Finishing Up

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Uncategorized

140929 DawnThe sunrise view from my current bedroom window is amazing, especially in the spring and fall.

The dumpster project, now affectionately called, is almost complete.  Two more days before it goes.  It’s been a crazy journey.

The attic was finished Saturday morning.  Everything that was going was pitched out of the window a few days before and I spent the last two days sweeping, then vacuuming with a shop vac.  During the sweeping phase I finally decided to wear a respirator, the dust was extreme.  My father and I figured the last time it was swept was around 1946 – no lie.

It was a sentimental journey through the rooms on the third floor.  Sentiment mixed with disbelief that so much stuff was just thrown up there and forgotten.  Houses had been cleaned out.  Things I recognized from my grandparents homes and some from my great grandparents.  Fear not, most of it was categorized, packed and stored away.

There were treasures.  Big boxes of crap that had to be gone through, piece by piece because there were treasures.  My grandfather’s Hamilton pocket watch, a makeup compact from the ’20s belonging to a great-aunt, a small model train engine, books from childhood.  Photographs tucked in with report cards from my father’s elementary school days. There were scrapbooks and letters and journals from my high school years, reminders of a distant past now seeming like someone else’s life.  Toys, games, puzzles, all holding memories for me and my siblings of rainy days spent together. I don’t think anything was ever thrown away.

It has also lifted a great weight. It had felt as if that third floor was crushing down on the rest of the house.  A job I knew I was going to have to do in order to make my childhood home into the home I will spend the rest of my life in.

The last few days have been spent cleaning out and moving things around on the second floor.  All of this with the knowledge that we will be dealing will structural issues in the bedrooms, mostly crumbling lathe and plaster.  Nothing at all has been done up there since the early ’70s.  There isn’t heat up there (and currently it’s without power – a story for another day).  There was water damage years ago so ceilings are beginning to go.  These are the photographs you won’t see, unless I’m getting ready to do something with a pry bar and a hammer (respirator in place).  The photos recording before and after.

The grand motivation to all of this has really been the need I have to transform a room into a place to put my looms, my fiber, my fabric, my books.  Creativity for me doesn’t happen without making a big mess but I need that mess to be contained in it’s own space.  I brought home a third loom (yes, I now have three), last weekend.  It’s so large and heavy it will have to remain on the first floor so the two on the first floor will have to move to the second.  Along with the last two looms I’ve brought home has come their previous owners stashes of fiber.  Fun stuff but if you can’t see it you don’t use it.

I use situations like the looms as motivation to deal with the things I don’t want to do.  It really works for me.  That and having a 20 yard dumpster dropped in the side yard.  I work well under pressure and having that there really did the trick.  Although the past couple of days have seen decision fatigue set in and it’s become easier to throw things away. Fortunately I also have that saving gene and understand the importance of seeing the handwriting of my ancestors.  Things are categorized and saved and put back into the attic.  This time with some notes attached so in another 80 years or so when someone feels the need to clean out they will have a better idea of why this stuff was saved.

 

Throwback Thursday and Some Thoughts on Cleaning Out

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Family

540707 Alix-Martin Wedding (14)

The date was July 7, 1954, my mother and father’s wedding day.  This photograph, of all of them, is my favorite.  All the players are there, both of my grandfathers are looking on with smiles on their faces.  I recognize aunts, uncles, cousins, grands.  The photographer for this event was AMAZING.  Every shot was beautifully composed, exposed and printed.  This was back in the day of Speed Graphics and 4×5 sheet film, hand processed, hand printed.

The main reason for this post today is I’m waxing nostalgic about my mother’s wedding dress.  I threw it away yesterday.  I’m assuming that will be the most painful thing I get rid of and it wasn’t without trying to keep it, honest.  The dress was disintegrating, things had lived in the bag, it was stained.  I brought it to my sister’s house just to have confirmation that I was doing the right thing (there really wasn’t an option).  While there I took the scissors to it and cut off the train of tulle with the had applied lace and folded it to keep, the rest went into the dumpster.  There’s no going back on that one.

I’m taking solace in the fact that we do have those amazing photographs and those are really more important to me than a mouse and bug infested piece of satin and lace.

 

Getting Serious

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Uncategorized

140917 Dumpster

We moved into the house at Fort Pelham Farm in 1967, I was 11 years old.  The house has a huge attic.  It has two rooms that are finished on each end and open space surrounding it.  No one ever goes up there.  It’s not that it’s creepy, it’s just the repository for the things no one can part with.

When my mother’s mother broke up her household in the early ’70s boxes of things were brought up there.  Wedding gowns, the winter clothes, toys, games, all of the stuff from my father’s childhood room and home.  Papers, photographs, vintage containers of all sorts.  Furniture, good and bad.  All of it found its way there. To my knowledge nothing that ever went into the attic ever saw the light of day again.

There are also a few things that need to be taken care of  – restoring power to the second floor, dealing with bad insulation, cleaning up a mess left by masons years and years ago.  All of these little things go hand in hand and I have to get rid of stuff in order to tackle those jobs.  Painters will soon be here to scrape and paint the peaks of the house repairing the third floors windows at the same time.  I don’t think they can get to the windows right now, sigh.

It’s starting to feel like I will be staying here for quite some time – it’s taken a while to feel that way.  I have made do with the second floor as a place to sleep with my clothing piled high on spare beds most of the time.  I visit our home in Enfield and recently have begun longing for a cozy, comfortable place of my own here.  The first floor is comfortable enough but it has always been more of a place to entertain rather than live.

The second floor has peeling wallpaper on every wall.  Carpet over wide pine floors dating to 1970 or so.  Plaster falling from ceilings reminds me of a Dickens novel I once read sans the cobwebs.

There was some furniture that I wanted to move to the attic and I went up there yesterday to check out the situation. (Yeah, it could be said that I’m part of the problem but I can’t part with the antique rockers that my grandfather brought up here). The stairs leading to the attic are more like a modified ladder they are so steep and narrow.  Once up there I realized what a real problem the mess is.  I had thought I could just pitch stuff out of the window onto the lawn but that was before I realized just how much stuff we are talking about.  Did I really want to handle any of it more than once?

A 20 yard dumpster was put next to one end of the house about 15 minutes ago, it will be here for two weeks (or less if I can get things done).  I’m sure I will feel as though a great weight has been lifted. Now I just have to muster the energy.

 

Chicken Moving Day

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Chickens

140915 Coop in Garden

Yesterday was moving day for the coop and chickens.  The vegetable garden is pretty much done although there is a lot of stuff still in there, overgrown and rotting.  The fall chill is in the air and it was time to begin the fall to winter preps.  The coop had been over by the garage with the fencing including a huge old apple tree surrounded by jewelweed.  The chickens loved it there although they had pretty much cleaned the area of vegetation.  I figured the garden would be a great spot for them to clean up and fertilize at the same time.

Moving the coop is always stressful.  It is so heavy that the tractor will only lift if off of the ground by about a foot.  We managed to get it over to the garden.  I then moved the fence.  I let the chickens roam around thinking they would be easy to move with some sweet little snack.  I was wrong.  They spent the majority of the day around the apple tree and although I coaxed them over more than once they had no interest in going near the strange spot their coop was in.

They finally left the tree area at the end of the day and wandered over to the garden but had no interest in going into their new area.  I got out the big guns – a pumpkin spice english muffin.  The rooster and hen happily went into the garden fence but the other 9 hens were nowhere to be seen.  It was getting a little late in the day and I was getting a little nervous.  I called and called and finally saw their little heads coming up over the bank to the back forty on the other side of the yard.  Apparently they had gone on a little adventure.  Seven more into the enclosure.

When the head count was done Bill and I had to search for the last two.  They were snuggled in among some rocks over the bank and were not going anywhere so I had Bill flush them out.  They ran for the coop, one of them tangling herself in the fencing (they still think they are small enough to go through it).  Once all enclosed they discovered what a wonderland the garden is.  Bugs, seeds, berries, a veritable smorgasbord for chickens.  They stayed out until dark which is unusual, they usually go in at dusk.

About nine o’clock Bill went out to lock the shed door and heard a chicken clucking over by the apple tree – an escapee.  He held the flashlight and ran interference until I finally caught her and put her in the coop.  I did another head count and all were there on their roost.  Finally all was right with the world – at least mine.

Minor Miracle

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garden

140908 Clivia Sprouts

These tiny little sprouts are the beginning of a few Clivia plants.  The miracle part is that I have been trying to get them to sprout since last March.

It started early last spring when the Clivia I have blossomed profusely.  I bought the plant from White Flower Farm about 10 years ago.  It was just a mere shoot that came in a pot in the mail.  It is now huge, completely pot bound and grows a new shoot about every other year.  It’s the most common variety with orange blossoms with a yellow throat.  I really thought this was the perfect plant – it really thrives on neglect as long as it likes the window it’s in.  This one is sitting in front of a window that faces northeast.

I decided to search for a new variety but found that an established plant was really cost prohibitive.  In my search I found seeds for different varieties on eBay.  They were only $6 plus shipping so I figured there wasn’t much to lose so I bought two different varieties.  The kicker – they come from China.

A month or more later I received two packages in the mail, each with 6 and 8 seeds respectively.  The seeds of the Clivia are really tiny little bulbs.  They are related to the Amaryllis, so unless they are dried to a brown little husk they are viable.   These were beautiful little bulbs and I figured I was golden.

I did a lot of research on the web about how to start them – there are issues with fungus, everything needs to be sterile, start in damp perlite, blah, blah, blah.  Yup, I did all that.  Soaked them in a solution of peroxide, planted them in a sterile medium, covered to prevent bad things from happening and to keep them moist.  I waited – and waited and waited.

After about a month I noticed there was some mold around the nubs on the end of the bulbs.  I soaked them, changed the medium, started over again.  This I did in April, May, June . . . what the heck?  The bulbs still looked viable and I decided that at this point I had nothing to lose so I filled a large pot with regular potting soil and planted them around the edge.  I hadn’t covered it and honestly neglected it as I do all of my houseplants when the gardens are in full force during the summer.  Last week I figured I’d better water it and give them another shot.  I didn’t even poke around to see if they were doing anything.

Yesterday I watered again and saw one little green shoot – woohoo!  Today there’s a second.  Apparently all that coddling that the websites professed I needed really lead me astray on this one.  The plants start out thriving on neglect right from the beginning.  Now this is my kind of houseplant!

More Krokbragd

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Craft

140828 Krokbragd (4)

The problem with learning a new structure is my unbridled enthusiasm.  It’s a problem because I just jump in and figure things out as I go.  This can be good but at times it’s not so good.

140828 Krokbragd (3)The mat that I’m weaving comes from an older weaving magazine.  Although I had spent a couple of weeks reading up on the process I neglected to actually read the instructions of the project I was weaving.  I had yarn, in various colors, I figured I was good.  I figured I’d just wing it, decide as I was going along.  Uhm, yeah.  That worked until I realized – four colors in – that some of them repeated and I was going to have to make it all work when I got to the center and worked my way back through the color scheme.  I thought there were 9 colors in the pattern but it turns out there are only 6.  What I had with me for yarn was not going to work.

I spent some time during my last session going through the yarn available.  I’m fortunate that the last two colors don’t really require a lot of yardage so I picked two skeins from Pam’s stash.

140828 Krokbragd (2)

I’m pretty excited about how I envision it looking at this point.  It also showed me how much planning has to go into the weaving of these Scandinavian treasures.  I didn’t plan at all and now realize that maybe I should have.  I guess that’s what class is all about for me, learning what the important things are for each particular structure and dreaming about the possibilities.

Reprieve

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dogs

Moving Rocks (Large Ones)

 

Taking care of an aging dog requires patience and an ability to stand back and look at your animal with a certain amount of detachment.  There are many times when I wish they could talk, let me know how you’re feeling or what hurts.

Buddy has been declining over the past couple of months.  He had declined to the point of me finding a vet that would come to the house to put him down.   Amanda and Cait were both here yesterday at the appointed hour.  We waited with Buddy outdoors for the vet to arrive.  When he did Buddy ran to him with enthusiasm (we haven’t seen him run in days, maybe weeks).  He eagerly took treats from the vets hand, patiently waited through the exam, cheerfully sat with us all while we discussed his fate.

This new vet, what I can only describe as a classic country vet, arrived in his Prius and removed his bags to the driveway.  As Buddy barked and wagged his stumpy tail we all introduced ourselves and talked about what we had seen happening in the past couple of weeks.  He listened to his heart and lungs, felt the lumps all over his body, checked out his legs and feet (he’d recently broken a nail and had been limping badly – this was a case of adding insult to injury).

It started to rain so we all went into the shop and used a woodworking bench as an examination table.  His recommendation was to do a few tests to check his kidney function, thyroid function and rule out things like Lyme and Cushing’s disease.  With his symptoms we all decided to rule out things that could be resolved easily with minimal intervention.  The vet’s opinion was that Buddy probably had a little more life left in him.

I have to tell you that we were wrecks at the thought of losing Buddy.  It’s never an easy decision to make.  You think about his life, the dog he was and the hole it is going to make in your life.  At the same time it’s just as difficult to watch a once vibrant, active dog struggle for a breath, whine in what seems to be pain, refuse to go for his favorite walks.   As Amanda said – he made us look like fools for thinking he was too sick to go on.

This is the first time in decades that I have had a veterinarian that I felt had the best interest of my animal at heart.  He was objective, said flat-out that being in the position of deciding an animals fate is the most uncomfortable position he finds himself in.  He answered all of our questions and said he would only check him for things that were easy to deal with.  In other words he wasn’t going to recommend dialysis, chemo or heart intervention.  This is something the vets that have seen Buddy over the years would probably not hesitate to offer.  Animal medicine has become a close relative to the medical system we all deal with in this day and age.  I always feel it’s all about the money, whatever it takes.

For Buddy this was the best possible scenario, he was thoroughly checked out, in his own environment by a really nice guy with treats.

As the doc readied to leave he took the two vials of blood and placed them into the centrifuge on the floor on the passenger side.  Plugged into the lighter socket it quietly spun.  He assured me he’d call today with the results and with an idea of where we go from here.  I thought to myself that this is the kind of thing that makes me so happy to be here.  This is what makes living in a rural area work.  The people around you get it.  They do their jobs with the understanding and sensibilities that we have grown up with far from the influences of urban life.

 

Reunion

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Uncategorized

140831 Reunion

We spent the greater part of yesterday at a high school reunion.  This one was a little different, the first 10 classes of Mohawk Trail Regional High School gathered at the Charlemont Fairgrounds for a festival of sorts.  It felt like a small fair with the food vendors and class tents.  Bands played from the past all day long, whisking us back to youth with the power only music has on one’s memory.  There were activities, group photos, reminiscing along with a table of yearbooks and photographs that did and didn’t make the cut back in the day (how those survived 35+ years is beyond me).

This is the kind of thing that reminds you how close our communities are.  As I have said in the past, each town that sent kids to this regional school was a small town.  My class from Rowe consisted of four people (including me).  In school you make your lifetime friends I believe but for those of us that grew up in such small communities our town friends become our family.  Having the reunion encompass so many years, with my class right in the middle allowed us to not only visit with our classmates but reconnect with people we wouldn’t have otherwise.

In this age of social media we are fortunate to be able to stay connected with some of our favorite people with a touch of a few buttons.  It is an amazing world.  When I arrived at the reunion it was good to see so many of the people I talk to so often, it felt comfortable.  Then there were a few of those OMG moments. Those occurred when I recognized someone I never thought I would see at an event like this.

Good moments, moments of recognition, hugs, warmth, familiarity.  These were moments spent with the people I have known since I was 5 years old. Moments talking about age, family, life.  It was a time, however brief, when I felt like I was surrounded by the best parts of my family.  These are the people who know you so very well.  The interesting thing is that many of them I have not seen in a decade.  It’s the situation you find yourself in where you just pick up where you left off.

I read somewhere a long time ago that people who know each other from their youth always see each other as they were when they were young.  A trick of the mind.  So all of that graying hair, weight gain or loss, baldness falls away as the conversation begins – you are really seeing their soul in some respect, their essence. You see them as you know them and always have.

For me, that’s the amazing thing about these reunions.  While part of it always serves to remind me how quickly time passes I am quickly reminded that even with the passage of time we all are essentially still teenagers in our minds.

Weaving Wednesday – Krokbragd

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Craft

140819 Krokbragd

I started weaving camp last week.  This is a short course for the month of August on a technique of my choice (although it was really with the help of my instructor Pam that the decision was made).  We decided to do a rug technique since it is something new to me.  This will be a 24″x 36″mat done in  Krokbragd, a Norwegian rug weaving techniques known for its color and design.

I don’t know what my problem was the past week but getting this project warped has been an exercise in frustration.  It’s 4 doubled epi, so it should have been quick.  Between threading mistakes and a heck of a time sleying the reed (missed all kinds of threads, did it over TWICE) it took me about 8 hours to get to the point of throwing a shuttle.  8 hours – to wind and warp – there must be something wrong with my brain that doesn’t allow projects to happen in August.

Finally, towards the end of class yesterday I began to weave.  I’m using Harrisville Shetland yard so it doesn’t work up as fast as it would with a thicker yarn but oh, is it beautiful.  I chose Shetland because of the colors that were available to me (and I had a lot of it).  I have to say I’m very excited about the possibilities in color and pattern for this.

Another woman in my class woven a runner over the summer and brought it in last week for me to photograph.  It is stunning.

WP_20140814_13_22_17_Pro

She started out with a couple of muted tones and then took off with color.  It’s so much fun to look at and so exciting to think this is something I can do that isn’t terribly complicated.

I love it when I’m learning a new structure.  The drive home from class is always filled with thoughts of how to use this new-found technique.  I’m thinking of color combinations and patterns the whole way.  I can’t wait to get back into the studio with a serious block of time devoted to weaving.  Let the magic begin.