Wednesday, April 17, 2013

When She's Not Scrubbing or A Very Slight Aquaintance With Permaculture in which Straw is Spun into Gold. Sort of.

Now that Rapunzel has joined the ranks of the blue collar workers you can well imagine the fascinating details of her custodial life. Or janitorial life if you prefer. BUT, you may be asking yourselves, what does she do these days when she's not off to town a-scrubbing? Obviously she's been sadly neglecting her blog, so what is her excuse for her absence of late?

Rapunzel has been tres busy recycling.

In Ye Olde College Dormitories there are all the mod cons an 18 year old student could desire. Running water, heat, cooling, a cafeteria, private kitchens, computer labs, lounges with televisions, bathrooms to accomodate a crowd, and a laundry room. It is this last item that concerns us today.

In the laundry room students wash their clothes in automatic washers. Eventually they  return and put the clothes in the automatic dryers. Within a day or so they will remember to come back one more time to find their clean and dry clothes, which have by now have been flung out of the dryer in a heap by some other student.

 Each laundry room has a Lost Box, where newly single socks and other oddments collect. Not just honestly lost items collect here, it is also the place where students toss things they don't want, and don't want to bother to dispose of properly: gum wrappers, hair elastics, capless flash drives, dryer lint, fabric softener sheets, caps from flash drives, soggy pencils. And T-shirts. Specifically T-shirts from events, that have graphics printed on the front, and often also on the back.  After the wonderousness of a special event has passed it is often found that the event shirt is in fact pug ugly and the fashionable and discerning student would not be caught dead wearing the shirt a second time. So these franky dreadful shirts are tossed away. As if there is someplace called AWAY where things actually go.

    It falls to the dorm custodians to periodically deal with the things students fail to come back and retrieve.  Nasty things go into the proper trash can ,which being on the opposite side of the 10 foot wide laundry room and right near the exit door is apparently too far to walk for 18 year olds.  Cute things go to co-workers with children young enough to admire teenage fashions.  Cast off boxer shorts go straight in the trash can because boys are undesputeably gross. And then there are the ugly event shirts, which No One Really Wants. Having only been worn once or twice they seem too "good" to throw away, ("good" here is a subjective term) and the best of them are made of sturdy thick cotton knit which lasts and is comfortable.

   And so it happens that a fat stack of unflattering t-shirts accumulated on my closet shelf this winter. Most of them in shades of green and gold, two colors which do not flatter my complexion in the slightest. I had thought that they would be useful to wear while mucking out the henhouse, and doing other dirty, messy, smelly or likely-to-snag type farm work, thus saving wear and tear on my dresses. The reality is they were too ugly in their original state to be worn even at home alone in a secluded valley where I'm only seen by colorblind people with four legs.

   On contemplating my wealth of ugly t-shirts several thoughts tumbled about in my cogs.
 One is that when designing a quilt if your design just doesn't look good the best solution is generally to Add More Color. You cannot have too many colors in a quilt.
  The second thought is that the first principle of Permaculture is Whenever Possible Use What You Have On Hand to accomplish what needs to be done.  My handmade long sleeved dresses are awfully hot to wear in summer, and  something looser and more airy would be sooo nice. What I had on hand was a heap of ugliness. Coincidence? I think not!
   Then I recalled the colorful hand printed African political fabrics we have in the back rooms one of the museums  here on campus, and the cheery colors of folk clothing in general.

   It quickly occurred to me that the best possible thing to do with ten ugly green and gold shirts would be to chop them into large chunks, sew them back together, thereby making two play dresses of them. And so I did. Sew.

   Two of the shirts  (one for each dress) I simply laid out and cut straight across a few inches below the arms, to create what would be the slightly high waisted bodice, although bodice seems a fancy term for this particular project. I also whacked off the sleeves, thinking with my rather pudgy arms  magnificent biceps it would be nice to have roomier sleeves.

   The remaining shirts I cut into panels like this, each shirt making two panels, front and back:

I used one of the cut off sleeves as a pattern and added a bit to the width and length, then cut two pair of sleeves from panels of shirts. In my case two of my shirts had large blank areas, and I wanted graphics on the skirts, so I cut my new sleeves from blank parts, taking advantage of the t-shirt hem as the lower edge of the sleeves to save having to hem them.  I fitted the new sleeves to my bodice shirts pleating them a bit to fit the arm scye. Which is probably one word, armscye. (It seems to be one of those words that look funny either way and I'm not looking it up, I am busy. I have a life to do!)

I then played around with the remaining panels, and settled on five panels for each skirt as a good width for moving around in. I tried out the panels in various positions putting my favorites in the front. When I'd found an attractive arrangement (the term attractive being used very loosely here) I pinned them up matching the already finished hems, trimmed the top edges to even them up and sewed them all together.
Then I took some of the whacked off sleeves and again using the original hems to advantage  and measuring with my outspread hand I cut generous pockets for both dresses. These I sewed into place on the skirts. 

 Lastly I pleated the skirts onto the bodices and presto chango*, Bob's your uncle**: Two astoundingly beautiful dresses, had for no cash outlay at all and made with precious little time for the amount of good clean fun that was had by all (me).

Psssst:   Do not tell the Christ's Temple Apostolic Assembly, but I seem to have put one of their Youth Rally shirts next to a large green witch. I suspect they mightn't approve, but perhaps it will do her some good.

So there you go---that is where I have been during some of the time that I wasn't here. (How is it that a blog seems like a place?) 

 The Manimal claims there is so much green in these dresses that when I'm out in the forest he can't find me.  Perhaps I should look for some pugly t-shirts in hunter orange?

Aside from my highly unfashionable upcycling project (and I will not argue if any of you prefer to call it downcycling) I've also spent a good deal of time mending the fences around the gardens, as spring planting time is here and we're trying to feed ourselves more than the local wildlife, or the domesticated hens for that matter. 

      One of the joys of fence mending is that one gets to be out in the sunshine all the day, breathing fresh spring air (aaaachooo!) and watching cock fights.  As a paid profession cock fighting and the gambling attached to cock fighting are illegal in Indiana, and for good reason.  Whitney and Lonesome George are not professionals, however. 
 I filmed a bit of their antics to show you just how unprofessional they are.  In the course of a single day George, the young upstart, beat the bloody L out of Whitney and left him for dead Three Times. But Good Old Whitney, official cock of the walk, is not one to give up so easily.  Fully recovered from the fray, he is currently abiding in the henhouse with all the pretty ladies while Lonesome George  the troublemaker is stuck on the other side of the fence muttering to himself and making do with Schmutzy the free-ranging white rabbit for company.


There's lots more film of the battle.....including the final highly dramatic scene I think of as the car chase, but alas I cannot get it to load on blogger. I may make a Facebook album of it to save it for posterity.  Roosters are punks, that's all there is to it. Roosters only understand three things, food, sex and violence. That is apparently all there is room for in a Very Small Brain, and indeed it is enough to keep their species going. We larger brained beings do have rules here though, to protect our own species.  If George the Troublemaker begins attacking people he will become George the Soup.

I shall close with an inspiring quotation from the wall of a temple built in Fatehpur Sikri India by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. .

Isa* Son of Mary said: "The world is a bridge. Pass over it, but build no houses upon it."

Perhaps this is the philosophy of roosters. They're here for the journey, the adventure, the experience. They don't concern themselves with trying to make it last.


*presto chango seems to have the ring of truth here, as I did chango the cast off shirts to dresses, which if not exactly magic is a form of alhemy, is it not?.
**As for Bob's your uncle, I took a bit of literary license here. Bob's not my uncle, he's actually my cousin by marriage..  But he's old enough to be my uncle. I had rather a wee schoolgirl crush on him half a century ago, he was handsome, kindhearted, and a great storyteller, which is really all a six year old wants in a man.

*Isa.  If you're not Persian you may know him as Jesus. Frequently quoted, also no doubt mis-quoted, and sometimes mis-identified as Anon.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Do any of these wee creatures look familiar?

How about if I position them like this?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Contemplation of Stillness (which we have a lot of here lartely).

This is not today.  This is last week, and it got saved as a draft rather than published. I figured this out when I hit publish on the post about Indiana Weather that I wrote today. So this is last week, and today will come next. (See below)

Indiana Weather.

       As far back as I can remember people have said of Indiana weather : If you don't like the weather here wait a few minutes. It will change.

    Typically Indiana winters involve a rotation of snowy days with blinding sunshine, ice storms, blizzards with knee deep snow so that schools and businesses are forced to close and roads are impassible, balmy overcast days where coats are not needed and occasional summery days where the temperatures climb well into the 70's and we all bring out our summer shorts and tank tops.

    Last week this was the view out the bathroom window:

Pretty little deer looking for something to nibble.

Two days ago the snow and ice were gone and the livestock came out to browse on the lawn.

   Last night we had a roaring thunderstorm. Well after midnight the tornado sirens began to sound. I got an emergency text message from Indiana University (my workplace) saying  there was indeed a tornado, and that we should all go immediately to the lowest floor of our building away from windows to wait it out.
     As I was at home, twelve miles from town, I waited it out in bed in the loft with two dogs and a cat (all blissfully asleep) my hand sewing, and a documentary on Netflix. In other words I kept doing exactly what I was doing before the storm. I was not brought up to be particularly fearful of storms. The family opinion where "dangerous"weather is concerned has always been: Usually the weather does not kill you, and if perchance it does, well, today is a good day to die. We were going to sooner or later anyway.

   It has often puzzled me that so many people who claim to just adore God and really long for their home in heaven will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid dying.  Perhaps it is the same line of thinking that causes me to want to be slim even as I am sitting here munching a bit of  New Orleans King Cake. (Thank You Youngest Child, it is absolutely delish!)

   This morning after a few hours of rain our creek, usually low in winter, was positively roaring.  Lilly went out for a romp and I thought I'd share her pleasure with you all.  It was perfect timing as I'd just washed the bedding yesterday so there was a fresh clean bedspread to lie on when she came inside.

******Rats!  Rats,rats,rats!!!   I've tried five times to download the film of Lilly and the creek and it won't.  Even though I've done this lots of times before.
     If you wish to see it, hop on over to my Facebook page where it downloaded easy peasy in less time than it takes to tell about it.

    Me and modern technology. Oy.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Here's what's going on in the valley.

    Two days to Christmas, which I don't celebrate anyway as I'm more the Bah, Humbug sort of person.  As we both work for the university  we've got 13 days off from work, which may or may not mean more things get done around here.

     Half that time The Manimal will be here at home.

     Formerly that would have meant I would get nothing done from my own project list as his list tended to steamroller over mine. This had something to do with sexism.  It would not have occurred to him to ask me what I wanted to do on a weekend, he simply planned what we would do, which was almost always work. Hard work.  He is very much a workaholic and spends his free moments at his job thinking up more things to work on at home.  It also has something to do with both of us growing up in the '50's when it was assumed men's ideas were more important than women's ideas and naturally ought to come first. (or only-est).
     To further brighten things this is a country homestead with acres (UK smallholding) not a suburban house with a swatch of lawn. There is plenty of backbreaking work here, loosely divided into 1-Must Be Done Now,  2-Do ASAP, and 3-Do When Time Allows. Also there's 4-Would Be Nice. Sometimes things just slide off the end of 4 and are gone forever.  There is more than enough to do here to take up all our time, both of us all day every day, just to keep this place is a clunky slipshod condition and keep us all fed and clean. (two humans, 18 fowl, 2 rabbits and 3 think-they're-humans)

I often think of Millie Pontapee's accusation: "You don't want a wife Adam, you want a hired girl!"
 However, the times they are a-changin.  Since I've become gainfully employed  with a real (albeit humble) permanent job rather than just a temp position, I feel in my heart that I'm more of a partner in the household and less of a doormat. I am not willing to do physically hard labor during the work week and then come home exhausted to spend my weekends hauling and stacking firewood or anything else that would make me wish I were for-petes-sake-dead already.
    These days I have taught myself not to automatically fall in with just anything the Manimal decides to do.  I ask myself first whether I have the energy to do it or whether it would exhaust me, because I do need to be able to go back to work when the weekend is over.
     It has taken half a century to learn to say No. or No Thank You, or You And Whose Army?

    So. The week Manimal is home I'll do some things with him and some of my own. He's got a good deal of book mending to do for folks including mending an old family Bible needed for someone's Christmas Eve.    
     When he's mending and repairing books and documents I work on stitching up here in the loft. It is oddly companionable as we can hear each other, or listen to music (The Nutcracker is playing right now) and converse as we wish. The dogs and cat follow me up to the loft and nap on the bed which keeps them nicely out from under foot downstairs. When he's home with paying jobs to do I get a lot done of my own.

      As a bonus complication he suffered a fall this past week. He was on campus to grade his students final projects and the stools in the bookbinding lab have adjustable legs, the type where one pipe telescopes into another and is held in place with a bolt in a series of holes. Manimal sat on a stool which had lost the bolt in one leg, the leg instantly telescoped and dumped him on the floor.  Concrete floor.The fall knocked him unconscious, and he suffered a concussion and a broken tailbone. This has slowed him down a bit, and while I sympathize with his pain the slower pace suits me just fine. It has been a more peaceful than usual week.  

     The second week of winter break The Manimal will be in London on business. I will be a lone homesteader, here holding down the fort. I'll be stitching on various things and tending animals as usual.  I've come a long way on sorting through the loft and hope to get through the last stack of three boxes and make one last haul to the Goodwill.
    Meantime here's the progress:
View from the stairwell.  Critters napping.

Sewing area where no one is currently using a sewing machine.

Bookcase, dolls abodes, and an ugly Rubbermaid cabinet that was here when I moved in. In spring I'll find it a home elsewhere.

Quilt I'm currently mending.

Sitting area, desks, and my fabulous hillbilly electrical system. There is only electricity on one side of the room, so I ran an extension cord over to the quilt frame for the lights and taped it down so I won't trip on it. When the quilts are done it can all be put away and I'll have more floor space.  I adore floor space.

Meanwhile in the valley snow has fallen and my camera battery has been recharged. Here's a few peeks out the window for those of you who live in southern climes and won't be seeing snow this winter.

East window (pardon my ball winder).

West window. The shamrock was dying when I brought it up to the loft, but is doing very well up here.

The big window at the south end of the house. I can see this from the loft as well as the loft is only over half the main part of the house and the livingroom is below this window.

The slope across the driveway where Lilly chases the deer out of our front yard early in the mornings.

Reindeer for Manimal's bookbinding class. I'm Bah Humbug, but I like baking cookies.

Goldie. She's the brightest of the hens, and anytime the door gets left open (by Lilly) Goldie sneaks in to help herself to some dog food. This has never occurred to any of the other chickens and apparently Goldie is not giving away her secrets.

The golden triangular bit is the ceiling of the livingroom, which the loft overlooks.  Very handly for chatting with the Manimal when he's down there. I also toss my laundry over the half-wall rather than try to wiggle down the stairway with a huge basket in my arms.

Clearly there's a delicious lot of space to work up here now.  The second week of winter break there will be no Manimal, just the 24 of us homebodies. I think of this as "time alone". Haha.  Aside from sorting the last three boxes I hope to get some sewing done. I've got curtains to make, and then I'll start on my winter sewing list, a shirt for the Manimal for a start and then the rest of the list which is long and getting longer as the little grandmanimal is starting to outgrow things.

I think it's going to be a lot more fun to work up here now that there's room to work and a place for everything. Yay!

Hope you all are having fun doing whatever it is you do this time of year.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ten Thankfuls

Ten Thankfuls

1- I am thankful Middle Child has blogging skills that I do not, and that she generously offered to tidy up my blog to make it more readable. Especially that she fixed the header so that readers no longer have to spend half an hour scrolling down a huge picture to get to the text.

2-I am thankful the Manimal allows me to have the loft for my very own, because my inner child thrives in having a place to play far above the chaos of the real world below.
   This past week I made a wee "dollhouse" that is not a house at all. It is freestanding rooms and can be packed flat in a box or drawer.  I made it for some wee girls who have come here to stay. Recycle features of the project: a bunch of Lundby dollhouse furniture from the '60's that had been lingering in a box, three old gameboards I cut down to  make the walls, leftover scrapbook paper for the wallpaper and floors. It sits atop a bookcase for now and can be packed away when the space is wanted for something else.

The bookcase is the sturdiest thing I own, and was built by a lovely grown man I had a mad crush on when I was a girl.

I especially like the corner cabinet. I need to find a way to fix a broken table leg though, maybe a tiny drill bit and a half inch of paper clip or toothpick?  Someone had glued it once, but that didn't work.

There's a bench for the piano, but I'm making a new cushion for it.

The chairs were originally red which did not (in my artsy opinion) look well with the '60's harvest orange appliances.  Also the knobs were green which didn't suit me. Picky, picky, picky.
    The table was white, which was ok-ish, but had a paper top printed with a red and white checked cloth. It was quite tatty, as forty year old paper often is, so I stripped it off and repainted to match the mod wallpaper.  The black cat in the corner followed me home from work yesterday. I have no clue to his history. He is flat. Perhaps he is meant to travel by mail?

Sugar Cookie and Ember Flicker Flame are waiting for bedtime stories.  I knitted their blanket on my lunch breaks at work.  Much quicker than working on people sized things.

Hardest part of the project: reassembling the sink, which sometime over the years had got smashed to bits. I glued my fingers together four times trying to hold tiny pieces together long enough for the superglue to set up. The washcloth carelessly flung on the sink is actually glued down and covers the largest crack.

3-I am thankful for company out here in the forest.

As I write this Dan is at my crossed ankles and Pyewacket is by my left knee. Close enough to keep warm.  All summer he's the independent sort, but come chilly weather he's ready to nap near a (human) heat source.
Miss Lilly is just the other side of my ample bed table. She likes a bit more wiggle room.

4-I am thankful my job schedule gives me three days off in the middle of the week. When I had a job that gave me ordinary weekends off my dear Manimal had more things to do scheduled for the weekend than any two humans could possibly accomplish. He is a perpetual over-booker. This kept me perpetually exhausted because I was not capable of saying ,"BUT I DON'T WANT TO DO ALL THAT STUFF! " Now he's off at the weekend and free to overbook to his heart's content, while I go to work and do my 8 hour stint.  I'm free mid-week while he's at work, not around here to schedule my To Do list for me.  Life is better this way.  When he retires and is home all day I may need to take a second job to get out of the house more, hahaha!

5-I am thankful I made lots of petticoats.  Fall is here, we are into layering weather. More petticoats means more warm air trapped around me, which feels quite lovely. Plus I adore the swishiness of petticoats and the multiplicity of colors.

Ghastly picture, but my photographer is a 'one shot and lets get going' kind of guy.  Still, the goofy grin expresses the joy of  romping about in petticoats.

6-I am thankful for the good winters past I have spent knitting up nice wool socks. Cozy, cozy, cozy.

7-I am thankful for Ember's suggestion that I fix my floor bed to allow air circulation. I did this by putting the slats under it that used to fit the iron bed frame.  With both the slats and the spaces between the floorboards in my primitive-ish space here I think the mattress will be able to breathe ok. As a plus, if I need to/want to move the whole thing it's quite easy to do.

8-I am thankful for my darling offspring and thankful that they forcibly dragged me into the modern era by firstly making me get an email account, secondly insisting I learn to text and thirdly suggesting I do a blog.  These peculiar forms of technology allow us to communicate across vast miles, and since I adore them beyond all reason and miss them dreadfully it is wonderful to be able to interact without requiring time off and plane fare.

9-I am thankful for the Envelope Budgeting system. It's quite an old system, but new to me. Using it I find I no longer have too much month left at the end of the money. In fact, I now come to payday with fistfuls of cash left over from the last payday, an event previously unheard of in my financial life.

10-I am thankful for zucchini bread. It's just a tad too late for me to take a picture of that for you but it is a wonderful thing indeed.

  Is there anything anywhere that feels better than being thankful?


  The Manimal was talking about retirement the other day.  I'm incredibly likely to outlive him, probably by a good forty years as I'm planning to live to 120.  This means I'll get to retire twice, once when he does, and once when he croaks.
   I suppose the first retirement will take place here, as he assures me the only way he's leaving this place is feet first and carried by six.

   For my second retirement I have decided I would like a change of geography. I want to live in an ancient village in the UK.

    The village is to be located in the middle of a triangle, equidistant between Dibley, Clatterford St. Mary and Ballykissangel.
     I shall have a bright blue bicycle to retire with and I'll weave it a wicker basket.  I'll knit a sturdy sensible brown cardi against the chill and fog.  Also a bright striped scarf to warm my chin(s).I'll pedal along in my cheery skirts and petticoats to do my marketing and visit my friends.
    Yes, Realists, I know BallyK is in Ireland, but by the time I retire the tectonic plates will have shifted.
    Yes, I do realize Dibley and Clatterford St. Mary are fictitious, but obviously since you can SEE them on the tv screen they exist somewhere under an assumed name.
    Yes, I am quite aware that BallyK is also fictitious, but even in Ireland the same rules apply.

    You've had fair warning Dear Mother Country. When the earth moves I'll be coming right over!