Saturday, November 4, 2017

Up, Up, and Away

Can't believe I've been home from my trip for three weeks and haven't written about it yet.  That's what I get for living my life instead of writing about it.

Anyway--quick New England visit.  Quick, because I believe in the dictum that "fish and guests grow stale in three days."  For many years Mike would come visit us in October--to be here for Dad's birthday and so that we could work him to death at the Howl.  But Dad stopped having birthdays, and this year we really cut back on the Howl (more on that in the next post, whenever that happens) so I opted to go up there instead.  

I remember when flying was glamorous.  No more.  There seems to be a polite protocol in planes where you ignore the fact that you're pushed up against some stranger for a few hours (wearing earbuds helps you sense of personal space).  And the Atlanta airport reminds me of a kicked-over ant nest--thousands of people rushing around clutching their carry-ons like so many eggs.

The problem with Boston is that there is *so* much to do--one must narrow it down to time and stamina available.  Day 1 we went to the DeCordova sculpture museum to wander the outdoor sculpture garden (there is an indoor museum as well but they changed their hours the day before we went and were therefore closed).  There is much lovely stuff, and strange stuff, and stuff that makes you go "huh"?

These are several truly huge piles of newspapers that were put out there about 4-5 years ago, and the art is seeing them slowly become part of the landscape.

Wednesday was the big day.  We got up way too freakin' early (like 4:30) because I thought it would be really amazing to go see the fall colors from a hot air balloon (I'd never been in one).  But the balloon was scheduled to take off at dawn and the place was about an hour away.  I did have some doubts when the alarm went off . . .

But it was worth it.  The morning was chilly but not really cold, and it was clear, and the weather cooperated (one of the passengers had scheduled the trip 5 times before the weather was right)
You start inflating the balloon with a big fan. 

Then you turn on the heat.  After a few minutes, you notice the ground slowly dropping as you gently lift.

It's quite the view.  And very peaceful just drifting along.  We mostly went at treetop height (Mike grabbed some leaves for a souvenir).  High would have been fun--we went up briefly but the wind was too strong and the trip would have been over far sooner.  Then came time to find a place to land--this can't be planned in advance because you never know where the wind will take you.  New Hampshire is 85% wooded areas--and most of the rest is roads and highways (and it's frowned upon to land on one of those).  So mostly you look for a house with a big yard.  Our pilot Tony said that occasionally someone tells them to get the hell off their property, but mostly people find it exciting.  Tony does keep up a long tradition.  When the Montgolfier brothers first created hot air balloons in the 1700's, they would terrify farmers who had never seen anything in the air before (except for birds).  They would be grabbing for their pitchforks, which could be rather hard on a balloon.  So the brother took to carrying bottles of champagne with them to appease the natives.  After we got the balloon down and deflated, Tony presented the yard owners with a bottle of champagne and a voucher for a flight.
And he had some more champagne and brunch for us after the flight.
We got home in time to have lunch with Margo, go shopping at the farmer's market for salmon for dinner, and visited the library where they volunteer.  I got to try out a virtual reality machine--which is fun and strange.  Margo has a rather long video of me mostly just wandering around waving my arms--but I was in a cartoon kitchen making sandwiches and frying eggs.
Thursday we were either going to go to Salem (which I expected would be pretty tarted up for Halloween) or to the aquarium in Boston.  But when I got up I realized that I had traveled Monday, been in the car Tuesday and Wednesday, and would be heading back to the airport and home on Friday.  And Mike had been driving all those days.  So I proposed a stay-at-home day.  It was a pretty and cool day, so we took a long walk around Dedham (their town)--lovely place with old architecture.  I watched Mike put some gold leaf on a project (it took three days of work to get the piece ready for the leaf) and showed him how to paint eyes on the back of glass discs.  I got to see the wild turkeys that like to saunter around in their yard.

It's odd to look out at this and know that we're 12 miles away from Boston Commons.
  The three of us played a truly epic game of Scrabble.  Margo's son Rich had given them a supersized Scrabble board--bigger, with quadruple point letters and words possible, and more letters.  The downside is that it take much longer to play a game.  At the end of 2.5 hours of playing we were close to a three-way tie--there was a six point spread between the highest and lowest scores (and I'll hang my head and admit it--I was at the bottom)

Friday saw me safely home and back with cats that love me (their Moonlight didn't show quite so much antipathy this time, partly because I carried a can of cat treats around with me, but I think she was happy to see me go)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Tale of Two Masks

Well, it's Halloween season, and that gives me the urge to make masks.  I know that masks are uncomfortable and hot and limit your vision, but that doesn't stop me from really liking them--both to make and to wear.  Somehow you feel protected when you're in a mask; no one can see the real you.

I wanted something skull-like, something beastly looking.  Problem is--skulls are very complicated--you can't just make a pattern and have it look like anything.  You really have to sculpt them.  And I can't sculpt.

But the nice thing about working alone in my cottage is that no one sees what I'm doing--so if I really mess up it doesn't matter.  So I got out a pig skull for reference (doesn't everyone keep a collection of skulls on hand) and stuck a wig head on a flowerpot for a base.  I had a roll of aluminum foil and some hot glue and glued loose balls of foil together and started pushing them around.  And lo and behold--I eventually had something that looked vaguely like a pig skull. (RATS!  The picture is on my phone in the other room--and I can't go get it because Dingo the flying squirrel is happily snuggled up under my shirt--so picture a wad of aluminum foil that sort of looks like a pig skull)

Then I started cutting up pieces of worbla (that plastic-sawdust stuff that I like to work with) and sticking them on.  Lo and behold--I ended up with a pretty darned good-looking skull.

The teeth and tusks are also worbla, but made with flour rather than sawdust.  

I really liked it at this stage--but to be a mask it needed a bit more ooph.  I added some horns.

Which amuse me because they're made of small plastic drinking cups glued together.  Then I painted some highlights and shadows and a bit of blood and glued the whole thing to a ball cap so I could wear it and added some shaggy stuff to hide myself.

All in all, I'm pretty darned happy.  Now I need to make a costume to go with it.

And then for something completely different, I made something light and funny.  A friend wants to be a toucan for Halloween, so I came up with a toucan mask--a yellow ball cap, some craft foam, and a bit of black felt.

My learning challenge on this one was to paint it with an airbrush--something I need to practice but it's fun.  And my friend really liked it (so did everyone else when I took it in to work--there was mirth and merriment all around.
Meanwhile, back on the farm (or at least the front of the barn) the carport is in!.  After all our prep--having the junk stored there hauled off, having a tree cut down (and cutting, splitting, and stacking it), hauling sand to level it and compacting with The Beast--the actual installation took about an hour.  I've never seen four people work so fast without getting in each other's way.  Ta Dah!
And now my bags are packed and I'm ready to go--heading up to Boston for a few days to visit Mike and Margo.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Possum Fandango

Had a bit of excitement last night.  We went out to put up the chickens and feed the foxes (the ones I released a couple of months ago--they still show up for dinner).  Suddenly we heard a loud noise--almost like a weed whacker.  But who weed whacks in the dark--and this was pretty close.  In a couple of seconds my brain clicked on and recognized that sound:  rattlesnake.

Unlike some people, I don't hate snakes.  But rattlers are dangerous--and he was too close to the house, the cats, the chicken yard, and us.  He was far enough away (maybe 15 feet) not to be immediately dangerous, so I scooped up Apache cat to keep him from investigating, took him inside, grabbed the gun with the snake shot in it--and Bob did the deed. 

We just left him there, figuring that some nighttime critter would find a good meal.  But I was curious as to what might do that, so I set up our game camera.  The body got sniffed at by a couple of raccoons and foxes, but the possum was quite interested--and quite cautious.  He would sneak up, give a quick bite, and run off.  Finally he must have decided that it was dead and possible worth eating.  But he apparently wanted to make really really certain that it was deceased:

I think it's the stomping up and down on the body that fascinates me.  So sorry, snake--you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Or, as far as that possum is concerned, the right place at the right time.  To some, a dangerous animal.  To others, an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Anti Climatical

Well, Irma has come and gone.  That ass-kicking?  For us, more like a friendly pat on the rump.   It's almost embarrassing.The storm started to break up just before it hit us, the big rain bands shifted to the east, and although some of Tallahassee got hit pretty strongly (there are trees down, and about half the town lost power, and for some it's still out three days later) it just sort of parted and went around us.  Just as it was getting light, the power went out and the wind started picking up, and we were bracing ourselves and thinking "here it comes" and then the wind would die down again.

And that was about it.  It was grey and wintry looking (and feeling--the high was 63!) and a bit windy.  Mostly we sat on the front porch and read.  Even the power outage was courteous--went out when it got light, and came back on just as the sun was going down.

So after 5 days of fear and trepidation and prepping, and one day of bracing ourselves because it was going to hit any minute, it was simply over.  We had to spend a day putting away tarps and emptying all the jerry cans of water and we're back to normal.

Almost--a consensus among our friends is that a lot of us are feeling tired and headachy and sort of crashing but I think that's because we're coming off that 5-day adrenaline jag.  And there's a level of survivor's guilt.  People are dead.  People are homeless.  People are trying to get back to see whether or not they're homeless.  Massive areas were flooded.   And here--we were . . . . inconvenienced.

But trust me--we're grateful.

Surrealistic Weather

The weather for the past three days has been glorious.  Clear, bright, DRY, almost cool (OK, in the 80's, but after months of high 90's that seem cool enough).  It's like fall just decided to drop in for an unexpected visit--and it's a visitor  that we want to stay.  If I lived under a rock, far from TV and the internet and didn't venture off my own piece of property I would be reveling in it.  Alas, no.

In the next 48 hours the weather is going to kick our ass.  We don't know how hard.  It might just be a bit of a buttock-bruising.  Or it might be enough to knock out our teeth.  Hurricane Irma, the Mother of All Storms, is heading our way.   Maybe

We've had to go into town, but we've done it carefully.  6.3 million people evacuating in a state causes major traffic jams (yesterday I-10 was logjammed from I-75 to Pensacola--think of a 300 (think of it slowly--THREE HUNDRED) mile stretch of bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Fortunately for us, in these day of using GPS instead of a paper map not too many people realize that there are alternate routes, one of them being Hwy-20, which is the only road that goes to our house.  It's busier than usual, but not too bad.

We drive to the grocery store.  On the way we notice that most of the gas stations are out of gas.  The open ones have long lines.  It's hard to find a parking spot--and when you do get in, you see bare empty stripped shelves.  We did most of our prepping a week and more ago, so we just needed a few non-emergency things.  This confused the woman at the register, who looked at our purchases and commented "you're just doing some ordinary shopping??"

It's hard not to flip on the TV or check on the computer because we really want to know what's happening, or, more importantly, is going to happen.  And no one knows--but all the stations are trying for ratings so they just keep flogging the guesswork.  Will it hit our area?  Well, *something* will, because this storm is bigger than the entire state of Florida.  We might just get a strong "wind event."  Or a tropical storm.  Or a Cat 1 hurricane.  Or Cat 2.  Maybe Cat 3.  Not much rain.  Or 1-5 inches of rain.  Or 5-10 inches of rain.   All of the prediction maps joined together for a wide potential swatch known officially as the Cone of Uncertainty.   Less, officially, the Cone of Doom, or, more graphically, the Cone of the Pinched Sphincter.

We should be fine.  Or we might not have a house in 48 hours.  We might lose power and water for a few hours, or a few days, or a few weeks.

We've done what we can.  Lots of water stored (it's recommended that you have 1 gallon per person per day--but that doesn't allow for the fact that it takes 4 gallons to flush a toilet.  Lacking an outhouse, I like to have flushing water available).  Non perishable food that doesn't have to be cooked.  Propane stove in case we want a cup of tea.  We've done all the laundry.  Have the emergency battery radio.  Batteries in the flashlights.  Chocolate chip cookies on hand.

So that's it for now.  Lovely cool weather, some nice breezes, all is well.  The forecast for Tuesday should also be clear and lovely.  Sunday and Monday--maybe not so much.  We'll see.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The ADD Continues--Marbles, a Helmet, and a Workbench

When not stacking wood and spinning and knitting, I've been hanging out in my cottage (aka The Wicca House, sometimes The Studio [if I'm feeling pretentious], sometimes the Workshop).   I love kinetic sculptures--those structures where marbles (or, in bigger ones, billiard balls) go running around.  Once, on a Boston visit, I almost missed my flight because I was so fascinated watching the large one in the lobby.

So I got some copper wire and made a small one.  There will be a bigger on in the future, something less basic.  This was my learning one.  The main thing I learned was that the copper wire I got was way to heavy to bend easily (but it was the most accessible).  I also needed a lot of practice soldering.  But I had a lot of fun figuring out the slopes and the banking and I like the final product.

Then I made a dive helmet, because who doesn't need one?  Actually, this is for my brother who has some idea about making a Captain Nemo outfit and wants to put in some smoke effects.  (the big question is how long will it take me to find a box big enough and actually go to the post office with this?)
I'm ridiculously pleased with this, because you have to actually pick it up and look at it to figure out that it's made from . . . . floor mats.  Those rubber mats you put on the floors to ease fatigue.   It did take awhile--I had a pattern, but there were 30-some pieces to cut out and glue together.  The paint job alone took several hours. 
 I'd work for awhile, then take a breather and clean up Chez Wicca for a bit.  So not only did I end up with a helmet, but all the drawers and shelves got tidied up.  At least in the front room.  And the sewing room got done not too long ago.  This leaves the back room (where I do wet stuff like dyeing and felting and papermaking) which had gotten out of hand.   I decided that I needed a new workbench.
Here's the before picture--the work area was an old kitchen cabinet that came with the cottage (and we've been here 27 years), and I also had an old butcher's rack for supplies.  The butcher's rack was OK, but too big for the area, so to come in the back door you had to sort of sidle sideways.
So all of that stuff had to come off--and it couldn't go in the front room because I needed my space in there to build the new workbench so the poor sewing room got the brunt of it. (note:  I thought about *buying* a workbench, but they seem to come in two sizes--48" x 24" or 72" x 30"--what I needed was 60" x 24" and that was not to be found.  Besides, buying something isn't as satisfying as building it). (and not saying that the old cabinet was in bad shape, but it sort of fell apart when we dumped it outside, and then dissolved to a pile of sodden sawdust in the rain)   I found a good set of plans and rewrote them for the size I needed.  Bob took me to go buy lumber and I was off.  And immediately hit a bump in the road.
The bench is built of lumber, 2x4x8.  Ostensibly, this means that the wood is 2 inches by 4 inches by 8 feet long.  Now, I know that the real measurement is not 2 x 4 inches but more like 1.5 by 3.5 inches.  What I didn't realize was the in the lumber world, 8 feet means 82.5 inches instead of 86 inches.   Hmmmm.  I had written my new plans to be as economical as possible so I had to do a quick rewrite to re-figure out how to cut everything.  After that it went quite well.

 It's got a deep lower shelf and an upper shelf and it actually holds all the stuff I took out (which did get culled and sorted).  I'm particularly pleased with these small wire baskets I put on the side which holds a lot of the bits and pieces with a physical "cost" to the room of only 5 inches.

And I'm *really* pleased that unlike some of my projects which sort of become Bob's projects, this was about 90% mine.  Bob was gracious enough to help with cutting the shelves and installing the upper shelf, both of which would have been awkward for one person.

Then as soon as I got everything cleaned up from that a friend who saw my dive helmet wanted to come over and get help started some foam armor?  Who am I to say no to a playdate?
Curious to see how this turns out.

Now--whatever shall I do next?  (Other than prepare for that honkin' big Hurricane Irma that's breathing down our necks)


Wood and Socks and Scarves, Oh My

For some reason I've been terribly ADD lately, but at least in a productive way.  The productive part is unusual for me, particularly in the summer, when all I want to do is sit inside in the AC and sip iced tea.

One project started with the car.  When Dad quit driving, he gave us his Infiniti (pretty classy, huh?).  Except that Infiniti's are designed for people who take care of their cars--like have garages for them.  As the car is now about 16 years old, some of the gaskets are getting old and when it rains, the car leaks (and we don't keep a cover on it because we tried that--with our humidity, the car got moldy inside).  As the Southern saying goes, Infiniti is right proud of their product--meaning that they charge and arm and a leg to do repair work.  We figured that for the price of getting the gaskets replaced we could have a carport put in.  So that's on order.

Step one--clear the area where it's going.  The Sanford and Son area.  Meaning for the last upteen years the area where we've dumped all scrap metal because "we'll take it to the scrap metal place and sell it."  Well, we did that one time--a couple of hours of loading (and then unloading) earned us enough to buy lunch on the way home.  So we haven't been motivated.  Especially because we had a couple of junker riding lawnmowers that for some reason Bob's father thought we would want.  We tried to figure out how we could get them into the truck.  Then we thought "this is dumb--we'll hire someone to haul them off."  We checked on Craigslist, and found this add "will haul off non-working riding lawnmowers for free."  Hot diggity damn!  Made the call, and the next day the guy came and not only got those but everything else--10 years worth of junk in about 2 hours.  SCORE!

Then we stared at a tree for awhile.  It stood between the barn and where the carport is going to go.  We realized that if that tree ever had a problem it would be almost impossible to take it down.  So, sorry, tree--called the tree guy and had it removed.  Or at least, cut down.  There's that part of me that will pay the experts to cut down a tree safely but rebels at paying another 500-600 dollars to haul away good oak.   On the other hand, splitting that much wood is a daunting task (we did three trees last year and it took a couple of hard weeks).  Heck with that--we rented a log splitter.

That is one seriously sexy piece of equipment.  We had to be careful not to knock ourselves out--it was so fast that we were pulling a John Henry trying to keep up with it.  However, even with taking three water breaks and a lunch break, it was still less than 5 hours to split enough wood to later stack into this.

Power tools--they're a beautiful thing.

Meanwhile, when not splitting wood, I've been doing a lot of twitchy knitting.  Twitchy, because I'm still stalled out on that beautiful big multicolored shawl.  So instead I made a pair of socks.  Yes--handspun with a dye experiment on the wool before spinning.  Not sure I really like it--but they feel nice and I can always wear them with my ankle boots.  Another pair is on the way with a better dye job.

And this scarf.  I had about an ounce of that beautiful yak/silk multicolored fiber I used for the cowl for Margo earlier this year.  I spun that up and grabbed some fine black yarn to eke it out and got this.  Unfortunately the battery on my camera died and the phone doesn't have a flash so the colors don't show well enough--they're luscious.

And a new pair of slippers.  I'm visiting Mike and Margo next month, and I've decided one of the reasons their cat Moonie didn't like me was because she doesn't like other cats and my slippers were probably at least 50% cat hair.  So I made a new pair that will be kept away from the cats and not worn until I go there.  Besides, this is the fun pattern I've written about before--you make them *way* too big, and then throw them in the washer until they shrink. (I didn't spin the yarn for these, but I did do the dyeing)

And in the words of game-show hosts "But wait--there's more."  But this post is overlong so I think I'll do another one.