to match and instead of a ruffle, I made a straight band.

I think that what is most satisfying about making things is the problem solving that is always required. Working with what you have on hand, fixing a mistake, making adjustments to fit what your particular needs are--that's kind of fun. If it all goes according to pattern, the victory is a bit hollow. Hmmm, does that say more about my personal psychology than it does about art-making?

Next up: I'm learning to work the band saw and the table saw in John's workshop! Yikes! It's big fun. Big, scary fun. I'm going to take a stab at making some simple things and re-vamping some junk store furniture. Can I have my own TV show yet?

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Baumie Posts

Caveat: There are women out there, reading this blog from time to time, who knew and loved my grandmother well. They will find factual errors in these "Baumie Posts" and they will know more details than I do about different scenarios from the past. I hope they will correct me or add those details when they see fit. I hope, too, that they will enjoy thinking about Baumie and feeling her spirit move in us as we remember her together.I want to write a little bit about my grandmother, Helen Jackson, or "Baumie" as we called her. I’ve been thinking a lot about her lately. She is one of the main reasons that we have this little farm. I frequently offer a silent thank-you to her while wandering the breezy pastures in summer or gazing at iced-over trees glinting in the winter sun. And I think about her as I learn to sew and build my own furniture and plan a garden and a horse barn and all the other things that come up in a creative life--not just country life.

Baumie was an extremely creative and accomplished woman. I was talking to my sister Kathy the other day and said that we come by our varied interests naturally--just look at Baumie. "Yeah, but Baumie did all those things really well," said Kathy. And it's true. She could cook anything from scratch, she could sew, knit, crotchet, tat lace, she could play the piano and organ, she painted in oils, she rode horses, she gardened, she decorated, she ran an antique shop for awhile, and so on.

And when I say she sewed, I mean that she sewed fitted suits and ball gowns and quilts of her own design. When I say she decorated, I mean she made all her own drapes, and hooked rugs and braided rugs. She reupholstered furniture. In her living room, she had a winter palette of reds and golds that switched out to blue and green for summer via slipcovers and new drapes and throw pillows. When I say she played piano, I mean she was good enough to teach it, and so on.

Baumie had a 200-acre working farm in Indiana. She grew up there and she returned to it many times throughout her life before taking it over herself as an adult. She told me more than once that the farm was a real blessing to her and her family. It was good to know that she could return to it if times got hard financially, or even spiritually. When she was pregnant with her first child (my mother), she and my grandfather were living in an apartment in Chicago. She was suffering from a bad case of morning sickness that was exacerbated by the fact that the elevator shaft was connected somehow to the exhaust fans for the kitchens. Every morning she had to ride that elevator filled with the smells of other people's breakfasts. Every morning, she'd have to find a bathroom and toss her own. Miserable, she returned to the farm--to clean fresh air, to wide open spaces, to a quiet and lovely house. She got over her morning sickness there and was able to join her husband again.

Baumie owned that farm until I was about twelve years old. It was, is, an iconic place for me. The farm was Baumie and she was the farm. I loved going there because I loved being outside and around animals and barns. I also loved being in a house that was a creative expression of the person who lived there. And it was a well-developed creativity, fully expressed. That was magical.

I've realized, especially since living here, that my grandmother is one of the most influential role models in my life. I can't hope to do all the things she accomplished. I'm starting late! And she grew up in a different time. But that fully expressed life--that's what I'm striving for. That's the prize I keep my eye on.

More to come...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Shoulders are Sore

And here is the reason why:

What did we do on the weekend? Well, on Valentine's Day we got rid of the pile of construction debris that had been sitting in the driveway since last summer.

The next day we shoveled gravel from the back of the truck onto some of the pathways around the house.I will be honest and admit that John did most of the heavy work (someone had to take pictures!), but I did enough that my shoulders are very sore today. It is the delayed soreness that comes from true muscle trauma. The next day you feel it, but the second day, you really feel it.

At my old gym in Columbus, the owner offered something he called a "dino-workout," as in dinosaur. It involved lifting and carrying extremely heavy things for as long as you could. Different objects, like giant tires, rocks of varying sizes, bags of sand, etc., worked different muscles as you struggled to push and pull and carry them across a line. (I never took part in this workout, mind you.) Ironically enough, this sort of exercise routine is also called a "farmer workout."

I would like to put an open invitation out there to all the "dino-day" guys and gals: Let's schedule three or four weekends through the spring and summer and get our workout on! C'mon, whaddya say?! It'll be fun, dude!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Everyone is Georgia O'Keefe...

...with an amaryllis in bloom around, that is.

Or maybe Joyce Tenneson...

Now, I'm not a religious person, but this flower makes me want to clasp my hands together and say, "Thank ya, Jesus!"

Happy Sunday night/Monday morning.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

So Much More is Going on Than Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...

I have wanted an Ecological Calendar ever since I found out about it several years ago. I finally purchased one (it was only $14.99 for heaven's sake) and it arrived last week. If you've never seen it before, I urge you to click on the link and take a look. It is "the first" calendar to display the year in four astronomical seasons. It is a calendar from the Earth's perspective, if you will. Along with listing the traditional Gregorian days and dates, it offers up a poetic contemplation/celebration of natural phenomena in three-month increments. As I return to it over the days and weeks, I learn new things about my world and I am moved to meditate on the Earth. What's she doing now?

The website offers a peek at the Winter panel which begins on December 21 with the Winter Solstice. All of the months have names that suggest their mood: January, February, and March are called Celeste, Sleet, and Bluster respectively. The days, too, have names in addition to Monday, Tuesday, etc. Today, February 11, is called Mountain Quail. I'm not exactly sure why, unless it is simply to bring my attention to the fact that Mountain Quail exist in my hemisphere. They've come up with 365 names, one for each day, which after all is only a small sampling of the diversity of living things and phenomena that exist on our planet.

Today doesn't feel like winter--it is 63 degrees! It feels like a raw spring day out there. It feels like Bluster. I know that it is only a tease, though, and I'm keeping my enthusiasm in check lest I come into despair when it snows next. The ground is squishy with water. The water sits on top of the saturated earth in shiny puddles. This afternoon, I put on my brand new LL Bean boots, the ones I broke down and spent the money on after the rubber toe on my cheaper duck boots split like a rotten melon, and took a walk through those puddles and all the mud slicks that are waiting for grass seed. I wanted to photograph the spoils of the winter storm we had two weeks ago.

A big maple tree near the edge of the woods split in two and fell--this way and that:

It is sad to see a tree that size succumb to the elements, especially since our woods doesn't have that many big trees in it. I am not sure about the age of our woods. I want to say that it has been growing for forty years, but that is a guess, or a number remembered from a casual conversation with the previous owners.

One of the things that concerns me about some of the maple trees in our woods is that their trunks look like this:

Like they are soaking wet, but it isn't raining. In the summer, they look drier, as if they were charred in a fire. I assumed it was fungal, but a search on the Web suggests that it might be a "bacterial wetwood infection." Sounds dire, and it is. There is no cure for it.

Well, at least the tree will help keep us warm next winter. John (with help from Jack--get ready Jack!) will cut it up for firewood. The pieces that are too large or too small will rot back into the ground, with help from gorgeous decomposers like these already at work:

And those leftovers will nourish the saplings nearby.

I am at my best, I feel, when one thing is changing into another. And so, I am happy now, as Sleet turns to Bluster, as the moon begins to wane after a spectacular fullness, as the ground swells with moisture, as fallen trees lie in wait. Time is circular after all. Round and round we go.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In Bud, Unfurling

My house is pregnant with promise. I brought only a select few of my houseplants with me when we moved, most of them orchids. Several of them have flower spikes now and I couldn't be happier. First, let's get the amaryllis out of the way:

We'll see what happens with it. It was one of those hybrid monsters with four giant blooms on one stem--one bloom for each of the directions. I have no idea if it will ever have the energy to do that again. It is a lovely peach color and I'd be happy with just one bloom in this grey time of year.

As with most of my plants, I got the amaryllis free from the Conservatory. It was one of the perks of working there--free plants to good homes if you were in the right place at the right time. I had some connections within the horticulture department, so I was able to score more than once (wink ; )
I learned about (and fell in love with) orchids while working at FPC. I had to learn about them since I was responsible for writing the signage for the annual orchid exhibition (going on NOW). As with so many things, the more I learned, the more I came to love them. Weird, rooty plants that look pretty much like crap when not in bloom, produce these curious flowers of complex design and hearty constitution. Everyone thinks that orchids are delicate, finicky plants that are hard to grow. But that is not so. If you understand their native growing conditions, even just a little bit, then you can grow them easily in your home. Some are more tricky than others, simply because most people don't have the humidity and light levels of the rainforest canopy in their homes. But others, like the phalaenopsis, oncidiums and paphiopedilums (slipper orchids) are forgiving, steady plants that will reward you with freakishly amazing blooms that last for months.
Thanks to my dear buddy Dave, the orchid specialist at FPC, I have this little phalaenopsis that produces a dark fuchsia bloom. There is the flower spike growing toward the light.
Here is a larger phal that I got after that first orchid exhibition. It is called "Kaleidoscope" and it has red veins on cream petals with a red lip at the center.
Wait until it blooms and I post a picture, you won't believe what those unassuming buds turn into.

And here is my slipper orchid--the only orchid of mine that I purchased outright--in bud.

Here it is unfurling....

And upright in all its bizarre, striped, dotted, hairy glory....

Who needs spring with this show going on?
(well, I do)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Makin' Things

I've had a sick little grandchild here with me since Monday. She commandeers the laptop to watch her princess dvds, so that's my excuse this week!

We've been busy. The fabulous Lindsey's were out last weekend and along with drinking tasty winter brews and eating pizza, we went tubing and made a snowman. (Well, Jen and John made a snowman. I made the head, but that wasn't much work and Linnette went inside to read Pablo Neruda poems by the warm and dry fire.) He was quite dashing, the snowman, complete with a pipe, arms, and scarf made from bittersweet vine.

LeRoy watched from a perch in the apple trees.

I had my second sewing lesson last Saturday, wherein I made an apron. My sister Kathy graciously donated her old sewing machine to me last summer, and my neighbor Sharon knew a woman nearby who gives lessons in her home. So, here I am keeping my brain fresh by learning new things at my age! (And John can attest to the cursing that goes along with that...)

Just for practice, I halved the pattern and made one for Maria, too. I'm glad that no one can see these things up close, because there are plenty of mistakes. But, hey, they're aprons.

I also made myself a new journal. I took a bookmaking class last winter at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center. If I still lived in Columbus, I would take the ongoing class all year. As it is, I make-do with my own version of the kettle stitch. See, I've forgotten how to do it exactly, but I make it work somehow. It's just one move near the beginning that I can't remember....
Don't look too closely!

I have often wished that I was interested in only one thing. I envy people who are focused on, or obsessed even with one subject and make it their life's work and passion. It would be easier that way. Or so I believe. I'm not sure there are many people even like that in the world. I only think so in times of despair over doing one thing really well. I'm cursed with a Jane-of-all-trades desire. Here are just some of my answers to the question, "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Interior decorator/designer
Master Gardener
Chef/owner of a health food restaurant
Farmer/artisan cheesemaker

Well, I could look at my affliction this way: I've got plenty of things to keep my brain from turning to mush as the years go by! Although there could be some cursing along the way.