Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Gazing into the Past

A friend has archly pointed out to me that I haven't posted for a bit--say, about four months.  I've gone a couple of weeks here and there, and sometimes a month or so, but this is my record.  Consider my wrist slapped.

Weird thing is--if you don't record your life, you forget it.  I look back and just sort of figure that I haven't written anything because I can't remember doing anything.  But, of course, stuff has happened.  I'm just going to do a few quick Cliff's Notes posts to get caught up again.  So . . . .


Actually I had August pretty well covered, mostly with The Great Kitchen redo.  We celebrated that with a day trip at the end of the month.  We have a friend who lives in Texas but was visiting her parents in Panama City for a few weeks--so we went and scooped her up to go do the Tourist Stuff in Panama City Beach.  Kim is smart and sassy and pretty darned snarky, hence a lot of fun to be around (truth be told, she and Bob think at the same speed, which is a lot faster than my thinking speed, and I just sit back and nod at the obscure jokes as though I understand them).  We spend hours at the Ripley's Believe it or Not, which is the ultimate of cheesy fun.  I forgot to take pictures, but Kim took a couple, mostly pointing out that Bob is bigger than either of us.  That's such a surprise.
This is a casting of the hand of the world's tallest man, with, respectively, Bob's hand, my hand, and Kim's hand.
We had some really good seafood, and then headed off to the aquarium (trying not to feel guilty about eating fish).  Bob found a stingray petting pool (a perennial favorite of his) so we spent much time feeding them, and Kim's highlight was getting kissed on the mouth by a sea lion.
That wrapped up the end of August.  Now I have to think about September and try to remember it.  Did we do anything in September?  Did anything happen in September?  Something is nagging at me.
Oh, yeah.  We got hit by a hurricane.  Funny how one forgets little things like that. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


So about the time that the kitchen was getting finished (albeit with a great deal of it still in the living room) the Hauntforum (an online group of people who are obsessed with Halloween) had it's annual "prop under $25 dollar" challenge.

What a good excuse to walk away from the mess and go make another one in my cottage.  At that point I had less than a week to make something, so really no time to design something and then go shopping (while trying to stay under budget).  So I just dug around, pulled out anything that looked like it might become something, piled it up, and waited for something to happen.
I raided the garden for an old tomato cage and covered it with brown packing tape

Eventually some water bottles got turned into legs, and some wire became wings, and a milk jug evolved into a head, and some old burlap covered everything.  Teeth and claws were made from hot glue and voila!  A swamp wyvern.

He's kinda cute, and after he was created I was in more of a mood to finish up all the kitchen stuff.  Believe me,  a great deal of the stuff that came out did *not* go back in.  It's actually rather nice to open a cabinet and not have stuff fall out.
And then I had to be an adult.  The baby armadillos really weren't babies anymore--and I let them go.  I usually get a bit sniffley when I do a release, but this time I had a good hard cry.  They were just so darned cute, and so friendly.  But alas--they were ready to go.  They were all playing with me and jumping in my lap and sniffing my ankles, then I propped open the door and they discovered a whole new world and suddenly I no longer existed for them.  But they looked happy. (and we did find a new den the next morning only about 10 feet from their cage)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Tah Dah!

It's finished.  So am I.  And the stuff piled in the living room has been sorted, purged, and returned (more on that later)

I love those commercials where someone picks out a paint color, and the next scene is them in their newly painted room looking happy.  They seem to have left the middle part out ("at this point, a miracle occurs").  The part where you drag everything out of the way, put down drop cloths, scrub things clean.  And, in the case of painting cabinets, taking off all of the doors (28 of them), removing the hinges and door pulls (total of 328 screws), taking the doors outside to the sawhorses and painting them, painting all the cabinet frames, and putting those 328 screws back in.  Oh--and I did a copper wash on the hinges and [lizard] door pulls.

And deal with the drying time. I had space out on the porch to paint four doors at a time.  According to the paint can, allow "1 hour to dry to touch, 2 hour before recoating."  Not in Florida in the summer!  One day I thought I'd get ambitious and try to paint a set before I went to work (at 11:00).  I got the first coat on at 7:30, went out to do the second coat at 10:00 and absolutely no drying had taken place.  About the time I was sick and tired of the whole process the kitchen looked like this:

Getting there--when I was waiting for one set of doors to dry, I could put the hardware back onto the previous day's painting and hang those.  But it was one of those cases of being *almost* done but never quite getting there.  Especially for the last set of doors--I knew I had about 15 minutes of painting to do--and I had to wait 5 hours to do it, then until the next day to hang them.  Arrrghhhh!  The drawers had been painted earlier, but it was easier to re-attach the doors without them being in the way so we pulled them out, which mean running into the living room every time we needed a spoon.
But it's done (almost.  It will always be almost.  We still have to put in some trim and decide what to do with the window frame and maybe get a new light over the sink).  And I'm happy, because I think it's beautiful.  So here's where we started
And here's where we are.

 I'm going to go have a cookie.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Baby Bear Paint

Which is sort of a play on words because I'm using Behr paint.

Remember all those color chips on the counter?  I finally decided that I wanted a bluish green, or more likely a greenish blue, and the color that I finally chose turned out to be  "green meets blue", or, to be more precise, Behr color S 430-4.

Only I thought that was a little light.  So when Bob went to Home Depot on Sunday, he picked me up a sample of "Long Meadow" aka S 430-5

I painted a sample cabinet door, admired it--tried to admire it--realized that I was going to be sad seeing my orange cabinets go.  The color was . . . pretty.  Pretty in a nice, innocuous "oh, don't pay any attention to me" way.  I'm used to cabinets that slap me in the face in the morning.  Cabinets with personality.  This color was . . . nice.
I pondered it for awhile.  I decided that the color was perfect with the new counters--there just wasn't enough of it.  What I needed was the next shade down.  So off to Home Depot on Monday to get the gallon of paint.  Smart ass that I am, I showed the nice man at the paint counter the streak of paint on my arm, and said "I want this color, only one shade darker."  After he got the "I'm dealing with a crazy woman" look on his face, I laughed, handed him the paint chip, and we chatted as he mixed it and I went home to start painting.
Then I took the lid off.  Apparently when I handed him the chip, he thought that was the same one that Bob had used the previous day (he remembered Bob--people do), and I wanted a shade darker.  In reality, the chip I handed him was the one I actually wanted.  In other words, the paint at hand was two shades darker.  S 430-7, "Fir"

I wanted more color, I *really* got more color.  I was going to get my statement.  It was dark.  Really dark.  Darker than it shows on the monitor.  But color is what I wanted, right?  Besides, I had it, and Home Depot is some 17 or 18 miles away and we had already been there four days in a row.  This would be fine, really.

I painted a bit.  Took a break and called my brother to chat.  Mentioned that this paint was really dark, but maybe I liked it that way.  Maybe I would go ahead and paint with it, and if I ended up not liking it I could always repaint it in a few months.  It would be fine.  Of course it would be fine.

Tuesday morning I woke up bolt upright at 5:30 a.m. saying "it's too dark!" 

Bob, bless his heart, offered to drive me to Home Depot, but I just rebelled.  I was over it.  Didn't want to go.  We stayed home, and I sorted and put away some of the stuff we had dragged out, did laundry, fixed up the small release cage and moved a couple of opossums into it to, and otherwise did stuff not connected to paint or trips to Home Depot.

Wednesday morning I had five (5!) museum programs (short ones), and we ran some other errands, and then to Home Depot where they were very nice and exchanged my paint for the one I wanted.  S 430-6, "Forest Edge"

And today I spent many hours painting (and there are many hours to go) but yes, Goldilocks, this color is juuuuuust right!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sink Me!

It's taken several days, a few trips to the hardware store, and a lot of swearing, but we have a sink!

We've had almost six days of washing dishes in the bathroom.  Not only that--I never realized how many times a day I give my hands (or a spoon, or whatever) a quick rinse.

I've really tried not to complain and to be mindful of gratitude, because Bob and I have both lived in places where people had to walk to a fountain with jugs to get water.  I just had to walk an extra 13 steps a few dozen times a day to get all the fresh running water I want.   But even that got old after awhile.

It's far from over.  There's still all that . . . stuff . . . in the living room to be sorted and put away.  And the cabinets need to be painted.    But today--we celebrate (meaning we had a beer at lunch and now I may not get anything done this afternoon)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saturday: Interlude

Saturday I get to take a break from the kitchen because I was scheduled to teach a felting class at the local yarn store.  Bob met friends for lunch and then made the next trip to Home Depot *and* Lowes to get a selection of plumbing part.

The class was fun--we were making felt scarves.  It's pretty simple--lay out wisps of colored wool, get it wet and a bit soapy, roll it up in bubble wrap and rock it for awhile until it turns into felt.  Pretty instant gratification compared to the hours and hours it takes to knit or weave.

As the saying goes--a good time was had by all.  My students told the shop owner that this class should be offered on a regular basis so I would call that a success.

This afternoon we pulled the sink out and Bob turned the faucet around, replaced the drain, and sealed it with a new tube of caulking.  Hopefully that will set up and we try installing tomorrow.

Bit by bit things are moving back into the kitchen--but I'm being very firm about what makes the cut.  I started to do a bit more purging after the sink removal but decided that I needed to finish catching up with the blog instead.  I believe that's referred to as "creative work avoidance."

Friday: The Saga of the Sink

We did have one major splurge on this update.  As long as we were saving money by doing our own destruction, we went for a hammered copper sink.  We ordered an undermount one, because that would eliminate the little edge that gunk gets caught under.  Then we found out that in order to use an undermount you have to have a solid counter, not a laminate one.  So we had to return that sink and get a drop in.

That should have clued us that the sink was not going to be cooperative.

So . . . back to Tuesday.  The new counter is in, the mess has been cleaned up, and Bob starts to put together the new sink.  One of the things you have to do is "insert the enclosed clamps."  There are no enclosed clamps.  So off to the Home Depot (all projects are gauged by how many trips to the hardware store you make) to buy clamps.  Got home--and they were too big.  That was another Wednesday errand--returning the clamps.  Contact the company and they pop the set of clamps into UPS.

So on Thursday (expecting the clamps on Friday) Bob preps the sink by installing the faucet and drains, caulking in the latter.  Friday morning--the caulk is still just as wet and gooey as the day before.  Not setting at all.  Bob scrapes it off and uses plumber putty instead.  It's ready to go by the time UPS delivers the clamps.  Clamps are installed and we drop in the sink and crawl under the cabinet to tighten things down.

The new sink is bigger than our old one, and there was very little leeway between the sink and the cabinet wall on one side.  I got to tighten those because I have smaller hands.  More awkward posturing under a cabinet.

Finally the great moment arrives--after 5 days, we will have a kitchen sink and no longer need to wash dishes in the bathroom!  I reach to turn on a tap (we actually found a faucet set with hot and cold taps).  "Bob,"  I say.  "This is weird.  The faucets turn back instead of forward."  A bit of swearing ensues as he realizes that he had the sink upside-down when he installed the faucet so it's backwards.  That gets put on the "deal with it later" list.  So water is turned on . . . and the leak is found.  He tightens and wraps that seal--and something else jiggers loose and leaks.  Fittings don't fit.  He's cutting bits off PVC pipe.  Finally he tightens the last fitting--and the plumbers putty gives way and the sink drain pops loose.

We have alcohol and give it up for the night.

Wednesday: We Rest. Thursday: I Paint

Sort of rested on Wednesday.  I had a morning off-grounds program for the Museum, which by the time you go there, load up animals and program materials in the car, drive to the program, do it, reload, return, put animals back in cages, wash carriers  and put program materials away takes about a half day.  And we ran some errands.  So about the only kitchen work that got done on Wednesday was that I purged and returned three drawers.

Thursday was a painting day.  As long as I had the cabinets empty, I thought I would paint the insides of the cabinets, changing the light-sucking drab brown into gloss white.  It doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but it does mean being down on the knees in some pretty awkward positions so I needed frequent breaks.  And they all needed two coats.  But it makes quite the difference!

There will be more painting--a lot more.  I really like my bright orange cabinets, but I knew they would not go with the copper oxide counters.  And they need repainting anyway.  Rob was wondering why we just didn't splurge and get new cabinets but 1) that would be another pain in the backside, and 2) I'm used to having vivid cabinets and plain wood of any type wouldn't do it for me.
Of course, the decision has to be made about the color.  One of Wednesday errands was going to Home Depot for that gloss white paint, and while I was there I grabbed a lot of paint color chips and tossed them on the counter.
There were eventually many more, and I cut up the multi-color strips so I could view them individually.  I'd play with them as I walked by, and pulled out the obvious losers, and realized that what I was hunting for was the green verdigris that copper gets as it ages.  There was a long of angsting (that looks weird--how does one angst?).  It got down to a few strips of a lot of "I want it bluer than this, but greener than that".  The winner turned out to be--wait for it--a color called "green meets blue".  Bob's picking up a sample can today.

Day Two: Tuesday

Tuesday morning we finished pulling off the old counters and yanked out the sink.

Then I had some serious cleaning to do.  I don't think ever the most Martha Stewart type every take off their countertops to clean under them.  At one point I felt a little cut on my thumb and assumed that I had scraped a staple or something--but then my thumb turned the most interesting shade of purple so I suspect that one of the various spiders I was evicting took her revenge on me (no--I didn't go to the doctor--it didn't look like a black widow or brown recluse bite and the purple eventually stopped spreading).

Then we pulled out the stove.  In today's parlance:  OMG!!  Shall we say a bit more cleaning . . .

Finally--cleaned and ready.

Then, in the afternoon, just as it started pouring down rain, the installer arrived.  No worries--they set up shop on our front porch, and sure enough, in about an hour we had out new counters.  Copper oxide pattern (beautiful and won't show stains)

I did have a bit of a comeuppance.  After all, I had been rather proud of myself for being able to squeeze into that 8.5" opening to get to the back corner.  As I was wondering if I was going to have to offer my services again for the installation, the 6'7" assistant popped into it like a bunny going down a burrow.  Ahem.  The 6'7" *lanky* assistant.  And young.  It was pretty hysterical.

So the new counters are in.  And beautiful.  But we're not quite done . . . .

Day One (Monday, July 11)

So Bob and I are in the kitchen dealing with the gifts of the garden--making several batches of pesto to freeze and some habanero jelly.  In the middle of this pleasant domestic chaos we get a phone call from the installer--our countertops have arrived and he could install them tomorrow.

We weren't exactly ready--but we bit the bullet and said yes (as Lady Macbeth said--"if 'tis down when 'tis done, 'twere best 'twere done quickly").

Goodbye, old counters.

(actually it never does look quite this nice--we had already cleaned all the stuff off the counters.)  At this distance it doesn't look that bad--but here's the closeup.

 It wasn't a matter of just waiting for the next day.  Frugal beings that we are, we had elected to take off the old counter ourselves.  But first--and this is a big but--we had to empty out the cabinets.  All of them.  Even the "zombie" cabinets--those corner ones that have unreachable depths and where you shove everything that you don't use but for some reason keep anyway.  And the drawers had to be pulled out.

So now my living room looks like this.

Trust me--that's not all going back in.  There's going to be some serious purging.
*Then* we could start removing the countertops.  The challenge was to get to the screws in the far back corners.  Remember those "zombie" cabinets?  They are about 3 feet deep--but the cabinet door is only 8.5 inches wide.  Neither of us have arms that are three feet long--so I had to get into the cabinet.  Um--I'm a little more that 8.5 inches wide.  It took quite a bit of wiggling and rearranging of the squishy bits but I managed. 


And then I had to be able to work upside down--but I got all the screws out.
We slept well that night.

The Great Kitchen Update

The kitchen is getting a facelift.  No--not a full "tear out and redo."  I'd just buy another house before I'd live in a full kitchen renovation.  But ours definitely needs a facelift.

When we first moved in (25 years ago!!) it was a drab brown kitchen.  Rough brown wood walls (think exterior siding--what was the builder thinking?), drab brown cabinets, and yellow Formica countertops.  I really disliked the walls--not only were they drab brown, but the rough surface caught every bit of dust and spiderweb.  But I really couldn't stand the idea of taking all the cabinets down, prying off that siding, putting up drywall . . . you get the idea.

Then I made the mistake of watching one of those DIY shows where they make over a house in 24 hours--and they just used joint compound to cover the ugly wall.  Eureka!

It ended up taking a bit more than 24 hours.  And 12 gallons of drywall compound.  And moving the fridge and the washer and dryer to the middle of the room.  But I do like the results.

A few years later we pulled up the torn and stained linoleum floor and tiled it.  That also was . . . a bit of work.

The yellow Formica was the next to go--or at least disappear.  At the time we couldn't afford the $500 or so to replace it, so I painted and polyurethaned it a tomato-leaf green.  Then I painted the cabinets a bright orange (they were supposed to be tomato-colored).  At that point I declared it done and was happy for about 10 years.

But over that decade the counters got stained, and chipped, and some of the paint peeled.  I thought about repainting (and you can get paint meant for counters now) but as the saying goes "you can't polish a turd."  We really needed new counters.  And I had already picked out the one I wanted a few years ago (yes, I procrastinate).  What's the big deal--you actually hire a professional to do it, and it's a one-day job.

Yeah, right.  Stay tuned.

Friday, July 8, 2016


Y'know, I've lived in Florida since 1981.  You'd think that I would figure it out by now that summer is *hot*.   Perhaps it's to keep me happy in the land of denial instead of just cowering under my bed.  It's the sort of heat that just hits you in the chest when you step outside and has you looking for the fire, or at least an open oven door.  Specifically, the heat index has been hitting 103 or 104 every day for a couple of weeks.  And much as love working at the museum, it's an outdoor job.  And while there are a couple of places that I can duck into the air conditioning for a few minutes, I find that it's best not to--because you then get that "hit in the chest" effect when you go back out.  It's best to literally sweat it out.

There are a few compensations--we're eating a lot from the garden these days.

We live a lot on a version of ratatouille.  Just cut up whatever we have, douse it with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and shove it in the oven for awhile.  When done, eat it with quinoa or pasta.  Leftovers make a great cold salad.  Otherwise, we live with the irony that just when this great stuff is coming in--we don't particularly feel like cooking, or even eating.  Sometimes we say the heck with it and have a root beer float instead.  But then the eggplants sort of sulk on the counter and guilt us into cooking them.
And living in the sub-tropics, Bob manages to grow pineapples--I think he has six or seven of them now.  It started off several years ago when a friend was cutting up a pineapple and getting ready to throw the top away.  Bob grabbed it and gave it a home in a flower pot and in a couple of years he had a wee pineapple.  "Wee" seems to be the norm--they normally get to be about 3 inches tall and have just a few bites of fruit it them.  But they make up in flavor what they lack in size.

And of course summer brings the baby animals that need a little help.  I've acquired two more little armadillos (the siblings of one of my previous ones).  I try not to name my fosters; it makes releasing them a lot easier.  But these have turned into Big Bug, Little Bug, Scar Bug (injury healed but left a scar) and Other Bug.  This is Little Bug getting his tummy scratched.
And (as I mentioned previously) it's been rather hot here, so we put a large pan of water into their pen--and they immediately dove in.

There's a lot of rolling on the back and kicking and splashing and it's all rather adorable.  We watch and laugh for awhile, then slap at the biting flies and mosquitoes and wipe the sweat off our faces and head back inside to the air conditioning and the second or third shower of the day.  The joys of summer!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Great Escape

Spring has sprung, summer moved in close behind (we've already hit 100 degrees) and once again I find myself fostering wild babies.

The little armadillo in the last post went on to an animal rehabber--I sort of had to do the adult thing.  There were scratch marks on him--probably from a cat--and a friend of mine who works with that particular rehabber let me know that he did indeed get an infection.  He's recovered but it's good that I gave him up.

However . . . a few weeks later my other rehabber friend got in some babies in good health and I got two of them.  They are just so strangely adorable (here they're checking my fingers to see if I brought them a worm)

Such cute little guys.  Of course, they needed an armadillo-proof pen.  We were pretty much there; when we fostered the little foxes last year we had dug out the release pen and lined it with wire so they couldn't dig out.  Several inches of dirt on top of that, and mulch over all of that.  The only additional thing we had to do was line the bottom walls with some plastic sheeting.  Surprisingly, armadillos can climb, and it's possible for them to climb, fall, and hurt themselves.

So in they go--and within a day they disappeared.  The little buggers had found about a 2" gap between the bottom wire and the wall and dug out.  They didn't escape, because the outside of the pen is also wire-lined, with paving stones over that.  But . . . I never saw them.  I knew at least one of them was still around, because the food got eaten.  I kept sneaking out there at all hours, hoping to catch them out in the cage so I could block the burrow.  Alas--no luck in that.  Finally on the fourth day, I had to be certain that they were both all right, so long-suffering Bob and I got to work with trowels, pruners, and other implements of destruction.  Despite the 95 degree temps we both put on long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and gloves because of biting flies and mosquitoes--oh the joys of Florida living.

So we pulled up paving blocks, peeled up wire, and started digging.  I found a soft spot right away, and triumphantly stated "oh--this won't take long at all".  That was a bit premature.  We couldn't just plunge in with a shovel because we might have hit them.  Besides, the top 6 inches was mostly tree roots that had to be cut away.  So, using trowels, we gently dug a trench.  And dug.  And continued to dig.  Cut roots and dug.  Cut more roots and dug.  Finally we saw masses of leaves being kicked out of the hole we were following into our trench and we knew we had come to the nesting chamber.  One of the little guys backed out and we grabbed him.  Success was in the air.  Then we saw sand flying as the other one started digging like a little auger.  We were frantically trying to get ahead of him, when at last he also backed out to clear some dirt and we snagged him as well.  My "not long at all" took about 2 hours of digging on that hot sweaty buggy day to yield a trench about 4 feet long and two feet deep--which of course had to be filled back in and the wire and pavers replaced.

Knock wood--so far they haven't found another weak spot.

They're not my only foster, of course.  I've already released my first batch of squirrels, and one opossum, and I still have seven little opossums.  While at first glance they seem to be cute . . .

personality-wise, they're more like this.

It's not going to break my heart when it's time to let these guys go.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Strange Looking Little Friend

I got an extra bonus at work today (and so did two groups of schoolkids).  I was giving a tour of the farm at the museum, and had just gotten to the farmhouse where I would trade my group for another one.  I saw . . . something . . . walking between the farmhouse and the fence.  Suddenly I realized it was a young armadillo--and just as I called the kids' attention to it and told them to stand back, I realized it was a *very* young armadillo.  A baby way too young to be away from his mama.  So both tours got interrupted while I scooped the little guy up, the other tour guide found a box, and we called the animal department to come rescue him.

After the tour I went to visit him--after all, finder's keeper's, right???  So he came home with me.  Truth to say, it's only for tonight.  There's a proper animal rehabber who has a litter and much as I would love to raise him he'd be better off with little buddies.

He's quite cute, in a strange reptilian sort of way.  Glad I got him, if only for a little while.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Shakespeare and Sheepdogs

I do like it when my life and interests tend to swing around.  At one time I might be coaxing a recalcitrant hawk onto my glove, and that evening be knitting delicate lace.  People ask if I'm a biologist and no, I'm a professor of historic fashion.  I decided years ago that I'm a generalist, not a specialist.   I like having a wide variety of interests (even if it means a wide variety of detritus scattered around the house)

So this month we went on two outings (no, we usually don't get out much.  We have too much fun at home).

The first was the annual Chain of Arts in the Park--several blocks of art displays.  For which I forgot to take my camera but still enjoyed looking at everything.  Alas--this year nothing called my name enough to come home with me.   Then we wandered over to the outdoor amphitheater for the annual Shakespeare in the Park.  This year it was "Comedy of Errors," one of the Bard's fluffier works.  It takes quite a bit of that "willing suspension of disbelief" to believe that two sets of twins would be separated as infants but for each pair one would be the servant to the other, they would both have the same names, and when they end up in the same town they happened to be dressed alike.  What made this one particularly fun was that it was set as a 50's carnival, complete         with jugglers and acrobats.  

Yesterday we drove to Ocala (about 3 hours) for a sheep and wool festival.  That's a bit of a drive for a rather small gathering, but I don't get to go to many (they're not that common around here).  Bob gets excited when there's a gun show coming to town--which happens 4-5 times a year.  I get to a wool festival maybe once every 4-5 years.  At first we thought we'd never get there--we were unaware that there was a convoy of heavy equipment on the interstate, so our first 90 miles were done at 40 miles per hour.
Then when we did arrive, a quick glance showed us that this was a pretty small gathering.  If we trotted quickly, we could have seen everything in 20 minutes.  But then we had that glorious feeling of slowing down--we didn't *have* to see everything in 20 minutes.  We could take our own sweet time.  And being people who are more interesting in process than product we enjoyed seeing some behind-the-scenes demo.  For instance, I've often watched sheep shearing, where the expert shearer can strip of a fleece in only a few minutes.  Like this.

But when I've tried doing that, it's ended up being a epic battle with a struggling sheep, the anguish when you realize that the wool isn't supposed to be red, and finally a sheep that looks like it was shorn with a dull grapefruit spoon.  Yesterday we got to watch someone being taught how to shear--where to place the feet, where to brace the knees, how to maneuver the animal and keep the skin taut so you *don't* nick it. 

And there were the sheep dog herding demos.  Which I've seen before and always love--the dogs are so focused and intent on their jobs, and there is such communication between the dogs and their handlers.  But all the ones I've seen before have been with well-trained dogs and sheep who are used to them and know what they're supposed to do anyway.  This time they showed dogs with different levels of training (from pretty new to doing pretty well to the expert) with a flock of sheep that wasn't used to dogs.  It may not have been as smooth and perfect, but it was more real life.  We especially liked a final showdown between the expert dog and a particularly stubborn ewe.  The dog eventually won (even though he got butted a few times) by backing her into her marked area, one step at a time.

And of course, there were vendors.  Well, a vendor.  And I *had* to buy something.  Buying online is OK and what I usually have to do, but you can't see/feel/fondle/play with something before you buy it online.  And although I have a pretty good collection of hand spindles, and enough fiber to last the rest of my natural life, I did come home with some camel down and a new little Turkish spindle.

I should have put a quarter in there for comparison.  It's 4 inches long and weighs 8 grams (that's a little over a third of an ounce for those who don't speak metric), which is actually not my smallest spindle.  Wee spindles are good for spinning wee fine yarn, which is what I usually like to do with fine soft fibers.

And as a bonus for Bob, there was a pretty good scale model hobby store just a few miles (well, 12 miles) away from the festival, so he got some booty as well.  Come to think of it, he spent more than I did . . . . .


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spring has Sprung

After a few annoyingly hot days (almost 90!) that made us think that summer had moved in, the weather decided to give us a reprieve and another couple of weeks of spring.  Beautiful clear skies (mostly--it's raining right now), warmish weather with nice breezes.  We're trying to soak it all in before the summer really hits and drives us into hiding in the air conditioning.

So the usual spring stuff such as getting the summer garden in. Eat up the greens before they bolt, put in the peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants--and cotton.  I always plant a couple of beds of colored cotton, mainly because I think it's cool that it grows in colors other than white.  And I've actually started doing something with it--but that's another post.

We took at long walk out at St. Marks--and as is required by some sort of Florida law, took a picture of an alligator.
After all of my swearing at the loom while wrestling on the warp, the weaving itself went rather smoothly and I now have a fresh set of dishtowels.  (Although I'm keeping my first ones--I made them at least 15 years ago and while a bit stained, they're still holding together.)

Oh, the times I don't think to bring my camera--or even my phone.  The local Red Cross had a fundraiser called "Cocktails and Camo" and asked a few people to bring out their old military vehicles--including Bob's jeep and me as Rosie the Riveter.  Usually these things aren't really that interesting--we just hang around and babysit the jeep.  But at one point I was inside polishing off dessert (they fed us as a thank-you--I always appreciate being fed) and realized that Bob had been outside for awhile.  So I stepped out--and he had a collection of the Tallahassee Roller Girls (local roller derby) in the jeep!  That sly old fox . . . .   But, alas, no pictures (and they were really cute--1940's glam outfits with serious knee pads and skates).  And facebook has failed me in my search for photos.

And, of course, there's my version of spring.  For most people, spring looks like this:

For me, it's this:

I've been fostering baby squirrels for a few decades now, and you'd think I'd be over thinking how stinkin' cute they are.  But no . . . I always look forward to having a few around (I've got 5 at the moment).  But the spring gods were smiling upon me--they were actually fairly well along, with fur and open eyes, so I could (for now) forgo the joys of the 2 a.m. feedings.   That will undoubtedly come later.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Old Black and Gold Singer

Today I pulled out an antique sewing machine, cleaned and oiled it, and tested it on some scrap cloth.  It's an old black-and-gold Singer, solid metal construction, and she sews smoothly.  Just a straight stitch, unless I pull out some attachments and experiment with them.  Maybe later.  90% of my sewing is straight stitch.  I often get annoyed with modern machines with 98 different stitches that I'll never use.
Like many makers, I like using antique tools.  It's a direct connection to the past, to someone else who used this same tool.  A woodworker once said that when he grasped a well-worn handle and his fingers fitted into polished grooves that he felt he was shaking hands with an earlier carpenter.
This machine is 65 years old.  I picture a new mother with curling blond hair and blue eyes, sewing baby clothes for her infant son.  My brother.  The machine was a gift to celebrate his birth.  Later she would sew little dresses for her new daughter.  Me.
I remember this machine so well.  My brother and me designing our Halloween costumes (no store-bought stuff for us!).   My purple velvet pants.  I got it into my head when I was about 10 that what I wanted most was purple velvet pants--which were nowhere to be bought.  She wanted them to be a surprise, so she sewed while I was at school and then carefully cleaned up all the purple velvet scraps before I came home.
The big challenge came was when a friend built his own airplane, and she sewed the fuselage cover on this small Singer.
I remember an ever-so-sophisticated dress for my 8th grade graduation, a cream colored sheath with a floaty sheer overdress.  A lavender crepe dress to be worn at my brother's wedding, carefully fitted and all the alterations noted so she could use the same pattern for my own wedding dress a few months later.
It's taken me several years to bring myself to open this box and get out the machine.  I can't remember the last thing she sewed--but I know now that it used lavender thread.  But the part that hit me, that had the tears rolling down my cheeks, was seeing this area where the paint and finish had been worn off.

That's where she would rest her wrist while sewing.  Many hours of stitching love for her home, her family, her friends.  I rest my own wrist there.

Maybe I'll sew myself something pretty.  Purple velvet pants?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Winter, Spring, Summer

I don't know about the rest of the country, but here you can have winter, spring, and then summer all in about a two-week period.  It leaves me disoriented (and changing the clocks tonight won't help any) and rather restless, resulting in a bad case of Startitus (the condition where one feels compelled to begin many projects and work on them all simultaneously).  Maybe it's the temps going from highs in the 50's to highs in the mid-80's, so one does winter stuff and summer stuff at the same time.

The mad knitting spree has slowed down (there's a scarf and vest that just need to be washed and blocked).  There will, of course, always be knitting on hand because I'm not capable of riding in a car, watching TV, or doing anything that requires waiting around unless I have some knitting.  But the projects at the moment are down to a scarf and a pair of socks.

Some things have been useful.  We have a new owl in the education department at work, which meant that he would need his own transport box.  I wrote about making one of these a year or so ago, for the hawk.  You can buy transport boxes, but they tend to a) start at about $250 dollars, and b) weigh about 20 pounds.  Or you can make one for about $30 that weighs 5 pounds by using coroplastic (the sort of stuff that political signs are made
from).  Do some cutting and scoring, a bit of plastic origami, and pretty it up with paint, and voila--carry box.
I also saw a cool owl "display box" at the Ren faire last month.  We have a table perch that can go with us when we take the birds to events, but it's large and very heavy.  It also leaves the bird out in the open.  This box is enclosed and makes them feel more secure.  And it's just heavy enough not to tip over.
(OK, so he doesn't look very happy.  This one turned out to be a bit small, so I've since made a larger one.  And yes, it started out life as a couple of plastic flower pots).

I've been compulsively dyeing fiber for spinning (and spinning it).  I found a "break the rules" technique which is just too much fun.  Normally when you dye you're supposed to do everything you can to make the color come out evenly.  I'm doing the opposite--encouraging the dyes to separate out.  It spins up to the most beautiful heathered yarns (and yes, I've been spinning them--I'll figure out what to do with the yarn later).
I also dyed some yarn in this most amazing tangle--but there be method in my madness.  After untangling, it's knitting into striped socks (that are striping all by themselves with no help from me.

I was asked to teach a felt-making class for an upcoming textiles and fiber festival next month.  This caused a bit of angst on my part--I often complain that Tallahassee never has that sort of thing, and therefore if someone is putting one on I feel compelled to help.  But the woman organizing it is someone who makes me crazy (and hopefully doesn't read this).  Noblesse oblige won out, and I agreed.   I wanted to make sure I had some wool that would make decent felt (not all of it does) and then I got involved in making all manners of samples and spent two days massaging wool into felt.  Then I got an email from Crazy Lady saying that someone else would do the class (I get the impression that I was Plan B in case the other person didn't come through).  Oh well--I had fun and now I have a bunch of samples to do something with.

I've also done my more-or-less annual attempt at setting up the loom and weaving.  This led Bob to coin the phrase "project induced Tourette's."  I really love the idea of weaving--I've just never gotten the hang of actually doing it (maybe if I tried more than once a year . . .).  For a simple set of dishtowels you measure 480 pieces of cotton yarn all the same length.  You tie those onto the back roller of the loom and roll it up--with all the thread of equal and even tension.  Then you take each one and thread it through a wire loop called a heddle in a specific order to create a specific pattern.  Then you thread each one through a thing called a reed to keep everything spaced out.  This all has to be in a straight line, otherwise they tangle together.  Then you check it out, and rethread it through the reed again because you found mistakes that will cause a long skinny gap to show up in your fabric.  Finally you tie it to the roller in the front, make sure every thread still has the same tension, and weave an inch or two to discover the mistakes you make in threading the pattern, untie those yarns and rethread and re-tension them, try it again, correct it again, and then you're ready to weave.  Who came up with this?  Or, more accurately, what Bob heard reverberating from the room was more like "WHAT SICK MASOCHISTIC SON OF A ****** INVENTED THIS????"

Fortunately I got through all of this before Bob found an injured cardinal that is now recuperating in the room (because that's the only no-cat room in the house).  Mr. Chips gets upset easily so I have to be quiet in the room.  But I'm now down to the weaving, which is actually quite peaceful and going well. (no picture of Mr. Chips--he freaks out if I take the cover off the cage, or even peek under it.  I change out his food at night.)

It hasn't all been run-around crazy, though.  I saw this lounge  on sale and didn't even try to resist.  The weather has been glorious (when it hasn't been Too Cold or Too Hot) and I and a good book (or two) have been spending some quality time together.
Maybe I should take more lessons from Apache.
(and forgot to mention that we were also in the annual Camp Gordon Johnston parade--it is definitely ADD time for me.)